A trip to Ohio

August 26, 2009

I returned this past weekend from a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, where I had gone to look into a teaching position at a place called the Lyceum School. It was perhaps not the best time of year to go there; classes are not in session, and I was unable to talk with any of the current teachers. But I spent many hours talking with the new headmaster, Luke Macik, whom I know from the Transfiguration College project, and for whom I have a deep respect; he is a very good man, the father of nine children, and I must think that the school has been placed in good hands. Luke and I agreed that I should come back there later in the year, when there are more people around; he suggested that I give a lecture there this fall on the subject of the Filioque debate.

I took fairly good records of expenditures on this trip. I traveled a total of 976 miles, spent $134.27 on gas and tolls, $7 on parking, $70.42 on food, and $37.53 on books; with other miscellaneous expenses, the total for the whole trip came to $300.98. The exact breakdown of expenses is as follows:

17.viii.09  gas, NJ: 337.5m/12.483g [86341m]           $      31.20
            gas, PA: 317.2m/11.492g [86658m]                  31.02
            toll, PA                                            .75
            toll, Ohio                                         1.25
            supper, Cleveland                                 11.00
18.viii.09  breakfast                                          3.50
            dinner                                            17.06
19.viii.09  tea, soup, 30¢ tip                                 5.25
            admission to Cleveland Botanical Garden            7.00
            2 used books                                       2.08
            book                                              13.95
            parking                                            6.00
            Ohio map book                                     21.50
            dinner                                            19.00
20.viii.09  breakfast, bread, tip                              5.75
            lunch, with tip                                    4.00
            gas, Cleveland Heights: 138.1m/6.791g [86796m]    17.38
            admission, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage         7.00
            postcards, poster                                  5.39
            highway tolls (approximate)                        8.25
            parking, Pittsburgh, PA                            1.00
21.viii.09  AA batteries (for camera)                          4.23
            tea (Somerset, PA)                                 1.69
            juice, pretzels (Plainfield, PA)                   3.17
            toll, PA Turnpike, Harrisburg                     13.75
            loose tea, Bird-in-Hand, PA                        4.25
            jam, Bird-in-Hand                                  3.99
            salami (present for Eddie)                        12.90
            shoo-fly pie (present for Eddie)                   7.00

            mileage on return home  [87317m]
            total miles traveled       976
            total expenditures                               300.98

Note that, in calculating the costs of food, I do not include the $19.90 spent on a salami and a shoo-fly pie, purchased for my brother for his 60th birthday; nor the $8.24 spent on loose tea and jam, since these things were not consumed in the course of the trip, but were purchased for future use. I would, thus, not burden the American taxpayer by reporting these things to the government as business expenses; nor would I do so for the postcards etc. purchased at the Maltz Museum, nor for most of the books purchased on the trip, although I might do so for the Ohio map.

I would also call the readers’ attention to the exorbitant toll on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Route 76) from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. If you plan to drive through Pennsylvania, use Route 80 if at all possible.

I had hoped to spend some time in Lancaster County on my way back; but, because I had gotten little sleep the night before and was tired, I chose to take a nap while stopped at the travelers’ plaza in Plainfield, Pennsylvania; for this reason, although the traffic was not bad, I did not arrive at Bird-in-Hand, PA until late in the afternoon, and had little time to do anything but a bit of grocery shopping.

If I were to advise people where to go when visiting the United States of America, I would certainly tell them that, alongside cities like New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., they ought to visit the Amish country. The Amish are Anabaptists; that is, they do not accept infant baptism, but consider baptism to be properly a choice to be made when a person has attained the age of reason, and they consider baptisms not so made to be invalid. As to how the Amish arrived at their peculiar attitude towards technology, so that, in strict observance, they reject the automobile, although they are willing to travel by train and, indeed, on any long-distance train ride through the northern and central parts of the country one is likely to encounter an Amish family, keeping close together and speaking English more as a second language than as a first one — of all this I am ignorant. Nor is it entirely clear to me how the Amish differentiate themselves from the Mennonites. There is a translation of the complete works of Menno Simons in my home town’s public library, but I confess that I have not read it closely. I did, on the other hand, years ago, read a work by Johann Denck on the subject of the love of God, translated in the Library of Christian Classics volume titled Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, and found it impressive. I don’t at present have that work at hand, but it seemed to me at the time that much of what Denck was saying about the goodness of God and about the necessity for faith to be expressed in active works was in agreement with what I believed, as an Orthodox Christian.

It is likely that, if I made a close inventory of the things the Amish believe, I would find things to disagree with (e.g., the invalidity of infant baptism; also, I have no clear idea what they teach on the person of Christ and on the Trinity). But I think it is worth acknowledging that the Amish have got some things profoundly right. Undoubtedly sin is a universal human condition, and Amish families and souls must have their internal problems and stresses, as do any families and souls; and perhaps these problems and stresses are compounded by having to live, in the eyes of the rest of the population, as a kind of living tourist attraction. Yet the Amish way of life, with its emphasis on faith and community and working the land, is, I think, both beautiful and reasonable. I can think of no group of people who are in a better position to face some of the looming crises of the twenty-first century, in particular the end of cheap oil and the consequential end of cheap food, than are the Amish. They are a people from whom the rest of us ought to be learning, and they are part of what keeps the United States from descending completely into the abyss of commercialism and amnesia of God.

As a fiftieth-birthday present, I was given a gift card, with which I recently purchased a small computer at Best Buy; yesterday, after much anxious experimentation, I finally got it to work booting Windows Vista on one partition and Ubuntu Linux on another; if I can get Linux to connect to the internet, that will be my preferred operating system. Tonight there is a meeting of the New Jersey Linux Users Group in Hackensack; I plan to go to it, and to see if someone there can help me to set up a wireless connection and a dialup modem. This is, in any case, my first post to the blog from the new machine.


One Response to “A trip to Ohio”

  1. Tap Says:

    Looking forward to more blog posts esp. snippets from the Fathers that are most enlightening. Any news or progress on the book you are writing?

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