Sunday, November 10, 2019

On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City

It's Friday afternoon, about 90 minutes before sundown, and I'm on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. There's a cold-as-hell wind out of the northwest, sending the sand swishing across the dunes. The boardwalk merchandise flaps. The sky is cold front blue and, although it's only 3:00, the shadows are long across the boards.

The Atlantic City boardwalk is never crowded but never empty. Today is typical, with clusters of tourists scattered here and there, the usual panhandlers and store owners, and those guys that will pedal you in a little wicker cart for a fee. I used to sneer at those. Who is too feeble to walk on a boardwalk?

I had been walking into the wind -- about a mile, I think -- and it tore right through my sweater coat as if I had nothing on at all. But now I have turned around and am walking back the way I came, south, and the autumn sun beams into my face. It feels good. It also bleaches out the tattered landscape, sad gilded AC, home to poverty and distorted dreams.

I'm passing a pier to my left, and a tall, rather ragged man stands alone between me and the t-shirt store where you can get 3 for 9 dollars. He says to me, "Will you be here tomorrow?"

I keep walking. "No," I say. My voice is maybe just a tad harsh. Everyone you pass on these planks wants something.

Twenty paces later I'm passing the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, with its own eager barker, and it occurs to me that the tall man probably works for the museum, maybe offering discount tickets or a late season pass.

It's not the tall man himself that lingers in my mind, but his question. "Will you be here tomorrow?"

There are three levels to this question, and all of them solicit the same clipped "no."

Level One: I won't be on the boardwalk in Atlantic City tomorrow. I'm leaving town before sunset. I want to clip some phragmites from the bay side salt marsh to make a tasteful seasonal arrangement. Then I will drive home. It will be dark almost the whole way.

Level Two: I won't be at the same spiritual moment that I am in Atlantic City on this Friday afternoon in early November, 2019. My religious path flows and morphs, sometimes in little subtle changes, and sometimes with massive upheavals. But it does change. It's never just here.

Level Three: If "here tomorrow" is metaphorical, then no. I won't be here. As much as I would like to be the exception to the rule, I will some day face a tomorrow-less moment. I won't be here. My great-grandchildren, should I have any, won't know the first thing about me if they lack curiosity. Their great-grandchildren won't even know my name.

If I won't be here tomorrow, today is freighted with importance. The ability to walk, to breathe, to see the "WELCOME NJEA" signs, to hear the Guy Fieri restaurant loop outside Bally's ... none of that is trifling. I must seize the moment. I must start putting onto paper the sentences that crowd my mind. I must clip phragmites, clean the bathroom, feed the cat, and write. I must write. Because tomorrow I won't be here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Just Posting This Here

A week ago I went with six students from my school to serve dinner at the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, NJ. This is a (of course) Christian charity that serves dinner and sandwiches to the homeless. We served 381 dinners in less than 2 hours, including a family of 12.

The students from my school worked their butts off. They never slacked and never complained. They were still smiling as we swept up the place.

Readers, it's humbling to go to a place like that and see our nation's most vulnerable citizens. There are family tables there, for the love of fruit flies!

But there was nothing shabby about what those folks got to eat. We served baked chicken, mac and cheese, corn on the cob, and salad, with two pieces of bread. The bread was definitely donated by various bakeries, because it was artisan in a dozen hues.

I spent 2 hours in the kitchen, dropping salad and bread onto plates, which then went out, restaurant style, to the assembled patrons.

This navel gaze ends with a video, made by the students at my school. I'm just dumping it here. There's a really short bit about the Cathedral Kitchen, and my picture is in the "respect" segment, but it's on the long side. On the other hand, if you want to see where your books went, here are the kids who got them.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Meanwhile, in Haterfield

I'm quite sure you three regular readers are tired of hearing about the ugly new houses that were built across the street from me. They've been done for awhile, and I've been about as passive-aggressive as I could be about it.

But yesterday I arrived at my home to find that the Borough of Haterfield had planted this:


I'm no expert on trees, but this little maple looks like it's suffering from about 10 major diseases. I don't care. I'm going to throw my whole heart and soul into keeping it alive and thriving.

This is a borough tree, meaning that it will be pruned by the town. They will even give us the "gator bag" for watering next summer. I got a nice little note through the letter box telling me all about it.

Today I ran into a neighbor who sits on the Planning Board in town. He said that my street was the last one in the whole town to get an ugly tear down and re-build. All the other streets had already gotten one (or many). And since this giant driveway was installed, the town has changed the laws about big ugly driveways. Figures. But oh well, la di dah! I got a tree!

Today was a banner day in Haterfield. Our dinosaur sculpture turned 16. That means it's been about 18 years since I started leaving toy dinosaurs at the historical site on the edge of town. (Some of this blog's most devoted readers will remember about that.)  Happy birthday, Hadrosaurus fucku!


One thing I can say about this statue is, it's life-size. This was a formidable critter. Life was probably better then, when herds of these things browsed some ferns and minded their own damn business.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

When the Anxiety Is Justified

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," melting down like ice cream on a sidewalk since November 2016! I'm your anxiety-plagued hostess, Anne Johnson, and are you as nuts as me?

First I thought that the office of the presidency would hold so much gravitas that even Donald Trump would assume a mantle of dignity. Nope! That hope was dashed in about 20 minutes.

Then I thought that members of his party would stand up to his outrageous behavior and school him on his adolescent tweets. Didn't happen.

Then I thought the Muller report would show that he cheated his way into the White House. It didn't.

Then I thought wiser heads would school and advise him on foreign policy. They did ... and got fired.

Finally I thought he would do some blatantly impeachable thing that would turn everyone against him. He did it. He got away with it. He'll keep doing it.

Oh my Gods I am melting down. Our country is falling off a cliff. A third of the citizens don't give a flying fuck, and another third are pushing it so it falls faster.

I read somewhere (don't have a link, this is a blog, don't need a link, why should I have one when the creepers don't bother) ... emmm ... I read somewhere that anxiety is actually a positive genetic trait. Anxious people are planners who assume the worst to try to keep it from happening. There's a need for people like this, because if the whole human race was blithe, everyone would be surprised when shit hits the fan.

At the same time, anxious people get criticized for "looking on the dark side." Okay, motherfucker, I look on the dark side! And guess what? It's dark! There's no "things will all work out" here! My anxiety about this loathsome beast in the White House was perfectly, completely, and utterly justified. He is worse than my nightmares predicted.

Now is when it pays to be anxious. At least I know shit-hitting-fan when it comes. I expected it all along.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Anne's Sanity Protector

Good afternoon, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Wowsa, wowsa, wowsa, I'm taking a trip down memory lane! I'm here at the Haterfield Library on one of the desktops. We had a whopper of a storm last night, and it fried our boxy box that gives us internet at home. Nearly fried the tree outside too. An eventful Saturday night!

Equinox has come and gone, and the dark is descending. It's early in a long school year, and our Fearless Leader has proven yet again that he truly is stupidly fearless.

And so I turn to my blankie.

When I was a stripling, my mother had bipolar disorder before there were any effective medications for it. The good ol' home was in turmoil. Whenever I could I escaped to the mountains, to be with my grandparents.

Grandma loved to embroider. She taught me how. I embroidered a jean jacket that is now the (much admired) centerpiece of daughter Fair's wardrobe. And it is indeed "vintage," like its maker.

A few weeks ago I learned that Mr. J's youngest sister is expecting her first tot in January. I went to the craft store (NOT Hobby Lobby) and bought one of those cheesy baby quilts that you cross stitch/embroider. These are made for grannies to craft. The stitches are large and the colors are few. And it's so doggone therapeutic. Takes me away from the computer and, mostly, the telly. I can sit on the front porch with my back to the fuckin ugly McMansions across the street, and I can stitch by the hour, only pausing to swat the clouds of voracious New Jersey mosquitoes.

I'm making a blankie for a tot. It's a huge project. I won't be on here as much talking to y'all, but I'll find time for updates.

In the meantime, here are some of the books I ordered for my classroom and paid for with your generous donations:

1. Dime, by E. R. Frank
2. Tyrell, by Coe Booth
3. Bronxwood, by Coe Booth
4. Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga
5. The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
6. The Education of Margot Sanchez, by Lilliam Rivera
7. Street Pharm, Snitch, and Takedown, all by Allison Van Diepen
8. Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson
9. A Child Called It, by Dave Pelzer

I actually got multiple copies of some of these, because they are the "best seller" books in my classroom. Oh yeah! I forgot! My Bloody Life, by Reymundo Sanchez, about being a Latin King. I'm gonna be really, really careful about who sees that!

Back to my blankie that I'm stitching. I was thinking of embroidering "Resist" on one of the hemlines, but what do you think? Does one really want to encourage a baby to resist? They might take it literally and be a real little blister.

Love to all,

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Let's Call Them Kavanaughs

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the first whiff of late summer is (briefly) in the air! It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Sort of.

Every year in September, the borough of Haterfield trots out a nice binge -- a flea market and a book sale on the same morning. I can't deal with the Haterfield book sale (crowded with dealers, high prices for used white people books), but the flea market is always a nice stroll. Also, every Saturday there's a farmer's market with local produce. All in all, this Saturday was a morning to toddle around the ol' village and take the air.

First I went to the flea market, which was chock a block with the stuff the millennials won't buy -- and I don't blame them. The place was pretty crowded with shoppers, many of them older than me. And right through this throng of tottering seniors came a male in the prime of life, riding his bike. Not slowly, either.

"Rude," I thought to myself. "He could knock someone down."

Hard on his heels, also on bicycles, came several strapping white teenagers, also riding too quickly for the foot traffic.

"Damn!" I thought. "Can't these kids see all these older people?"

Answer: Nope, they are blinded by privilege.

Matters became more fraught when I made my way to the farmer's market. It's packed into a smallish court, with not much room for pedestrians and the merchants. And wouldn't you know, here came another pack of white teenagers on bikes, scattering mayhem in their wake.

That's when I thought of the name. I hope it becomes used far and wide.

I dubbed them "Kavanaughs." As in a Supreme Court justice who would have done the same damn thing at the same damn age.

The name was so catchy that, when the last kid passed me, I said, "Watch out, Your Honor."

And then when another one passed me as I walked home, I sing-songed "KAVANAUGH" and said, "Your Honor!" to the blithe and blond brat.

From now on, that's what I'm going to call these shitty wastes of genetic material. If a teenager of color did this in Haterfield, he would be sternly warned and possibly ticketed. But who's going to discipline Biff? No one. The world is his oyster, and perhaps it always will be.

I think Haterfield should have a club called Future Supreme Court Justices of America. Just a modest proposal.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

About Those Books - Again

If it weren't for y'all, I'd be up the creek.

I'm back in school now. Temperatures are still cresting to the high 80's, and my classroom has no air conditioning. With the fans going, it's like a convection oven. But it is September, and the weather is bound to break in a few weeks.

School opened, but the school library didn't. It's closed until further notice. I mean, closed. Individual kids can't even go in to check out a book.

Over the summer, the buildings & grounds crew started a renovation of the library that still isn't finished. They took out the carpeting and put in laminate floors. The best part is, they removed the book shelves and didn't put them back in. The director of buildings & grounds wanted the library to look open and spacious. This meant removing the entire nonfiction collection.

Oh, and we just got a new librarian. She is 23 and looks like a Bambi just before the SUV plows into it on the highway.

Long story short, I am charged with improving the literacy of 70 students, without access to the library.

Can you imagine how grateful I am for the book donations y'all sent? Close your eyes and think of the cutest kitten in the world. That's how I feel about you.

I'm not forgetting the folks who sent me paper, either. My colleagues are using the photocopier to "make" loose leaf paper.

Ah, September. I love it! Said no teacher ever.