June 5, 2009

Summer Travels

Category: News — Ira @ 5:09 pm


“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

—Tim Cahill

Used to be, years ago, that I could pick up on a whim and travel cross-country on some wild goose chase or another. For any reason or none. Maybe there was work somewhere in another state. Or I was heading off to college. Or just visiting a friend. Whatever the reason, I packed my duffle bag, counted my meager hoard to make sure there was enough money for gas and food, and headed out. Often, in those days, I’d set out in the evening, so as to avoid excessive traffic. Drive all night, my eyes propped open by cup after cup of strong black coffee. Ah, those were the days.

Not so much anymore. I’m now a certified homebody. Guess it comes with age. The idea of a fast and loose trip, like those in my youth, tempts me not at all. Wearies me, in fact. I’m quite content to stay in my unglamorous little home, to follow my bland daily routine. Work, gym, a couple of hours writing at the computer in the evening, with a baseball game on TV off to the side. Then off the bed, and do it all over again tomorrow.

Now Memorial Day has come and gone, with all its solemn observation, cookouts, and merriment. The official summer kickoff weekend. And the way things are shaping up, this staunch homebody is going to be doing some serious gallivanting around in the coming weeks.

This weekend comes the first summer adventure. With a small group of brave friends, I plan to camp out in a motor home inside the oval at the Pocono 500 Nascar race. How redneck is that? Now that little trip I AM looking forward to very much. I’ve only done something similar once before, back in 2000, when my brother Nate and a few of his South Carolina friends treated me to an excursion. At the Charlotte, NC Raceway. It has been my greatest Nascar experience to date.

Maybe not for long. This inside-the-oval camping stuff is for the real junkies. Hard core race fans. It’s like a little city in there. Redneck city. Row after row of motor homes, vendors, food and drink stands, all kinds of flags waving (including Dixie), and loud splashy T-shirts.

And, of course, the race itself. It’s ear-splittingly loud, it’s unbelievably fast, it’s a true-blue redneck experience. Slurp, slurp. Watching on TV is nothing, compared to seeing it live. There is simply no comparison.

We’ll cook out, hang out, sit on top of the motor home on lawn chairs and watch the races with binoculars. Busch race on Saturday, the big one on Sunday. I’ll take plenty of pics. To those who watch the race: look for the guy in the blue lawn chair waving wildly from atop a giant motor home.

Then, a few weeks after that, after barely regrouping and returning to my normal routine, I’ll take another trip. My first visit to Holmes County, Ohio. I’ve never been there. In all my wanderings over the years, never even came close. Don’t really know why. Guess I just didn’t have a lot of contacts there. And it never was on my path when traveling from one place to another.

Now I have at least one contact. One who seems to know everyone who is someone, which I guess includes about everybody. My buddy John Schmid. John has graciously volunteered to host me. And set the entire agenda. I’m just showing up. He’ll take it from there. Hopefully after that trip, I’ll know a lot more people, including a lot of new friends.

I don’t know what to expect, so probably the best thing is to have no expectations. Or as few as possible. That way, whatever happens is good. From what I’ve seen in films and pictures, Holmes looks to be hilly, with lots of little farms dotted about. And lots of tourist-trap places.

And then, a few weeks after I’m home from what will surely be a wild and exciting experience in Holmes, I’m off again. No rest for this homebody. This time it’s to a family gathering in Mays Lick, Kentucky.

I have ten siblings. Five brothers and five sisters. We haven’t all been together in the same place as a family for more than thirty-five years. Back when I was about ten years old. It’s never worked out since then, as for decades the Amish siblings have refused to host those of us who aren’t, or attend non-Amish events.

I could say something trite, like, how sad. And it is sad, but it’s also ordinary people living their lives as best they can, as best they know. Doing what they think is right. I respect that, or try to.

Thankfully, the situation has been changing slowly, as the passing of years forces each of us to face our own mortality. Age seems to mellow people somewhat. Usually, anyway. But not always. So we inch ever closer to the possibility of all being present. We’ve come close a few times, with only one or two absent, but haven’t quite been able to make it. There’s always the logistical issue of assembling from various points in the country to one place. At the same time. So I’m not sure we will this time either. As they say about such family dynamics, it’s going to take a funeral. But it would be great if we could get it done before it comes to that.

So that’s my travel itinerary for the near future. Lots of miles, lots of places. What with the gas prices inching up, I might park Big Blue again, and rent some little jitterbug, at least for the last two trips. I hope the rental won’t be a hybrid.

And now, a brief update on the Heathen post from a few weeks ago. I had decided last week that I would not expound further on the matter. Heathen is still garnering the occasional comment, and the conversation may continue there for as long as it will, as long as you the readers have something to say.

But some instinctive prompting made me decide to let it rest, not to expound further on it for now. There’s only so much one can say. And I’ve said my piece. No sense beating a dead horse.

When I got back to the office after the Memorial Day weekend, a letter waited on my desk. From Joe’s publishing company. I sat and peered at the envelope with some trepidation. Then opened it.

It was a personal note from Joe. He had been stunned and deeply affected by my reaction. And, no doubt, by the reactions of my readers. He’d pondered the issue, done some soul searching. In the letter, he apologized sincerely for the personal rejection and the pain he had caused.

I felt a little bad. Other than the verbal exchange, it never was really about Joe. As I wrote in the post, he served as an unfortunate trigger, the guy who broke the last straw. For me, and for a whole lot of my readers, from the unprecedented number of responses.

It went so much deeper than him. It was much more about my breaking away from a culture that, well, makes it tough to break away. A lot of latent pain surfaced. Stuff I had not confronted in years.

It’s not fair to blame it all on Joe. It’s wrong to hold a grudge against him.

He’s made it right. I respect that. I accept the apology. I want to let it go. Move forward. And wish him well.

And since I so publicly excoriated him, I wanted to let my readers know he did the right thing. Which took some courage. It couldn’t have been easy.

When I evaluate honestly my own reaction to the incident, I confess to bristling a bit overmuch. I responded with “Don’t Tread on Me.” Right or wrong, part of that response was coldly deliberate. As a warning to others. You can criticize my writings. Reject them for any reason or none. Comment publicly on the blog or send a private email. I can take that as part of the conversation.

Just don’t make it personal, don’t talk down to me, and don’t preach at me.

Or I may write about it to the world. At least my world.

Joe and I both learned from the experience. I’m confident of that. And if that phone call happened today, the conversation, as well as the aftermath, would surely be quite different.

And you all wouldn’t have to hear about it.

Thanks to all who commented, mailed and emailed their condolences after last week’s post. I thought at the time that it’s too close; I should just let it go. Not write it for a week or two. But I couldn’t. The grief and melancholy closed in, and that’s one way, the only real way, I deal with it. Write. Last week, any other subject would have been obviously contrived. Because my heart wouldn’t have been in it.

With some Amish friends, I attended Ben’s viewing the night before his funeral. And on Tuesday, I attended Allan’s memorial service. A small core group of old friends from way back, including me, spoke publicly, sharing our memories of him. Expressed our sadness that he had slipped away so quietly, with so little warning.

That provided the necessary closure for them both, the formal farewells. Released a lot of grief. I’ll still think of them and miss them, especially Allan. But I’m good. Ready to move on, and live. For as long as I am blessed with life.



  1. happy red-necking!

    Comment by ann — June 5, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  2. I hope your family gathering of all being there becomes reality. I look forward of hearing your perspective of Holmes County. I was born and raised there so naturally to me it looks different.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — June 5, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  3. Heart-warming news about “Joe.” We’re all him (one way or another, like it or not).

    Today at the meeting of fellow Bible translators, someone told about the church in the village where they work. Had split a few years back. As one part of that church dedicated a new building, they invited their “other half.” They all came together. The “other” pastor got up and asked forgiveness. Amazing! A miracle of grace. So, such things can, do–and will–happen. Friends over miles: what a great quote.

    Comment by LeRoy — June 5, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  4. This was a really really good post! I can feel it from your writing that you do feel better about the resolution with “Joe”. You just have a spring in your step this week – maybe it’s the upcoming trips, the nice weather, the prospect of being with your sibs, who knows – all of the above!! What a great summer you’ve got planned – that’s just how it should be.

    I SOOO hope that you and your siblings are all there for the gathering in KY. That memory will last a lifetime, no doubt – for all of you!

    Have fun bein’ a redneck – sometimes you just gotta go crazy!!! I think it sounds loud and like I’d have to wash my hands….a LOT. Have fun anyway! :)

    Comment by Bethrusso — June 5, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  5. Ira, enjoy your upcoming travels and be safe. I do not know what I enjoy more…..what you say OR how you say it. I am looking forward to reading more of “life….as Ira sees it.”

    Comment by Robert Miller — June 6, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

  6. I hope you have the time of your life! Stay forever young and if you are ready…. I hope cupid sends a “special” friend (redneck girl) your way ! Have fun and be Safe!!!

    Comment by Michelle V. — June 6, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  7. Reflecting a bit on ‘Joe’.

    We are living in the age of lukewarmness.

    The Revelations would let us know that He would rather we be HOT or COLD.

    Rev 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
    15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
    16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

    Being very devout and standing on what one believes is a very good characteristic…nay, a vital one….as far as He is concerned.

    But, even tho that is a qualifier that is necessary, there are other qualifiers involved as well.
    For, we have many, many religions in this world, other than Christianity, that have VERY devout followers.
    So it takes more than just being very devout.
    I realize that.

    Nevertheless, it IS something that is a requirement of His as well.

    I would have given ‘Joe’ credit for being very devout.
    Even tho i would also believe that a lot of what he was devout about, was in err.

    Now. Just because this ‘Joe’ has written and apologized doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the characteristic of being ‘devout’.

    He may have realized that he came across in a manner in which he didn’t mean to.

    In life’s journey, when we come across something hot or cold, it is memorable.
    Lukewarmness swallows us up.
    Fill a tub with lukewarm water and you can engulf yourself in it instantly.
    Not much ‘sensation’ whatsoever.
    Fill a tub with very hot water, and see what happens.
    Fill a tub with very cold water and see what happens.

    Christianity is FULL and running over with ‘lukewarmness’.
    Not very many ‘hot’ and not very many ‘cold’.
    That is what the Revelations would let us know about our time period.

    A very scary time…
    Nobody rock the boat….
    And, if that’s what we want, as a people, then He will surely let us go merrily on our way…


    There is a site called ‘worldisround’.
    Folks from all over the world put pics on there of where they live, or have visited.
    I often go there and ‘visit’ many places around the globe when i want to relax a bit.

    I ran across some pics of Holmes Co…if you want to ‘visit’ it before you go there.

    Click on ‘North America’.
    ‘United States’.

    In case you are interested…have the time….
    Very interesting site…

    Comment by fritz — June 7, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  8. I would have hoped that Joe would have gone further in seeking reconciliation, namely publishing the excellent series of articles about the life of Elmo Stoll.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — June 8, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  9. I enjoyed reading this and always get a kick out of you calling yourself a redneck. You do it a lot. I liked the beginning quote about friends. Friends don’t call each other names. I don’t know why it’s so easy for me to do this in my comments sometimes, but once again it happened. It seems hiding behind a computer takes away a lot of inhibitions. Makes it really easy to be rude. I don’t like it, especially when I do it. I’m sorry, Ira, for being an obnoxious jackass.

    My son is a homebody. He loves being at home more than anything. I think if I had a larger home with a yard I would appreciate being at home more. Too often I feel the four walls closing in on me and I become restless and crave a long or short road trip. In a couple of weeks I’ll be attending a Mom’s conference with a few thousand other moms. Just what I need.

    Keep up the good work, Ira.

    Comment by Francine — March 5, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

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