After coming up empty on our quest for shoo fly pie in Sugarcreek, it was getting late so we decided that it was time to head out of Amish country and heed the final Post-It note on our dad’s itinerary: The “Hardware” store.
First though, Corey’s GPS took us down what I referred to as the Las Vegas Strip for craft fanatics. Literally just one long sprawling road of shop after shop boasting rustic Amish wares. There were people and cars everywhere and it took an ungodly amount of time to crawl through the traffic lights. Looking out the window at all of the window fluttering from shop to shop like locusts with too much money, I felt eternally grateful that I was there with Corey and not some middle-aged broad with a hankering for quilts and Christmas wreaths. It brought back flashbacks of the time we went to Lancaster in 2010 with Tommy and Jessy. Jessy insisted on going inside every last shopfull of overpriced, commercialized pieces of “Americana” while Chooch, Henry, Tommy and I stood outside shooting ourselves in the face with finger-guns.
Finally, we made it back onto a peaceful, country road, drove past Heini’s and waved goodbye, and then felt scared when we witnessed the second Amish person that day staring vacantly at a burning pile of leaves.
The sun was setting when we pulled into the Lehman’s parking lot. I still don’t know why our dad calls it the hardware store, maybe it used to be one? When we walked in, I noticed that it did have kind of an industrial, saw-dusty smell. And then, right away: BIRDHOUSES!
Honestly, I have no idea what about me gives my dad the impression that I’m an avid looker at birdhouses, but there you have it. The wall of birdhouses that my dad was sure would please my eyeballs. I wonder if he’s confusing birdhouses with the frog hotels I used to build when I was a kid? And by build, I literally mean I would tape a bunch of boxes together and cut doorways in them and then fill them with Barbie furniture and, obviously, frogs. Way cooler than birdhouses, dad!
We rounded a corner and it suddenly became very clear to me way our dad loves the hardware store so much: novelty beverage. He is what you’d call a soda savant. A pundit of pop. A carbonation connoisseur. He has numerous vintage Pepsi machines around his house, and I’m not sure what the contents are like now, but when I was a kid, you could go out to the garage, skirt past one of his vintage cars, and grab an ice-cold glass bottle of Barq’s Root Beer out of one. It’s one of the quirks that make him who he is: he loves old shit.
My dad was kind of leery of Henry at first because of the age difference and the whole IMPREGNATING ME OUT OF WEDLOCK situation, god forbid. But then one year, Henry brought him an entire case of Faygo root beer in vintage-looking glass bottles and my dad, holding one up to the kitchen light, breathlessly said, “Oh man. Oh my god. You can’t find these anymore!” They’ve been beverage-buddies ever since.
Corey got the Bacon Soda just because, why not? He said the reviews online were like, “This is the best thing ever!” but that it was literally the most disgusting thing he’s ever drank and that it didn’t even taste anything like bacon. There was a PB&J soda that I was tempted to buy, but I ended up buying Chooch some kind of zombie drink that he actually drank so I guess it wasn’t too vile.
A Lehman’s worker walked by, pushing a cart of shopping baskets. I followed her and asked if I could take one. “Oh!” she cried cheerfully, handing me one. “Please do! It would make me so happy!”
Uh…FRIENDLY PEOPLE MAKE ME NERVOUS!
Then some man kept trying to talk to us because this is what happens in Amish Country: everyone forgets that it’s 2014 and wants to start talking to their neighbors. It ‘s uncomfortable for people like me who assume that they’re only being spoken to as a decoy while a pick-pocketing is taking place.
Anyway, the rest of the store was full of housewares, food mixes like split pea soup, and then an entire showroom of vintage stoves and furnaces, which my dad probably kneels before and prays.
And then we saw an Amish person! I felt like an asshole after I took this because I had literally gone the whole day without violating one of the basic rights of the Amish, but at least this picture is blurry, so maybe it doesn’t count? It was interesting to note that Lehman’s was the only place we ventured all day that had Amish shoppers. Right before we left, I noticed that he was looking at a rack of Amish Country postcards.
“Do you think he’s looking to see if he’s on any of them?!” I whispered to Corey. And then I started to wonder if I’m accidentally on any Pittsburgh postcards. That would be horrible/awesome.
By the time we checked out, it was 6:00 and we still had something like a two and a half hour drive home, so we said goodbye to Amish Country. BUT NOT GOODBYE FOREVER.
We stopped over my dad’s last night for Thanksgiving (and so I could claim one of the shoo fly pies he special ordered!) and I got him to talk about Amish things for nearly 3 hours. He mentioned the Amish roofers and I had to pretend like I hadn’t seen 54548 pictures of them, courtesy of Corey. And then he was like, “Do you guys like apple cider?” And then, taking two frosted mugs out of the freezer, he said, “Well, you’ve never had apple cider like this!” and then handed us two ice-cold mugs of glorious Amish nectar.
“Did you guys go to the hardware store?” he asked me excitedly, and I know he knows that we did because Corey showed him the novelty beverage he bought, but I figured he just really wanted to hear about it again. While I was telling him about our experience there, he got this faraway look in his eyes, like he was trying to mentally trace our footsteps through the blueprint of Lehman’s.
You guys. Not only did my dad get shoofly pies, but he got THREE of them from TWO different bakeries! The one bakery, he’s still being pretty vague about it so Corey and I are convinced that this supposed bakery is actually the kitchen of his Amish mistress’s farmhouse. But the third pie came from goddamn DER DUTCHMAN are you kidding me!? We ate there that day! When I mentioned that to my dad, he was like, “Yeah, Corey told me he had a CHEESEBURGER. Who goes to an Amish-style restaurant and eats a CHEESEBURGER?!” he asked in rhetorical disappointment.
“I had a grilled cheese,” I laughed, and my dad just sighed. We are clearly not doing a good job filling those Amish boots. He was also disappointed that we went to Heini’s Cheese Chalet and not Walnut Creek Cheese House, because Heini’s is a disgraceful tourist trap.
Then, after offering Henry thirds of Amish beef sticks and licorice, he told me about this annual Amish auction he goes to in June, where the local Amish fill a schoolhouse with all of their wares and you bid on all of their meticulously handcrafted goods which immediately depreciate once you bring it back to your house of whores and inverted crucifixes.
Apparently, they set up tents and serve homecooked meals all goddamn day while all of their horses and buggies are parked on a giant hillside and everyone acts civilized and peacefully.
“You never hear anyone yelling at their kids!” my dad exclaimed, shaking his head in disbelief. “They are SO WELL-TRAINED” as I’m standing there repeating, “Turn the flashlight off. Turn the flashlight off. Stop shining the flashlight in our eyes. Put the flashlight down. Put it down. Give me the FUCKING flashlight. Get your shoes. Put your shoes on. Put your shoes on. Put your FUCKING SHOES ON” to my disobedient spawn.
“I’ll give you the information for that auction when I get it in the mail,” my dad said, walking us to the door.
Great. Hopefully that have Amish Kid Prison where I can send Chooch while I’m mocking people fighting over quilts.