Monday, February 20, 2017

I Want a Name When I Lose

 Everyone has a moment when they either realize their life's ambition or understand, irrevocably, that they never will. For me that moment came last summer, 2016.

On the fifth of July, at 5:45 in the morning, I found myself getting in my car to go to my school. I had landed a job painting the school for the summer. It was 8 hours a day, five days a week, at $13 an hour.

As I drove to work that morning, I felt that moment when all my youthful ambitions died, forever and ever.

Painting is hard work. Painting for an 8 hour day is really hard work. I had plenty of time to ask myself how I, Anne Johnson, Johns Hopkins University Class of 1981, Phi Beta Kappa, came to be painting 100-yard-long corridors in 90-plus degree heat.

EXHIBIT A: Anne Paints a Ceiling in the Auto Tech Shop, Summer of 2016


There's an old Steely Dan song with the lyrics, "They got a name for the winners in the world. I want a name when I lose." It kept running through my mind all day.

There's also the Langston Hughes poem:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Some afternoons in the summer of 2016 I came home from my shift feeling like that broken-winged bird.

Then a curious thing happened. Not overnight, but slowly.

It started when I was lugging two full paint buckets up the two flights of stairs in my school. When I got to the top, I wasn't out of breath. I always used to get out of breath climbing those stairs, even if I wasn't carrying paint.

One day the buckets didn't seem as heavy anymore. It wasn't as hard to hold up that ceiling pole (still daunting, though).

One weekend when Mr. J was out of town. I phoned up The Heir, and we went hiking. Only we didn't just go hiking. We chose a waterfall crawl, on a trail rated difficult where a number of horrible hiking accidents have occurred. Heir is intrepid, and a stripling at 27. I am way older than that, and when I saw the trail (which was really only a steep boulder tumble) I almost bailed. But I didn't.

EXHIBIT B: Anne at Glen Onoko Falls, Like a Boss, Summer of 2016


I could not have made this hike without first spending five 40-hour weeks painting shop ceilings.

If you do anything 40 hours a week, you will learn how to do it well. I spent the summer of 2016 learning how to paint. As another year of teaching loomed, further corroborating my certainty that all hope of realizing any youthful ambition was gone, I came home from painting and looked at my house.

The walls hadn't been painted in over a decade. In some rooms, they hadn't been painted in 20 years.

I bought some supplies -- brushes, a paint bucket, rollers, spackle, frog tape -- and started painting my house.

Not everyone can achieve their life's ambition. I wanted to be a novelist. Well, I did write a novel. It got rejected by a half dozen agents and almost everyone who read it. Okay, at least I tried. I'm still a loser, though.

But I am a loser with a great new paint job in the foyer of my house.

Our current head of state likes to proclaim himself a winner. When you look at winning and losing through his lens, being a loser doesn't sting so much. This consoles me.

I want a name when I lose, and it might as well be "house painter." Maybe I can broaden it to include other home repairs. I've got some caulking to do in the dining room.

And Pennsylvania has a lot of waterfalls.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Working Wand

Boy, is my working wand busy these days! There's so much tension and strife in the air. So much dark energy. Can one little stick make a difference?

Years and years ago I went to a workshop and made a magick wand. It is indeed a beautiful and wonderful wand -- oak from the second-oldest tree in New Jersey, a vulture feather, wire-wrapped all up and down with minerals and beads and a Goddess medallion. A fine wand. Only trouble is, I can't work with it. The piece has too much going on in and of itself to send energy outward.

Enter my working wand.

My daughter The Heir actually found my working wand for me. We were on a trip to Woodland Beach, Delaware, and the wand had drifted up on shore. It is perfectly smooth and a little less than 12 inches long. Fits right into my purse and feels good in my hand.

Even though I knew I had found a working wand the minute Heir gave it to me, I still energized it with the elements. It came from the Delaware Bay, so it didn't need any more Water. I took it home to Appalachia, to the property on Polish Mountain that belonged to my family from the 1800's to 2012 and stuck it into the rocky soil, infusing it with Earth. Then I took it to a gathering at Four Quarters Farm, where a friend named Tony used a magnifying glass to endow Fire from the Sun. One magnificent drum circle supplied all the vibrant Air this slender wand will ever need.

I often take my working wand to work with me and sit it on my desk. If I feel myself getting worked up, or if my students are getting worked up, I roll it in my hand. Wands exist to funnel inner intentions outward to the world. A driftwood wand is particularly helpful in drawing out peace and distributing it where needed.

I took my working wand with me to the Women's March on Washington and held it in my hand the entire day. Most of the time it felt like the wand was taking in energy rather than radiating it. However, I did put the most fervent prayers through the wand and into the bricks of the Environmental Protection Agency. The spell was very simple. Two words. "Stay put."

Stay put, EPA. The energy of my wand is with you. My intentions are holy, without hatred or guile. The Earth will be protected as long as the EPA does its work, so ... can I help it stay put? I have faith.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Postcards from the Hedge

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" At risk of alienating my newer audience, I've got to make an admission: I'm a Pagan. Ask me what I believe in, and I'll ask you, "What have you got?" I'm big on forgotten and overlooked deities -- hence the name of this blog.

Push comes to shove there's a good bit of hedge witch in me. I will cast a spell when I feel it necessary. (Never anything negative.) I carry a working wand, and my teacher's desk has a very VERY discreet altar, just sitting right there for anyone to see.

As I embark upon a new chapter in my life, a chapter in which I will be marching and demonstrating and engaging in political activities, I plan to practice the kind of magick for which I am universally known. This would be trickster stuff, humor as a weapon.

It recently came to my attention that there are plans to inundate the White House with postcards on March 15, the dreaded "Ides of March." Everyone who is anyone is being encouraged to send a postcard (or two or ten) to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.

Ha ha! I love postcards! Every time I go to Asbury Park, I always buy a few.


Some of you who have heard from me via snail mail have gotten one of these.

So, nice front, right? All that remains is to think of a nice message for the back. It has to be short and simple, both because there's not much space and the chief executive doesn't like to read.

Between now and March 15, I'll run some ideas past y'all. And do feel free to leave me any messages you would like to send in my comments section! I can lay my mitts on stacks of Jersey Shore postcards.

What does a hedge witch put on a postcard to Donald Trump?

Roses are red
Violets are cute
You will look great
Turned into a newt.

Nice! I feel the creative juices flowing!

As above, so below
Donald Trump has got to go.

Help me out here. We've got four weeks until mailing day, and I just bought a new book of stamps.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Last Time

Welcome to the spruced-up and modernized "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm your host, Anne Johnson -- it's not even a pen name. It's a measure of anonymity in the age of 15-minute fame.

One blessing I have received multiple times in this life is the gift or purchase of a splendid car at a bargain price (or for free). My grandfather gave me his glittering Oldsmobile when he could no longer drive. When that wore out, I bought a  Ford Escort hatchback from a church lady who had used that car so lightly it was just begging to be driven. More recently, my mother-in-law gave me her car, a dubiously road-worthy relic that reluctantly creeps from Point A to Point B.

In the great state of New Jersey, we must get our vehicles inspected every two years. The relic (I affectionately call this vehicle "The Bucket") was up for inspection last month. The only thing they inspect in NJ anymore is emissions, and the "check engine" light had been on in this car since Mother-in-law purchased it in 2005. For the record, it's a 2001 Saturn. Vintage!

The mechanic said he would fix an emission sensor that might be the problem, and if we drove the car 100 miles without the light coming on, it would pass inspection. Voila! Done! In fact, I've now tootled 200 miles, and the light has not returned!

That's a big deal. The car was free. And the insurance is cheap, since the only thing I would pay for is damage I did to someone else's car.

To celebrate the Rite of Inspection Passage, I took some time this afternoon to clean out The Bucket and spruce her up a bit. While I was doing so, my next door neighbor pulled up in front of his house, showing off his new bumper sticker because he knew I would be jealous as fuck. And I was. He felt so sorry for me that he went inside and brought out an identical bumper sticker for my Bucket!


Even in New Jersey I'm courting slashed tires. No matter. I believe in putting my views out there to be scorned or embraced.

My neighbor and I inevitably began talking about these tense weeks since the Orange Menace assumed office. He said he couldn't remember any time like this in his life, and -- since he's younger than me -- I agreed that it was the worst in his time.

However, I do remember something worse. It was an awful time.

I remember when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the cities erupted in rioting. I was still a kid, maybe about 10 years old. I remember how scared everyone was. I grew up south of the Mason Dixon basically, so I was surrounded by white people who thought black people were just biding time until they could unleash fury on the very fabric of society. So everyone around me was scared.

It was an extremely tense time. There were soldiers on the move, and curfews, and martial law, and other stuff that sounds extremely frightening to a kid. This went on for a few weeks, and then life resumed a tense state of near normal.

Yes, I can foresee similar behavior on the horizon, but this time I don't think it will emanate from the ghettos in the big cities. This time I think it will start in the country and move toward more populous areas. It's scary to contemplate. A lot of people have guns. Remember what I said about guns: production for use. It's easy to imagine many, many itchy trigger fingers out there in the hinterland right now. All they need is a word or two of encouragement from someone who feels he isn't being given enough respect.

Nevertheless, my car identifies me as a member of the resistance. If it goes ill for me, well, who wants to be the last one standing when the world goes to Hell? I cede the future to my daughters. I'm scared as all get-out, but someone has to go down with the ship. Hope it's not me, but oh well.

My blog has received over 800,000 views since 2005. Post by post, I've become a best-seller.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Handy Guide to the New Presidential Cabinet

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It has come to my attention that many of my new readers are sliding in here from She Who Seeks. This means that you have the great good fortune to live in Canada. Do you need major renovations on your house? I'll do them, if I can live in your basement for a few years.

Anyway, if you're looking at the US of A from a safe distance, you may be having trouble keeping track of all the new cabinet appointees being introduced by the Orange Menace our esteemed head of state. Fear not! Here's a quick and handy guide to the new cabinet! Some of the have not been confirmed yet, but it'$ only going to take a $hort time to $ort them all out and $eat them.

ANNIE'S HANDY GUIDE TO THE NEW WORLD ORDER!

Exhibit A: Secretary of State Rex Tiller$on


Mr. Tiller$on used his charm and his wide knowledge of the fossil fuel hegemony delicate balance of international affairs to win the enthusiastic support of the nation's duly elected supervillains. With his steady hand on the wheel of state, we are sure to ride right off the cliff and plunge, like Wile E. Coyote, to a puffy death on the canyon floor.

Exhibit B: Attorney General Jeff $e$$ion$


The law of the land rests in the sooty hands of Mr. $e$$ion$, who will be the first to tell you that the South will Rise Again, just as soon as we require all African Americans to have notarized letters from Abraham Lincoln, personally attesting to their right to vote. We don't want just anyone voting, now do we? Equality is for snowflakes, not He-Man Republican$!

Exhibit C: Education Secretary Betsy DeVo$$


I'll be posting this a day before Ms. DeVo$$ is set to be confirmed, but the bet is safe. Never mind that hordes of taxpaying parents have deluged their senators' phone lines, inboxes, office fronts, and Twitter feeds begging them not to confirm her, Ms. DeVo$$ is very popular with Republicans. Does it matter that she personally feels that public schools are breeding grounds for criminal minds, egged on by evil, unionized teachers? Ah, no. She'll fix it. It's her mission!

Exhibit D: Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, $cott Pruitt


This photo is metaphorical. Think of the planet Earth as the coast of Florida, and Pruitt as the force pictured above. Any questions?

There were so many promises heaved about during the election season. One of them was to get big money out of government and "drain the $wamp." Honestly, it seems like the swamp is not so much drained as deluged. Which is all good, because you don't have to call it a swamp anymore. Now it's a lake, which isn't a swamp. So there!

Yes, I am sucking my thumb. Can you blame me?


Thursday, February 02, 2017

If the Women Don't Find You Handsome, They Should At Least Find You Handy: A Gods Are Bored Tribute to the Red Green Show

This is "The Gods Are Bored," and we are thrilled to be participants in the 2017 O Canada Blogathon! The time is right for a chuckle or two, so here and now the Bored Gods will pay homage to the funniest show on America's Public Broadcasting network ... The Red Green Show.

If you've never heard of The Red Green Show, well, wow. How would you know how to turn a washing machine into an easy chair? You've got some catching up to do.


The Red Green Show has over 300 free episodes on YouTube, so if you've never seen it, you're going to have a great year! Biff on over and take a look.

If you have seen it, you will be interested to know that numerous bored Goddesses absolutely adore it. Really! I should know, I'm the one who got them hooked.

It all started when my daughter The Spare and I would curl up in bed together to watch our DVDs of The Red Green Show. Gosh, we really enjoyed that. Even if we'd seen the episodes ten times. Anyway, I suppose our hearty guffaws caught the attention of a deity or two. Before you could shake a serpent out of an apple tree, we found ourselves joined by some of the highest quality Goddesses of yore. If there's anything a Goddess can't get enough of, it's men making fun of being men. Goddesses find that refreshing, you know, because they generally have to associate with Gods who are super insecure and also unfamiliar with the versatility of duct tape.

Word of this silly show passed from pantheon to pantheon, and it seemed like every Goddess chose a favorite Red Green character. (Goddesses love to play favorites, but you already knew that.) I particularly recall that Athena had a mad crush on Hap Shaughnessy. She said he reminded her of Odysseus.


 Athena wanted to make Hap immortal, or at least buy him a decent skiff. But you know, Her skills are a little eroded these days because she doesn't have a wide following. The best She could muster was a fan letter, which for Hap was damned good enough -- he already owns the Parthenon and more statues of Zeus than the British Museum.

Turtle Woman couldn't get enough of Edgar K. B. Montrose, the explosives expert. He's not in very many episodes, so she made us play his bits over and over.



 The neighbors still accuse Spare of blowing up their dog house, but it was actually Turtle Woman, making a futile bid to win Edgar's scorched heart. Have you ever tried explaining a bored Goddess to irate neighbors with a singed Corgi? Trust me, blaming it on the Red Green Show won't work.

I thought Aphrodite and Freya were going to arm wrestle for the right to seduce dorky young Harold, Red Green's nephew and sidekick.



 This should not surprise any of you readers who already are familiar with the ways of ancient Goddesses. Nothing bores a Goddess quicker than a buff, handsome man. Heck, they can craft a buff, handsome man out of a couple ounces of Tang and a half-chewed pencil! But you find yourself an awkward, bespectacled and buck-toothed Canadian geek, and the Celestials swoon. Can't just craft those dudes from tree bark and prayers.

The worst, by far, were the dryads. Oh my bored gods, they went nuts over Ranger Gord!



Just the thought of that guy sitting, lonely and horny, in a fire tower all by himself, made them giddy with desire. With great effort I was able to convince them that it was just a television show, that he wasn't really spending his long days ogling a log through binoculars, thinking it was a woman named Samantha. But wouldn't you know? They went out looking for real forest rangers and came back bitterly disappointed by how well-adjusted they are. Art doesn't always imitate life.

You know, when push comes to shove, what the Goddesses love best about The Red Green Show are the aphorisms. "Keep your stick on the ice?" They eat that up. "I'm a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess?" They howl themselves silly. They know men can't change, and don't want to, and never will. It's fun to see a few men try, and fail, and try again. And fail again.

Well, that's what the Goddesses like. As for me and my household ... we love Red Green. The creative uses of duct tape. The gravelly voice. The plaid shirts and mismatched suspenders. The timeless beard. We're nuts about him. We want to bake him a pecan pie and leave it on the windowsill at Possum Lodge.

Whenever I'm feeling down and out, Red Green's cheery slogan sees me through:

"Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."

So might it be.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Imbolc 2017

All hail and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Today is Imbolc, the lambing season, when all the candles are kindled and all the faithful stay home to freshen their hearths!

Well, that was then. This is now.

Now I do truly hope Queen Brighid the Bright will forgive me, but I must squirrel away the sick days I will actually be compensated for. This will be the final Imbolc that finds me healthy enough to work, so Goddess ... please understand. I had to go to work today. My religious holidays are not recognized by the state of New Jersey, and my compensated sick time ends with June 2017.

My home and hearth has been tense since November 9 and especially since January 20. Tempers are short and anxieties high. Every night brings a new and alarming report. If that isn't bad enough, I have the unfortunate habit of reading Yahoo comments. Today I saw a little note from someone who wants to shoot and bury all "libtards." Yes. Shoot and bury.

Although I feel extremely unworthy, I will still petition the Goddess to preserve my home and hearth, to restore what passes for balance in this environment, to keep minds easy -- including mine.

Imbolc is a good moment to reflect that at least we have seasons, that the darkness can diminish in the sky, if not in the headlines. This is the moment between solstice and equinox, rolling toward a new growing season. Let's light the candles, it'll be all right. Light the candles, it'll be all right.