Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," brought to you from the Garden State... New Jersey! Isn't that one of life's little ironies? New Jersey: The Garden State. Well, you can't argue that we grow good vultures here.
The Garden State. Can you picture Bruce Springsteen in bib overalls, forking manure onto his tomato patch? Me neither.
From Tuesday evening until Thursday morning, my daughters and I were guests in my sister's new home in Western Maryland, better known as Chateau Fundie.
I know that the Christian religion brings great solace to my sister, so the fact that she would have Christian art did not surprise me. What did surprise me was the scope and extent of it. Either your eyes fall on the tarnished view outside or on some piece of religious artwork. Or the floor, which is now being occupied by a sprightly and amiable mutt, new to the family.
The dominant motif consists of huge wooden plaques that have been digitally carved with Bible verses, or whole hymns complete with the musical notation. There are alcoves with crucifixes, several Bibles on display, portraits of handsome, white Jesus throughout. A prayer my grandma cross-stitched hangs in the guest bedroom.
I noticed a pretty painted object that was not religious on one of Sis's tables. It turns out that thing was a Native American item brought back from Ecuador by her pastor. He was in Ecuador doing missionary work amongst the heathens who apparently can't do anything right but make gorgeous artwork.
What bugs me the most about Chateau Fundie is that it is one small piece of what I'll call the reconfiguration of the old home county. The house sits in a brand-new development on what once was a Mennonite farm well known to me. Other farms have likewise disappeared under a grid of big box stores and developments. The crowning blow will be the development of Artz Farm, which was one of the largest of the farms between our home and Antietam Battlefield. I believe 1800 homes are planned.
By golly, I never thought I'd get lost in the land of my birth, but I can hardly drive around anymore and recognize anything. I had the deuce of a time finding Sis's development in the dark, even after I'd been there 24 hours. This might not sound surprising until you consider that the development is about three miles from the home where Sis and I grew up.
I will have more to say on the subject of housing developments when my daughter The Heir loads the photos she took for me.
On Thursday afternoon, myself and daughters Heir and Spare went to our favorite nosh pit, the Road Kill Cafe in Artemas, PA. It will be hard to alter the landscape around the Road Kill Cafe, because the place is so deep in the mountains that you need several good hounds to sniff it down. But hey. The developers are trying to bring their McHouses to the area. It just hasn't happened yet.
By the time myself, Heir and Spare stumbled out of the Road Kill Cafe, stuffed to the gills with savory home cooking, I had pretty much decided I couldn't stand the sight of Interstate 95 through the windshield. So we headed north and got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It's a longer trip. I haven't gone that way in years.
We tootled back on the Turnpike, and when we were about 45 miles outside Philly, Mr. Johnson called on the cell phone. The Walt Whitman Bridge -- the one I wanted to take to the Smokestack State -- was closed in both directions due to a hostage situation. The Walt Whitman is Philadelphia's busiest bridge. I was headed straight for an F5 traffic jam.
So I said to self: "Anne, you can't find your way around the old home county anymore. Let's see how you do in your replant region, your good ol' major metropolitan area. Let's find an alternate route."
I did it. And without a GPS.
I circumvented every backup and every roadblock. In the process I passed the exit we take from the Blue Route to get to our Druid Grove meetings (a welcome signpost indeed) and the road to the book store where The Heir works. By the time we got home, the hostage situation had resolved, but the bridge was still closed due to ongoing investigation.
Ah, my messy, cat-infested, book-laden, faerie-filled domain! Ah, New Jersey, trampled into hideous conformity during some other generation! As Dorothy put it, "There's No Place Like Home."
Never did the ancient and widespread New Jersey asphalt look better.
THE SEAGULL OF NEW JERSEY