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.