Midnight In An Amish Gay Bar

Commentary by Joe Spann

Hello! Welcome to the bar!

What do you think of it? It has a rustic, 19th century charm to it, don't you think? It kind of reminds me of Old West saloons I used to see in photographs. You would never guess that it’s used as an Amish gay bar for most of the month.

What’s that? You’ve never been in an Amish gay bar before? Don’t worry. You’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it.

Of course, you’ve probably also noticed that there don’t appear to be any gay Amish about (I’ll even bet money that you thought there was no such thing as a gay Amish). Well, you probably won’t see any, since they’re incredibly skittish and take flight whenever one of the “English” (their term for anyone who isn’t Amish) appears. Believe me, I know!

How do I know? Well, have a seat and get comfortable, because I’ve got quite a story to tell you.

About a year ago, I was in a funk over the demise of my design business and realized that I needed a change of pace. I decided that I would take a week off and go driving through the Pennsylvania Dutch country. I can’t really tell you what possessed me to make that my destination: Most guys would go somewhere fun and drown their sorrows in hedonistic excess. I guess I figured if I went somewhere where life is simple and uncomplicated, I could put my own problems into perspective.

Well, as I quickly found out, the Amish country is “simple” all right! I also found out that after you’ve seen one horse drawn carriage, you’ve pretty much seen them all. As for the Amish themselves, these aren’t a very jolly bunch of folks. From their perpetually dour and unsmiling faces, they don’t seem to be enjoying their “simple” lives much. I realized that touring Amish country is like watching the Lifetime Channel, or the first half of Titanic: It’s definitely a “chick” thing! So, after a day of this, I decided that it was time to reconsider someplace “fun”, so I began looking for a way out of that benighted part of America.

And that’s where my problems really began! You see, I had waited until nearly sunset before trying to get out of there, and Amish country is a terrible place to drive after dark. They’re not big on streetlights and the roads aren’t marked very well, so, after a while, you can get really lost. And you can forget stopping and asking directions! In a place where they still drive carriages, gas stations and “Quick Shops” are unheard of. Even if you could find one, it wouldn’t help much: Amish country “dies” at sundown and everyone goes to bed at 7!

So, there I was, hopelessly lost and without a clue as to where to go. As I was just about ready to pack it in and sleep in the back seat, I spotted what appeared to be an open business in the distance. Thank God!

As I pulled up and parked in front of the building, I noticed something a bit...well...”queer” about it. It looked like a typical country store, but there were no ice machines or any other items you would associate with one. There was a small sign in the door that said “OPEN”, yet the window blinds were pulled down. I could see the shadows of people moving about inside, so I figured it would be OK to go inside. As I stepped up onto the porch, I noticed the sign over the door for the first time. It read “The Drye Wicke”.

“The Drye Wicke?” I thought to myself, “What the Hell kinda name is that?” I decided it must be some kind of specialty store, like an antique shop. I crossed the porch, turned the handle and opened the front door.

Now, here’s the weird bit: When I opened the door, the first thing I noticed was that the place was now completely empty. The only movement was a stool falling to the floor in a loud clatter. I looked up from the stool and saw an open doorway in the back, the door swinging on its hinges, as if someone had just passed through it. I stood there for a moment, uncertain about what to do. I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It was only then that I realized that this wasn’t a store at all, but a bar. It was, in fact, this very bar we are now sitting in.

I decided to try and see if there was still anybody about. I looked behind the bar to see if anyone was crouching behind it. No one was. “Hello? Is anybody here?” I called out. No answer. I went to the back door to see if anyone might be out there. Nothing. Not a soul in sight. I did, however, notice numerous sets of footprints in the wet grass, each one trailing off in different directions.

It then occurred to me that I may have interrupted a robbery attempt, and I decided I should just get the hell out of there. I locked the back door and searched long enough to find that there was no phone (damn!). I left, locking the front door behind me, and set out in my car in hopes of finding somebody to report this strange episode to.

As luck would have it, I encountered a county policeman about a mile from the bar. As soon as I saw his patrol car, I began honking the horn and flashing my headlights to get his attention. When he had pulled up alongside, he rolled down his window and asked “What’s the problem?”
As luck would have it, I encountered a county policeman about a mile from the bar. As soon as I saw his patrol car, I began honking the horn and flashing my headlights to get his attention. When he had pulled up alongside, he rolled down his window and asked “What’s the problem?”

“I’ve got two problems, actually!” I said. “First, I’m really lost. Second, I think I may have interrupted a robbery a few moments ago!”

The policeman turned to look in the direction I had come. “Where was this?” he asked without looking at me.

“It was at a place down the road called “The Drye Wicke.” At this he turned back and looked at me. He had a kind of wry, half-smile on his face and listened quietly while I told him what had happened. When I was done, he sat there for a moment, as if pondering what I had told him.

“Well,” he said, “if you stay on this road and drive north for about 4 miles, you’ll come out on the main highway. Take a right and eventually you'll get to the interstate.” He then began to roll up his window.

“What about that business at the bar?” I hurriedly asked.

He stopped and again gave me that half-smile of his. “Uh...that’s really not anything to worry about. It’s happened a couple of times before.”

“So...what’s going on back there?”

He chuckled. “Every once and a while we get a tourist like yourself who gets lost and wanders into that place. And, just like you, they always see the same thing you just described. You see...”The Drye Wicke” is a gay bar, and the...patrons are real skittish. They always haul ass whenever a stranger comes around.”

I stared at him, completely dumbfounded. “A gay bar?” I asked incredulously, “In Amish Country?!”

“It’s the only kind of bar the Amish have!” With this, he gave another chuckle, rolled up his window and drove away, leaving me to stare, open-mouthed, at where he had been parked. I can’t say how long I sat there before I began driving again, but I’ll bet it was quite a while. I couldn’t take in what I had just heard - an AMISH GAY BAR?! Who the hell had ever heard of such a thing, much less actually stood in one?

Numbly, I followed his directions and eventually found myself on the highway. However, instead of going to the interstate, I stopped at a small motel I found and checked in for the night. I couldn’t sleep though, since my mind kept playing the episode at the bar over and over again. A profound feeling of unreality had come over me, like I was in an episode of “The Outer Limits”.

My thoughts were still confused the next morning as I got ready to hit the open road. My plan had been to leave Amish country and go to a more fun location, yet I found myself retracing the route to the bar! I guess I needed to prove to myself that the previous night’s event had really taken place. I managed to find it without getting lost and parked in front of the porch as I had the night before. I noticed that two things had changed. First, the sign over the door was gone. Second, the sign on the door now said “CLOSED”.

This struck me as very strange. Why take the sign down, unless they didn't want anyone to know this was a business? If that was the case, why leave a “CLOSED” sign in the door? The blinds in the window were still drawn, so I couldn’t look in and confirm what I had seen earlier.

Now I was starting to get a little...pissed about all of this! I felt like someone was having a joke at my expense and the thought of a bunch of gay Amish squatting in the dark and giggling at me was irritating to say the least! I then made a fateful decision: I would return that night and find out just what the hell was going on! I checked back in to the motel and spent the rest of the day watching TV and thinking about giggling Amish.

I returned to “The Drye Wicke” that night around 10, but this time I didn't park as close as I had the night before. I didn’t want them to hear me coming and slip out the back again. As I approached, I was surprised to see that the sign had been placed over the door again. I guessed that they took it down each morning so as to not offend the sensibilities of the rest of the Amish community. That, or the local Chamber of Commerce was making them take it down for fear that a gay bar would hurt the local tourist trade.

I stepped onto the porch and silently crept up to the door. I paused for a moment, placing my ear against the door. I could just make out the sounds of muffled voices and the faint clink of glasses, so I knew someone was in there. I grasped the door handle and very slowly turned it until it was open. Then, taking a very deep breath, I quickly pushed the door open.

The bar was empty! The only movement was a stool again falling to the floor in a loud clatter. Again, the back door stood open, gently swinging on its hinges, as if someone had just passed through it. This time however, instead of just standing there, I raced to the back door, determined to catch whoever might be back there. When I reached the door and looked out into the night, I couldn’t see anything beyond the light streaming out of the doorway. I could, however, just catch the sound of many feet racing away into the darkness.

“Jesus”, I thought to myself. “How the hell could they have cleared out so fast? My God, but these gay Amish are some swift mothers!”

After an indecisive moment or two, I went back into the bar to ponder my next move. It was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to sneak up on them, so I had to take another approach. Then I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I would just sit in the bar until someone showed up. Surely whoever owned the place would have to return to lock up and collect the till, so all I had to do was wait until then. So, I sat at one of the tables, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and settled in to wait. If I had to wait all night to get a peek at an honest-to-God gay Amish, then that’s what I was gonna do!

And that is exactly what I wound up doing! I spent the whole damn night sitting there, smoking like a chimney, and I never saw a living soul! I gotta tell you, I was a very unhappy boy when I saw the light of the rising sun. Disgusted and swearing like a sailor, I got up and locked the doors as I had before, and stalked out to my car. As I was about to get in, I took a last look at the place and froze.

The sign over the door had been removed again. Somehow, during the night and without my hearing, one of them had managed to return and take the sign! I couldn’t believe it! Not only are gay Amish incredibly fast, they’re sneaky as hell! I slumped down into the driver’s seat and just stared at where the sign had been.

And I began wondering: maybe I had misunderstood the policeman. Maybe, instead of “Gay”, he had said “Geist”, which is, I believe, the Amish word for ghost! At that point, I was more than ready to believe that I was dealing with the Supernatural. How else could I explain the sudden, almost instant disappearance of the patrons whenever I opened the door? Unfortunately, this speculation just fueled my determination to see whoever was using this bar each night, whether they be gay Amish or Amish ghosts!

But how? That was the question I kept turning over in my mind. As I had discovered, the direct approach wasn’t going to work. No matter how sneaky I was, I knew I wouldn’t be able to take them by surprise. I knew I could try coming in the back door, but they would probably just run out the front. I toyed with the idea of finding a hiding place in the trees across the road during sunset and watching for them as they arrived, but I had a sense that they would know that I was there. They would figure out a way to sneak past me. No, I was going to have to be really clever about this.

Then, I had a flash of inspiration! Video! Of course! All I had to do was rent a video camera and set it up behind the bar where it couldn’t be seen. Then, I could simply do as I had the night before and the camera would record them as they bolted out the back! Best of all, I would have proof! Whenever I told anybody about this, I would have documentary evidence to back up my story. Hell! Even the media would want to get their hands on it! Whether I was about to prove the existence of gay Amish or Amish ghosts, it didn’t really matter. Either way, it could be the story of the decade! Without further ado, I sped away to rent a video camera.

That night, around midnight, I returned to the bar to set my trap. Again, I parked the car about half a mile away so that they wouldn’t hear me coming. I gathered up the camera and tripod and set off on foot, carefully making my way to the back of the bar. As I passed the building, I could see shadows moving across the window blinds. Perfect! I crossed the small field behind the bar to the line of trees that formed the boundary of the property. I set the camera up beside a tree and angled it so that the back door was in the center of the frame. Once I was satisfied with the arrangement, I turned the camera on. My trap was now set. I crept back to the front of the bar and positioned myself directly across from the main door. I took a very deep breath and bellowed, with all my might, “ENGLISH!”

I was rewarded with the usual sounds of a toppling stool, the bang of the back door being flung open and retreating footfalls as the Amish hauled ass into the night, right in front of my camera! Yes!! I had pulled it off!! Flushed with the thrill of victory, I sauntered around to the back of the building to collect my hard-earned video.

Oh, let me tell you: At that point, I was just full of myself! As I strolled along, my twisted little brain was in nuclear meltdown with thoughts about how this tape was gonna change my life. I was seeing myself on 60 Minutes, or in National Geographic, or, if I was really lucky, Jenny Jones or the National Inquirer! It didn't really matter which. After all, when it comes to “outing” Amish, any venue will do.

Then I arrived at the camera.

All of my ambitions and dreams shriveled and died like worms baking on a hot sidewalk. You see, I had made the tactical error of underestimating my prey: Just because the Amish do not use modern technology, it doesn’t mean that they don’t understand it! They had taken the video cassette with them. I still had no evidence.

DA - YUM!!

I went into a bit of a decline after that. I trudged back to the bar, picked up the fallen stool and just...sat there, defeated, deflated and pitiful. I realized that I was never going to get proof of the existence of gay Amish. They would always make sure of that. They were determined to remain in that Pantheon of popular mythology that includes UFO’s, Big Foot, and “New” Democrats.

Of course, I could point to the bar, but what did that really prove? By itself, it’s just a quaint throwback to a 19th century saloon. There’s nothing about it that would make anybody think “Yep! It’s a gay bar!” I knew if I persisted in pursuing this, I would eventually be viewed as some crack-pot, blathering about conspiracies being spun by a cabal of gay Amish Illuminati. Viewing my options, things seemed pretty bleak. It got so bad that I even considered becoming...and I’m really ashamed to admit this...a cartoonist!

Hey! Don't get all judgmental and pious on me! They say that the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem and I think I deserve props for saying I thought about it!

Anyway, as I was about to give into my darkest nightmare and pick up pen and paper to start drawing, a thought struck me: They’ve left me with the bar! They won’t come back until I’m gone, so I could do anything I want while I’m here. In fact, just by being here, it becomes “mine”. I don’t think there’s a guy in America who hasn’t dreamed of being like Sam Malone and having his very own bar. I began to realize that the Amish, instead of ruining my ambitions and forcing me on the terrible path of cartooning, had given me a unique present!

For one night each month (or whenever I can make it up here to Amish country) “The Drye Wicke” becomes mine. I can invite anyone I please and we can have a jolly time, discussing anything we choose. I think that’s a pretty sweet deal, don’t you?

Of course, there are some ground rules I think we need to follow. First and foremost, we have to pay for any beverages we take or any furniture that gets broken. I suspect that if I take too great advantage of the Bar’s true owners, they might get a bit testy. Secondly, this will be a smoking bar. If you are an anti-smoking fanatic who thinks the Federal Government should use it’s fearsome powers of coercion to protect you from what you consider unpleasant odors, then just stay the hell out! No crybabies in my bar!

So, that’s my story. I hope you’ll drop by every month or so to see what’s up and have a beer and a smoke. And, who knows? Maybe...just maybe, a Gay Amish (or Amish geist) might creep in to see what’s going on.

Hey, it could happen!

I’ll keep my camera ready, just in case.

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