Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Sojourn in Waynesboro: Part 3, The Town Itself

Think way, way back... all the way back to Part 2, which opened with a snapshot of Waynesboro's downtown as it is today. If you are not one of my readership who actually lived (or lives) in the big W, you may believe you have detected a disconnect between that picture and my profile--specifically the part of my profile that says I grew up in a town with half a mountain. After all, the photo that heads up Part 2 certainly includes mountains (Waynesboro is conveniently located only four miles from the junction of the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, after all), but they all appear to be intact.


Feast your eyes on Waynesboro's downtown circa fifty years ago:

(And yes--I know it's not the greatest picture, but it's the best I could find at short notice.) Taken from a vantage point near the foot of Main Street hill rather than the top, the photo reveals something different in the distance. Where is that nice swath of green? Well, my friends, what loomed over beautiful downtown Waynesboro up until around the 1980s was, literally, half a mountain. Specifically, the raw rock face that remained after the town quarried gravel for the railroads for decades on end. Here is an aerial photo of Waynesboro taken a couple of years before the photo in the postcard above:

You can clearly see the gravel bed, or "the scar," as some local folks called it.

Today, the scar itself has been "healed," obliterated by landfill. It took the city about twenty years to build up the missing half of the mountain with its trash, cover the detritus with soil, and seed the soil with grass and, it appears, trees. There were plans to open the former landfill up as a park, but I'm not sure if those plans are still in the works.

While I agree that quarrying an entire half a mountain--especially the side facing the town--was ill advised, I must admit that the old scar defined the town in many ways. I miss it.

As much as I champed at the bit to move to the bright lights of any number of bigger cities when I was a kid, I have to say that the old town holds a lot of warm memories for me, and that I enjoy visiting. In fact, the place has a lot to recommend it (which may be why it is expanding apace--and that might not be the best thing for it; that's fodder for another post, however). First off, it has a real homey, small-town feel: tree-lined, hilly streets, welcoming older homes, rolling mountains.

The following photo offers a capsule view of what has always defined the town (other than the erstwhile half a mountain): churches and factories:

Note the smokestacks peeking over the roofline of the church. Mountains, industry, and so much faith in religion that the second thing (after "What's your name?") a local was likely to ask someone upon first meeting used to be "What church do you go to?" Not so much so now (and good thing for me, because answering "I don't" might put a damper on continued conversation), but definitely in my youth. And the third question might have been "Do you work at DuPont or General Electric?" They used to be the major employers in Waynesboro; General Electric left at least 20 years ago or more, and I think even DuPont is something else now.

Still, the town grows.

The picturesque "Tree Streets," however (so called because they are named for trees--Cherry Avenue, Maple Avenue, Pine) remain as they have always been, at least ever since I was a kid. Gracious older homes and lots and lots of trees. Strolling through the Tree Streets this time year is particularly nice, what with the fall foliage and all.

I think this house is on Maple:

It's one of my favorites, because, although it is (and always has been) in good repair, nicely painted, and so on, it looks as if it could be haunted. I think it's the tower. When I was a kid, I thought it would be the greatest thing ever to live in a house with a tower. I still do. One of these days...

Waynesboro also has a few surprises to offer. One of them can be found on South Wayne Avenue, a boulevard of stately homes:

Yes. It is David and his goose, all decked out for Halloween. This statue is maintained and decorated according to season by Robin, the little sister of an old high-school chum of mine, Cindy F. Back in the day, when Robin was a lowly junior high school student and therefore not old enough or cool enough to hang out with our band of nerds, there was a stately statue of David standing guard over the entrance to a not-so-stately apartment complex on what was then the edge of town. This statue was a tad larger than Robin's, and it was more, um, family-friendly, what with its discreetly placed fig leaf--something you may have already noticed that Robin's statue lacks. Anyway, among our many high-school pranks was the regular "dressing of David," where we would gather all kinds of props and cast-off clothing from our basements, closets, etc., and, under cover of darkness, bedeck the poor emasculated statue with all the finery we could amass. Our handiwork even scored a picture on the front page of the local paper! That David is gone now, the victim of vandals who were much rougher with him than we ever were. But the spirit of David decoration lives on at Robin's house. Hooray!

I'm sure the neighbors approve.

So, while the town is still pretty small and generally conservative, it has its bright spots. It retains a goodly portion of its charm. And while I'm glad I live in a big city with easy access to great shopping, museums, theaters, and the like, I will always have a soft spot for the 'boro. I hope I have many more chances to wander through its tree-lined streets in autumn.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Sojourn in Waynesboro: Part 2, The Art Show

Here it is, folks! Beautiful downtown Waynesboro, Virginia, all decked out for the Fall Foliage Festival Art Show. Now, that may sound sarcastic, but I can assure you that the art show is one of the highlights of the Waynesboro year, and for good reason. It really is a well-managed and eclectic art show. There's a fine mix of media, there's a nice balance between locals and exhibitors from elsewhere, and the artists are all vetted so that the quality of the work for sale is very high.

Study the photo above closely--it will play an important role in Part 3.

But first, a tour of the art show.

First stop, the booth where I parted with the most of my hard-earned cash.

This is the booth of Patricia Black Spilman, an award-winning watercolorist and my best friends' mom. Note that friends' is plural. She's Barb's mom and she's Beth's mom. While she had a number of lovely prints on offer, I bought one of her originals--a watercolor of a rocky stream bank called "The Earth Has Many Colors." That's Patsy, sitting behind the little table.

Her daughter Barb was also an exhibitor:

She does colorful pen, ink, and marker drawings of little kids and cartoon animals, most of which are connected to letters and spell out kids' names. She did a land-office business this weekend.

Then there's my very favorite ceramicist--a guy named Ed. He does the coolest tumblers, vases, cannisters, plates, platters, jugs, bowls--if it has a goofy, colorful face on it, it's his! Although Ed is from Pennsylvania, I have only seen him at the few recent Fall Foliage Festival Art Shows that I have attended. The first time I ran across him, he was selling a wonderfully HUGE bowl festooned with demonic smiley faces. I owed Barb and her husband Charlie an anniversary present (it was one of those, um, BIG year anniversaries), so I bought it for them. And have coveted it ever since! Each year I go back to Ed's booth, hoping to find something similar... but to no avail. I always buy a tumbler or two from him, though.

Even the local merchants were getting into the art show spirit, although I think this place is actually a gallery. For real. My pal Lee the hipster accompanied me to the art show on Saturday afternoon, and he took a liking to this Munchean slash nephew art painting. I think it is a portrait of Sirius Black, and that the ETC. written in shadow below his wizardly chin is a clue to the location of one of the horcruxes. When I came back on Sunday, the portrait was no longer in the window. Lee? Did you purchase it? Or purloin it? Or...?

I also bought a couple of small prints of Chinese watercolors depicting blue jay-like birds with long, sweeping tails perched on blossoming moonlit branches painted by Bryan Yung. Oh, and some candied pecans. Yum.

I love the Fall Foliage Festival Art Show. I hope I can drag Jeff to it next year, because I know it will make us both smile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Sojourn in Waynesboro: Part 1, The Reunion

Last weekend my high school class--the mighty class of '73--held a 33rd reunion. Not being one to miss these things (although less in the name of class spirit and more in the name of observing human nature--and reconnecting with a few old pals), and grabbing any excuse to visit my 88-year-old mom, I made my way to the big W.

Not that getting there was any easier than the last time (see Gnome-mania, below)--what with a snow squall at O'Hare that slowed us up with de-icing and a paperwork snafu with the refuelers to boot, I missed my connection in Philadelphia and had to wait six god-damned hours for the next flight. (Note to self: never, ever fly through Philadelphia again if humanly possible.) Luckily, there were four of us hapless travelers stranded in Philly, so we passed the time in friendly, if frustrated, camaraderie. At any rate, the weekend turned out to be well worth the trouble, what with the reunion, the fall foliage, and the Fall Foliage Festival Art Show. Please bear with me as I cover them in a series of posts.

First, the reunion. On the one hand, it was fun. Some people I hadn't seen in years--in more than a decade--came either to the Friday night gathering at the local watering hole or to the cocktail party at the local country club on Saturday night. It was great to see them and catch up. And it was kind of horrifying to realize that these folks have kids who are in college or married or... well, some of these guys are grandparents. Of course, my stepkids are either in college or graduated from college, so that means me too. But somehow it seems bizarre to see all these folks--people I associate with my teenage years--all grown up and well (I mean WELL) into middle age. Which is why it was also weird.

I found that I had less to say to casual acquaintances than at previous reunions--I was much more content to hang with old friends who really HAD been (and/or still ARE) friends, rather than people with whom I never really connected--or whom I remember only because they were the popular kids that everyone knew just by default. And, oddly enough, those "popular kids" stayed to themselves as well--something that was not as much in evidence at the 20th and 25th reunions. Although this was much more the case at the cocktail party than at the bar. At the bar, people were coming up and saying "hi," and I still don't have clue as to whom several of them were... although they seemed to know me. I guess this is part and parcel of the reunion experience.

It was a successful reunion. It also made me realize a few things.

First, I really, really missed Jeff. Although at my 25th I left him to his own devices for way too long as I carried on a drunken but profound conversation in the ladies room with Lauren F. (not in attendance at this reunion), I learned my lesson then. I wish he had been there. I would have shown him off proudly. And I would have danced a lot more. Heh.

Second, if you never had much to say to a class member back when you were actually attending high school, you won't have much to say to them 33 years hence. In fact, you will likely have much less to say to them. But they (and you) will likely be much more able to make friendly small talk than you were 'way back when.

Third, if you grew up in a small town and now live in a big city, be prepared for the ubiquitous question, delivered in incredulous tones: Do you LIKE living there??!?

Fourth: It is astounding how much people you barely spoke two words to in your entire high school career know about you. The reunion drunk (see below) actually came up to me at the Friday meet-and-greet and said, "You were Barbara S.'s friend! You were always carrying a book to read! Your mom lives by the park! You probably don't even know who I am!" And I wouldn't have, either, except I'd been chatting with his wife (whom I had just met) for a few minutes before he lurched onto the scene.

Fifth: The friends you could always talk to for hours and hours in high school? You can still find TONS of things to say to them. And they to you.

I don't have any pictures of Friday's festivities; I took some, but the flash just washed everyone out and it was too dark to get crisp pictures sans flash. I do have some pictures of the cocktail party, mainly of my table. So here we go.

In this one, a demonic Barbara looms menacingly behind an unsuspecting Sam M. Barb, as you know if you follow this blog, is my best pal from junior high and high school days--and we continue to be fast friends. Sam is one of the original Young Fools on the Go, although now he works for the U.S. Postal Service. Back in elementary school, Sam, Lee S., and Rob D. (who also did not attend this soiree) made 8mm scare movies, and in one of them Lee was set on fire. On purpose. I don't think he was least, not physically. The emotional scars, though... hmmm.

And here is that very same Lee, leaning over to talk to Tara, his date. Lee works in the pathology lab in a VA hospital in Richmond. In the foreground and kind of washed out is Susan C., or Chibby (if you would rather call her by her junior high nickname). Sorry, Chibby! Back in those salad days, Barb, Chibby, and I were fast friends. In high school, though, Chibby went back to being Susan and eventually drifted away from our little group. We still have a lot to reminisce over at events such as this, though. The Chibster's a guidance counselor at the local middle school.

Here's a different view of our table. The guy in the white shirt is Robbie R. He was the cutest guy in our class. Bar none. We all had wicked crushes on him, but he was way out of our league. Still, Barb and I and the other female Young Fools were really pleased to discover in our senior year that Robbie--although still way out of our league--wasn't stuck up at all. In fact, he had a great sense of humor, and he didn't seem to mind hanging out with nerds like us now and again (as long as he could take leave of nerdom whenever it suited him). It was great to catch up with him at this party, although he has had some very bad patches healthwise in the last several years. He seems to be on the mend, though.

The music for this do was provided by Wanda and the White Boys, a great oldies band fronted by Wanda Eaves, of the mighty class of 1973. Who knew, back in the day, that Wanda had such pipes? She didn't try out for chorus, much less for a coveted spot in Concert Choir (the goal of most of us who claimed the least bit of vocal talent). She's been fronting this band for years, though, and making a living at it. (In fact, Wanda and the White Boys played our 20th reunion as well.) Makes me happy just to think about it.

Every reunion has one: the sloppy drunk. I won't name him... but once he found the mic, well, he just couldn't resist it. Let's see: he admonished us all to get up and shake a leg because "It don't matter, we're all drunk anyway!" He took credit for coming up with the name of Wanda's band: "We was comin' back from Junior Variety Show meeting at Cindy B.'s house, and it was four of us guys and Wanda crammed in my '57 Ford. And I said, 'Hey, look! It's Wanda and the white boys!' And a legend was born..." And he told a long story about how he proposed to his wife on April Fool's Day ("She said, 'Is this a JOKE?'"), then got cold feet and they had to throw away the invitations but she stuck by him and they got married anyway and it's been 31 years and I love ya, honey!

But, you know, he was funny and sweet and--although he lapsed ever deeper into a very, um, redneck Southern accent every time he commandeered the mic--he was so enthusiastic that we didn't mind his inebriated tales. I just wish I had a video phone, though. This stuff was ripe for YouTube!

Next installment: The art show. But it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rummage Sale!

Today I took a mental health day and accompanied my pal Laurie to the Christ Church Fall Rummage Sale in Winnetka. Now, this sale is not quite as elaborate or as crowded as their spring sale in May, but it is still quite a production. It's spread over several buildings associated with the church. A small building houses the sewing supplies and notions room, the hat and accessories room, the purse room, the table linens room, the jewelry room, etc. Another building houses women's clothing, books, china and glassware, electronics, records/cds/dvds/tapes, toys, etc. Yet another building houses men's clothing, the treasure room, children's clothing, paintings and frames, bed linens, and the French Room--the room where hotsy-totsy North Shore ladies' clothing is sold. The French Room is the Mecca of local rummage salers and a staple of most (maybe all) Chicagoland rummage sales. Of course, we never find any bargains in Christ Church's French Room--the joy of rummage sale-ing is finding the designer duds in the plain old women's clothing rooms. Which Laurie did with great success, including a Joseph Abboud jacket for only six samoleans.

Oh yeah. And outside the church proper are the furniture tent, the hardware tent, the sporting goods tent, the shoe tent, and the Maxwell Street tent (like shopping in your parents' basement!). I know I missed some important rooms and tents, but you get the picture.

In addition to Christ Church, however (as if that wasn't enough!), St. John's in nearby Wilmette also holds its rummage sale on this day. It's a small sale, but we always find something wonderful there.

So, without further ado, I'll show you my treasures:

First, I found a couple of cardigans for work--the green one at Christ Church (a whopping $3.00) and the black one in the French Room at St. Johns, where we DID find bargains. We got there after everything went to half price, so the sweater set me back a good two bucks. Laurie found a designer suit in St. John's French Room for $5.00; it had never been worn.

I also scored a pair of leather gloves (two bucks), a couple of hankies (two bits), a vintage tablecloth for the dining room table, bestrewn with violets (a whopping seven bucks--one of the day's big-ticket items), and a novel for fifty cents. Now, it may be unmitigated chick lit, but I caught about a half-hour of the movie on cable the other day, and I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to note when it was coming on again so that I could watch the whole thing, but intrigued enough to buy the novel for half a buck.

The China Room yielded a nice cache of treasure today as well, including THE big-ticket item--a pair of blue glass candleholders ($12 for the pair), a cool vase for three bucks, a sweet little candy dish for fifty cents, a couple of etched wine glasses for three bucks (for the two of them), and another candleholder, purchased for only $2.50 after half-price was called.

But the find of the day--the find that I relished most--was something every boomer male who was at the least pre-pubescent in the sixties will remember with great fondness. That is why I purchased this as a gift for my husband. Feast your eyes:

I just know I'll get a whole lot of mileage out of the fifty cents I shelled out for that blast from the past! Heh, heh.

But... nary a sparkly thing in the bunch! Well, there are always the spring sales!

God, do I LOVE me some rummage!