May 31, 2019

Motorcycle Dreams; Rock Me Gentle…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:36 pm


The only thing worse than starting something and
failing … is not starting something.

— Seth Godin

It was a big dream and a bold one. I remember exactly when and where it came knocking. Back in early 2016, when I was working my way back from some serious heart issues. A-Fib. I slogged my way through that bleak wilderness, back to health. After I got home and got my head cleared, I thought about a few things. Well, two. I’d learn to ride a motorcycle. And I’d get me a tattoo. I’d be hard and mean and tough. Like you have to be, if you’re gonna preach the gospel to the pagans. That was the original plan, kind of tongue in cheek. But still. I figure you proclaim the gospel wherever you go, as you go. Even to the rough and rowdy biker crowd. Maybe especially to that crowd.

I remember how it felt, when the dream first came. Here. A new door beckoned. I told myself. You just walked through some hard places. You stared death in the face and survived. Now. Do something that you’ve never done before, something far out that you have never seriously considered. Like, oh, maybe learning to ride. Not a horse. I strongly dislike horses. So, no horse. A motorcycle. That’s it. Two wheels. Learn to ride. Live. Take some risks. Maybe you’ll die sooner than you would have, but you’ll die living. It’s freedom. It’s risk. It’s life. Maybe in the end, all that leads to death. If so, that’s fine.

I remember mentioning my little plan to Pastor Mark at church. He smiled and nodded. And he talked about it a few times in his sermons. Ira almost died. But he didn’t. Now, he’s looking at the things he’s never done. He’s going to ride a motorcycle. If I die, I die. “That,” said Pastor Mark, “is Christian freedom. Ira is free to dream wild dreams and go pursue them.” And, of course, that put the pressure on, too. I couldn’t back out now, not if I wanted to. Not after the pastor had proclaimed my plans to the whole church. I don’t know what the congregation thought. Probably that I had finally lost it. Most people smiled, though.

And then came a Saturday afternoon in early November of that year. I had signed up for one of the last sessions to get my motorcycle license. The state has a program where they train you. You had to sign up long before. I told the instructors, when I got there. I’ve never driven a bike before. They just smiled. It won’t be a problem, they said. I was dubious. And that first day, it was nippy and cold. I had signed up for the second course, after lunch. There were more than a dozen of us, all newbies. All completely untrained. Well, maybe a few of those people had been on bikes before. A handful of us hadn’t. Raw recruits is what we were.

It was tough. The head instructor bellowed and barked like some marine drill sergeant at boot camp. He seemed awful full of himself. I mean, come on. We didn’t enlist for service. Just teach us how to ride. We want training. Fortunately, the other three or four instructors were all quite calm and nice. They started us off basic. This is a bike. This is a helmet. Fit one of these on your head. Choose a bike. This is the brake, this is the clutch. Eventually we got to actually start the engines. Then we walked the bikes back and forth. Then we rode. Information overload, for all the novices. It was dark when we wrapped up the final exercise. The loud mean officer took our papers and disappeared into the little shack. He would either pass or fail us. He stomped out and handed us our verdicts. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, or maybe I just imagined that in the darkness. I glanced at my paper. It wasn’t stamped. I had failed.

Well, now. This was a fine kettle of soup. I was discouraged. I’m not used to failing something so blatantly. Just like that, boom. You don’t pass. Almost, I would have given up. Still. The dream beckoned. Dream and ride. A week later, on a Sunday morning, I joined a ragtag group who met with a kindly instructor who had volunteered to teach us again. We’d try one more time, one last gasp before winter set in. All of us had failed. And that day, we simply practiced the harder stuff that had tripped us up before. And the kindly instructor passed us, every single one. I walked back out to my truck, proudly clutching the piece of paper that made it official. Look out, world. The rumble of my ride was ramping up, out there in the distance. You could hear it if you listened close.

And the dream rolled on. I kept an eye out, and late that winter, I bought my very own bike for the first time, ever. A small 2010 Yamaha 650, white, with under 2000 miles. The little car dealer over in Gap, that’s where I saw it. A friend pointed it out to me. And I slipped in and bought the bike. The thing was loud, and totally chromed up with extras. I would definitely make a statement, coming at you on those wheels. I poked around at different places and finally found a nice helmet that fit. You could put the visor up or pull it down. And even in the hot summer, the mean marine instructor had hollered loud. Long pants, no shorts. Chaps would be good. I never got that far. Long sleeved shirt, and gloves. And the helmet, of course. I got everything together in my garage and waited for the summer sun to shine. Bike wheels, keep on rolling, was my song.

There was a song in my heart that summer for other reasons. I was stepping out, reaching out, and connecting a bit. Still drinking, though. The whiskey eventually destroyed that particular connection. I look back sometimes at a stark and brutal truth that has become very plain to me. The whiskey cost me a lot over the years, when it came to broken relationships. You don’t really think about it much, not until your head gets clear. And when that happens, it hits you. Wow. How could you have been so stupid and so blind? Anyway, late that summer, that song died. It was what it was, I guess. And life went on. My bike riding didn’t.

Somehow, I simply could not get motivated to go riding much. Oh, sure, I drove the backroads, over toward Farmersville and Ephrata. One fine Saturday afternoon, I rode over to my Amish friends, David and Esther Smucker. I roared in and parked, and rolled the throttle. The bike rumbled deep and loud. Inside the house, Esther scolded. “Is that Ira Wagler on his motorcycle?” It was. Oh, yes, it was. The problem with riding a bike over there was, there never was a lot of room to pack any of the extra food Esther generally had around that I could beg or steal. It’s a lot easier to haul a plate loaded with food in a Jeep than on a bike. This I can tell you without equivocation.

I never got real good at riding. Looking back from here, I can kind of see what faded and why. I never got off the ground, really. Never graduated from the back roads. It was fun, always. Just awfully hot in the summer sun, to put on all those heavy clothes, and then seal in all that heat with the helmet. It was always a production. That was the problem. You had to plan any little trip you took. I’m not used to planning. I’m used to jumping into my Jeep and going. And I wasn’t about to go riding without proper protection. The mean marine instructor had hammered the point home hard. I always rode dressed safe, because I didn’t feel confident enough not to.

I learned a little bit about motorcycle maintenance along the way. Well, I learned what the tenant taught me. The first winter, it got pretty cold. The bike was parked out in the garage and the battery exploded. I had no idea any such thing would or could happen. The tenant looked all wise and allowed that he should have thought of it. So the next spring, I handed him a hundred dollar bill and told him to get me a new battery and install it. And keep the change. He happily went his way and I went mine. He got the bike fired up and running, with fresh gas. This would have been last summer, 2018. He rode it some. I took it out a few times, never for long. And the bike just sat there in the garage, all silent and sedate, not getting many miles racked up at all. I tried to get excited about it. You can’t make yourself excited about something unless it comes natural on its own. So, it just didn’t happen.

I look back now, and it’s clear. My brain was preoccupied with a few other things last year. I had signed a contract for my second book. So that was always on my mind, somewhere. And I went up to Aylmer to see my father, too. Last June. A lot of life was jumbling around in my head. And I was writing dry for the first time since I started writing. Dry, as in not drinking whiskey. I wasn’t sure what would come or how it would get told. It was a bit of an adventure, there, getting that all figured out, I gotta say. I guess we’ll see what the market does with it.

And yes, that little bunny trail does have a connection to my main thread, here. The motorcycle, and why I didn’t bond with my mean machine. Last summer it sat almost entirely unused. And the tenant made noises, there at the end as the days got shorter. Maybe I was taking too much room out in the shop, there, where he keeps his car. He asked. Why didn’t I just sell it, if I wasn’t gonna ride it? You know what? I asked. That makes sense. Get that battery stored inside for the winter, and I’ll figure it out by next spring. The book will be done by then, at least the first draft. I’ll see if the pressure of the writing affected anything. Maybe it’ll come, I’ll want to ride, and I’ll like it. If not, if I don’t ride next spring, we’ll sell the bike. The tenant nodded. I think he knew full well what was coming.

A lot has happened since that day the tenant unhooked my bike’s battery and carried it upstairs to his apartment to keep it warm for the winter. Dad got real sick and real low, late last year. He died the day after Christmas. We all gathered and buried the man, the family did. I got back home from the funeral, and the writing gods smiled and the floodgates opened. I had been stuck with no closure. Since we went and buried my father, the words have flowed in torrents.

I got the rough manuscript sent off on the 8th of May, just like Virginia asked me to. And around that time, the tenant coughed politely one day. The motorcycle. Would I want him to place an ad on the Facebook marketplace? This time I never hesitated. Yes, I said. Yes. Get that bike out there. Let’s get it sold if we can. It was a casual comment. And it didn’t take long for me to face whether or not I really meant it. The next morning, already, here came a text from the tenant. A guy in York, the next county west, had made a lowball cash offer. He would come the day after tomorrow in the morning. The tenant wrote the figure. It was low, alright. Still. Might as well get what I can while the getting’s good. Tell him to be here Thursday morning, I texted back. Bring me Benjamins. I got the title ready to sign over. The tenant soon replied that it was all arranged.

Thursday morning. I slept in. Just before eight, I ran down to Sheetz for my coffee. The tenant was stirring out in the shop when I got back. He pushed the bike outside and fired it up. The engine rumbled and roared, same as always. And around 8:30, the guy showed up with his pickup and trailer. We got him backed in. An older guy. Turned out he and his son dabbled in motorcycles. He was going to resell the thing. Didn’t bother me at all. He checked out everything, revved the throttle, and then drove the bike around and onto his trailer. The tenant and I helped strap it down. Then the man handed me a fistful of Benjamins. I counted them out carefully, then peeled off two of them and handed them to the tenant. There you are, I said. For all the work you did to get this done. Then I followed the man into downtown New Holland, where we transferred the title at an insurance office. The Notary, and all. I signed where I needed to, then shook the man’s hand and walked out of there. I got to work a little late that day.

And that’s how the dream died, right there. It got led gently from the room. No fuss. No hassles. The preacher to the pagans never got far, at least not on his bike. Still, I guess you’re either reflecting the gospel, or you’re not. Motorcycle or not. It’s true. The rumble on the road never made it far. I guess I’m OK with that. Some dreams die. Some dreams don’t. This one did. The best I can say is that I leaned a skill I never had before. I can ride and shift a bike. That’s something, I guess.

And now, that leaves me with the second dream that never got anywhere. I never got a tattoo. And yeah, I know. That verse in Leviticus, where it talks about how the Lord don’t want you to make marks on your body for the dead. Been there. Heard that. It’s not for the dead. And besides, there’s another verse in Corinthians, written much later, about how all things are lawful. Maybe not edifying. But lawful. It’s a little like I wrote before about not wearing a tie to an Amish funeral. I can wear a tie, I got nothing against them. I just choose not to in that setting, to be respectful. In this setting, I am completely fine with getting some ink in me. And it’s looking more and more like I will.

And yeah, I know, too. Tattoos are foreign to the Amish culture. Somewhere, I’m sure, there is a bearded Amish man who always wears long sleeves because he got inked back in his wilder days. What would he tell his children? It’s a rare rash decision that is hard to erase, should regrets ever come calling. So, I know. Consider it all carefully before stepping through that door. It’s a lot more complicated than buying a motorcycle that you end up selling because your dream never got off the ground. I know that. Still, I’m tempted and leaning hard.

When the book comes out next year, maybe I’ll celebrate with a tattoo. That’s the road I’m looking at. It won’t be a cross, with any slogan. I’ve thought about it. Near as I can tell, there’s only one image that might make it worth the hassle of getting threaded with a needle gun for the first time in my life. And that would be the image of a breaking chain. A breaking chain around my upper arm. OK. Upper left arm, if you want to get all specific about the details.

And that breaking chain will speak a message more powerful than words ever could. There will be no freedom until the chains are broken, the chains of whatever is binding you. Those chains can only be torn asunder by a force stronger than any addiction known to any human. The gospel, proclaimed to all the pagans in the world.

Such will be the meaning of my tattoo.

Broken Chain

The word just got here, but not in time for this blog. Next month on the next blog, I will unveil my book cover to my readers and to all the world. It’s wild, and I’m excited about it. I hope you will be, too.

May 3, 2019

Last Call in Leola…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:55 pm


It’s a cruel, cruel summer.
Leaving me here on my own.
It’s a cruel, cruel summer.
Now you’re gone.

— Bananarama; Lyrics

It was my daily hangout for a good many years, back there. And then not so much the last while. Still, I stayed connected enough to hear the news when it first pulsed out a couple of months ago. Vinola’s was closing. It had been sold. My bar, the last bar I ever hung out at. It had been sold to some Mennonite ice cream people. Fox’s Ice Cream. That’s a good thing for anyone who likes ice cream, which includes most of us, I reckon. But I figure it’s just not that good a thing when the ice cream shop is replacing the neighborhood bar. Even the bar I quit going to.

I have a lot of really fond memories of Vinola’s. And, sure, the whiskey played a good part of making those memories. You go to where your heart takes you. And, mixed in there with all those years of drinking, there was a void of some kind. A void that I was trying to either fill or get lost in. That’s how I see it from where I am right now. It makes sense, I think. When you’re trying to fill a void inside you, you gravitate naturally to the spot where others might be doing the same thing. The bar. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. The bar is one of the most honest places in the world. You can shake your head and argue all you want, it’s still true. The bar is a safe place where the human condition meets itself, unflinchingly, without judgment. It would behoove the church to take notice.

And I was in such a season back when I discovered Vinola’s. A time in my life when I was stumbling along. And if there was going to be a whiskey journey anyway, well, Vinola’s made stretches of that road a whole lot more easy to walk. You could take it, you can always take what life throws at you, if you have friends around you. And the whiskey always greases the skids. If you hang out at the bar often enough, you get to be a regular. Your name is known, you are welcomed and loved like family. It’s all about belonging.

Not to rehash the details of what happened when. At some point back there, I decided that the whiskey was detrimental to me and how I felt. Healthwise, I wasn’t going to get much lower than I did. Twice, my heart almost gave out. Both times, I took a break. But then, I went right back, full swing. Back to the whiskey, and back to Vinola’s. I talked about it with a few close friends. My good buddy, Amos, the horse dentist, I told him. Amos is a good man and a good friend. He never made much noise, just quietly supported me. I told him. I’m quitting. It’s just too much.

And Amos told me later. “You were drinking yourself to death. That’s what was going to happen, if you didn’t do something about it.” Yeah, yeah, I thought. I know that. But it was a little startling to hear it spoken so boldly. Amos. If you knew I was doing that, why didn’t you say something? Amos shrugged. “For the same reason you don’t say something to anyone else who’s doing the same thing. No one can make you quit any bad habit until you decide to do it on your own.” Made sense, I thought. Well, I told Amos. I’ve decided to quit. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I wrote about it, when it happened, as it happened. And some version of those events will make it into the book. It’s a given. The hardest thing about quitting drinking is quitting drinking. To stop, cold. Boom. Give it up. The next hardest thing, well, that’s debatable. A few things stand out in my mind. Every afternoon, as I was heading home from work, those were the moments of truth. The ideal time for the body to relax with a drink. After a long day at work. And it hit me every day as me and my truck got close to home. I need a drink. All else in life paled in comparison to that one gnawing, desperate desire. Whiskey. I need whiskey. It was a persistent, running battle, not to turn Big Blue to the left and Vinola’s. NO. I told myself. Over and over, day after day. NO. Turn right. Go home. And once I had trained my truck to turn the right way, everything else just kind of fell into place. The weeks slipped by, then the months. At some point, I figured it out. Hey. I’m dry. I’ve changed some habits. I’ve lost forty pounds. I can do this. I feel good. I want to do this. And slowly, my desires changed. That’s what happened. Not saying they won’t change back. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Today, though, I’m good. Right now.

It took a while to work up the nerve to walk back through the doors of my bar. Early last year, in 2018, I was chatting with Amos. We talked about it. And that week, I walked into Vinola’s to meet Amos and to get some good food. It was the same place. Some of the same people. Ola, of course, was there in all her stunning beauty. The woman is and will be forever young. Even before I had left, she and Vince (Vince and Ola = Vinola’s. That’s where the name comes from.) weren’t together anymore, as a couple. She connected with a fine young man. None of us had ever seen the guy before. Matt. Ola and Matt and Vince and Nichole. The four of them were usually around the bar the last few years. Amos and I stopped in to eat, too, now and then. There were long stretches between the times we went. A few months, sometimes. When a place like that is open and accessible anytime, you don’t think much about how it would be if it wasn’t there.

I remember that Monday morning when Amos texted me. He had been at Vinola’s over the weekend, and he heard the place had sold. They were closing in a couple of months, sometime by May or so. I wasn’t that surprised at the news. There had been rumors, here and there. And now those rumors had come to pass. Vinola’s was closing. That’s too bad. We need to get over there a few times before that happens, I texted back to Amos. He agreed.

And we met regularly at the bar after work, me and Amos. A couple of times a week. Happy hour specials, for food and drink. I never paid the drinks any mind. The menu had changed a little from back in the old days. We sat at our usual seats at the center of Vinola’s long and unique and beautiful bar. I always kept an eye on whatever game was on the closest large screen TV. We chatted about a lot of things, me and Amos. We chatted with the other regulars, too. The place was still as comfortable and welcoming as it had always been.

Five years ago this week, we buried Mom up in Aylmer. On a Wednesday. I remember how it was. And how it went, the next time I walked into Vinola’s. That next Friday night, after getting home. I took a seat at the bar at my normal spot. Amy was working. Vinola’s always had the most stunningly beautiful barmaids. They fussed over you and treated you nice. Amy was special to me. My favorite, pretty much. When she flashed her dazzling smile, you felt as if you were the only man in the whole world. Well, the only man in the whole bar, at least. And that night, Amy and Rachel were working. They both offered their condolences. “I’m sorry to hear about your Mom.” Thank you, I said. I had a drink, and then some food. The bar was buzzing. Lots of people. Soon it was time to settle up. I asked for my check.

Amy smiled that dazzling smile. She flitted about the cash register, then came to me with a long face. “I can’t find any check for you, Ira,” she said, mournfully. I looked at her. “You have no bill here,” she went on. It finally sank in. I was getting comped, because I had lost my Mom. Ah, Amy, I said. You don’t have to do that. She looked blank. “Do what?” She asked innocently. I laughed and thanked her. That was one of the nicest gestures anyone did for me after Mom died. Right there at Vinola’s, at the bar. I never forgot. Down the road, the time came that I said good-bye to Amy. I haven’t seen her for a couple of years. She was a single mom, studying pre-med. One day, it’ll happen, probably. I’ll walk into a doctor’s office, and there she’ll be.

The book was a good part of my identity at Vinola’s, too. Growing Up Amish had been on the market for a few years when I first started hanging around. I never made a fuss about it, just casually mentioned the fact when I could slip it in without seeming uppity. I gave away a good many copies to the servers, there. And to Vince and Ola, too, of course. Ola looked astounded and pleased. Vince bragged in a great loud voice to many of his other customers. “Let me introduce you to Ira, our NY Times bestselling author.” He seemed proud of that fact. And it was funny, too. I brought a copy of the book in, signed it to the bar, and asked Ola to place it on a shelf, surrounded by many colorful bottles of hard liquor. She set it up on a little stand I bought just for that reason. The book glinted in the lighting, and I beamed with pride. I figured that was a special privilege.

Book at bar
My book at the bar.

I traded copies of my book for drinks, for a few years there. More than a few strangers agreed to buy me a drink for a signed copy. I had many interesting conversations with people who seemed startled to find a real author sitting and drinking at a bar.

The closing countdown plugged along. Ola put the date on the sign outside. April 25th. Thursday. That was the last day, ever, for Vinola’s as we knew it. I flirted with the idea of not showing up that night. But I couldn’t stay away. I ate at home, then sat at my desk and worked on some editing. And then, around 7:00, I headed out. Amish Black and me drove the two miles to Vinola’s one last time. The place looked full. I found a parking spot and walked up the steps into the back door, which is technically the front door. The place was always strange, like that.

The bar was full. People sat, nursing their drinks. A great many others milled about. Old time regulars. And looking around, I recognized a lot of faces from the past. A lot of servers that I had not seen for months and years. I strolled about, greeting people and snagging as many hugs as possible from the beautiful girls I knew. I had not contacted Amos. Tonight, I was alone. I found a seat at the bar close to the middle. My usual spot. I sat here hundreds of times before. From here, I have watched the ebb and flow, the tides of life. And I remembered a thing that happened years ago. It was a Saturday night. I usually hung around Vinola’s at five or six. Early. I never was a late owl at the bar. Maybe that’s why I never got nailed, driving home. The cops weren’t out, yet. I always drove real careful, but when it gets late, the cops will harass you and wreck your life for no reason.

Anyway, that evening I had a few drinks and some food. I remember sitting there, mulling over things. Looking serious, I guess. And somehow, I must have nodded off a bit. I wasn’t sleepy. I don’t know why it happened. I paid and got ready to head out. I noticed that one of the barmaids hovered close. And then there were a couple of people standing behind me. “We’re taking you home,” one of them said. I looked startled. What’s up with that? No one knew, really, except they saw me swaying as I was sitting. Vince walked out with me. We boarded Big Blue. Vince drove. Another regular, John the Wise, followed us, to bring Vince back. And the two of them took me home. I guess I should have been ashamed. I was, a little. Mostly, I was grateful that the people at Vinola’s were looking out for me. I felt pretty mortified, though. And I vowed in my heart that such a thing would never, never happen again. It never did.

Back in mid-April, just a few weeks ago, a funny thing happened. I was sitting at the bar, minding my own business, chatting with Amos. Matt was tending bar. Ola stood a little way down, chatting with some friends. Somewhere in there, I beckoned Matt over. That lovely lady standing down there. Isn’t she the owner of Vinola’s? I asked, feigning ignorance. I’d like to buy her a drink. Matt grinned and allowed he could take care of that. Some time later, he served the drink to Ola. She smiled down the bar, in thanks. And a few minutes later, she came over to thank me in person.

Ira and Ola
A kiss from the Queen. Ola and Ira.
(And no, she’s not rolling her eyes. It just looks that way.)

I always sneak a hug from any beautiful woman when I can. Ola and I chatted a bit, she hugged me, and we talked. Then she introduced me to another lovely lady sitting there. The second lady, I didn’t know. I’d never met her. She was quite stunning. Ola dragged me over and made introductions. “This is Ira. He’s a book writer.” The lovely woman turned to me with a huge smile. She was almost swooning, which puzzled me a little. And pleased me. I’m not used to any woman swooning when I come around.

She smiled again, a big bright smile. And she gushed. “What kind of bulls do you ride?” She heard “bull rider” when Ola said “book writer.” Oh, my. If a smile could melt you, I’d be a puddle. No, no, I protested. Book writer. Not bull rider. She had to absorb the brutal truth. We all laughed and laughed. It was too funny. Turns out she came from Texas a few years ago. I guess you hear what your ears are tuned to hear.

On this last night, Ola and Matt were scurrying around frantically, serving food and drinks. Ola smiled and welcomed me. Water with lemon, I told her. She brought it and I thanked her. And I sat there and sipped from my glass and surveyed the scene. Then I took my lemon water and walked around. Mingled. Vince was working the room, and I chatted a bit with him. Thanked him for all he’s done over the years to keep such a place running. Some of the customers were old timers that I had not seen since I quit drinking. I laughed, I chatted, I shook hands, I sipped water, I talked real loud. Just an ordinary scene at an extraordinary bar on a special Thursday night.

Ira Ola bar

I mingled and socialized until around 9:00. That’s late, for me. Always was, at any bar. And I thought about it, then. Do I go and formally taking my leave, or do I just walk out quietly, with no fuss? I looked around at many familiar faces. The place was getting loud. I approached a small knot of friends. Shook their hands. I’m leaving, I said. And that was it. I turned and walked out of the bar that had been like a second home to me in one season of my life. Some of the people there that last night, some of them I will probably never see again. I walked out of there, out to my Jeep in the crowded parking lot. Inside, the music and the laughter thumped and rocked. I drove to the highway and turned left into the darkness toward home.

And now, Vinola’s is no more. Such is life.

Mostly, I write about what I have a mind to write. Don’t matter if my views are heretical to people who rattle on and on about the law. There are a few subjects that I have shied away from, historically. Tar baby stuff. The stuff that can’t get resolved and never will. For instance, I have always steered clear of the head covering debate. I guess there’s actually a group out there, called the Head Covering Movement, proclaiming the great news of a great “truth.” Women must cover their heads. It’s the law. I’ve seen their posts. Not so much, lately. But in past years, it’s been out there, the apologetics of a fledgling movement trying to break into the mainstream. It ain’t gonna happen. Sorry to tell you guys that. You seem sincere, just vastly misguided.

I guess there’s no reason to hold back how I feel about it. I have no use for head coverings on anyone. It’s bondage. It’s legalism. It’s idol worship. I will not walk in chains. And in my opinion, the headcovering tends to make the woman wearing one feel superior to the woman who isn’t. Not saying it always does. But I bet if you could look deep down in the crevices of the heart, you’d see a good bit of smug satisfaction from women who feel they are more pure because their heads are covered. I bet you’d be surprised how prevalent it is. Not saying it has to be that way, and not accusing anyone, here. This is how I see it. That’s all. Nothing personal at anyone.

It was a long hard slog, to break free from that world. And now, I have very little patience for anyone pontificating about the law to me. The whole thing has always made me weary. If you choose to wear a covering, fine. People have deeply held beliefs, and I try to respect that. But. There’s always a “but,” and this is a big one. BUT if you believe that failing to do so will cause you to lose your salvation, you are in bondage to the shackles of the law. Period.

It always makes me shiver to hear the hoarse, rasping voice of any man insisting that the woman is responsible to dress “modest” and wear a large bag over her hair, so the man doesn’t have lustful thoughts. Many years ago, I heard a visiting Amish preacher go off like that. On and on about the Reine Jungfrau, the pure young virgins who had oil for their lamps at midnight when the bridegroom came. The preacher man roared around like a hoarse and rasping bear. I was highly suspicious of him. Later, it came out that he had sexually abused his own daughters for years and was doing it right at the time I heard him. You don’t forget a thing like that.

The scriptures are often used as a club to berate and suppress the “weaker vessel.” I have a few words for such men as that. You alone are responsible for the darkness in your own heart. Stop blaming women. Repent from your wicked ways. Seek forgiveness. Walk in the light.

Anyway. This whole headcovering thing came up because I came across a link last week. It’s the most sensible exegesis I’ve ever seen on the subject. Written from a good old Reformed Presbyterian (that would be Calvinist) perspective. At last, a rational explanation to counter the incessant clamor of the Anabaptist headcover legalists. I think it’s quite refreshing.

And the first of the month came around again, this week. May 1st. The due date for my manuscript. I communicated with Virginia a few times, and she told me the other day. She’s still finishing up her current project, so she didn’t need my stuff for another week. May 8th. That’ll be the big day now, I guess. I’ll definitely be working hard all weekend, to wrap up a few things. It seems like my mind splices out into a thousand different threads as I’m writing. Well, how about this? And over here, what about that? It just never stops.

I won’t say I feel good about it. But I feel calm. Virginia sent me a sample cover layout the other week. Broken Roads: Returning to my Amish Father. That’s the title. I can’t remember that anyone came up with precisely that suggestion. If you did, point me to your post, and I’ll get you a free copy of the book.

From what I’ve seen, the cover of my second book will rival the cover of my first. It’s that good. I never expected such a thing. The art and design people are total professionals, there at Hachette. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. I’ll share the cover layout the second I have permission, and after they get it tweaked just right. I’m excited.