May 25, 2007

Memorial Day and Good Music

Category: News — Ira @ 7:30 pm


Memorial Day is upon us, which means summer has arrived, although one wouldn’t know it from the weather we’ve had lately (except this week, which has been flawlessly beautiful). Memorial Day to most of us means a long weekend, and for many in these parts, a trip to the mountains for a few days. But it would behoove all of us to remember and reflect upon the reasons behind Memorial Day and what we are commemorating. And for those of us who have moved on from our Anabaptist roots, flying the American flag would be a fitting and respectful tribute to our Armed Forces and our Veterans.

Regardless of our backgrounds, and many of my readers have a solid foundation of strong, doctrinal teaching of nonresistance, we would be wise to remember that many thousands have died fighting in numerous wars so we could (at least arguably) retain the freedoms we have. Blood is often the price of freedom, and too many Anabaptists cannot or will not recognize that fact. Worse, many (especially the activist pacifists) are aggressively condescending and arrogant about their beliefs, which naturally does not go down well with those who have fought or lost loved ones in war. I can easily understand why there is resentment and hostility against those who freely harvest the bounties and rewards of freedom, but refuse to defend it and despise those who do.


My father was a conscientious objector during WWII. He worked in camps and helped landscape the Pennsylvania Turnpike while others his age were off fighting overseas. I am not proud of that fact. But I’m not ashamed of it either, and I respect him for it. It is to this country’s credit that it has historically (at least since WWII) made provisions for COs to serve in noncombatant roles during war. The USA and Canada are among the few countries in the world where nonresistant sects can worship and live as they see fit, relatively unmolested by government. If that ever changed, and real religious persecution prevailed, I believe the Lord would unleash His wrath upon the land.

In her comment last week, Rosie asked what kind of music I like. I never grew up with music and so am very ignorant of what is “supposed” to be good. I don’t much like contemporary Christian music at all. I appreciate some classical music (Handel’s Messiah, etc.) and enjoy symphonies, although it’s been awhile since I’ve attended one. Of all musical genres, rap and some hard rock are the only ones I cannot tolerate.

I like classic country: Waylon, Willie, George Jones, Johnny Cash, etc. and when I was a teenager, I worshiped Tanya Tucker. I don’t care for today’s country music, too touchy-feely. Men whine and cry and are not manly. The women screech and moan and coo and writhe. Dwight Yokum is one of the few current country singers I respect, and he has been out of production for a few years.

I also love classic rock: Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, Tom Petty, The Eagles, Peter Gabriel, ZZ Top and others. In my opinion, the Eighties was the most productive decade for rock. Some particular songs that always move me include, among others: “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” by Bad Company, “I Ain’t Missin’ You at All,” by John Waite, and “I Need You Now,” by one-hit wonder Alias.

I also like Celtic music, especially Enya’s mysterious and haunting lyrics. Loreena McKennitt’s lilting “Mummer’s Dance” always evokes deep and strong emotions and stirs long-buried memories of childhood reveries.

Then there’s jazz. I like almost all classic jazz and a lot of the more modern smooth jazz, and all jazz that emphasizes the saxophone. No particular artists come to mind, but I often have jazz on as background music while writing (when there’s no baseball game to keep an eye on). Jazz is the only form of music that I enjoy more when performed live.


I recall a funny incident involving music (or, to be more accurate, musical tastes). In the mid-80s, while on the wheat harvest with Dean Wagler of Daviess County, IN, we stopped in the Hutchinson, Kansas area for the weekend. The Kansas Beachy youth at that time (fairly or unfairly) were considered a tad progressive and, shall we say, liberal. In the brief time we were there, I remember overhearing earnest and solemn conversations like, “what do you see yourself doing in five years, etc.?” (Such discussions were nonexistent in my circles. I was lucky to think or plan ahead five weeks.) Don’t get me wrong, the Beachy youth were kind, although mildly patronizing, to a long-haired, uncouth, jeans-clad bumpkin like me.

Then, for no particular reason that I could discern, a nice clean-cut young man (So help me, I don’t remember his name. He wore Kakis and had a shiny new belt.) asked me what kind of music I like. I never could figure out if he was trying to trap me, embarrass me, or just having a benevolent conversation with an obvious misfit. After stuttering a bit, not used to such a question, I stammered that I liked Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” a popular, then-current, completely rollicking but generally sense-less rock song. Shocked silence ensued. Gasps were hastily stifled. A delicate Beachy-youth lady or two may have fainted. You could have cut the disdain with a knife. Later I overheard the nice clean-cut young man comment that he would like to see Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” a very “in” movie among Hollywood’s liberal elites. His friends nodded that they would like to see it too. A healthy glow returned to the wan faces of the delicate ladies who (may have) fainted, although the timely application of smelling salts may also have contributed to their recovery. (Unfortunately, fainting couches were already out of style back then.) I said nothing, but thought to myself that I probably would not want to see the movie. I never did. That was 20-plus years ago. Today I regularly hear “Sledgehammer,” a now-classic rock song, on the radio and at the gym, while “The Color Purple” has been unceremoniously dumped into the ashbin of occasional late-night (interpretation: no one watches) channels on TV. The test of time has spoken.


The subject of salesmen seems to have overrun last week’s Comment section like a windswept wildfire. So, while there may be some danger of stirring the embers into an inferno again, I will exercise my prerogative as editor and opine with what I trust will be the last word on the subject.

There are good salesmen and bad salesmen. Our perception of salesmen depends on our experiences with them, and our perceptions, whatever they are, are completely valid. More than once, years ago, I was approached by a well-dressed man in suit and tie, who had a “distribution” or “consulting” business, who wanted to discuss an outstanding business opportunity with me. Always he stated how he was impressed with my bearing and personality and how he could see I had much potential. Always, without fail, after the little chalkboard was set up and many diagrams scrawled about its surface, the man turned out to be an Amway salesman with a pyramid scheme. One such salesman even trotted out a set of cassette tapes, which I took unwillingly, and then could not understand (after I had dutifully listened to them) why I would not leave law school and sell Amway. After the second or third such experience, it never happened again, because I nipped the approach in the bud before it could blossom. Once, while I was working as a waiter during my college years, a customer proudly told me that he owned a worldwide import/export (where are you, George Costanza?) business, including a base in the Netherlands. I was impressed until he handed me his card, which had his name, the Amway logo, and several countries printed on it (including the Netherlands). He did not tip well, either.


That’s the negative. The positive is that there are many good salesmen, and we all need them. One salesman we deal with a lot at Graber Supply (step up, Ethan) is the epitome of what constitutes a great salesman. He represents an array of vendors and knows his products inside/out and upside down. He is always only a phone call away and responds quickly to any problems, be they logistical, quality control or backlog. He is service oriented, cheerful and resilient. We trust him. He knows his market and keeps abreast of the latest developments in the field. For what he does, because of how he does it, he is probably one of the top, if not the top, salesman in his field in the country.

But there are also other harsh realities. When approached by a salesman, we have no obligation to believe him (or like him) or to purchase anything from him until he proves that #1: he is who and what he claims to be, and #2: his product is what he claims and we are convinced (by him or ourselves) that we need the product more than the money required to purchase it. We actually have absolutely no obligations whatsoever to the salesman. We don’t have to give him time from our busy day; we don’t have to listen to him, respect him, or even be polite. We owe him nothing; respect must be earned. The market has no feelings and a salesman must understand this or he will fail (or have a nervous breakdown). He must simply move on to the next opportunity. Other than having no feelings, the market has one other very basic, but critical rule for salesmen: Sell or starve (or get into another line of work). So the pressures can be intense. “And that,” to quote Forrest Gump, “is about all I got to say ‘bout that.”

PREAKNESS NOTES: Some may wonder why I get so excited about the Triple Crown races if I hate horses so much. It is kind of strange, come to think of it; maybe it’s the $1 million-plus purses for the winners. In any case, last Saturday’s Preakness was absolutely the most exciting horse race I’ve ever seen. Calvin Borel, the jockey for Street Sense, rode a perfect race, lurking unconcernedly in the middle of the pack until about three-fourths of the course was run. I was getting very nervous for him. But then he unleashed Street Sense and surged through the crowd and easily took the lead. He passed Curlin, another favored horse, as if he was standing still. But then something happened that I have never seen before. Usually when a horse gets passed, especially if the pass is quick and effortless, as this one was, the passed horse just gives up. Curlin did not, but suddenly flattened his ears and moved into super-high gear. Calvin Borel (who reminds me of a tenant I used to have upstairs, who will remain unnamed) glanced back and could not believe it when he saw Curlin bearing down. Curlin kept surging, and at the finish, it was too close to call. I thought Curlin had won, and he had, by about two inches. Had the track been ten feet shorter, Street Sense would have won. It was wild, I tell you. The Belmont Stakes is next month, and that will about do it for my horse-race fever for this year.

Random Notes: I have managed to maintain my weight at between 199 and 200 pounds. (I know such wild fluctuations are not healthy. I should probably cut down on my ice-cream bingeing, but every life needs some little sinful joys.) My last weigh-in at the gym last Monday was 199. I’m very happy about that….If the weather holds over the weekend, I want to hike on Monday. I may do one of the State Parks in the southern end of the county. Safe holidaying to all.

A sign of the times…..




  1. Lynda recently needed a small handheld mixer to do mashed taters and such. She purchased a new one at a local Dollar type store. Less than $10. VERY light wt.[made on a faraway shore]. Had very little power, and totally not up to the tasks we thought it should have handled. It’s ugly too. In some frustration she rummaged through one of my famous dollar auction boxes, and, behold, found a nice [after shining up] hand held, boldly stamped, GE MADE IN USA handmixer. Worked fine with about 3 times the power. Smaller though heavier than the new one. Looks good too in the 60ish way. All chrome on the bottom, white on top. I’m thinking it must have cost at least $10 back in mid 60’s or so when it was new. Hows that for good old USA?

    Comment by uncle jess — May 26, 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  2. Aah, a change of pace. We all need one of those every so often. You’ve kindly provided little to argue with and sometimes that’s a good thing. It could mean some semblance of order and quietude may be returning to Lancaster, or that you are learning to manage only that which you can – not the turmoil over which you have no control. This respite is also welcome since I don’t feel like creating a controversy – just to create one. There are, however, several comment’s I’d like to make. (You didn’t think you were going to get off that easy, did you?)

    Ira, your writing improves markedly each week. I suspect few know how deeply your thoughts and words are considered and to what degree you slave over them before posting. It shows and I wish others would take a similar path. You have a talent for writing and I, for one, look forward to the places you will take us in the future.

    My first comment has nothing to do with content or subject matter, but rather the construction of your prose. Seeing that you’re not paying me for this critique, you may take it for what I have charged.
    Your organization of content is becoming tighter, hence more focused. You appear to be allowing your rational intellect to guide you rather than being propelled and catapaulted by pure emotion (first couple of blogs). There are, however, certain statements you use “(If that ever changed, and real religious persecution prevailed, I believe the Lord would unleash His wrath upon the land.”) that, while seemingly applicable, when viewed from your religious background and upbringing, do not carry the same effect with a secular, more proof- demanding world. Those readers then transfer their questions created by what they judge as the incongruity of your statement to the passage as a whole – whether fairly or unfairly.

    Your present writing now mirrors the duality you possibly feel within yourself and your audience – “safety first, some controversy” – but “not too much”. You don’t want to offend or alienate, yet for your success, you will have to choose one or the other – secular or religious. You have the capability to write with sophistication and emotional rationalism. This will challenge people to think and will get them deeply absorbed in your writing. Some will hate it, others will love it. Some will comprehend it, others will not. Some will see the nuances, others will not. As observed by Lincoln (and later parodied by Ringling), “you can’t have all of the people, all the time.” Get over it, not everyone is going to love you (even though we all do). Whatever you choose, be true to it.

    I will save emotion and passion for next time, but let me quote the punch line of an old chestnut “I think I’ll paint it beige.” (Exceptions being Memorial Day and your Dad). Maybe this is what you intended and if so good going.

    Oh yes, despite their current travails the Evil Empire still rules and I see the Braves suffered mightily at the hands of those lowly Phillies.


    Ira’s response: Critique is always good. However, this is a blog. Some weeks it will be better written and more tightly constructed. Some less so. It costs nothing to the reader except his time. It is my perspective and my opinion. Period. Read and enjoy it for that. Or don’t. And if I want to “paint it biege,” as you put it, I’ll bleepin’ well do so.

    I am of the Thomas Wolfe writing school: “Why describe something in five words when you can describe it better in fifty?” And passion, my friend, is the essence of writing.

    As for the Braves, after their minor slip-up this weekend, they are well on the way back to their normal winning ways. Being swept by the Phillies IS embarrassing, I will admit.

    Comment by Thorne — May 28, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  3. It is memorial day in the USA and a wet windy summers day here in England.

    This day last year was our leaving party as my family and I were in the run up to leaving America to return to England. We had a big party in Lancaster at a friends house and it would not have been complete without Ira and Ellen. I lived in Lancaster County for two years and can truly say that Ira is the best friend a stranger can have and remains my best American friend.

    On Memorial Day it is difficult for an Englishman to be grateful for ALL American Servicemen, those of 1776 for example! We can however be grateful for those that came to be our friends and partners in the years after. I love and respect the USA and am glad that we are your friends.

    If you are looking for a monastary out East then we have loads of them here. Most of them were built about 1500 years ago and are still standing even though Kings and Armies have tried to destroy them. England is old and quiet so why not pop over the pond and enjoy some old fashioned quiet, religious reflection here. I can send you some links.

    This is my first comment on the blog but I am an avid reader. I send links to my friends and they all want to meet you, Ira.

    Mark (aka BigBlueFish)

    Ira’s response: Welcome, my friend. I’ve been wondering where you are. Thanks for your comment. You truly make my readership world wide. When I come to England, I don’t want to spend all my time in a Monastery when there is so much to see and do. I want to come visit you and will when the time is right.

    Comment by BigBlueFish — May 28, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  4. I’m not too conversant with the thoughts of Thomas Wolfe, but I say, why use fifty words when you can say it just as good in five? Also, who is this Thorne guy?

    Ira’s response: Go read Thomas Wolfe, then see if you need to ask that question. Thorne is an old friend and business acquaintance of mine.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — May 29, 2007 @ 6:43 pm

  5. Ira, you are right. The 80s era rocks! Suggestion to Thorne: Keep the rambling to a minimum and to the point.

    Comment by john wagler — May 29, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  6. Blogs are cheap entertainment, and with a family to raise and a truck to maintain (note: I did not say pickup, although there are a few of those around here. Fords that is, bowties are for boys.) Anyway my point is, let a fellow ramble if he wants, maybe he has little else to do and maybe we can learn something. At the least we are bound to be entertained. Thanks for writing folks, reading is free.

    Comment by Bear — May 29, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

  7. On the debate of 50 vs. 5 words, I believe both have their place….it seems the 5 words more often would be the appropriate use since most people check out of the conversation soon after that. However, we often choose the 50 word rather than 5 to ensure people “hear” what we are saying, in doing this, we often lose our audience.

    Uncle Jesse, you have once again stolen the stage with your humorous stories. As I have been present when you have arrived home with your truck loads of treasure, I can imagine Lynda’s horror at having to admit something useful was found!:) How is the case of the Greens going? Any great success stories yet?

    Memorial Day was rather uneventful, had plans, but they came to an abrupt end along with the demise of a 2.5 year relationship. Just a helpful tip for others, never end relationships over a Holiday. I will leave my comments on the situation ending here. One would hate to cause another uproar by my somewhat sarcastic remarks considering many people do not know me and therefore miss my humor.(many apologies for all offense caused)

    Ira- as always, your taste in music for the most part is impeccable….will look forward to next week. (currently listening to Tom Petty, is this acceptable?)

    Ira’s response: Tom Petty is cool. About the 5 vs. 50 words, what will I do with such stubborn and stiff-necked readers? Check out the first page of the first blog posting (March archive). It has a long Thomas Wolfe quote. What he wrote could have been said in 2 dozen words. He used a hundred. Now THAT’S writing.

    Comment by janice — May 29, 2007 @ 10:44 pm

  8. I think the work of the CO’s during WWII is something to be proud of, also the work of the CO’s during the Vietnam era. The tenants of our voluntary army are based on everyone’s willingness to do their part. Much of the infrastructure we depend on was built by CO’s.

    Many of the young men and women who have joined today’s armed forces have done so because there are few other options for them. (Before you judge..which holds more moral stigma, joining the army and paying your bills or going on welfare, – at current min. wage full time take home pay is under $200 a week) We in Lancaster Co. are the exception to many rules, here gainful employment is not always tied to education and geography. Since the gov’t has been quietly extending tours of duty and requiring more of the volunteers for the same or less pay — this is indeed a back door draft. When a military draft is an issue again — be glad the precedent of CO’s exists… (oh I could go on…)

    A ditto to Thorne’s comments on your writing

    “The Color Purple” is doing nicely as a Broadway show.

    Ira’s response: Sounds like you’ve swallowed the drive-by media’s version of the military. Welcome back.

    Comment by Glo — May 30, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

  9. 5 words or 50? lynda says the waglers are not as a rule good story-tellers,The less words the better for them,[till it comes to writing].She says they want to know the ending of a tale at the beginning,and are impatient listeners at that.Wonder how she figured that out?.Now a good story teller winds in and out,somtimes can thread close to being a bore,than springs it on you at the end.[If they haven’t forgot]..Janice,dear niece,your storytelling ability came not from the waglers,we fear,but from your pop.[By the way,saw him still working on a job tonight,when we came home from church]

    Comment by uncle jess — May 30, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  10. The Hutch Beachy churches are still cranking out some “progressives”.

    Best to ya!

    Comment by RagPicker — May 31, 2007 @ 12:29 am

  11. Ira, when was the last time you asked someone who was back from Iraq what they saw, what they heard, and how or why they ended up in the military?

    Comment by Glo — May 31, 2007 @ 12:48 am

  12. I have no issues with people using 50 words…I loved your opening quote on the first blog. However, I still maintain that people need to have discretion in the use of 50 vs 5 words….in other verbiage. Know when to stop talking…:)

    Comment by janice — May 31, 2007 @ 12:53 am

  13. I am who I am.

    PS: (Please note – 5 words)

    Comment by Thorne — May 31, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  14. Rueben:
    While I am what I am, what is it you would like to know in particular?

    Comment by Thorne — May 31, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  15. Thorne; excellent example for us:)

    Comment by janice — May 31, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  16. RagPicker,
    I just happen to have been one of those “Hutch Progressives” you’re alluding to and was around when Ira came through-although I’m sure my mother did her best to keep me far away from the influences of “wild” young men such as he. Yet you seem to insinuate that the Amish strawpickers who invaded Hutchinson on occasion, dressed in jeans, talked about non-christian music and other worldly matters…were somehow more plain (less progressive) than we? Seems to me, you’ve got your descriptions somewhat scrambled.
    Have I missed something here and should I be offended?

    Ira’s response: Who are you calling a strawpicker? I drove a large combine and harvested wheat. If you labeled us with such names, no wonder the KS Beachy youth were mildly patronizing (and horrified).

    Comment by Margaret — May 31, 2007 @ 11:58 pm

  17. Ira,
    It’s a shame I listened to my mother!! (wink, wink)

    Comment by Margaret — June 1, 2007 @ 12:08 am

  18. to Glo-

    I just recently sat next to a young man on a plane as I flew back to Phx. He was also headed home to Phx and had just completed his 2nd stay in Iraq. He frequently had large tears in his eyes while telling me his stories, success, failure and death of friends included; he told me he will always volunteer to go back…..He said he joined the military because it is his opportunity to live a great adventure. He also had strong opinions about the media and how he feels the “true picture of what happens” has no chance of emerging.

    I also have at least 10-15 friends in all branches of the service. So in respect for them I must comment on your above comments… None of them are there because they felt they had no choice. It was a choice they made….possibly labeled under Freedom of Choice. They would take extreme offense at being “labeled” in the categories you placed them in on your comment above.

    There may be those who feel they have no choice…but be careful before you label all such as this and demean the act of service they dedicate their lives to for our country.

    Comment by janice — June 1, 2007 @ 1:54 am

  19. No demean intended….my non-Amish family is steeped in military tradition. I also have plenty of friends and students in different branches of the military. One chooses ones life path… but it is informed by whats available. All I’m saying is those of us in the East or around major industrial or other commercial centers have a different set of choices, avenues to opportunity, than say someone from Swanton, VT.

    Comment by Glo — June 1, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  20. To Ira,

    First thing my boys noticed in the photo of me was not what I was clutching, but that I still had all my fingers. Keep writing. Rudy

    Comment by Rudy Yutzy — June 1, 2007 @ 11:01 pm

  21. This 2007 writing and comment section is very different than what it is now. I wish people wouldn’t have criticized you or put you under a microscope. It’s hard being the first to write or speak or create. Someone always thinks they can do it better and they are always sure to let you and everyone else know. I think it’s remarkable how you started this blog in the midst of trudging through the muck.

    Comment by Francine — December 6, 2012 @ 11:49 pm

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