Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Privileged Hell in Haddonfield

Thirteen years I have written this blog. I'm finally outing my town. It's Haddonfield, New Jersey, and it has been in the local and state (and probably national) news quite a bit lately.

If you're inclined, you can read all about it at philly.com. Just search "Haddonfield" and "racial slur."

If you're a busy person (like me), you can just rely on my summary of events.

Early in May, the Haddonfield lacrosse team had finished a game, and a multi-school track meet was about to begin on one of Haddonfield's facilities. A young woman of color was tying her shoe on the track, and a group of Haddonfield lacrosse players walked past her. Multiple students heard one of the players say, "Get out of my way, n******." He and his teammates were all wearing their helmets. They sauntered on.

The girl who was slurred -- and the other students who heard the remark -- reported it to their coaches. Those coaches reported it to the Haddonfield lacrosse coach. The lacrosse coach queried the students of color: Could they describe the kid who made the slur? Was he tall? Was he short? What number was he wearing? The kids couldn't say. So the lacrosse coach reported it to the school athletic director. Then the Haddonfield school administration tried to figure out who made the slur. One and all, the Haddonfield players said they did not do it. From then to now, more than four weeks, the entire team has said -- individually and collectively -- that they didn't say what the students accused them of saying.

The remainder of Haddonfield's lacrosse season was cancelled. This angered many of the parents, because the team was headed for a championship and presumably scholarship money was on the line.

The school system issued platitudes, something along the nature of, "We're just not that way. It's not what we teach here. Haddonfield is all about inclusivity." You know, the usual empty phrases.

I wasn't on that track when this incident occurred, but I have lived in Haddonfield for 31 years. I raised my daughters here. I know the schools and the citizens. And I believe the young woman and the other witnesses.

Haddonfield, one of South Jersey's most affluent communities, is just four-and-a-half miles due east of Camden. The population of Camden is overwhelmingly minority. The population of Haddonfield is overwhelmingly white. It is literally apartheid on everything but paper.

The only time Haddonfield kids meet Camden kids (or basically any kids of color) is at sporting or school club events. In these cases, there is no dialogue ... only competition. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

I'm going to be presumptuous and climb into the head of the boy who made the racial remark. I'm entitled to do this. I live in Haddonfield. I know him as a type, if not as an individual.

He's one scared puppy.

His parents are wealthy. Very wealthy. He has had enormous privilege. He's traveled the world, he's had the best education, and he's gotten everything his heart has ever desired. He's popular at school and a terrific athlete and student. Making that racial remark was just another way to show his buddies how cool he is.

But he's anything but cool just now.

Why is that? Well, my money goes on the proposition that he's already been accepted to a prestigious university, perhaps with an athletic scholarship. If he's an underclassman, he's got his eye on a top-notch school. Why? Because he's a legacy. His hard-working parents went to such schools and have ever since been busting their backs to maintain the posh lifestyle. These aren't to-the-manor-born wealthy people. These residents of Haddonfield are strivers.

So the kid and his parents have their eyes on the prize, and to admit to hurling a racial epithet would be to close the lid on any possibility of acceptance at a prestigious college. If this kid's buddies feel cheated out of a championship run on the athletic field, I can promise you they all identify with his quandary. It could be them. They won't snitch.

Haddonfield is all about striving to maintain that upper class lifestyle even if you haven't inherited wealth. The pressure is immense to be as financially successful as Mom and Dad. What other lifestyle is imaginable, when you've been in the lap of luxury since you were born?

Now let's take a look at the lacrosse player's parents. They work very, very hard. Or at least one of them does. And like so many hard-working rich people, they resent having to pay taxes to the other. You know what I mean. These parents don't carry tiki torches or wear swastikas, but they are what I would call RACIST TO THE CORE. They probably don't fling the "n" word around at the dinner table, but the same attitude that prevails in the hardest core white supremacists prevails in their household as well. These parents work hard. They resent other people who don't work as hard, who are eating up their tax dollars and the sweat of their brows. In upwardly mobile families, there's deep seated resentment about every dime that goes out the door that isn't funding their own child's future.

In other words, some citizens of Haddonfield are lower than trailer park trash. They've never tried to interact with minority groups, they in fact resent the existence of the "lower classes." They convey this to their children in subtle ways. What's not so subtle is the expectations placed on these privileged white kids. They are expected to maintain a lifestyle through the sweat of their brows, just like Mom and Pop.

My mother used to say, "The rich are just like you and me." Truth is, they aren't. With wealth comes the anxiety to produce more wealth. With wealth comes the anxiety that your kids won't be able to maintain the lifestyle. And if you're a kid, this wealth creates enormous pressure to be fabulously successful yourself.

What gets lost in this scenario is humanity.

Oh sure, Haddonfield is full of wealthy families who tithe to churches and who collect canned foods and who pack nutritious lunches for orphans in Haiti. Every church in Haddonfield has a youth group that performs good deeds within the community and elsewhere. (Don't get me started on youth group trips to Appalachia!)

But here's the bottom line: The town lacks humanity.

How do I know? Well, one way that Haddonfield could change its image would be for it to open its school doors to students from Camden. The classrooms and buildings aren't crowded. Camden public school kids would even come with funding from Camden. It's four miles away.

Another way that Haddonfield could change its image would be for it to construct affordable housing in numbers larger than the minimal state mandate (which is met by renting to white senior citizens). Just now the borough is about to embark on a brand-new development of 90 houses that were supposed to be for senior citizens. Instead the houses, carrying a $500,000 price tag minimum, will just be "suggested" for senior living. Anyone with a half million bucks can buy one of the houses. A developer is about to make big bank, and Haddonfield will remain lily white, when it has an opportunity to court a more diverse citizenry.

Trust me, good readers. I have often asked myself why I settled down here and am still here. I can rightly claim that the house purchase was done way too swiftly, without any prior knowledge of this region and this community and its ills. I have stayed because our house is packed with stuff, including memories. But when Mr. J and I leave -- and a few other residents on our side of the borough -- there won't even be a middle class presence in this town. It will all be upwardly mobile wealthy people who are anxious about their children's futures.

I have no friends in this town. There is nothing keeping me here but the difficulties of relocating while working full time (I begin interior painting the moment school ends this year).

Every day I drive to Camden and work with the teenagers there. They are kind, generous, respectful people who face incredible obstacles as they try to climb into the middle class. And then I come home to a community that hates these kids and has the temerity to pretend it doesn't. I am ashamed of myself for winking and smirking about "Snobville" when I should have been packing my bags. What can I say about myself, if I live in Haddonfield, New Jersey?

Anne takes yet another blow to the brow. Shame on Haddonfield. Shame on me.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Evils of Gentrification: A Personal Perspective

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today we really, really wish we could identify Snobville by its real name. Just afraid to do it, because there are two Anne Johnsons on my street, and I don't want either of us to get harassed by our fellow Snobvillains.

On the surface of things, gentrification of inner cities seems like a great idea. Developers buy old, rundown (or abandoned) row homes and refurbish or demolish them in favor of more expensive, upscale housing. This helps increase the tax base and builds "safer" neighborhoods.

Did you ever think about what happens to the people who were living in those rundown row homes? Where do they go? How much upheaval does their moving cause to their children and their local community? Because everyone has a local community. As one of my students said, "I've lived in Camden my whole life, and it's not scary to me at all."

There are a couple of new urban young  adult novels about the toll gentrification takes on minority city dwellers. (This Side of Home, by Renee Watson, is one of them.) Anecdotally I can tell you that wealthy people who buy property in certain Philadelphia neighborhoods and seek to recreate their lifestyle among those with a different lifestyle sometimes face hostility. In my own household, I out-and-out cringed when the Spare's boyfriend said, "When I'm finished grad school I'll probably live in Camden. It's so much cheaper there." Will he be welcome? Seen as pulling the neighborhood up or splitting it apart? The answer varies. Nothing in this world is simple. I'm sure you've noticed.

Can I tell you a secret? Gentrification is not only happening in big cities. It's happening in suburban communities too. It's happening in Snobville. Right across the street from my house.

EXHIBIT A: "Before" View from My Front Door

This house was built in 1919. Behind it was a two-car garage with a one-bedroom apartment above the garage. Pretty, huh? I thought so too. But the people who lived there wanted to move away, and instead of waiting for a buyer interested in an older home, they sold to a developer. The developer used the fact that there were two residences on the property (the house, the apartment) to subdivide the lot for two full-sized luxury homes.

EXHIBIT B: Ominous Signs of Things To Come

Last fall, one day while I was at school, the house got demolished in less time than it took me to complete my teaching day. When I left in the morning it was there, and when I came home, it wasn't.

What about the trees? You ask. Eight of them are gone now. The tree cutters came on the weekend, so I couldn't avoid them. In fact, they came last Sunday for the largest tree (not pictured, off to the left).

Have you ever been wakened on a Sunday morning by an industrial-sized wood chipper and an army of chain saws? Mr. J called the police. It took the cop 40 minutes to come, during which the tree slaughter continued apace.

It took about six months for the first luxury house to be built. Asking price: $850,000 -- more than twice the value of my home across the street. The house was purchased before it was even finished.

As you might imagine from looking at the above photos, putting two houses on that property is a tight squeeze. Here's the first one, all finished.

EXHIBIT C: Four People, Four Bathrooms

The tree pictured has been cut down.

Notice the size of the house and how small the front yard is. This is the "smaller" of the two houses. The bigger one will be directly across the street from mine. If this one sold for $850 grand, I imagine the larger one will be offered at a million.

About four weeks ago, a young family moved into the house pictured above, Exhibit C. They are very young. Both are lawyers. They have a baby and a three-year-old. So basically the house has a bathroom for each inhabitant.

Probably next week, workers will begin digging the foundation for the next house. To make way for it, the largest tree on the lot had to be murdered.

EXHIBIT D: Candles on a Stump

Look at the size of that stump! This was a beautiful tree. They were cutting it down last Monday when I got home from work. (After the law chased them on Sunday.) I'm the one who put the candles there when the deed was done. The stump has since been ground out.

I don't know what you would call this, but I call it gentrification.

I've seen a lot of turnover on my block during the last 31 years. I've always been the first one to bring a casserole to the newbies and volunteer to help them with information on daycare and where to get the best birthday cake. But I cannot bring myself to welcome this new family. Their values cannot possibly be mine. Clearly they wanted a house where everything was brand spanking new, with four fucking bathrooms and no yard, front or back.

It's supremely disorienting to come home from work to the same house and the same street that you've lived on since 1987, and nothing is the same. The trees are gone. The old house is gone. In its place a butt-ugly monstrosity populated by a family that has a pathological aversion to smelling shit. And this is not Rip Van Winkle. I didn't go away for 25 years and come back to a changed world. I went to work in the morning and came back to a changed world at the end of my shift.

And then, the other day, as I drove home from work, I was greeted with one of these out in the street, in front of the new house.


Oh, reader. It was all I could do to just park my car and hoof it to the rear of my dwelling without blowing my stack. These spoiled yuppies wanted a brand new house, and they bought one with no yard, and now they are warning me that their tot is playing near the street?

I don't want to move. It takes me ten minutes to drive to work. The El Train to Philly is four blocks away. But I'm not comfortable. There are barbarians at the gate. They have created a wasteland and called it progress.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Faeries aka Fairies Are Real

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," safe harbor for faeries since 2005! My name is Anne Johnson. I believe in faeries. I do. I do.

Sunday morning I was dozing in the peace and repose of my bedroom when, promptly at 9:00, the overpowering drone of heavy machinery commenced in the street.

A developer has bought the property directly across the street from my house. There was one home on it when he bought it. Now there's one finished one and another, larger one, planned. When the whole fiasco is finished, I will post photos.

But this is about faeries, right?

Turns out the workers across the street were intent upon slaughtering three fully mature maple trees on this sleepy Sunday morning. The noise of the shredder was deafening. The sight of the shapely limbs falling to the ground was heart-wrenching. A cluster of neighbors gathered in the street, including the new neighbors from the brand-new dwelling. Their three-year-old, blonde son was captivated by the tree slaughter.

All of this is an affront to the faeries, of course. Big time.

It's also an affront to a hard-working and proficient school teacher who has to go to work tomorrow and teach Act 3 of Romeo and Juliet. So while I petitioned the faeries to put a stop to the mayhem, Mr. J more reasonably called the Snobville constabulary. It only took 45 minutes for an officer to arrive -- his appearance brought great consternation to the work crew, who scurried for their trucks. A few more limbs were hacked down and then work ceased. It's against the law to run heavy machinery in Snobville on Sunday.

Quiet descended, and the sun came out. It had been raining for four days.

I had been planning to freshen my outdoor shrine if the weather was good, so I went out to do it. My shrine is dedicated to the ancient deities who no longer have praise and worship teams, to my ancestors, and to the faeries. It is loaded with crystals, marbles, stones, sea glass, and other shiny objects that honor the tastes of the fae.

I was so upset about all the big trees being cut down. I have a hard time pulling out seedlings in my own yard. (Now I have little trees everywhere and coppiced trees too.) My heart was heavy as I commenced to spruce up the shrine.

When I first built my shrine, I put three dozen or so quartz crystal points in the very center of it. None of them remained. Or so I thought. As I began to sift through the pebbles and the sea glass and the trinkets, I began finding quartz crystals. And more of them. And more of them. And even more of them. More, I promise you, than I ever put out there. When I assembled all the shiny stuff to wash it, the pile was just brimming with quartz crystals!

Quartz crystals don't mate and multiply. But it's my experience that, if you give the faeries what they like, they reward you.

I needed to spend time at my shrine today. I needed to clean and beautify it. I needed to be reminded that I have a faerie portal in my own yard, that I made it, and that they are using it.

So you say, "What do faeries look like?" And I answer, "What have you got?" There are as many varieties of faerie as there are of biological life in the apparent world. Some faeries are human shaped and sized, some are tiny, some look like animals, some like birds, and some are just beams of light. Be careful if you make eye contact, because they like to distract. And whatever you do, show them respect. Even the "critter" ones. Call them "Ladies and Gentlemen," or "your majesties."

It was tempting to ask the faeries to wreak revenge on the tree-killers and the developer across the street, and even the rich young families who buy the houses. But with faeries, they will tell you they are fulfilling your wishes, whether they plan to or not. So my advice is, don't petition the faeries. Just be respectful, give them trinkets, and keep their portals fresh and lively.

If you want to attract faeries to your yard, set out a little pile of polished stones, beads, marbles, crystals, pins, and anything that looks like a trinket. Keep it all clean, and bow politely as you pass it. Before you know it, the stuff in the pile will start to re-arrange itself. This either means you have faeries or there's been a stampede of buffalo that you somehow missed.

Now it's Sunday night. The tree-killers will be back tomorrow, I'm sure, to complete the sap-bath. (It's only a bloodbath if you have blood. Trees have sap.) I'll be at work, but the faeries will be watching. From their spruced-up portal, all bright and shiny.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spotwood 2018

Every year since 2006 my daughter The Spare (I just like that better) and I have gone to a festival near York, PA that celebrates the faeries. The festival was held on a charming farm property with a Jane Austen-era farmhouse and a babbling brook.

I'm using the past tense. This year was the final Spotwood Fairie Festival to be held on the farm property.



Spotwood drew thousands of free-spirited people like me -- people who liked to drum and dance and join tribes and put together amazing outfits from thrift stores and honor the faeries. It's one of two places I've visited in the last decade where I met people I really wanted to get to know. I thought Spare was outgrowing the festival, but she got swept up in the spirit on the final day and was loved by all the folks who have gotten to know her over the years.

But Spotwood was a victim of its success, growing bigger every year and facing challenges from Mother Nature. Word has it that the festival will relocate elsewhere. This is a solace to the people who have become family because of it. But what about the land?

You see, I do believe in faeries, and I do believe they are present on the property. They don't just pack up and move to a neighboring campground. It's a lot more complicated than that. The special qualities of Spotwood Farm will be very hard to replicate because faeries exist. Spotwood has faerie energy, and that's not found everywhere.

I'm telling myself that Spotwood had become a habit and that maybe, if I got less lazy, I would find more places with people like me. Brushwood, for instance. I've never been there. But right now it's hard to be optimistic. About anything. That's why I haven't been writing much. I used to be silly, but now I'm sour. I feel burdened by the ugly soot of the Trump regime. Snobville, as if this was really possible, has become even snobbier.

Where do I belong? Where's my land base? I knew I wouldn't always have Spotwood, but the ground is just shifting dramatically under my feet. I don't know who I am in this post-farm, post-daughter, change-ridden landscape.

I don't even recognize America. Do you?

Anyway, sorry for all the tears and self-pity, but I really will miss going to Spotwood, not just for all the fun reasons but for the spiritual ones too.

(My regulars will see that I misspelled the name of the farm throughout. This was deliberate, I haven't gone completely around the bend yet.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Waiting for Judgment

Some of us are eager to please, and some of us are super-competitive, and some of us are both. I'm both. Give me a job, and I want to do it well. I want to be the best at it.

Bored Gods and Goddesses aren't plagued with doubts about their skills. They're perfect all the time, and they are not particularly eager to please. Oh, to be divine!

I'm still waiting for my final teacher evaluation of the year. I've had two already: one announced, one unannounced.

Have you ever been hunched over and overwhelmed by your grueling job, only to look up and see someone standing there with a clipboard, charting your every move? And then scoring it numerically? How can a number be affixed to something as nebulous as teaching? Well, fling some money at some specialist, and they'll find a way to quantify everything.

Have you ever sat down to lunch with a bunch of colleagues who've all been evaluated numerically, and their numbers are all better than yours? Welcome to my world! The 25-year-old, second-year teacher who is with me 8th period got a better score than me ... and he was late to class.

I'm never late to class. I still wallow in mediocrity.

Our school district uses an evaluation tool called Danielson, which has about 10,000 categories, called "domains." Supervisors breeze into the classroom, watch the goings-on for a class period, and judge all of those domains based on a 40-minute span of time, one day out of 181. One would think that everybody would be mediocre under those conditions, but some teachers are always distinguished. They get 3.95 out of 4 possible, time after time. (I'm beginning to think some select few of my colleagues are actually bored deities. But I'm afraid to out-and-out ask.)

The thing about observations, they're the only time a boss even comes in your classroom. It's not like these people pop in to say howdy and see what you need. They don't drop by to chew the fat. Three times a year they slither in and start assigning numbers to every little thing. Then they disappear.

It's the middle of April, most of my co-workers are long finished with their evaluations, and I'm still awaiting the clipboard.

 At night I dream the observer is in the back of the room ... and I'm passing out textbooks and dropping them on the floor ... and the document camera won't turn on ... and the kids aren't paying attention ... and half of them are asleep. Then I wake up and go to work. Day in, day out.

All this and Donald Trump too.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Texting a Bored Goddess: Persephone

seph where r u? i'm cold af

i'm home w/ my man <3 <3

plz plz plz hop on da

ive had enough of my mom im staying
home for the summer

if u dont come there wont be

my mom doesnt respect my
man its soooo obvious

u no u missed easter

for realz? early

not that early seph ...
come on its supposed 2
snow tmr

why should i care
down here im queen
up there im princess
and u try goin 6 months
w/out ur man! Im 3000
yrs old i deserve respect

well u no how moms are
but i think ur mom likes hades
come on she is crying, be a sport

seph? u there?


discounted easter candy
chocolate bunnies 74 cents
at shoprite

peeps at deep discount
and still soft ... aren't u
sick of pomegranates


k k k tell my mom 2
pick me up 30th st station
2:00 on wed. It's baseball
season & it's all He watches
and He likes the Yankees

YAY! will do <3 u seph

Monday, April 02, 2018

Interview with a Bored God: Dionysus

Boy, am I ever in a slump! Here I sit, it's Spring Break -- the longest holiday I will have until next Xmas -- and the weather is straight outta February. To make matters worse, I'm now gun-shy about writing on this platform, since the Trickster God of keyboarding wants to blot out all my hard work.

But soft! There's someone at the door! Oh. My. Goodness. I wish this God was more welcome here than he is. All the same, let's give a warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Dionysus, God of boozy parties!

Dionysus: Anne, baby! Spring Break! It's time to partayyy!

Anne: Don't you remember, Dion? I packed it in. I don't drink anymore. I just went to a wedding last weekend, and I didn't even have a glass of champagne.

Dionysus: And you wonder why you're so unhappy? I've got about 10 picker-uppers that will light your fire.

Anne: Nah, bro, I've been off the sauce for five years now. Mostly I don't miss it.

Dionysus: Don't expect me to nominate you for a position as a nymph or a dryad, or any of that! Grapes are good. Especially fermented.

Anne: Stop! You're not cheering me up! You're making it worse!

Dionysus: Well, if you're not jonesing for some vino, why else would you be depressed?

Anne: Do you want the whole list, or just the top ten?

Dionysus: Killjoy! Look, there's a sports bar within walking distance! Go up there and watch the NCAA finals, grab yourself a brewski. You've even got a local team in the game ... and I recall that when you and I were bffs, back in the day, you were a Michigan fan.

Anne: Pass.

Dionysus: Whoa, you are definitely in Downerville. Catch a God up. What's the problem?

Anne: We've got the worst president in my lifetime. He's so bad, I can't even joke about him.

Dionysus: As bad as Caligula?

Anne: Getting there.

Dionysus: ... Because no one could joke about him either.

Anne: This cold spring is a bummer too.

Dionysus: Come to sunny Italy with me! We'll eat some fish, some pasta, drink some red wine ...

Anne: STOP ALREADY! All I want to do right now is buy myself a big plate of pasta and a bottle of wine! You're a terrible God.

Dionysus (proudly): I do my part. Hey! Where's that cute little tabby cat?

Anne: She died.

Dionysus: Aww. I liked her. But ... you had a birthday not long ago, right?

Anne: Okay, I'm usually polite, but fuck you. I don't want to contemplate my age. Or my dead cat.

Dionysus: Well, surely you've been posting witty stuff on your blog ...

Anne: Not a thing.

Dionysus: Anne. You've got to get a grip ... around a nice crystal wine goblet! Everything looks bright through the bottom of the glass.

[Dionysus spills a whole bottle of finest cabernet on Anne's sofa.]

Dionysus: Oooops!

Anne: Gods damn it! Things were bad enough around here! Look what you've done to my upholstery! Ruined!  That's it. Out you go.

Dionysus: All right. Be that way! I'm off to the sports bar!

Anne: Knock yourself out. If there's anything worse than thinking about Donald Trump in a sober fashion, it would be thinking about Donald Trump after a bottle of whatever that awful deity just dumped on my furniture. Guess I could take a small comfort in that.

Friday, March 23, 2018

First One I've Missed

I've been having trouble with this platform. I'll write a 500 word blog, hit a wrong combination of keys, and the entire thing deletes with no record. I just wrote a passionate diatribe about guns in America, complete with photos, links to spoken word poems, and firmly held beliefs. I was proofreading it. Three keys later, it's gone.

I can't attend the March for Our Lives. I will be in transit to a wedding in Manhattan.

I can't re-write the post. It took me an hour, and that hour is done. Life proceeds.

I only have time to do this:

Next time I'll upload a goddamn Google doc.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Union, Yes!

We at "The Gods Are Bored," as well as Great Deities of Justice from multiple pantheons spanning millennia, congratulate the teachers' unions of West Virginia for reaching a deal on their contract demands!


Two weeks ago, if you had asked me about the future of organized labor -- as it faces certain disruption by a conservative Supreme Court -- I would have said, "Palliative care only, send to hospice."

And then ... in deep red West Virginia ... a "right to work" (for less) state ... the teachers just walked out. Fifty-five counties, all the teachers walked out.


Bring it on, corporate pig-dogs! We will taunt you mercilessly!

I'm not playing, here. I believe in unions. No system is perfect, but the practice of collective bargaining, so maligned in our modern times, is the only way to keep decent, living wages in the hands of hard-working people.

All glory, laud, and honor to the WVAFT, the WVEA, and their parent organizations! Guess what? The bargain the teachers brokered extends to all public employees in the Mountain State!

United we bargain, divided we beg.

Monday, February 26, 2018

How To Teach Walt Whitman To Kids Who Don't Like To Read

Have you ever sat down and tried to read Leaves of Grass? No offense to the Great Gray Poet, but it's a labor of love. A nice cold glass of wine and a verdant hillside help immensely.

Unfortunately, there is neither wine nor hillsides in an urban classroom.

But fear not! These handy tips will work even if your classroom isn't in Camden, which mine is.


1. Show the bridge.

Ask them, what do you have to do to get a bridge this big named after you? Then tell them that this bridge is named for a poet. It floors them.

2. Be ready with a dollar amount for a first edition of Leaves of Grass. Actually the number is lower than I thought, but it's still a mighty, mighty sum. Tell the students to go home and look in their attic, they might have a copy under a floor board. (Well, this does work best in Camden. Might also work in Brooklyn.)

3. Show them this engraving from the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

... and explain how "proper poets" dressed in those days. Let them connect the dots to today's rappers.

4. Make good use of the trendy Volvo commercial from 2017.

5. Or this really good little confection!

6. Go for the easy poems, like "O Captain, My Captain" and "Miracles." News flash: Have you read "I Hear America Singing" lately? Most of those jobs have either gone belly up or have been outsourced.

7. Memorize some of the poems and speak them without notes while the students follow along reading. They love it when you get stuck or screw up and they have to prompt you.

Then, when you have those lil puppies hooked, fling harder poems at them for analysis. In a nice think-pair-share environment.

All the while, pray fervently that your last observation of the year will not happen during this lesson -- but be prepared for yet another lackluster mediocre score if it does.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

This Annie Doesn't Want a Gun

Hi there, buckaroos! It's me, Anne Johnson, back from being president and safely in civilian life again!

I could have stayed at the White House forever, since it's so much more lavish than my own humble home, but after this latest horrible school shooting, I decided I was needed more at the Vo Tech. What, really, is more important than caring for our vulnerable teenagers?

New Jersey has some hella strict gun laws (another reason to love the Garden State), so I'm pretty doggone sure my school administrators aren't going to hand me a pistol and send me to the firing range. And that's a good thing, because I will quit my job if they start bringing guns into my school.


*Taco Bell drive-thru window, graveyard shift
*Goat judge (wish this paid better, it's a great job)
*Shrimp boat
*Wal-Mart ... yes. Wal-Mart cart collector
*Busting rocks with a sledgehammer
*Fox News focus group
*All natural mosquito eradicator
*Flagpole sitter
*Janitor, turnpike restrooms

If I couldn't find one of those compelling jobs, I would do anything that provided a meager paycheck. ANYTHING rather than having a gun in my hand in a classroom!

I'm not pretending to speak for all public school teachers here, but as for me and my classroom, we will follow the path of peace. No. Damn. Gun.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Public School Teachers and Right To Work

Sounds like a boring topic, huh? I can see you stifling that yawn! But don't decamp for Dora the Explorer just yet, because you're in for an Anne rant. I'm rusty on ranting, but it came back today in full force.

You know what schools are? They are the spots that viruses of every kind choose for massive meet-ups. Every day, trillions of germs learn how to write paragraphs and reduce fractions. All while finding new hosts just sitting there waiting to fall ill!

This is one of the reasons why liberal states with strong unions provide decent health care to public school teachers. Mind you, I get a hefty chunk of change pulled from my envelope every pay period to partly cover my healthcare policy. But my policy is still generous. Thank you, thank you, thank you New Jersey Educational Association!

I say this because teachers in 28 states are laboring in "right to work" environments. "Right to work" (kind of like "right to life," huh?) has undercut collective bargaining rights and union clout, leading to lower salaries, and yes, higher insurance payments for teachers.

Teachers. Have you looked at a teacher's salary lately? Like, what we get paid to go sit all day among the frolicking viruses?

If you didn't see this story in the news, read it and WEEP.

Texas is a "right to work" state. But I'm not singling out Texas. This could happen in any "right to work" state.

First of all, I got a flu shot. It was free.

Second of all, if I did get the flu, my prescription of Tamiflu would cost $10.00, not $138. Therefore, I would be able to afford it. I wouldn't have to think twice.

Two children have been deprived of a mother. Probably two dozen second-graders must now deal with the trauma of having suddenly lost their teacher. (And which among those kids will feel guilty for maybe infecting her with the flu?) A loving husband has lost his wife.

Not because of the flu. No. Not because of the flu. This woman died because of RIGHT TO FUCKING WORK. I never heard of a teacher having to pay $138 for a prescription! That would NEVER happen in my state! I could be put on the most $$$$$$$$ medicine that is padding the pockets of the most venal Big Pharma executive, and my co-pay would be at most $20.

This nod to my performance of a difficult, tiring job in a germ-filled atmosphere is due to my union.

Right to work? Why don't we call it right to die?

Stay tuned for Supreme Court decisions that will bring right to die EVERYWHERE.

My heart goes out to this family, to the students and staff, and to all the public school teachers who have the misfortune of living in "right to work" states. Pay your dues, get your union card, and persuade all of your co-workers to do the same. This shit has got to stop.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Great Joy to Our City

I'm exceedingly pleased to be able to report that the Philadelphia Eagles have won their first Super Bowl.

As an essentially lazy person, I have most often cheered on the teams wherever I happened to live. My home since 1987 has been the Delaware Valley. Therefore, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, I've rooted for the Iggles. It's just easier, you know?

The last time the Eagles won a national championship, I was one year old. Alaska and Hawaii had only been states for a year. The game wasn't even called a Super Bowl. Oh sure, the Eagles have been in the Super Bowl a few times, but they never won it before. On Sunday night they looked so damn fine.

Sports are a great unifying force for communities. When a team does well, it bonds people. On Sunday my next door neighbor, all in her Eagles regalia, brought me dinner. I gave her and everyone at her party a set of green beads. At the moment of victory, all the doors on my block flew open, and everyone spilled into the street. We wisely didn't climb the light poles or stain the furniture, but we sang and cheered and lit a few sparklers. It made me feel young.

My students were happy as well, the boys especially. Today's lesson consisted of analyzing the Super Bowl commercials for their persuasive techniques. Put another way, we watched the best Super Bowl commercials in class. No one complained!

The city is throwing a parade for the Eagles on Thursday. I'm not going to that. I know, I know ... you're saying, "Anne. Get real. You're missing a parade?" Yes, I am. If I can't be in it, why go?

Congratulations, Philadelphia Eagles, on a great season! Anything that brings us all out of our houses on a cold winter night is a-okay with me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

President Anne Johnson's First State of the Union Address

Members of both houses of Congress, the United States Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sitting members of the Cabinet, diplomatic corps, and my fellow Americans,

My name is Anne Johnson. I have been appointed to serve out the remainder of the term of presidency that would have fallen to Donald J. Trump. This is my first State of the Union Address.

I am going to ask you to do something, Congress. For this one bright, shining moment, none of you know anything about me. You have no idea what my policies will be or how I will act in office, and therefore in this one brief click of time, none of you know whether you will cheer me and shower me with standing ovations, or sit on your hands and scowl.

Wouldn't it be nice to keep that moment and live within it for awhile?

Because that, my friends, is exactly what we need. We've got to step back, acknowledge philosophical differences respectfully, and dedicate ourselves to working together for all citizens.

Nothing will ever get done if two sides both entrench and legislate by fiat when they find themselves in power. All you'll have is a sea change in policy every four years.

How about we try a new tactic? Let's bring some sanity and decorum back to this chamber. Let's take a deep breath and see if we couldn't possibly work together for the greater good.

Look at that! You're all applauding! It's a good idea, isn't it? I like it too.

Now, here is the part of the speech where the president gets down to brass tacks and starts crowing about last year's accomplishments and planning next year's, with an eye to the voting base and the party. I'm not going to do that. I'm a blank slate, remember?

Here's a novel idea: Go put your heads together and bring me some good ideas! I have no voting base to please, because I wasn't elected! I'm open to any reasonable, judicious, thoughtful, and sober suggestion, so long as it will make Americans better off than they are now.

There's one word I want to leave you with, my fellow Americans. That word is temperance. This past year, we have been sadly lacking the temperance and reserve necessary to do the important job of running the country. We are going to dial down the drama and look at this task as something that professionals do.

Temperance. If there's anything I've learned from my previous work experience as a school teacher, it's that nothing gets done when the heat is turned up and the voices go shrill. But if we keep things reasonable and respectful, if we converse with humility, we can restore this democracy to health.

Thank you, and Gods bless America!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Work and Play with My Union

I feel like I'm being let in on the final act of a play. At the tender age of 58 (almost 9) I have become active in my local bargaining unit.

Due to the resignation of one of my school's teachers mid-year, I agreed to be a member of my unit's Rep Council. (I'm already on the negotiating committee.) You know what I didn't know? Being a rep means you're warmly welcomed at state- or region-wide leadership conferences.

On Friday I went to my first-ever winter leadership conference. It was good ol' unionism at its finest.

The conference was held in Atlantic City, at a casino. We had a one-hour workshop Friday from 6 to 7 p.m., then a sumptuous banquet from 7-9. Then our unit's regional director cordially offered to drown us in alcohol at the hotel bar. Then the other members of my unit who were there decided to play beer pong in the large, loud pub on the casino's ground floor.

Saturday morning we had a gourmet breakfast, followed by four hours of workshops in which it seemed that everyone (myself excluded) was nursing a morning head. Let me tell you, readers. I've struggled through many a 5-hour teaching workshop, but this union one was riveting. The hours flew by. I'm not even being glib.

We had a mid-morning break during which we were showered with fresh fruit, hot beverages, and pastries. There were stacks of salt water taffy sitting everywhere.

After the final two-hour work session, we had a lavish luncheon buffet that featured five different desserts.

I had a private room in the casino. I've lived in New Jersey since 1987 and never stayed in a casino before.

I watched the sun rise out of the Atlantic.


The union paid for my room, for all of the food, for parking, and (through a member) booze. I'll be reimbursed for the mileage to and from the conference.

I write this because in a few weeks the U.S. Supreme Court will render a decision that will make union dues 100 percent optional. This is a goal long sought by corporations and the one percent, who correctly perceive that collective bargaining benefits workers in terms of wages, health care, and working conditions.

Would you cough up $50 out of each of your monthly paychecks for union membership if you didn't have to? Especially if you were told that you would benefit equally with every member who does pay their dues?

So as I donned my union identifier badge and shouldered my swag bag, I had a sense of twilight, or autumn, in the whole organized labor adventure. It's a given that a conservative court will take a tire iron to unionizing's knees. Public sector unions will find themselves begging members to pay dues, and employers will be sure to hire candidates who won't want to join the union.

Until all of this crashes down, my fellow union reps and I will gather in Atlantic City to hold an idea dear -- that workers are stronger when they are bound by formal ties.

PS - I spent 24 hours in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I arrived with $50 and left with $50. Casinos and bars don't move me, wallet-wise.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Women's March on Philadelphia 2018

If you sit on the left side in the elevated train from New Jersey to Philadelphia, there's one place where you can look out the window and see the skyline of Philly all arrayed just two or three miles away. On a day when the sky is clear, it's a sight -- not Manhattan, but a vast, gleaming city nevertheless.

Growing up in the mountains, I never, ever expected to spend most of my life a stone's throw from Philadelphia. But as I looked out of the train on Saturday morning, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to become a citizen of the Great Blue Northeast. I even teared up a little bit. Sheesh. I'm a sentimental slob.

When I was young I thought the government taxes were too high, and I thought that through hard work and bootstraps and all that, anyone could become rich and successful. Moving to the city (first Baltimore, then Detroit, then Philadelphia) changed my worldview. Perhaps if I had stayed in Appalachia I would be like so many people living there now: conservative to a point where they don't even vote in their own best interests.

Instead, I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. So on Saturday, January 20 (a day that will live in infamy), I got on the el with my tambourine and my fairy sweater and my Pagan jewelry, and I rode into Center City, Philadelphia. There were lots of other suburban white women on the train, even though I went in two hours early. Lest anyone sneer at suburban white women, please remember that we are a demographic that gets courted by politicians of every stripe. It's up to us to do the right thing, which is never a given.

I disembarked the train at 13th and Locust and got myself a breakfast sandwich at a little cafe called Jean's on Walnut Street. Then I walked around City Hall, in the opposite direction that I had come on New Year's Day with the Mummers, and walked down to Logan Square, across from the Free Library of Philadelphia (where Gumby works! I'm proud of her.) I had learned that a group called Drum Like a Lady would be forming at the fountain, and I wanted to get there before it got too crowded to see if I could find the drummers.

It's easy to find drummers. Have you ever noticed? They give themselves away. And in this case, the leader of Drum Like a Lady is not only an accomplished drummer, she's almost a goddess in human form -- tall, beautiful, vigorous even in a leg brace, and ready to do some upbeat leadership.

I joined the circle just as it began to gear up, and what a phenomenal experience it turned out to be. These lady leaders knew what they were doing. They had designated one person as the heartbeat (more circles should try this ... it's the essential piece so often missing). Drawing on the heartbeat, all sorts of women with all kinds of percussion were able to play along. I think we had it all, except for those hella heavy djembes and dun duns. I'd thought about taking my doumbek, but the tambourine turned out better, because occasionally I danced -- and the tambourine can keep an easy beat and fill in some spaces.

When we lady drummers got our groove going, we were sending energy to the sky. It was a very multi-racial and multicultural group, all in happy harmony. The leader, LaTreice Branson, took turns addressing the crowd through a bullhorn and playing a small djembe.

The crowd got thicker and thicker, pushing our circle in on itself. Only once did I have to ask a tall, young white boy to take his camera elsewhere when he pushed in front of me to get photos. Mmm mmm, yeah, they are always around. But at least he did as I asked.

As I said, the drum circle's diversity was awesome. No one would have mistaken me for anything but a Pagan in my fairy sweater, with my acorn necklace dangling. There might have been one or two other Pagan women there, judging simply by attire and hair. Readers, we all sounded great. And we drummed for two and a half hours.

We led the march (sort of), but in the throng we kind of got spread out a bit. All of a sudden I felt a tug on my elbow, and there was Gumby, grinning from ear to ear! We hugged, and I hugged Gumby's boyfriend (I really like him), but I had to move on to keep up with my circle.

Once we got to the Art Museum, we drummed for another long stretch before the speeches started. Then the leaders left, and the minute they did, all the rhythm went with them. It was okay, though. There were plenty of speeches. Dozens and dozens. I stayed for them all.

When the whole thing was over, I walked alone back to the train.

Quite a few of my teaching colleagues had gone in a group. Both Olivia and Gumby attended. But on this day I elected to make my own way and find my rhythm sisters and make a noise for the Resistance. It turned out swell.

It sure looks like we'll be marching for years to come. I can take it. I'm a Mummer.

And rise!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Another March

My my, I do get my exercise! Another year, another march.

The good thing about being appointed president (rather than elected) is that no one knows what I look like. I'm therefore free to mingle with the citizenry. I will do so in Philadelphia at this year's Women's March.

Last year my daughter Gumby and I went to Washington, DC for the Women's March on Washington. Gumby put me through it, I tell you. She wasn't satisfied until we got all the way to the White House ... from RFK Stadium, a round trip of 8 or more miles.


Learned my lesson, for sure! Can't keep up with Gumby! As I understand it, both of my daughters will be attending the march in Philly, but I'm not going with either one of them.

Instead, I will be joining a troupe called Drum Like a Lady . I am totally stoked. I can't decide whether or not to take my doumbek, but the tambourine is portable and can keep a heartbeat. Being part of the drum corps means I'll get a front seat at the speakers' podium.

I don't care about front seats, but drumming up some energy ... well, that's the ticket.

Judging by how many of my friends and acquaintances are attending this march (12 in rough count), it is going to be a vast throng of humanity.

And what is the purpose of large political rallies? Solidarity and sisterhood. Sending a message. Considering how thin-skinned some elected presidents are, it's got to be a thorn in the side.

I hope, wherever you are, you'll set aside a few minutes on Saturday to petition the Goddess Columbia for a safe end to the madness. Take a minute and bang a pot in front of your house. Or put up a sign.



1. Make a sign or bring a drum.
2. March
3. Campaign
4. Vote

We resist. We persist. We rise.

Monday, January 15, 2018

President Anne's Address on the Occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

My fellow Americans,

Nine years ago, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, many folks (myself included) believed that we had moved beyond the corrosive racism and prejudice that marked much of our nation's history. But most of the people who thought Obama's inauguration signaled an end to prejudice were, themselves, white.

Black people knew differently. They knew that the pulse of racism still beat strongly in America. They weren't optimistic about change. They saw the blow-back coming. It's no coincidence that Black Lives Matter was formed during the Obama administration. Even as President Obama sought to widen the safety net with affordable health care and protections for the poor, ordinary Black Americans faced an America that was "business as usual" -- police brutality, wage inequality, and fewer opportunities than white Americans enjoyed. Indeed, I have had Black friends tell me they weren't one bit surprised by the election of Donald Trump, they fully expected a racist to follow Obama into office.

Sure enough, that's what we got. A racist chief executive, with racist advisers, encouraging the most virulent racist behavior and indulging in it themselves. Now that we have seen this behavior elevated to the national stage in an unprecedented way, it is time for me to ask you: What can you do about this?

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't waste his wrath on the loudest racists. He reserved his scorn instead for the good people who did nothing. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." How many of us blush a bit as we realize we are the "shallow people of good will?" I know I do.

And so, my fellow Americans, I would ask you: What can we "people of good will" do to deepen our commitment to absolute racial justice in our nation? We need to start in our own homes and communities, forging ties with minority citizens so that we can better understand their plight. We need to find government leaders who will actively seek to end racist practices in America, and vote for those leaders. We need to look our brothers and sisters of other races in the eye and witness their experience as citizens from their point of view.

We need to pay more than just lip service to the quest for racial equality in America. Because if we don't do anything, and the racists do something, then Black lives won't appear to matter at all.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the kind of America that would vote -- twice -- for an African American president. Let us be mindful of the needs of our fellow citizens and willing to assist them in their quest for equality and justice. And let us denounce, in no uncertain terms, any actions, any gatherings, any speakers, who advocate for a racist agenda. This hate is off the plate. Now and forevermore.

On this important day, I commend all Americans who took part in community service in their neighborhoods, in their cities, and in their school. Bright blessings upon you. You are the change that we need in this great nation. Keep up the good work! 

Finally, I wish to use this occasion to re-instate, immediately, all protections and benefits afforded to those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Dreamers, your months of fear and anxiety are over. Your path to full citizenship is clear. We embrace you with open arms and encourage your wildest dreams -- because it was the dreams and plans of all the immigrants before you to become successful in America, and look at all they have done!

I make this announcement today in the spirit of justice, which was what Dr. King dedicated his life to pursuing. We will have justice for all in America. We will again be the land of opportunity. We will be a force for good in the world, and at home.

Thank you, and Gods bless America.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

In Which I Find a Job for Steve Bannon

It's been a few weeks now since I, Anne Johnson, was asked to take over the presidency of the United States of America. Wow, what a job! It's nonstop. I've been pretty much overwhelmed trying to track down trusted advisers from previous administrations in order to fill all the posts that have either been open, or worse, filled with evil warlords from the pit of Hell.

The warlords are gone. The lot of them, with Bet$y DeVo$ leading the way! So long, chumps! Go back to your billions and leave us alone!

You know what, though? I'm a soft touch.

Poor Steve Bannon. Up on top in April, shot down in May. One's heart bleeds.


I don't know about you, but I've been unemployed a few times in my life. It's so tough. A real sock to the self-esteem and the wallet ... even if it's a layoff due to revised head count. But this is no layoff. This is a straight-out "go the hell away." Steve already looked like he'd seen the bottom of too many bottles of Fireball. What's he to do now, as a middle-aged journalist? Heck, even young journalists can't find a job.

But it's Steve's lucky day! Because I, Anne Johnson, had a good, steady job that I don't need anymore. As president, I will call my former employer and highly recommend Mr. Bannon as a public school teacher for minority students in Camden, New Jersey. Some of you will remember that I got hired on a provisional certificate and then had to earn a teaching license. It'll be a snap for him to do the same!

It's a good job, teaching at the Vo-Tech. The base salary for Step 1 is a solid $47,000 with health benefits (you have to contribute) and a pension plan (you have to contribute and work 10 years to be vested). If you don't need to make more money, you can take the whole summer off. And if you do need money, Mr. Bannon, you can take my summer job and paint the hallways in the school!

I know what you're thinking, reader. You're thinking, "Anne. You would recommend this shameless racist for a teaching job in a school that is 99 percent minority, including a heaping helping of Dreamers?" Yes sirree. That's exactly what I'm doing. No one needs to witness the humanity of minority teenagers more than Steve Bannon. It's so easy to dismiss entire segments of the population with a flick of the lily-white wrist, if you really don't know anyone in that demographic. Quite another thing to hold such contemptible views when kid after kid strolls into your classroom, smiling shyly and saying "good morning."

Steve, I defy you to call for the deportation of Dreamers after one of them grins and holds a door open for you as you ascend three flights of stairs with a home room folder and a travel mug of tea! Sweet kids, Steve. You will love them. Most of them work really hard and listen closely. The hardest workers? The Dreamers. Hands down.

So fret not, Mr. Bannon! You can teach school! I fear your colleagues won't welcome you with open arms, but the kids will be great, so long as you're humble and willing to accord them the respect that all of your fellow humans should receive.

Good luck in your new career, Steve! The first two years are rough, what with night school and weekend lectures at Rowan University (and extra observations and frequent pop-ins by teacher-coaches). But I got through it at just about your age (acknowledging here that your age is hard to determine by looking at you). You'll be just fine.

See? This is how a nation should be governed. With humanity and tenderness and a little bit of counter-intuitive thinking.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

President Johnson (Me) on the Thorny Problem of North Korea

My fellow Americans,

Things have gotten so bad in the US of A that I have been asked to take over the helm. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm no expert on anything, domestic or foreign. A good president solicits advice and takes it humbly.

As president I will take suggestions from all kinds of knowledgeable people. In the meantime I'm going to be dignified and thoughtful in all my public pronouncements. I represent the nation, after all, and we don't want the world to see America as a bunch of foul-mouthed, shallow, self-obsessed morons, do we? (even if it's partly true)

One of the pressing questions facing our country right now is, what do we do about North Korea? The government is led by a shallow, self-obsessed moron, and they're dumping stacks and stacks and stacks into nuclear weapons. Worse, they're threatening to drop those weapons on America.

Although I intend to have high-level meetings with some of the finest minds in the country concerning this issue, my gut feeling as an ordinary semi-educated mortal is that the horror of nuclear weapons makes every thoughtful person unwilling to use them.

I will say this right now, pending further input from the experts: As president, I will not use nuclear weapons on North Korea.

The loss of life and devastation of landscape associated with nuclear weapons is unacceptable to me. Not only would we kill thousands of innocent citizens in North Korea, we would send plumes of radiation into neighboring nations. These nations are our trading partners and allies. They don't deserve plumes of radiation.

So my message to the dictator in North Korea is pretty simple. Kim, you will be responsible if you detonate a nuclear weapon over America or some other country. The world will see you as an aggressor and will probably help the US of A to retaliate. Because that's what we will do -- retaliate. We're not going to fire the first shot. So think long and hard about that button on your desk. If you push it, we will come. But we won't come until you push first, because as for me, I don't want that on my conscience.

As to the continued development of your program, even the possibility that you have germ warfare? As president I will push for harsh sanctions against your regime. I know that this is causing terrible hardship in your country -- hardship that is being felt by the innocent citizens there. It is my hope that the range of suffering among the citizenry will eventually lead to your ouster. But that suffering is on your plate, Kim, not mine. Feed your people, not your power.

My fellow Americans, please note that this presidential proclamation is subject to change pending long and thoughtful discussions with experts on international relations. No foolish and impulsive popping off on Twitter! We're going to do this sensibly.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Tale of Two Marches

There's some spark inside me that makes me want to march. Parades, protests, it's all the same to me. You close the roads, I'll walk 'em.

Most of my marching has been in Philadelphia. It's a pretty good place to march, mostly, as it's a grid and not hilly at all. The only thing adversely affecting a march in Philadelphia is the temperature.

In the summer of 2016 I participated in a march that was held at the time of the Democratic National Convention. The temperatures that day topped out in the mid-90s.


The "Michelle" thing is a long story. But this is me on a blistering hot day, with City Hall in the background.

What I chiefly remember about that day was that everyone was trying to find a speck of shade to stand in. People were clustered in the shadows of buildings. When we set out to march from City Hall to the stadiums, I aborted mission at Pine Street, dizzy from the heat.

Fast forward to January 1, 2017. Now, rather than hovering in the mid-90s, the temperature in Philadelphia was flirting with 15. The wind chill made it feel even colder.


Not only am I wearing exponentially more attire, you'll note that I'm standing in the sun. This was the funniest part, to me. In the summertime in Philly, everyone was looking for shade to stand in. On New Year's Day, we were all in search of the sunniest spot to keep our bones warm.

For those of you just joining the action here, I am a Philadelphia Mummer, a proud member of the Two Street Stompers Comic Brigade. Here's a better photo of this year's suit:


Bad lighting. You can hardly see the poodle.

The Mummers Parade is a competition, and this year my club won! Our theme was "Back to the Philadelphia Future." We had a time machine, and the brigade was split into three groups (1950s, 1960s, and 1970s).

If you go to this link, you need to scroll down to the Two Street Stompers, and you can see a somewhat truncated version of our routine. It was a terrific routine, if I might brag a little bit. Shout out to the leader of my unit, Murph, who thought it might be nice to go shirtless in the subzero elements.

It was cold, but the sun was out, and the New Year got rung in with maximum craziness, and the Two Street Stompers emerged with another big victory. And today, the front page of the newspaper ...


If you judge a girl by the company she keeps, I would say I hang out with an interesting crowd. Please note that, as in the first shot in this post, City Hall provides the backdrop.

Happy New Year!