Friday, January 14, 2005

West Coast Transplants Who Love Virginia

I took another walk last night, following my usual route, straight up West Street to the train station. When I walk, I take that route frequently, plopping myself down on one of two benches under the station's canopy, usually the one on the station's west end, where I can see the town's clock that watches over the Harris Pavillion.

Last night the pavillion was rather quiet, the unusually mild weather keeping most of the regular ice-skating crowd away. Across the tracks from me, the aroma of grilling burgers from Foster's Grille departed Foster's chimney and wafted across the Manassas sky. Inside, Foster's patrons sat at their cozy tables enjoying their "Charburgers" and fries. Two TV screens displayed CNN and ESPN respectively, left to right. I could see it all through the glass that fronts Norfolk Southern's tracks—the tracks leased by both AMTRAK and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).

I like to sit at our train station, watching and listening. I especially enjoy being there between 7:00 and 8:30 in the evening when VRE and AMTRAK pull in, and folks embark and disembark their trains. When the train's whistle sounds from afar, I envision it passing through the Manassas Park station. From there it crosses Manassas Drive, Quarry Road, Fairview Road, then Main and Battle Streets, before reaching the station.

At this point in my story, I could easily slip into a philosophical mode, pontificating on the call of the train whistle, and the mystery and adventure surrounding the whole realm of trains. I could write about the lure of far away places, the world of the hobo, and the meaning of it all. But I won't. That isn't what my story is about today.

So, back to the scene. Just to my left, the RR crossing at West Street rumbled each time a car crossed over the tracks. Bump-bump-a-bump, bump-bump-a-bump. Two sets of rumbles for two sets of tracks. To my left, two lone skaters glided across the ice. They did so with a fair amount of proficiency I might add, seeming to enjoy having the rink to themselves.

When I first arrived at the station, I noticed half of a Washington Post newspaper sticking out of the recycle bin. I grabbed it and sat down to read. The paper reported that a Christian missionary group in Indonesia was relocating about three hundred children, orphaned by the tsunami, into a Christian home in Jakarta. This bold move had caught the attention of some, protesting that these now parentless children of Muslims should not be exposed to Christianity. I read online this morning that the missionary group had since backed off. So goes the world, the Church, and their odd dance through time.

As I was finishing up the article, a man approached me carrying a bag and a pillow.

"Excuse me sir," he said. "Do you know anything about AMTRAK?"

Caught off guard by his question, I tried my best to respond.

"AMTRAK comes through here," I answered, "but I don't have details about their schedule."

About that moment, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a woman coming in our direction. A young boy followed close behind.

"Here it is," she commented, pointing at the station's exterior brick wall as she turned toward AMTRAK's posted schedule.

At that moment, the conversation began. I asked the man about their destination.

Lynda Dickerson, it turns out, was on her way to Atlanta. Her husband, René, and their son, Kendall, had accompanied Lynda to the train station, having decided that catching the AMTRAK to Atlanta would be easier at the Manassas Station than travelling all the way into Union Station in DC. Good choice.

The Dickersons currently live in Ashburn, having moved to Northern Virginia from Oakland California about three years ago. It had been a difficult choice for them, they said, pulling up stakes and relocating. It took some adjusting. And after their first winter with snow on the ground as late as April, Lynda claims that they were almost ready to go back to California.

René Dickerson it turns out, makes his living as a full time artist. His work at right is titled Fat Lady Sings. He moved his family east because the opportunities for artists are so much greater here than in California. We talked about how his living here affords him access to so many more artistically-focused communities. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and of course Washington, D.C., along with a rich array of other art-loving locales, are within a day's drive.

A very friendly fellow, René was quite easy to converse with. He and I spoke about sports, particularly baseball, and a myriad of other things. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. And as his story unfolded, I found myself delighted to learn that he absolutely loves Virginia. René claims that he and Lynda have been to at least 42 states in our Union, and that Virginia is the most beautiful of them all. To this Virginia boy, that is sweet music in the ears. And speaking of sweet music, this work of Rene's is simply titled Trumpet.

The last of Rene's works displayed at right is titled Jazz in Blue and Orange. He is quite good, don't you think?

Before I headed back home, we exchanged emails. I hope to keep in touch with them.

At home, I sat down at my computer and "googled" René. I found several mentions of him. WJLA's (Channel 7 in DC) website refers to him as a "renowned" artist. That's quite a word. And here's a website displaying some of his work:

Anyway, sometimes you meet the nicest people when you least expect it.


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