Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seperated at Birth?

These gentlemen have to be related.

Actor Bradley Whitford from Billy Madison and ESPN reporter/annoyance Jeremy Schaap:

Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, followed by funnyman Will Ferrell:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Amish Country Ohio Adventure (Part 2)

Saturday morning I was awoken at 9:30am again to start the day. The agenda (my Aunt literally prepared a day-by-day itinerary for us to follow, if we wanted to) for the day was to attend an Amish Horse auction for awhile, then go to a few country furniture stores and some more antique malls.

We all stopped at the Mount Hope horse auction. The amount of horses & buggies parked outside was astronomical. They seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. Inside the barn, we could not believe our eyes. Hundres of Amish men, gazed only on the 20 foot horse-run in front of them. It was a massive sea of straw hats. The auctioneer, who couldnt have been more than 30, was spitting out random horse facts like a gatling gun spits bullets. It obviously smelled of horse shit in there, so I laughed heartily when my grandma (mom's side) took a step in the barn & said, "Oooh, it STINKS in here." Wow, ya think? We stuck around for about 5 minutes, watching Amish teens race their horses around, in hopes that a straw-hat clad man in the bleachers would throw up his hand, signifying a bid. The frustrating part of the Amish is that they strongly discourage pics taken of them. A part of me wants to be an asshole & snap pics like a tourist, giving the excuse "well, I'll never see them again". The other part of me knows better, and since I've come to respect their way of life, I've respected their wishes not to be photographed. (Note - of course, on the last day of my trip, my Aunt informed me that they 'allow'pics of them to be taken, they just won't 'pose' for any. Wish I would have known that at this time, as the view of a hundred straw hat men hunched over in bleachers was quite a spectacle. But, the few non Amish people (us) that were there already stood out like a sore thumb, so the flash would have made things MIGHTY awkward. Anyways..)

The next stop was the Ashery Country store. They specialized in handmade jams, jellies, cooking ingredients, organic foods & more. I bought some organic spinach spaghetti, corn salsa, black raspberry seedless jelly, and bacon horseradish veggie dip mix. Next stop, my mom & dad and the gang went to Lehman's Furniture & Amish museum. There was a small flea market outside the 3 building complex, which my parents always go for. I bought 2 beer mirror/signs, a flour advertising tin, and 5 old car/ santa claus advertisements. Before I bought those, I went into the overpriced Lehman's store and bought something. I'll give you one guess. Yup - bought a an Amish straw hat and wore it proudly around the grounds. One of the vendors, after buying the flour tin said, "Where'd you get that hat?" He was a middle-aged, tanned man with a black t-shirt that was about 6 sizes too small. "In the general store," I replied. "How much they want for it?" "12 bucks". "The Amish will be talkin to ya in no time with that hat on." For some reason, I wasn't sure what to say back. I kinda froze actually. So I say back, "Oh, we don't want that, do we. I better watch out!" I had no idea why I said that. With a heavy cackle, he continued, "They'll be askin you to marry their daughters, they will!"

I took the hat off.

This was the 2nd reference to Amish desperation! Earlier yesterday I remember hearing my aunt say something to the likes of "expanding the gene pool". Reluctantly, I told my parents about Mark's Amish $5k offer, and they of course didn't believe it. It's 5pm now, and we're on our way to the family style Amish Dinner. I'm expecting good things.

We pulled up to a small white Amish farmhouse about quarter to 7. 17 of us in tow now, seated in a small room on benches. There was a few skylights that brought a small amount of light into the room. Tiny decorative china plates that had the 50 states on them were hung from the rafters. The floor was composed of black & white tiles. 2 Amish women arrived with some fresh baked bread and homemade sweet & sour coleslaw. Butter, strawberry and black raspberry jam, and Amish peanut butter were laid out for bread toppings. This Amish peanut butter was insane. It's already sweet as it is, but then they add marshmallow fluff in it. I felt like having a heart attack everytime I looked at it, let alone when I ate it. They then offered sweet spearmint tea, with mint grown fresh from their garden. I didn't have any. Next came buttery whipped mashed potatoes, followed by chicken stuffing. The highlight of the meal, oddly enough, was the corn. I had 3 helpings. It was ridonculous. Kernels cut straight from the cob earlier in the morning. Drenched in butter, simmering in a porcelain serving bowl. Calling me to serve him up on my plate. Oh god, the corn, how i miss thee. Then came the mac & cheese. Then gravy. Then more bread. It was a miracle I didn't have to be rolled out of that room like Violet Beauregard a la Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. But oh no, this stomach overhaul wasn't done yet. Then came the baked chicken and the roast beef. Then came the 2 huge bowls of date pudding, which sounds gross, but was very good, of course. My intestines were on the brink of explosion. At that very moment, the Amish officially started to mock me. Out of the kitchen, came the 2 Amish ladies in aprons, wheeling 2 gigantic carts out with about 50 slices of pie on them.

I wanted to punch myself in the face. Pie selections included (from memory) elderberry, peanut butter creme, brown cherry, and custard. I opted for peanut butter creme. Which was an awfully good selection. I took 3 bites & it was as if I'd popped 40 sugar cubes into my mouth. It was a delicious high-calorie mess topped with whipped cream. So, after those 3 bites, I threw in the towel. I defined the word 'overeating'. I defy you, though, to find a better home-cooked meal anywhere else in the midwest. If you think you have a winner, let me know. The herd parted ways, and I spent the rest of the night digesting food and sitting next to a fire that My Aunt's husband's daughter and her boyfriend and I made, while somehow drinking some MGD on tap downstairs (He had a quarter barrel in a mini fridge!) The rain ended up snuffing our fire out a little after midnight. It also meant the next day that our vacation was over.

Sun. Aug 10, 2008
I woke up to the sound of glass shattering. Which is true, but I've always wanted to write that, and mean it. PJ was bringing the coffee maker & coffee potup the stairs when the pot slid off & broke into a million angry shards of glass. This event is actually somewhat important, as it marked the 3rd day in a row, on a vacation, that I didn't sleep past 10am. Yeah , I'm impressed too. I took a shower and packed. After gathering all my stuff, I marched it all the way up her ridiculously steep driveway. My aunt had planned a Lebanese / Syrian feast for lunch. I had never had any Lebanese food, so I was looking forward to it. Available were hummus, grape leaves with rice, taboulleh, pita bread, bahklavva, and a bunch of other things that I can't pronounce. It did not disappoint.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Amish Country Ohio Adventure (Part 1)

The following is the word-for-word account of my trip to Ohio.

Thurs. Aug 7th, 2008
So my Aunt Jill has a lake house cabin in a gated Amish community in rural Ohio. That's really all the information I needed to know to go on this trip. My mom's side of the family is pretty mysterious - I haven't met hardly any of her extended family, and apparently, in the weeks leading up to this mini vacation, word got around that this little soiree was turning into a family reunion of sorts.

My knowledge of the Amish is quite slim. I know little of the culture, or why they do the things they do. When I served at Randy's in college, I remember one late Thursday night when a group of 6 Amish people walked in. And when I mean 'walked in' - I literally mean 'walked in' - they arrived by . . . foot. A few beers were ordered and the women ordered a few alcoholic fruity drinks. One - a tequila sunrise; an odd choice for a bonnetted woman, you must say. The meal was served, and thus far, Amish people were just normal people who didnt drive cars and wore fucked up clothes from the civil war era. So imagine my surprise when I came to present the check, the mother was letting her INFANT drink from the straw of her tequila sunrise. I almost lost my shit right in front of them, but managed to hold my laughter in long enough to not be rude. Didn't matter anyways, as I got about a 10% tip on a $50 bill. So one thing I know about the Amish is that they're cheap.

A few weeks ago, I was at abar with 'Mark' - former co-owner & brewmaster of Randy's. I told him about this trip. His eyes lit up upon hearing this. He starts to tell this elaborate schpiel about how Amish families are inbred. Whether or not this is true, I have no clue. He continues to tell me how desperate these Amish families are to break the inbreeding chain that they will offer up to $5k for a studly young man to "plow their daughters", as Mark put it. I laughed. At this point I'm not believing him, so he continues to say that the 'act' is more of a ceremony. The girl wears this multi-layered, frilly dress witha very small slit in the crotchal region. The father IS in attendance, in the room, most likely wielding a large wooden mallet, ready to bonk you if it looks like you're actually enjoying yourself (I made that part up). That really concludes Mark's crazy "Amish people are inbred" story. Now, I won't be participating in the sexual conquest of a young Amish lass, but I will be looking for A) slightly odd looking people that resemble that really ugly thing from The Goonies, and B) a young gentleman, witha fat wallet and a look of pure regret on his face.

As I write this, it's 7:21am, and we're somewhere in Porter Co., Indiana. Both mother and father are desperately trying to figure out the Garmin navigation system. It's hilarious. I'm tired as hell, as I worked at the bar till midnight, had a pizza, packed, and finally arrived home at 3am. My dad had the assonine idea to leave at 5am to beat the Chicago traffic this morning. But, of course it was busy & sucked anyways. Finally, my mom just informed me that we'll be having dinner at an actual Amish home. "Like a restaurant in an Amish home?" I say. "No, like an actual families house," she replied. She was serious. I'm scared, yet excited at the same time. You KNOW something ridiculous will happen at that. It's like I'll be participating on an episode of Fear Factor: Amish Edition. Let's play...
Mom made a mix cd for the trip. I thought Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music" was an awkward choice, but she definitely surpassed it with "Hollaback Girl" immediately following. I have no words. Dad - "This might be one of the worst songs I've ever heard." Hahah AWESOME! Dad made it to 9:56 - love it.

So Ohio looks exactly like Wisconsin, just a tad more hilly. The scenery is a mirror image. Rolling hills...oak, maple, pine, and willow trees scatter the landscape. Numerous times we discussed the resemblance to mid-northern WI. Gray, drab tiny 1 bedroom houses on the side of the road no less than 20 feet away, battered by what I can only imagine as a less menacing winter. Silly-named towns, villages, and obscure little shops (like Jake's Handcrafted Oak!) are also prevolent. It's summer, obviously, and all is a vibrant shade of green. It may be boring at times, but I still have love for the midwest. Gas was as low as $3.57, a sure bargain.

Stuck behind our first horse & buggy. Sure enough - a sweet shaggy white beard adorned the driver's ancient face. I hope I see more of this.

Just got out of the Millersburg Walmart. Suspenders, beards...solid colored dresses & bonnets. Shit is awesome. Bought 2 disposable cameras - don't have the heart to my mom I lost the digital camera in Minneapolis that she bought me for Xmas 2 years ago.

Fri. Aug 8th, 2008
Last night was pretty unventful, but interesting. A few of my mom's relatives stopped by. (Names withheld) ate some pizza. Amazingly entertaining though, was watching the hummingbirds divebomb each other like Japanese Kamikaze pilots. It was insane. Literally 4-5 feet away from us, these nutjob birds would chase each other around like prepubescent grade-schoolers near the swingsets at recess. These swingsets though, were sugar water feeders. No matter was the conversation was, we'd stop to marvel at these miles-per-minute birds. I can't really write how cool it was.

Today at 10am, a caravan consisting of 3 cars - all of which contained more of my mom's distant family - drove to the Herschberger Antique Mall. Along the way we were given a lesson in Amish culture by our gracious host Aunt Jill. A highlight was the 1-room schoolhouse on the edge of a farm field. The only bathroom - an outhouse - had 2 sides - one for boys, one for girls. She also lent me 2 Amish books to read so I wouldn't be so naive with the Amish subject. I'll tell you what I now know.

Her lakehouse, on Lake Buckhorn, is nestled in Holmes county Ohio. Holmes County is home to the World's largest Amish communities. I asked her what the ratio of Amish to English Americans is, and she (and I believe that there are more Amish. There are two types of Amish: The menanites, and the Amish. The Menanitesare more, well, liberal - and can have electricity and drive cars and have credit cards. Whereas the Amish use zero technology and specifically use the horse & buggy to get around. THe main question I've always asked myself was if they can have the technology, why not use it? The main reason they don't is because they have the mentality that their ancestors were fine without technology and electricity, so they should be ok too. I respect them highly, I really do. On the way to the antique mall, we encountered numerous horse-drawn buggies. The women all wear dull colored, calf length dresses. They don't / can't cut their hair, so they put it neatly in a bonnet. The men have a vast variety of options: white, brown, gray, or black. All wear suspenders, which kick ass, and have a full, perhaps rogaine-induced beard & mutton chops combo. Basically even if I wanted to be Amish, I'd be ostricized due to my lack of ability to grow facial hair. These are the thickest, longest beards I've ever seen. ZZTop would be jealous. Amish families live off the land and the farm animals that inhabit it. ALthough, I should say, most young Amish have jobs that you and I would have- general stores, diners...etc. Factoid for you: The Amish are so family oriented, and such great craftsmen, that they can build a barn in an entire day. Yes, during daylight hours. 20 of them, an entire family, can erect a BARN. Saw pictures and a timeline of it in a book - not in real life. But my aunt did say that she witnessed one.

The antique mall we went to was a great one. It had been a long time since I had been in one. Naturally I looked for old advertising relics. The place had 3 huge white barns filled with mirrors, furniture, anything - you name it, they had it. Struck gold when I finally eyed up an antique display case with vintage glass soda bottles.

On the way back we stopped at a family diner in the town of Berlin. It was decent. There was, I shit you not, a menu item called "Fried Mush". What kind of human being would you have to be to bypass, say, a turkey club, baked chicken, or fried perch, and get the "Fried Mush"? Mmm. Sounds good, I'll have that...

On the way back to the lakehouse, we saw the highlight of Friday. On the side of the road, near an Amish home driveway, was a kid...pulling another kid. Picture if you will: A small blonde boy, with a blue harness strapped to his shoulders & hips, pulling, actually running another Amish child sitting in a small cart. Eager fingers at the reigns. Swear to god it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. Kicking up dust in his little Amish boots, telling his brother to "run faster!", straw hats barely grasping the boys' scalp. Amazing.

After jumping in the lake back at the house, we talked & drank for a few hours on the pontoon boat and then headed to a restaurant called the Farmstead Buffet - all 14 of us. It was ok. I capped off the night by finishing up my Great Dane Belgian Pale Ale (Holmes County is a dry county - minus the wal mart) and Capital Brewery WI Amber by a small bonfire overlooking the lake. My Aunt, her husband, and I sat on our backs and watched shooting stars all night. It was beautiful.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ridiculous Excerpts from Amish Publications

As I always do, I'll start out this post by apologizing for the lack of posts lately. It's been a crazy couple of months over on my end. In between moving to another city and quitting both of my mediocre jobs, I haven't had a lot of time for blogging. But, as I patiently wait to get scooped up by, well, anyone - I have a small amount of free time to get back in the swing of things.

In early August, my family headed out to my Aunts lakehouse located smack-dab in the middle of Amish country Ohio. In three words: It Was Awesome (my next post will be taken directly from what I wrote about the trip). This post will be dedicated to the INSANE words of some of the Amish newspapers and publications strewn around various little townships in Holmes county. In no way have the following been altered - these excerpts are the real deal. Thousands and thousands of these publications are distributed weekly/monthly, and they are (for the most part) hilarious:

These are not the tomatoes and peppers that you buy at your local roadside market. They are shipped in from Mexico and California. You will never see the people who raise them. ou can't ask the farmers questions about their food safety. Instead they are raised on huge mega-farms by migrant workers and are shipped by trucks burning Osama Bin Laden's petroleum to your local supermarkets and taco bell stores.

-The Vendor, July 30, 2008

So it's an article on Food Safety that warps into a Bin Laden gas thing? Wtf?

" 'Cherokee' Mike Edmonson remembers what he was doing when he heard the news that three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd had been killed in a 1977 plane crash. "I had just come out of the high school gym from wrestling practice at Maple Heights," Edmonson remembers. "I got in my Camaro, turned the radio on and heard the news. I couldn't believe that plane went down. Right then, I thought, "Skynyrd's done".
-Holmes County Fair Preview, August 7, 2008

Good god the visual stereotype can't get any better...

" Dear Farmer John: Can someone tell me how to pickle tongue? I am 86 years young and like the old fashioned things. I would also like to get some cracklins like we used to make on butchering day. Thank you and your readers so much. VC, Louisville, KY"
-Holmes County Shopper News, August 7, 2008

Ain't nothin better than pickled tongue!

And now, by far the best section of any paper I've ever read. In the Sugar Creek, Ohio's Budget, there's a front page section titled 'Letters from Home'. Yes, the following are on the FRONT PAGE:

"Clare, Michigan. July 29th...We have a local bakery that is kind of handy to have close by. Donuts and fry pies were ordered for Sat. breakfast and the fry pies for dessert in the p.m. Now for the most I'd recommend these to anyone. We learned you'd best check the fry pies as they may contain foreighn objects. The first one was filled with a paper towel (was discovered when broken in half for a small child). The second was like Billy goat gruff's pie, nothing in it, and the last was filled with a hard boiled egg. I bet they didn't think of this end of the joke. Mrs. Herman Stutzman"

" Bloomington, Wisconsin. July 28...Some fellow came to the door of Ruth Miller (Ezra) recently and asked for night crawlers. But she badly misunderstood and thought he asked for neck collars. Don't know if her southern accent (hearing) had kicked in or what happened. She originally comes from KY. She sent him over to the harness shop for those "neck collars". We all had a good laugh. Mrs. Lonnie Yoder."

" Thompsontown Pennsylvania. July 28...There was another load gone fishin in the deep sea at N.J. on Fri. and had lots of fish to bring home. Joseph Peachey and a neighbor were recently out fishing on the Juniata River in his motorboat (trolling) when they caught a small bass and were reeling it in when they got a sharp jerk and had to fight to get their catch in, a 27" walleye which had swallowed the bass and got hooked on the lure besides. Katie E. Yoder"

So watch out for those prankster bakeries, southern-speakin Amish, and fish-eatin fish. Good laughs all around. I saved all the brochures, newspapers, and publications for future lolz-fests. Stay tuned for the (very long) Amish Country Ohio Adventure blog...