Monday, March 8, 2010

A Dutch Fish Bowl

Pennsylvania has some wonderful rolling country-side to enjoy, particularly off the main highways. It's not hard to step back in time to Benjamin Franklin or even before that with little effort outside of the main cities.

Last May I had the opportunity to enjoy a driving tour from Philadelphia over to York where the eldest daughter of a friend from high school was getting married. Yes, it's that time of the season when the kids of the kids I went to school with are starting out on their own.

What better way to mark the passage of time than rolling through the southern Pennsylvania wilderness, a journey back in time in and of itself? On this day the road to York rolled right through the heart of Lancaster County, Amish Country.

A favorite film of mine, "Witness" captured the invasive and abhorrent commercialism yapping at the heels of this genteel society like some rabid dog nipping for scraps from the table. While I didn't see local hoodlums roughing up the farmer folk or some overbearing tourist from the Midwest in horned rim glasses shoving a camera in anyone's face I did see all along the main road through Amish Country what amounted to the kind of trashy gift emporiums and souvenir shops one would expect on the road leading to Disneyworld.

What seemed more astounding while driving this choked tourist-trap of a road was seeing a blue-shirted man driving his horse and buggy blithely in the opposite direction while chattering away on his cell phone! Had the plain people finally caved to the most sinful of all conveniences? It was later explained to me that the blue-shirted man might have been a Mennonite instead of an Amish. Such subtleties were lost on me, I must admit, as I was as much an "English" tourist as anyone else on that road. I couldn't get out of the area fast enough and had the excuse of my friend's wedding for motivation.

The exposure to this small slice of Amish Country around Lancaster led me to conclude that the true Amish experience lay deeper in to the hills and farms of the area, way off the beaten path. That same thought told me that I would never venture those bucolic byways in search of the authentic Amish any more than I would knock on the gates of Buckingham Palace and ask to use the facilities. They have farms to run and families to raise. I couldn't see myself driving over hill and dale trying to find the most authentic and picturesque Amish farm as if hunting for the perfect fish to go in my aquarium back home. Apple butter notwithstanding, they certainly don't need me at the door, either, gawking and asking why they haven't at least switched to zippers from hooks and eyes.

I finally made it to York where the wedding was right out of the 20th century. The nuptials were held in a turn of the century theater with the theme being favorite films from Hollywood.

My table was Jurassic Park.

Gotta go.

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