Welcome to my world!

I have been editor of The Amish Cook newspaper column for over 20 years.  Many of you know that.  But I’m also more than that.   And that’s why I’ve started this blog.  Sure, we’ll continue to discuss all things Amish over at amishcookonline, but here I’ll talk a little bit about me and a lot about other things from favorite restaurants and festivals, television shows, items in the news, and anything else on our minds.  This blog is called “Not So Simple”, the title of a book I’m writing…. because of my association with the Amish, people think “simplicity.”  But it hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, a public speaker…heck, even spent 3 summers guessing peoples ages and weights at a now defunct amusement park known as LeSourdsville Lake (later renamed Americana) in southwest Ohio.  I started working there one summer just before I turned 15-years-old.  My older brother had worked the Fool-The-Guesser booth at Americana and, well, I guess a guesser quit and they needed to fill the slot.  I was happy to oblige. This picture is me during young, thinner days at the guessing booth!

Once behind the booming microphone the shy kid disappeared and I found I had something to say…most of it was just stuff like “step right up, I’ll guess your age, weight, birthday.”   On-the-job experience honed my age and weight-guessing skills quite well,guessing the date of birth was just darts in the dark.  I learned the hard way to go easy on the ladies when guessing weight.  A few bruised shins from being kicked taught me: always guess low.   I spent three blissful summers guessing ages and weights.  But then a series of serendipitous events (I can talk about those later, I can’t give away ALL my good material in the first post!:) landed me a job the following summer at the local newspaper, The Middletown Journal.  It also happened that that same summer Americana got into hot water with state authorities on some labor violations.  Weeelll…guess which reporter on the Journal staff happened to have a ton of connections within the park?  I was able to put together quite a package of well-sourced stories that summer.  The amusement park closed for good 10 years later, bought by a local businessman and slowly dismantled.  But the memories linger each time I pass.

When getting ready to write this I found a photo that reached out to me like a ghost from the past.  There it was, etched in eternity for me.

The Screechin’ Eagle Roller Coaster enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest continuously used wooden coaster of its kind, operating at the park from 1940 until it closed in 2002.  But it’s not the coaster in the photo that catches my eye, it’s the little white gazebo across from the yellow building.  Until I saw this picture, I hadn’t seen this scene in over 20 years.  The little white gazebo was my “Fool the Guesser” booth, the place where I spent so many hours so many summers.  I met my first girlfriend there, ate frozen bananas from the yellow-colored ice cream stand across the way, and listened glumly to a static-filled radio one rainy spring day as the commissioner of baseball handed down a lifetime ban for Cincinnati baseball icon Pete Rose (also a blog topic for another day).

I’m almost 40 now and I have to admit that creeps me out a bit (okay, a lot), especially since – as cliche as this sounds – it seems like that photo was snapped yesterday.  The past 20 years have seen as many ups and downs as the Screechin’ Eagle Roller Coaster but unlike the coaster, disassembled and sold as scrap, my journey is not over with yet.