A few recollections and observations relating to my recent vacation, before any thoughts thereof fade entirely under the encroaching weight of mundanity:
8/24: The boys and I took in a Yankees game, a vacation kickoff I had promised them a while back. Unfortunately, as we went on-line to procure tickets, a minor glitch developed in this plan - the Yankees weren't playing at home that day! Luckily, they were playing against the Orioles, and thus in the only other American League venue that's still an achievable day trip from Central NJ. With some guidance from friend and native Baltimorean Soccer Dad, we navigated the Metro system and made it to beautiful Camden Yards in plenty of time. We had great seats, the game was fun, and the Yankees won. And I found myself wondering if we had ended up at a Yankee home game after all; based on visible paraphernalia and volume of cheering, we conservatively estimated that the Yankee rooters there actually outnumbered the Oriole ones by 60-40 or greater. Though we were of course part of that 60%, I felt kind of embarrassed for the hometown fans there in "Birdland".
8/25-26: Two days in the Lancaster PA, Pennsylvania Dutch ("Amish") area. A repeat trip there for us, but just as fascinating the second time around. The parallels between these folks and Orthodox Jews are striking: socially, culturally, and religiously - not to mention the parallel/converse scenes in The Frisco Kid and Witness! (Aficionados know whereof I speak!)
Couple of examples: Contrary to general belief, the Amish are allowed to use electricity, they just can't hook up their homes to the outside world's grid. So modern household appliances like refrigerators and washing machines are in common use, but are modified to utilize propane or gas motors. Reminded me very much of kashrus/shechita and similar halachos, in that the difference between the permitted and forbidden is often technical, not elemental. (Parenthetical joke: Did you hear about the trade between the Jewish and Amish fellas right before Pesach? The former told the latter, "You buy my chametz and I'll buy your electricity"!)
Also, in one of the presentations we attended, it was noted that Amish who work in the outside world often have trouble explaining all the "obscure" holidays they have to take, like Whit Monday. I hear ya' buddy, and so do all of us who get responses at work like "...what on earth is 'Shmini Atzeres' "?
But I noted one key - and unfortunate - difference between "us" and "them" as well. The Amish give their children, at age 16, a chance to drop all their special restrictions and taste the outside life, a practice called the "rumspringa" or "running wild". Each individual then decides whether to return to the fold and join the church as an adult. The number who do come back? About 95%! Halevia that our success rate of kids staying "on the derech" would achieve that level.
8/27: A day at Hershey Park. Rides for the kids, and shows - plus a few of what my son Shalom calls "wimpy rides" - for the parents. And just to make life easier, a kosher food stand right in the park, open year round. It was a lot cleaner and prettier than our local Great Adventure, too.
8/28: An afternoon in Atlantic City. My level of gambling is restricted to playing the quarter slots - I figure that way it'll take me a good hour or more to lose twenty bucks, which is more or less the budget I allow myself for gambling. Well this time, I actually came out a few bucks ahead! Way to defray ~.001% of the vacation costs!
8/29-30: Shabbos down the Jersey Shore. As relaxing as it can get.
8/31: Our annual Chai Lifeline day at Great Adventure. Yes, two amusement parks in four days. But we pretty much went for two reasons - one, to be honest of course, was that it was a sponsored (i.e., free) visit. But the other reason was the park's big live concert event that night to end their summer season - Foreigner! Wow, what a great time! Who cares that only Mick Jones remains from the original 70s-80s lineup? These guys rock like it's.. uh... 1977! My only regret is that they omitted my favorite Foreigner song, "Blue Morning, Blue Day", from their set.
9/1: To Lakewood to shop for new suits for the boys, then home to deal with our mountain of laundry, unpack suitcases, and pack school bags. Though the vacation was fun, Debbie and I were definitely suffering from "kids-underfoot-itis" by that point. I couldn't help channeling that commercial with the parents buying school supplies, dancing down the aisles and singing "It's the most wonderful time of the year"!!
That's it for the vacation summary. And meanwhile, back in blogland, Elie's Expositions hit three separate, yet amazingly related numerically, milestones:
1) My 50,000th visitor - tracked down by Soccer Dad, via Sitemeter, as Yitzchak.
2) My record number of comments on a single post - 49, for last week's Musical Monday. Just one short of 50! Of course, I could go add that 50th comment myself, but that would be cheating...
3) And now, as soon as I hit "Send", my 500th published post!!
Thank you for making this all possible - and keep reading! I'll try my best to make it worth your while.