Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Wrong War

Honestly, the Orange Menace at his lowest, basest, and most disreputable, hit on the truth.

When asked what would heal racial wounds in this country, he said, "Jobs."

He's absolutely right. He just doesn't have a prayer or a clue how to get the jobs we need.

You're always going to be able to turn over rocks in trash-filled drainage ditches and find Neo Nazis and White supremacists. But they would be fairly content to dwell under there, sucking on sewage, if they had halfway decent jobs.

And now they do have determined opposition. Anti-fascists are training to fight back literally against the hate criminals. Game on! And what you get, sadly, are real casualties.

Listen, my friends: The anti-fascists are not "alt-left" radicals. They are anarchists who don't believe in any government at all. Can you blame them? Do you have faith in this government?

When I see young men fist-fighting in the streets, shouting hateful slogans, and plowing people down with cars, what I see are workers who don't have jobs. The enemy isn't the other young white guy. The enemy is the ownership class.

All the wealth, all the growth, has funneled right to the top of our society. We have a few people who have way too much money and a ton of people who don't have enough. The problem is that the few are so removed, so insulated from ire by gated, guarded compounds. The few pay "newscasters" to manipulate and re-direct hatred. The few encourage race wars and political divisions. This piles on the insulation for the moneyed class.

The rich always smile when workers fight with workers.

I read in the news that one of the Neo Nazis at the rally was recognized from a photograph. He lost his job. His job was serving hot dogs at a Top Dog restaurant. How frustrating is it to be in your twenties, and the best job you can get is at a hot dog joint? Take that anger, and fuel it with Fox News vitriol against liberals, and you get a person who is furious against the wrong target.

The rich always smile when workers fight with workers. And this fight is joined, and it will be joined because good jobs aren't going to materialize.

We need a solid working class in this nation. People are so desperate for it that they voted, stupidly, for a snake oil salesman.

There are indeed two sides: those who have too much, and those who have too little. Who is the real enemy? We're bashing the wrong heads.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

White Hot Fury over White Supremacists

If you turned 90 years old in 2017 you were too young to fight in World War II.

I know this because my dad was drafted in 1944 but didn't go abroad. The war was nearly over when he mustered in. September 23 would have been his 90th birthday.

All World War II veterans are over 90 years old, except for maybe a very few stragglers who lied about their age. They would be, at best, 87.

And now we have empowered Neo Nazis, marching in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.

All the blood, the pain, the loss of life and limb. The loss of sanity. A whole generation profoundly affected by world events. And before the last of them draws a final breath, people in this country are glorifying the very evil that this country opposed!


I'm not even going to start on the Confederate flag, except to say that Sherman should have been more thorough.

In the matter of white supremacy, can I just point something out? Whites are supreme in this country! Their salaries are better than minority citizens, their job prospects are better than minority citizens, their numbers are larger, and they're in charge. You want to see white supremacy? Take a walk on Wall Street and see who's running the world. Look at pictures of our nation's CEOs, strolling together at some exclusive conference. You won't see any minorities there.

The lowest forms of life -- people who blame their own loser status on someone else with a different skin color -- are empowered by our loathsome chief executive, who couldn't bring himself to denounce the white supremacists or the terrorist who plowed through a crowd of counter protesters.

We must resist this. We must stand up against white bigotry and promote the advancement of American minorities. This despicable behavior is unacceptable.

If they came to my town with their damn swastikas and tiki torches, I'd be out there countering them myself.

Donald Trump, go to Hell. And take all your racist followers with you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Crush

When the world is in an uproar, it's best to find multiple effective escapes from reality. In my case I have developed a crush.

EXHIBIT A: ANNE'S CRUSH


This is Andy N. Condor. He lives at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City.

You know, women of a certain age (like me) often get crushes on younger fellas. Not me! Andy is exactly my age! We were born the same year.

I discovered Andy on Facebook, and now I get all of his posts in my "read first" feed. I always comment, and he often likes what I say! Already we have created a virtual bond.

In these dark times, it's good to have an escapist plan of any sort. Here's mine: In just two short years, I'm going to fly to Salt Lake City and meet Andy N. Condor! I'll bet by then we will have escalated our Facebook flirtation to such an extent that I'll have a good long love-fest with him when I arrive at his pad.

EXHIBIT B: DON'T BE JEALOUS


You know, we can't all be Andean condors. They are the few and the special. It's my daily pleasure to flirt with one on the Internet. He's my buzzard Tinder, and at times he keeps me from going insane.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summer Job Haiku

I know how to climb
A 15-foot step ladder
ergonomically

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

What Was I Thinking?

Call it a lapse of judgment if you like. That will do nicely.

I have two daughters, The Heir and The Spare. Neither one of them has a car. Spare has more friends with wheels, which, I suppose, partly accounts for my sympathy for Heir.

I offered to take Heir and her sweetheart to the Jersey Shore for an afternoon. Heir reacted with such enthusiasm that, spur of the moment, I said, "Why don't we go to Asbury Park?"

Maybe you've heard of Asbury Park, New Jersey. There's a music venue there called the Stone Pony. A long time ago, an up-and-coming rocker named Bruce Springsteen performed there. The Stone Pony still keeps a busy schedule of concerts, and there's an outdoor stage. Asbury Park also has a nice beach and a funky bohemian boardwalk with character. By some miracle, the town survived Hurricane Sandy with minimal damage.

Asbury Park is 55 miles from New York City and 75 miles from Philadelphia.

It is August.

It was Sunday.

We set out for Asbury Park at 11:00 a.m. from Philadelphia.

Let this be a reminder that our planet is very crowded.

We got to Asbury Park at about 1:00 p.m. There are probably 5,000 parking spaces in the boardwalk area, and every last one of them contained a car. Not only that, there were people driving around slowly, looking for someone who might be leaving. No one was leaving Asbury Park at 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday in August.

And yet Heir and her sweetheart were like kids in a candy shop. There's a pinball parlor on the Asbury boardwalk that has vintage games from every decade, going back to 1950 and up to virtual reality. So I let Heir and s. off at the boardwalk and started creeping around, looking for a spot.

I looked. And looked. And finally got really lucky, except it was a residential neighborhood where I would get ticketed at 5:00 if I didn't move by then.

Parking space secured for 3 hours, I made my way to the boardwalk. There was a band at the Stone Pony, doing a sound check. (For those of us with the inside scoop on Asbury Park, a sound check means a concert, which means even fewer parking spaces in the evening.)

It wasn't sunny, and it wasn't warm. But the beach was jam packed. It's actually quite a pretty sight, and hard to capture in a photograph. The beach umbrellas (which weren't really needed) were such vibrant colors, and there were a lot of young people who looked good in bright swimwear. I also had a good book to read, This Fight Is Our Fight, by Elizabeth Warren.

Asbury Park requires you to buy a beach pass to have access to the surf for the day. On a Sunday in August, a daily beach pass costs $10,000. (Might be a very slight exaggeration.)

Heir and her sweetie played pinball, and I sat on a bench on the boardwalk, listening to the sound check and reading my book.

Then, after totally conquering Centipede and Millipede, Heir was hungry.

We stood in line so long for cheese steaks that I thought I might have to go move the car before I got to eat. But finally we had our cheese steaks. Heir and s. returned to the pinball parlor, and I went to move the car. By that time the line of concert-goers had started to form at the Stone Pony.

I've been to Asbury Park many times. Never on a Sunday in August. Still, it helps to know the lay of the town if you're in search of a completely elusive parking space.

I got one. The farthest possible spot in the whole town. And I only got that one because someone pulled out just as I rolled into sight.

Maybe you've been to a place like Asbury Park. It's nice during the day, but it starts really working its magnetism at about 5:00 in the evening, and it gets more and more magnetic through the long summer twilight. To summarize, Heir and s. were cavorting like puppies and didn't want to leave.

At 5:30 beach passes are no longer required, because the lifeguard staff goes home. That's when Heir and her friend went into the surf (not very far, I hope). The concert commenced -- an opening act -- and I just kept listening to the music and reading my book.

Next thing I knew, it was 8:00, I had 75 miles to drive home (40 of it featureless pine barrens), and I was standing in line for ice cream.

New Jersey has these things called "traffic circles." It's basically an intersection of two or three congested roads, going around in a circle, where there's no stoplights and it's only the strong who survive. This is not a place you want to be on a Sunday in August at 8:30 in the evening. But hey, my deities were with me! I'm an old hand at these Jersey traffic circles. Good thing, too, because there are seven traffic circles between Asbury Park and Philadelphia. Maybe eight or nine, who's counting?

Very long story short, I treated my daughter and her boyfriend to a day at Asbury Park, New Jersey. It was Sunday. It was August. I sat and read a book and listened to music.

Next time, I will go on a Wednesday. And leave at 8:00.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Magical Battle for America August 2017

All hail and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!"

Gods bless America, land that I love!


Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from above.


From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam...

Gods bless America, our home sweet home ...


Gods bless America, our home sweet home!

Beginning this spring, a group of loosely affiliated Pagans has been performing an intentional work called The Magical Battle for America. You can find the work by scrolling on this site.

When I first started this blog, I wrote with extreme snark about Christian "prayer warriors" who, in between passing the plate, are actively fighting to turn the United States into a "Christian nation."

Whoever thought these creepy evangelicals would achieve power? But they have, and they're still praying.

Do I sound paranoid? What do you think the chances were of a new Supreme Court appointee who is even more right-wing than Scalia? Who promoted Neil Gorsuch loudly and passionately? The prayer warriors. They've been working on this a long time. And look how they accomplished it! Doesn't the whole thing seem sketchy to you? These people are fighting to turn this country into a theocracy.

Think I'm kidding? Here is their web site.

Well, if it's a fight they want (contrary to what their humble Christ would counsel), a fight they will get. The Magical Battle for America is concentrating energy based on American heroes and heroines, tricksters and magical animals, led at the apex by the Goddess Columbia. If you don't know the first thing about the astral plane, you can add your energy just by meditating on Saturday evenings. That's when we do our directed mutual work. But you can practice this any time, in any way. Every voice raised means so much.

Call upon your deities and your values. Visualize the nation you want to live in. Help us make the magic we need to achieve peace, equality, and personal agency for everyone.

Someone might say, "Well, Anne, you speak of peace, but you show pictures of deities who are ready for battle!" Yes! So I do.

So do they.

It's not funny anymore.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Don't Believe Them: Resist

When it comes to the American experiment, we definitely lag behind some other civilized nations in the matter of health care and public transportation. But in one arena of public life, we are doing just fine, thank you.

That arena is public schools.

It's all well and good to say that Finland has better public schools than America. I'm sure it's true. But whoever got the big, fat idea to compare a gigantic country like the US of A with a charming little nation like Finland? I'll tell you who: people who want to trash public education.

Don't believe the haters who disrespect America's public schools!

EXHIBIT A: A MENACE WHO NEEDS TO BE RESISTED


This time we're not even talking about the Orange Menace. We're talking about his Girl Friday, Betsy Devo$.

Betsy Devo$ was not educated in a public school. Nor were her children. She has tumbled millions of her own ducats into charter schools, which are nothing more than private, for-profit schools foisted on our nation's most vulnerable learners. After tanking a bunch of charter schools in Michigan, she is now the Secretary of Education.

This creepy billionairess has an agenda that she calls "school choice." While we are fighting for our health care, she's selling out our students to the highest bidder. She also thinks it's a fine, fine idea to let people get tax breaks for sending their kids to religious schools.

Clap if you think American tax dollars should support religious schools.

That's funny. I don't hear anything.

News flash: Did you know that parochial schools don't have to accept disabled students? They also don't have to administer the draconian standardized tests that our public school kids face all through their school careers. Private and charter school teachers do not need to have formal teacher training. They are not protected by collective bargaining. And it is this latter item -- collective bargaining -- that has led to all these "charter" schools and "voucher" bullshit.

Plain and simple, a group of wealthy Americans wants to undermine the hard-working public school teachers and turn a profit on the taxpayer dime. Billionaires like Devo$ want to pay teachers less and give them no protection from unreasonable dismissal. The money saved on salaries won't go to the kids, though. It will go into the pockets of educational corporations.

Imagine if we already had a single-payer, not-for-profit system of health care, and somebody got the bright idea to improve health care by creating private, for-profit insurance companies! This is pretty much what creatures like Betsy Devo$ want to do with our country's kids.

Resisting this agenda is demanding. You see, the whole charter school dodge is popular with both Republicans and Democrats. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were in favor of charter schools, though not to the degree that the Orange Menace and his Girl Friday are. (The only unabashed supporter of public education in the last election cycle was Bernie Sanders.)

To resist Betsy Devo$ and her sinister agenda, you first need to see how your representatives stand on the whole charter school issue. This is one place where you can't assume that just because your congressman is a Democrat, he or she doesn't like charter schools. Here in my state, good ol' Cory Booker has given his seal of approval to charter schools in the poorest neighborhoods. So, do your research and then send your public officials a strongly worded letter that might go something like this:

Hey dummy,

Public schooling is a right, not a privilege! Say no to Betsy Devo$ and her sleazy attempts to privatize education!

Or some such.

Respect our schools. Keep church and state separate! Selling out an educated workforce will not improve educational outcomes for American students.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lughnasadh 2017

Our Pagan festivals are associated with the growing season, although we look at them metaphorically these days. Therefore, metaphorically speaking, I'm going to say that this has been a year of famine. The crops have wilted in the fields, everyone is ill, and a growing sense of desperation has taken hold of the land.

This is a Lughnasadh with a questionable harvest. How are we going to make it through the dark season with what's happening now? What would Tailtiu and Lugh advise us to do?


First of all, we need to share. We need to look out for the less fortunate among us. We need to chide and hold accountable those who want to squirrel away more than they need. We need to respect leaders who show compassion and dignity and ... leadership.

This will be a lean season. Some years are tough. Can't speak for you, but I don't feel like playing games or building bonfires the way I have in Lughnasadhs of yesteryear.

But I do have a burning desire to help the tribe, our whole tribe, the ones I like, and the ones I don't. A famine spreads misery far and wide. We have to help everyone.

A lean Lughnasadh, this one. We'll have to make do. The future of the tribe depends upon it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Revisions Are Always Necessary

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you wonder what I'm eating here today, here's a hint:


Yes indeed, a big ol' plate of crow for Annie the Pessimist!

I'm not literally eating crow. This is just the crow that The Morrigan sent to tell me off for being so snide to the Girl Scouts. If you didn't read my self-pitying diatribe (below), don't bother. It's not a good demonstration of the big, broad, flexible outlook.

My faith in the power of womanhood is restored, or at least greatly improved!

We Americans just witnessed the most despicable and sniveling performance by half of our nation's senators, and we were saved from the worst by two women.

EXHIBIT A: ANGEL TO THE LEFT, ANGEL TO THE RIGHT


The "repeal and replace Obamacare" bill was so bad that the only people made happy by it were ultra-wealthy donors to the Republican party and media outlets run by the same. By all accounts it would have raised premiums and tossed folks off the rolls. It also would have ditched the supremely sensible mandate that everyone, no matter how healthy, have health insurance.

Never mind how ridiculous this legislation was. The old, ugly beast in the photo wanted it done, and so did the many Republicans who have loudly promised to repeal and replace for years while it was super safe for them to do so. Now, with their feet to the fire, they needed to make good on their spurious promises. They needed a WIN!

But on either side of the beast, there are two women who just said no. They were under crushing pressure to adhere to the party line, and they said no. They were warned. They were given an explanation. Nevertheless, they persisted.

It's all well and good to give props to John McCain, who is actually dying, to come in and vote his conscience at the last minute, basically side-stepping that pressure. The ladies, Senators Murkowski and Collins, withstood the pressure. Thereby giving our nation's Girl Scouts a little whiff of what a powerful, brave, and principled woman can do.


The Morrigan approves of these women. No more nonsense, America! We need strong women in positions of power! And, ironically, we are at a place in history where two Republican women stood up for what was right. The Morrigan likes women who don't cave under pressure. She doesn't care what color they wear, or whether they have pins shaped like donkeys or elephants.

This week is Lughnasadh. On Sunday I travel to the Sacred Grove to celebrate first harvest. I will petition the bored gods to reward and lift up two Republican senators who showed that they cared about their people. Our tribe is not a complete mess. Hope still resides in the compassionate heart.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Year Ago

It's not terribly popular in my circles to admit you were a Bernie supporter. In hindsight all female Bernie support seems like a betrayal of gender. Let me assure you that gender had nothing to do with my enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders. I thought his message had value.


Spare and I went to a Bernie rally in the spring of 2016. We stood in line all day at Temple University. This was as close as we ever bonded, I think ... and life kind of went downhill for both of us after this event.

The Democratic National Convention was held in Philadelphia in July of 2016. There were many well-attended pro-Bernie rallies and marches as a part of that convention. Since I wasn't blogging then, I'm going to walk down memory lane and show a few photos of the marching that came before the real marching.

Of course all the pro-Bernie rallies were organized over Facebook, and that's where I saw the message from the woman named Michelle. She left a comment: "I wish I could be there with you. I'm a single mother of a disabled son. I need single payer and a decent minimum wage. Please, someone, march for me."

So I did. Then I posted all the photos with her name tagged. Below, Exhibit A, is the "establishing shot" with City Hall in the background, so Michelle would know I was for real. I was wearing my Bernie hat and my Phillies shirt with no sleeves that I use on paint crew.


It was about 95 degrees that day with very little shade. The rally began at Thomas Paine Plaza.


It seemed like a huge crowd at the time, but now ... after the ensuing events ... it was little more than a congenial gathering.


I wasn't the only Baby Boomer in that crowd. Seemed like it skewed to older people.


Michelle wanted to feel like she was there, so I asked lots of people to hold my "Hi Michelle" sign.


To be absolutely honest, this was one of the few people in attendance that actually was a Bernie bro. He came in from Akron, Ohio.


Guess I wasn't alone in being a traitor to my gender.


Proof that not all middle-aged white men voted for Trump.


I talked to people from all over the place. Some of them weren't prepared for Philly weather.


Kinda wanted to flirt with this one, but didn't.


This is a sentiment I did not share, even at this rally. I was going to vote Democrat even if they nominated Bill Maher.


... INEVITABLE


More female voters who were seduced by the good looks and shallow charm of Bernie Sanders.


Philadelphia is a big city. It has real, live socialists. They hand out leaflets and everything. Here is someone who probably really didn't vote for Hillary Clinton.


Someone made a Bernie quilt.


Hi Michelle, we need to OVERTHROW this system! Someone? Anyone? Can I get a harrumph?


Again in hindsight, this one seems a little bit prescient. When it comes to voter fraud, I have my suspicions. And they rest squarely upon bullying, intimidation, and sketchy machinery.


Some of these folks, I just wonder. Did they really sit out the election? Or did they, like me, scurry to the polls to vote for Secretary Clinton, who -- I'll be the first to admit -- had every quality a leader of the free world would ever need?


These jackasses were scattered all over the city. There were 52 of them, one for each state, one for Puerto Rico, and one for the District of Columbia. Each one was painted differently. This one was Iowa.

So, on that hot day a year ago, we rallied at Thomas Paine Plaza and then set off on a march down Broad Street, exactly the same route the Mummers take on New Year's Day. It was so unbearably hot that I bagged the march at the corner of Broad and Pine, doubled back and took the El train home to Snobville.

On the way to the train, I got accosted by a young woman with an island accent (couldn't place it, might have been Jamaican or Haitian). She took me to task about Bernie in a way that led me to believe she had lived in Philly long enough to pick up its behavior patterns. How the hell, she wanted to know, could I support Bernie when a menace like Donald Trump loomed? How could I feel right about splitting the ticket? Didn't I know what danger Donald Trump posed to immigrants?

I assured her I did, and I promised that I would vote for Hillary (and I did), and with an airy wave at the throng of protesters, I said, "They all will too. Don't worry about a thing."


Never ask me to handicap a race. This last photo was shot on November 9, 2016. To this day I wonder where that island lady is, and how she is faring. Oh my bored gods, what burdens we bear.

Late addendum: Yes, Michelle saw the photos, and she loved them. She was very grateful and kind of amazed that I went to so much trouble for a stranger. I hope she has her health care and a decent wage.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Awesome Speech at the Girl Scout Jamboree

Lately I've been having fantasies about being president. Like, a black SUV stops in front of the house, picks me up, and drives me straight to the White House, where I take over immediately.
 I never had these fantasies before. As a woman of a certain age, I know that presidents have to be male. This is America.

Even though I can't really dream of becoming president, I can still be the featured speaker at the annual Girl Scout Jamboree! I've drafted my speech, and I'm waiting for them to call. You can read it below:

ANNE ADDRESSES THE GIRL SCOUTS OF AMERICA, 2017

Hello there, lil' ladies! My, look at you! All clean and well-groomed, shying away from those pesky bugs so your uniforms won't get dirty! Oh, that takes me back to my youth in the 1960s! I was a Girl Scout in good standing for years. I still have my sash, and it is covered with badges. Cooking, reading, health care, safety, dance, art, pet care, citizenship ... I've got tons of badges. I'm very proud of them.

This is no exaggeration when I say that I trudged through icy cold slush to sell Girl Scout cookies. I know, I know, it's something that could be an urban (actually rural) legend ... but in this case it is absolutely true! I trudged through icy cold slush to sell Girl Scout cookies!

How do you know it's true? Because I got my feet icy cold and soaking wet, and I didn't sell any cookies! You see, Girl Scouts, every girl in my neighborhood was also a Scout, which meant that she was also selling cookies. The competition was fierce. The winners, of course, were the girls with powerful daddies who could take the cookie order sheet to their offices and factories and get orders by the dozen. Here's your first lesson! Life is all about wealth and power, and if you don't have it ... I mean, if your daddy isn't rich, you might as well give up on those cookies and any other big dream you have. You'll be able to supply your immediate family with nice, fresh cookies, and they will love you for it. But those big orders? Forget it. The deck is stacked, my dear little tots.

Speaking of stacked decks, you know all those uplifting speeches you get from your Girl Scout leaders about how you can be anything you want to be? I really hope you don't believe that. Start with your Scout leaders themselves. Who are they? Mommies who cram Scouting into their already over-busy days in some tedious, middle management position where they report to male supervisors. There's nothing fake about the New York Times, and they are here to tell you that the top is not within your reach. Seriously, you should do what I did. Toil anonymously for years, lose your position to a man, and become a school teacher! Better yet, save yourself the frustration of losing your job to a man and go straight into school teaching! At least then, at age 58, you won't be painting cinderblock all summer in the heat like I'm doing. You'll be ready to retire, possibly with a pension!

Dear Scouts, the list of things you can't do is long and wide. Pretty much choose a profession that doesn't require you to care for other people tenderly at a low wage, and you won't be able to rise far in it. But don't be sad! Think of all the good things you can have as a woman in our society! You can drink wine, and sell Mary Kay cosmetics, and wear fast fashion, and own lots of cats. Who doesn't love cats? Adopt a cat, revolve your life around it, and give up those silly plans to pursue a STEM career!

Remember when everyone told you a woman would be president of the USA some day? Me too, and look how that turned out.

I'm just trying to protect you from the crushed and broken dreams I see when I look in the rearview mirror at my own pathetic but predictable life. From age nine, when I couldn't try out for Little League, right up to the present, I've played second fiddle to men who -- if they were better at all -- weren't that much better than me. At the risk of being repetitive, let me say again: Save yourself the bother. Set your lil' eyes on a service profession. Only do it in a hurry, because society is encouraging unemployed men to seek those jobs too. I know of at least one mediocre male nurse who got a job in a jiffy! Look smart, or you might not even be able to snag one of those coveted, low-paying, high-stress service jobs!

I know what you're thinking: What's good about being a woman? Ha ha! At least you'll know for sure that you are the parent of your child! What dad can truly say that? *fist pump*

Oh no! Don't cry! Whoa ... I'm making you cry! No no, there is a silver lining, my children.

Long ago, when life was tough and short, women got all the props for keeping the Tribe alive. It was an honorable thing to be a mother, and an honorable thing to keep the peace and solve disputes and issue wise directives. Women were so respected then! So, you ask, how can we restore that essential balance between the genders, short of a massive population crash? Well, I'll tell you. Pray to a bored Goddess. There are so many wonderful, powerful Goddesses out there who've been marginalized by the Big Daddy God. If enough of you Girl Scouts turn your back on the Great I Am and start putting your faith in a better basket, you could indeed change the trajectory of this sagging nation.

So I want all of you out there today to contact your legislators and demand comprehensive health care. It's a right, not a perk. Then I want you to drop those patriarchal Bibles in the recycle bucket and start dealing out the love to the Goddess of your choice! Don't waste time on Christianity the way I did. The captains of that ship will always be men. Find yourself a better boat.

If enough of you Scouts ditch the busy God, you could be part of a Great Awakening in America. Perhaps it would at least give you positions of religious leadership, which are, after all, the jobs your foremothers held in the Days before Time.

One last thing. The only insect you really need fear is the common mosquito. Everything else that crawls should be quietly respected. How would you like it if some bug looked at you and said, "EWWWWW!!!!! Get it AWAY!!!!!" Damn, that shit's gotta end.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy your Jamboree! And may the Goddess be with you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Across the street from my house there are eight healthy, mature trees slated for the ax. The trees have big red X marks painted on them. (See Exhibit in previous post). Additionally, there are two ornamental trees also bearing X marks.

Today was a Sunday, which meant that I would immerse myself in the New York Times for a few hours like I always do when I'm home on the weekend. I took the newspaper and sat out on my front porch, which has always been kind of like the Shady Rest with such a leafscape across the street.

While I read the paper, I also watched my neighbors walk past the house that is slated for demolition by the middle of August. (In case you're late to this news feed, the house is in great shape, stem to stern, but the property was bought by a developer who wants to build two houses on the property, somehow necessitating the destruction of all those trees.)

It was interesting to see peoples' reactions to all those X marks and the real estate sign "lot for sale."

One man stood and stared, shook his head, and moved on.

The young jogging girl didn't notice.

A woman my age from the next block over stopped and talked to me about it for 30 minutes. She explained the importance of everything being brand new (and that master bath!). To whit, busy working millionaires don't want to spend their weekends on home improvement and maintenance. They want everything new and perfect. She estimated the yearly property taxes on each house would be $30 to $40,000. You read that right. Five figures. Yearly.

My neighbor whose house will be next to the destruction/construction came out, found the surveying marks that delineate his property, and put posts by them. He is rightly concerned about incursion. We wondered together if perhaps the largest of the trees might be on someone else's property.

A couple walked by with their dogs. They stopped, looked, said something to one another, moved on.

A neighbor who frequently walks his dog past my house looked at the sign, looked at me on the porch, and shook his head sadly. He was wearing earbuds.

A black Mercedes Benz with tinted windows pulled up in front of the sign and stopped. I could barely see two people in the car. I heard a phone ringing in the car. It rang seven times and then got picked up by an answering machine. The Benz drove on.

A man in a maroon SUV drove up. Stopped at the "lot for sale" sign. Reversed to the other edge of the property. Drove forward again very slowly. Stopped at the sign again. Then moved on.

A few other dog-walkers went past without noting or commenting.

My Beta cat slept on the back porch. Gamma tiptoed around. He's kind of spooky.

Snobville is very quiet in July and August. Most folks go to the Jersey Shore. There's a feeling in my heart of All Hell about to be broken loose.

Nor did reading the New York Times improve my sensation of Impending Doom.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Through the Lean Months

One of the biggest misconceptions about public school teachers is, in part, true. Yes, we do get July and August off. But we do not get paychecks in those months.

There are some single teachers at the high end of the pay scale who can spend the summer touring Europe or Alaska or some such. I'm not single, and I'm at the low end of the scale. The way low end.

Fortunately I found a summer job. I did it last year, when I wasn't blogging. I am doing it again this year.

EXHIBIT A: ANNE'S SUMMER JOB


For July and August, my profession is interior painter at my school. The day begins promptly at 6:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. This year we have a crew of four. Already we have completed a corridor and a classroom. Today we were in an air-conditioned guidance office, but that won't last long. (This photo is from last year. I was painting the ceiling in the auto tech shop.)

How did I get from graduating 15th in my class at Johns Hopkins University (1981) to a 40-hour-a-week paint job at thirteen bucks an hour (2016 and 2017)? Life is curious. The answer, I think, can be summarized with a line from the movie Mad Max: "Maybe it's just a result of anxiety."

But la di dah! Unfulfilled potential, or luck of the draw? Who cares? I'm a painter!

This is what I have learned by being an interior painter:

1. Edge first. Then roll.
2. Move all furniture. Don't paint around stuff.
3. Getting up early in the morning is a good thing.
4. Being able to move fairly nimbly at 58 is a really good thing.
5. Paint rollers never come clean no matter how long you work with them.
6. Screw drivers are not, after all, incomprehensible.
7. The custodians are the nicest people in the school.
8. Physical fatigue is preferable to mental fatigue.
9. Painting is far easier than teaching.

When I started on paint crew last year, I had a bad attitude about it. I thought, "Look at you, Anne. What a loser you are! What happened to that novel you worked on for 15 years? And the other ones you were going to write? How did you become a school teacher, and not a very good one at that?" And much more of the same.

The first week nearly killed me. As bad as I needed the money, I didn't think I would make it. But I needed the money. So I persevered.

By the beginning of August, I noticed something. I no longer got winded climbing the stairs. The paint poles weren't as heavy. I could carry more cans and tarps. And I finally figured out how to open and close the cans without splattering paint everywhere.

Then I decided to go on a hike.

EXHIBIT B: ANNE THE PAINTER GOES HIKING

Why not? Nothing like a pleasant little jaunt on a summer's day.

This is the trail head for Glen Onoko Falls. It is in the Pocono Mountains. If you read up on it you get the picture really fast that this hike is not for sissies. And it wasn't. I should know, because I did it!

EXHIBIT C: THE OUTCOME OF PAINTING FOR THE SUMMER


Glen Onoko Trail actually has three large waterfalls. This is number two.

By the time my daughter The Heir and I got to the top of Glen Onoko Trail, I was the only person my age to be seen. Everyone was younger! As far as the "trail" goes, you're looking at it. It was basically climbing rocks, straight up.


Without becoming a school teacher, I never would have seen these waterfalls. Without becoming a painter I could never have had the stamina at age 57 to climb those falls. Forget Phi Beta Kappa! I'm Far Better Hiker!

This year I am back to blogging along with my painting. I double dog guarantee that I will engage in some sort of extreme outdoor trek some weekend soon. You'll hear all about it.

The moral of this sermon is: How wonderful to be mostly pain free, able to move and breathe and smile! With a little money to pay the bills kicked in as part of the bargain.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

There's a Word for Everything

Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about how to make your little property more oxygen-friendly? I said that I wait until winter and then cut certain trees down to the nub. They come back in the spring as "bushes."

EXHIBIT A: ONE OF ANNE'S OAK BUSHES


Remember I said that this "bush" has been here as long as I've lived in the house I live in now, i.e., since 1987?

You don't remember that? Don't feel bad. It happens to all of us.

Anyway, the bored Goddess Cloacina tells me there's a word for this. It's a verb: coppice.

When you coppice a tree, you cut it when it's hibernating. In the spring when the sap rises, and there aren't any leaves to gather sunlight, the tree trunk sends out new branches. Can you believe it? By doing this you preserve the tree in a kind of eternal youth. It will live decades, just like this. And then if you let it get tall, it'll get tall. Or not, you can keep it small.

There are trees in Europe that date to the Middle Ages that have been coppiced. When I was back visiting the family farm in Appalachia, I noticed signs of coppicing there too.

EXHIBIT B: COPPICED TREES


This practice makes me happy, because I have a maple in my back yard that I am growing to make a staff for myself. It's nice to know I can do that without killing the tree.

And speaking of killing trees, I came home from work today to this, across the street:

EXHIBIT C: MARKED TO DIE


The general rule of thumb in many forests is to mark "cut" trees with yellow and "save" trees with blue. Look at the color choice here. It could be any color, but the evil developer reveals his inner soul with one swatch of paint.

And so the majestic oak is slated for death, while its little offspring across the road lives on, diminutive and child-like. This consoles me.

A little free advice: Coppice a few of your trees! Why buy some expensive and fragile little bush when you can grow a nice native that will require no maintenance and will rock on for decades?

The economy is humming, so this free advice is really free. I won't have to pay you to take it. Have a nice day!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Together

In a million years I never thought I would say this ... but I love New Jersey.



Today my daughter The Heir and I went to Absecon Inlet for a short beach day. It was so festive! There were kids everywhere, swimming and having a good time, and the parents and grandparents were all so chill. Someone near us was playing old school rap on a boom box, and folks were grilling burgers right on the beach. I volunteered to photograph not one but two cute couples with the surf in the background.

Speaking of surf, on the Jersey Shore the waves can knock you right off your feet, face first into the sand. But if you live in Jersey long enough, you learn where to go. Absecon is an inlet. The waves don't crash. They swish lightly to shore. Today the water was so clear that Cloacina gladly accepted an invitation from Oshun to check out the awesome school of dolphins that cavorted just beyond the pier.

Regarding the dolphins, almost everyone thought they were seeing a shark. Including me. Looked just like the fin you see in all the Jaws movies. But the lifeguards weren't perturbed. So I went to the guard stand, and the conversation went something like this:

Anne: Um, should I be concerned about the fin I just saw out there?

Lifeguard: That's a dolphin. Sharks swim under water.

Anne: I should know that! Geez, maybe we all ought to take tests before they let us out on the beach, huh?

Lifeguard: Nah, that's what I'm here for.

Sweetness and light, don't you think? And that same guard had to streak into the water two times to rescue little tots who got in over their heads. That's what he's there for!

The sky was bright blue, the water was bright blue, and there was a boat named after The Spare.


You'll just have to believe me. I couldn't zoom.

I always take the back roads to Atlantic City, or Asbury Park, or whatever beach I visit. Today, driving home from AC, we passed roadside farm stands full of peaches and corn and crabs, and then we drove through the peach orchards, and then we drove through the blueberry farms, and the trees and the earth smelled so sweet. Everything is green and ripe, and the sun didn't set until 8:30.


Years and years ago, New Jersey had a tourist campaign called "New Jersey and You: Perfect Together." The masot's name was Perfy. Oh, I used to belittle this weird-looking thing, and the whole smelly state! I'm a proud Appalachian, after all.

Just now I'm feeling that New Jersey and I could be perfect together.

You see, across the street from Absecon Inlet beach is a high-end shore house that had a TRUMP flag (and a big one) flying from the second floor. And across the street at the beach, Heir and I were almost the only white people, and all of us had our backs to that damn flag!

Did you ever notice that the sea shore smells different from the rest of the world? Of course you've noticed that! Well, the rest of New Jersey is starting to smell pretty good too. We've all turned our backs on Donald Trump, and soon Chris Christie will be history as well.

Then it may well be perfect. Perfect.


Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Br 5 Ba

O frabjous day! My computer is humming contentedly again. So, once more into the fray I go!

I have played  hostess to many bored Goddesses in the past twelve years, especially feeling the presence of Queen Brighid the Bright. Still, Brighid never moved in the way Cloacina has. Possibly because I never had a spare room until recently.

I thought it would be difficult to converse with Cloacina, who is after all an ancient Roman deity, but by golly, that one year of Latin in high school has set everything on a smooth course! I've got the prefixes and suffixes and the root words, so we communicate very well indeed.

EXHIBIT A: CLOACINA -- ISN'T SHE BEAUTIFUL?



This is a Goddess I can get behind. My bathrooms have been spotless since She arrived.

Bear with me a moment while I post a photo:

EXHIBIT B: A PERFECTLY GOOD AND CHARMING HOUSE


This is the house across the street from my own. Isn't it charming? And those two beautiful oak trees. They warm a Druid's heart. You can't see it, but behind this house is a two-car garage with a one bedroom apartment over top. The house was built in 1923.

Some time ago, a developer bought this property. Very soon he will demolish this house and the garage. He planned to put two houses on the lot. Instead he's going to demolish everything, build one house, and try to sell the vacant side of the property for someone else to build a house. The oak trees will be chopped down, as will four mature trees along the property line off to the left and out of the photo.

Snobville's planning board gave him the hearty green light, of course. I went to the meeting. I don't know why I bothered to stand up and ask the board to vote the project down. It was a waste of breath.

There are no structural problems with this house (Cloacina prefers the word "domicile"). It needs some updates, but it has its original wood floors with the cute trim and a center hall staircase with carved banister. It has a finished basement, which means it has two small bathrooms and four bedrooms (if you count the room in the basement as a bedroom).

But hey, let's tear this old gem down and build something brand new and shoddy!

You know what I've noticed about modern day Americans? Everyone wants their own bathroom.

One of the things the greedy bastard developer is going to do in his shoddy new construction is provide each bedroom with its own bathroom. This is the rage these days. All you need to do is look at the multiple listings, and you'll see that newer homes all have restrooms everywhere, kind of like ballparks. Or hospitals. Or hotels.

EXHIBIT C: NOT THE END OF THE WORLD


My grandparents had one of these when I was growing up. It sure wasn't pleasant, I didn't linger in its confines, but it got the job done.

(Cloacina finds this appalling, but She's also dismayed at the modern home with its five-and-a-half bathrooms. How to keep them all shiny clean?)

I have to wonder about children being raised in homes where they have their own bathrooms. Talk about privilege! They're literally growing up without ever having to smell anyone else's stink. Call me gross if you like (Cloacina is again appalled), but I believe we should all get a little whiff of something unpleasant now and then. It keeps us grounded as mortals. It teaches us to love other people because they are mortal too.

The house being torn down once had seven people living in it. Seems like it's a fine size for a family like that. The house that will be built in its place will have three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, including -- of course -- a master bath.

The whole concept of "master bath" baffles me. Why does a bathroom need to be luxurious? Why have a bath tub so large it takes forever to fill, or a shower with granite tiles? No one spends more than 30 minutes in the tub or the shower. Forty-five minutes, tops. Why does that room need to be private and posh? Oh yes, I forgot. Privilege. How can I forget that I live in Snobville, where privilege flows through the streets like milk and honey?

Sadly, I don't think you've heard the last of this demolition/rebuilding project. It's right in my face, literally, and I can't do anything to stop it.

However, when the house goes up on the market, my Bernie sign will return to my front lawn. Let them know that workers live in my house. Workers, who share one restroom and a water closet.

Time for a bath ... just as soon as Mr. J is finished his shower.

All hail Cloacina!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

He Haunts Our Dreams

You would never know it, but this used to be a humor blog.

I poked fun at the Christian Right for their politics and prayers, calling them "chippies." Now look around. They're in charge. First thing they did, they sat one on the Supreme Court. Our vice president is a chippie and a scary one.

Scary. The operative word is scary.

I made brutal fun of W and Cheney and all their chicanery. Now, when I see W on t.v., my eyes tear up with nostalgia. I miss that daft little bugger.

It's nearly impossible to poke fun at our current sitting president. I know, I know, the late-night hosts do it, and memes do it ... but for me, this is too scary to be funny. No one sat in a lifeboat and laughed while the Titanic was sinking.

This morning I was at a teacher meeting, and two of my colleagues reported having dreams about Mr. Old and Ugly. So did I, which makes it three.

My dream is the closest I can get to being funny about the sitting president.

I dreamed that he was flirting to me and trying to grab my ... do I even have to elaborate?

So I said to him, "Okay, I'll have sex with you if you give up tweeting."

How's that for a soothing night's sleep? I woke up in dire need of Pepto-Bismol and a long, scalding shower.

The man haunts my dreams. He is a menace to society and a menace to my personal sobriety.

Maybe Cloacina will avert her gaze and allow the plumbing in the White House to back up, overflow, and soak the carpeting.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Haiku Monday

My computer should be fixed later this week. In the meantime



The others shun him
sits alone at the Summit
pariah supreme

Thursday, July 06, 2017

A New Goddess Joins the Magical Battle for America

I'm just off a short but memorable vacation, and when I got home my computer was so sick it can't be used. So this very important post lacks images (not that they are necessary).

Let's start with a mental image: Picture a beautiful Goddess of the Greco/Roman pantheon. She has curly hair and fine, keen features. Of course she is attired in a flowing toga. What makes her unusual is that wherever she walks, pristine water sprouts behind her steps. Her name is Cloacina.

In ancient Rome, Cloacina was charged with water purification. All of those elaborate sewer systems and aqueducts were dedicated to Her. Sometimes she is named Venus Cloacina, which tells you how beautiful She is and how highly the ancient Romans esteemed her.

Years and years ago, I petitioned Cloacina to safeguard a little dry run out in the land where I grew up. A developer bought a 900-acre tract and planned to build housing for 11, 000 people on it, mostly in the form of high-density townhouses. Since there's no infrastructure for 11,000 people in that part of the world, someone would have had to build stores. The local fire department would have had to expand, as would law enforcement. Traffic would have been a nightmare, since the only road to the entrance of this proposed development is curvaceous, two-lane Route 40.

The dry run's name is Terrapin Run. (A dry run is a small stream that can go completely dry, or just become a series of shallow pools, when the weather gets hot and dry.) I became involved in a citizens' campaign to save Terrapin Run and block the development. Since Terrapin Run is a Tier II waterway (meaning it's pretty damn pure), I thought Cloacina might be interested in helping with this campaign.

Cloacina is the very essence of a bored goddess. In modern times she is nothing more than a name for an orifice we all have below our waists. She was only too happy -- indeed, She was thrilled -- to have an important miracle to perform in the here-and-now.

And She performed it brilliantly. Not a spade of earth was turned on that development! The entire property sits idle, with Terrapin Run burbling through it, when it does burble, which is usually springtime.

Now I have asked Cloacina to take on a much bigger project. I'm sure you're all aware that our sitting president has ordered his cabinet members to roll back regulations on clean water and pesticides. This means that all of our major waterways could degrade from their current condition. Cloacina is all about clean water. She kept the Romans alive and healthy, and they loved Her for it! She can do this for us as well. We are, after all, another vast, militaristic, and far-flown empire, like the one that provided Her praise and worship team.

My friends, I am asking for you to find a place on your altar for Cloacina. I'm asking you to petition her to protect our sacred waterways from degradation. She wants to join the Magical Battle for America. She wants work. Let's give Her a big job, with full faith that, if we worship Her, She will deliver us from evil.

Please find room for Her in your heart! This Goddess delivers.

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.