Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Summer Solstice Faerie Festival at Marshy Point 2019

All Hail, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on this hot-and-humid summer morning! My name is Anne Johnson, your host with a boast.

I was a long-time attendee of the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. Oh, dear readers, how I did adore that festival! But time marches on, and Spoutwood's popularity outstripped its infrastructure. The event was held on a private property that just got mangled by the crowd, especially in rainy weather.

So the fine minds behind Spoutwood sought a new venue, and they landed upon a nature preserve called Marshy Point, which is just outside Baltimore.

EXHIBIT A: MARSHY POINT NATURE CENTER


There's lots of mature woods in the nature preserve, as well as one of those visitor centers with exhibits. It's a beautiful place, give or take the pesky insects that like to burrow and bite (which are everywhere at this season).

In just three short months the Spoutwood/Marshy Point crew put together a Faerie Festival. That's way past record time. Fortunately, years of practice at Spoutwood -- and lots of saved props -- helped to make the new place feel like home.

EXHIBIT B: SAVED PROPS


It is customary for these new festival venues to draw fewer patrons for a few years, until word gets out. But Marshy Point, being about 50 miles from Spoutwood, was close enough that hordes of regulars descended. And then the newcomers arrived. Lots and lots and lots of them.

Some things were the same, like the Gathering of the Tribes. On Saturday, every stalwart of the Mountain Tribe was on the property. Some of them drove from Lancaster and Harrisburg! It was so touching!

EXHIBIT C: THE GANG'S ALL HERE


We also got our usual spate of newcomers, who were persuaded to shout "Mountain Mountain Mountain" at the right moment, after which they were duly awarded with incentives.

As at Spoutwood, we called the Quarters. As at Spoutwood, we shouted "Kubiando," our special faerie word. We sang the same hymns and performed the same silly dances. The bands entertaining us were the same. The drum circle was led by the same facilitator, in a delightfully shady glen.

Summer Solstice is not the same as May Day. It was hot. But the coordinator had set up a misting tent, which was an inspired idea. Almost all the kid stuff was in the deep shade.

The biggest difference between Spoutwood and Marshy Point was that the latter is a state-run entity. We therefore had park rangers and police officers in attendance, a somewhat jarring sight at first. Most of the rangers seemed comfortable with our particular brand of mayhem and attire, and probably by mid-day the cops had figured out that we aren't the sort to pick fights or break stuff.

I felt sorry for this little guy, who was trotted out like they always do with critters at nature preserves.

EXHIBIT D: NOT THE HAPPIEST CAMPER


As for me, being Mountain Tribe, I was rather concerned about the flat land surrounded by water. Spoutwood is in the Piedmont, a place of rolling hills. But after ten minutes, I was completely sold on Marshy Point. There's more land, more shade (not necessarily where you need it most, but still), and really pretty water views.

When the coast clears and the nature preserve sees how we pick up after ourselves ... and the ducats are counted ... I imagine Marshy Point will feel warm towards the Spoutwood faeries. I hope so, because I can see myself visiting that pretty property again and again.

So, a bright Kubiando for new beginnings and a charming landing place! I'm happy for everyone who has put Spoutwood on the calendar each and every year.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Madonna, Ingrate

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," strolling through the years with gratitude for (almost) all of them! I'm Anne Johnson, a woman of a certain age. Glad to be alive!

I'm very, very, very behind in my blogging. I wanted to make some sweeping statements about a New York Times Magazine article called "Madonna at 60." A New York Times reporter spent a few days biffing around with Madonna to see what her life is like now, after all. these. years.

After reading it, Madonna said that she felt "raped." She was furious that the author of the article made so many references to her age, which ... you guessed it! ... is 60.

One could have some sympathy for aging pop singers, if not for the fact that said singers have made bank and are rolling in the ducats. If your career requires you to be come-hither sexy, and you suddenly find yourself north of the mid-century mark, you must feel a tad taken aback. But OH WELL, hon, you're rich! Get over yourself.

It happens that I am the same age as Madonna. Almost exactly. When I was in my 20s, I dressed like her and strutted my stuff, wore a kerchief around my curly locks, the whole bit. Then I moved on through the ups and downs of my 30s and 40s, a young mother ... then a mature mother ... with keening passions and deep loves. I dumped my religion and found another. I lost my career and found another. I've struggled with my weight, and yes, my age. But not to the point where the very mention of it is anathema to me.

I called this post "Madonna, Ingrate" because it seems to me she's as thoughtless at 60, yes the BIG 6-0 as she was through the rest of her years. She and I are part of a cohort. Maybe she has forgotten.

*Michael Jackson, born 1958
*Princess Diana, born 1961
*Prince, born 1958

Lordy, Lordy. I'm still breathing! And so is Madonna! Think of poor Princess Diana! And while it's impossible to muster a lot of sympathy for Michael Jackson, it does sound like his last days were Hell on Earth. The talented Prince, gone. No longer breathing.

It's a gift to live to be 60, and it's also a gift to do it gracefully. Grandmothers, crones, wise women -- call them what you will -- can still be sexy and daring, but it should be a different kind of sexy and daring. The time to strut around in lingerie and red lipstick is over, but life isn't over. Loving a partner isn't over. It should have evolved, though. These things should never be static.

So, Madonna, can we talk as contemporaries? You're rich as fuck, you're breathing, and you have a family. Bid the spotlight farewell and retire to a well-earned hammock, there to read some improving book. Be like me! Change careers, not because you want to, but because you have to! Time marches on. Aren't we lucky to be marching still?

Gosh, it's the most common joke you hear about aging: Consider the alternative. Madonna, consider. Seriously.  The Grim Reaper ain't at your door, and you should be thankful for that.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Interview with Bored Satellites: The Moons of Jupiter


Howdy and welcome to “The Gods Are Bored!” Do you want two tickets to paradise? Well then, we have to ask, Which paradise do you want to book? There are so many.

I’m not big on casting aspersions at any religion, because you never know what your next door neighbor is doing in the case of praise and worship. One can only imagine what my neighbors think of me, with my shrine and my candles and my drumming on certain nights.

It’s awfully hard, though, to look at some of these deity sets in a totally non-judgmental way, especially in light of the abortion laws being passed in certain who-the-hell-knows-what-they’re-thinking states. Suppose you are raped, or mistreated by the man who impregnates you? Should you have to carry an evil person’s child to term?

What better way to seek a response to this question than to interview some Ancients about it? The Moons of Jupiter will be visible with binoculars this week on Monday night, so their namesakes have arrived for a chat.  Please give a warm, wonderful “Gods Are Bored” welcome to Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – the Moons of Jupiter!

Anne: First, Ancient Ones, I assure you that this is a safe space. I do not allow Zeus, Hera, or any of their fellow High Deities here unless the premises is clear of mortals. I even lock Gamma the cat in the basement!

Io: Thank you for that. Zeus seduced me, and jealous Hera turned me into a white bull.

Europa: Thank you for that. Zeus turned Himself into a white bull, took me to Crete, and seduced me.

Callisto: Thanks you for that. Zeus disguised Himself as Artemis so He could fool me into having sex with him.

Ganymede: Thank you for that. Zeus abducted me and put me to work carting around wine to Himself and His friends. Oh, and he molested me too.

Anne: For the love of living fruit flies! Gives you some insight as to how Christianity established itself. Better one Jealous God with only two paramours than a bunch of squabbling rapist Gods and raging Wife Goddesses, turning poor mortals into bulls and trees and such. And all of you had Zeus’s children, right?

Io, Europa, and Callisto: Yes we did. No choice in the matter.

Ganymede: My gender saved me from this fate.

Anne: Wait. What? Ganymede, you got the same foul treatment, but because you are male, you didn’t have to carry children to term.

Ganymede: Correct.

Anne: I’m seeing yet another major crack in the core of the anti-abortion laws. So, all you mortal ladies who were preyed upon by Zeus, what were these offspring like who you had to bear to Him, even though you were duped, seduced, and raped by this ancient criminal?

Europa: Our children were handfuls. Chips off the old block: physically stronger, more willful, narcissistic, and ambitious than your run-of-the-mill mortal child.

Io: Nor were they particularly heroic, even if they were called heroes and were given cities to rule. They continued their Daddy’s ways.

Anne: Well, did Zeus at least provide them child support? Was he a presence in their lives?

All: Nope.

Anne: You know, it's bad enough that Zeus treated you that way, but you had Hera after you too. What was that all about?

Io: That one's easy. Zeus always told her it was us doing the seducing!

Anne: Works in the trailer park, so of course it would work in Olympus. It figures Hera would never turn Zeus into a tree or a bear or something. Me personally? I would have turned Him into a storm drain at the dog park.

Europa: You know what makes matters worse? We are still satellites around Him! Talk about humiliation.

Anne: I know. Damn. Then again, Europa, you have a continent named after you. The rest of you are zodiac signs and constellations and stuff too, right? And the only thing I know named Zeus is a Great Dane with prodigious bowels.

Callisto: Anne. Please tell us it gets better!

Anne: Honestly, I had high hopes for this country for awhile, but it's sliding backwards into darkness faster than I ever thought it would. But I'm determined to live to see AOC elected president.

Callisto: Who is AOC?

Anne: Is Zeus lurking?

Io: He's in Vegas.

[Anne shows her guests a photograph of Alexandria Ocacio Cortez.]

All: Ohhhhhhh!

Ganymede: If Zeus gets a look at her, he'll turn her into some kind of creature...

Anne: Ha! I doubt it. She already deals with Fox News. Zeus will be no match. Anyone want a scone?

Monday, June 03, 2019

Morons At Play

What can I say? It was a sunny day, and I had a few hours to spare while my daughter The Heir and her s.o. went canoeing. That's how I found myself on Main Street in Haterville in time to watch a Revolutionary War re-enactment.

 What was I thinking?

EXHIBIT A: BOYS AND BIGGER BOYS



The gaggle of colonials in the street had a cannon that they fired with reckless abandon at a small aggregate of Redcoats advancing on them. Lots of noise. But just like in Star Wars, no matter how much the two sides shot at each other, no one fell down.

I honestly wouldn't mind battle re-enactments if they were really authentic, as in people paying a good couple hundred bucks for movie-quality gaping wounds, which they would claw at in futility as they screamed for their mothers. Another compelling element always missing is the panic in the populace. There were lots of women standing around in colonial attire, just watching. Whereas, to be authentic, they should have been screaming and running, their few possessions or a child clutched in their arms.

All this is my way of saying there's nothing historical about re-enactments. They are a more expensive form of LARP with different rules and no dragons.

But, to make matters worse, this particular "skirmish" had a new loathsome attraction.

EXHIBIT B: UGLIEST "GODS ARE BORED" PHOTO SINCE THE END OF THE CHRIS CHRISTIE ERA


So they had a guy re-enacting an Iroquois Indian. He was on the British side.

See, if I didn't write this blog, I would have just uttered a few select expletives and walked away. But I wanted to get the reporting done, so I could bring this travesty to y'all.

This person said he has no Iroquois ancestry, he dresses like this "for the history." I asked what his gear cost, and he said around $1,000. I asked him about the red paint, and he said it's what the Iroquois wore into battle, so they could wash up afterwards and go about blithely, like blend in with the populace.

I couldn't resist. I have such a smart mouth. I said, "Well, you're lucky to be in a brand of entertainment that is more accepted than mine. I'm a Mummer, and if we came out looking like this, we would be fried on a spit." And I walked away.

Mind you, I know the difference between a battle re-enactment and a Mummers parade. In one, grown men dress up in weird costumes and make a lot of noise. In the other, grown men dress up in weird costumes and are silent.

The way I carry on with every deity from every kind of pantheon, both Old World and New World, you would think I would be okay with cultural appropriation. But for a Caucasian man to dress up like this, "for the history" or otherwise, is disrespectful beyond the pale.

I've never liked watching people shoot at each other. I think it shows bad taste. It minimizes the suffering that wars inflict upon an entire populace and the ecosystem as well. I doubt that you see many of them done in Syria or Afghanistan these days.

Well! Enough of the sermon! I know you need to have your palate cleansed, so feast your eyes on this short video clip of my Mummers club, the Two Street Stompers, covering the same material a few years back.

Palate cleanser found here.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Another Milestone Birthday

Hard on the heels of Walt Whitman's birthday comes that of my daughter The Heir. This is a milestone for her as well, but she doesn't want to talk about the number, and neither do I.

The Heir has a style all her own. It's definitely out there somewhere in the ether.

EXHIBIT A: CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK


My family is definitely "grab a costume and ride." The Heir has the most flair in this regard.

EXHIBIT B: THE APPLE DOESN'T FALL FAR



I remember once, on Halloween, Heir went out dressed as a drag queen. That's a girl dressing up like a guy dressing up like a girl.

It's such a cliche, the idea that the moment you hold your baby in your arms, you become smitten and the Earth quakes. That certainly doesn't happen for everyone, and I would be the last to suggest it ought to be this way. Speaking only for me, it was. When the nurse handed me The Heir, the ground moved under me. I was never the same. Eventually the love I felt for her and her sister pushed me to the Goddesses, because for me, the mother/daughter bond was transcendent.

At a very low moment in my life, the Heir had occasion to read me the riot act. The fact that I had angered her altered my behavior completely. I changed overnight. That's the power a loving child can have over you: that you're willing to be your best self to make them happy, even if that takes a hell of a lot of work.

The Heir got a bachelor's degree from a 4-year liberal arts college, where the deans assured her she would be employable once she clutched the sheepskin to her bosom. Well, she does work ... and five days (sometimes six) a week, too. The jobs she has require that sheepskin. But they don't pay well, and they don't provide benefits. Her college loans hang over her, not enough to color her world, but enough to feel the flecks of pigment when she wants to be part of the purchasing economy,

I've got to hand it to her, though. She had a good season at Penn Christmas this year, snagging (among other goodies) a lifetime supply of freezer bags.

EXHIBIT C: HEART OF BRIGHTNESS


In so many ways she has surpassed me. Almost every Sunday she goes into Kensington, which is the worst drug neighborhood in the Mid-Atlantic, and she hands out clean needles, first aid supplies, and food to the addicts living there. She is part of a group. I worry for her, but I'm also proud of her. She cares about her world and the people in it.

So, here's to The Heir! May she rock on and on and on! I love her beyond words.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Bicentennial Birthday

Two hundred years ago today, a son was born to a struggling carpenter living on Long Island. The oldest child in a large family, he was sent to work at an early age in a printing shop. But he longed to write, so he pursued a career in journalism, wandering here and there, keeping his observations in little notebooks he stored in his pockets or travel bag. He wrote about everything and anything: spiders, grass, slavery, working people, ferryboats, the beach, the Gods, the jealous God, the spirit, the soul, the passion of lovers, science, family, politics, war, and this country, America. Eventually he turned all these observations into poetry. And then he became our national poet.


This is the bridge that bears his name today. He would be flabbergasted.

When I despair about this country, when I think it cannot get any worse, I remember that he saw worse. He worked in an Army hospital during the Civil War. He wrote about it, too. And yet he kept his optimism about America, about love, about the soul, and about the body and its place in the world.

I feel his spirit in Camden, the city where he chose to be buried. I stopped to see his tomb today, and it was open.



His work is timeless. If you want to see its latest iteration, try this. It's amazing.

Happy birthday, Walt Whitman! Prop us up here! Keep America singing -- its varied carols, for all of us.


"Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness,

All seems beautiful to me."

--Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road"

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Helen Dishaw Is Living My Dream

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your highway to hilarity in a world of woe! I'm Anne Johnson, denizen of this nuthouse garden, and you're very welcome to stop on by. Just don't stain the furniture. I'm very picky about my upholstery.

My regular visitors will recall that, last month, I took a real, live vacation to Salt Lake City to meet a fabulous condor named Andy who lives in a posh aviary there. But I was also keenly interested in meeting Andy's friend, Helen.


This is Helen with the aviary's black vulture, Chewie.

Helen is the reason Andy has become an international celebribirdy. Before she arrived in his life, he lived in a cave-like enclosure by himself (his sister died of cancer). Helen coaxed Andy out, and now he takes a daily stroll with her, in order to meet eccentric buzzard-lovers such as myself.

Helen has trained other birds in the aviary as well -- you should see Chewie with her. A vulture acting like a puppy! She and her crew also have shows featuring spoonbills, toucans, hawks, a turkey vulture, and an owl. 

The most impressive of Helen's accomplishments is that the birds in her care all seem so happy. Can birds be happy? If you have to ask, you've never had a meaningful relationship with a bird.

Someone at the aviary told me that Helen takes birds home with her when she is trying to bond with them. I'm sure she didn't do that with Andy, but he positively dotes on her. She coaxed him out for his birthday even though he had to go past some bright, flapping fabric and lots and lots of people. She calmly said, "You've got this, Andy." And he did.

Lots of people ask Helen how she got her job, and she demurs. She's not a university-trained bird person. Like so many folks who are really, really good at what they do, she's just been able to put her dreams into reality. She is very motivated.

As would I be, if every day began with a jovial stroll, just me and my Andean condor.

Helen's job isn't stress-free. Birds are touchy, and they can bite, so she needs to be vigilant without seeming so. She was pretty tense on Andy's birthday, because the aviary was so crowded. But all in all, she's clearly loving her work. I don't think I could prevail upon her to switch careers with me.

Imagine getting up every day to go see a veritable aviary full of cheery birds, who you will walk with, talk about, and perform with for people of all ages! No profession is a total bowl of cherries, but I'll bet working with Andy is at least a bowl of craisins.

All hail Helen, the lovely bird-whisperer of Salt Lake City! Helen is living my dream.