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Winchester, Virginia

    Winchester postcard.

      Home of John and Linda Rees, John and Barbara Perona, Linda Kelley, Sue Adams, Dalton Brill, and a few other people as well.
      A couple of years later, back in Santa Cruz, I reconnected with Ann Atkinson, whom I'd known at Wilson High, and she told me Winchester was where she'd been born. On East Cork street, she said -- the street demarking the south end of what is now a pedestrian mall. The town's main hospital used to be on East Cork before the new medical center was put in.

I'd decided to come east to see Jackie while I still had a chance, but she died a month before I left Santa Cruz. But I went east anyway. It was too painful being in Santa Cruz when Lois was in love with another man. And it was time to see some of my eastern friends and relatives again, and I thought that in the east I'd be able to see much more of Joel, who'd gotten a job in Dearborn almost immediately after his graduation from the University of Michigan and was living in a place called Westland

Another thing I wanted to do was see for myself precisely how much damage my tenant, Cara Murray, had done to my home and belongings in Iowa City. She had seemed such a sweet young thing and had taken good care of Chester the cat, who'd died in May, but she'd ruined clothes, books, papers, and photographs and painted the kitchen walls an ugly dark green. I stayed in Iowa City a couple of months trying to repair things and to bring things together and to see if I could make myself live in Iowa again. I brought a small-claims suit against Cara and in return she had some lawyer fire a barrage of countercharges. I couldn't afford the time, the money, or the mental agony that a full-muck immersion in the law would have required, so I dropped the suit at last, rented my place out to another thoroughly unreliable tenant, and headed east.

I spent the first night with Phil in Chicago and a couple of nights with Joel in Westland and then headed east again across Ohio and Pennsylvania and down into Virginia. John Rees had made Winchester sound like paradise -- a valley perpetually scented with the smell of apples from the applesauce plant -- and that was what I was expecting to find, paradise.

Joel about to head off to work.

      I seized a final photo opportunity before Joel went off to work at eight in the morning and I had to get onto the freeway again to head to Virginia. Down past Akron in the morning traffic, listening to stuff on NPR about the Morningstar stock rating service. Funny how junk like that sticks in your mind even after several years. That and the sunshine and the paper cup I was holding between my thighs to drink tea from.
      Already I was feeling lonely, wondering where I was going, what I was doing, what I was fleeing from, what I was fleeing to. But maybe Winchester would turn out to be the apple-scented paradise John Rees had made it sound like. In any case, it was going to be a fine thing to see him and Linda and all their kids again!

30 October 1996

Dear ____,

      I don't know what I am doing here, what I am doing away from California, where my heart is, but at least I have gotten away from Iowa, where I was sitting around for a month and a half going crazy -- doing nothing there but trying to sue my former tenant in small-claims court for all the destruction she wreaked on my personal belongings she took from my locked room and left in the basement -- all my photo negatives and a lot of photos and slides and movies ruined.
      Well, anyway, I'm here now and have gotten an apartment about a block from the pedestrian mall that is the center of town. Not a bad town to walk around in. Old brick and stone buildings. Hiistory. George Washington was quartered in Winchester twenty years or so before the revolution, his first job as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax or someone (a block away from my place I noticed a sign saying that George Washington had bought that lot in 1753, and it was sold as part of his estate in 1805), and I guess Stonewall Jackson was here in the early part of the civil war, and then Phil Sheridan later in the war. A lot of places and streets are named after Lee or Jackson. Postcards feature confederate-flag motifs. People talk with southern accents, and some of them -- the men, particularly, I have noticed -- seem to have a specificly southern look about them: something about the carefulness of their grooming? And there are a certain number of scrawny-looking guys who maybe have drifted down from West Virginia (which is twenty miles away) or else have been hiding out ever since the south lost the civil war.       This is definitely not Santa Cruz. There are some chiropractors and massage therapists in the yellow pages, but not a single acupuncturist or aromatherapist or hypnotherapist. There are a lot of churches, and one of the Safeway clerks was wearing a pin that said "Things go better with Christ." This is probably the only really conservative place I've ever lived.
      Another thing about Winchester -- it's where Patsy Cline, the country singer, grew up. Linda pointed out the drugstore where Patsy Cline used to work, and John said that at one time Winchester was a rival to Nashville as country-music capital of the world.
      Now the person upstairs has come home and I can hear him thumping around and singing and now the television is on up there, and now I can't even think.
      What am I doing here?


Winchester didn't seem to me the paradise John had made it sound like. But it was wonderful to see him and his family again. It didn't seem as though any time at all had passed since the last time I'd seen them -- but now Linda had blossomed into a talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and all the tiny smiling kids had turned into medium-sized smiling kids -- and all of them were talented too, singing or playing instruments or writing songs themselves. What a magical family they are!

Linda, who was leading aerobics classes at the fitness center downtown, drove around with me and helped me find a place to live. I took a six-month lease on an efficiency apartment at 321 North Loudoun street -- just a block or so from the downtown pedestrian mall and from the Handley Library. The apartment faced south and was sunny, but at night I could hear every footstep upstairs, and the guy who lived there had a habit of coming in at two in the morning with all his friends and thumping on his guitar while he sang "Sweet Baby James" at the top of his lungs. It sounded as though he was right inside my skull.

      Handley Library

Handley Library, a block from where I lived.

The town of Winchester and the whole area seemed focused on music. Winchester was Patsy Cline's hometown, and half the people in town seemed capable of belting out bluegrass music on guitars, banjos, fiddles, or mandolins. The first day I was in town, Linda introduced me to Dalton Brill, who had a barbershop on the downtown mall where he also gave music lessons and sold instruments. A couple of times while I was in Winchester Dalton had wonderful bluegrass concerts in the barbershop's basement -- featuring Red, Murphy, and Chris Henry at the first concert and Dalton and his own band, the Wildcats, at the second.

It was amazing to watch those people's fingers fly, and Dalton made it look so easy that I went over to Dalton's shop one day and bought myself a banjo. Dalton seemed a little dubious and asked John Rees later, "Is he really going to play that thing?"

Well, no. He was right to be dubious. So far the banjo has pretty much just been sitting around and looking pretty. Turns out you can't just buy the thing, you've got to do something with it!

Carroll Gatling

      Above: Carroll Gatling, one of whose ancestors invented the Gatling gun.

      Right: Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah.

Harpers Ferry

      Winchester was thirty miles or so from Harpers Ferry, which had been one of Jackie's favorite spots in the universe, and I drove out there a couple of times -- once with Maria when she came for a visit in November (we went through a hokey John Brown museum together), and once a couple of months later with Carroll Gatling, whom I'd met at a contra dance in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. There was a lot of nice countryside, but I was spoiled by living in California. I'd forgotten how chilly the east was, and how dreary it seemed in the winter. I was lonely for California, and was sustained only by contra dancing.

      The contra dances were nice, but far away. Twenty miles to the closest, the tiny one in Bluemont, Virginia. Thirty miles to the one in Shepherdstown. Fifty miles to the big one in Hagerstown. Eighty miles to the one in the huge unheated hall at Glen Echo, the famous amusement park of my youth, which was just a mile or two from Beth's place in Bethesda.

      It was nice to be able to see Beth and Jan and Julie and other nieces and nephews every so often and to be able to hang out with the Reeses. And I met a few other nice people: Linda Kelley, the tech writer and editor whom I'd met through the Winchester Connection and who not only got me a nice piece of editing work but also taught me some software skills. Sue Adams, the Lord's Chapel preacher with the wonderful smile, whom I met at a contra dance. John and Barbara Perona, whom the Reeses introduced me to. But . . . I felt suffocated in the DC area. I had left there years before and it seemed part of the past I had escaped from -- not the place for me to be now.

      And yes, Winchester was conservative -- politically, religiously, and culturally. Whenever I walked out without shoes, people felt compelled to make comments. Going barefoot in Winchester, as I explained to some California friends, was about equivalent to going naked in Santa Cruz -- except nobody in Santa Cruz would have been gauche enough to mention your nakedness.

      So soon as my six-month lease expired I hit the road and headed back to where I could expose my toes to the sunlight and showers all year round. Pausing in South Bend and Iowa City only long enough to say hello to Joel and Maureen, I was on my way back to California again

      Dave McLaughlin, another of Winchester's great bluegrass musicians, came with his wife and child to John and Linda's place for dinner one night in February and told about Dalton Brill's practical joking. It's always hard to tell with Dalton whether he's serious or not, Dave said -- that's probably why he's such a good poker player.
      There was this one party, Dave said, where Dalton didn't drink anything but was pretending to be drunk. He was sort of sitting over in the corner looking at the floor, rolling his head back and forth and chuckling to himself every now and then, and nobody paid him any attention. In front of him a woman was sitting between her husband and her husband's best friend. Dalton reached his foot out and slid it smoothly across her butt, and then sat back again and pretended to be lost in an alcoholic stupor.
      The woman was very upset -- you don't go around rubbing people's butts in Winchester, Virginia! She turned to the man beside her and said "How dare you!"
      She said, "You know what I'm talking about!"
      "No I don't. I have no idea."
      "You just rubbed my butt!"
      "I what?"
      "You rubbed my butt!" And she turned to her husband and said "He rubbed my butt!"
      Her husband looked at his friend, and his friend shook his head and said, "I don't know what she's talking about."
      "Well, you'd better just not let it happen again!", the woman said.
      They went on eating for a while, and fifteen minutes later Dalton reached his foot forward and did it again. The woman was so flustered she could hardly speak. "You, you, you did it again! You're really going to get into trouble!"
      The man looked at her and said carefully, "I don't know what's wrong with you, but I haven't done anything. I don't know what you're talking about."
      "Well, there's certainly nobody else around who would have done it!"
      The man turned to his friend, her husband. "I don't know what she's talking about. I didn't do anything!"
      The husband nodded knowingly. "I think she's had a little too much to drink. Honey, you think maybe you've had a little too much to drink?"
      "I haven't had too much to drink! He rubbed my butt! He did it twice!"
      By this time Dalton was hardly able to control himself. He got up and stumbled out the door, and once outside he exploded into a fit of laughter that left him wheezing. The two men followed him out a minute or two later. They found him pounding his thighs and wheezing from laughing so hard. Jesus, look at old Dalton, they said. This time he must have flipped his lid for sure.

[Nota bene: This page, like all the others in this site, is in progress. The text is hastily written stuff designed mostly to fill the gaps between the photos. Please let me know if you find anything false, misleading, offensive, or intrusive to your privacy. It's hard to maintain privacy on the internet! Let me know too if there's a photo or something in the text that should be removed or something that should be added. I have not set up this site primarily for my own sake but for my family and friends -- and I welcome all corrections, additions, and suggestions about how to improve it!]

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Copyright 1999 T. N. R. Rogers. All rights reserved. Last revised 4 apr 99.