Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Plan B

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," safe and sanitary through a long school year! My name is Anne Johnson, and I did not get the stomach virus during the school year that just concluded. I consider that an accomplishment!

Now I would like to keep the streak going.

Customarily, this is the weekend where I go to Four Quarters Farm, which is a quasi-Pagan campground near my dear old family property that no longer belongs to my family. For the past five years I've gone to 4QF for a nice long mountain retreat.

This year, 4QF has played host to festivals on many, many weekends since Beltane. The two festivals that were held most recently were bedeviled by a virulent strain of something ... there is no news yet about what it was, but quite a number of people fell ill, and some needed to be hospitalized.

The festival I attend annually is all about drumming. Except this year, with the unidentified something still perhaps clinging to a leaf here or a fly leg there, many of the drum instructors bailed. As with them, so with me. I'm not going.

I still have to go to the mountains, however. My uncle's magnificent piece of land was purchased by a new owner last year -- someone who is interested in the history of the property. So I am going to meet this gentleman. I'm going to wear my Girl Scout smile and a stylish shirt and hope to make a good impression. One never knows if this could turn into a friendship that might lead to the sale (to me) of a nondescript acre at the very edge of the tract. Whether or not that happens, I would like to have the owner's leave to stroll the grounds.

I was fortunate to find a room in a cheery b&b in Hancock, Maryland. There I will base my stay as I undertake Plan B.

EXHIBIT A: PLAN B


This is Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. For my money, this is the most beautiful spot on the Potomac River and one of the best in all of Appalachia. One blessed summer I worked in Harper's Ferry, and I adore the place. I haven't been there for a serious hike in years. Day One, serious hike around Harper's Ferry. See that cliff? If I get there early enough, I'm going to hike it -- there are always buzzards biffing about up there.

EXHIBIT B: PLAN B


Got to do the ancestor work. No one else gonna do it for me.

EXHIBIT C: PLAN B


This unassuming establishment is Snider's Road Kill Cafe in Artemas, PA. Don't let the exterior fool you. Within those walls lies exceptional country cooking and home made pies. I promised Anansi we would go there on this trip. Of course, we always go to the Road Kill Cafe when we visit home. Thursday is ribs night.

EXHIBIT D: PLAN B


My number one reason for going to Four Quarters Farm is the plethora of swimming holes on that land. The exhibit above, however, is not a 4QF swimming hole. It's in another watershed. I'm going to give it a try and report back to you. Local swimming holes can get dicey when you're alone with New Jersey license plates. But I aim to swim. If not here, then somewhere. There are lots and lots of creeks in the mountains.

So, wish me bon voyage! I'll be off the grid and all by myself. Not exactly what I anticipated, but a woman just doesn't go through a whole school year without stomach flu, only to get it on vacation. You feel me?

Monday, June 26, 2017

My Grandfather, the Diarist

This is my grandfather, Daniel Webster Johnson, Sr.


This photograph doesn't do him justice. He was a very handsome man. He looked a little bit like Henry Fonda, only with softer features.

Granddad had many interests. He was a pioneer in the synthetic fabric industry, creating and designing microscopic drills. He repaired watches and clocks. He loved insects, flowers, and gardening. He liked to hunt squirrels.

How do I know all of this? Well, I know all of the above except the squirrel thing from talking to my grandfather, watching him work, and seeing the fruits of his labor.

The squirrel thing I got from his diaries.

Yes! My grandfather Johnson kept a daily diary from 1936 until 1948! That's a long time! Think of it: Granddad kept a diary right through the Great Depression and the Second World War. Talk about a primary source!

It gets better. I, Anne Johnson, own all of those diaries.

I've perused these diaries many times, but only in a cursory manner. Today I sat down with them to take a closer look. I was particularly in search of information about my grandfather's older brother. I also wanted to know more about the house Granddad built on the family farmland, round about 1939.

My grandfather was a dependable diarist. He wrote down something almost every day. And that something ... that something ... was an observation of the weather.

Sometimes he notes when he visits someone, or someone visits him. But only after he has noted the weather.

"Fair and warm today, got cool at night."

Multiply that by 300 and you get the spring portion of Granddad's diaries.

Another thing my grandfather noted punctually was his church attendance. He abbreviated Sunday School "Sunday S." On Wednesday nights, he attended the Knights of Malta lodge (abbreviated KofM). This is always noted after the weather.

He did note the birth of his youngest son, who was born in 1937 (weather report was first). He did not note the high school graduation of his two older sons, in 1942 and 1944 respectively, although every day in June of those years have entries. Only once, at the 15-year mark, does he note his wedding anniversary. After the weather. Grandma's birthday? Once or twice ... after the weather.

He does hunt squirrels, though. I found about 40 entries mentioning squirrel hunting. Seems his best day was eight. Sometimes he got one, sometimes none at all. After the weather.

He mentions the construction of the house. "Worked on cabin." Then "spent first night in cabin." Then "spent the day at camp." Then "spent the weekend out at camp." Then "painted the house." Occasionally he notes what he was planting in the garden "at camp." Every entry that includes this begins with a weather report.

On December 7, 1941, Granddad noted that the weather was cloudy and cold. Then he added, "The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." That is literally the only piece of world news I have found in his diaries from any year.

If he was alive today, I would tease him about this. I would say, "For the love of fruit flies, Granddad, why did you always write down the weather?" And he would say, "Well, Anne Janette, you see ... it's a small notebook, with only a few lines for each day. The only thing that will fit is the weather. And I was busy living my life -- I didn't have time to go into more detail."

Well, bless his sweet heart, my grandfather kept diaries. They reveal nearly nothing of his personality, his relationship with his family and siblings, his challenges at work, or his creation of an iconic, hand-made homestead in the Appalachian Mountains.

The moral of this sermon is that I must have inherited something from my mother's family. Don't you agree?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Free Advice about that Farm in the Mountains

One thing you learn, growing up in Appalachia: The land and weather aren't as sacred as they are savage. There just aren't enough bored gods and busy gods in the universe to make everything run smoothly when you call the mountains home.

Ask anyone who tries to farm this land. If you can't find that person (which wouldn't surprise me), visit the graveyards and look at the ages of the deceased. Also round up the folks like me, who, although they love the mountains with the white hot passion of 10,000 suns, can't live there because people gotta eat.

And yet you'll find a passel of starry-eyed optimists who seize upon a plot of mountain farmland, give it a pretty name, and commence to building a utopian community on it. This one will do "sustainable agriculture." This one will have bee hives and make mead. This one will grow artisan apples. Oh my, there's nothing more inspiring than a quiet evening in the country, when nobody's around and the whippoorwills are serenading one another from ridge to hollow! A modest living for a few people can surely be had, right?

This is where the utopian vision comes in. The optimist invites his friends to a gathering, often on a Pagan festival day, and the next year the friends bring their friends, because the property with the pretty name is so gorgeous. Within a decade, as the bees die and the apple blossoms take a frost and the groundhogs eat the peppers, the optimist has luckily happened upon a way to self-sustain: the paid festival. Okay, the land gets a little crowded, hectic, and trampled. But it's worth it. The money pours in, and the rest of the year things are so quiet and beautiful for the optimist and his small nucleus of companions.

All might be well in these cases, but it's really hard for the optimist not to become a capitalist. After all, isn't it nice to be able to make a genteel living in such a benign way? What's a festival? It's a chance for people who don't live in the mountains to come to a property, link elbows with like-minded naturists, and have a heart-warming and safe time. Word of mouth brings more and more folks each year, keeping the entrance fee quite affordable. So the optimist invests in sound equipment and heavy duty lawn mowers. He contracts port-a-potties and lines up hay bales in case it's rainy. And then he has festivals.

Here's where it goes one of two ways. In the first way, the optimist has one festival a year, upon which he stakes his whole budget. It's only held once a year, and that makes it very special, and -- again word of mouth -- numbers of attendees just keep climbing. In the other way, the optimist devises many festivals of different sorts and different sizes, flings them out across summer weekends, and waits for the customers to find the event that suits their tastes.

I personally know two such optimists who are finding out now that the land isn't sacred, it's savage. It will punish your ass no matter how lofty your intentions happen to be.

Case number one features the nicest optimist you would ever want to meet. His big once-yearly festival was hit by torrential rain. Cars skidded out of control on the parking hill, and people couldn't stand on their feet in the slippery muck. At a devastating financial loss, he had to close down a day early. There's just no way he can recoup that day of receipts at another event. This was his event. Chances are, next year, the sun will shine and the people will return. In the meantime, it's gonna be one bloody lean year.

The other case features the optimist with multiple festivals. This dreamer has invested more: bigger parcels of land, permanent bathroom facilities, even a dining hall. But as he increased the number and size of events, health problems surfaced. On two recent weekends, hundreds of festival attendees became violently ill with an aggressive and highly contagious stomach flu. And of course the Internet is blowing up over it, which has led at least one person I know to cancel her plans to attend a festival there next weekend. Nor does this person I know expect to get a refund, because you know that bottom line is going to be threatened.

The multiple-festival optimist will also recover and persist, but he's going to take a financial beating for years, and perhaps forever. Word of mouth works both ways. When people have fun, they bring their friends. When they get sick on your land, they tell all their friends who weren't there. It's a hole that's hard to climb out of, and in the meantime the optimist still has to eat and pay the notes on the parcel of land he bought for bigger festivals.

The one unifying factor between these two optimists? They both grew up in the city and lived in the city for a long time before taking up residence in the lovely rural spaces.

So here is Annie's free advice for anyone and everyone who wants to live la dolce vita on some bucolic rural farm: The land is untamed. It is untranslatable. It does not love you back. And the harder you work it, the worse it will treat you.

It's too late to ask my great-grandfathers if I am right about this, because they are all long gone. You'll just have to trust me. Would I lead you wrong? Of course not, I'm straight-up.

The economy has improved, so this free advice is really free. Heed it, though, and you'll always eat.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stepping into Darkness

June 21 marks the greatest amount of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. Depending upon your mindset, the day is either the beginning of summer or the beginning of darkness.

There are so many good things about summertime: fresh produce, long twilight, fireflies, beach days, porch sitting. Gotta say, though, the only part of that I fully endorse is the long twilight. Otherwise give me a brisk morning and a forecast that includes snow.

I'm still a little bit shaken about the Anansi story below. It might have come off my fingers, but it was Anansi all the way. Scary to be divinely inspired, honestly. It's an outcome of the magickal work I've been doing ... but wow. Still unexpected.

Ah well, may the joys of Solstice be with you and yours. Here comes the heat. Let's get out of the kitchen!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Interview with a Bored God: Anansi

My goodness, as I live and breathe, one of my favorite bored gods of all time is Anansi! He's all puffed up with pride these days, because through one medium or another, Neil Gaiman has made Him a star again.



Anansi is a flirt and a trickster, the kind of critter that with a mere wink can persuade you to part with your last piece of pecan pie. He pilfers the pretzels and leaves the lettuce. He snickers when you stub your toe, principally because He's the one who pushed the ottoman just so and made you do it.

Anansi preys upon people's weaknesses and leads them to downfall. He enjoys doing it ... sort of a matter of just desserts.

And speaking of desserts, that must be why He's here. I'm going to make a strawberry pie. How did He know?

Anne: Anansi, my friend, while I'm making this pie, will You tell me a story?

Anansi: With pleasure, Anne. Better make two pies. You might get company...


Anansi and the Jackal
by Anansi

Once upon a time, there was a jackal who was dissatisfied with his life. He had plenty to eat, and he was popular and well-liked in his circle, but he craved more attention and admiration.

Jackal went to Anansi and asked the Spider to make him more famous ... all-powerful over the rest of the animals on the savanna, in fact.

"I will do this,"Anansi said, "If you first give up one of your possessions. Think about it and get back to me."

Jackal thought about it. He was pretty good-looking, in a paunchy, overripe way. He didn't want to give that up. It was already getting harder to attract lady jackals! He was really good at manipulating other animals (particularly those who weren't as smart as they ought to be). Jackal couldn't imagine being powerful without being able to manipulate, so he didn't want to give that up, either. That left him with two possessions: the ability to lie, and a perfect memory. It seemed pretty clear that a good memory wasn't really important if you had lots of power, so Jackal returned to Anansi.

"You can have my memory," he said.

"Done!" Anansi said.

And Jackal was happy, because he felt just the same.

And the animals heaped him with praise and set him in the best seat and gave him the ability to make decisions that would affect the whole savanna.

In his most manipulative and lying way, Jackal promised all the animals that he would make everything great for them. He promised every kind of animal exactly what they wanted. The lions would get more meat. The wildebeests would get more forage and eat it in perfect safety. The zebras would get to cross the rivers safely. And since nobody liked the hyenas, they would be rounded up and sent away.

Needless to say, the hyenas weren't happy. They went to Anansi and complained.

"Wait it out," Anansi said. So they did.

Not long after Jackal assumed power, the lions got hungry. The wildebeests were fat from eating so much forage, so the lions hunted and killed a few.

The other wildebeests went to find Jackal. "The lions hunted us! You said we would be safe!"

"Did I say that?" Jackal replied. "I don't remember."

"You said it," Elephant answered. "I remember everything."

Next thing you know, the zebras went to cross the river. The lions were waiting.


It wasn't pretty.

The other zebras went to Jackal and complained. Jackal said he couldn't recall the exact details of his deal with the zebras.

But once again, Elephant chimed in: "You promised the zebras they would be safe crossing the river."

Jackal was furious. "I'm tired of these elephants!" he shouted. "As of this minute, all elephants are fired!" He sent the elephants away, one and all.

As time passed, Jackal continued to rule, but all of the animals were sullen, if not outright contemptuous. This didn't sit well with Jackal, since he'd gone into the scheme for approval. So after a few months, he went back to Anansi.

"You didn't tell me the job of ruling the savanna would be so hard!" he told Anansi.

"You didn't ask me," the wily Spider replied.

"I didn't know I couldn't make both the lions and the wildebeest happy," Jackal whined.

"Jackal," Anansi said, "you have lived on the savanna all your life. Have you ever seen a time when lions and wildebeest got along, or when zebras could always cross the river safely?"

"I can't remember," Jackal said, feeling exceedingly sorry for himself.

"It's too bad your memory is so poor," Anansi said, clicking His legs together. "The elephants could have helped you with that, but you sent them away."

"All I wanted was universal admiration!" Jackal wailed. Then he got an idea. "Say, Anansi, could you just put things back the way they were ... as I recall, if I'm right ... so I at least have a little band of followers? The rest of them, lions, zebras, one and all, can go rot."

"I can do that for you," Anansi said. "But you'll have to give me another possession."

Jackal couldn't remember his possessions at all. So he said, "Go ahead and just take one. Whichever one you want."

Next thing he knew, Jackal found himself on the savanna with the other jackals he used to hang out with. They all burst into gales of laughter. "Look at you!" they howled. "You are one old, butt-ugly Jackal!"

Jackal ran to the watering hole and looked into the water. At that moment, Anansi gave him his memory back.

It wasn't pretty.

In the end, the elephants and the hyenas returned to the savanna, and everything fell into its old, natural routine. Except for poor old, ugly, Jackal, who could not buy a best friend no matter how much he lied, manipulated, or remembered the past.



Anne: Wow, Anansi, you are amazing! Here, have both pies! And that dusty corner of my attic? It's all yours, whenever you want a bunk.

Anansi: Thanks, Anne, but I'm due back on set in a week. I'm a big star now.

Anne: Justly deserved, Anansi. Justly deserved.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bucket List Cross-Out

I just love the Chesapeake Bay! It's beautiful and nearby.

EXHIBIT A: WOWSA, LA CHESAPEAKE!



The only part of the Chesapeake Bay I haven't visited at length is the very bottom of it (geographically), where it spreads out and flows into the briny Atlantic. There are two islands, Smith and Tangier, that I always wanted to see. Lately I've changed my mind about that. I've crossed these two intriguing communities off my bucket list, thank you very much.

EXHIBIT B: LOWER CHESAPEAKE WITH TANGIER ISLAND NEAR THE TOP



Turns out that Tangier Island has two problems. First, it's disappearing at the rate of 15 feet a year. Second, it's voters went for Donald Trump by 87 percent. Apparently none of the residents of Tangier Island believe in climate change. What's happening to their island is simply erosion, and they're looking to our current commander-in-chief to build them a Wall (yes, that again) around their whole island.

After being on CNN and saying that he loved Donald Trump like family, the mayor of Tangier Island got a call from the president. Does this surprise you? El presidente loves him some filial devotion!

You might think I am making this up, but honestly DT called the mayor of Tangier Island (who was out crabbing) and said to him, "Don't worry about your island. It's been around for hundreds of years, and it will be around for hundreds of years to come."

Of course that's as much truth as our fearless leader usually offers, so what's new?

My friends, delightful Tangier Island is in the damn bull's eye. With erosion (yes, it happens) and sea level rise, this is a place where you soon won't need a boat to catch crabs, they'll be skittering across your front porch. One Cat 5 hurricane will destroy it completely. A wall might slow the whole thing down, but forget about it. Done deal.

Might have been a nice place to go for a long weekend before the deluge, but I'll pass. Anyone who can live on a small island and not pay attention to science is just too blithe for me.

PS - Our president is a moron.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Shoulda Been Done Long Ago

Today it was 95 degrees (35 C) outside. Which meant it was 95 degrees (35 C) in my classroom. The fans just move the air around, like a convection oven.

One of my best and sweetest little girls found a bed bug crawling along the edge of the cabinet, right where she was sitting. This occasioned a lot of angst on the part of my students and myself.

My co-teacher positively identified the vermin by Googling a photograph of one. Neither of us had ever seen one before.

As a class we are about to begin A Raisin in the Sun. Half of my students said they already read it in middle school (!) and had seen the movie. They pronounced it stupid and boring and darkly hinted that they wouldn't do it.

At the last faculty meeting, the principal said we would have a "dress and grooming code" in the fall for all teachers. We will be expected to attire ourselves in "industry standard" clothing.

The refrigerator in the faculty dining room broke. My salad dressing got thrown out.

The water fountain across from my classroom is broken. It has been broken all year. School rules prohibit bottled water in classrooms.

Some classrooms are air conditioned. Some aren't. This means that we never get early dismissal on hot days, because all of the students have at least one class in air conditioning. The exercise room and the locker rooms are air conditioned. All administrative offices are air conditioned.

All this is my way of saying that school should be out for the summer. Last Friday should have been our last day. But we soldier on, right to Solstice. This is public school, and this is what we do.

If you have any idea what "industry standard" attire is for a public school teacher, please post your findings.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Don't Say the Word -- It's That Simple

I don't know about you, but most Friday nights by 10:00 I am drifting off to dreamland in my chair. It just happened that the past two Friday nights I was lucid enough to watch Bill Maher on HBO.

I don't like the guy, even though his politics are similar to my own. I find him pompous, never more so than when he has a Republican guest for an interview. If I treated bored deities the way he treats Republican guests, I'd be smote into oblivion.

So it was that, during an interview with a Republican senator, Maher dropped the "n" word. Hours later, he was issuing apologies and mea culpas. And this Friday, he had three guests of color on the show, probably to prove that he's a cool white dude who loves African Americans and feels their pain.

His Black guests basically took him to the woodshed.

It was typical Maher hubris to invite Ice Cube on the show in the first place. Here's a rapper who has made a lavish living mining his people's pain and injustice, and he wasn't going to give Maher a pass. You go, Mr. Cube. His best remark was, "That's our word. It belongs to us." And it does.

The "n" word should never escape the lips of a white person. Never. Pagan readers, don't you hate it when the word "witch" is used in a pejorative, or even joking, way? Now multiply that by 1,000.

As a teacher in a school that is 99 percent minority, I hear that word all day long. Students call each other "n," in an affectionate way. It's their word. If I'm teaching a passage of literature that has the word in it, I don't utter the word out loud.

Bill Maher had a million excuses for letting the "n" word slip. He blamed the Republican interviewee, for one thing (bad form). He blamed the nature of live comedy (flimsy). He said he shouldn't be judged by one offhand tasteless remark (slightly less flimsy but still flimsy). You know what he didn't do? He didn't say, "I won't use that word again. Ever."

It's tough work being a comedian, especially in live situations. Improv comedy requires a mental acuity that's daunting to say the least. But it's not that hard to expunge your vocabulary of an offensive word and -- this is overlooked -- the racist way it was dropped in reference to a type of slavery. I've never heard Bill Maher call anyone a "cunt." If he can bypass that word, he can remove the "n" word from his oral vocabulary.

I'm sure he will from this day forward, so would it have hurt to promise? Humble people work to change their ways.

Sitting at the top of a mountain of righteousness today I am,

Your most humble and obedient servant,

Anne Johnson

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Memory Lane

Funny what will come into your head sometimes.

I'm remembering a field trip my class took to Washington, DC in 1974. Of course, some details are fuzzy. I can't remember if it was a history trip or a French language trip, or something else. I don't remember the name of the classmate who sneaked off with me. All I can remember is that we descended from the school bus, and someone wasn't looking or counting. My friend and I went AWOL in Washington, DC.

Jesus, I was cheeky! Now that I'm a school teacher myself, I have a whole new appreciation of kids who don't follow the rules on field trips.

But that is an aside.

I was on a field trip to Washington, DC in 1974. I got off the bus, and there was the Watergate Building. I said to my classmate (whose name I forget), "Hey! Look over there! It's the Watergate Building! Let's go!"

And we did. Like two swells, we strolled down to the Watergate Building and went in the lobby, and we stood there looking around. Then we went back to the bus with plenty of time to assure that we weren't missed.

I have no idea what I should have been doing while I instead went to the Watergate Building. What I do know is that I don't remember much about high school, but I remember sneaking off to the Watergate Building during a field trip in 1974.

Why do you suppose I'm thinking of that tonight?

Monday, June 05, 2017

In Which I Take on ISIS

Last thing I want to do is tangle with a terrorist. They really give us no choice, though ... unless you think "join or die" is a choice.

I have a student who I'll call Sweetie Pie. A year ago, Sweetie Pie started a blog on weebly, after she was bullied and harassed in middle school.

Sweetie Pie is very proud of her blog. Last Friday she told me, "I get comments on my entries. I'm kind of surprised, because I have readers in the Middle East."

Indeed. Red flag, anyone?

Okay, so Teacher Annie goes home Friday night and calls up Sweetie Pie's blog. It's a nice little site, and commendable in these days of Instagram when kids have no attention span. But I noticed right away that the comments on Sweetie Pie's blog went to her email and not in the comments section.

Oh, by all the bored gods, do you know what these terrorists do? They contact young American girls and groom them for membership!

Today, when Sweetie Pie came into class, I took her downstairs to the school psychologist. We sat with her and asked about her Middle Eastern reader. She said he was from Dubai, and just her age.

The psychologist asked her if that wasn't a bit suspicious? She blushed and said she wondered how his English could be so good. Apparently they have been corresponding via email for quite some time.

Sweetie Pie's mother is very, very protective ... to the point where Sweetie Pie can't bring her phone to school. So the counselor and I couldn't call up any of her correspondence to analyze it. We can't even look at her blog in school -- it's blocked by the firewall.

The psychologist and I warned Sweetie Pie in no uncertain terms that her correspondent was probably not some nice young teenage fellow from Dubai. She said she would block him.

Now what do I do? I could use your free advice. I don't want to alarm Sweetie Pie's mom (who apparently is easily alarmed). But Sweetie Pie is a frail young lady. She would certainly be a candidate for an online courtship of dubious and possibly dangerous origins.

What should I do? Tell Mom, talk to Sweetie Pie further, or trust Sweetie Pie to block her Dubai gentleman?

It's a sick world we live in. Sick!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Climate Change Resistance

It's been very heartening to see the immediate and widespread blow-back against our toxic president and his vindictive, stroke-the-base decisions. The foam wasn't dry on Fearless Leader's mouth before a group of "climate mayors" formed to uphold the Paris Agreement. So far, the governors of ten states -- California and New York most prominently -- have promised to work toward the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

The state of New Jersey, and the borough of Snobville, are not on that list. Our current governor here in New Jersey is the repulsive, abrasive, Trump-butt-kisser Chris Christie. His days are numbered, though ... and when he goes I'm pretty sure lots of Republicans will go with him. In the meantime, I have to ask myself: What can I do personally, in my house and on my property, to resist global warming?

My biggest contribution is expensive, but I'm proud of it. I have no business living in a high-rent district like Snobville. But I've decided to stay, and pay the outrageous property taxes, because my house is 4.5 miles from my workplace. It takes me 12 minutes to drive to work. Even better, Mr. J has a home office, so he doesn't go anywhere. We try to burn as little gas as possible, day to day.

But this is not what I do to resist. I have another thumb-my-nose that hits me right in the feels. You can do it too! Here's some free advice.

People in Snobville are very picky about their properties. They're always weeding, and fertilizing, and mowing, and leaf-blowing, and edging, and planting annuals, and grooming shrubbery. It's annoying. Snobville has many mature hardwood trees, which is a virtue, but the lawns are as snobby as you can imagine.

Behold my very own climate change-resister property! You, too, can give it a try.

EXHIBIT A: DON'T CUT DOWN THOSE SEEDLINGS


This is a maple seedling in my back yard. It's pretty, and look at those wide leaves, just sucking up that CO2! I've got four this size and a bunch even smaller. Used to be I would cut these down (a job I hated). For the nonce I'm going to let them grow.

EXHIBIT B: MICRO MEADOW FOR THE BEES


This undisciplined stretch of ground used to be my vegetable garden. Then one day I just said "fuck it," and I planted native stuff. There's plenty of milkweed, just sitting there waiting for the monarch butterflies -- who haven't come yet -- and I do see honeybees on the flowers. Eyesore? Maybe. Something I have to tend? Nope. And again, sucking in that CO2, spitting out that oxygen, requiring no chemicals or watering. If it was up to me, my entire small lawn would look like this, instead of just part of it.

EXHIBIT C: IF THEY CAN'T BE TREES, THEY'LL BUSH


This oak was a seedling when I moved to Snobville -- in 1987. Maybe I've thwarted its ambition to tower, but it's alive and doing fine. Look at those wide leaves! You can almost see the oxygen wafting from them. I've got three of these basically bonsais along my driveway and two more in the back yard.

The moral of this sermon is, if you can't deed your whole property over to trees, you can let a few of them grow a little bit, here and there, just to capture a little CO2. This project of mine is the stupidest thing you ever saw, but it's a molecule in the drop in the bucket. It's all I can do with what I've got.

A final note: There's been a lot of talk about witches putting hexes on Donald Trump and otherwise wishing him ill. That's not how I roll. I wish no physical ill on the man, but I'm only too happy to engage in mystical work that seeks to undermine his agenda and protect our nation from his bad deals. Therefore I have joined an online effort called The Magical Battle for America. This is esoteric work on the astral plane, but you need not step onto the astral to be a part of it. Your meditation on the work will add to its power. Every Saturday, the leader posts a new set of instructions. You can join any time, or just drop in to give your quiet support. See you on the plane, or on the ground.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

In Which I Resign from the Daughters of the American Revolution

Bad timing. Very bad timing.

This afternoon when I got home from work I found in the mailbox my yearly dues notice from the Daughters of the American Revolution. I have been a member in good standing of the D.A.R. for exactly 28 years, as of June 2.



National, state, and chapter dues total $68.50, plus $2.00 suggested for the State Regent's project.

To put it bluntly, there are more pressing needs for my $70.

Here is the text of my letter to our local Regent:

Dear [Name Omitted],

After exactly 28 years in the D.A.R., I will not be renewing my membership. My decision to leave N.S.D.A.R. and Snobville Chapter has nothing to do with the fine members of our Chapter or with the mission of the D.A.R.

I have lost my patriotism. I am no longer proud to be an American, which, I think, is a cornerstone value of the D.A.R.

Please remove me from the rolls.

Sincerely,
[My so-called Married Name, because they never bought that feminist stuff]

My ancestors hid behind rocks, muskets clutched in shaking hands, to establish this nation. I've always been proud of that. But who can be proud, who can hold her hand over her heart, when her country joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only other nation outside the Paris Climate Agreement?

America has been undermined by racism, espionage, the corporate agenda, and the massive power of the very wealthy. It is not a nation I can stand behind.

I never came to this place during the presidency of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. I would welcome either of them into the Oval Office on this or any other day, if it rid us of the scourge of Donald Trump and Republicans who support him to advance their own anti-woman, pro-rich, polluting agenda.


To arms, Warrior Women! The time to drink tea and pledge the flag is over.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Disrespectful

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Memorial Day 2017 edition! My name is Anne Johnson, and I can feel the spirits of the soldiers who died for this country weeping for the way we are now.

Many soldiers died with weapons in their hands. How would they feel if they could see ordinary citizens, with guns slung over their backs, shopping at WalMart? Would they find that wise ... or disrespectful?

Many soldiers died fighting against people who were trying to protect slavery as an institution. The slavers had generals (quite competent ones, in fact). How would union soldiers feel about torch-bearing Americans trying to protect monuments to those Southern generals? Would they find that admirable ... or disrespectful?

Many Americans fought and died in Europe, where there is now peace. Where our enemies are now our allies, and our long-time allies are closer yet. How would they feel about a president who belittles this alliance as a "bad deal" and will not promise to uphold climate accords? Would they find that patriotic ...or disrespectful?

Disrespectful! And it starts at the top.

So, to our heroic dead, I say the following:

I'm sorry it has come to this.

I hope the situation is temporary, and we can soon correct the course.

I, too, weep for this land.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Here, Sharky Sharky

Hot off the press! Just in time for Memorial Day, a great white shark is tootling up the East Coast, no doubt looking for two scoops of ice cream rather than one.


Don't you just want to call this lil cutie and offer him a banquet of nicely-aged millionaire meat?

I know, I know, I shouldn't have so much hate in my heart, but it's just so tempting to round up the chief executive, his scary Barbie doll daughter, and a couple of cabinet appointees (okay, well, all  the cabinet appointees and the new Supreme Court justice too) and take them for a nice boat ride off the Jersey Shore. They could take in all the sights -- all the pizza parlors and arcades and Ferris wheels and gift shops and tattooed gibrones and bikini-clad cutie pies -- and then dive off the ship for a refreshing swim in the drink. Jaws would do the rest.

I wonder if rich people taste different from poor people? I mean, rich people can afford the best quality health care, which means they probably have expensive prescription pharmaceuticals in their bodily tissues. Heck, if you wait a few years, it might be that poor people won't have any pharmaceuticals in their systems at all, possibly making them more palatable to ol' Jawsie. But we're talking about now, right now, because that shark is bearing down, and everyone these days can get the medicine they need. Taste be damned, Jaws would no doubt savor the cabinet secretaries and Barbie.

As for persuading el presidente and his charming family and staff to ditch Trump properties for a jaunt to the Jersey Shore, well, is there anything more all-American than a beach visit over Memorial Day? It's not like any of those people plan to honor the memory of soldiers who died defending America. Let's get a boat, round them up, and do a little reverse fishing!

Oh, who am I kidding? Sharks are notoriously omnivorous, but even a famished great white would probably pass on a platter of Trump. Sharks aren't buzzards, after all. They don't want food that's rotten to the core.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old and Ugly

I got up this morning at 6:00 and was at work by 7:00. I left work at 3:45 and drove home. I collapsed in a chair, and all I can think about is where I'll get the energy to make dinner.

I'm 58 and tired. So what does that make Donald Trump?

I think in the minds of many morons taxpayers, Donald Trump is a permanently youthful figure, invigorated by his years of sexual conquest and macho bluster. It's quite easy to perpetuate this myth when you're standing behind a podium, and all you've done that day is a 60-minute tirade political speech.

But the presidency? That's a different story.

I'm slender and in great health, but my mind boggles at a 9-day trip through a half dozen countries, out of my time zone and language competency. Oh, I could do it, but it would age me prematurely (as it does most presidents).

Donald Trump is 70 years old and overweight. Nothing in his previous work history has prepared him for the pace of governing one of the world's largest and most complicated nations. It's no wonder that he retreats to his golf courses and country clubs when he can -- the job is wearing him out.

This fact, not his horrible personality, will likely be his downfall.

Will he resign? Will he be impeached? Or will he just fall ill and need a very long vacation? I know the old fart isn't a quitter, but I'll bet even now he wishes he could ditch the day job without losing face.

I don't wish bad health on anyone, but hey, I don't have to. Donald Trump asked for it himself. He didn't sit down and think, "Wow, I'm going to be hella busy at a time of life when most rich men just hit the links." Yes, there's money and power in the game for him, but at the cost of his golden years.

Donald Trump's last bad deal was winning himself the presidency. Now he has to do the job. It just might kill him.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Just a Few Chores

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have you ever opened your eyes onto a sunny, springtime Sunday morning and thought, "Oh! I have absolutely nothing to do today!" Yeah, well, having absolutely nothing to do is actually a curse. It's something devised by bad faeries under a dark moon with much muttering and wicked giggles.

I woke up this morning in my own bed, having driven home from my mother-in-law's funeral because both the Heir and the Spare had to be back to Philly on Sunday. Mr. J stayed behind in Baltimore, which meant ... me ... all alone in the house in Philly with no plans!

Now factor in cats.

We know what cats do. They wake us up early, because they are hungry. Mine were hungry. It was 7:00, and they wanted breakfast.

EXHIBIT A: GAMMA WANTS BREAKFAST



So you know where that goes. You get up to feed the cats, and you decide to have a cup of tea. Then you look in the fridge and find some of those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that should have Surgeon General warnings on the side, and -- looking for something to have with your tea -- you flick on the oven.

Then, when they are freshly baked, you eat four of those sugar bombs, only pausing to realize that now you'd better work off those calories.

So you open all the windows to air out the house. You re-arrange closets. You drag stuff to Goodwill. You wash towels and clean cat boxes and re-pot plants and fold laundry and throw out day-old newspapers, and go grocery shopping, and drive an extra 5 miles for local strawberries. You hang pictures, re-arrange furniture, hose the pollen off the porch,

Suddenly it's 2:30, and you're famished. Off to Chipotle for another repast that probably packs enough calories for a pride of lions.

Then you come home, fold the towels and clean up the kitchen.

What a beautiful thing! I got all of this done, and it was only 3:45! There I was, having accomplished multiple chores that didn't particularly need to be done, with plenty of hours left to read the New York Times!

The moral of this sermon is, if you want to thwart bad faeries who seek to ruin your weekend, get a cat. The cat will get you going so early that, on a long spring evening with lots of daylight, you'll still have time for your porch and your op-eds.

Of course, now it's 8:00 and I'm ready for bed. Does this mean the faeries win?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Isolation

La dee dah, another evening at home, watching MSNBC even though I can't stand those smug preppy hosts. The empty nest encompasses me like a desert. I have few friends, and they are far-flung. These days I have no social life at all.

"Anne!" you say. "You're such a lively, spunky old thing! Why are you sitting around? You've got 50 colleagues at your school, and you live in a walking community full of educated people!"
The simple answer to this is twofold: I don't drink, and I'm tired at the end of the day.

There are a lot of swell folks where I work. Many Friday afternoons, they go out to happy hour. There's nothing stopping me from accompanying them except for the fact that I'm a recovering alcoholic. Being a recovering alcoholic in a bar is like being a diabetic in a candy shop. You can resist the urge, but the effort makes you miserable.

Fatigue is the real killer. I get to work at 7:00 in the morning and return around 3:45, if I don't have any errands to run. By 7:30 I'm nodding. By 10:00 I'm asleep. I used to go to a drum circle, but half the time I bagged it because I was too tired to go. Now I don't even try.

You want to hear something weird? When I'm actually with people and socializing, I'm awkward. It's like I've lost the talent for conversation. I used to be the life of the party (probably because booze was the fuel), but sobriety has brought me shyness and isolation.

These thoughts are occasioned by the rites surrounding the services for my dear mother-in-law. Her funeral is tomorrow, and the reception afterwards promises to be chock-a-block with guzzlers. This would be a time I would love, getting together with my husband's family (who have always been very kind to me), but the thought that everyone -- including my daughters -- will be imbibing just makes me sad. I expect I'll find a quiet chair somewhere by myself and take a nap.

The moral of this sermon is, can someone suggest a few diverting dramas I can watch on Netflix or online? Rachel Maddow gets on my last nerve.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Free Advice on Spotting Fake News

How do you know that your news is coming from a trustworthy source? How do you know if it's true or not? That is the question.


I, Anne Johnson, am here to tell you some tips that will help you to distinguish the truth from the falsehood! Just remember these handy rules, and you'll soon enough know whether your news is fake or not.

1. If your mother tells you, it's not fake. This should be obvious. Mothers may lie like egg-sucking dogs, but not to their kids. Well, most of the time. If you want 100 percent verity, then ...

2. If your grandmother tells you, it's not fake. Mom may occasionally stretch the truth, but Mee Maw? OH no.

3. If you see it with your own eyes, it's not fake. I know, I know, we all try to fool ourselves, but at the end of the day, most of us face the truth. Most of us.

4, If it comes to you from the Gods, it's not fake. Be careful which deity you call a liar, because some of Them will smite you! Don't all the preachers say, "Trust God?"

5. If the results can be replicated in a controlled experiment, it's not fake. Science, bitch.

6. If you can wrap a fish in it, it's not fake. Yes, there are tabloids, and they are outrageous. But most newspapers have reputations to uphold. Take it from the wife of a journalist: Reporters have their pride. Like, George Washington and the Cherry Tree pride.


On the other hand ...

7. If the person delivering the news is wearing makeup, it could be fake. What are the talking heads trying to cover up with all those grain-fed faces? If the person you're getting your news from is on t.v. but could star in an action flick, no problem, you better fact check. You may be getting some stretchers.

8. If the news is free, it could be fake. Someone's paying for it! If you don't know who, it could be a baldfaced, egg-sucking, lowlife liar. Unless it's this blog, which is 100 percent true, 100 percent of the time.

9. If the news comes through the grapevine, it could be fake. Notice I said could be. I mean, the dude in the song did find out his gal was planning to make him blue with some other guy she knew before. That turned out to be true. So judge the grapevine carefully. If it includes Mee Maw, it's probably trustworthy. If it includes two or three of your co-workers, BAMP BAMP BAMP! Red flag.

10. If the news is good and will have a pleasant and uplifting effect on your life, it could be fake. Play it safe. Be a pessimist. When did anything ever turn out to be all for the best?

11. If the news is on the Internet, it could be fake. Except this blog, see above #8.

12. If the news involves some vast, complicated, and secret conspiracy, run by provocateurs hidden deep within the recesses of daily life, it could be fake. Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret? Okay, the Illuminati have been very successful at hiding Tupac, but ... other than that one instance, it just doesn't happen.

The moral of this sermon is, evaluate your news sources carefully! Trust your grandmother first and foremost. If she's out to tea, you can depend on The Gods Are Bored to get the straight scoop. The Gods tell me everything! See above #4.

Supposedly the economy has improved to such an extent that I no longer have to pay you to take my free advice! Now it's just free. What a relief to my fraying wallet!

Monday, May 15, 2017

#We

Did you hear that Donald Trump posted a tweet that said nothing more than "We?"

As in:

We

This would have remained very mysterious had he not deleted it a few minutes later. But you know the Internet. Lots of people saw it.


I sat down with my dear friend, the faerie Puck, to try to decode this tweet, as it seemed to be an intelligent attempt to get people to finish his thought for him. What could be behind the impulsive We?

Puck betrays my age as he helps me to translate.

are the champions.

Easy and obvious.

will, we will rock you.

No fair, Puck, that's the same song.

all went down to Montreaux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline.

Whoa, Puck! You heavy metal faerie, you! You might be on to something there. Here's what I think:

are stardust, we are golden.

Puck says that's absolutely the last possible one that Donald Trump would choose. He thumbs his nose at me and says Betsy DeVo$$ was using Trump's device, and she meant to tweet

don't need no education.

Thanks, Puck. I love you too. Well, it was Mother's Day ... perhaps he meant

are family. I've got all my sisters with me.

Does he have sisters? I'm not gonna look it up. Instead I'll pump my fist, resistance-style, and say

are strong. No one can tell us we're wrong.

Puck says it could be an early Christmas tweet. Maybe he meant

three kings of Orient are,

or

wish you a merry Christmas.

Wrong time of year, Puck! Nor is it Thanksgiving, so ditch

gather together to ask the Lord's blessing.

I guess we could go on and on like this, especially if you start adding apostrophes:

're off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

've only just begun ... to live ... white lace and promises ... a kiss for luck and we're on our waaaaayyyy.....

Okay, okay, Puck! I'll stop singing! I know that last one hopelessly anchors me in Geezer Bay!

There is only one ending to that elusive We that I can completely rule out, because the tweeter in question is a hard case, seriously interested only in his map of his electoral college victory and his ratings on the nightly news shows. There is no way, sadly, that Donald Trump would have followed that We with

shall overcome.

What do you think? Help Puck and me out here!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

My goodness, they are both all grown up.

When I started this blog, one was still in grade school! That one made brunch for the whole family, in the house she just moved into in Philadelphia.

EXHIBIT A: THE SPARE


The other one was in high school when I started blogging. She doesn't like to have attention drawn to her. But if you need someone to pour molten aluminum into a mold, just ask her.

EXHIBIT B: THE HEIR


Of course, these posed shots don't capture their personalities very much ... so I have to add ...

EXHIBIT C: YEP


Mother's Day isn't happy for everyone. Maybe you've lost your mom, and you miss her. Maybe your mom didn't have very good parenting skills (or any at all ... I can relate). But just remember that we all share a Goddess Mom who we can feel under our feet. She says bring Her some sweet tea, She's had a long day, and She's overheated.

Take care of your Mom!

Happy Mother's Day from Philadephia, where it's always sunny!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

I Scream, You Scream

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," vulture worship and ice cream for everyone! Tonight's flavor is Dead Skunk, which sounds like it will please the deity a lot more than the congregation.

I don't know about you, but I am crazy about ice cream. Any flavor will do. I don't go much for all the extra stuff they fling on the top, but a big, solid ice cream cone? Yasssss.

EXHIBIT A: HUMBLE ABODE



This unassuming little shack is the home of the Scottish Highland Creamery. You don't have to take my word for it. This place has the best ice cream in America. It's small batch, made by a nice gent and his wife, and I'm not kidding when I tell you that Mr. J and I plan our summer vacations so we can go and shovel in fistfuls of the stuff.

EXHIBIT B: SINFUL WARES


Well, you can't get sex in plastic containers, so this is the best product ever packaged. Mr. J and I always get some dry ice and haul home a cooler full, since we don't live anywhere near Oxford, Maryland.

My Scottish Highland Creamery stash is sacred to me. I don't share it blithely. There's still a little bit in the freezer from a run back in April, and as soon as I'm through with this sermon, I'm going to partake.

If I were to have a dinner party at which I served Scottish Highland Creamery ice cream, I would not have two scoops while my guests had one. I might want it to be that way, but I'm not insane. You don't serve everyone else less ice cream than you're having yourself, unless you are the only adult and you're scooping for three-year-olds.

Can we believe that our commander in chief serves his dinner guests one scoop of ice cream when he has two? Oh, yes, sadly we can. And I'll bet it's not from his personal stock of Scottish Highland Creamery, either. He's probably got tubs and tubs of artisan confections in the White House fridge.

The moral of this sermon is this: If you can mandate one size dessert for yourself and another size for your guests, without asking how much they want, you're a despicable reprobate who ought to be packed in dry ice and shipped to Bora Bora on a slow boat.

Chocolate, or butter pecan? One scoop or two? Or shall we just scream?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fairies in the Rain

Old-timers who visit this blog know that every year I go to the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. Spoutwood is a charming property in south-central Pennsylvania, complete with a vintage farmhouse, adorable outbuildings, and a burbling brook. Every year on the first full weekend in May, the owners at Spoutwood open their land to anyone and everyone who puts their hands together for the faeries.

My daughter The Spare has attended this fest for a long, long time.

EXHIBIT A: SPARE AT HER FIRST FAIRIE FESTIVAL



EXHIBIT B: SPARE AT SPOUTWOOD 2017


She's a little taller these days.

The first inkling I had that this would be no ordinary Spoutwood was while driving there. It was raining. Not just raining, but pouring in great torrents. We all know what happens to burbling streams when they are visited by torrential rainstorms, right? So I was a little bit worried about the stream. But, when I got there, the rain stopped by some miracle. The brook mostly stayed in its banks and didn't rise like it had in the past.

Another obstacle remained, however. We all know what happens to spongy spring ground when it gets saturated, and lots of people walk over it, don't we? Maybe you're too young to remember Woodstock, but things do get muddy when a lot of people get together in moist weather to have fun.

Cold, rainy, muddy, and ... well-attended.

Many people sojourn to Spoutwood for happiness and healing. When we assembled on Friday, quite in the numbers, we all looked at each other and said, "Never mind the weather. We need this." Not saying every single person there was traumatized by the election, but every single faerie there was traumatized by the election, and They needed healing too. So we healed each other.

EXHIBIT C: ANNE ENJOYS SPOUTWOOD, 2017


This is me, telling the faeries that everything will be okay! Thank you Casie A. Chilcote, for the photo!

Long story short, the muddy conditions on the farm and in the parking grounds caused the festival to shut down on Sunday. It was so sad that I didn't get to see some of my friends and Mountain Tribe members, but safety first!

Seems like a good many events I've attended this year so far have been weather-challenged. Must say, though, that I will take a rained-out Spoutwood after the Women's March came off on a day that was way milder than seasonal, with not a drop of precip. Maybe the faeries had something to do with that. I'll have to ask Them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

An Open Letter to the Squirrels in the White House Tree

Dear Squirrels I just saw climbing a tree on the White House lawn:

I understand, although I've never seen it, that rabies is a terrible disease. I wouldn't wish it on any squirrel. After all, you little fluff bombs don't really do all that much damage. Yes, you get into crawl spaces sometimes and make a hell of a racket. Yes, you gnaw off the fruit tree buds in the spring. Yes (and you really should work on this as a species), you do sit on the bird feeder and eat every damn seed. But that's not enough to deserve a case of rabies.

And yet... are you in any way patriotic? Do you, the squirrels on the White House tree, feel deeply about the health and happiness of squirrels elsewhere? Would you consider making the ultimate sacrifice for your country?

Listen, squirrels on the White House lawn! The squirrels of America (and the people too) call out to you! Take one for the team!

Think about it. If you contract a case of rabies, and you bite, oh, say, anyone with weird hair who lumbers by, you could go down in history as the greatest, most wonderful, most magnificent squirrels ever to tear around the trunk of an ancient oak! Imagine our troubled nation, saved by a case of rabies that won't even be noticed right away because the human you need to bite already acts rabid.

Squirrels! Squirrels! To arms, citizens! Sacrifice yourselves for the greater good! Just take on a case of rabies, bite a few humans (especially those with weird hair who lumber), and wrap yourselves in the flag.

We, the humans of America -- as well as all of squirrelkind -- plead with you to do your duty, for God and country. If you commit this magnificent act of self-sacrifice, I personally will see that you get a statue in Yellowstone National Park. A big one, with fresh peanuts doled out daily to all visitors.

Please, please! So much is riding on your fluffy little tails!

Sincerely,
Anne Johnson

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cram It All into One Post

You know it happens. Your computer is tooling along, purring like a kitten, and then it does a little burp. From the burp it goes into slow motion, slower and slower, and that's how come I'm spending Sunday afternoon at the Snobville Public Library.

My school blocked Blogger. It was a dark day. Now it's laptop or library. And whoa, this library got a million dollar face lift since last I blogged from here! It's all done over in muted grays and white pillars, and I'm in a teen room that has bean bag chairs and neon pink squares of carpet. And teens, reading. On a Sunday afternoon. Somehow I find this hopeful.

On Saturday April 29, my daughter The Heir and I attended and participated in the Peoples' Climate March in Philadelphia. I think there might have been a thousand of us. We were way dwarfed by the NFL Draft festivities on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Probably more than a million sports fans who don't care about the climate attended that. Boy, did we get stares from the NFL fans! At least everyone was polite ... maybe a first for Eagles followers, who notoriously booed Santa Claus and still keep a judge and courtroom on site at the stadium.

It was April 29, and it was hot. Like, July hot. I understand it was like this in Washington, DC as well.

When my computer recovers (which it is sure to in the hands of my very capable Yoda), I'll post the photos I took.

After the march ended, appropriately with chanting, "Water is Sacred. Water is life" on a bridge over the Schuykill River, I made my way home and curled up with the New York Times Magazine. Call me a dinosaur, but I love my paper copy of the newspaper. Anyway, the whole April 23 issue was about climate change, and by the time I finished reading it, dear bored Goddess Gaia had joined me on the front porch. Indeed, She does look feverish and irritable these days.

I made Gaia a nice cool smoothie, and we chatted a bit. Folks, it made me feel so much better! She told me all about how that big meteor hit the planet back in the dinosaur days, and how many species were totally wiped off the face of Her in the blink of an eye. She reminded me that, even though She is not everlasting, She is still in Her prime and very very resilient.

Gaia admits that humans are not a great contribution to Her history, but She says it will all work out, because it's inevitable that some virus or bacterium will evolve to wipe the slate clean. She's not drawing up blueprints, but She darkly hinted that, if we drive the horseshoe crab to extinction, she will assemble an advisory board to assess the whole "person" thing. (When she said "person," She rolled Her eyes. Not a good sign.) Gaia is a huge fan of horseshoe crabs. Can't say I blame her. They're basically adorable.

I loaded an ice pack for Gaia and told Her, sadly, that most of the people at the Climate March didn't know Her name. She wasn't surprised. She says that it all started going downhill when Her praise and worship team got shoved out by Daddy Gods and hordes who came to conquer. But She assures me She will have the last laugh. I don't doubt it for an instant.

This is a busy week here at "The Gods Are Bored." My daughter The Spare just signed a lease on a house in Philadelphia. She will be moving away from home, probably Friday. Oh my goodness! What will I write about, if not The Spare? I feel like Gaia must have felt when the last pterodactyl bit the dust. So ... a few nights this week I will be helping Spare prepare her new living space for habitation. To put it another way, there were two dudes living there, and the place is a shambles.

I also have to take my computer to my Yoda. He's a great Guy.

And then, on Friday, it's the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm! Spare and I will be there for the weekend, celebrating the Ladies and Gentlemen of Sidhe. If you're in the vicinity, please join us!

I end this lengthy epistle on a light note ...

I made a sign for the climate march. It said, "This Druid Loves Gaia."

A lady came up to me and said, "Oh! Can I take a photo of your sign? My dog is named Gaia."

"Sure," I said, holding it up. "I have a dog too. His name is Jehovah."

Every dog has his day, right?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Standardized Slump

Welcome to The Mumble Mumble Mumble *yawn* Is it over yet?

Ah, friends, friends. It's Standardized Testing Season.

Last week was spring break at my school. The week before that was PARCC testing. If you don't know what PARCC stands for, it's Perfectly Awful Repugnant Corrupt Claptrap. My students have to sit through this every year, and they've done it every year of their lives.

Our current incarnation of standardized testing is so evil that teachers are not allowed to look at it at all. We can't so much as glance across a student's shoulder, let alone point out an errant comma. Students themselves are not to be trusted either. All cell phones are silenced and collected. Students have to sign a pledge that they don't have their phone. Students must be escorted to the bathroom, and only one student is allowed in the bathroom at a time.We wouldn't want anyone to give anyone else an answer, now would we?

Except, if that's the case, why is so much emphasis put on group work in the classroom?

This year my students endured three math tests of 90 minutes apiece and four language arts tests, two 90-minute and two 110-minute. Can someone add this up for me? How many hours is that? I keep wanting to say more than ten hours, but my brain won't let me. Clearly I wouldn't have a prayer of passing those math units!

Anyway, most of our testing occurred before the break. But today -- Tuesday -- on the second day back from break, we had one final 110-minute language arts unit.

It was raining outside.

The testing is done on chrome books. Testing began at 8:00 a.m.

Within the first 40 minutes, half the kids had fallen asleep. By 60 minutes, the slumber was universal. Even yours truly, the proctor, had to pinch herself to stay awake.

How many posts have I written on this wretched subject?

Back in the previous century, I had to take a high school proficiency test. It consisted of balancing a checkbook, using a train table, and following the directions to bake a cake. There might have been a short story and a couple of easy math problems. I particularly remember the train schedule and the checkbook.

Now, students taking the PARCC test have to write three whole essays based on long-winded passages of "classical" literature, much of it from across the pond. Need I say how unfair this is to urban youngsters of color? Nah, you already know.

I've been asleep on my feet since 8:00 this morning, so it's time to hit the sack. Like a ton of bricks. With sweet dreams of a world without standardized testing, where students are judged on their unique and particular abilities. On the content of their characters.

Good night!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Science Is the Poetry of Reality"

It's a very odd feeling when you participate in a March for Science, out of concern for the anti-science sentiments in government, and you find yourself marching in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. This was the principal thing on my mind as I took to Market Street, with Spare and her friends, for the Earth Day Science March.

My simple sign was a photo of my dad, in his lab coat, with a beaker and an equation on the chalk board behind him. I also included his birth and death dates. In this way I felt that he was marching with me.

Spare, of course, is more flamBEEant.


This was the strangest crowd of marchers I've ever been in. I guess you could just say that these were all smart people. Call them geeks or nerds if you will, but you could almost feel the intelligence beaming off of everyone. Honestly, the signs weren't as creative as at the Women's March (Spare being the exception), but they were sincere. No one is taking this lightly, is I guess what I'm saying.



We barely got to Penn's Landing before it began to rain. It rained in earnest. Spare and her friends floated off, but I had a rain slicker, so I puffed out my chest and stayed for the speakers. I stayed and stayed. You remember how boring those chemistry lectures were in college? Well, those were the people who were speaking. It doesn't matter, though, because all the sentiments were the same. Science made this country great. Science has unending potential to benefit humankind. Science brings progress. Inventors should be respected. Energy should be renewable. We can all be scientists, even in small ways like monitoring our local creek. We should run for office, call our government officials, keep the pressure on. Vaccinations are a good thing, de-funding the EPA and Planned Parenthood isn't. Not all scientists are atheists. Geology is a helpful predictor of history. And I forget the rest, there were lots and lots of speakers.


Spare is in a dark place just now, so it was good to see her engaged in this worthy pursuit.

Benjamin Franklin was very much on my mind as I marched. Funny thing, as I was walking back up Market Street after the event was over, I passed a historic landmark that I'd never noticed before -- what's left of his house. So I walked back there to what might have been his front door. I thought about knocking, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. How could I look a Founding Father in the eye and say that the same great nation that put a man on the Moon is now dumping data and denying climate change? I let him rest.

The title of this sermon comes from a sign I saw but couldn't get a good picture of. It said "Science is the Poetry of Reality." Okay, well, poetry is the poetry of reality too, but I thought it was a good slogan anyway.

And of course we chanted as we marched:

What do we want?
SCIENCE!
When do we want it?
AFTER EVIDENCE-BASED PEER REVIEW

As I said, it was a rather strange march.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More Marching Philosophy

The March for Science, being ... well ... scientific, asked everyone who has committed to march to explain why they are doing it. No doubt this is data gathering for further targeted political activity, so I was only too glad to do it. Besides, the George guy paid me $200, again. Talk about the gift that keeps giving!

I am participating in the March for Science because my grandfather and father were scientists. Two of my uncles were doctors. I have a cousin who is a doctor as well, and another who is a chemical engineer. (All male, which for me is another issue.)

Science runs deep in our family. My grandfather grew up in a tiny house on a farm in Appalachia. He was the first to attend college, and he was only there two years. All the same, he learned to use a microscope. He went on to design microscopic drill bits for a company called American Celanese. The synthetic fibers he helped to create went into gas masks that were used during World War II.

Dad taught high school chemistry. He loved teaching. I've posted his closed-circuit t.v. lessons on YouTube, and they are still being watched!

For me, going to this march is rather (believe it or not) a Pagan practice. My ancestors were scientists. If they were alive, they would be appalled by climate change and by efforts to squelch research and data. That would infuriate them. Ancestral work is part of the Pagan path. This fits the bill. Dad and Granddad aren't here to express themselves, so I'm going to do it. I'm going to take one of my photos of Dad in his classroom and tape it (gently ) to a sign. So he can be there.

Dad and Granddad both voted Republican their whole lives, because Lincoln won the war. I fervently believe that neither one of them could have pulled the lever for Donald Trump -- Granddad because of his deep and genuine Christian faith, and Dad because, well, science.

I'm going away for a few days but will return in time for the Science March in Philadelphia. You'll see the photos here.

Anyone who tries to undermine science is a villain. In the Shakespearean sense.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tax March Philly

We have a leader in this nation who has refused to reveal his personal finances. We therefore cannot judge whether he is working for the American people, or working for foreign governments, or working to enrich himself.


This should be an outrage.

We have a leader in this nation who has absolutely no experience in governance. He has filled his inner circle with others -- including his own daughter -- who have absolutely no experience in governance. He has, with the help of a majority party in thrall to Big Business, set in motion efforts to dismantle public education, scientific research, health care and social services for the poor and elderly, and pollution controls.


This should be an outrage.

Know this: If you can't walk, I'm marching for you. If you care, I'm marching for you. If you believe, I am working the Work for you. If you are worried, I will worry with you. And I will act.

My feet are sore, but thank you bored Gods, I can still walk. The cause is just, the time is now.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Job Opportunity

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where our good fortune is your good fortune! Let's face it. None of us have all the money we'd really like to have, right? An extra Benjamin for a half-day's work always helps, huh?

I'm Anne Johnson, here to share with you a fool-proof money-making opportunity. For those of you nine-to-fivers, this still works because it is always on a Saturday!

About midway through last December, I got a phone call from a nice man who asked me just to call him "George." He made me an offer I couldn't refuse. And now he's making it three more times this month. Whoever he is, this George has, as my students would put it, "stacks and stacks and stacks."

George offered to pay for me to go to the Women's March on Washington. He paid for my two-night stay in a Hampton Inn, two tickets on a Rally bus for myself and the Heir, and he paid us each $200 for the day to march. Pretty generous, huh? I think so too!

At first I didn't want to take George's money, but he assured me that he was paying everyone who marched the same amount. This means if I hadn't needed to stay in a hotel or take a bus, I would have earned $500 for the day! And actually, at the Women's March, I met dozens of ladies who were equally impressed by his generosity. Many of them got all cash, since they lived close enough to take the Metro.

I asked them, "Do you know who this George guy is?"

"Who cares!" they chortled. "He's got stacks and stacks and stacks. After the march, we're going on a spa vacation!"

Seemed like everywhere you looked at that march, you saw a woman happily clutching a few Benjamins in her fist. One told me, "This is great, because I really don't want to work. I can just do this and get some money the easy way. I intend to spend it on drugs."

Who am I to tell people what to do with their money?

Long story short, George called me in March and asked what I was doing on the weekends of April 15, 22, and 29. I said, "Well, sir, you tell me. What am I doing?"

He hired me to march all three weekends. Heir too. We get a little less since we're staying in Philly -- $200 each -- but the math is still compelling. Between us we will earn $1200, just for protesting Donald Trump. George, it seems, does not like the sitting president.

At the Women's March it didn't occur to me to crunch the numbers and see just how much George actually pays for these events. Doesn't matter. I suck at math. I can't count that high.

For these April marches, George even sweetened the  pot. He gave me a clothing allowance! I bought a Union Thugs t-shirt and a baseball cap with the meanest-looking pussy you ever saw on it. Sent the bill to George.

Any of you who want to protest Donald Trump and earn some pocket change, give me a holler. I'll set you up with George. I think I even get a referral fee, so sign on and come aboard!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We Interrupt the Regularly Scheduled Ranting

... asking you to click the link and vote for my daughter The Spare's improv team. They want to get back into a competition they were eliminated from by one lousy vote!

Her team is Windows 98
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DTRC57D


One of the good things about living in a big urban area is the opportunities it affords for chasing your Muse. The Spare's Muse loves to laugh!

EXHIBIT A: WINDOWS 98 (Spare on far right)



Don't ask me why, but Spare is convinced that my blog readership will push her team over the top in voting. I heard her boasting to her teammates: "Yeah, we'll put it on my mom's blog." Like I'm some kind of presence on the Web.

Won't take you a minute. No sea glass on offer this time, but if you stay tuned I'll tell you whether or not her team returns to the competition, and how well they do.

They are a hoot. She gets her talent from me, of course.

Monday, April 10, 2017

On the March Again

The rest of April will be a busy time for marchers. I guess I'll be flinging on my golden sneakers again ... not once, but three more times.

On Saturday, April 15, I will be in Philadelphia for the Tax March, sponsored by one of my all-time favorite nonprofits, Jobs with Justice. Look at this brilliant balloon we'll be floating over Market Street!

EXHIBIT A: TRUMP, RELEASE YOUR DAMN TAXES



I hope I can get my picture taken with this fine creation.

Having left my protest sign in Washington, DC during the Women's March, I need something new to carry. Okay, I suck at art. Luckily, my gig as a school teacher has provided me with inspiring signage.

Last fall I taught my students about symbolism. As most unimaginative teachers do, I Googled "how do I teach symbolism." I got a list of children's picture books that have symbolism in them. One of them was

EXHIBIT B: IT WAS PUBLISHED IN 2013 BUT IS OH SO RELEVANT


This is the cover! It's a picture book, so it's larger than a conventional book. How perfect is this to carry in a march that features a giant golden rooster?

The Snobville Public Library carries this riveting little volume. The story is so completely pertinent that when I used it to teach symbolism, my students were blown away. In this timely tale, a hedgehog wanders into the barnyard, slightly alarming the chickens because they've never seen one before. But the chickens are all ready to adapt until the rooster (who wants more attention) incites the chickens to be afraid -- very very afraid -- of the hedgehog.

EXHIBIT C: DID I SAY THIS WAS PUBLISHED IN 2013?


This is the rooster, exhorting his chickens to construct a huge, tall wall to keep out invaders. Does life imitate art, or what?

I won't give away the end of the story, because we are going to live through it. Suffice it to say that The Chickens Build a Wall will travel with me to the Philly Tax March. When we all get to the People's Plaza at Independence Mall, it may just be story time.