Sunday, September 23, 2018

My Dinner with Persephone

Hello, and welcome to The Gods Are Bored! What did you do today? I stripped wallpaper! I know, right?  Contain your jealousy, reader. It's unseemly.

I've gotta say I'm very surprised to have a dinner guest tonight. I would have thought she'd be home with her husband. But please give a warm and wonderful welcome to Persephone, Queen of Hades!

Anne: Persephone! This is ... unexpected. Yesterday was Equinox, and I thought...

Persephone: Maybe you've noticed, the seasons change slower than they used to.

Anne: But I would have thought your calendar was more dependent upon the hours of sunlight than the temperature of the atmosphere. Anyway, come on in! Mr. J is making spaghetti.

Persephone: Zounds! What happened in your living room?

Anne: Well, I got the first layer of wallpaper off, and now I'm starting on the underside, which is easier, but it all takes so much time...

Persephone: You need help?

Anne: Aren't you due down in Hell?

Persephone: That's just it, Anne. I'm tired of being due. I'm tired of being bossed around by my mother, and I'm tired of being at the beck and call of my husband. Where do I have a say in all this?

Anne: Indeed you have a clear-cut case for #MeToo. But I thought you actually loved Hades.

Persephone: He can be very cold, Anne. And he thinks he's better than me. Okay, he's a god and all that, but a girl has feelings, you know?

Anne: Well then, stay here with your mom! You should see how she decks things out in the fall.

Persephone: Nope. No can do. For the past two hundred years she's been getting more and more feverish. Her temper is a force of nature. She's crabby all the time.

Anne: (aside) "Crabby" is not an adjective I would ever attach to a deity. But that's just me. (to Persephone) To be honest, your majesty, I am a real believer in free will. It does seem to me that you get shuttled back and forth with little say in the matter.

Persephone: Exactly.

Anne: So what do you propose to do?

Persephone: You have several spare bedrooms now ... and your Gamma cat is such a fluffy sweetheart ...

Anne: And I am totally cool with putting you up for as long as you like, so long as your spouse doesn't ... how shall I say this?  Take me to task for it?

Persephone: I don't know what he'll do. I've never stood up to him before.

Anne: Can you appreciate that this puts me in a bit of a spot, considering I'm a mortal?

Persephone: This old sofa of yours needs all new upholstery. I'd love to take a crack at it.

Anne: Sorely, sorely tempting! And you don't even have to bribe me, Seph. I can feel your pain. Dragged off to be married, then tricked into eating one seed so you'd have to stay, then having to deal with your mom's moods...

Persephone: I know that Cloacina stayed here with you awhile. And Walt Whitman too.

Anne: Walt only spent the night. He has a house in Camden. I have to ask, though: What happens to the climate if you hang out here at my place in Snobville? Won't your mom just keep the summer sun beaming down until we all bake like biscuits?

Persephone: We don't have to tell her I'm here. Or him either.

Anne: Oh, sheesh! For the love of fruit flies! You're going to have Mother Nature and the God of Death on the search, and they'll wind up in my living room?

Persephone: Damn. Yeah, you're right. But what am I to do? I'm sick and tired of both of them.

Anne: I can dig it. Nothing worse than thwarted potential. Here's an idea: Cloacina is down in the Carolinas, frantically trying to keep waterways free of poisons and harmful bacteria. I'm sure she could use some help. It's chaotic down there right now, so Hades would have a heck of a time chasing you down.

Persephone: I would like to do something useful.

Anne: Well then, that's my recommendation. What do you think?

Persephone: I like it!

Anne: And you wouldn't have to leave until morning. Dinner's almost ready! And the guest room is the only clean place in the house.

Persephone: Thanks, Anne! We can braid some trim for your upholstery, talk a little politics ...

Anne: No politics for me, Seph. When I say, "You do you, Persephone," that pretty much sums up my entire political philosophy. Say, is that a new tattoo?

Persephone: You like it? I designed it myself.

Friday, September 07, 2018

The Conservatives in Camden

Well, well, well! Another September, another year of teaching school! If you worked in the profession, you'll know that your administration waits until you are comfortable at your grade level and period length, and then they will change it up on you and make it baffling again

My classroom has no air conditioning. We had two heat advisory days this week. We got to leave early yesterday -- 12:45. That's not so early. I was so overheated I was dizzy driving home.

But enough whining! Pity party over.

I have one class of sophomores this year. I haven't had sophomores in the past four years. (see above re changing things up) There's a whole new curriculum for sophomores. I'll look at it next week. I have plenty of time, since I have to give a standardized test between now and then.

Today, having five minutes left in class with my sophomores, I asked them the question: What isn't fair? I started listing their gripes so they could see them on the screen.

Of course they began bitching about the uniform policy right away, and the school rules in general.

Then a student of color said, "Taxes aren't fair."

I said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "I think there should just be one percentage for everyone. If a person makes $5 million, they are already contributing more taxes than someone making $50,000. They shouldn't have to pay a lot more."

I said, "So you don't think the rich should be taxed at a higher rate than the middle class?"

And he said, "Nope. Think about it. They worked hard to get that money. They should get to keep it."

I said, "Well, that makes you a conservative."

Then a few other students challenged him. One girl said, "But the rich have it to spend. They should give back more! People need help!"

So I said, "Does anyone else in here agree with what she said?" A few hands went up. "You guys are liberals," I told them.

In the end, it shook out at about 50-50. These are teenagers, espousing personal opinions that might be coming from their homes and might be coming from their own thinking. Either way, there are fiscal conservatives in Camden, New Jersey.

Stupid Republicans. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

All the time and energy they spend gerrymandering, and vote-suppressing, and spreading their racism thick, like peanut butter on a sturdy slice of bread ... they could actually receive legitimate votes from minority voters who are fiscal conservatives. And don't even get me started on the social issues! I'll bet I don't have a single student who believes in a woman's right to choose. Well, maybe a few. But not many.

And yet, if I said to my conservative student of color, "Would you vote for Donald Trump? Would you vote Republican?" he would fall out of his chair. I can answer for him. Never in a million years.

I'm no sociologist, but I see this all the time. I would say that at least one in three, maybe more, of my students would test as conservative and vote that way, if not for the sickening racism on display in the Republican party.

But that racism cancels out everything else. Thank all the Gods and Goddesses of all the pantheons, now and forever.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day 2018

If you  know me at all, you know that I am passionate about unions. I wish there was a bored god of unionized labor forces -- I would make that deity dinner every night of the week, and pie on weekends! What this world really needs is a God or Goddess of Collective Bargaining.

It has been 10 years since I marched in the Philadelphia Labor Day Parade. I wasn't even sure they had it anymore. I kept Googling it, and I never saw any plans for this year. Then last week, about mid-week, I got an email from the AFL-CIO, asking me to march in a parade near me! Well, gee whiz. You don't even have to ask! Let me lace up my sneakers!

I sent my RSVP to Philadelphia and showed up this morning at the Sheet Metal Workers hall on Columbus Boulevard, wearing a gray "NJEA Proud" t-shirt I got last spring. Of course I was the only member of NJEA at the march, but there was a nice contingent of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, so I marched with them.

It's 94 degrees outside today.

Remember when the Orange Menace got elected, and we had that great big Women's March on Washington? I went to that. It's just my personal emotional need to be gathered with like-minded individuals in large numbers. And that is why I braved incredibly hot conditions to be with Philadelphia's union membership.

The Philadelphia Labor Day parade is a moving spectacle. Each local has its membership decked out in matching t-shirts in vivid hues, with pro-labor slogans on front and back. It's easy to find your group, even thought there's more than a thousand people there. The unions march off with their banners ... and it's a long walk, about two miles, to Penn's Landing.

Before the march begins, a bunch of politicians give speeches about the importance of organized labor. This year we had Pennsylvania's governor, Philadelphia's mayor, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a brace of Congressmen, and some organizers reporting on progress toward unionizing the big Marriott that's opening in Center City. Everyone was Union Proud, Union Strong! The governor said he would veto any anti-union legislation that reached his desk. (What was he going to say to a throng of union members in Philly? But I believe him.)

Here's a new theme, found on banners and t-shirts alike:


Considering that the Heir has two jobs and the Fair has three, I would say this sums up how to make America great again.

I didn't take many photos, since I didn't know anyone. But I did like the hopeful message on this t-shirt:


If there was any sentiment among organized labor that the Orange Menace was out to help unions, that has evaporated like a puddle on a hot summer afternoon. The Menace was roundly booed, and the odious Janus decision by the Supreme Court was not only booed, it was mocked on many a t-shirt.

 I do know that organized labor is the dinosaur, and the ownership class is the asteroid. But it's nice to think, just for one hot, end-of-the-summer day brought to you, like the weekend, by organized labor, that there might be a place for collective bargaining still in this country. Pipe dream, yes. But let me sleep just a few more hours.

United we bargain, divided we beg.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Dramatic Finale of Summer Paint Crew

For the past three summers, I have been on an interior paint crew at my school. The first year there were three of us. Since then we have been four.

School teachers need money in the summertime. All told I have made about $10,000 on summer paint crew. It's a 40 hour week at $13 an hour, beginning at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 2:30. We clock in with the janitorial staff, down in the boiler room.

The "leader" of our paint crew was a teacher who was quite happy to be the leader. He had worked on the crew before any of the rest of us signed on. And he did show us how to be efficient painters. I have used his techniques on my own home.

For three summers I have worked affably with these people. (The other three are all men.) One of them is a high-volume Trump supporter, and I even got along with him. (Changed subject to Phillies/Eagles/Flyers when he started sounding off.) Our camaraderie was such that, yesterday morning, I had one of the school secretaries take a photo of the four of us, since the "leader" and I don't plan to return next year.

We had two days left on the calendar.

There was a heat advisory in effect, and the room we were working in had no air conditioning.

The "leader" set an objective that was rigorous beyond necessity. I think he wanted to get the room done before he stayed home on Friday the 31st.

We were working right next to the principal's office. The principal's secretary was right on the other side of the wall.

Quitting time is 2:30. At 1:45 our leader grew angry with us, as we were moving slower than he thought we should be moving (during a heat advisory, at the end of a long day). It was apparent to me that, while he had kept an affable demeanor, our "leader" was dissatisfied with our swiftness in general. It was evident, in fact, that he had long harbored unspoken negative opinions about our abilities.

I'm 59. The other guys are 55 and 35.

Anyway, when the "leader" lit into us, it sparked an amazing shouting match, full of expletives, between himself and another of the men. Wow. If the "F" bomb could really explode, the school would be rubble.

You would never have known, even at lunch time on this day, that such rage was simmering in the room. But  you know how it is with heat advisories, and people who set ridiculous goals for their own arrogant ends.

I don't fight, I fly. So when the shouting commenced, I picked up the brushes and the paint pails and went elsewhere to wash them. I stayed out of sight until past time to clock out, and then I went and clocked out ... and told the buildings & grounds supervisor that I wouldn't be back.

The unseemly fracas cost me $200 in lost wages, because I'm not working today or tomorrow. But if it had happened July 7, it would have cost me a lot more, because no one is going to act that way in front of me. I saw enough of that shit when I was a kid to last me 10,000 lifetimes.

Readers, I am a slow worker. I climb ladders very carefully, as I have a titanium hip and resulting balance issues. But I do climb the ladders, and I do try to do a thorough, steady job. I am beyond offended that this ersatz "leader" saw fit to criticize me ... my turn to curse ... like a whiny little bitch. He is the one who told me to join the paint crew, and sold it to me by telling me it wasn't such hard work!

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a hard place in my heart for people who insult me, shout at me, and throw things at me. I have been friends with this "leader" for eight years. Today, and going forward, he is a member of my bargaining unit, and nothing more. This man will not apologize. It is not in his nature. But even if he does (and I would accept with gentility), the veil has been torn asunder. Friends, never again.

Last year I was in tears when paint crew ended, because we had such fun. This year, same people, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. And I used this day off to clean my house from top to bottom, and to write this blog post.

Next summer I plan to run a lemonade stand. With wealthy new neighbors all about, I should really make bank.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Two Trips Navel Gaze

My traveling experiences are so limited that it's embarrassing. I've never taken a major vacation, as in getting on a plane and biffing off to another continent or some fantastic national park. At the rate I'm going, it looks very unlikely that I ever will.

In the meantime, girls just wanna have fun. So this summer I took two weekend excursions, one with my daughter The Heir, and one with my daughter The Fair. (Old timers will notice I've changed this up a bit.)

The Fair and I went to my old stomping grounds. We visited my sister for an overnight at her home near Williamsport, Maryland. That was fun, because Sis has done a 180 in her political views and is no longer remotely interested in the Pentecostal people she used to hang with. We had a lot of fun! Here's Fair at the Potomac River, which was quite high.


The next day The Fair and I went to Cumberland, Maryland, where my grandparents are buried, right next to my grandfather's brother (and near another brother). I got to telling Fair all about how kind these people were, what straight-up great folks they were, and she listened to me gab. She's very interested in family lore, and I never get tired of talking about it.

So we laid some flowers on my grandmother's grave (she loved flowers). Then we drove out to Polish Mountain. There's a beautiful covered bridge at the foot of the mountain, perfect for photo opportunities.





This, of course, is The Fair, earning her name.


And here I am, on the other side of the bridge. Notice how high the creek is in the background! It's never like that in August!


(I try to counter-act my New Jersey license plates by wearing Orioles garb and putting an Orioles baseball cap in the back window of the Subaru.)

The best thing about this bridge is that, even after a major renovation in 1998, they didn't replace my grandfather's initials, carved who-knows-when. They used the original beams for the renovation ...


Those are my dad's initials too. Dad was a Junior. But this is Senior's work.

The Fair and I went to Polish Mountain specifically to watch the Perseid meteor shower. We have done this before, but not for a long time. We arrived at the old family home (now no longer in the family, and I'm the only one who cares), and of course it was cloudy. So we passed a few enjoyable hours excavating old bottles from the former trash heap that my great-uncle and great-aunt had out along the mountainside. Just look at this magnificent item Fair literally dug out of the ground!


Scoff if you like at the process of ancestor worship, but Fair and I had just spent an hour at a cemetery talking about my great-aunt and what a treasure of a person she was. This item was buried in the ground. Fair only saw the lid. It's an old one, too!

Time came to build a bonfire, except the skies opened up and a thunderstorm commenced. When that died down, we did build a fire, on the long shot hope that the clouds would clear away. And they did, for about an hour of meteor-viewing. We saw about a dozen. This is a low number, but hey, it clouded up again!

Fair and I stayed at the Road Kill Cafe, which has cute little cabins that are very rustic and clean. The next day we took a hike in Green Ridge State Forest. Now, this is where it really became frustrating. I have a goal in that forest to reach an extremely obscure swimming hole called Long Pond. Trouble is, the hiking trail is super steep. That doesn't stop me (see below), but on this day, we kept hearing thunder, and we kept getting little spits of rain. It just didn't seem like a good bet to be clambering about in those conditions. Fair did climb a bit and get a glimpse of the swimming hole, from a distance. So we at least know for sure it exists.

There are lots of cats and kittens at the Road Kill Cafe, just wandering around with only basic needs met. Fair loved this. We found many excuses to loiter, even when the cafe was closed.

This was an excellent and memorable trip back to the land of the ancestors (blessed be to them). I'm so glad my daughter The Fair is interested in learning about her family!


More recently I went on an overnight excursion with my daughter The Heir. While Fair is nostalgic for the land of her blood, Heir is eternally infatuated with New Jersey. This is good and bad. The bad part is, what a lousy state to be infatuated with! The good part is, it's easy to have fun experiences in New Jersey, because we don't have to drive for hours to get there.

Heir and I love to hike. I've been collecting waterfalls, so I tried to find a hiking destination that would include both waterfalls and vistas. Heir likes vistas.

Vistas? Waterfalls? In New Jersey? Shhhhh ... don't tell anyone!

Heir and I hiked for two days in Norvin Green State Forest. She was very patient with me on the impossible, ridiculous, no-woman-my-age-should-be-doing-this rock climbing.

First we took a trail to a place called Osio Rock. There was only one scary part.


The sign gives you an option for a difficult climb or an easy go-around. Guess which one Heir wanted to do? So, what the hell, I'm only gonna be 60 at my next birthday, I'm only the breadwinner in my house ... why not?


Yes, I did climb down this cliff. It was one of many.

It has always been my dream to go hiking in the grand parks of this lovely nation, but I've never had the opportunity. But I'll bet you even the most veteran hiker of Yosemite and the Grand Canyon never saw what Heir and I saw from the top of Osio Rock.

We saw the skyline of New York City. The photo does not really capture the surreal quality of the experience, but here goes:


Can't really see the skyscrapers unless you enlarge the photo. But trust me, they were there. It was like something out of Star Wars.

On the second day of our hike, I had researched a charming loop trail to a place called Wyanokie High Point. The trail also included a waterfall, Chikahoki Falls. I love those names, don't you?

The trouble was, the map that I was using didn't have proper topographical benchmarks on it. Free advice: always consult the topo map! Heir was very, very patient as I lugged my ancient butt up over rocks and down steep inclines, and up over more rocks, and up and up and up, then down and down and down, and all of it over rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

The waterfall was really pretty.



A smart, well prepared woman of a certain age would have called it quits right there, by the waterfall. Not me. Oh no. Off we went to Wyanoki High Point, by the toughest route on the map! I shiver just thinking about it!


I. Am. A. Badass.

The last observation I'll make about the jaunt to Norvin Green State Forest is that it was the first time I really used my organic, free-range hiking stick, pictured above. I grew it myself, and it was very helpful and not at all heavy or hipster!

In case you wondered what the rest of my summer looked like, here I am on a week day.


Hot, dirty, strenuous work on the paint crew, Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. But that's what gets a girl ready to climb rocks.



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

This Anger Is Justified

I don't know if you've ever taught school, but by around the second week in May, you pretty much feel like you've been dragged across a trackless desert with no end in sight. That's why a quiet Sunday morning at home is a real treasure.

But last May, my quiet Sunday morning at home was interrupted at 8:00 in the morning by an industrial sized wood chipper. A landscaping company had come to cut down the huge trees that were being slaughtered so that Mark Ryan Homes could put up two cheesy McMansions across the street from my house.

There's nothing quite like being awakened by a large chipping machine and a chorus of chain saws. On Sunday.

In high dudgeon, Mr. J went outside and told them to stop. The foreman gave Mr. J a sad smile and said, "Hey, we have to feed our families, okay?"

So Mr. J called the police.

It took Snobville's Finest about 45 minutes to arrive, during which the tree slaughter continued unabated. Neighbors gathered in their bathrobes to gawk. The policeman told the workers it was against the law to operate industrial machinery in Snobville on Sunday ... but then gave them another hour to wrap things up.

In the fullness of time a court date arrived for the charge of disturbing the peace, laid somehow on the builder and not the subcontracting tree murderers. The judge ordered the matter into "arbitration," and we got a date for the arbitration. It was August 21.

Mr. J and I couldn't quite figure out what there was to arbitrate. The builder broke a local statute. Shouldn't he just have to pay a fine, maybe get the infraction noted on his company's record?

On the eve of the arbitration, one of my daughters came for dinner, so I didn't go with Mr. J to the meeting. He left, nicely dressed and on time. And the builder was there. And apparently a jovial conversation ensued, in which Mr J aired his beefs in a civilized manner and the builder apologized and said it wouldn't happen again. (Which, how could it? The trees are gone.) At the end the builder and Mr J shook hands, and off Mr. Mark Ryan went with a clean record and probably a good fifty bucks ahead of the game, fine-wise.

When Mr. J came home all smiles, I went livid. At which time I got told by daughter and husband that I had better get a grip.

So, readers. You tell me. Is my anger justified?

*I now have two houses across the street, where there was one before. Four trees were killed, including one that was 100 years old. The killing occurred partly on a Sunday morning well before noon.

*The first house is sold. It sold for $900,000. To a young family that has already defied the building code and contracted for a patio in their under-sized back yard. The builder was not legally obliged to tell the young buyers that they couldn't legally construct a patio in their back yard. But, you know, he's doing so much for the Snobville economy by bringing in new tax revenues! (Wonder what's gonna happen to my house when it's assessed next?)

*The second house is in a bidding war. Mr J was made to understand that it might sell for a million bucks, which, you know, will make our house ever so much more valuable! (How that can be I have no idea, since these McMansions sport 4 to 5 bathrooms and my house has one.)

*I'm a public school teacher with a pensioner husband, living across the street from millionaires. I don't like millionaires. I voted for Bernie, remember?

*When I look out my front window, I see a framed two-car garage, just waiting for the luxury cars these millionaires will drive.

*Donald Trump is president. The Senate will soon confirm a Supreme Court justice that was nominated by a criminal.

*Rich people get away with shit that you and I could never pull. It could be ripping down trees on a Sunday, or it could be paying porn stars to keep quiet about extramarital affairs. It could be buying the loyalty of a town council and a borough planning board, or it could be undermining clean air statues on behalf of the fossil fuel billionaires.

And I'm supposed to get a grip? Not me. I'll slide right down the rock, thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I Feel So Protected by Jeff Sessions and His Religious Liberty Task Force!

My name is Anne Johnson, and my religion is under attack. I'm glad to see that someone in the government is willing to do something about it.

Last month, attorney general Jeff Sessions announced a new Religious Liberty Task Force as part of the Department of Justice. As Mr. Sessions put it so eloquently, "a dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom."

How did he know?

As a Pagan, I have closely held religious beliefs that are under attack all the time!

Let's take a small example: holy days. I have never, ever had the right to worship on Samhain or Imbolc without incurring a financial penalty. My choices, on my recognized religious holidays, are to take a personal day or a sick day. Now let's say that my state compensates its workers for unused sick and personal days. Over my ten years of teaching, I have lost $700 on Halloween alone! Is this fair? This challenges my tradition of religious freedom!

I expect shortly to see Mr. Sessions address this. By next year, all Americans should have a day (or two) off for Halloween. This dangerous movement away from religion needs to be curbed, and I mean right now.

Now let's take a larger example of my closely held religious beliefs as a Pagan. I believe in personal agency, in the freedom each individual has over his or her body. If, say, a court of law overturned precedents that provide women the right to choose how to govern their own bodies, I would find that an attack on my free exercise of closely held religious beliefs. If nuns can be excused from providing health care that includes contraceptives, then a Pagan employer should be required to provide health care that includes contraceptives. It's a belief that we live by.

I expect shortly to see Mr. Sessions address this. We shouldn't waste any time, because there are a lot of young women out there who need the protection of the Pagan path in order to secure their personal agency!

According to our attorney general, "Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought." Well, thank all the Gods and Goddesses for that! I don't want to be an afterthought! Not when I can use my platform as a public school teacher to promote interest in my faith! Gone are the days when I will deflect questions about the magic wand I keep on my desk. Now, that wand is a "teachable moment." I might write a whole "back to school" blog post about how to make your teacher desk an altar to the Gods, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits. Afterthought, indeed!

Yes, it's time to restore religion to its proper place in our Godsless society. I'm sure Mr. Sessions will take the steps I have requested above as part of his Religious Liberty Task Force. And Jeff, you are welcome any time to drop by my classroom and see how my faith and my beliefs are lived out every day as a shining example to my students.

Blessed be!