Monday, December 31, 2018

Why the Mummers Parade Survives

I think this is the 118th year that Philadelphia has hosted a Mummers Parade on January 1.

Like many events in big cities, this parade began as a civic effort to curb public drunkenness on New Year's Day. But in this era of warm and cozy bars and restaurants, open museums, and a less tolerant attitude toward public drunkenness, why does this parade survive?

Mind you, as many as 10,000 people take part in the parade. And there's a simple formula to its continued existence (even though Philly's civic leaders would rather it just fizzle out).

Have you ever gone to a family reunion? My dad's people used to have them every year on the Fourth of July, in a little creek-side park near Chaneysville, PA. Upwards of a hundred people would come, and the event consisted of eating, talking, playing horseshoes, a few kid's games, and ... not much else. And it lasted all day.

Now imagine if your family reunion had a goal in mind: marching in a parade as a family, with matching costumes and a theme. Yes, you would need to get together a little more often to practice and make costumes and props. But it's your family. You wouldn't really mind (mostly), would you?

Mumming persists in Philadelphia because many Mummer groups are basically big, extended families whose members have been in parades since they were tots. My club, the Two Street Stompers, was formed by a family whose parents, aunts, and uncles had marched with other clubs. Some members of the Stompers who are well into mid-life have been marching on Broad Street since they were too young to walk. (They were carried.) Now they are carrying their kids.

Every year at our Two Street Stompers practice, there are young parents bringing their babies and toddlers for the first time. And there are also esteemed elders -- some in their 90s -- who come to watch, and then stand up to strut a little at the end. It's a touching sight.

The number of participants in the Mummers Parade has dwindled over the past 20 years or so. Still, if you go to a Mummers practice -- any club of any size -- you'll see multiple generations of the same family, carrying on a family tradition. That's what keeps this thing going.

As far as curbing public drunkenness goes, well, emmm ... People are going to imbibe on a holiday, no matter what else they are doing. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A "Weird New Jersey" Hike To Remember

Nothing fills me with gratitude and joie de vivre quite like hiking.

You see, I gave up hiking for years -- actually decades -- and then re-discovered it because the government of Atlantic City put up a sea wall that blocked all the sea glass from coming ashore.

Before the sea wall, I was content to spend a sunny day in winter looking for sea glass in Atlantic City. Who can blame me? Look at this view.



I could have met the loss of the beaches with a sad, old lady sigh. Instead I shook my fist at the fickle finger of Fate and decided to collect waterfalls. This requires hiking.


In the process of hiking to waterfalls, I made a discovery that made me shake my fist at myself. Within a 2-3 hour drive of my home in Haterfield are miles and miles and miles of amazing hiking trails! Me, with my "I'm from Appalachia, I don't have time for the Poconos" attitude ... I almost blew it. I could have gone to my grave without ever bonding with my own back yard.

A few days ago, my daughter The Heir and I went on a hike to a rock formation that was once featured in Weird New Jersey magazine. Even though we got lost on the way to the park, we still got there in two hours. In other words, we could do a hike as a day trip ... a hike in the mountains.


Heir and I hiked to this rock. It's called Tripod Rock because it's a glacial anomaly. As in, you can't believe the sight of this freakin rock.


Yes, you're seeing that right. One big rock, balancing on three little rocks. This actually could be the work of some bored deity. Hard to imagine a glacier being that precise.

The hike to and from Tripod Rock was not even strenuous, and I only fell two times. Heir and I had a swell afternoon together, and we got to the rock before the steady stream of hikers who came in our wake. You see, Tripod Rock is only 30 miles outside New York City.

How did I get to be a woman of a certain age without knowing about all the hiking trails in the New Jersey Highlands? Why did I sneer like a snob at the Poconos? Alas, some time has been wasted.

On the other hand, I'm still fairly hale and hearty, and there's nothing like a bracing hike to make you feel hale and hearty. There is still time. I have found new mountains to climb.


The bored gods uprooted me from the mountains of my birth and dropped me in a state that is the punch line in a million jokes. It has been up to me to make the best of this fact. It's getting easier all the time. All the time.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Where's My Gold Spray Paint? Another Year with the Two Street Stompers!

This tumultuous year is drawing to a close, and that means it's time for another Mummers Parade!

Philadelphia hosts an annual Mummers Parade on New Year's Day. For decades I would get out of bed on January 1 and turn on the t.v. and sit in a chair, watching the parade. "That looks like fun," I would say to myself.

And then something shifted. Instead of saying, "That looks like fun," I started thinking, "I wonder how I could do that?" So I asked Doctor Google, I got some phone numbers, and in December of 2011 I found myself in Brooklawn, New Jersey at the clubhouse of the Two Street Stompers.


The Philadelphia Mummers Parade is a tradition that extends back 100 years or so and has its roots in South Philly neighborhoods. The Two Street Stompers have been marching as a club since 1978. They were one of the first clubs to have women members.

When I joined the D.A.R., I had to fill out a huge, long form and get two members to endorse me. I had to meet the membership and prove I was of high moral fiber. I became a Stomper after a phone call. They didn't even need to eyeball me first. The fact that I wanted to strut was enough for them.

My three regular readers know that I like to sport fancy costumes. In this respect, being a Stomper is intensely rewarding. Every year I get a beautiful, brand-new satin suit that I get to keep ... and I don't have to make it myself! What a relief that is!

This is our club in one of our first-place finishes. I helped to make the puffy parasols.

I think it's fair to say this isn't the D.A.R.

I've had so much fun as a Two Street Stomper. Originally I thought I would do it a year or two, just to say I participated. BAMP! Now I can't even imagine sitting in the chair and watching!

This is my favorite parade picture. That's me and my daughter The Fair. She marched with us twice. Look at City Hall in the background! Mind you, this is the first day of the year. The first. What an excellent way to launch another 365-day cycle!

If you want to see last year's first-place-finishing routine, click here.

We made the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News. It was 6 degrees with a stiff breeze. But hey. It's only once a year.

I'm in the back, wearing a red ski cap.

You can judge a girl by the company she keeps. The D.A.R. taught me that.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Gratitude Project

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I asked all of my students to look around the room and write something nice about everyone they liked in the room. I gave them the sentence stems "I like you because ..." and "I'm grateful for you because..."

I put the names of students in my other classes up on the projector screen, so that every student I have could say something nice about every other student I have.

I compiled a personal list for each of my 65 students, with everything everyone said about them. It took a long time ... thank goodness 65 kids didn't say something about each and every kid in the room/on the list. But every kid had at least two kids who said something nice about them.

This is Zaire. He got the most comments. Everyone loves him.

Today was the last day before winter break. I handed an envelope to every student, warning them that this was not scientific, and people they expressed gratitude for might not have reciprocated -- but to dwell not upon "who said it to whom" but rather "what was said."

They loved it. It was worth the time and effort.

Blessed Solstice to you and yours ... out of the darkness we come!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Yuletide Navel Gaze

Some of you might know that I'm a school teacher. I've been full time for eight years now. For the first time this year, the senior class invited Santa Claus to come and pose for portraits with students. It was a fundraiser. For two bucks, you got your photo.

So here, frozen in time, are snapshots of my students from this era. You don't have to look at them. I just want them for my own navel gazing in times to come.

But first, me and my bestie Stef. She teaches English too.

Names of others will be slightly misspelled so as to be un-Google-able.


Kris, whose life is very hard, smiling.

Xtian, as nice as they come.

Kai, always smiling!

My favorite people in the whole school! The lunch ladies! Especially Miss Carol and Miss Niki, who I stand with in the cafeteria every morning for 30 minutes.

There are many more, but Blogger seems to feel I've added enough this time around. Oh well, maybe more later in the holiday! I must say it boosted morale to have the jolly old elf in for a visit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Don't You Wish?

Don't you wish that criminals were sentenced according to the existential threat they posed? That way, an African American teenager selling weed on the corner would get tutoring, and Michael Cohen (who effectively shaped the course of history) would get 1,000,000 years, or the Apocalypse, whichever comes first.

Don't you wish cats lived longer? Like, 25 years instead of 15? My parrot Decibel lived to be 29, and that seemed like a nice run of time. I hate burying a wonderful cat after a decade and a half, or less.

Don't you wish you could get your loved ones what they really deserved for the holidays? The Heir is about to turn 30. She spends her Sunday mornings picking up used syringes in a drug neighborhood, and handing out food and clean needles. The least I could do would be send her on a nice vacation, maybe a nice cross-country jaunt to all the big national parks she's never seen.

Don't you wish that the "urge to merge" was a little ... emmmm ... less in young people? Asking for a friend.

Don't you wish Jesus would come? It would ease the crowding, at least.

Don't you wish blue collar workers got the respect they deserve? I don't call a college professor when my pipes burst.

Don't you wish politicians (and even Supreme Court judges) weren't sold in commercials like breakfast cereal? Seriously! Brett Kavanaugh in one segment, Fruity Pebbles in another. Which brings me to ...

Don't you wish the pharmaceutical industry had never been allowed to make commercials? Or to bribe doctors to prescribe stuff? Medicine isn't the same as Fruity Pebbles or a wristwatch.

Don't you wish more people would suddenly care about what happens to the planet after they die? Like, especially people making bank on fossil fuels?

Don't you wish for campaign finance reform?

Don't you wish the Eagles would repeat as Super Bowl champions? Asking for a daughter.

Friday, December 07, 2018

In Which I Hex Mark Ryan, Homebuilder, and His Partner P.J. Ward

Dear Readers, all six of you (bless your sweet, smart hearts), I am finally able to post "before and after" photos of the view from my front door. Of course, photos don't entirely capture the dramatic alteration in the vista -- nor do they account for the economic circumstances of the new neighbors -- but snapshots will have to do.

EXHIBIT A: 311 Windsor Avenue, Haterville, New Jersey, 2014

Missing is the 100-year-old tree that was cut down. It would have been to the left, just out of the frame.

EXHIBIT B: 311 and 313 Windsor Avenue, Haterville, New Jersey 2018

First World Problems, right? I know, I know. It's not like a hurricane roared through. But honestly. Cheap, shoddy construction. And that two-car garage perfectly aligns with my front yard. And the developer has charmed my husband by assuring him this improves the price of our home. Except that we don't plan to sell while I'm working, so why would that matter?

Well, as luck would have it ... if you can call it lucky to be home sick ... the builder is showing the property on the left today.

I am under strict orders from Mr. J: "Don't embarrass me!" Excuse me? You embarrassed yourself by swallowing the snake oil and calling it a cure.

So I have positioned my Truth in Advertising messages at the end of the driveway:


The fact that the car is old and ratty only adds a poignant touch.

I know that three of my six readers are Hillary supporters, and I hope you'll forgive me for being a far-left Democratic Socialist. But even you must admit that this pairing is more effective than a Hillary bumper sticker would be. (and yes, I most certainly voted for Hillary.)

Readers, my dudgeon is high not only because this project uprooted beautiful trees and decimated green space. It's also high because the buyers of these homes, in search of everything new and shiny, are basically purchasing high-end housing that was built with low-end products and labor. It's all show and no substance, which apparently is good enough for some millionaire who wants to purchase something in "move-in condition." With a mud room.

Ah, and now for the 662nd day in a row (not excepting weekends), workers are running something loud and motorized over there.

The greed is naked. The disdain is obvious. There's only one way I can respond that will give me any sort of quiet satisfaction ... and that's the way my ancient ancestors responded when the lord of the manor did them wrong.

Hexes all around. Mark Ryan, snake-oil salesman and greedy capitalist -- HEX! P.J. Ward, original hatcher of this travesty -- HEX!

And to my neighbors who happily sold their land to these greed-hounds from Hell -- HEX.

Across the Street

PS to Kimber: I heard about that earthquake, and I hope you and yours are all right. My own problems pale in comparison. Sedna says she's upholding you.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Truth in Advertising

If you didn't know it before we got Donald Trump as president, you know it now. Real estate developers are the biggest fucking liars on the planet. They ooze charm, all the while looking at clients and staff as chumps of the first stripe. Some developers are just evil, knowing that they're peddling garbage and calling it gold. Others (like Bozo Trump) believe in their own hype and think they're actually doing the world a favor.

On Monday, December 3, the brand new home across the street from my 90-year-old house goes up for sale. I assume there will be some sort of open house. This "luxury home" by Mark Ryan -- constructed chiefly by Spanish-speaking laborers who seemed to melt away at the first sign of a police car -- is retailing for $975,000.

Soon I will have millionaires as neighbors.

Previously I wrote about how this stooge Mark Ryan got a free pass on an illegal act (shredding a 100-year-old tree on a Sunday morning) because the judiciary in Snobville admire the man so much.

What's a girl to do about this open house? Gosh, I won't even be here! I have to be on the job at precisely 7:04 every morning.

I'll tell you what I'm going to do: I'm going to serve up a little truth.

We own two cars in this household. One is a sensible Subaru sedan. The other belonged to my late mother-in-law. It's a 2001 Saturn, not particularly well cared for over the decades. I use the Saturn to get to and from work. (It's four miles one way, four miles the other.) And -- whew! -- the lil' bucket of bolts passed inspection! Eight miles a day for another two years!

The Saturn is my most recent car to sport bumper stickers. As the rear of my cars go, the Saturn is modest. There are only two regular-sized bumper stickers. One says BERNIE SANDERS and the other says JOIN THE RESISTANCE.

Monday morning I'm going to drive the sensible Subaru to work, leaving the evocative Saturn at the edge of the driveway. I know, I know, it's a stupid and petty act. But just like everyone all over the world, I have my prejudices. I hate developers. Hate 'em.

Whoever comes to gawk at the $975,000 "luxury home" will understand clearly the political philosophy of their closest neighbors.

Can't speak for anyone else, but if I was house-hunting and saw a MAGA sign on a neighboring abode, I would search elsewhere.

Petty, Anne. Very petty. But what are bumper stickers for? Truth in advertising.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Safe and Sound

I'm back from the pushback protest. I think we numbered in the several hundreds, with lots of signs and Bronx cheers and middle finger salutes, and chants. The Proud Boys (or whoever they were) numbered at most 30. And there were dozens and dozens of cops.

We sent those Nazis packing like egg-sucking dogs. We didn't let up until their permit expired, and we were at our loudest when they took their Trump flags and crept back to the worm holes from which they came.

Antifa served as our protection unit. They were mostly on the perimeter, watching our backs.

It got a little dicey here and there, some running and shouting ... but Heir and I kept our distance from that.

A lovely thought: We were on Independence Mall, which is federal property. I don't want a record with the U.S. government, so I'm glad all went well.

Nazi scum, off our streets.

Just In Case

I'm one of those planners who likes to have all my ducks in order. Everyone who knows me knows I'm an alarmist who always expects the worst and never gets it. But one day I might get it. Therefore:

If I should meet an untimely fate, here are my wishes.

May Day ceremony at Spoutwood farm, run by Michael and Debbie Bull. Call the quarters from the Black Oak Grove ritual and say the prayer that unites all Druids. Sing "And When I Rise" and "LaTooshie."

If Otter and his merry band are available, some mayhem would be nice.

These days everyone gets cremated, although I would rather be left out for the vultures (of course).

Re-construct my shrine in the Mount Hope cemetery at the foot of Polish Mountain. Do not put the brachiopod fossil on it, but put lots of sea glass on it, please. You may want to replenish the sea glass from time to time, because it will be coveted by the locals up there.

Off to Philadelphia now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Scared but Got To Go

I've got two wonderful daughters. One calls me every day. The other one, if she's busy, doesn't call me for a week and forgets to return my calls. It's okay, I'm not insecure. I know she loves me.

But when she doesn't call for awhile, and I can't roust her up, I get a little bit nervous and start trolling.

That's how I found out that my daughter The Heir and her significant other had signed on to a rally that is not going to be warm and fuzzy in Philadelphia.

Some fascist Trump supporters have decided to hold a get-together at Independence Hall. This has not passed the attention of Antifa and another group called Pushback. Daughter and s.o. had announced intentions to join the action with Pushback.

If you have been a regular grazer on this pasture for awhile, you know I've been rattling my saber all along from the safety and security of my Barca-lounger. But the moment arises when it feels pretty hypocritical to sit and suggest what we ought to do.

Readers, I will stand with Antifa on Saturday. In Philadelphia, where (one member of the gendarmes told me) precisely 50 percent of the cops love Trump, and 50 percent hate him.

I'll be making noise to drown out "Proud Boys" who claim they aren't racist and they don't want racists at their rally. Frankly I don't care what they are claiming. They need to know that in the city of Philadelphia, their hate won't fly.

When I started this blue blog back in 2005, it was all making fun of Dubya and the Christian "chippies" and their Armageddon agenda. Now this shit is serious. I'm not strolling into Center City on Saturday expecting to be surrounded by gentle grandmothers in pussy hats. This will be the hardcore opposition. And I will be part of it.

 I'm 59 years old with bad knees and a pathological fear of confrontation. But if my beloved Heir has the guts to go, then I've got to be there too.

Plenty of good Germans sat back and clucked their tongues while the Nazis gained strength. That's not going to happen here on my watch.

At dawn we ride.

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Superstitious Voter

I'm going to vote.

I'm going to vote a straight Democratic ticket. I have done this since 1980.

This year, after I vote, I'm going to come home and avoid the television like the plague.

Two years ago I was off work on election day. I spent the day painting trim in my foyer, and as I painted I kept hearing the prognostications. Then the evening came, I was still painting near the t.v., and I heard all of the awful events unfold in real time.

My daughter The Fair was still living at home, and she turned six shades of pale and asked for a glass of wine ... which she couldn't drink. Mr. J just stared at the t.v. in a state of apoplexy.

By midnight, Fair and I were weeping.

This time, maybe if I don't watch any returns, some degree of normal will return to the landscape.

It's magical thinking. But what if I'm right?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Interview with an Ancestress: Susan Bennett Imes

It's Samhain coming, and the veil is thin. This is the month when our ancestors draw near, to see us and how we are faring. A few weeks ago, I found this obituary on a Facebook page dedicated to the history of my homeland.

Maybe it was reading the obit. Maybe it just is the Veil. But whatever the case, today on a windy, rainy New Jersey afternoon, I find my great-grandmother's mother sitting here with me in my living room, sharing a glass of apple cider! Please give a warm, wonderful, Gods Are Bored welcome to Susan Bennett Imes!

Anne: Greetings, beloved ancestress! Here, have another macaroon.

Susan: Thank you! These are delicious!

Anne: I have to ask. If you had 65 great-grandchildren (one of which was my dad), how many living descendants do you have now?

Susan: 2,487, maybe another one tomorrow.

Anne: Wow. Just ... wow. How do you keep up with all of them?

Susan: I don't. I'm only interested in the ones who are interested in me.

Anne (preening): People like me, you mean.

Susan: I am actually blessed with many descendants who know my name, and where I'm buried, and other facts from the above obit. If you had ever bothered to ask your dad about me, he would have told you about me. But you didn't.

Anne: Damn. My  bad! He was 14 when you passed! He must have known you.

Susan: Indeed he did. But never mind! I forgive you. Danny Junior isn't a fellow who has a lot to say about family.

Anne: But I heard about him returning a punt 90 yards for a touchdown about 15 times growing up.

Susan: Men. What can I say?

Anne: But let's talk about you! Married at fifteen, eleven children, living in the mountains ... you must have been one hardy individual.

Susan: Hardy and lucky, in equal parts. I almost stepped on a poisonous snake when I was ten.

Anne: Me too!

Susan: Medicine is much improved in your time.

Anne: Oh my, don't I know it. You know, ancestress, I really miss living in the mountains. You were so lucky to be able to spend your whole life in Bedford County.

Susan: Great-great-great granddaughter, you are an idiot.

Anne: I beg your pardon?

Susan: This is part of the reason I'm here. Your homesickness for the ancestral lands is well noted among your people. We think it's sweet. But it's also misguided.

Anne: I must be respectful to you, so I'll listen to your rationale.

Susan: Look how you live. Look at this house! I raised eleven children in four rooms! Look at your fireplace! Look at the upholstery on this sofa!

Anne: Well, yes, I am rather fond of this upholstery. White is hard to keep up, you know.

Susan: In a poor-soil agrarian community with a large family, it would be completely impossible to keep up. Or even to purchase. Anne, I'll be blunt: You live like a queen.

Anne: Me? GGG Grandma, you are mistaken! I'm struggling middle class... You have descendants that I personally know who are far better off than me!

Susan: They haven't invited me by for cider and cookies. And I don't care how much better they have it. I'm only looking at you. And you have such an easy life.

Anne: Easy? Easy? I teach school! I'm being observed Monday afternoon by a brand new administrator!

Susan: I quit school at age 12. Education is a blessing.

Anne: But look at this flat land! A whopping four feet above sea level, and the only hills are built by bulldozers. I miss the mountains so much!

Susan: The soil in your back yard is richer than the best dirt my garden ever had. And you don't even have to have a garden. You don't have to grow anything, and watch it dry in a drought, or get eaten by weevils, or grow rust in wet weather. In your whole life you have never lost a single crop. Now let's look again at this house. It's cold and wet outside, but in here the temperature is perfect! Two automobiles in the driveway outside ...

Anne: Well, one-and-a-half. I would hardly call The Bucket ...

Susan: Two.

Anne: Yes ma'am.

Susan: That stove of yours is a marvel. And two flush toilets inside. You say you miss the mountains?

Anne: The air. The views. The solitude.

Susan: Visit whenever you like, Anne. The flatland is better. Please take it from me. I would know.

Anne: Such wisdom I've gained from you, in such a short time! But there is one thing. We are living in very dark times, respected ancestress. Our president is a horror, and there's hate afoot in the land.

Susan: Child. I lived through the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the First World War, and part of the Second World War. Plus the 1919 influenza and the Great Depression. Again, I am not impressed by your current political situation. If you're not standing in line for soup or rationing sugar and practicing for air raids, you are doing okay.

Anne: But, can you see into the future?

Susan: No. Thank goodness.

Anne: You've certainly given me something to think about GGG Granny. Will you stick around for Samhain? I'll show you some pictures of some of your other descendants on my computer.

Susan:  No thank you. As I said, if they aren't interested in me, I'm not interested in them.

Anne: It's their loss. You're a wise woman, strong, and awesome.

Susan: Oh my lordy ... are you putting sour cream in mashed potatoes? Throw that out!

Anne: Hang on, sweet lady. You're in for a treat.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The High Cost of Halloween

No one would ask a public school teacher to work on Christmas. It's a holiday.

Except if you're a Pagan, the holiday is December 21, and we're always still in school on that day.

For me, it gets worse.

As a Pagan, I need to take off work on Samhain.

Now, if I was a Pagan student, I would get the day off with no penalties. Teachers don't get that opportunity. If I want to celebrate the most important holy day on my yearly calendar, I have to lose either a sick day or a personal day.

So, what's the big deal about calling out sick on Halloween? Well, I did a little bit of math. For my first eight years of teaching, I am in a pool where I will be compensated $70 per day for unused sick or personal days. I have taken off Samhain (either one or two days, or one-and-a-half days) every year since I started teaching. Eight years, $70 per year ... That's $560. Throw in Imbolc, which I also take off every year, and the pot jumps to $1120.

Where's that war on Christianity that the moron Sessions is crowing about?

This looks to me like discrimination. Trust me, I'm watching our political events very closely, because I am ready to sue for that entire $1120 if the Christians push too hard on, say, something ridiculous like prayer in school.

Just for the record, I would be very willing and able to come to school on Christmas and teach a full day.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hot and Hotter

When I was cavorting along the Appalachian Trail as a blithe teenager, I never thought I would someday be a woman of a certain age. But there you are. Blink your eyes, and you're a geezer.

One thing about being a geezer, though: It's possible to remember past decades. In my case, I can vividly remember an entire half century.

This is why I can state with absolute certainty that the climate has warmed.

Where are the motherfuckers who deny this? Oh, snap! I forgot! They're in the White House. It's basically the Orange Menace, his Big Oil baron buddies, and the natural gas and pipeline lobbies. They say global warming is a hoax. I cry bullshit.

The Menace is even older than I am. Can it possibly be that he has forgotten frosty Octobers, when the leaves peaked in color the second week of the month? I've lived in various parts of the Mid-Atlantic most of my life, and I clearly recall that Halloweens in the 20th century were cold affairs, possibly with snow and definitely with skeletal trees that had lost every leaf.

Last fall my sister was photographing autumn colors well into November -- a full four weeks later than it used to be.

I wore a sundress to work today. I had to, because it's in the 80s and my room has no air conditioning, only a scant two plastic fans. My students were miserable. And so was I.

It wasn't only the ungodly heat that made me miserable. It was the thought that my students and my daughters are becoming adults and will live with this ever-hotter world, no matter what we do.

I'm rather baffled that anyone over the age of 50 can be a climate change denier. What about your own four senses? Your own memory?

Then I thought, "Well, maybe the changes aren't as noticeable in other parts of the country." Until I heard from my friend in Detroit, complaining about yet another day in the 80s, last week!

I lived in Michigan for four years in the 1980s. It was crisp and cold by mid-September. The trees were bare by early October. It snowed until May.

Storms! Look at these storms! Do you remember a time when we had year after year of killer hurricanes and superstorms? I. Do. Not.

This November, and every November, you should vote Green. I don't mean Green Party, I mean your vote should be for Planet Earth. For poor dear Gaia, Demeter, sweaty Danu!

One more thing before I conclude my rant and go suck some raw eggs.

I am totally convinced that scientists have developed green energy systems that could be put in place within a decade. But their ideas, their technology, is being squashed by the billionaire oil interests. Let the whole world fry, while they rake in the ducats for themselves and their families.

Just answer me this, Mr. Oil Billionaire: What exactly will your great-grandchildren inherit? Pardon my cheek if I suggest they deserve ebola Zaire.

I don't need to have manners anymore. I'm old. And mad. Where's my bludgeon?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Dark Moon Petition to the Goddess Columbia

I salute the hawk of dawn, whose path marks the bounty of the fruitful Earth. I call upon the powers of the East. May there be peace in the East.

I salute the great stag in the heat of the chase, and the crucible of the Sun. I call upon the powers of the South. May there be peace in the South.

I salute the salmon of wisdom who dwells in the pool from which all rivers run. I call upon the powers of the West. May there be peace in the West.

I salute the great bear who shines in the northern sky and marks our paths in the dark of night. I call upon the powers of the North. May there be peace in the North.

May there be peace throughout the land.

Who do I honor on this Dark Moon?

I honor the Goddess Columbia and her angel, Lady Liberty.

Why do I honor the Goddess Columbia and her angel, Lady Liberty?

They stand for all that is good and great in the United States of America: prosperity for the laborer, justice for the oppressed, a home for all the huddled masses yearning to be free.

In these times it is good and right to honor great Columbia. She can move Her citizens to seek the truth and to protect the rights of the vulnerable. She can preside over the health and well-being of Her people. She can right the course of the Ship of State.

And so I petition you, Goddess Columbia, to preside in Your District that bears Your name. Protect the health of Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Move the minds of men to true justice for the people. Your people. Draw more women into your sacred halls of power. And keep them there. Stand strong against the powers of darkness and the tyranny of the minority.

My country, 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrims' pride
On every mountainside
Let freedom ring!

Justice to the oppressed. Peace and serenity in our homes. Health and well-being for all. The freedom of body and soul. So might it be.

Let us join in the prayer that unites all Druids:

Grant, O Gods and Goddesses, thy protection, and in protection, strength,
                        And in strength, understanding,
                        And in understanding, knowledge,
                        And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice,
                        And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it,
                        And in the love of it, the love of all existences,
                        And in the love of all existences,
                        The love of the divine and all goodness.

Awen. Awen. Awen.

I salute the hawk of dawn, whose path marks the bounty of the fruitful Earth. I call upon the powers of the East. May there be peace in the East.

I salute the great stag in the heat of the chase, and the crucible of the Sun. I call upon the powers of the South. May there be peace in the South.

I salute the salmon of wisdom who dwells in the pool from which all rivers run. I call upon the powers of the West. May there be peace in the West.

I salute the great bear who shines in the northern sky and marks our paths in the dark of night. I call upon the powers of the North. May there be peace in the North.

May there be peace throughout the land.

This rite is complete. May its petition remain with us in the apparent world.

Blessed be.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Determined To Outlive Them

I've been following the Supreme Court and its decisions closely for years. This year, back in June, the court decided (5-4) to end a 40-year-old precedent of "fair share" dues to public sector unions.

It was a decision that undermines the power of labor unions, who traditionally vote Democratic. And for those of you who think that Roe v. Wade is "settled law?" So was the decision the court overturned on unions!

The Orange Menace, a failed real estate salesman, libertine, and egomaniac, has now seated two men onto the Supreme Court. When I contemplated the Menace's victory, this was not even a worst-case scenario that I imagined. It is, in short, worse than my most bitter imaginings.

Every news outlet agrees that this loathsome appointment will influence the direction of America for 30 years or more.

And so, I, Anne Johnson say ... I'm determined to live 30 more years and vote in every goddamned election between now and then. My daughters know my politics, so if I go demented, I will instruct them how to cast my ballot.

When I went to the Women's March on Washington in 2017, I got caught in a huge crowd. Standing next to me was the most elderly female I have ever seen who wasn't in a wheelchair. She was dressed to the nines, and to get to that place she had to have walked blocks and blocks.

That is going to be me. If need be. Until then, I ride.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Beware the Pillar of the Community

I never liked Bill Cosby, even before women started bringing accusations against him. There was something unbearably proper about the man, probably at the very height of the years when he was ruining so many lives.

Those of you who don't live near Philadelphia might have been spared some of the worst of Bill Cosby, pillar of the community. As Temple University's most visible graduate, he often went there to speak. (In fact, that's how he finally got nabbed -- by a Temple employee.) Cosby would orate at length about his fellow African Americans' saggy pants and grammatical usage, taking them to task and exhorting them to be more white. At the time I remember thinking, "Who died and made you God?"

There's probably not one single African American male who heard those unseemly lectures who has behaved as badly as Bill Cosby. Alex, I'll take saggy pants for the win.

Pillars of the community -- especially if they're wealthy -- are never ever to be trusted. The more they set themselves up as superior individuals, the less you should believe it. I'm not cynical. I'm old. I've seen too many pillars (including members of my own family) who have had dark, hidden corners that didn't bear scrutiny.

Now this guy, granted, he's no Bill Cosby. There aren't 60 women accusing him of drugging them and raping them in their helplessness. But make no mistake, this man is a pillar of the community. He is not to be trusted as far as you could throw a bull by the tail.

This man has a dark past that is almost lost to time. He was a rich, privileged prep school boy with a spotless record of sports and community service, good grades, and lawful behavior. He also drank like a fish. The evidence is all there. People might not have seen him attack women, but they sure saw him drunk.

I am entitled to my opinion, and it is this. If you see a rich, white prep school kid who seems perfect, trust me he is acting out by drinking to blindness and behaving like Mr. Hyde. He might (might) have qualms in the morning, if he even remembers ... but probably not.

When I heard that this guy coaches his little daughters' basketball team and has the signatures of scores of women who worked for him, a big red Bill Cosby flag went up in my mind. Beware the pillar of the community. The higher he flies, the more monstrous his behavior might be.

Bill Cosby got what was coming to him. (Actually I think his sentence is remarkably lenient.) Soon we will see if this other beast will get his as well. I say "beast" because we know so little about this man. The Republicans have hidden his record as a member of the Bush administration, thousands and thousands of documents. But even if we had them, who can support this pillar of the community? He doesn't even want his own daughters to be able to chart the courses of their bodies and their lives. How can we be sure of that? Our horrible president promised to seat Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And gosh, what else has the Orange Menace accomplished? He's gotta throw some scrum to his base.

If the evil Republican oligarch puppets do succeed in seating Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, I hope it galvanizes women everywhere. Everywhere. We've had enough of these pillars and their perfection. They shouldn't fool anyone.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

My Dinner with Persephone

Hello, and welcome to The Gods Are Bored! What did you do today? I stripped wallpaper! I know, right?  Contain your jealousy, reader. It's unseemly.

I've gotta say I'm very surprised to have a dinner guest tonight. I would have thought she'd be home with her husband. But please give a warm and wonderful welcome to Persephone, Queen of Hades!

Anne: Persephone! This is ... unexpected. Yesterday was Equinox, and I thought...

Persephone: Maybe you've noticed, the seasons change slower than they used to.

Anne: But I would have thought your calendar was more dependent upon the hours of sunlight than the temperature of the atmosphere. Anyway, come on in! Mr. J is making spaghetti.

Persephone: Zounds! What happened in your living room?

Anne: Well, I got the first layer of wallpaper off, and now I'm starting on the underside, which is easier, but it all takes so much time...

Persephone: You need help?

Anne: Aren't you due down in Hell?

Persephone: That's just it, Anne. I'm tired of being due. I'm tired of being bossed around by my mother, and I'm tired of being at the beck and call of my husband. Where do I have a say in all this?

Anne: Indeed you have a clear-cut case for #MeToo. But I thought you actually loved Hades.

Persephone: He can be very cold, Anne. And he thinks he's better than me. Okay, he's a god and all that, but a girl has feelings, you know?

Anne: Well then, stay here with your mom! You should see how she decks things out in the fall.

Persephone: Nope. No can do. For the past two hundred years she's been getting more and more feverish. Her temper is a force of nature. She's crabby all the time.

Anne: (aside) "Crabby" is not an adjective I would ever attach to a deity. But that's just me. (to Persephone) To be honest, your majesty, I am a real believer in free will. It does seem to me that you get shuttled back and forth with little say in the matter.

Persephone: Exactly.

Anne: So what do you propose to do?

Persephone: You have several spare bedrooms now ... and your Gamma cat is such a fluffy sweetheart ...

Anne: And I am totally cool with putting you up for as long as you like, so long as your spouse doesn't ... how shall I say this?  Take me to task for it?

Persephone: I don't know what he'll do. I've never stood up to him before.

Anne: Can you appreciate that this puts me in a bit of a spot, considering I'm a mortal?

Persephone: This old sofa of yours needs all new upholstery. I'd love to take a crack at it.

Anne: Sorely, sorely tempting! And you don't even have to bribe me, Seph. I can feel your pain. Dragged off to be married, then tricked into eating one seed so you'd have to stay, then having to deal with your mom's moods...

Persephone: I know that Cloacina stayed here with you awhile. And Walt Whitman too.

Anne: Walt only spent the night. He has a house in Camden. I have to ask, though: What happens to the climate if you hang out here at my place in Snobville? Won't your mom just keep the summer sun beaming down until we all bake like biscuits?

Persephone: We don't have to tell her I'm here. Or him either.

Anne: Oh, sheesh! For the love of fruit flies! You're going to have Mother Nature and the God of Death on the search, and they'll wind up in my living room?

Persephone: Damn. Yeah, you're right. But what am I to do? I'm sick and tired of both of them.

Anne: I can dig it. Nothing worse than thwarted potential. Here's an idea: Cloacina is down in the Carolinas, frantically trying to keep waterways free of poisons and harmful bacteria. I'm sure she could use some help. It's chaotic down there right now, so Hades would have a heck of a time chasing you down.

Persephone: I would like to do something useful.

Anne: Well then, that's my recommendation. What do you think?

Persephone: I like it!

Anne: And you wouldn't have to leave until morning. Dinner's almost ready! And the guest room is the only clean place in the house.

Persephone: Thanks, Anne! We can braid some trim for your upholstery, talk a little politics ...

Anne: No politics for me, Seph. When I say, "You do you, Persephone," that pretty much sums up my entire political philosophy. Say, is that a new tattoo?

Persephone: You like it? I designed it myself.

Friday, September 07, 2018

The Conservatives in Camden

Well, well, well! Another September, another year of teaching school! If you worked in the profession, you'll know that your administration waits until you are comfortable at your grade level and period length, and then they will change it up on you and make it baffling again

My classroom has no air conditioning. We had two heat advisory days this week. We got to leave early yesterday -- 12:45. That's not so early. I was so overheated I was dizzy driving home.

But enough whining! Pity party over.

I have one class of sophomores this year. I haven't had sophomores in the past four years. (see above re changing things up) There's a whole new curriculum for sophomores. I'll look at it next week. I have plenty of time, since I have to give a standardized test between now and then.

Today, having five minutes left in class with my sophomores, I asked them the question: What isn't fair? I started listing their gripes so they could see them on the screen.

Of course they began bitching about the uniform policy right away, and the school rules in general.

Then a student of color said, "Taxes aren't fair."

I said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "I think there should just be one percentage for everyone. If a person makes $5 million, they are already contributing more taxes than someone making $50,000. They shouldn't have to pay a lot more."

I said, "So you don't think the rich should be taxed at a higher rate than the middle class?"

And he said, "Nope. Think about it. They worked hard to get that money. They should get to keep it."

I said, "Well, that makes you a conservative."

Then a few other students challenged him. One girl said, "But the rich have it to spend. They should give back more! People need help!"

So I said, "Does anyone else in here agree with what she said?" A few hands went up. "You guys are liberals," I told them.

In the end, it shook out at about 50-50. These are teenagers, espousing personal opinions that might be coming from their homes and might be coming from their own thinking. Either way, there are fiscal conservatives in Camden, New Jersey.

Stupid Republicans. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

All the time and energy they spend gerrymandering, and vote-suppressing, and spreading their racism thick, like peanut butter on a sturdy slice of bread ... they could actually receive legitimate votes from minority voters who are fiscal conservatives. And don't even get me started on the social issues! I'll bet I don't have a single student who believes in a woman's right to choose. Well, maybe a few. But not many.

And yet, if I said to my conservative student of color, "Would you vote for Donald Trump? Would you vote Republican?" he would fall out of his chair. I can answer for him. Never in a million years.

I'm no sociologist, but I see this all the time. I would say that at least one in three, maybe more, of my students would test as conservative and vote that way, if not for the sickening racism on display in the Republican party.

But that racism cancels out everything else. Thank all the Gods and Goddesses of all the pantheons, now and forever.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day 2018

If you  know me at all, you know that I am passionate about unions. I wish there was a bored god of unionized labor forces -- I would make that deity dinner every night of the week, and pie on weekends! What this world really needs is a God or Goddess of Collective Bargaining.

It has been 10 years since I marched in the Philadelphia Labor Day Parade. I wasn't even sure they had it anymore. I kept Googling it, and I never saw any plans for this year. Then last week, about mid-week, I got an email from the AFL-CIO, asking me to march in a parade near me! Well, gee whiz. You don't even have to ask! Let me lace up my sneakers!

I sent my RSVP to Philadelphia and showed up this morning at the Sheet Metal Workers hall on Columbus Boulevard, wearing a gray "NJEA Proud" t-shirt I got last spring. Of course I was the only member of NJEA at the march, but there was a nice contingent of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, so I marched with them.

It's 94 degrees outside today.

Remember when the Orange Menace got elected, and we had that great big Women's March on Washington? I went to that. It's just my personal emotional need to be gathered with like-minded individuals in large numbers. And that is why I braved incredibly hot conditions to be with Philadelphia's union membership.

The Philadelphia Labor Day parade is a moving spectacle. Each local has its membership decked out in matching t-shirts in vivid hues, with pro-labor slogans on front and back. It's easy to find your group, even thought there's more than a thousand people there. The unions march off with their banners ... and it's a long walk, about two miles, to Penn's Landing.

Before the march begins, a bunch of politicians give speeches about the importance of organized labor. This year we had Pennsylvania's governor, Philadelphia's mayor, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a brace of Congressmen, and some organizers reporting on progress toward unionizing the big Marriott that's opening in Center City. Everyone was Union Proud, Union Strong! The governor said he would veto any anti-union legislation that reached his desk. (What was he going to say to a throng of union members in Philly? But I believe him.)

Here's a new theme, found on banners and t-shirts alike:

Considering that the Heir has two jobs and the Fair has three, I would say this sums up how to make America great again.

I didn't take many photos, since I didn't know anyone. But I did like the hopeful message on this t-shirt:

If there was any sentiment among organized labor that the Orange Menace was out to help unions, that has evaporated like a puddle on a hot summer afternoon. The Menace was roundly booed, and the odious Janus decision by the Supreme Court was not only booed, it was mocked on many a t-shirt.

 I do know that organized labor is the dinosaur, and the ownership class is the asteroid. But it's nice to think, just for one hot, end-of-the-summer day brought to you, like the weekend, by organized labor, that there might be a place for collective bargaining still in this country. Pipe dream, yes. But let me sleep just a few more hours.

United we bargain, divided we beg.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Dramatic Finale of Summer Paint Crew

For the past three summers, I have been on an interior paint crew at my school. The first year there were three of us. Since then we have been four.

School teachers need money in the summertime. All told I have made about $10,000 on summer paint crew. It's a 40 hour week at $13 an hour, beginning at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 2:30. We clock in with the janitorial staff, down in the boiler room.

The "leader" of our paint crew was a teacher who was quite happy to be the leader. He had worked on the crew before any of the rest of us signed on. And he did show us how to be efficient painters. I have used his techniques on my own home.

For three summers I have worked affably with these people. (The other three are all men.) One of them is a high-volume Trump supporter, and I even got along with him. (Changed subject to Phillies/Eagles/Flyers when he started sounding off.) Our camaraderie was such that, yesterday morning, I had one of the school secretaries take a photo of the four of us, since the "leader" and I don't plan to return next year.

We had two days left on the calendar.

There was a heat advisory in effect, and the room we were working in had no air conditioning.

The "leader" set an objective that was rigorous beyond necessity. I think he wanted to get the room done before he stayed home on Friday the 31st.

We were working right next to the principal's office. The principal's secretary was right on the other side of the wall.

Quitting time is 2:30. At 1:45 our leader grew angry with us, as we were moving slower than he thought we should be moving (during a heat advisory, at the end of a long day). It was apparent to me that, while he had kept an affable demeanor, our "leader" was dissatisfied with our swiftness in general. It was evident, in fact, that he had long harbored unspoken negative opinions about our abilities.

I'm 59. The other guys are 55 and 35.

Anyway, when the "leader" lit into us, it sparked an amazing shouting match, full of expletives, between himself and another of the men. Wow. If the "F" bomb could really explode, the school would be rubble.

You would never have known, even at lunch time on this day, that such rage was simmering in the room. But  you know how it is with heat advisories, and people who set ridiculous goals for their own arrogant ends.

I don't fight, I fly. So when the shouting commenced, I picked up the brushes and the paint pails and went elsewhere to wash them. I stayed out of sight until past time to clock out, and then I went and clocked out ... and told the buildings & grounds supervisor that I wouldn't be back.

The unseemly fracas cost me $200 in lost wages, because I'm not working today or tomorrow. But if it had happened July 7, it would have cost me a lot more, because no one is going to act that way in front of me. I saw enough of that shit when I was a kid to last me 10,000 lifetimes.

Readers, I am a slow worker. I climb ladders very carefully, as I have a titanium hip and resulting balance issues. But I do climb the ladders, and I do try to do a thorough, steady job. I am beyond offended that this ersatz "leader" saw fit to criticize me ... my turn to curse ... like a whiny little bitch. He is the one who told me to join the paint crew, and sold it to me by telling me it wasn't such hard work!

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a hard place in my heart for people who insult me, shout at me, and throw things at me. I have been friends with this "leader" for eight years. Today, and going forward, he is a member of my bargaining unit, and nothing more. This man will not apologize. It is not in his nature. But even if he does (and I would accept with gentility), the veil has been torn asunder. Friends, never again.

Last year I was in tears when paint crew ended, because we had such fun. This year, same people, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. And I used this day off to clean my house from top to bottom, and to write this blog post.

Next summer I plan to run a lemonade stand. With wealthy new neighbors all about, I should really make bank.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Two Trips Navel Gaze

My traveling experiences are so limited that it's embarrassing. I've never taken a major vacation, as in getting on a plane and biffing off to another continent or some fantastic national park. At the rate I'm going, it looks very unlikely that I ever will.

In the meantime, girls just wanna have fun. So this summer I took two weekend excursions, one with my daughter The Heir, and one with my daughter The Fair. (Old timers will notice I've changed this up a bit.)

The Fair and I went to my old stomping grounds. We visited my sister for an overnight at her home near Williamsport, Maryland. That was fun, because Sis has done a 180 in her political views and is no longer remotely interested in the Pentecostal people she used to hang with. We had a lot of fun! Here's Fair at the Potomac River, which was quite high.

The next day The Fair and I went to Cumberland, Maryland, where my grandparents are buried, right next to my grandfather's brother (and near another brother). I got to telling Fair all about how kind these people were, what straight-up great folks they were, and she listened to me gab. She's very interested in family lore, and I never get tired of talking about it.

So we laid some flowers on my grandmother's grave (she loved flowers). Then we drove out to Polish Mountain. There's a beautiful covered bridge at the foot of the mountain, perfect for photo opportunities.

This, of course, is The Fair, earning her name.

And here I am, on the other side of the bridge. Notice how high the creek is in the background! It's never like that in August!

(I try to counter-act my New Jersey license plates by wearing Orioles garb and putting an Orioles baseball cap in the back window of the Subaru.)

The best thing about this bridge is that, even after a major renovation in 1998, they didn't replace my grandfather's initials, carved who-knows-when. They used the original beams for the renovation ...

Those are my dad's initials too. Dad was a Junior. But this is Senior's work.

The Fair and I went to Polish Mountain specifically to watch the Perseid meteor shower. We have done this before, but not for a long time. We arrived at the old family home (now no longer in the family, and I'm the only one who cares), and of course it was cloudy. So we passed a few enjoyable hours excavating old bottles from the former trash heap that my great-uncle and great-aunt had out along the mountainside. Just look at this magnificent item Fair literally dug out of the ground!

Scoff if you like at the process of ancestor worship, but Fair and I had just spent an hour at a cemetery talking about my great-aunt and what a treasure of a person she was. This item was buried in the ground. Fair only saw the lid. It's an old one, too!

Time came to build a bonfire, except the skies opened up and a thunderstorm commenced. When that died down, we did build a fire, on the long shot hope that the clouds would clear away. And they did, for about an hour of meteor-viewing. We saw about a dozen. This is a low number, but hey, it clouded up again!

Fair and I stayed at the Road Kill Cafe, which has cute little cabins that are very rustic and clean. The next day we took a hike in Green Ridge State Forest. Now, this is where it really became frustrating. I have a goal in that forest to reach an extremely obscure swimming hole called Long Pond. Trouble is, the hiking trail is super steep. That doesn't stop me (see below), but on this day, we kept hearing thunder, and we kept getting little spits of rain. It just didn't seem like a good bet to be clambering about in those conditions. Fair did climb a bit and get a glimpse of the swimming hole, from a distance. So we at least know for sure it exists.

There are lots of cats and kittens at the Road Kill Cafe, just wandering around with only basic needs met. Fair loved this. We found many excuses to loiter, even when the cafe was closed.

This was an excellent and memorable trip back to the land of the ancestors (blessed be to them). I'm so glad my daughter The Fair is interested in learning about her family!

More recently I went on an overnight excursion with my daughter The Heir. While Fair is nostalgic for the land of her blood, Heir is eternally infatuated with New Jersey. This is good and bad. The bad part is, what a lousy state to be infatuated with! The good part is, it's easy to have fun experiences in New Jersey, because we don't have to drive for hours to get there.

Heir and I love to hike. I've been collecting waterfalls, so I tried to find a hiking destination that would include both waterfalls and vistas. Heir likes vistas.

Vistas? Waterfalls? In New Jersey? Shhhhh ... don't tell anyone!

Heir and I hiked for two days in Norvin Green State Forest. She was very patient with me on the impossible, ridiculous, no-woman-my-age-should-be-doing-this rock climbing.

First we took a trail to a place called Osio Rock. There was only one scary part.

The sign gives you an option for a difficult climb or an easy go-around. Guess which one Heir wanted to do? So, what the hell, I'm only gonna be 60 at my next birthday, I'm only the breadwinner in my house ... why not?

Yes, I did climb down this cliff. It was one of many.

It has always been my dream to go hiking in the grand parks of this lovely nation, but I've never had the opportunity. But I'll bet you even the most veteran hiker of Yosemite and the Grand Canyon never saw what Heir and I saw from the top of Osio Rock.

We saw the skyline of New York City. The photo does not really capture the surreal quality of the experience, but here goes:

Can't really see the skyscrapers unless you enlarge the photo. But trust me, they were there. It was like something out of Star Wars.

On the second day of our hike, I had researched a charming loop trail to a place called Wyanokie High Point. The trail also included a waterfall, Chikahoki Falls. I love those names, don't you?

The trouble was, the map that I was using didn't have proper topographical benchmarks on it. Free advice: always consult the topo map! Heir was very, very patient as I lugged my ancient butt up over rocks and down steep inclines, and up over more rocks, and up and up and up, then down and down and down, and all of it over rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

The waterfall was really pretty.

A smart, well prepared woman of a certain age would have called it quits right there, by the waterfall. Not me. Oh no. Off we went to Wyanoki High Point, by the toughest route on the map! I shiver just thinking about it!

I. Am. A. Badass.

The last observation I'll make about the jaunt to Norvin Green State Forest is that it was the first time I really used my organic, free-range hiking stick, pictured above. I grew it myself, and it was very helpful and not at all heavy or hipster!

In case you wondered what the rest of my summer looked like, here I am on a week day.

Hot, dirty, strenuous work on the paint crew, Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. But that's what gets a girl ready to climb rocks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

This Anger Is Justified

I don't know if you've ever taught school, but by around the second week in May, you pretty much feel like you've been dragged across a trackless desert with no end in sight. That's why a quiet Sunday morning at home is a real treasure.

But last May, my quiet Sunday morning at home was interrupted at 8:00 in the morning by an industrial sized wood chipper. A landscaping company had come to cut down the huge trees that were being slaughtered so that Mark Ryan Homes could put up two cheesy McMansions across the street from my house.

There's nothing quite like being awakened by a large chipping machine and a chorus of chain saws. On Sunday.

In high dudgeon, Mr. J went outside and told them to stop. The foreman gave Mr. J a sad smile and said, "Hey, we have to feed our families, okay?"

So Mr. J called the police.

It took Snobville's Finest about 45 minutes to arrive, during which the tree slaughter continued unabated. Neighbors gathered in their bathrobes to gawk. The policeman told the workers it was against the law to operate industrial machinery in Snobville on Sunday ... but then gave them another hour to wrap things up.

In the fullness of time a court date arrived for the charge of disturbing the peace, laid somehow on the builder and not the subcontracting tree murderers. The judge ordered the matter into "arbitration," and we got a date for the arbitration. It was August 21.

Mr. J and I couldn't quite figure out what there was to arbitrate. The builder broke a local statute. Shouldn't he just have to pay a fine, maybe get the infraction noted on his company's record?

On the eve of the arbitration, one of my daughters came for dinner, so I didn't go with Mr. J to the meeting. He left, nicely dressed and on time. And the builder was there. And apparently a jovial conversation ensued, in which Mr J aired his beefs in a civilized manner and the builder apologized and said it wouldn't happen again. (Which, how could it? The trees are gone.) At the end the builder and Mr J shook hands, and off Mr. Mark Ryan went with a clean record and probably a good fifty bucks ahead of the game, fine-wise.

When Mr. J came home all smiles, I went livid. At which time I got told by daughter and husband that I had better get a grip.

So, readers. You tell me. Is my anger justified?

*I now have two houses across the street, where there was one before. Four trees were killed, including one that was 100 years old. The killing occurred partly on a Sunday morning well before noon.

*The first house is sold. It sold for $900,000. To a young family that has already defied the building code and contracted for a patio in their under-sized back yard. The builder was not legally obliged to tell the young buyers that they couldn't legally construct a patio in their back yard. But, you know, he's doing so much for the Snobville economy by bringing in new tax revenues! (Wonder what's gonna happen to my house when it's assessed next?)

*The second house is in a bidding war. Mr J was made to understand that it might sell for a million bucks, which, you know, will make our house ever so much more valuable! (How that can be I have no idea, since these McMansions sport 4 to 5 bathrooms and my house has one.)

*I'm a public school teacher with a pensioner husband, living across the street from millionaires. I don't like millionaires. I voted for Bernie, remember?

*When I look out my front window, I see a framed two-car garage, just waiting for the luxury cars these millionaires will drive.

*Donald Trump is president. The Senate will soon confirm a Supreme Court justice that was nominated by a criminal.

*Rich people get away with shit that you and I could never pull. It could be ripping down trees on a Sunday, or it could be paying porn stars to keep quiet about extramarital affairs. It could be buying the loyalty of a town council and a borough planning board, or it could be undermining clean air statues on behalf of the fossil fuel billionaires.

And I'm supposed to get a grip? Not me. I'll slide right down the rock, thank you very much.