Thursday, September 2, 2010

Amish Paradise

Damn it feels good to be a gangster.  You know why I'm a gangster?  Because I went where ALL hard-core, big pimpin, ballin', Crystallin' gangsters go on their summer vacations:

Amish Country in central Pennsylvania.

There we were.  Rolling up in a dirty white mini-van with three kids.  Empty bags of Chick-Fil-A littering the car.  Periodic outbursts of cursing at the GPS.  Blasting Weird Al and the Wiggles.  Holla.

That's quite enough, Lydia.

Cap'n Coupon and I decided on Amish country because:
  1. I have always wanted to be Amish.  I like the hats.  And how they all hate Fancy.  Sorry, I mean things that are fancy. [Editor's Note: Right. Yeah. *That's* what you meant. Snitch. -Kate]
  2. It's only a few hours from where we live.
  3. It was supposed to be affordable. [Apparently we can waste copious amounts of money wherever we go.]
  4. Clark Griswold The Cap'n loves him some wholesome, family fun.
  5. An amusement park called Dutch Wonderland advertises on the Disney Channel and my children became obsessed with the idea of going there. 
  6. We wanted a vacation that would be all about the kiddos.
As we pulled into Lancaster County, Thumbelina saw her first Amish horse-drawn buggy and flipped out.  "I KNOW WHY THAT MAN KEEPS HITTING HIS HORSE WITH THAT WHIP!!"  We wondered what in tarnation she was talking about.  "It's to make the horse HYPER so it will trot faster and faster and pass all the cars.  Because they hate cars and anything not old-timey." 

Thumbelina became obsessed with deconstructing Amish behavioral norms. She had theories and explanations for everything.  Why they believed electricity was evil.  Why they wore the dark clothes.  Why they rode special bicycles.  Why they all seemed to own cows.  Why the ladies wore little white hats.  Why there was no love for buttons.  Her theories were so profoundly offensive and whacktacular that the only one we can share is the one about making horses hyper.  We spent almost every minute outside our hotel room asking her to please stop making declarative statements about the Amish in a loud voice.

Hawk quickly became obessed with something, too.  The use of public bathrooms.  Where ever we went, he wanted to take a dump on a communal and unsanitary public crapper.  The historic train station at the Strasburg Railroad?  Dump.  The pretzel factory?  Poopers.  Dutch Wonderland? Oh man, we were there all day so he went like four times.  Every restaurant we walked into?  Why, of course!  Gas stations?  Even Yesser.  Because the nastier the public restroom, the more he wanted to defecate in add his illustrious charm to it.  And of course, he only wanted to use the men's room which meant that the Cap'n had to accompany him. Into 137 different public restrooms.  At the height of tourist season.  In steamy August.  And if there's one thing my husband hates, it's taking the kids into a public rest room.  As you may recall, my husband's reluctance to take the kids to the bathroom resulted in a rather unpleasant trip to Five Guys a couple of years ago.

We made the mistake of going into several establishments that claimed to be "authentically Amish".  I am fairly certain that the Amish don't do shots.  Or express their creativity through the painting of pictures of dogs playing poker.  Or allow their children to play with dollar store Barbie dolls dressed as Amish people.  These places may have been authentically Amish at one time.  Or owned by Amish people who understood that tourists who come on buses from New Jersey enjoy buying crap like t-shirts that say "I was kissed between Paradise and Intercourse, PA!!"  But it felt authentically Jersey to me.  Like I was in a shop on the boardwalk near Seaside Heights.  Except for the straw hats.  That were made in China.

 But you know me.  I enjoyed the irony and bought two shot glasses.

Still, there's something about Amish restaurants that makes me think Thumbelina's claims of their sinister nature may in fact be true.  Every restaurant was filled with customers who were so big they couldn't walk.  And this is coming from me.  I have no illusions about the size of my own ass.  Seriously, I thought at first they were filming a reality show there. 

The smorgasbords (as the Amish restaurants are called for some *authentic* reason) were overwhelming, even for someone who loves food as much as I do.  I'm talking about heaping mounds of hearty, super-carby, mostly yummy food.  At each meal there were like 15 kinds of dessert.  I looked around at all the other fat tourists at the trough with me and then at the slender Amish people frenetically spooning more ham into the chafing dish and I thought there is something seriously wrong with this picture.  It was like in Wall*E...  Or Hansel and Gretel...  :: shudder::

And then there's Dutch Wonderland...  It's all whitewashed and never-changing and feels like it's the 80's all over again when you roll up into the parking lot.  Which is perfect for us, because I'm married to Clark Griswold.  This was obviously our Holy Grail, our Wally World.
The Cap'n even said to me as we pulled up, "Do you suppose there's an old guy who runs this place named Dutch?"  And while that would have gone a long way towards fulfilling the 80's movie montage that runs on a constant loop through his head, I'm pretty sure the answer was no.  But then I kept thinking of the imaginary Dutch and of a mask being ripped off his head and him saying in a sullen and raspy voice: "And I would've gotten away with it, if it weren't for you meddling kids."  So really, I'm no better than the Cap'n.

We had a great time at Dutch Wonderland.  It was wonderlanderful.  But something about that place sort of freaked me out.  Again.  You see it's this big amusement park just for littler kids, maybe 12 and under.  So it was perfect for my guys because they could go on everything.  Hawk and Thumbelina weren't too short for any of the rides.  So we rode everything and ate kettle corn and had a blast.  And we did all the stuff that's peculiarly and perfectly Dutch Wonderland-y, like a giant pretzel your kids can climb and have their photo taken with.  Or the Amish family photo cut-out.  Or the artificial cow. 

It was the cow that upset me.

Her name is Bossie.  And she is a statue.  This fake cow is milkable.  A milkable statue.  And all day long, small children come up to her and grab her udder and aggressively milk her and their parents are all like: "DO IT MORE, Little Precious!  MILK THAT COW!  Oh! Wait! I wanna get a picture!" And the whole time, there's Bossie with this expression on her face, like she wants to silently scream but can't because she's a statue.  And I was like 'What the hell is going on here? Won't someone stop this madness?!" And no one did.

And then Thumbelina went over and milked the cow, and I was all "NOOOOOO! STOOOOPPPP!" And she got mad at me because I wouldn't take her picture. And when I asked her if milk came out, she said no.  It was dirty water.  And then I threw up in my hand.

We left the day after Dutch Wonderland, exhausted and with much less money in our savings account.  As we were driving home, we asked the kids what was their favorite part of their Perfect Family Vacation.  When they could be bothered to lift their eyes from the DVD screens in the back of then van, they blinked at us vacantly.  They thought about it for a while.  There was some nose breathing. 

Then Hawk said: "I wanna go home and play Wii."

You're welcome, children.  Next year Daddy and I are going to Dublin . . . alone.

 xo, Lydia

ps: Weird Al Yankovic had it right.  He always does.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

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