October 12, 2007

The King (of Radio)

Category: News — Ira @ 5:58 pm


“I, I will be King
You, you will be Queen
Though nothing, nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes
For just one day.”
—The Wallflowers, Lyrics: “We can be Heroes”

On Monday morning, Pastor Dave called me at work. A friend had bought four tickets to see Rush Limbaugh Thursday night in Philly. They needed one more person to fill out the group. The tickets cost $80 each. Would I like to go? I thought for about two seconds. Of course I would. I’m honored you thought of me, I said.

Rush Limbaugh. Probably the most hated and the most admired man in modern Amer-ican culture. And the most feared by his enemies. A powerful voice blasting over the radio airwaves for three hours a day, five days a week. A man who over the years has influenced me in countless ways, a man I deeply admire and respect. An icon. The King of radio. A real hero. At least to me.

I remember the first time I heard him. In 1992, I think it was, when I was a destitute and struggling student at Bob Jones in Greenville, SC. I lived in a dilapidated trailer house in a dumpy trailer court with a strange roommate named Jim. A part-time stu-dent and an electrician, Jim had many eccentric habits, like walking around barefooted with a stocking cap on his head, muffler tightly wrapped around his throat and drinking hot tea while sniffling from a bad head cold. The problem was in the head, not the feet, he claimed. I couldn’t have agreed more. Jim was technically my landlord; he rented the trailer and sublet a room to me. A more tight-fisted landlord has not had the pleasure of my acquaintance. Each month’s utilities were carefully calculated and split to the last penny.

Once he laboriously prepared a long list of subjects just before he called a girl he liked, so he wouldn’t run out of things to talk about. Later I heard him on the phone with her, painstakingly working his way down every item on the list. The conversation did not seem to be going well, with many long awkward pauses, so I’m not sure all the subjects were discussed.

But I digress. Back to Rush and the first time I heard him. One day at noon I was huddled at the rickety kitchen table in the dilapidated trailer, eating a meager lunch between classes. Jim had an old radio sitting there. I turned it on, figuring I wouldn’t be charged extra for the electricity. A deep booming voice filled the room. The guy made a lot of sense. And was funny. I listened, intrigued. Just then, Jim wandered in from his class.

“Oh, I see you’re listening to Rush,” he said, reaching for his account book to note the fact (just kidding).

“Rush who?”

“Rush Limbaugh, the guy on talk radio who’s getting so famous. He’s on at more than a hundred radio stations. He’s great,” Jim replied. “Although I don’t agree with quite everything he says. I’m not sure he’s a Christian,” he added piously. I rolled my eyes as I chomped my food. I remember thinking that Rush sure is a funny-sounding name.

Although highly dubious about anything Jim might recommend, I continued listening to the booming voice on the radio. About a week later, I was hooked. I have been a Ditto Head ever since.

That was fifteen years ago. Since then, I have been an unabashed and loyal fan through thick and thin. At some very hostile places, including law school, where admitting you listened to Rush was tantamount to confessing a grave and dark sin. I not only confessed, I did so publicly with great gusto and did not repent.


Rush has strong beliefs and viewpoints. He articulates them clearly, passionately and unapologetically. His rollicking theme song announces his coming to the faithful. His parodies are scathing and hilarious, his humor devastating. From him I have learned to be skeptical and to question the source of any governmental claims or special-interest statistical studies. Numbers can be massaged and manipulated to fit any particular agenda. I learned to be deeply suspicious of government in general. To value the freedoms we have, even though they are eroding at an alarming rate. To despise the arrogant elitists who would dictate to the unwashed what is good for them and how they should behave. I also learned that I don’t agree always with Rush on every point, but that he’s well worth listening to anyway.

Kings have feet of clay. So do heroes. And so does Rush. He’s had his share of troubles. And more than his share of detractors and demonizers. The drug scandal of a few years ago, when he entered a drug treatment center for addiction to Oxycontin. He’s churned through three marriages and is currently divorced. Endured countless personal attacks. Including a presently unfolding full-court press by the Dems, doing their desperate best to convince the country that Rush does not support the troops. Congressman Henry “Nostrilitis” Waxman has his investigation team combing Rush’s archives. Investigating a private citizen with the full power of a hostile and intimidating government. The Dems can’t compete with him in the arena of ideas, and so seek to shut him up by any means they can. They will fail.

Camille Paglia, the only feminist author I admire (or worth reading) summed up the Dems’ attack on Rush as follows: “The latest example is the near-delusional campaign to turn popular radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has unwaveringly supported the military for nearly 20 years, into an anti-military antichrist. If Democrats are serious about ideology-based government regulation of talk radio, then the party is fast abandoning its fundamental principles, central to which should be constitutionally protected free speech.” (Salon.com) Speak it, sister.

Through it all, the man rolls on. His steady, even keel and good cheer in the midst of violent personal and political tempests have inspired me many times in my own dark days.

—(Those were heady times at Bob Jones. The 1992 Presidential race was in full swing. Another one of my heroes, Patrick J. Buchanan, who was nipping at President George Bush Senior’s heels like a pesky, yapping dog, arrived at the campus for a campaign speech. The auditorium was packed out to capacity at around 6000 people. Mr. Buch-anan and his sister, Bay Buchanan, were escorted onto the stage by a contingent of somber wingtip-and-suit-and-tie clad BJU leaders. Mr. Buchanan took the podium. He delivered a fiery speech. We all erupted in applause again and again. His closing line I will always remember verbatim: “….we have it on the highest authority that the truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.”

I was thrilled to the core of my soul. I had read Mr. Buchanan’s columns for years as a young Amish boy on my parents’ Iowa farm. His was the first high-level political event that I ever attended. I felt that he was a great man and I was awed to have been in his presence.

That year, Mr. Buchanan, in a speech at the Republican Convention in Houston, coined the term “culture war.” He was widely denounced and excoriated for the term and for the “harshness” of his speech. But time has proven his words prophetic. The culture war had indeed begun. It has been raging unabated ever since. And the outlook remains grim, as the conservatives have abandoned beachhead after beachhead in a rearguard action from secular assault.)—

Yesterday (Thursday), at 5 PM, I met Jim Stoltzfus, Leon Lapp, Jr. and Dave Nissley at the Parkesburg Wal Mart parking lot. Jim had bought tickets for the Rush show and also provided the ride to Philly in his SUV. The four of us had a jolly time riding to the city, laughing and catching up. I have known Jim and Leon for many years, since the Pequea days in the early 1990s, but had not hung out with them for a long time.

Jim navigated skillfully right into downtown Philly, where we found parking for the evening for sixteen bucks. We had a bit over an hour to kill, so we walked around to find a little restaurant for a bite before the show. We chose the Good Dog café, which was actually a little dive bar on the bottom floor with the restaurant on the second floor. The long bar was loud and full, just the kind of place I will work at someday, when I decide to scratch my bartending itch. The food was affordable and excellent.

Friends in the city.
Jim Stoltzfus, Leon Lapp Jr., Dave Nissley

Jim, Ira, Leon. I’m wearing my “Gitmo” Orange shirt.

Ira and Leon

After the meal, we walked the two blocks to the Academy of Music on Broad St. A four-wide crowd half a block long was already lined up, filing slowly into the theater. The Academy is a lovely, old historic place. We had tickets for the first balcony. There were four balconies. Sadly, the tickets stated in plain and threatening language that absolutely no photographs were allowed to be taken, and that all cameras would be confiscated if discovered. So I left mine in the vehicle.

We found our seats, and it was time for the show. The MC walked out and delivered a short rah-rah speech, then without further ado introduced RUSH. The place echoed with thunderous applause as he walked onto the stage. There he was in person, the man whose voice I had faithfully listened to for fifteen years, in almost every setting imaginable. He started out with a repertoire of jokes and funny stories that may or may not have actually happened to him. Many included Hillary as the main antagonist. Rush actually met her at a friend’s wedding a number of years ago. These jokes and stories were soon interspersed with more serious subjects, and he hit at the Dems time and again for the latest “phony soldier” scandal and the real damage they would do to the economy if elected to power. The crowd interrupted many times with cheers and several standing ovations.

It took Rush about fifteen minutes to really get warmed up. After that, he hit his groove and seemed very comfortable and relaxed. He spoke without notes for about ninety minutes. As he closed, we all rose to our feet for about the fifth standing ovation. Rush walked to the front of the stage and shook hands with a few lucky fans. He kissed the hand of one lovely young lady and made a great show of examining her left hand and feigning disappointment that she was married. The crowd roared.

We left the city and I was home by midnight. I was glad to have seen my hero in the flesh, the man who had accompanied me through many years of my life. Like many other memorable experiences, this one was once and done. I felt honored to have been in the same room with him, but will likely not go to another of his events.
My boss, Patrick Miller and his wife, Mary June, attended the MetalCon convention in Las Vegas last week. The show consists of a vast array of vendors associated with the metal forming industry. Patrick and MJ stayed in a hotel in a downtown casino. Unfor-tunately, on Thursday evening, Mary June was mugged by two young thugs right out-side the well-lit casino. Patrick was just a few feet away, but inside the door when it happened. He heard his wife’s screams of distress and rushed out and chased away the two thugs. They did not get Mary June’s purse, the target of the assault, but they did manage to hit her hard in the face several times. She was rushed to the emerg-ency room at a local hospital and required a number of stitches above her left eye. She is doing well, but will deal with the emotional after-effects for some time, I am sure. Check out their own account at Mary June’s blog. I think of the words written thousands of years ago and marvel at how some things never change: “Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city.” Psalm 55:9

In the NFL this weekend, my Jets play the thug Eagles. The Jets languish at 1-4, a game ahead of the 0-5 Dolphins. A sorry state indeed. On Monday at work, I plan to either gloat incessantly or wear ear plugs, depending on the outcome.


Last, but certainly not least, the young upstart Cleveland Indians unceremoniously drove a stake through the evil hearts of the vile Yankees last Monday night (Oct. 8th). Now I can watch the League Championships and the World Series in peace. The Yankees looked shocked and sad. May their demise be long and painful, their winter desolate and cold, their thoughts bitterly haunted with what might have been; may none have compassion upon them. With great exuberance I celebrate, I dance and sing, “The wicked witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead.” At least until next year.

Special thanks to Dorothy (my niece) Miller for the box of delicious baked organic goodies. Breakfast for at least two weeks.


October 5, 2007

World Turning

Category: News — Ira @ 7:18 pm


“Everybody’s trying to say I’m wrong
I just wanna be back where I belong
World turning
I gotta get my feet back on the ground
World turning
Everybody’s got me down.”
—Fleetwood Mac, Lyrics: “World Turning”

Last Sunday (Sept. 30) about mid-morning, I emerged from my monastic cave, threw off my monastic habit, and re-entered the “real” world. Though a bit misty at the Saturday evening supper, realizing it was my last meal there, I was ready. It was time. I had rested. Reflected. Written. And now, left. The experience was one that I will mull over and absorb for a long, long time.


During that week, I did something I have not done for any length of time since leaving the Amish in the late 1980s. Something that could not be done at home. I didn’t watch one second of TV. I never read one newspaper. And that, if you know me, is just mind-boggling. OK, I did check the web a time or two when in town or posting my blog, but otherwise, nada. And it really wasn’t that bad. One just doesn’t think much about outside things while there. Not even football. Well, maybe a little. (I can’t get too outlandish with my claims, or all credibility will be lost.)

Within twenty minutes after leaving the Priory, I stopped at a little roadside diner for some breakfast and the Boston Sunday Globe. Looked like the world had kept right on turning in my absence. And churning. People blowing each other up in the Middle East. Hundreds of monks killed in Burma. The 2008 Presidential race. Hillary. Obama. Yak, yak, yammer. And perhaps the most scary thing of all; Hillary’s unveiling of her plan to pay each family $5000.00 for each child born. I’ll change my tune a bit from two weeks ago. If she wins, we are in BIG, BIG trouble. And she might well. Lord, have mercy (some Priory lingo there).

A few final thoughts on the Weston Priory brothers, as I was a bit rushed when posting last week’s blog, and may have been a bit harsh on them. The Priory is what it is, with a strong ecumenical bent. I respect the brothers tremendously. They obviously are steeped in Catholic and monastic traditions, with all that entails. Including practices we Protestants find, well, a bit strange.

While in law school, I developed close friendships with several practicing Catholics. They always told me to never, never partake in Catholic Eucharist, because that would be blasphemous. Not even the night before our Bar Exam, when I was tempted to and felt the circumstances were dire enough to justify it. But no. I was not of their faith. I understood and respected that. At the Priory, all who come are welcome to participate in communion. That means anyone. From any faith, or none at all. They would serve Osama bin Laden if he showed up, I’m sure. Murmuring words of peace all the while.

We are the sums of our experiences. The background from which I emerged was and remains insular and very private. Despite my emergence and ensuing education, some vestiges still cling. The concept of totally open communion, where those who do not profess or are even hostile to Christianity are welcome to participate in its most holy ritual, is completely foreign to me. I find it strange and disconcerting. And, in that area only, I couldn’t get past it. In my head. For that reason, and not because I thought myself superior, I chose not to participate. Of course, the brothers didn’t blink an eye, one way or the other. I was welcome to partake. Or not.

I developed a deep respect for Brother John. A quiet, unassuming man, laboring in the fields baling hay, like a weathered granite Vermont farmer. He is highly educated, very intelligent, quiet, thoughtful, and engaging. During our conversations, he had a tend-ency to stare intently at me; I felt as if he was peering into my soul. But I was open and honest with him. He invited me to come back any time and said he would like me to address the brothers sometime about my Amish upbringing. He was fascinated by that. I told him I’d be honored. And a little intimidated. We’ll see if anything develops.

On my return trip, I meandered through upstate New York and stopped at Coopers-town and toured the Baseball Hall of Fame. I hadn’t really planned on it, but decided to stop, as the opportunity probably wouldn’t show up again anytime soon. A very inter-esting place with a treasure trove of historic paraphernalia.

At Baseball Hall of Fame


Braves Team display

The first anniversary of the Amish school shootings passed this week. Several Amish families gathered quietly on Monday. Thankfully, the news media respected their privacy and did not intrude. A police spokesman made a few comments. I have been impressed with the local newspapers. In the last month, the New Era ran a series of articles following up on the affected families. Most interviewees declined to be ident-ified. And so everyone moves on the best they can. As they can. You really don’t get over a tragedy of that magnitude in a year. Maybe never. Someone asked if I would do a follow-up essay to the one I wrote after the shootings (see Essays page). I said no. I just don’t have it in me.

It was back to the office on Tuesday. It took a day or two just to get re-acclimated to my surroundings and get back into the work groove. And back to the gym. No exercise for ten days. I gained three pounds from monkish foods. I’m just glad it wasn’t more. Emotionally I was pretty much drained. My long-anticipated vacation, just whoosh, gone like that. The days move somberly into fall, and harvest. Winter looms.

I am also in a foul mood because my hero, Fred the Curmudgeon, has retired his weekly blog, FredOnEverything. Fred is discouraged and distraught, which bothers me. His writings have influenced both my thinking and my own writing a good bit in the last year. I’m very sorry to see him go and will miss him. His final blog is dark and fretful. He sees bad things coming down the pike at us. Bad days. Bad times. When a guy with his abilities throws in the towel, I get very concerned. Like the canary dying in the cage in the coal mine. Something’s very wrong. Check out his final thoughts at Fred Reed; Outstanding Curmudgeon. Click the Fred Columns link.

In my absence, strange things occurred on the baseball diamond. When I left, the Phillies were several games out of first place. I thought they would swoon and die their usual agonizing death. It’s an annual ritual with the Phillies. But no. The Mets swooned instead. So much for my pick of World Series teams. You gotta hand it to the Phillies for hanging in there, especially during September. The guys at work are on cloud nine, of course. And as much as it pains me, as difficult as it is for my fingers to type the words, here you are. Deep breath. “Go Phillies.” I’m choking here. Can’t believe I wrote that. Actually, I figure the best way to make sure they lose is to cheer for them. And they are in a deep, deep hole at 0-2 to the Rockies. But they do have my respect, unlike the vile Yankees (may they be slaughtered by Cleveland).

Strange things also happened on the gridiron, especially college football. Penn State got soundly whacked. By Illinois. I couldn’t be happier about that. Welcome to the Big Ten. And Florida, beaten by Auburn. In the swamp. It just doesn’t happen. Notre Dame at 0-5 for the first time in its long and storied history. Charlie Wise ready to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. Who’da thunk it? The only thing missing was USC (the college football equivalent of the vile Yankees) getting beaten. That didn’t happen. Unfortunately.

But the Eagles didn’t disappoint. I loved every minute of that game. I watched it in my motel room. McNabb running around like a maniac. Or trying to. It’s hard to run anywhere when you’re getting sacked twelve times in one game, tying the NFL record. The Eagles are 1-3, just like the Jets, so there’s no crowing going on about that at work.

I am enjoying (mostly) “The New York Times Review of Books.” Seems like every issue has at least one far-left, liberal screed about something. And that’s OK. But in one recent issue, there were two. One raging against the conservative phalanx “ruling” the Supreme Court, predicting all kinds of gloom and woe. And one a serious examin-ation of AlGore and his latest boorish imbecilities. It was almost more than one can handle, two such articles in the same issue. One I expect and can take, but two, well, it’s a bit much for anyone with a smidgen of conservative leanings. Almost I fired off one of my trademark nasty letters to the editor, but thought, what the heck, it won’t do any good anyway. I’ll just vent on my blog. Why anyone would give a second’s effort to a serious discussion of a loon like AlGore just boggles my mind. I guess liberals have to prop each other up, or they would wither and drift away into complete irrele-vance. Actually, they already have, but just don’t know it.

I always glean a good amount of humor from the Review’s Personals Ads. Descriptions abound like “brainy,” “literate,” “sophisticated,” indiscriminate interest in nature, actively enjoys sunshine, enjoys Maine hiking in summer, London’s new Tate, keep returning to southern France, etc., etc. Ho, Jeeves. Where is that butler? And what say we go sailing, my dear? And stop by that cozy little cafe for a spot’a tea? Where we shall have stimulating and enlightened conversation. The whole lot sounds crazier than the cat lady on “The Simpsons.”

Last week’s blog was my first one written and posted completely on my MacBook. I was very happy with the little laptop. In the week leading to my departure, Patrick at work gave me some last minute instructions and lessons. By post time, I was very familiar and comfortable with it. Including downloading and resizing photos. Outstand-ing little computer. Powerful too. I highly recommend a MacBook to anyone consider-ing a laptop.

The Nicholas story (Sept. 14th post) continues to rumble and echo throughout the land. That particular blog has been copied, faxed, mailed and passed on from person to person more than any single thing I’ve ever posted. It has touched those who never knew him and have no idea who he was. I think I know why. From our own childhoods, we all either remember “Nicholas” or we were him. To a lesser extent, of course. We either regret our actions or vividly relive our own pain. And childhood trauma, whether inflicted or endured, has a way of surfacing powerfully when those old memories are revived.