The main street of Warrenton in the 70s was patronized by the same kind of customers that had shopped there as far back as the 40s. There was Carter's, a dimly lit clothing store with tables of folded pants and shirts specializing in a brand of blue jeans that most local farmers and the hardworking horsey set had to have; two hardware stores that had expanded into basic kitchen wares and overstuffed sofas for the owners of new ramblers built around town during the late 50s, Sweeney's, a well stocked shoe store that included Bass Weejuns, PF Flyers and expensive shoes for Warrenton's better dressed; and two drug stores including Rhode's with a lunch counter offering sundaes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and a comfortable meeting place for all. The only fancy store in town was Hurst Jewelers where well heeled locals purchased their engagement rings, formal dinner china and sterling silver flatware.
The new Town Duck was different. The offerings included unique food items such as specialty cheeses and crackers and wines; funky tchotchkes and humorous art pieces, colorful tea towels and aprons, and expensive French cook ware. As Warrenton had grown and changed, the Town Duck in the 70s was just becoming a refuge for those imagining a life beyond their tractors and horse trailers. I was fascinated.
From my walks back and forth into Warrenton on drawing expeditions, I'd grown to admire what looked like exotic still-lifes in the store's two display windows. One day I noticed a pretty white and blue vase there, modern and elegant I thought. I ventured inside. The owner, Robyn, greeted me politely and we began to talk. She was in her early twenties, small with a beautiful long braid down her back and an open and lively way of presenting herself; a flower child in sweat pants I could relate to. And I wanted her to relate to me, an artist trying to get back on her feet, a modern painter with an eye for detail who had recently escaped from a schizophrenic episode in San Francisco and now was earning a living serving coffee and cocktails across the friendly skies.
As I shared all this mindlessly, Robyn looked at me as if I was a normal and interesting person. For the first time in a long time, that's almost how I felt: normal yet crazy in an artsy kind of way. As I gathered my new purchase under my arm, I left the Town Duck believing a friend in Warrenton might be a possibility.
To be continued ...