What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities—One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, & Open-Mike Night at a TimeBy Dar Williams (Basic Books, 2017) Buy It Now
Cold Spring resident Dar Williams has crisscrossed the country for decades, singing in venues large and small. On the road, cafes are her office. Besides providing a congenial place to write lyrics, these gathering spaces let her take a town’s temperature by overhearing local news from gregarious creatives and browsing bulletin boards “where people put up little business cards and goldenrod-colored flyers for pancake breakfasts.” What makes a town feel like home, Williams wonders; not just where you live, but where you belong? This inspiring book parses that mystery, making a case for “positive proximity” and examining the reclaimed industrial spaces, River Walks, First Fridays, CSAs, garlic festivals, giant puppet parades, open mikes, tireless organizers, and local radio shows that forge thriving communities. Hudson Valley references abound, including a full chapter on Beacon’s renaissance. Like her late, great neighbor Pete Seeger, Dar Williams extols building bridges. And maybe a sledding hill.