Monday, August 15, 2005

Hazlehurst, Day 2

Woke up at 10:30, got to the diner next door at 10:59 - they just stopped serving breakfast. Of course. Went to the High School first. Interesting waste of time. As far as I could tell by the class photos on the wall, the last Caucasian student at the school was in 2003. The Principal made me wait and then couldn't get me off campus fast enough: Scary white guy with camera… They've got no librarian either.

Public Education needs money. On to City Hall…

City hall had nothing but this poster, and referred me to the paper. The folks at the paper were more than willing to help, but they had a fire in 1978 that burned everything from 1974. They suggested the library.

The library was a fast gold mine. They had all the old newspapers bound and, looking for one applicable to the show, I found one published on the date that the play takes place, 10/23/74! Too cool. How's that for accurate period information!?! Took digital photos of that and one of the ladies asked if I'd been to "the house." News to me. The movie was filmed in North Carolina or somewhere, so I'm assuming they're referring to a house that Henley lived in. Spent some time driving back & forth shooting houses. I probably got it, but I can't tell which one it is. They were unsure as well… I'll have to do a little more research on that.

Rushed to the airport, only to wait & wait & wait… the incoming plane was delayed coming from Houston - like 2 hours. Soooo… rather than get stuck in Chicago (which I would have loved, but would have been contrary to my purpose) I raced (literally had to call to ask them to stay open) back to the Hazlehurst library. Got there at 5:28. Two minutes to spare. I took close up photos of the paper and found a reference book on Hazlehurst & its history & families. Took photos of the Henley info. If I had time, I'd stay for some hours at the library there, but alas, I must go.

In my continuing effort to eat at local places and avoid the McDonald's across from the hotel, I went into the only place I could find to eat downtown: Elby's Sports Bar. Now the place was too contemporary to have been open since 1974, but after talking to the bartender (I was one of 2 customers and the other was obviously a regular) I found out that her boyfriend's father had owned the building for about 30 years (close enough for my romantic mind) as a pool hall, and they had just added a kitchen a year ago. Really good cheeseburger. While chatting (it's amazing who knows about Crimes of the Heart and who doesn't in this town) I find out that Sunday evening a police officer was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop and the killer had run off with the cop's gun. They had been chasing/looking for him since then and during a firefight Monday he had dropped the gun but was still at large. This explained the plethora of police I saw on my way in. What a crazy counterpoint to my peaceful visit!

After dinner I sat in the small town "oval" and listened to those things that aren't crickets but make just as much noise and watched a lightening storm come in. Very cool way to spend a half an hour. As I got back to the hotel, re-checked-in, and got to my room, the rain had started. I moved my table to the window and did some script work while watching the lightening and rain and listening to the thunder. Great way to end the trip.

In the airport I saw on the news that they had caught the young man they were looking for. He had just been released for some other crime… It's weird, but I feel connected to his story in a yin-yang sort of way: my trip was similar in geography to his, but different in nature. Very strange…

One of the most obvious things about Hazlehurst - and the bartender and I talked about it because she's from Texas - is the pace. These people will take their time if it kills you. If they have a story to tell, by God they're going to tell it, no matter if you're next in the grocery line. I'll try to bring some of that back with me along with the pictures...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hazlehurst, Mississippi

I arrived in Jackson, rented a car, and drove down to Hazlehurst. About a 35 minute drive. I wonder how Meg got from the airport in 1974… It's a long cab ride… Hitchhiking? ...Didn't know that word had 2 h's next to each other..

Stopped at Stuckey's a couple of exits before Hazlehurst - mainly because of the TV show ED. Had an ice cream, but it was basically just a local gas station with a store inside. Lots of "Redneck" T-shirts, mugs, etc. I drove over the freeway to check out the county fairgrounds, but got scared off: there was some sort of police thing going on. There were approximately 20 law enforcement officers gathering in the parking lot; there were cars from various towns including Hazlehurst. I found out what the fuss was about on Monday night.

After checking into the Days Inn (I seemed to be the only guest - certainly the only car at the time), I drove around town for a little, just to get my bearings. Took some photos of the Copiah County Courthouse, City Hall, Hazlehurst High School, train depot and other cool looking buildings.

Had dinner at ? - one of those "drive-in" diners. They just brought out the food, though, and didn't leave the tray attached to my car like the good ole days. Had an OK burger and some fries that reminded me of the ones that ESPN Zone serves…

Went to the hotel (which, incidentally, is next to a Wal-Mart) for the evening. Started working on the script and wound up designing the set. I'm happy with the design, but not the colors. Have to be sure that I check the time period for the fans…

Fell asleep around 11pm only to wake up an hour later. Couldn’t get back to sleep until 2am… did more script work and changed the set colors to the pink that I'm still unsure of. At 6am the fire alarm in my room beeped. That "my battery is low, but I've got enough power to annoy the hell out of you" beep. Problem was it only did it once. And then at about 6:17. And 6:52. And about two more times. Needless to say this, combined with my 11pm "nap" conspired to foil my plans to get up early and do breakfast at the local place next door.