Friday, July 31, 2009

Lughnasadh 2009

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Here's your challenge: Find a pantheon that does not have a deity associated with farming or harvesting. Find a faith path that does not celebrate the bringing in of sheaves. If you do, our operators are standing by to take your call.

Both of my grandfathers were farmers who moved into white collar jobs at a fairly young age. My maternal grandfather (Granddad Jerk) couldn't wait to get off the farm and move into a fancy house. My dad's father (Granddad Hero) never owned any property except his 75 acres of Appalachian farmland, upon which stood a house with no running water. He rented modest houses in town but always returned to the farmland when he could. In his last years he lived there nine months out of the year.

Granddad Hero fretted about the weather his whole life. He was an industrial inventor, a patent holder, high in the management of a synthetic fabric company. And yet he fretted about the weather. At any time, on any day, he could go to the grocery store and buy food. And yet he fretted about the weather. If it was dry, he scanned the skies for rain. If it rained too much, he worried about rot.

We teased him about it, all this fretting over the weather. How silly of us.

Only two generations removed from the land, I had lost touch with the anxieties inherent in farming. Too little rain, you starve. Too much rain, you starve. Starve, as in not enough food. Starve, as in no money to buy shoes, coats, coffee. That was the youth my Granddad Hero.

Doesn't it make sense to pray for rain? Doesn't it give you some solace to feel a deity is intervening in the cycle of the land? Doesn't it make ultimate sense to thank that deity, or those deities, for your harvest?

Thank you, Danu and Bile. Thank you, Lugh. The corn is ripe, the crops are coming in. And then we'll plant our fields again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tennessee, Maryland, and You

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Appalachian in the heart and soul since the grand days of President Eisenhower! Mountains store the planet's magic deep within. We should be very mindful of that.

While on vacation, I had the rare opportunity to read the Washington Post. I don't read newspapers online, so if I'm not in the D.C. metro area, I don't do the Post.

There was an article in Sunday's Post, "Miners Boycott Tenn. over Alexander's Bill."

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have jointly sponsored the Alexander-Cardin Appalachian Restoration Act, a bill that would hamper, if not shut down, the despicable practice of mountaintop removal mining.

For my readers from the Russian steppes, "mountaintop removal mining" is exactly what it sounds like: Giant bulldozers and dump trucks shear away whole mountains from the top down until they reach a seam of coal. They scoop up the coal and haul it away to power your dishwasher. What's left behind is buried streams, a flat wasteland indifferently sowed with foreign grass seed, and runoff pollution in existing streams and watersheds.

Big Coal loves mountaintop removal. Some miners love it too. They would be the ones who operate the bulldozers and dump trucks. Take away mountaintop removal, you take away jobs.

With that in mind, Big Coal and its mountaintop miners have organized a boycott of Tennessee's grand tourist attractions like Dollywood and (one presumes) Graceland. It appears that West Virginia and Kentucky miners love Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains.

Senator Alexander has expressed concern that much-needed tourist revenue may be yanked from his state.

What's to be done, then?

If you live near Tennessee, go for a visit. If you have discretionary money, spend it there.

If you live near Maryland, go for a visit. If you have discretionary money, spend it there.

If you do not live near either state, do a Google and try to find products that you can buy that are made in those states.

I also encourage you to send a snail-mail letter to the two distinguished senators sponsoring this bill. It's interesting to note that one is a Republican and the other a Democrat.

Senator Lamar Alexander
SD 455
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Big Coal is a juggernaut every bit as powerful as Big Pharma. Okay, maybe we won't win. But let's peck away at this problem, first by writing inspirational notes to the sponsors of the Alexander-Cardin Appalachian Restoration Act, and second by spending money in Tennessee and Maryland.

There's nothing better than steamed hard shell Maryland crabs, but they're probably tough to pack and ship. So you could start here: at this site for Maryland stuff.

As for Tennessee, I myself draw the line at visiting Dollywood, so I'll be in your corner if you buy a bottle (or two) of Jack Daniels and a box (or two) of Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

Please pass these sentiments on to your friends and readers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buzzard Baiting on the Bay

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's always nice to return from a restorative vacation! Here we are, safe, sound, and sunburnt.

Have you ever been bored to tears as some friend or relative talks you to death about their fancy vacation in the Canadian Rockies, or the rain forests of Costa Rica, or the busy boulevards of Paris? I have. Furthermore, I know that's not why you come here to visit "The Gods Are Bored."

Therefore I will tell you the highlight of my vacation and leave it at that.

Readers, I plucked a dead possum off the shoulder of Maryland Route 33, about midway between St. Michaels and Tilghman Island.

It was a premium possum, fully grown and well-fleshed, with a tail a foot long or more. The best part was that, while the thing was really most sincerely dead, it bore none of the signs of trauma usually associated with high-speed roadkill. In other words, its innards were still in.
As the faeries would have it, I had a thick plastic shopping bag in my trunk, exactly large enough to accommodate a possum carcass. Imagine that! So I grabbed this fresh treat by the tale, shoved it in the bag, and drove on.

My family has been visiting the same Bed & Breakfast for more than 10 years now. It's on a point of land stretching into the mighty Chesapeake. The view is lovely. At night we can see the lights of the Bay Bridge, twinkling on the far side of Kent Island.

This point of land, called Wade's Point, is reached by a country road that shoots straight through very large meadows that have mostly grown up in natural vegetation. Before one reaches the B&B, there's a small farmhouse and a barn. The people who live in the farmhouse were away on vacation.

I left the possum carcass just beyond the barn. This was at 9:15 in the morning.

A busy day ensued. Daughters Heir and Spare and I went kayaking (hence the sunburn). Then we took the Oxford-Bellevue Faerie ... ooops ... Ferry ... over to Oxford for ice cream.

While we were still kayaking, I saw several buzzards hovering over Wade's Point. When we returned in the evening, two turkey vultures flapped into the sky as I got near the barn.

It was 5:15 p.m. All that remained of the roadkill possum was a pile of fur, the bones of the spine, and one leg bone that had been picked clean. A few disappointed flies hovered over these remains, no doubt feeling cheated of a prize.

I was flabbergasted. In about eight hours, a few vultures had scoured a 15-pound possum right down to a few bones. Not for naught are they called "The Golden Purifier." That corpse didn't even have time to get stinky.

This is the best part. Apparently there'd been some squabbling over the meat, as there always is when vultures find food. Spare and I collected a half dozen incredibly soft white tufts of buzzard down from the near vicinity of the feast. Those tufts are now securely placed in my purse, where they will no doubt prove a powerful antidote to stress on the new job.

I can't wait to see the look on the face of the assistant principal when he walks into my classroom and finds me stroking my cheek with my special vacation souvenir -- buzzard fluff. Don't be surprised if I'm promoted early and often.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Vacation

We at "The Gods Are Bored" will embark today on our annual vacation to the Chesapeake Bay. There's nothing to do there but look at the water and eat ice cream, so we'll probably post something over the weekend. If not, see you soon!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Wise Are Those Skeletons?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," walking this world with an aching heart and a worried mind! Which makes me human, right?

Over at The Wild Hunt, guest blogger Caroline Kenner posted an interesting essay about the role ancestor worship should play in our search for the divine. I most certainly agree with Caroline when she writes that one Ritual on October 31 is not enough, and that we should always recognize Ancestor when performing Work.

Caroline brings up an interesting point that sparked much further debate. What do you do if you're the first person in (perhaps) 70 generations to worship as a Druid? Aren't you going to anger those 69 generations of Christians who engendered you?

Sometimes people who change praise and worship paths have trouble with living members of their families, let alone the spirit of Granny, who ran the Baptist Sunday School for 45 years.

My grandfather was an ardent Baptist himself. He helped to found a church in Cumberland, Maryland.

(As an aside I'll say that I found it insulting that the pastor of that same church didn't even know Granddad at all when Granddad died. It's like someone preached George Washington's funeral who had never heard of the U.S.A.)

I often invoke my beloved grandfather when doing Work. It would never occur to me that he would object to my way of worship. This is because I hope that in Spirit, all divisions are resolved.

If we believe in life after death, then can we believe that the Afterlife is as segregated as Sunday morning, with each religion having its own heaven, surrounded by trenches and barbed wire? Some faiths would have us believe this is so. I don't buy it.

What are the goals of Ancestors? That we respect them, seek to know them, and behave in ways that shower goodness upon them. If we know that we had evil ancestors (who doesn't?), we can elevate them by having higher moral standards. If we had good ancestors, we should strive to be like them.

I won't venture a guess as to what my grandfather would say about my change in spiritual path, if he still lived. But he's beyond the grave. Where beings are either wiser than here ... or far more miserable.

So let us feel that in the Afterlife, if not in life, all bored gods ... Goddess ... God ... Thunderbird ... intermingle happily with all Spirit. Ancestors walk with us because we are of Them. The deities we worship should matter far less than the content of our characters.

Bless you, Granddad. I love you still.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Luna on the Lunar Landing

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Were you alive in 1969? Were you sober enough to mark certain milestones, like the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on July 20?

I was sober. I was still a kid. I'd always been interested in space exploration. While that lunar landing was going on, you couldn't have pulled me away from the old black-and-white t.v. with a pair of red-hot pincers.

One of the things I recall about the Apollo moment was that it occurred while a terrific thunderstorm was breaking outside. Later in the day, my dad was listening to a radio show, and a number of fundamentalist Christians called in to say that putting a man on the moon caused those thunderstorms, because God was angry.

Why God would choose to be angry at the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and not, say, the Delaware Valley, was beyond me ... even then.

However, recently I have discovered that the lunar landing did indeed anger a bored Goddess. She's here with me now to give a different perspective on the "one small step for man" thing. Please give a warm, wonderful, "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Luna, Great Goddess of the Moon!

Anne: Luna, what we celebrated as a huge scientific advance back in 1969 must have been catastrophic for you.

Luna: Oh yes, indeed! How would you like it if some male chauvinist astronauts came barging into your rock garden? "One giant step for mankind!" Phooey! They messed up my dust!

Anne: To say nothing of leaving behind the stars and stripes.

Luna: Oh, don't even get me started. If I had wanted a flag, I'd have created one. Something with a distinguished silver sheen. Not all that red, white, and blue. Tacky, I tell you. Tacky!

Anne: Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm just wondering. What did You do when those astronauts crashed in and proved that the Moon is just a ball of rock, and not a Goddess?

Luna: Are you calling me a ball of rock, mortal?

Anne: Ummm. Ahhhh. Sorry?

Luna: You'd better be sorry. Next good eclipse, I'll arrange a cloud cover a mile thick over your house!

Anne: But, wasn't it a blow to Your ego when people really understood that the Moon is a satellite of Earth? How did You handle it?

Luna: First of all, the lunar landing wasn't the beginning of doubts about Me. First I had to give way to God. Then to the astronomers. Then to that ugly pod with feet, and the bouncy little men with their wired flag. It was a gradual thing.

Anne: So You adapted.

Luna: Yes indeed. I survived quite nicely. When is the best time to do Ritual work, or plant your tomatoes, or make resolutions?

Anne: Dark of the moon.

Luna: And what do Wiccans draw down?

Anne: You!

Luna: Precisely! If anything, I'm not as bored as I used to be, through all those centuries of God the Father and Galileo. Things are on the upswing for Me.

Anne: Where do You hang Your hat? You still on the Moon?

Luna: I live in your life. When you look at the Moon, do you see a piece of rock that some men walked around on for a few days? Or do you see the gentle pattern of the months, the predictable ebb and flow of energy? When I'm dark, do you pray because you can't see a big piece of rock? When I'm full, do you dance because a big piece of rock looks pretty?

Anne: Very good points, Great Goddess. The divine is represented by Your beauty, by Your predictability, and by Your changing face. So ... ummm ... if I'm not asking too much ...

Luna: I feel a "no" coming on...

Anne: This thing with the tides. It gets on my last nerve. See, I grew up in the mountains, where the water runs downhill. I've never gotten used to this whole "high tide" thing. Creeps me out.

Luna: So you want me to cease and desist on tidal action.

Anne: Um, pleeeeeze?

Luna: Forget it. The tides are a "go." No one drags you kicking and screaming to the beach, do they?

Anne: Well, the only reason I don't kick and scream is that I would look silly. Frankly, I hate the beach. But I love You, Luna. You are fabulous.

Luna: Thank you, My child.

Anne: Can You stay around for supper? It's in the oven.

Luna: Maybe I will. What's in that jar over there in the pantry?

Anne: Moonshine. Want some?

Luna: Absolutely! To your health, dearest Anne!

Anne: Ummmmm..... Are you gonna .... Oh! She drank it all!

Recipe for the Magical Creation of a Fancy Dress

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we help you with your everyday magical needs!

How often have you found yourself at a party event, under-dressed in some dowdy dress? Copy and print out the zippy recipe below, and you'll be the belle (or dude) of the ball!

You will need:

A job
A car
A lady on a bicycle
A sense of direction
A sense of urgency
Non-maxed credit at a department store


Hop into the car and drive off in a direction that shows some signs of life. (If you are in the countryside, this may be just an eenie-meenie-miney-mo choice.)

When you see the lady on the bicycle, ask for directions to the nearest shopping mall. Wait for her to catch her breath. This may take some time. Repeat her directions back to her so you're sure you've got them right.

Follow the directions exactly. Watch out for slow-moving trucks.

At the shopping mall, locate the store you like the most. This can be done by following the handy direction signs posted at the edges of the mall complex.

Run, don't walk, into the store.

Grab the first dress on the rack that is your size. Take it into the dressing room and put it on. If it is revealing of certain body parts, grab the nearest shrug or shawl that marginally matches the dress.

Run, don't walk, to the costume jewelry aisle and find a necklace that unites the colors of the dress and the shrug.

(Optional): Find a makeup artist that's standing around doing nothing, and have her apply basic makeup.

Go to the checkout counter. Ask the clerk to cut off the dress tags. You might have to go behind the cash register so the clerk can remove the anti-theft device. After all, you're wearing the dress.

Pay for everything with your store credit, mindful that this is a reward for working a stressful job.

Run, don't walk, to the exit. As you return to your point of origin in the car, put on the jewelry and the shrug. Note how the dress magically matches the shoes you brought to wear. This happens every time.

On your way back, be sure to wave to the lady on the bike who gave you the directions in the first place. She will be riding in the opposite direction.

Reap the compliments on your well-turned-out appearance!

This free advice is, as always, offered as a public service to the patrons of "The Gods Are Bored." However, should you feel moved to make a donation, our operators are standing by to take your call.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Disconnect Works on Dudes Too

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Maiden, Mother, Crone. Those are the stages of life for all wonderful women. Do men have similar milestones? I think so. One could argue for Lad, Dad, and Sage.

The seasons are circular, but our lives follow a line. If we're lucky, and healthy, the later decades are made magnificent by our accumulated knowledge. That's when we become Crones and Sages.

I'm thinking of this today for two reasons. Reason number one: Walter Cronkite died. Reason number two: I just watched Harry Potter and the Plan to Make Millions. (Maybe I got that name wrong. But it's irrelevant.)

Do you remember Walter Cronkite's final newscast? I think it was in 1981, or thereabouts.

On Countdown last night I heard a commenter say that Walter Cronkite did not want to retire from CBS. He wanted to keep working. But the brass at CBS wanted to replace him with a younger news anchor -- Dan Rather.

I don't know about you, but Walt's final news broadcast on CBS was the final time I watched CBS news. I didn't like their glib young anchor. I trusted the old dude. The one who said the Vietnam War was joke. The one who dabbed his eyes while reporting on JFK's death. There was not a single reason for that man to retire, other than being seen as "too old" by clueless executives. Who are now, HA HA! Old themselves!

Walter Cronkite could have worked at least a dozen more years. He was on t.v. all the time and didn't seem to have slowed down a bit. Which brings me to Harry Potter...

In Harry Potter, a fiction, the characters greatly respect and fear Professor Dumbledore. There he stands on the movie screen, long white beard and flowing white locks, face lined with wrinkles, yet with all the wisdom of the ages radiating from his eyes. Yes, he buys the farm in this episode, but he commands until the end. Previous installments of the saga proved that replacing him with a younger specimen only led to chaos.

Walter Cronkite was the Dumbledore among us, and he got dumped into cheesy specials about wildlife. This was a waste of talent, intellect, and integrity.

We're supposed to be a thinking species, but most of our best thinking goes into our legends, fictions, and spirit paths, where the elders of both genders are the decision-makers and the repositories of experience. (Has God ever been pictured as a rosy-cheeked lad of 17?)

In the real world, we're still hyenas, watching for the first signs of frailty, ready to cut down the king as soon as the prince is ripe. This can be catastrophic for women, but it's by no means confined to them. Men get the shaft too.

Walter Cronkite didn't die yesterday. He died in 1981. And what a waste -- every bit as tragic as watching the very elderly Dumbledore topple off a tower after yet again saving the day.

When it's dog eat dog, the vittles are very poor.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sacrilege! A Book Profaned!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" That distressing sound you hear is the late, great author Jane Austen, turning restlessly in her grave.

Jane is not going to dig her way out and become a flesh-eating zombie. Alas, her seminal work, Pride and Prejudice, has undergone that horrid fate.

I have heard from several sources, including this one, about the new bestseller, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Lizzie and Darcy and Zombies. Oh my.

Maybe it's because I've read Pride and Prejudice (sans zombies) five times that I feel this witty and touching book should be beyond a visit from the brain-sucking undead.

Fact is, I'm really sorry to see this work subjected to parody. I won't fight to get P&P&Z banned from libraries, but my fear is that people will read it instead of giving the real thing a ride. And that would be a shame.

In the original book, no one dies during the course of the narrative. P&P is a novel of social relevance to its time, done with good plotting and more than a touch of dudgeon. And while people aren't asked to marry their first cousins anymore in order to save an estate, they still fall prey to conniving parents, shyness, bad first impressions, and snobbery when choosing a lifetime love. For that reason, this hard-to-read, pre-Civil War British tome has stood the test of time.

Who doesn't have a bad sister who brings disgrace on the whole family by running around?

Oh, maybe that was the wrong example to use. My family is deficient in this respect.

All right, who wouldn't be partly seduced by the prospect of living in a big-ass mansion full of sculptures, while raking in an annual income that would make Donald Trump look like a wannabe? Especially if the owner of said mansion is eye candy and well-behaved.

That one works for me.

I think P&P will survive this modern parody. My hope is that infusing a classic tale with skeletal predators will not become a trend. Nothing is sacred in this world when there's an almighty dollar to be earned. I wouldn't be surprised to see Walden: A Life in the Woods Dodging Zombies, or Brideshead Revisited by Zombies, or The Sun Also Rises on Zombies.

Those of us addicted to the Austen/Bronte canon can at least take solace in the fact that Wuthering Heights is zombie-proof because it already more or less has a zombie. And Jane Eyre doesn't lend itself to zombies, because they aren't as scary as the antagonist already inserted into the proceedings.

If you are thinking about taking a great literary classic and turning it into a gore-fest, I strongly recommend spending the rest of the summer immersed in H.P. Lovecraft's stories. They will cure your tendencies to set zombies loose on Daisy and Gatsby.

Elizabeth. Darcy. I'm in your corner. If I meet the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I'm gonna shove his writing hand into a Slap-Chop, dice it to smithereens, and use it for crab bait. Word.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Lancaster, Part Four: Shoe House

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," proudly navel-gazing since 2005! Mine looks like a puckered crater. How about yours?

Last Saturday I got to spend a little one-on-one bonding time with my older daughter, The Heir.

(For those of you just joining us, my daughters are The Heir and The Spare. If it works for Prince Charles, it works for me.)

Heir and I found ourselves in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with eight hours to kill on a summer Saturday.

Let me be the first to say that Heir is not your typical young woman. She wasn't a typical kid. She won't be a typical senior citizen. Nothing about this person is ever going to be typical.

One of Heir's many preoccupations is weird tourist attractions. She has a list -- a sort of holy grail -- of places she wants to visit. We've already been to her first choice, South of the Border on Interstate 95, Dillon, SC. If you've never been there, it's about six acres of fireworks stores, souvenir shops, and illogical fiberglass statues painted in garish hues. It also has a "sombrero" tower that you pay to ride to the top of. At its pinnacle, amidst "Jesus Loves You" graffiti, you scan a wide swath of America consisting entirely of scrub pine and cotton fields, bisected by I-95.

I thought if I took Heir there, she'd get over it. Heck no, she wants to be married there!

Another of Heir's destinations of choice was the Shoe House. It's a real house, made in the form of a shoe. We talked about going for years. I knew it was somewhere in south-central Pennsylvania, but I wasn't quite sure where. Imagine my happiness when I discovered that it's only about 10 miles from Lancaster. I surprised Heir with a morning visit to this monstrosity ... errrrr ... lovely work of art.

The Heir reveled in the Shoe House. She could not find sufficient adjectives to describe it. She was transfixed by its magnificence, bowled over by its genius.

As luck would have it, the place was open for tours.

I have to admit that the interior is charming. The house was built by a wealthy local shoe manufacturer, and he offered it as a free honeymoon destination for his employees and customers. (In its heyday it had servants.) Now it is all done up in bright paint and shoe motif, from carpeting to curtains to bric-a-brac. Everywhere you look -- EVERYWHERE -- is a shoe of some sort.

The Shoe House was built in 1948 and still has its original kitchen and bathrooms (two). I made note that all the appliances work. Okay, maybe they haven't been worked as hard as they would be in an ordinary house, but maybe they were just built better in the first place.

The Shoe House is owned and run by a married couple, both of whom hold full time jobs elsewhere. They charge for tours, but all the money they make goes back into maintenance and taxes. They don't live in the house. They just do this on weekends for the love of it.

I liked the Shoe House, but even more I loved seeing The Heir in ecstasy. All the rampant enthusiasm and oversized devotion that most people her age bestow on undeserving rock stars, she doles out to weird old tourist attractions. She was so effusive to the tour guides that I thought they might want to adopt her.

Not possible. Heir is a keeper. I adore her.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Lancaster, Part Three: Gawkers

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," crying holy unto the forgotten deities of many lands! Help them regain the love they have lost! Our operators are standing by to take your call.

You knew it was coming, didn't you? How can one visit Lancaster, Pennsylvania without addressing its most pertinent topic?

That topic is Amish people as a tourist attraction.

If you want to see something nauseating, get in your car and drive east of Lancaster to the two little Amish towns that are the most prominent tourist traps: Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse. Both towns lie along PA Route 340, about 3 miles apart.

People take bus trips to these towns to see the Amish in their buggies and plain clothes.

Granted, the Amish do stand out from the rank-and-file. It's hard to ignore those little black horse-driven buggies. It's impossible not to peer quickly into the depths of the buggies as you pass, in order to see the odd people inside. If you drive past a farm, and some man is working in the field with a horse-driven plow and a straw hat, it does grab your attention. We're human. Anything out of the ordinary interests us.

The Amish themselves have a love-hate relationship with the tourist trade. On one hand, they cash in on it big time. There's a ready customer base for their food and other goods. (The furniture and quilts are mostly made by immigrant labor now.) They have nothing against commerce. They have big families to feed and to provide farms for.

On the other hand, being stared at and photographed for a lifestyle can be exceedingly annoying. These aren't hula dancers being paid to wear leis. These are religious people who wish to remain aloof from the worldly world.

How do the Amish handle the unseemly tourist stares? They tell their children that we're all going to hell, one and all, no exceptions. Heaven is completely populated by Amish. No Old Order Mennonites allowed. Old Order Mennonites drive cars. Black cars, yes, but cars are worldly. To hell with them!

It must be weird to be an Amish kid, growing up amidst a stream of seasonal gawkers who are all doomed.

My daughter The Heir and I had a long day to spend in Lancaster as we waited for the start time on an 8:00 p.m. wedding. I freely admit this. We could have spent the day in Lancaster, itself a charming small city with art galleries and a town market for the ages. Instead we headed out to Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse to people watch.

Except the people we set out to watch weren't the Amish. They were the kind of people who would be attracted to watching the Amish. How postmodern! We were watching people who were watching people.

The first thing you notice about Amish Country tourists is that they're mostly overweight, and they dress almost as if they want to be the quintessential opposite of the Amish. Tight jeans, bright t-shirts, flip-flops, big hair. And everywhere you look, people are eating. Fudge, kettle corn, cake, pie, jams, jellies, sausages, funnel cakes. What the people can't eat on the spot, they buy in quantity to take home.

What's interesting, though, is that one can purchase the same kinds of foods (with the exception of the pies, jams, and sausages) at any Jersey Shore town. For that matter, all these foodstuffs can be had at carnivals and county fairs. So why do people hop on buses and ride into the pig-reeking countryside? Just to see the Amish.

There are Amish keychains and Amish t-shirts, and stuff that says "Intercourse Is Great" and lots and lots of souvenirs having to do with God and angels.

So you go look at the Amish, and you eat fatty foods, and you buy a t-shirt that says, "I Looked at the Amish," and you get on the bus and go back to Baltimore.

Talk about a weird ritual. Truthfully, as I looked around at the teeming throngs of gawking tourists, I sort of saw the point the Amish make. I wouldn't want to be in heaven with these people either. I know I shouldn't lump all tourists together, that everyone's an individual, but there was an awful lot of unseemly worldliness on display.

Heir loves cheesy tourist attractions, but she drew the line at Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse. However, our day of forced visitation to Lancaster County was not completely devoid of fun. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the fun. Suffice it to say that the fun did not include photographing men with beards in blue shirts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Lancaster, Part Two: The Wrath of God

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today we continue our hair-raising account of a recent quick trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, better known as "Amish Country."

Chapter Two: God Gets Even with Cheeky Faerie

We all know that God Almighty is a very busy deity. But I feel like He does take an occasional break from his busy schedule, and when He does, He's always welcome in Lancaster County. Some of the people there love Him so much they still ride around in horse-drawn buggies, just to impress Him.

If you read yesterday's installment of TGAB, you will recall that my faerie, Puck, short-circuited a tent under which a wedding reception was occurring. You may also recall that the evening's weather was threatening.

So let's start there. My daughter The Heir and I were under a tent, at a wedding reception with 150 people we didn't know, and one bossy church lady looking for someone to order around. Puck had just managed to throw the whole affair into darkness -- for about 10 minutes. After that, things picked up again and all the usual cheesy wedding stuff commenced.

Something else commenced as well. Vicious-looking lightning strikes in the distance.

Are you a student of thunderstorms? I am. I've been fascinated by them since childhood. And when something fascinates you, you learn a lot about it.

I could see a whopper of a thunderstorm advancing on a wedding reception tent standing alone in a field, obviously gerry-rigged, electricity-wise. So I asked the Heir if she would mind leaving. She was quite ready to go.

It was my hope that I could outrun the whopping thunderstorm, if I could get a jump on it. We would be traveling east, about 80 miles from rural Lancaster County to New Jersey.

God got even with Puck. Big time.

The whopper storm hit us about 10 miles south of Ephrata, PA, and we drove in the midst of it all 80 miles back to Jersey. We're talking massive lightning strikes, booming thunder, and zero-visiblity rain. For 80 miles.

Recall that thunderstorms can move about 35-40 miles per hour. And that's the fastest I could drive in such a deluge. So Heir and I literally made a transit from Ephrata to Jersey in the midst of a severe thunderstorm.

I was never so scared in my life.

Philly has only one access/egress highway from the west. That would be the notorious Schuykill Expressway, lovingly dubbed "The Sure Kill Expressway" by the locals. It's bad enough driving that hair-raising stretch of road when you can see it. I was navigating it pretty much blind. Fortunately, everyone else on the road at the time was in the same boat. We all had to crawl, groping our way between lightning flare-ups.

Heir observed: "Mom, I will never have the nerve to do what you're doing right now."

I hope not, because it was stupid as hell.

The rain eased a little as we crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge from Pennsylvania to Jersey. But just as we entered the city limits of Snobville, the storm returned in full fury. Readers, the rain was pouring on the car so hard I didn't even recognize the street I've lived on for 22 years. I wasn't sure we'd actually found our way home!

When we did pull into the driveway, and my knuckles began to regain blood flow, I had to telephone Mr. Johnson inside to let him know we were home. The elements were literally so menacing that Heir and I opted to stay in the car.

More than 80 miles in a wild thunderstorm. Pennsylvania Turnpike, Sure Kill Expressway, Walt Whitman Bridge. All in the visibility you might get during a mild blizzard. Oh yeah. It was night time too. It took three hours to make a trip that usually takes 90 minutes or less.

The last thing I need is the Wrath of God on my case. I scolded that bad Puck yet again and confined him in the chiffarobe. He's still there.

Please don't blame Thor for this storm. Thor never visits Lancaster County. What would be the point?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Lancaster, Part One: Puck at His Very, Very Worst

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have you ever had a day that was so chock-a-block with experiences that you could write a week's worth of posts about it? Me too! Saturday was one of those days.

Excuse me while I lift my shirt, expose my navel, and regard it fondly.

Chapter 1: Tale of the Worst Faerie of All Time

When my daughter The Heir drew as her college roommate a home-schooled Christian girl who had spent a "gap year" after high school doing missionary work in Bosnia, we all figured it was gonna be a long, tough freshman year. Happily, The Heir got along splendidly with this young lady. Heir doesn't smoke, drink, cuss (in front of certain people), or screw. So, while not religious in the Christian vein, Heir does meet certain universal moral standards.

One of the reasons Heir and her roommate got along so splendidly was that the roommate spent plenty of time with a boyfriend who became her fiance in January. Roomie was gone as much as she was at school. And returned after winter break with a diamond.

January engagement, July nuptials. He's 22, she's 20.

We must be talking about a couple who were "waiting until after the wedding." Yep. Absolutely.

Heir agreed to take care of the guest book at the event. It took place under extremely threatening skies at 8:00 p.m. Saturday night in the midst of the Lancaster County countryside. This was an outdoor wedding with a late start time. So of course the thunder began to rumble before the electric piano player had tickled the first ivory.

Heir and I had been present at the wedding rehearsal. It was then I learned that communion would be served as part of the ceremony. I've seen this at Roman Catholic weddings, I believe (memory does not serve), but never at a Protestant wedding.

So as the protracted bridal march began, observed by a nonchalant groom and a preacher who looked like he'd just gotten out of middle school, a steady plop plop of rain began to fall. When all the many bridesmaids had gathered, and the bride descended in an unflattering gown, the preacher immediately petitioned God to hold off the rain until they could get these vows done.

(I asked the bored gods to keep a grip on the rain until communion time, because I didn't want to be a hypocrite and take communion, and I didn't want to be a pariah and not take communion. Trust me, readers, these people were straight outta the Assembly of God.)

Well! Bored gods to the rescue! Vows were pronounced, couple introduced as "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe." (I friggin hate that, I tell ya. I hate it! I've never stopped being Anne Johnson. Anne Johnson is my maiden name.)

Communion was expediently overlooked. Everyone ran for the tent as a serious rain began.

I found myself at a wedding where I knew only two people -- my daughter and the bride. And I only knew the bride ever-so-slightly. And there were 150 people there.

Naturally I gravitated to the side of the Heir. She was well turned out in an outfit created entirely by practical magic. (Later this week I'll tell you how to do it.)

All of a sudden, up comes this bossy lady to the Heir. Boss lady says, "Heir! We need you to take this chocolate up to the house (500 yards up a steep hill) and microwave it until it's liquid, and bring it back down. The caterers don't know how to work the chocolate fountains!"

There was three pounds of white chocolate and three pounds of dark chocolate. The dark chocolate was in a bowl with cling wrap over the top.

Heir and I were both dressed to the nines.

I took the dark chocolate, and she took the white chocolate. We hobbled up the hill through the rain in our strappy sandals and bothered the lady of the house to microwave the chocolate. While the l. of the h. was struggling to do that in a small microwave, I said to the Heir: "I'm not going to watch you carry liquid chocolate down a steep hill in a brand new dress. Let me go to the car and change, and you go back to the party, and I'll bring down the chocolate."

I ran to the car, slipped out of my silk dress, and put on my khakis, camp shirt, and sensible sandals.

That's when Puck joined me.

Back I went to the kitchen. Heir had taken down the white chocolate. I took down the dark chocolate and began fumbling with the white chocolate fondue fountain (I don't know how those things work either, but I'm not a caterer). Finally got the white chocolate working. To me, that was in and of itself a miracle.

Then Puck and I turned to the dark chocolate fondue fountain, which was larger. Outside the tent it was dark and drizzling, and I couldn't see the machine's controls very well, but I pushed the button to where it said "churn and warm"....

And the entire reception was plunged into darkness.

Bad Puck! Bad, bad, BAD! Worst faerie of all time! How dare he cause a fuse to blow amidst a wedding reception full of perfect strangers, with a thunderstorm bearing down! So what if Heir and I were called upon to join the catering crew? So what if it was a cheap, hasty wedding, done by amateurs? This is NO REASON for a faerie to misbehave!

Needless to say there was some confusion. But you know how it is with men. Men live for mishaps like this, because it gives them a chance to show other men how much they know about electricity. I would say it took no more than ten minutes to get the lights and sound up again. By which time Puck and I had slunk to a chair at the far end of the tent.

Some people tell me that I should rein Puck in a bit, not let him run amok getting into mischief. And I agree to a point. But when a bossy church lady turns my daughter into a sous-chef on a pitch-dark evening in the rain, and we had driven 100 miles to get there, and we were suitably attired to be guests at the wedding and not staff, I'd say Puck was well within his bounds to express his dudgeon.

This is only one of the many exciting adventures Heir and I had in Lancaster, PA and its environs. Stay tuned for more fear and loathing in the heart of Amish Paradise!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sir, How Dare You Presume?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We're not about resurrecting people. We're about resurrecting deities! Whose culture is the "best" culture? Who's got the best gods? Even worse: Who has the only god?

We at "The Gods Are Bored" will today address remarks made by Pope Benedict in a recent encyclical. We lifted this quote from Jason, at The Wild Hunt. He lifted it from the encyclical.

"There are certain religious cultures in the world today that do not oblige men and women to live in communion but rather cut them off from one other in a search for individual well-being, limited to the gratification of psychological desires. Furthermore, a certain proliferation of different religious “paths”, attracting small groups or even single individuals, together with religious syncretism, can give rise to separation and disengagement. One possible negative effect of the process of globalization is the tendency to favour this kind of syncretism by encouraging forms of “religion” that, instead of bringing people together, alienate them from one another and distance them from reality. At the same time, some religious and cultural traditions persist which ossify society in rigid social groupings, in magical beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person, and in attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. In these contexts, love and truth have difficulty asserting themselves, and authentic development is impeded. For this reason, while it may be true that development needs the religions and cultures of different peoples, it is equally true that adequate discernment is needed. Religious freedom does not mean religious indifferentism, nor does it imply that all religions are equal.”

This is my site, and I am allowed to have an opinion.

My opinion is that all religions are equal.

Anyone who seeks the Divine and all goodness, by any path, through any pantheon of deities, through the Goddess, through a flock of buzzards, through any path, is holy.

Religion can separate and disengage one culture from another. This can be a good thing. It's certainly an ancient tradition, well-documented in such literature as, oh, I dunno ... the Bible?

For my money, Roman Catholicism does all of the following, as enumerated above:
1. Creates sanctioned small groups (monasteries/convents) and individual worship (hermits).
2. Alienates its followers from reality (sensible family planning/ right to die).
3. Ossifies its followers in rigid social groupings ( celibate male priests, monks, nuns/everyone else).
4. Magical beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person (ever heard of Catholic guilt?).
5. Attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. (Ahem, define "occult powers," please, because from where I stand, crowds cheering in St. Peter's square to a guy wearing a robe and a crown sure looks like cult behavior to me.)

In short, people who live in papal palaces shouldn't throw stones. Just because Catholicism has been around awhile, and has subjugated (often ruthlessly) many other praise and worship systems, doesn't make it the one and only religion that everyone on earth ought to follow.

I could go on and on. Papal encyclicals are always rich fodder for debate. I'll just conclude with Mr. Johnson's opinion -- he's a lapsed Catholic. He thinks the R.C. church is losing quality tithers to Pagan pathways, and the pope wants them back because he wants their largesse.

That's perhaps a tad too cynical. After all, the Catholic church does much good work in this world. You would think, then, that it might be able to tolerate, or at least ignore, people of other ... EQUAL ... faiths.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Life's New Chapter Begins

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on this momentous occasion! Today we step over a line from one career to the next. Scared but hopeful, frightened but determined, with legions of bored gods at our back, we are leaping into the abyss of novelty.

Just now I heard the satisfying "crunch" as the Recycle Bin emptied the 200-plus page Style Guide for Contemporary Authors. I am no longer a writer. Now I'm a teacher.

Goodbye to the days of begging for paychecks, worrying about getting enough assignments, going blind trying to read copy through a thorny hedge of computer codes. Goodbye to the days of working for a competitor who pulled the rug out from under my career. Goodbye to insufficient wages. Goodbye to the realization that a once-fine product has become cheapened and destroyed in the name of profit margin.

Goodbye also to being my own boss, to setting my own hours, to working in my jammies, to coffee breaks that include shoving a load of laundry into the machine. Goodbye to being available if my kid gets sick at school, if a package needs to be mailed. Goodbye to reading the occasionally interesting reviews of a mildly interesting book.

Anne Johnson and Contemporary Authors: 1985-2009.

They say that those who can't do, teach. I've never bought that. But just in case it's true for most teachers, it certainly isn't true for me. From 1986 through 2004 I generated more than 500,000 words a year (yep, true) for reference books. I wrote four published nonfiction books and a novel that -- doggone it -- is going to be published some day to great fanfare!

Contemporary Authors now sells individual entries that I wrote for $9.95 apiece on Amazon. I would say only about 8 percent of the major authors I wrote about have made that list. Mostly dead dudes. But if you're curious, you can see the list by typing in my full name, Anne Janette Johnson. (Of course I get no kickback from the company. Why else would I be starting a new chapter?)

I loved writing for those ref books. Loved it. Until 2004. But I'm proud to say that when my career got crushed in the maw of corporate greed, I picked up, opened another door, proved myself to some extent, and now am getting a shot at my first full-time job in 22 years.

I even get a union card.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Some Days You've Got To Fight

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you a normally peace-loving, live-and-let-live kind of person? I am. But this is the real world, and sometimes I've just got to channel my inner Inanna ... and let fly.

Broken kitchen appliances will bring out the worst in anyone.

I've been without my electric range for two weeks. The repairman was scheduled to come between 8:00 and noon today. At 11:49, I left the house to take The Heir to work. I returned at 1:00. Sure enough, somewhere in that blip of time, the repairman called and found me not at home. I now have to wait another 10 days to use my stove.

And then there's the dishwasher. The dishwasher that has never worked right since the day it was installed. The dishwasher that was just repaired a week ago and is now worse than it was before.

I called Sears. I kept asking for someone who would make this right. Finally I got a lady with a Southern accent who told me if I have to call for service on the dishwasher four times in one year, I get a new dishwasher. Today I logged my third service request. Firmly I told the nice lady that if my dishwasher doesn't make my dishes sparkle and shine perfectly (which it never has before), she will be hearing from me and my bored gods again.

It's always nice to remind these people that the world can be cruel to us all. After asking if the call was being recorded, or my observations in some way preserved, I hastened to tell her that my confidence in Sears has eroded to such an extent that, should I not get satisfaction on the shoddy service and dysfunctional dishwasher, I will most certainly take my custom to a competitor.

The whole reason I took my kitchen appliance needs to Sears in the first place was that I have a Kenmore washer and dryer that are older than The Heir. Neither appliance has ever needed so much as a routine maintenance call. And they have purred like kittens through 21 years and two kids.

Somewhere in that 21 years, the philosophy of appliances changed. Now they are made to break down. So fight back! Your dishwasher, programmed to fail? Make the company give you a new one! If they give enough dishwashers away, they will perhaps re-think the idea of planned obsolescence.

-----begin optional edit------

I am finishing up a final batch of manuscript for Contemporary Authors, the reference book series that was my bread and butter for 20 years. Just as with the appliances, the Contemporary Authors of today is not the Contemporary Authors of yesteryear. In one of the e-research files they sent me last week, the research was duplicated, making the page count appear to be twice as large as it really was. A word count was assigned on the basis of that page count.

I contacted the young fellow at CA (fourth different person in a year ... hmmmmm ... do I get a free reference book?). I told him I couldn't possibly write 600 words on an author with one Publishers Weekly review and a 60-word blurb. He told me to go back to the entries I'd already finished and pad 600 words into them somehow. He kindly pointed out that I didn't have to add all 600 words to one entry. I could put 150 words into each of the other four entries.

The poor schlub. He's right out of college (English major), probably scratching his head and marveling at the good fortune of getting a 30-hour-a-week job. Too bad. I sent him a reality check. In a nutshell, I told him that the product being marketed as Contemporary Authors today is a piece of garbage with standards so shoddy that it absolutely must be riding on its ancient reputation ... for now. I ended my kind but firm diatribe with the suggestion that he might want to keep his resume updated and make some contacts in some other line of work. Funeral homes spring to mind.

---end optional edit---

Nothing works as well as it used to. Nothing lasts as long as it used to. Nothing has the level of quality that it used to. These eroded standards are filtering into the human race, making us under-employed, fat, stressed, sick, and stupid.

We need some bored gods to shake things up. Any nominations for Bored God/Goddess of Quality Control?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Girls in Gooey Gowns

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Hope you had a fine Fourth of July.

It's been awhile since Spare and I gussied up in our gooey (and cheesy) colonial-repro gowns. But this year, with a new president in office -- and a new director of the local museum -- we decided to go help out at an Open House at the museum.

Our little borough has its own fireworks display on July 3. There's also a bigger display nearby on the Fourth, sponsored by a local geezer rock station. This year's geezer band concert was headlined by Foghat.

If you remember Foghat, don't be surprised if your knees hurt after you do your gardening.

As I sat in a crowd of 60,000 people, listening to Foghat, I began to wonder how it is that my family has lived 8 miles from Philadelphia for 22 years and has never gone into the city on the Fourth of July. That's sort of a no-brainer, isn't it?

Next year, it's time for a change.

Friday, July 03, 2009

More Work by Fierce Bad Faeries

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Ask not what your faeries can do for you. Ask what you can do for your faeries.

My daughter The Heir and I will be attending a wedding next Saturday. The Heir's college roommate is the bride. The bride is 19. She is a conservative Christian, daughter and granddaughter of conservative Christians. When The Heir went to this young woman's bridal shower, the grandmother asked Heir: "So. What church do you go to?" (Like the Grinch, Heir thought up a lie, and thought it up quick.)

I have to drag my carcass to this wedding, deep in the heart of Amish country, because the drive is long and complicated, and Heir is notoriously rough on automobiles.

Lo and behold, the other day Spare and I got an invitation from Otter the River God (from the fairy festival) to a block party. Same day as the fundie wedding in Amish land. Closer drive by about 45 minutes.

When I floated the idea to Heir that perhaps her dad could take her to the wedding, she pulled the sympathy card. Hadn't I already done enough fun fairy stuff with Spare, and without her?

Couldn't argue about that. So, off to the wedding I go.

Except for one thing. I can't find the pants to my Church Lady Pant Suit.

The top is in the closet. The matching pants are nowhere to be found. I could swear I had the doggone thing on not long ago for some other dreadful event. How could I lose a pair of ugly blue linen pants?

How, indeed. The resident faeries, hearing of my decision to forego a fun block party for a church wedding of two horny but abstinent 19-year-olds, promptly disposed of the pants. My guess is that I'll never find them, ever.

So now I'm off to the consignment shop to find a dress suitable for a church wedding, one that will also see me through an upcoming D.A.R. event. I hate dresses, unless they're gooey re-enactor gowns.

Bad faeries! Bad! No chocolate tonight!

Image: My favorite bad faerie, "Rebel," by Seitou.