Greeting me at the Culpeper, Virginia train station: Sister Kathy, once employed by Sigmund Travel in Pasadena, niece Debbie, who handled the phones for American Express/travel, and niece Lisa, 20 years a flight attendant at United.
Waking up to a bright golden haze. We are a million miles from the state of insanity out on the far west, hell bent on denying even nature it’s ways and dictates. Hell bent on rewriting the script of human existence. The freaks are now running the show in San Francisco.
Kathy's talking wonder
A few night later, to the world of Lisa, her husband Brian, and son Noah I go. Their 18 acre spread is surrounded by farmland — cows to crops. The glow of barley now covers an open field directly in front of their house, now rented to a nearby farmer. Howdy, neighbor, howdy seeds!
Riding the Rails of Bureaucracy
Beware the Amtrak Obstacle Bedroom
Not so down home or comfortable are Amtrak’s super pricey bedrooms. After sampling them three times now, I am walking, no running back to the more user-friendly little economy compartments, and here’s why:1. Sound through the walls is louder then in the small units. 2. The toilet and shower are squeezed into such a small space, it can be an ordeal to maneuver in. And I am skinny. Are you not? Good luck. Compared to this, the public toilets downstairs are a spacious luxury 3. In the smaller compact economy compartments, you have objects closer at hand to grab if the train throws a curve at you. 5. When the lower bed in the bedroom is down. you get about five inches between it and a cabinet with sink – and the door to exit. So, I’d suggest bringing a bridge ladder or be prepared to crawl or high jump over the bed to reach the door. A MAJOR design flaw.
Hello, Neighbor, Hello Cow!
Out Lisa and Brian's way, I stayed in the latest addition to their property, actually an old abandoned farm house on the grounds, built c. 1880, which they have magnificently renovated. At daybreak, I slip through a door in my bedroom out onto a restful porch. Spotted Lisa dabbling around her two ducks. The breakfast she served me included lettuce fresh from her baby garden. They are not farmers per say, although Lisa is dabbling in ducks and vegetables and maybe chickens. Corn will soon be on the rise.
This old shed is deliciously authentic.
Captain Sky (Brian, who pilots for United, here recovering from surgery) barbecued some great blackened hot dogs and whipped us up strawberry shortbread, served out on the east deck of their large wood house, which they call "the cozy cabin." This is what sold them on moving up from Florida to Luray. To get to work, Brian drives back and forth to DC, up to two hours each way.
Curtain up, Japan!
One evening we drove to the town Front Royal, to be regaled around the Mikado grill by Chef Anon from Indonesia. He juggles utensils, and taps them against the grill, producing rare waves of clicking sounds. He paddle-tossed shrimp to open mouths, and managed to land one or two. The one for me landed on my left lens, and got a laugh. This is a big event – the most entertaining meal of my life. What a showman! And then I was told there are many like him in other eateries, having been trained in a long Japanese tradition.
Not to overlook American soul food, another evening, chef Kathy had us her over for a wonderful spread of roast beef, mashed potatoes, all the fixings, topped off with apple pie. Mmmmm yummy good.
Somewhere in the scramble of action from barnyard to board game, we took in a movie at the Page Theatre, a multi-plex operation still in operation, thanks to the family who bought it and are keeping it on life support. The film was Disney’s high voltage Cruello, in its best moments riotously funny. Haven’t laughed that hard in a long while. This town incredibly now has three stages. What next? The Luray Metropolitan Opera?
My board game, Cant Stop Shopping, created with friend Boyi Yuan, is finally-- maybe -- taking off. With the addition of Act On coupons, players have more options – rolling dice or playing them. And here am I, once again losing, this time to Debbie, down from Alaska'. Shame on me!
Brian, observing shrewd shopper Noah plotting, dubbed his son a "15-year-old capitalist." Noah recently landed his very first job, as a guide on weekends at the Luray Caverns, a big tourist draw for the town. He loves it. Last weekend, the place was swamped with Indians from India. They do love their caverns, I believe, recalling Forster's A Passage to India.
Monopoly Lives Again!
Just when I had about given up on ever getting back the fun Monopoly had once given me, a turn of fate and a kid named Noah revived it. There I sat, about to wipe him off the board, when this cunning little sneak charmed me into selling him for outrageous sums of money— where did he get it all? — property on the cheapest side. He then preceded to build off of it an empire of quiet retaliation. Gotta concede, it was fun being demolished by so sly an opponent. Next time I face Noah, I am having legal counsel at my side, preferably somebody from the better business bureau.
I Talk to the Trees
Lisa pointed to “the grove,” and I did not see a grove. She focused on a lone row of trees in the distance and I still did not see a grove. Then she walked me over there, and I was soon feeling something , let’s call it transcendental. At the end of the row of trees, a few almost formed a kind of circle, and in it I almost felt a connection to Waldon Pond – without the pond. I went there again. Perfectly still, tranquil, detached. So many moods on this plantation.
Lisa and Debbie took the train ride with me, as far as Chicago. Never have I traveled through a state so thoroughly enveloped in green. Au Revoir, fun family of Luray!