Saturday, June 23, 2012

Warning you from Manassas

Have you ever been to Manassas? Good. Don't come here.

I mean, there's really nothing to see out here. Circumstances forced us to move out here a year ago. I won't go into that, suffice it to say it rhymes with "Mussian Rafia" and we were compelled to skeedaddle. In that time, it's been a struggle to find happiness and enjoyment.

I mean, first of all, there's the distance. It's about 30 miles down either I-66 or I-95, both of which are a white-knuckle, aneurysm-inducing travel by car. I've taken to riding the train every day, which helps, if you can stand lush green forest scenery for 99 percent of the trip to or from the city. There are streams and occasionally wildlife, and don't even get me started on how much work one can get done when you don't have to fight the nose-to-rump rush of traffic every day.

Then there's Old Town Manassas itself. On Saturdays there's a farmer's market right by the train tracks. People mill around as though they haven't got a care in the world, "enjoying" violin music and fresh-baked bread. I guess this is where the unambitious and unmotivated go to expire.

Let me warn you: it's primitive. Not a single vendor has anything like a "Bonus Card" or reward points for your purchases. And if you actually want to risk trying some totally unique and delicious salsa, or beautiful, luscious produce without the barest hint of the safety of chemicals or pesticides, be my guest. Fortunately, there's usually some kind of Virginia vineyard represented that offers generous shots of their wares to get you by.

I had to escape the sweaty hoi polloi, so I ducked into Prospero's Books. I was immediately disappointed -- nobody assaulted me with an offer to buy an electronic book reader that can also waste my time with Internet surfing. And good luck finding anything -- row upon narrow row of wood shelving groaned with, admittedly, a huge selection of cheap books, but if there was an organizational system to it, I couldn't discern it. One could spend hours there "making discoveries" without knowing what time it is at all. And the rack of 100-year-old books? Who wants that? I couldn't find one single pop-history screed by ANY talk show host. Hello? RELEVANCE, people!

It was depressing. I bought my stack of books (on PAPER, if you can believe that!) and retreated to Simply Sweet, a nearby coffee shop. It's another one of these non-chain type of shops with no uniformity of branding to speak of. Despite my concerns, I found a table to read and write with few interruptions, and those only to ask me if I was doing alright and/or needed a refill. At least they have the humility and self-awareness to charge less than $7 for a simple cup of coffee.

Yeah, this isn't the place for you if you like city living. It's WAY too slow and friendly. Oh, and I almost forgot, if nearly untouched Civil War battlefields that send you into fits of reflection gives you hives, you definitely want to stay away from the free Manassas National Battlefield Park. You might start breaking out with "perspective" and "peace" or, God forbid, "appreciation."

I don't know how much longer we'll be able to stand it, but since we have another year on our lease, I guess we'll have to suck it up and get by. Consider yourself warned.

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