Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Amisher Than Thou

Unfortunately, this blog has inspired a contretemps with one of my younger siblings about whether he, unlike me, is English. In the Amish world, there are two types of people, Amish and English. It does not matter if you're from Africa, Asia or South America, if you're not Amish, then you're English. This sibling, who is 13 years younger than me, was born after my parents left the Amish church.

My younger sibling, who has posted in a comment to an earlier post in this blog as "Amish_Nomad" never lived in a household without the use of electricity or a telephone. He never lived in a household whose sole means of transportation was a horse. He never had a crockhead haircut. He never lived in a household where all of the clothes were hand made. He never had elderly women with big hair say to each other as he and his brother walked by barefooted in their barnyard pants, wearing their wide-brimmed Amish hats, "Oh, aren't they cute?" The possessor of Ivy League undergraduate and graduate degrees, "Amish_Nomad" now lives in a foreign land working on getting yet another degree. Meanwhile, he thinks that because of his proximity to Amish when he was young and that he now wears a broad-brimmed felt hat, he can call himself an Amish nomad. Bah humbug! Suffering never comes that cheaply.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fear of Flying

Unfortunately, my "Fear of Flying" does not have Erica-Jong type sexual escapades with which to regale my readers. My "fear of flying" keeps me talking to God pretty much from the time the engines rev up and we go hurtling down the runaway like a bunch of Angus being run into the slaughter house until we get to cruising altitude and can look out and see that we're being held up by the clouds. Piety replaces whatever stewardess-inspired fantasies were in my mind again about the time I hear the ailerons being extended until the reassuring thump of wheels hitting concrete signals that I didn't need God's help after all to make it through this trip.

The fact that we will be flying Northwestern on our upcoming trip to Switzerland is inspiring even more devotion than usual. Northwestern's mechanics have been on strike for a week, and I do not relish getting on a plane whose bolts have been tightened by temporary laborers for the last two weeks. I will be carefully checking the tarmac for brown paper bags with the tops of cheap whiskey bottles sticking out before I get on any plane this trip.

I am a little too superstitious to mention this with equanimity, but the idea of dying doesn't have the same terror for me that it did 20 years ago. One reason might be that the idea of burning in eternity in a lake of brimstone has less credibility with me now than it did then, but I think that it is more likely that my stage in life is different. The idea of my little boys being left without a father was more terrifying to me than the idea that God might give me some well-deserved punishment for my iniquities. At 28 and 21, my sons have shown that they can get along without me much better than I might even wish.

Nevertheless, for the first time in my life, I have purchased flight insurance. I already knew, but reread, the financial advisors' analyses of what a bad economic decision purchasing flight insurance is. One analysis said that if an insurance company collected $15 from every traveler in the United States and paid out $1 million for every person killed in an airplane crash, they would still make something like $7 billion a year. Great! Our capitalistic system works only if large corporations make huge profits. Let them. I want to have the peace of mind of knowing that if the compressor keeping the plane pressurized fails because the guy from Manpower didn't know he was supposed to check the oil, my sons will be millionaires - even though I didn't leave them any insurance company stock.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


The term "crockhead" was used by some of the townies in the small town near which I grew up to refer to Amish boys whose hair looked as if someone had turned a crock upside down on their heads and cut around the bottom edges. I hated being Amish; the crock haircuts being only one of the indignities we suffered because of our church's peculiar beliefs. When my parents and several of my aunts and uncles started talking about leaving the Amish when I was around 10 years old, my cousins and I would eagerly check our hair, after each haircut, for signs that we were getting rid of the dreaded crock look. Eventually my parents did leave the Amish church, and over the next 20 years, I thought my siblings and I (all of us well-educated and fashionably coiffed) were pretty much assimilated into general American society. Then we heard that a certain banker in the small town was still referring to us as "crockheads." When we weren't actually crockheads anymore, the term didn't have quite the same odious quality as when we were little boys, wishing that our family would fit in with the rest of American society, so we adopted the name for ourselves. So although the name belongs to all of our family, six boys and two girls, I have appropriated it for my particular blogging use.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Becoming a Blogger

I am still a skeptic about blogging. I am afraid it will involve baring too much soul to too many strangers. But I'm about to take a fun trip to Switzerland. In the past, I have written reports of travels to Paris and Korea and emailed them to family and friends, and it occurred to me that by putting my reports on a blog, those interested can check in and read what they want, and those not interested won't have another email in their spam box. So, I'm going to try this. The trip doesn't start until Saturday, September 3rd, so don't expect much until about the 4th.