November 29, 2013

Tales from the Bar…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:30 pm


One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons–marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

—C. S. Lewis: Mere Christianity

I’ve written about it pretty freely, here and there. Spoken it when it happened. I like to hang out in bars, when the setting’s right. And by that I mean, I’ve never hung out in a bar like they did in “Cheers.” Not that way, not as a daily thing on the way home from work. But still. I’ve always been pretty comfortable there. Restless, but still more comfortable than the world I came from, back when I was running around. I don’t know what it is, the thread that keeps those tense and desperate days connected to these good ones in such a generally accepted “sinful” place. I think it’s because when you’re in a bar, everyone around you just accepts the fact that you are there.

I’m not talking about biker bars and such, because I’ve never been comfortable in those. Strictly personal preference, though. I got nothing against those who are. And I’m not talking about the fights and confrontations and such, the tales you hear now and then. I’ve never been around that kind of stuff, much. That’s just the human element, and it can come at you in any setting out there. But no one has ever questioned my presence in any bar. I’ve always been accepted just as I was. And you always want to go back to a welcoming place like that.

It’s one of the most judged words in the modern “Christian” world, ever, I think, at least in this country. An evil word. Bar. He hangs out at the bar. What more needs to be said? That alone justifies judgment and condemnation. Jesus would never hang out in such a place. And He’d sure never hang out with such sinful people. And it wearies me, such moralistic chatter, about as much as it wearies me to wonder if an Amish man will follow up on his threat and stop by at work and scold me about my book. I get so tired, hearing all that talk. And all that scolding.

And I got no problem with anyone abstaining from anything because of personal convictions, or for any other reason. I got a problem with the moralizers, the ones who loudly proclaim that the thing they choose to abstain from is in and of itself is a sinful thing. It’s just silliness, such incessant braying. I’ve heard it all my life. They read and recite rote words, people who speak that way. It’s not real talk. Not face to face. And you reach a point where you try to talk face to face, wherever you are. And that’s why I can tell you I enjoy sitting at a bar. I enjoy it a lot, now and then. Judge me all you want, but that’s just the way it is.

It’s been so sporadic, though, for me to even get to one. I do, when I travel. Just to talk to people and of course drink a little scotch. But I’ve never been a regular in any local bar. Well, except for those days back in Florida, way back. We did it then, every week. And knew we would again the next. But not since then have I been much of a regular anywhere, except for maybe back in my law school days. We hung out at Blondie’s pretty often. But other than those two aberrations, never. Not anywhere I’ve lived. And it never was any conscious thing at all. It’s just the way it all went when it came.

And a little side note, here. If you’ve read the profile on this blog all the way to the end, you’ll know that one of my little dreams is to tend bar some day. Not because I have to. But because I want to. I want to serve drinks to people who are sitting there, hanging out and getting comfortable in one of the most honest places they know. You bet I want to do that. And I think I would like it, and I think I would be good at it. I’ll never get that itch scratched, unless I step out there a bit and talk to people. And keep an eye out for a place where it all could work. If it never happens, I’m totally fine with that. If it does, that’ll be fine, too. It’s not that big a deal, one way or the other. OK, side note over.

And all that, to say this. I got a call one Sunday afternoon, way back last summer, July, I think it was. From a couple of friends from church. Hey, we’re going to watch Nascar at Vinola’s, just down the road from you. Come on over and hang out. And I didn’t really want to go. Sure, hanging out would be fun. But I wanted to watch a little football, and maybe take a nap. And I made some sort of excuse of some kind. Thanks, but it just won’t work out today.

And they waited a little while. Never mentioned nothing, for a month or two. And then again, the invitation came. And again, I wanted to go. But not enough to get there. And they didn’t mention it again. Not until I brought it up to them, oh, probably about a month ago or so. At church. I was going to the home of some real good friends for lunch. And I’d be up and around, anyway, a little later. And I asked them. Will you be there watching the race this afternoon? “Oh, yes,” they said. And they told me the time. I calculated it would all work out, that little loop. And I told them. All right, I’ll plan on stopping by to hang out.

And I looked forward to it, even though it meant that I’d have to step out of my hole a bit. It meant that I had to make an effort to go somewhere, meet people, and interact. Thing is, I’m pretty comfortable right here at home. Just putzing around, doing a little writing, watching a little football, checking Facebook now and then. That’s the way it’s been, ever since I started writing. You’re just comfortable at home. Not that I don’t like to get together with friends. But going to a bar to get that done just never seemed worth it, much.

And I drove over when it was time. Late afternoon. Just a couple of miles down Rt. 23. It’s a real nice place, Vinola’s. A new owner completely gutted and remodeled it a few years back. It’s a full service restaurant, with a nice pub room off to one side. I’ve heard all kinds of good things about it. Just never bothered to stop in and check it out for myself. And I walked in through the double swinging doors, and looked around, my eyes adjusting to the dim lighting. It all looked real cozy. And there they sat, my friends, off to one end. The race was roaring on the big flat screen TV up behind the bar. It was a long bar, with a couple more TVs spread along. Small crowds huddled, nursing their drinks, mostly watching football. And yelling or groaning, now and then, as a group.

My friends welcomed me, and I took a seat. A tall, real bar stool. The barmaid approached. These folks dragged me in here, I told her. So I’m hanging out for a bit. She smiled and welcomed me. She was the owner of the place, I found out later. Get me a scotch on the rocks with a little water. Glenlivet, if you got it. She had it, and she went and poured me a good stiff one. A glass of water, too, when you get a chance, I told her. I always try to drink a lot of water, when I’m in a place like that. Keeps your system cleaned out a little better, I’ve heard. She brought that to me, and I just settled in with my friends.

And I instantly felt a sense of connectedness such as I’ve not felt in a long time. Not in a place like that, not outside church. It just came at me, and I walked right into it. We chatted. Talked about the race, who was leading. Nascar is a good thing to watch, but I’d rather watch football. It made no difference what we were watching, one way or the other. We were together, hanging out at the bar. And just talking like good friends do.

And this will seem strange, if you haven’t been there. But it all just flowed out on its own. We talked about a lot of things, sitting there at the bar and drinking our drinks. And we talked about the sermon we heard in church that day, too. I probably brought it up. Because it just seemed like a natural thing to do in that setting.

I attend Chestnut Street Chapel in Gap. It’s a tiny church group, but the most comfortable one I’ve ever found. And there’s some real heavy stuff being taught in there by Pastor Mark Potter. He could go wherever he wanted to, and preach at a mega church. But he doesn’t. He stays right where he is, feet planted firmly on the ground. And he preaches some pretty wild stuff. Stuff that has taught me so much about what it is to walk with a free heart. He’s not right where I am with everything, especially my views of the state. But it doesn’t matter. No pastor ever will be, I don’t think. And he preaches freedom from his pulpit, freedom in whatever world you’re walking through. And he claims they’re all connected. You walk free through one, you walk free through them all. Or something like that. The church is a hospital, not a country club, he keeps insisting. And when you really grasp what that means, it changes how you see things. The man’s preaching has deeply affected how I think and how I view the world around me. And it has deeply affected the writing that comes out of me.

And that’s what we talked about a good bit, while watching the race at the bar that first afternoon. We watched what we came to see, but we talked about what was inside us, how things were in life, the things we’d seen getting to where we are. And it all was a good place, a place I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. There’s always honest talk at any bar, don’t get me wrong. But not about what you just heard in church that day. That’s what made this whole thing seem a little freaky in my mind.

But it was real, and I embraced it. All of it. The setting. My friends, who had persisted in dragging me out of my hole at home. Persisted in telling me. “Come and join us here at the bar. Come out from where you are, and just live this moment with us.” That’s a powerful and moving thing, to have friends like that. It really is.

And from that day, I was all into going to watch the race at Vinola’s with my friends. Not because I pay that much attention to Nascar, not when I can watch football instead. But I wanted to go watch the race with them, because I wanted to hang out with them. It’s a pretty simple formula, when you think about it. And this whole thing just came at me, and all of a sudden, I was a regular again at a bar. Sunday afternoons. Such a place I have never seen before. And it was like it was before, when such a scene came at me. Walk into it, because it’s coming at you. Not a whole lot of anything else going on. Just walk forward, and enjoy it as it comes. And I have, pretty much every Sunday afternoon since. Right up until the racing was over, all of a sudden. And now I’m trying to figure out another reason for us to gather and hang out there, now and then. Somehow, I think that’ll work itself out. And I’m looking forward to all of it.

I guess things come at you in bunches, because just a few weeks ago I had another good experience at another bar. Actually, I just thought it was hilarious. No big lessons on anything in this little tale at all. And it happened at a real nice local place right in the city of Lancaster, a place I usually stay far away from. I don’t like cities. They’re evil. But Janice planned this little event, and there was no way I didn’t want to be part of it. She and Wilm had made the plans last summer, when Janice was around for a day. She found the place online. The Cork Factory Hotel and the Cork and Cap Restaurant. It’s one of those big old vacant factories that was sitting around all gutted and doing nothing. Some enterprising group got together and made it nice again. And alive again. It’s a beautiful four-story hotel, with a restaurant and bar attached. And a spa and coffee shop, too. It’s a full service place. We met there for Sunday brunch, back last summer. And we were all really impressed. The food was outstanding, the help was totally professional, all of it was good.

And Janice got to musing. How would it work sometime this fall to just meet here on a weekend and get rooms and stay? Wilm and I agreed instantly. Yes. That would be fun. A lot of fun. So we decided to do it, sometime when it would work for Janice, when she was stationed in Philly or Baltimore. And a few weekends back, it came together.

Janice took care of all the details, booked my room. And they were doing the spa, too, and I would take some sort of treatment there, too, I was told. I will concede that I did actually allow those girls to drag me to a spa. And I will admit to getting some sort of treatment there. I will never concede exactly what that treatment was, because my man card would surely be revoked. And that’s about all I got to say about that, except it was a little more enjoyable than I ever figured it could be. Probably because I went with such good friends.

And yeah, yeah, I’m getting to the bar part. Gotta lead up to it first. We ate dinner at the Cork and Cap Friday evening, and everything was absolutely perfect. The food, the drink, the setting, the company. And soon after seven, Janice was fading. She’d had a hard week, been up since 3 AM that morning, so they went back to their room and she crashed. I just putzed around in my room, surfing the web and such. And so the first evening passed.

And Saturday rolled in, and you could feel it was going to be a good day. We ate a late breakfast at The Baker’s Table, a rather upscale little coffee shop. Not sure if they’ll make it, with those prices. But we weren’t complaining. Around midday, the girls went shopping, and I just drifted around the place and hung out in my room. And later that afternoon, Janice rode with me as I came home, did a few things, ran some errands. We stopped by to see my good friends, David and Esther. They were rushing around, getting ready for the youth singing the next evening. Esther and Janice hit it right off, just like I knew they would. On the way back to town, I stopped off to pick up some Superfood from my good friends, Elmer and Anna Beiler Lapp. Anna had just baked fresh pumpkin pie, and insisted on giving us a warm/hot slice on a paper plate to take with us. I told Janice as we headed back to the hotel. These people I took you to meet, they are the people, they are some of my friends who keep me half sane. They know me from way back, and they are the ones who make sure I stay right who I am.

The girls had made reservations at Checkers Bistro, and very nice little upscale restaurant downtown, over toward Franklin and Marshall College. And we just had the front desk call a cab for us. Not because we were figuring on getting all smashed or anything, but because you just can’t be too careful these days. Especially not in evil cities. They’ll nail you for DUI when your driving’s as straight as an arrow. Most DUI stops and convictions are just a money racket. It’s all a MADD power play that destroys countless lives and makes the insurance companies and the state a lot of money. I got no respect for any of it. Except I make darn sure I don’t drive buzzed.

We got dressed and went down to the lobby to wait. And I’d told Janice. I don’t know how fancy this place is we’re going to. I’m wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. That’s about the only status I’ve claimed as a writer. I’ll dress how I feel like, when I feel like it. If anyone has a problem with that, well, then that’ll just have to be how it is. Janice had no problem with it.

The cabbie was a good seven minutes late. Just as I was about to march in and tell the nice lady at the front desk to call again, he pulled up. He seemed a mite confused. Turned out this was his fourth day on the job. He got us there OK. I didn’t think his driving was all that bad. But the girls fussed a good bit. Still he got a nice little tip. I made sure of that. And we walked in. It was all it claimed to be, looked like. The place was packed out. Tables and tables of diners. And the maitre de led us straight to the best table in the house, right by the only window in the place. Somehow, good things were coming at us. And we settled in, ordered our drinks, and then our food. And of course our order got lost. About an hour later, I waved the waitress over. We’re having a real good time, the drinks are really good, and all that, I said. But some food would sure be nice. Two minutes later a kitchen helper rushed out and gave us free salads we hadn’t ordered. Just to get us to eating something. That, and lots of apologies. And a few minutes after that, here came the food. And it was all good. Beyond good.

We had the Checkers people call us a cab, then, and they fell over themselves to do it. And we tipped the waitress extra well. I know how that is, when an order gets lost in the kitchen. I’ve danced that little dance with customers many times, back in my college days. And we got back to the hotel around nine, probably. Walked up to our rooms and hung out there for a while. The girls figured they’d settle in for the night. And I told them. I think I’m going downstairs to check out the bar in this place. “We might come down later,” they said politely. I pretty much knew they wouldn’t. So I wandered down alone. It’s a beautiful setting, the barroom. Walls of old stone and brick, just as they were when the place was a factory. The bar is rectangular, a box, kind of. The bartender works out of the middle on three sides. I sidled up and took a seat beside a man and woman sitting there. The place has no TVs blaring anywhere. So people will talk to each other, I figured.

The bartender approached and greeted me. A young kid in his twenties, probably working his way through college. Seemed like that kind of guy, maybe. And I told him what I wanted. The Executive Manhattan. A martini. I’d had one with dinner the night before when we ate at the restaurant. And it was just right tasty. Yes, sir. He went to where the bottles sat, and poured this and that into a shaker with ice. Shook it all around a good bit. Then he sat a martini glass on the bar in front of me, and strained it out, keeping the ice back. And it filled, right to the brim. This guy was real good at what he did. I sipped my drink, and the woman sitting next to me couldn’t help staring. She smiled and we said hi. Then she turned to her husband.

“Would you look at that?” she asked. Clearly I was meant to hear. “This guy sits there in a red flannel shirt and jeans and drinks a martini. He must be pretty comfortable with himself.” I laughed. The husband peered over and smiled. “That’s a foo-foo glass,” he announced. I laughed again. And he smiled at me. Look, I said. I usually drink scotch from a manly glass. I don’t know a thing about martinis. But I had this drink last night with dinner. So I knew it was good. It doesn’t matter to me at all what glass it’s served in. I could do without this orange slice and the cherry at the bottom. But hey, that’s how they serve it. Doesn’t bother me at all. The woman kept exclaiming. “He’s in a flannel shirt and drinking a martini.” As if that were somehow odd.

The bar wasn’t real full right then, and the three of us sat there and talked. Spoke our names, although I don’t remember theirs. It was just a good, fun thing. They were locals, had stopped by to see some of their friends who were in a wedding party upstairs. The Cork and Cap does a LOT of weddings. They told me a bit about themselves. What he worked. They had four children. And I told them what I do. General Manager of a building supply business. The woman got a little persistent, though, as we visited.

And soon my glass was empty, and the bartender hovered. He’d heard what I had said about scotch. And he told me. “We can mix that same drink, except with scotch. It’s called a Rob Roy.” Do it, I told him. And then he asked me, and I saw it in his eyes, how he was testing me. About whether or not I knew anything about scotch. “What brand would you like?” He might have been expecting me to say Dewars or some other awful blend. But I told him. Nothing less than Glenlivet. He smiled. “We have some fifteen year Glenfiddich here (as opposed to the standard twelve year stuff). Will that work?” I beamed. That would be just beautiful, I said. And he went off to the side and started pouring and mixing and shaking.

And he stepped up a minute later with his shaker. Set a clean martini glass on the bar in front of me. And he poured it out. “I figured you wouldn’t want a cherry or any fruit in it,” he said. “So here it is, bare. What do you think?” he asked, watching me closely. You are the man, I told him. And I sipped at the drink he’d served me respectfully in a martini glass. A foo-foo glass. And it was better than the first one. Way better. The scotch did it. That, and no fruit. He must have overheard me talking about that. I gave him a big thumbs up. This is delicious, I said. This is real good. Thank you. You’ve outdone yourself. He smiled. No, beamed.

I chatted right along with my new friends. And like I said, the woman was persistent. And eventually she got to it, the question. “What’s your hobby?” And right there, she had me. What am I going to say now? And yeah, I had some whiskey in me right then. Maybe more than some. Because for the first time ever, I told the strangers sitting next to me at a bar. I’m a writer. That’s what I do, when I’m not working. The word “writer” has some kind of mythical ring to it, I think. It’s either boasting, or it’s real. And the woman’s face lit up. “A writer!” She exclaimed. “What do you write?”

And that right there is why I don’t like to tell strangers I wrote a book. Because it diverts the conversation from its natural flow, makes it go where it wouldn’t otherwise. (Not talking about a formal “book talk” here. I’m talking about sitting at a bar.) It gets all plastic and contrived, when it’s all about the book like that. But I’d come this far, and there was no shutting the barn door after the horse had already left. So I told her. I wrote a book. And I told her the title, and my name. And bragged a bit, about how far it’s gone, the book. All in humility, of course. She had to pry this far, so why not tell her? I never would have, if she hadn’t asked.

And they both made the proper astounded noises. She asked again, so I repeated it. My name, and the title of my book. And yeah, I had to brag a bit that it was a NY Times bestseller. I’m not sure if they believed me, but they claimed to. And thankfully, right that instant, a swarm of people suddenly swept into the room and surrounded us. Their wedding friends from upstairs. Thank goodness, I thought. I have been saved from having to talk about how I’m a writer.

And I just sat there on that barstool and drank my drink and talked to the husband sideways down the bar behind his wife’s back. She had turned away and was way busy talking to her friends. And the husband and me talked. About life, about things. He was a rum man, he told me. The Captain. That’s the only thing he liked. I can respect that, I told him. Our tastes are our own. Don’t care much for rum, myself. I like scotch. And he agreed. To each his own. And we just talked on about whatever you talk about at a bar. Just life, I guess.

There were lulls, though, in our conversation. He turned now and then to chat with the people in the wedding group. And suddenly, through all that noise, in a little pause, I heard him speak. Or start to speak. Fortunately, no one was listening to him. So no one heard him when he said, “This is our friend, Ira.” I heard it, though. And I leaned into the bar and looked over. Hollered. No. He heard me. I made a slicing motion across my throat. No. No. Let them talk. Just leave me out of it. He grinned a huge grin. “I only know two people in that whole crowd, anyway,” he admitted. I laughed hard. Just keep me out of it all, I said. And he laughed, too.

And it was time to get out of there, then. Head on up to my room. I waved for my check, and the bartender brought it over. It seemed real low, but I paid it. Tipped about double the amount on the bill. Not sure what’s going on here, I thought. But something ain’t quite right. And after the man took my money, the husband leaned in and looked over. Beamed. “I took care of one of those for you,” he said. Ah, you didn’t have to do that, I said. But thanks a lot. It was real fun, to hang out. I paid the guy what I would have paid him anyway. “And I’ll do the same thing, when I pay up,” he said. Maybe we shook hands sideways along the bar behind his wife’s back as she was talking to her friends. Maybe we didn’t. I don’t remember. But, either way, we understood each other. We’d probably never see each other again. But tonight, we had hung out in a real way.

I got up, waded my way through the swarming wedding crowd, and walked back to my room. And no, I wasn’t staggering or anything like that. I was just feeling good.

Take such a scene or leave it. Whatever works for you, or doesn’t. If you’re honest with yourself, there is no wrong choice, as far as I’m concerned. The way I see it, you’ll never walk into an experience like that unless you hang out at a bar. You can judge that any way you want, from where you are. From where I am, I figure it’s a good thing.

And the season rolled right on in again. Thanksgiving. It was a good day. I could go off, listing all those blessings I saw and felt this year. But I won’t. I pretty much wrote those out as they came at me right here on this blog. No sense in repeating all that. It was a good day, yesterday. I hung out and feasted with my brother Stephen and his extended family. They invited me, and it was a great time. Good food. Family. I generally stand off to the side a bit, try not to intrude too much. But they include me. And for that, I am grateful. It would be harder to celebrate such a day if they weren’t around. But they are. I’m grasping it more these days in my heart, I think, that all of life is a gift. I am thankful for all my blessings, and so grateful to be right where I am.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.



  1. You write well, but please unsubscribe me. Thank you.

    Comment by Barbara H. — November 29, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you Ira. You bless all of us who read your words so we are thankful for you!

    May you have a blessed Christmas season.

    Comment by Ann — November 29, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

  3. Ira, I enjoyed that story, brings back the old days.

    Comment by Warren — November 29, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

  4. I enjoyed that read Ira. I can identify with the atmosphere and feeling that you write about. I also recognize that it probably took a bit of courage to write that or perhaps just freedom.

    Comment by Paul — November 29, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

  5. It makes me sad that you would go to a place like that. I don’t blame you for being too ashamed to tell what all happened there. What, did they paint your toe nails for you too?

    As far as going to the bar, that’s a different story. I’d join you in a heartbeat.

    Comment by Richard — November 29, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

  6. I cannot BELIEVE u announced spa day on your blog after wilm and I did such an excellent job of preserving your man card!
    so fun though! Id do it again in a heart beat!

    Comment by janice — November 29, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

  7. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. Enjoy the upcoming Christmas season. Thank you for writing from your heart.

    Comment by Rosanna — November 29, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

  8. It is going to take me a while to process all that I read tonight. I’m not judging in any way, that is Jesus’ job. But just want to reread it and reread it and process this with prayer.

    You are definitely a very good writer and I enjoy reading your blogs. This one just takes me by surprise.

    I know how the Scribes & Pharisees judged Jesus as He sat at the table with the “sinners” and His answer was, “Those that are well do not need a physician, only the sick,” my paraphrase.

    God Bless you friend and glad to know that your Thanksgiving day was good.

    In Christ,

    Comment by Linda — November 29, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

  9. I’m with C.S. Lewis on this one – thanks for quoting him; BRAVO on the blog, and thanks for keeping it real. I’d rather have 1 friend like you with an honest heart, than a hundred self-righteous, sanctimonious, creatures who have nothing good to say about nothing.

    Comment by pizzalady — November 29, 2013 @ 11:34 pm

  10. Once again, well said, Ira. Thank you.

    Comment by sharon — November 30, 2013 @ 6:49 am

  11. Oh, boy, this one brought out the Pharisee in me. I have been toying for years with the desire to write about what it was like to grow up in Boozerville, as I call it. Maybe my mom’s voice in my head kept my mouth shut. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”). Or maybe it was my dad’s sneer (” ‘Because thou art virtuous, shall there be no cakes and ale?’ “) But now I’m gonna do it, sometime in 2014, maybe on the anniversary of the plane crash. Yep, Boozerville, where having a cocktail (hey, why stop at one?) before dinner was a daily ritual, a sign that you had arrived. And lay off MADD. Those moms lost kids to drunk drivers and don’t want it to happen to anyone else. MADD is not a money-maker for these folks.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — November 30, 2013 @ 7:24 am

  12. Like all of the others this one was very interesting. I understand bars now and why people like to go there.

    I am glad you are still writing regularly.

    Comment by Linda Ault — November 30, 2013 @ 9:37 am

  13. I’m glad you were able to write about this honestly. I share your stance on drinking and bars, but it’s not always popular. For those who wish to compare casual drinking with an alcoholic who mistreats his family remember this: Nobody is condemning sex in a healthy relationship just because there are rapists out there. Thanks again Ira for a very good read.

    Comment by Rachel — November 30, 2013 @ 10:42 am

  14. Thanks again for being REAL and honest. My husband and I would gladly join someone like you in a bar than go to church with a bunch of self righteous pretenders. Blessings to you!

    Comment by Jenifer W — November 30, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  15. There is a common denominator among many of us who were raised Amish and that is that we tend to see things as black and white. In fact, many conservative types of people see things likewise. For example, we, the Norwich Amish had our own version of what was wrong and what was right. In Aylmer, bundling was prohibited as a means of courtship. Sitting up was the only approved method. In Norwich it was the opposite. Smoking was no problem for us either. Or a few beers. What was black for you was white for us. And vice versa. Yet neither system produced righteousness.

    That particular way of seeing things persisted for years after I left the Amish culture. Is it wrong to visit a bar? Maybe not. The Bible doesn’t say so. But the question I need to myself ask if it is wise. Knowing my passions, it would likely be unwise for me. I might fare fine for some time, but since I know that I am weak at resisting certain temptations in the first place, strong drink would likely mean trouble for me sooner or later. I pray it will always work for you. So Ira, thanks for writing. Keep it up.

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — November 30, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

  16. Well, this is a real revival … of Libertarianism. Not quite like the revival in Wales, that saw a nation saved and continues to send zealous laborers throughout the world.

    Perhaps now I’ll be judged. I don’t care, either, anymore than you do for what you wrote in honesty. I am your friend, so you know me. And I appreciate your clear stand against every religious spirit, something I believe God Himself is trying to teach His people in this age of the growth of His Kingdom in history. Perhaps the hardest lesson to grasp well, especially for the truly pious in heart; the need to love all as the Father does, rather than cut off others as if we were the covenant makers.

    I’ll spare quoting Proverbs, or the qualities the Apostle talks of as basic for leadership. You already know them by heart.

    I just wanted to take an entire other angle, more to the point, and not moralistic (which you rightly despise, because it treats people as objects to be controlled rather than creatures with feelings and deep-seated reason; and treats creation as something less than created by God for enjoyment, its purveyors being controlled in mind by Greek asceticism, which is Not true religion).

    I see that the basic value of the modern Amish is still there, “Live and let live.” To me, this is not Christian, either. At least, it is not how Jesus lived, as I read the Gospels. He was a man of sorrows, but not from resigned melancholy (that Latin que será, será). And He did in fact change the world, by an unusual slow-working but unstoppable leaven.

    Similarly, you have protested numerous times that you are not a Lancaster County native. I am; I grew up there. And have analyzed the principal atmospheres there, from a distance that can see it. So, congratulations: you have now absorbed it well. Same national spirit of the only US President who comes from there (Buchanan, a bachelor, who went to Dickinson) – that one who in the time of the greatest national crisis to that point took a hands off approach, which only served to hasten a violent civil war. I mention this to you, because I know what you have inside you, and in your case, you can snap out of it, and have a chance to break it in a unique way, my author friend. If you come by here, I’ll gladly have a glass of wine with you. So please consider what I say, since I’m not speaking to that.

    Comment by LeRoy — November 30, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

  17. I enjoyed the ‘realness’ of this blog and that you are free to write about whatever stirs your heart. This message gave me an understanding, for the first time, about why people hang out at bars and the friendships made. I have tolerance, now, because of your blog….in fact, I almost wish I was there! We all need to feel welcomed in whatever space we choose and it sounds like the bars are a welcoming place. Thanks for the revelation!

    Comment by Pam — December 1, 2013 @ 10:40 am

  18. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18 NIV)

    And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit. [Prov. 23:20.] (Ephesians 5:18 AMP)

    Comment by Del — December 1, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

  19. Wow, where do I begin. Having grown up in a General Conference church, I have similar roots. What is interesting is that I had a very similar conversation with my mother yesterday, how we should not be so judgmental of people whose white is the same as our black. Just because someone has been indoctrinated (aka brainwashed) to believe that something is sin does not necessarily mean that it is sin. My mother actually agreed with me! This was maybe the first time in my life that I felt like she truly was seeing this for herself and she will be 90 in January.

    I really enjoyed this particular blog, there was so much reality to it and truth, especially the part about the acceptance in a bar. The sad thing is that many times this is more true in a bar than a church.

    Keep writing Ira, thank you for the inspiration.

    Comment by Rosie — December 1, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

  20. I had recently made the decision to discontinue posting my opinions on the handful of blogs I follow, but I have been watching the responses to this last entry with great interest. So this time, I cannot resist.

    On the one hand, I regret the negative responses, for I feel that they probably only prove the point that you, Ira, have oftentimes made about judging others: “See? Listen to them making judgements about me, as if calling into question my Christianity and faithfulness.” There will always be those standing in the temple, thanking God that they are not like “the sinner.” But for those who have valid concerns about bars? They shouldn’t be judged either.

    No one will ever be able to prove that drinking alcohol, in moderate quantities (or less), is a sin, based on what we know through the Bible, although one could pose a valid argument that vigilance and sobermindedness (at all times) is the wise, prudent way to live. For alcohol, even in small quantities, causes people to say and do things that they otherwise would not.

    I want to say something about bars, though – about the bar crowd. They are an easy bunch, aren’t they? Offering all the benefits of friendship: camaraderie, sharing…, but none of the hard stuff. None of the work involved in maintaining relationships. You seek them when you want, and leave them when your needs have been met. I think it can be said that the bar crowd, in some ways, holds the same attraction as pornography: easy, instant gratification, all within ones complete control.

    There’s an element missing at the bar scene, one that marks the “real thing” in relationships, one that promotes commitment. I am convinced that the “realness” people experience in the typical bar is only a facade, a deceitful lure, fashioned expertly by the hands of Satan. And it draws us away from the things that can make us more useful to God.

    A man from the prison ministry at church was recently giving a report on a Bible study he holds with five incarcerated men at the local jail. He asked them, “How many of you have drinking buddies?” All five men raised their hands. “How many of your drinking buddies have come to visit you in jail?” he continued. No, not one.

    There couldn’t possibly be any regular readers who had not already gathered that you, Ira, drink alcohol at times. For that reason, it was a curiosity to me as to why some reacted negatively to the blog. I, too, did not feel very good about it, and I think that the reason is that your description of your experiences in bars came across as just too favorable, glorifying, really. And that’s a problem for me, because like Eli wrote above, I do NOT need to go to a bar. As a bona fide, indisputable introvert, I know that the bar would comfortable and easier for me, and would hold attractions for me that could only serve to steer me away from the lighted path. I think too many people have relinquished relationships and responsibilities in order to go hide in the “easiness” of a bar.

    I wrote this in an attempt to express my complete understanding of your pleasant experiences in bars, but I also wanted to explain why I believe some people can feel the utmost disdain for such places without even beginning to cast judgement on you. And I’ve taken far too much space doing so.

    But as always, your writing is very good.

    May you and all your readers have a wonderful “Holiday Season,” and God’s blessings throughout the New Year.

    Comment by Tammy — December 2, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

  21. Ok- so did you get a pedicure or what?? I hope it was French!
    I laughed, I did!

    Comment by Ann B — December 16, 2013 @ 11:30 am

  22. Gosh almighty, I used to have fun at the bars. That was before I was a Christian, though by no means am I opposed to bars. It’s drunkeness that I detest, now. People either get violent, stupid, or sappy. I hate that. It turns my stomach. But…there was a time when my girlfriends and I would head out every Saturday night to the bars and clubs. We’d drink, smoke and dance. And frankly, it was real fun. It must have been, like I said every Saturday night, sometimes Friday, too.
    Eventually, it got old and I felt a pull to something deeper, something more peaceful, something sturdy and set. A place where I belonged. That’s when God started to woo me. In the midst of my drunken stupors God was tugging on my heart. I remember the feelings, after I’d dropped my friend off at her home, when everything was quiet, there was this lonliness, this torment, it sobered me instantly. I mean instantly. I would drive to a local orchard then an area with a stream. The bars were all shut down. The city was asleep. And I would just drive and wonder, what is this all about? Where do I fit in in it?
    Anybody who says you have to get it together before you come to God, or make yourself worthy. No. Not true. There is no love in that. And God is nothing but love and more love. Gosh, I remember crawling into bed, drunk as a skunk, but still making the sign of the cross and telling God, “I’m drunk.” As if He didn’t know. I went to God no matter what, but I hadn’t given my heart. That would come a few years later. I have never, ever, regreted it. Never. I don’t know of one person that has. If so, they never really knew who God was.
    Be careful, Ira. Booze is cunning. It makes you feel smooth and calm and well liked, and confident. But if you cross that thread thin line it will kick your butt from here to eternity. It’s nothing to toy with. Just be careful, okay? Please.

    Comment by Francine — January 17, 2014 @ 12:53 am

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