Wednesday, August 21, 2019

You Beautiful People!

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of you wonderful readers, I now have a year's supply of loose leaf paper for my classroom! Hooray!



I also have enough donations left over to purchase many of the book titles that got axed off my requisition! I can get them on the secondary market much cheaper. I'm going to have more students than I had last year, so oh WOW I am so glad to be able to get more books!

There were some frequently asked questions about my shameless plea. I'm only too obliged to answer:

1. How can a school not supply its teachers with loose leaf paper? Isn't that a staple?

It is a staple! So the only reason I can give you that my school district will supply staples like staples and not staples like paper is just sheer perverseness. We can get loose leaf paper (maybe), but the process is ridiculously lengthy -- involving competing bidders, etc. -- and not always met with success. It's easier to scout for it in thrift stores, which is what most of us teachers do. I don't ask the students to bring it, because it's not fair to take from those who brought, and distribute to those who didn't. The students themselves call that one out.

2. Why do you need so many books? What happened to last year's books?

My friends, I have a classroom library that runs on the honor system. My students are poor, and the school has multiple places where they can accrue fines, including the library and the cafeteria. I am not going to fill out a fine card for a poor kid to replace a paperback book that was half falling apart. This honor system works pretty well, actually. There's no downright theft.

Several things happen to my classroom library books, in no particular order:

*Faeries take them.
*They disappear under students' beds with lots of other stuff (including homework).
*Kids like the books and give them to friends whose teachers don't have that book in their classroom.
*They go to the gym and get locked in a locker.
*They get left behind on benches. Someone else picks them up.
*They get read so much that they fall apart.

I am not an average 9th grade English teacher whose students arrive in my class prepared to read pithy classic literature. My first priority is to improve student literacy. Now, I don't know about you, but I like to read books that I can identify with. It stands to reason that teenagers of color would want to do the same. So the books in my classroom library are for those kids. I curate my titles carefully. Some of the books are so easy to read that an enterprising second grader could whip through them. Those books (also about teenagers, it's a whole genre) are for my students who speak English as a second language. Many students have told me they never read a whole book until they came to my classroom.

EXHIBIT: TESTIMONIAL, SORRY IT'S HARD TO READ



Circling back around, I want to thank you again for your donations. Please email me your address, because you will get a paper letter you can use for your income taxes!

May all the Gods and Goddesses of multiple pantheons running deep into the tunnels of time bless you and keep you!

Your most grateful servant,
ANNE
annejohnson17211@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Passive or Aggressive, I'm Not Gonna Take It

Thank you to all who volunteered to donate loose leaf paper to my class! I left PayPal info in the comments of the last post.

Today I have another training session (aka humiliation) for a bewildering computer program my school is using to spy on teachers assess student learning. The last time I had one of these, the facilitator was openly disdainful of me.


Two can play that game.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

I Thought I Wouldn't Have to Ask for Books for My Classroom (Or Loose Leaf Paper)

Hello, fellow sufferers! Here I come at you with my hands outstretched. Never thought I'd have to do this again. It's been 10 years since the last shameless plea for this item.

Just this past spring, I was chastised at work for spending my own money on books for my classroom. The administrator who took me to task said, "There's plenty of money to order books. Don't spend your own money! Really!"

So when time came to order books for my classroom, I sent in the carefully-curated list of new, popular, and cutting-edge titles that I wanted for this year's classroom library. We teachers are told that we don't need to add up the cost, because the district will do it for us.

I had no idea how much my book list would cost. It didn't seem any longer than the lists I've sent in over the past three years, and I've always gotten everything I asked for.

On July 30 I was asked into a conference with the assistant superintendent. There was another administrator there too, so I knew there was some "problem." They always travel in pairs when it's bad news.

The news was, I had ordered $2000 worth of books for my classroom library! Why? What did I do with last year's books? A bout of "let's grill Anne" ensued which was cut short by me saying that I would pare down the list, all they had to do was ask.

Since then I have been haunting book sales and using Mr. J's credit at a bookstore in Philly to add to my classroom library. The problem with this is that my students are English language learners and people of color, and they have specific needs for engaging novels. These needs do not overlap with the used book sales in lily-white Haterfield.

I'm not going to ask for books right at this moment, but if you are interested in helping me, drop me a comment. When I see if I get any books at all for my classroom, I'll determine what I still need and arrange a way to contact you.

What I need right now is loose leaf paper. Can you believe it? Loose leaf paper.

If you can send me a package of loose leaf paper, email me at

annejohnson17211@gmail.com

and I will send you my address.

I'm not blaming Betsy DeVos for this debacle. The other teachers at my school were encouraged to order books for their classrooms, and some of them did it for the very first time. Jesus! No wonder kids come to my room asking if I have any good books!

I miss being a goat judge.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Woodstock Was 50 Years Ago

Where has time gone? Of course, I was ten years old in the summer of 1969, so the Moon landing had more of an impact on me then.

Woodstock has since loomed larger. Some of the bands that played there became favorites of mine within three or four years of the event.

There's a store near my house called Woodstock Trading Company. They sell beads, incense, Grateful Dead t-shirts, fairy balls, candles, essential oils, and jewelry. In short, one of Anne's happy places.

EXHIBIT A: WOODSTOCK TRADING COMPANY, CHERRY HILL, NJ


On Saturday, the folks at Woodstock threw a 50th anniversary party in honor of Woodstock (the festival). I got done up in my tie-dye, but when I got there it was pretty hot. So I came home.

But not before the dear proprietors of Woodstock Trading Company gave me a present. They had found a vulture feather and saved it for me, tied to a piece of hemp.

May the bored gods keep and guide my very own Woodstock family! Peace.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Best of "The Gods Are Bored": Greed Creed

From December, 2005

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the fairies are fair and the world isn't.

Today we will look at a few rules that apply to that one percent of Americans who control - what is it? - 80, 90 percent of the wealth?

Warning: If you are not one of those people, you cannot follow these rules.

1. If I want it, it's mine.

2. If you have it and I can take it, it's mine.

3. If I had it once and I want it back, it's mine.

4. If I can grab it at any cost to others, it's mine.

5. If I fight for it, you'll lose, and it will be mine.

6. If it was mine once, forever it will be mine.

7. If I see it and like it, it's mine.

8. If you think it's yours, forget it, it's mine.

9. If I want to own you, you're mine.

10. If it has coal, it's a mine.

The fairies added that last one.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

It Could be "War and Peace"

It occurred to me that it might be fun to go back and read "The Gods Are Bored" from the beginning. What an eye-opening experience!

After three days I have read the first six months of my output. And 2005 was a short year! Some years I wrote way more than 200 entries. As far as I can judge, most of them exceed 500 words.

I've got a plan to create a "Best Of" that will collect some of the better stuff and put it up in a separate space, or just here for new eyes.

It's pretty disheartening to see that the same issues that were plaguing us in 2005 -- global warming, income inequality, union-bashing -- are still plaguing us today. Only the names have changed. Back then it was Frist and Santorum. Now it's Trump and McConnell.

One thing I have learned from this little enterprise: I've got to write shorter entries. I did blather on and on.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

In Which I Sternly Reprimand My Deceased Ancestors

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" In Goddess We Trust! They should put that on money, along with Sojourner Truth.

You would hardly know this is a Pagan website these days, but it still is. If anything, the current state of our nation has entrenched me deeper with the Gods, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors.

It is the latter that I communicated with a few days ago. It wasn't pretty.

It's not often I get to the county where my mother's people resided and are interred. Usually I biff right past it on my way to my dad's county deep in the mountains. But Monday morning found me in Mom's neck of the woods, after having seen my sister play a concert with the municipal band.

I regularly visit and venerate my Johnson ancestors, as they were tough, resilient, Grand Army of the Republic slavery-haters. And supremely loving and wonderful folks as well.

Mom's family, beginning with Mom and going back through time, were racist, Confederacy-loving slave-owners with money but no scruples. Nevertheless, I purchased some shiny stones from Michael's and went to decorate their graves. (Shiny stones are better than flowers. They last longer and are pleasing to the Nature Spirits.)

My first stop was the cemetery where my great-grandmother, grandmother, and parents are buried. It is locally known as Rose Hill Cemetery, but it was created to inter the Confederate soldiers who perished at the battles of Antietam and South Mountain. Said soldiers were dug up from their mass graves on the battlefields by a wealthy local asshole landowner, and re-interred in a new, prominent spot in my home town.

EXHIBIT A: THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS, AKA ROSE HILL CEMETERY


Once this monument to white supremacy was established, all the area's families that had owned slaves promptly bought plots there. Hence three generations of my kin, including -- to my chagrin -- my dad.

First I went to my parents' grave. As I recalled it, they had those little markers on the ground with name and birth/death date. Imagine my surprise to find a big-ass gravestone that had to cost a pretty penny! After texting my sister, I found that my dad had ordered it after my mother died. I guess the carvers didn't get around to making it until a few years after Dad's death. It took me aback. During his lifetime, I couldn't get my father to buy a decent suit to wear to church. And here was many thousands of dollars worth of neglected gravestone, already dirty. (Sis never visits.) I put some shiny stones on it, shaking my head. I would have been glad to clean my parents' house while they were alive, but keeping their expensive headstone grime-free is not on my bucket list.

I didn't scold my parents, grandmother, or great-grandmother. (The latter two are buried nearby.) But when I got to the older churchyard further out in the country, I took the people there to task. If only the stones heard me, maybe that's a good thing.

EXHIBIT B: GREAT GRANDFATHER


These are the generations that actively owned slaves. In particular need of a stern rebuke is this couple:

EXHIBIT C: FOR SHAME!


John Brinham supervised the smelting of iron on South Mountain, which depended upon the labor of more than 300 slaves. A researcher of color did her master's thesis on the conditions of this labor, and it was horrible. I won't even go into detail, I'm so mortified by it. Nor is Mary Hanna off the hook, because her father owned people too and even doled her out a few to run her household and care for her children. (I think my rich aunt must have erected this stone, it looks to be so modern in aspect.)

Here's what I told the ancestors:

"Well, y'all, I'm not gonna lie. I'm ashamed of you. But you gave me life, and as luck would have it, I have been given an opportunity to teach children of color in a fine school. I can't hope to work off all your bad karma in just 20 years, but maybe if I help enough minority students it will mitigate the considerable damage you did over generations."

With that I scattered the obligatory stones, took some establishing shots of the stones' locations, and hoofed it on out of there, wishing desperately that I was treading the familiar turf of Dad's people's graveyards.

We venerate our ancestors for giving us life, but if they don't otherwise deserve veneration, we should be morally obliged to compensate for their bad behavior, if possible. I haven't the financial means to seek out descendants of my ancestors' slaves and offer reparations, but I really try to be a good teacher and help my students prepare for a world in which, although they are not enslaved, they still face momentous obstacles to success and safety.

It's important to know who your ancestors were and what they did with their lives. You might need to do some work for them in the apparent world.

And then there are the stone-cold idiots who are actually undermining the good deeds of their ancestors. Here I am talking about the scum of the Earth bad people who fly Rebel flags, not knowing that their forebears fought and died with the Union Army. You see this shit throughout Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey. It's a disgrace.

So at least I know what my people did. And in the peaceful moments at my outdoor shrine, I never seek to talk to them. I do think about them, though, and often. Especially after a hard day at school. Especially then.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Consequences of a Reading Disability

Boring. Boring. Boring. Why would anyone who isn't a teacher want to read about reading disabilities?

Answer: Because Donald Trump has one.

Over the weekend we had more victims of the public health crisis known as gun violence. I have written so much about this topic that there's nothing I can even say about it anymore.

However, when Donald Trump stood at the podium Monday morning and read off a teleprompter, he  still got the name of the city wrong. He said "Toledo" instead of "Dayton."

The reason he said this is because the teleprompter said "Texas and Ohio."

It's hard to read from a teleprompter. I've done it. But there are many cases where Trump has stumbled over text on a teleprompter. (That's how we got the fearless Colonial army storming the airports.)

Donald Trump likes to rant and rave speak extemporaneously. He is also infamous for refusing to read anything longer than one page, no matter how complex the issue.

Lots of people hate to read, and there are many ways to overcome reading disabilities. There are also quite a number of ways to compensate for an inability to read well -- especially if you're rich. I've seen students of mine offer to pay classmates to "help" with reading assignments. I've seen parents do reading assignments for their children. I've seen kids pass off assignments from year to year, I've seen them crib stuff off the Internet, and I've seen them assiduously "reading" books that have been made into movies.

The trouble with these avoidance techniques is that you can't learn nearly as much if you struggle to read. You inevitably wind up with less general knowledge than your peers, because it's just not possible for family and friends and the t.v. to do all your reading for you. So you grow up, and you're not stupid, but you just don't know as much as other people. Your knowledge gap only widens if you're in a job that requires reading, and you don't do it.

This is all well and good if you want to spend your life exploiting pretty women and stiffing workers who've contracted to you and more or less hanging with the worst riff raff in the leisure class. But if you need to make an honest living, or you need to apply expertise to a difficult job, you are working at a great disadvantage.

Any questions?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Fair Baltimore, the Beautiful City... Sort Of

What do you know? For five and a half years of my life, I lived in the Seventh Congressional District, which is the one that Donald Trump called a "disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess," and "the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States." Our fearless leader added that no human being would want to live there.

I am a human being, I lived there happily.

 To intelligent people, the world is far more complicated than it is to stupid people.

When it comes to intelligent people, the Seventh Congressional District has boatloads. Both Johns Hopkins University (my alma mater) and Johns Hopkins Hospital are located in the district. Many of Johns Hopkins University's professors live in the vicinity of the university, in some decidedly posh neighborhoods.

EXHIBIT A: JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY and ROLAND PARK



The Seventh District also includes Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It was kind of run down when I first moved there, but now it's a tourist trap of the first stripe. Even the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens have stadiums in the Inner Harbor.

EXHIBIT B: BALTIMORE'S INNER HARBOR


This picture doesn't even do the Inner Harbor justice. It's gorgeous.

The Seventh Congressional District also houses two world-renowned art museums, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Gallery. I've been to both, and they're fabulous.

But this is the stuff you've been hearing about that contradicts the fearless leader's rancid remark. I'm gonna get real here.

While a citizen of Baltimore, I had more than one memorable encounter with large rodents and many encounters with smaller ones. I left one apartment in haste due to the midnight excursions of a rat. My next apartment after that was visited by a mammal of the same species. Everyplace I lived had cockroaches and lots of them. (Daughter Fair has named them "scuttle boys," which I love.) But I'm a human being, and I didn't mind living there with these universal benchmarks of infestation. City life, you know? My kids live in Philly ... and they deal with scuttle boys, mice, and rats too.

However, it is indeed possible to find neighborhoods in the Seventh Congressional District that are dangerous and crime-ridden.

EXHIBIT C: YES, DONNIE WE ARE AWARE


I would like to behold a Congressional district that has no poverty or crime, where everyone lives a blissful, strife-free life. The Seventh Congressional District is not that district. There are neighborhoods I avoided completely where people live in desperate conditions. These citizens do not blame Congressman Cummings for their lot, however. They are proud of him. They know he is doing what he can to help them. They would not switch places with the caged immigrants at the U.S./Mexico border.

Living in Baltimore changed me completely. When I arrived there in the fall of 1977, I was a registered Republican who believed in small government and the possibility that anyone could be successful if they worked hard enough. Twelve months in Fair Baltimore convinced me that what the human race chiefly needs is a government that props up those less fortunate through sensible taxation of those who can best afford it.

Through a program in the Johns Hopkins chaplain's office, I tutored an inner city girl. She was bused to the university three times a week in the afternoons. At the end of the school year, the chaplain asked all tutors to ride the bus home with their students and meet the students' families.

My student's house had holes in the floor. The furnace didn't work. There were people passed out in the streets. My student shared her home with her mother, grandmother, and two siblings. Her father died of alcoholism at age 36. Against all of this, the child was trying to learn her multiplication tables. Her family was Caucasian. I can't tell from the map whether her South Baltimore neighborhood is in the Seventh or not. It's on the border.

Seeing how my little tutoring pupil lived caused me to ask, "Why can't something be done?" And that's when I became a liberal. Boom. Just like that.

I'm going to make one final point in today's lengthy sermon. Look at this map of the Seventh Congressional District:

EXHIBIT D: THE DISTRICT


Does something smell fishy to you? It's not the rodents or the infestation, it's the shape of this district! It looks like a dragon's head rising from a lake. This is a district that is the product of gerrymandering. Which the Supreme Court just upheld. Is there injustice in the state of Maryland? Oh yes, and it's the way the votes are clustered. Elijah Cummings can't do one damn thing about that.

To summarize in an intelligent way, Baltimore is a city with all the positives and challenges of any large city. There are pockets of lavish wealth and pockets of desperate poverty, and many many neighborhoods along a sliding scale that fit in between. There are accomplishments and struggles. Just because the sitting congressman for that district is tough on the president, that doesn't mean the city is uninhabitable. Insult by hyperbole is Trump's signature achievement as (not my) president.

Rodents? Yeah. I'll bet the White House has them too.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Water, Water Everywhere

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Can you believe the cheek of these bored deities? They want me to start a podcast. That's what's fashionable now. They think I should keep up with the times. I'm too polite to point out that They, too, are moored in the past.

Today's sermon topic is water. Many of us take it for granted, like there's an endless supply. But while we haven't been watching, a company called American Water has moved to privatize this commodity. You watch. They'll be coming to your neighborhood, if they haven't already.

But pish tosh! What can I do about the privatization of drinking water? About the only step I take is to use my spigot to fill re-usable bottles instead of buying those stinking little plastic bottles of spring water. Are you like me? Can you remember a time when you just basically trusted the local water source?

I love all the elements, but water holds a special place in my heart. Three years ago, I went for the first time to a place called Ricketts Glen in Pennsylvania. It's an amazing waterfall walk, with 23 falls in a three-mile circuit.

In 2016 I went there with my daughter The Heir. The summer had been dry and hot.

EXHIBIT A: GANOGA FALLS, AUGUST 2016


This is the tallest waterfall on the loop, at 94 feet.

Fast forward to 2019, the second of two very wet summers.

EXHIBIT B: GANOGA FALLS, JULY 2019


Same waterfall, different daughter. This is The Fair.

I mean, reader! It's the same doggone waterfall!

There is a moral to this sermon. If our planet keeps getting hotter, we will have less and less potable water. Our waterfalls may always look like 2016. And we can live without petroleum products. We can live without abundant food. But we are goners after a few days without water.

If a company like American Water comes calling, do whatever you can to thwart their designs. We had a voter referendum on AW's takeover of our municipal water here in Haterville ... and the for-profit company won. Stupid Haterville. One of these days your precious deep level aquifer will supply water to the owners of American Water, and not to your citizens.

Wait. This is depressing! Let's revisit Ricketts Glen, then and now!

EXHIBIT C: RICKETTS GLEN, 2016


EXHIBIT D: RICKETTS GLEN, 2019


Can't live without it! Oh, and there's one last photo that I just adore from this 2019 trip:

EXHIBIT D: THE MILLENNIAL AND HER WATERFALL


A fun time was had by all!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

My Body My Faith

Have you noticed a new level of respect for religion in this country? I have! The only problem is which religion is getting the respect.

More and more often we are going to see courts of law making decisions based on religious principles. I'm not talking about a general set of religious principles, but rather about specifically Christian principles. However, these judicial decisions will hinge on "religious rights."

This happens because of the assumption that most religions are descendants of the jealous God, and if they're not, they're philosophical paths like Buddhism. Have you ever been to an "all faith" service in the wake of some tragedy? Did you ever see them call up a Pagan to pray? Me neither.

Isn't it about time we Pagans demand our religious rights? I'm asking for friends. Friends who might need birth control or doctor-performed abortion services.


All of this protesting, using the Constitution and politics to protect women's rights, would only work if all women got on board. But lots of Christian women -- and I mean tons and tons of them -- oppose abortion on religious grounds. This is how we get draconian laws like the ones hitting the books right now in so many states.

It's time for "My Body My Faith."

Pagans see the world differently, or at least I do. I believe that the health of the planet is more important than the birth of more humans. We are an invasive species. We are literally destroying the only Earth we have, and the more of us there are, the worse it gets. Therefore, a tenet of my faith is that bodily autonomy protects the planet.

Bodily autonomy protects the planet.

That's a simple enough precept that everyone should be able to memorize it pretty quickly. Now, let's say that this statement is a central tenet of Pagan faiths. If it is codified as such, then Pagan women could request safe abortions on religious grounds. To deny a Pagan woman an abortion would be trampling on her religious rights.

Does this make sense to any of you? I want to get a conversation going in our Faith Community about abortion and its place in the health of planet Earth. we need to have some sort of "faith statement" that codifies bodily autonomy as a central tenet of Paganism. We need another statement that codifies the sanctity of the Earth and the sensible stewardship of the planet.

And then we need women who will demand abortions based upon their closely-held religious beliefs.

The only way to fight a politics that uses thinly-veiled religious tenets is to offer a challenge to those tenets using another religion. The only outfit that has done this is the Church of Satan, which is not founded on doctrine, but rather on philosophy.

You would think that after centuries of religious persecution, Pagan women would get up, stand up. Now is the time! You need an abortion? It's against your religion not to have one!

Anybody out there want to pursue this line of thinking with me?

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Above the Law

Probably every society in the history of humankind has had members who, by virtue of wealth or military might, are above the law. These people view the rest of us as so much sand spilled on the floor.

It's sickening enough to know that we're keeping people in cages in conditions we wouldn't inflict upon the chickens we eat. But to also know that a wealthy businessman like Jeffrey Epstein flung paltry amounts of money at little girls while ruining their lives and robbing them of their innocence is just 1,000 miles past infuriating.

I know someone who got 10 years in jail, no possibility of early parole, for having child pornography on his hard drive. He is now a registered sex offender. In fact I don't even know where he lives, because he cut all ties with everyone who knew him before he was arrested.

Epstein got a flick on his wrist, swatted it away like a fly, and went right back to his party life and his penchant for trafficked women. Trust me, we will never know the extent of it -- or, if we do, it will be because one side wants to smear Donald Trump and one side wants to smear Bill Clinton. And a third side might have it in for the British royal family. All of these sick pukes are in this together.

Once you get rich enough to make your own rules and buy off the law, it's the Wild, Wild West.

This is why Goddess-based religions exist. We, the grains of sand, need to feel that we can exert some agency over this despicable, depraved exploitation. We want to be able to stir up potions and create hexes and otherwise rage against those who want to dominate. A pox on religions that say to take this stuff lying down! That is exactly what the Jeffrey Epsteins of this world want us to do. I say, let's take action in the apparent world and on the spiritual plane! Demand justice from the courts. Demand full disclosure of partners in crime. Demand that sentencing guidelines be followed. And then petition the Goddess to smack these beasts until they crumble.

The moral character of this nation is so low it's got to look up to look down. I am longing for a principled leader, a majority religion that isn't awash in hypocrisy, a tearing down of walls between the "have too much" and the "don't have enough."

At dawn we ride. So might it be.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

My Perilous Day in the Activist Trenches

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," leaning left since 1978 ... and that's just the way it is. Two weeks of living in Baltimore schooled me pretty quick on the notion that the government should be responsible for its poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

I have just returned from Netroots Nation, which is probably the most lefty gathering you can find that isn't an out-and-out Communist Manifesto.

Front loading: Elizabeth Warren was there, at the candidate forum, but I didn't get to meet her. It doesn't matter. She owned that forum. She was fearless, funny, and genuine. And smart. And she shouted out for public school teachers and unions. (Unions always get tepid applause. No one remembers what it was like back in the day.)

Of more moment to me was my perilous morning registering voters on the streets of Philadelphia. I volunteered for this task in order to make the cost of the convention more affordable. With this task, I moved over from an anonymous face in a march to an activist -- and I promptly learned the difference between marching and acting.

My voter registration tutorial consisted of the following information. Approach people with the idea that you're looking to defeat Trump, you want to register Democrats. Are they registered? If the person wanted to register Democrat, I was to fill out the form. If the person wanted to register Republican, I was to hand them the form, tell them to fill it out and mail it in. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me, to be honest.

The voter registration leader said we would be lucky if we got two forms in our three hour shift. Within 90 minutes I had registered four Democratic voters.

I was congratulating myself on seeming to have a knack for it when I was approached by a mixed-race couple. They wanted to register. The woman, African American, went first. She registered as a Democrat. The man then smirked and said he wanted to register as a Republican. So I took a blank form off the clipboard and handed it to him with a smile.

I guess you can imagine how that went.

It escalated with just the amount of rapidity you would expect in these troubled times, but I would not engage the man with words. I said, "I tried to give you the form."

He said, "No you didn't! I'm going to get you!" And he snapped a photo of my Netroots Nation badge, which (unfortunately) listed my school as my affiliation. So the dude knows who to call. (This was a rookie error on my part when I filled out my Netroots application. I should have put NJEA and not my local school.)

I've never gotten a disciplinary memo on my job, so if I do it will be my first. I think the dude will have to make up some big-ass story, but he certainly seems capable of doing it. There are no doubt security cameras on City Hall Plaza that caught the exchange, but what the hell.

Still, that irked Republican will have to call my school, find an administrator on duty in the summertime, and concoct a tale that will suggest I'm not providing a safe, secure, and caring environment for my students. More power to him.

If my administration takes me to task for wearing the school name while registering voters, then I will apologize and not do it again. As I say, rookie error.

So, Anne, you ask ... will you do any more voter registration?

Count on it. Pennsylvania went for Trump by 44,000 votes statewide. I know who to approach about registration, I know what neighborhoods to visit, and it turns out I'm not afraid to approach people respectfully. I believe I could register as many as 50 people by November of 2020.

When I returned from my shift with five voter registration forms, the coordinator was so impressed he asked me to spearhead the entire Philadelphia operation. That was an easy "no," but I feel really good about the fact that there are now five new Democrats in Philly, thanks to me.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Gob-Smacked by the 21st Century Again!

Hello, hello, and welcome to another installation of "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, hardy volunteer at Netroots Nation! Wow, did I bust my chops today!

EXHIBIT A: SELF AT NETROOTS NATION, WITH BOXES OF T-SHIRTS



Netroots Nation is a convention that pretty much gathers every sort of progressive group, from labor unions to First Nations protesters, Daily Kos, ActBlue, plus old standbys like the ACLU and the Society for the Separation of Church and State. On Saturday a few presidential candidates will drop in as well.

My volunteer shift, right at the opening of the convention, consisted of doling out swag bags and free t-shirts. I was part of a team of six volunteers doing this, and we all rose to the challenge.

Do you remember that "I Love Lucy" episode where the candies are coming down the conveyor belt and Lucy and Ethel have to wrap them up? It wasn't quite that intense, but readers, I flew around that swag table like a dervish for three hours straight! There were all kinds of steps for each person and each bag, from making note that they had received the bag, to stuffing it with a few pieces of swag that arrived late, and then getting the right sized t-shirt for the person. Plus, do you know me? How enthusiastic will I be to greet people who hate fossil fuels, love LGBTQ rights, believe in unions, and -- needless to say -- detest Donald Trump? I was all smiles and good cheer!

I've lived near Philadelphia for more than 30 years, and I've spent lots of time at the Convention Center. I know full well that the place never has enough water and snacks available. Today was no different. The bottle of water I brought was gone in the first 90 minutes of my 3-hour shift. And although many attendees wanted to refill it for me, none of them knew where to go to do it. It was okay, though. I made it through those hectic 3.75 hours and crawled panting to the water fountain ... and in a little while I felt fine again.

In the afternoon I attended the Labor Caucus, and it was good old-time union organizing and notes-comparing. Everyone was upbeat despite our current political climate. There were lots of unions represented too. Always a good time when a teacher can rub elbows with a Teamster. It was also interesting to hear about innovative ways that unions are gaining membership. There was no particular speaker, we just talked to the people at our tables and then sent up a brave soul to report out what we'd said that was important. No PowerPoint, no blah blah blah. Then we all gathered in the front of the room for a photo. Oh yeah, and they had snacks and lemonade too! Union, yes!

And then the 21st century came rushing up to club me like some kind of embittered cave man. Oddly enough, this happened at the kickoff for Elizabeth Warren's campaign in Philadelphia.

I've always loved Elizabeth Warren, and in the last year or two she's grown on me more. I started a monthly donation to her campaign awhile back, and she actually called me to thank me. So It was with great excitement that I attended the kickoff, and it was made even better because my daughter The Fair joined me there.

The Warren bash was extremely well-attended. The rented room filled up fast, the organizers put out all the extra seats that were available, and it was still standing-room. As is often the case at such grassroots things, the attendees were mostly (but not all) people of a certain age.

The nice young volunteers stepped up and -- of course -- thanked us for coming. Then they told us they were going to roll out something brand new and really special that they hadn't revealed before at any other event! Wowsa, what could it be? A Skype with Liz?

Turns out the really special thing was an app designed to gather voter data for the Warren campaign.

The Fair's phone was almost out of juice, so she downloaded the thing on my phone. I tried to follow the PowerPoint, but as is ALWAYS the case with me, the presenter flew through all the great things the app could do, and she lost me at the first slide. Haven't I written about this before? I'm a fucking fossil. If it's a new computer program, I just. Don't. Get. It.

My daughter The Fair is not a fossil. She's a sweet flower. As the event wound to a close (with more than a quarter of the attendees leaving early in a thunderstorm), she turned to me and said, "I can sure see how this app will help with organizing, but this is not what I expected this evening to be."

That made me feel a little better.

Elizabeth has a plan for everything, and her campaign will be whiz-bang on the smartphones. (It already is. I get texts all the time.) But on this flash-flood evening, a large number of older liberals were left shaking their heads as they sneaked out into the rain.

Well, what are you gonna do, after all? You can't call people on the phone and expect to speak to them. Heck, Elizabeth Warren called me, and I let it go to voicemail since it said "Unknown Caller!" It's even worse to knock on a door. When was the last time you answered the door to a stranger? So it makes abundant sense to be able to text people and be in touch with them nearer to election day. I just can't do it myself. I'll put my money in the collection plate and feel like a good church lady.

When I went to the elevated train this morning to ride into Philadelphia, I got down on the platform, and every single person was looking at their phone. Every last person. It was so unnerving that I began reciting Walt Whitman poetry. No one noticed anyway, so why not?

People don't own smartphones. Smartphones own people. It only stands to reason that this is the single best way for a geeky candidate to mobilize her base. But I don't like it.

You know what sucks about being a Baby Boomer? Knowing that your best century is behind you.

I'm returning to Netroots Nation Friday and Saturday. Elizabeth Warren will be there on Saturday. Perhaps she'll pat my hand and say, "There there, you can just donate. You don't need to use the app."

Missing the days when phones were attached to walls I remain,

Your reporter from the front lines,
Anne Johnson




Sunday, July 07, 2019

I'm Going to Netroots Nation 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I got an invitation to an AFL-CIO caucus meeting at a thing called Netroots Nation. I suppose the AFL-CIO's algorithm recognized me as an active member who lives in the Delaware Valley.

I had sort of heard of Netroots Nation. It has something to do with online political organizing. But that's pretty much all I knew.

I expressed some interest, but upon investigation, I discovered that Netroots Nation 2019 is a humongous convention with a big price tag. But you know what? Being a volunteer at fairy festivals has taught me something: If you volunteer, you get a discount or a free admission.

I signed up for two volunteer shifts and got a discount. Then I sent in my RSVP for the AFL-CIO caucus meeting.

Readers, I'm going to a political convention. It begins on Thursday (I'm doing first morning shift doling out swag bags and selling t-shirts) and runs until Saturday (I'm doing first shift registering people to vote). The Labor caucus is on Friday.

Already, this opportunity has stretched my horizons. Without the help of my daughter The Fair, I downloaded the Netroots Nation app to my smart phone. This could be a game-changer.

It's been hard for me to find things to write about in these dark days, but I'm feeling confident that this convention will dole out some moments of interest. At the very least I can feel with confidence that the Philadelphia Convention Center will be chock-a-block with people who think the way I do. That's always a comfort.

So yours truly will keep you informed and up-to-date on the events that will transpire at Netroots Nation!

I ordered a new Gritty pin for the occasion. It's what the well-dressed Philly progressive is wearing!


Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

Let me see if I can hit the high points.

We have people at our border, caged in conditions we reserve for mass production of chickens.

We have a president who has ordered tanks into the nation's capital and will be turning a bipartisan holiday into a media spectacle.

This same president is showing a blind obedience to dictators abroad and oil barons domestically.

He has packed the Supreme Court with pro-business flunkies who will render decisions that will harm the people and help the powerful.

This all sucks.

But Gods damn it, this is my country too. My ancestors came here in wooden boats, settled inhospitable terrain, fought in the great wars (Revolutionary War, Civil War). They also opposed the government when it did not serve them (Whiskey Rebellion).

It is with the Whiskey Rebellion in mind that I prepare for participation in the Fourth of July parade and perhaps travel into Philadelphia to see the big-city fireworks. I will stand in opposition to this president and his party in every way possible. It is my patriotic duty. I am an American, and because this nation is headed down the toilet, I have to work harder than ever to see that its ideals are upheld and that its ordinary folks, its workers, its struggling masses, don't find themselves bereft.

The stakes are high. Even the entire planet is in danger.



Happy birthday, America! The Whiskey Rebellion is perhaps in need of re-enactment.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Miss Carol Is Living My Dream

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," summer vacation issue! Yes, for the first time in four years, I am taking the summer off, like they say school teachers do. It's probably a one-off summer, but I'm going to enjoy it! So far, so good.

Awhile back I started a series called "Living My Dream," where I look at other people and think how much I would like to be doing what they are doing. So far, the accomplishments of those people have been beyond my reach, but in today's installment I have someone who is more like a role model, and whose accomplishments I could sort of attain.

During the school year I begin every day with a 30-minute "duty" in the school cafeteria. I'm there pretty much to keep the peace, which is super easy first thing in the morning, and my standing post is right by the lines for free breakfast. Every morning for 30 minutes, from 7:04 until 7:34, I stand with Miss Carol.

EXHIBIT A: ANNE WITH THE LUNCH LADIES, MISS CAROL IN BLUE SHIRT


Miss Carol is a single mother with grown children, grandchildren, and a daughter still in high school. She works as a lunch lady, a modest salary with no benefits. And she is the most cheerful person I have ever met.

Every student who comes for breakfast gets a warm welcome from her, and a hug too, if they want one. Her own daughters, the ones I've met, are loving and respectful to her. She laughs a lot. And she cooks. A lot.

On Monday mornings, the lunch lady conversation revolves around what they cooked and ate over the weekend. On normal weekends the menus are lavish and comforting. On special occasions they are so mouth-wateringly over-the-top that I spend the whole morning fantasizing about them. Oh, the comfort food! Much of it overlaps with my own Appalachian upbringing, so I know how good those collard greens and homemade potato salad must be. And the pies. Mmmmmm Mmmmmm!

Carol has had some health problems and even surgery over the years I have known her, and when she comes back from a medical leave, the kids just completely fawn over her, as she fawns over them. If there is a human personification of love, it is this woman. She ought to be worshiped as a Goddess.

Now you must be thinking, "Anne, if you're so friendly with this marvelous woman, why don't you socialize with her?" Well, it's interesting. There's some kind of invisible line when it comes to out-of-school interaction between the teachers, the administrators, and the support staff. Each group stays with their group. I wouldn't say it's a racial thing, and I would like to change it, but this system is entrenched. She always calls me Miss Johnson, and I always call her Miss Carol. Point of fact, I don't even know her last name, and I've been standing, laughing, talking, and observing her for ten years.

Last summer the school had a picnic for incoming freshmen, and since I was there on the paint crew, I got to partake. Carol made the lunch, of course, and I sat with her to eat. We hadn't seen each other for two months, so we greeted each other like long-lost friends. And after I was finished eating, I had to get back to painting. As I was walking away, I heard Miss Carol say to another lunch lady, "Miss Johnson is so nice."

I may be nice, but Miss Carol is 10,000 times nicer than me. If she has hardships, she doesn't bring them to work. When she's under pressure, she doesn't grumble. There's no feuding with any co-worker. And there's nothing but love for the students. I'm sure some of them need it big time.

If you count happiness and contentment as wealth, this lovely lady is Bill Gates. I won't see her again until September -- we aren't even Facebook friends -- but I'll miss her every morning. Miss Carol is living my dream. I look up to her. She deserves it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Summer Solstice Faerie Festival at Marshy Point 2019

All Hail, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on this hot-and-humid summer morning! My name is Anne Johnson, your host with a boast.

I was a long-time attendee of the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. Oh, dear readers, how I did adore that festival! But time marches on, and Spoutwood's popularity outstripped its infrastructure. The event was held on a private property that just got mangled by the crowd, especially in rainy weather.

So the fine minds behind Spoutwood sought a new venue, and they landed upon a nature preserve called Marshy Point, which is just outside Baltimore.

EXHIBIT A: MARSHY POINT NATURE CENTER


There's lots of mature woods in the nature preserve, as well as one of those visitor centers with exhibits. It's a beautiful place, give or take the pesky insects that like to burrow and bite (which are everywhere at this season).

In just three short months the Spoutwood/Marshy Point crew put together a Faerie Festival. That's way past record time. Fortunately, years of practice at Spoutwood -- and lots of saved props -- helped to make the new place feel like home.

EXHIBIT B: SAVED PROPS


It is customary for these new festival venues to draw fewer patrons for a few years, until word gets out. But Marshy Point, being about 50 miles from Spoutwood, was close enough that hordes of regulars descended. And then the newcomers arrived. Lots and lots and lots of them.

Some things were the same, like the Gathering of the Tribes. On Saturday, every stalwart of the Mountain Tribe was on the property. Some of them drove from Lancaster and Harrisburg! It was so touching!

EXHIBIT C: THE GANG'S ALL HERE


We also got our usual spate of newcomers, who were persuaded to shout "Mountain Mountain Mountain" at the right moment, after which they were duly awarded with incentives.

As at Spoutwood, we called the Quarters. As at Spoutwood, we shouted "Kubiando," our special faerie word. We sang the same hymns and performed the same silly dances. The bands entertaining us were the same. The drum circle was led by the same facilitator, in a delightfully shady glen.

Summer Solstice is not the same as May Day. It was hot. But the coordinator had set up a misting tent, which was an inspired idea. Almost all the kid stuff was in the deep shade.

The biggest difference between Spoutwood and Marshy Point was that the latter is a state-run entity. We therefore had park rangers and police officers in attendance, a somewhat jarring sight at first. Most of the rangers seemed comfortable with our particular brand of mayhem and attire, and probably by mid-day the cops had figured out that we aren't the sort to pick fights or break stuff.

I felt sorry for this little guy, who was trotted out like they always do with critters at nature preserves.

EXHIBIT D: NOT THE HAPPIEST CAMPER


As for me, being Mountain Tribe, I was rather concerned about the flat land surrounded by water. Spoutwood is in the Piedmont, a place of rolling hills. But after ten minutes, I was completely sold on Marshy Point. There's more land, more shade (not necessarily where you need it most, but still), and really pretty water views.

When the coast clears and the nature preserve sees how we pick up after ourselves ... and the ducats are counted ... I imagine Marshy Point will feel warm towards the Spoutwood faeries. I hope so, because I can see myself visiting that pretty property again and again.

So, a bright Kubiando for new beginnings and a charming landing place! I'm happy for everyone who has put Spoutwood on the calendar each and every year.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Madonna, Ingrate

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," strolling through the years with gratitude for (almost) all of them! I'm Anne Johnson, a woman of a certain age. Glad to be alive!

I'm very, very, very behind in my blogging. I wanted to make some sweeping statements about a New York Times Magazine article called "Madonna at 60." A New York Times reporter spent a few days biffing around with Madonna to see what her life is like now, after all. these. years.

After reading it, Madonna said that she felt "raped." She was furious that the author of the article made so many references to her age, which ... you guessed it! ... is 60.

One could have some sympathy for aging pop singers, if not for the fact that said singers have made bank and are rolling in the ducats. If your career requires you to be come-hither sexy, and you suddenly find yourself north of the mid-century mark, you must feel a tad taken aback. But OH WELL, hon, you're rich! Get over yourself.

It happens that I am the same age as Madonna. Almost exactly. When I was in my 20s, I dressed like her and strutted my stuff, wore a kerchief around my curly locks, the whole bit. Then I moved on through the ups and downs of my 30s and 40s, a young mother ... then a mature mother ... with keening passions and deep loves. I dumped my religion and found another. I lost my career and found another. I've struggled with my weight, and yes, my age. But not to the point where the very mention of it is anathema to me.

I called this post "Madonna, Ingrate" because it seems to me she's as thoughtless at 60, yes the BIG 6-0 as she was through the rest of her years. She and I are part of a cohort. Maybe she has forgotten.

*Michael Jackson, born 1958
*Princess Diana, born 1961
*Prince, born 1958

Lordy, Lordy. I'm still breathing! And so is Madonna! Think of poor Princess Diana! And while it's impossible to muster a lot of sympathy for Michael Jackson, it does sound like his last days were Hell on Earth. The talented Prince, gone. No longer breathing.

It's a gift to live to be 60, and it's also a gift to do it gracefully. Grandmothers, crones, wise women -- call them what you will -- can still be sexy and daring, but it should be a different kind of sexy and daring. The time to strut around in lingerie and red lipstick is over, but life isn't over. Loving a partner isn't over. It should have evolved, though. These things should never be static.

So, Madonna, can we talk as contemporaries? You're rich as fuck, you're breathing, and you have a family. Bid the spotlight farewell and retire to a well-earned hammock, there to read some improving book. Be like me! Change careers, not because you want to, but because you have to! Time marches on. Aren't we lucky to be marching still?

Gosh, it's the most common joke you hear about aging: Consider the alternative. Madonna, consider. Seriously.  The Grim Reaper ain't at your door, and you should be thankful for that.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Interview with Bored Satellites: The Moons of Jupiter


Howdy and welcome to “The Gods Are Bored!” Do you want two tickets to paradise? Well then, we have to ask, Which paradise do you want to book? There are so many.

I’m not big on casting aspersions at any religion, because you never know what your next door neighbor is doing in the case of praise and worship. One can only imagine what my neighbors think of me, with my shrine and my candles and my drumming on certain nights.

It’s awfully hard, though, to look at some of these deity sets in a totally non-judgmental way, especially in light of the abortion laws being passed in certain who-the-hell-knows-what-they’re-thinking states. Suppose you are raped, or mistreated by the man who impregnates you? Should you have to carry an evil person’s child to term?

What better way to seek a response to this question than to interview some Ancients about it? The Moons of Jupiter will be visible with binoculars this week on Monday night, so their namesakes have arrived for a chat.  Please give a warm, wonderful “Gods Are Bored” welcome to Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – the Moons of Jupiter!

Anne: First, Ancient Ones, I assure you that this is a safe space. I do not allow Zeus, Hera, or any of their fellow High Deities here unless the premises is clear of mortals. I even lock Gamma the cat in the basement!

Io: Thank you for that. Zeus seduced me, and jealous Hera turned me into a white bull.

Europa: Thank you for that. Zeus turned Himself into a white bull, took me to Crete, and seduced me.

Callisto: Thanks you for that. Zeus disguised Himself as Artemis so He could fool me into having sex with him.

Ganymede: Thank you for that. Zeus abducted me and put me to work carting around wine to Himself and His friends. Oh, and he molested me too.

Anne: For the love of living fruit flies! Gives you some insight as to how Christianity established itself. Better one Jealous God with only two paramours than a bunch of squabbling rapist Gods and raging Wife Goddesses, turning poor mortals into bulls and trees and such. And all of you had Zeus’s children, right?

Io, Europa, and Callisto: Yes we did. No choice in the matter.

Ganymede: My gender saved me from this fate.

Anne: Wait. What? Ganymede, you got the same foul treatment, but because you are male, you didn’t have to carry children to term.

Ganymede: Correct.

Anne: I’m seeing yet another major crack in the core of the anti-abortion laws. So, all you mortal ladies who were preyed upon by Zeus, what were these offspring like who you had to bear to Him, even though you were duped, seduced, and raped by this ancient criminal?

Europa: Our children were handfuls. Chips off the old block: physically stronger, more willful, narcissistic, and ambitious than your run-of-the-mill mortal child.

Io: Nor were they particularly heroic, even if they were called heroes and were given cities to rule. They continued their Daddy’s ways.

Anne: Well, did Zeus at least provide them child support? Was he a presence in their lives?

All: Nope.

Anne: You know, it's bad enough that Zeus treated you that way, but you had Hera after you too. What was that all about?

Io: That one's easy. Zeus always told her it was us doing the seducing!

Anne: Works in the trailer park, so of course it would work in Olympus. It figures Hera would never turn Zeus into a tree or a bear or something. Me personally? I would have turned Him into a storm drain at the dog park.

Europa: You know what makes matters worse? We are still satellites around Him! Talk about humiliation.

Anne: I know. Damn. Then again, Europa, you have a continent named after you. The rest of you are zodiac signs and constellations and stuff too, right? And the only thing I know named Zeus is a Great Dane with prodigious bowels.

Callisto: Anne. Please tell us it gets better!

Anne: Honestly, I had high hopes for this country for awhile, but it's sliding backwards into darkness faster than I ever thought it would. But I'm determined to live to see AOC elected president.

Callisto: Who is AOC?

Anne: Is Zeus lurking?

Io: He's in Vegas.

[Anne shows her guests a photograph of Alexandria Ocacio Cortez.]

All: Ohhhhhhh!

Ganymede: If Zeus gets a look at her, he'll turn her into some kind of creature...

Anne: Ha! I doubt it. She already deals with Fox News. Zeus will be no match. Anyone want a scone?

Monday, June 03, 2019

Morons At Play

What can I say? It was a sunny day, and I had a few hours to spare while my daughter The Heir and her s.o. went canoeing. That's how I found myself on Main Street in Haterville in time to watch a Revolutionary War re-enactment.

 What was I thinking?

EXHIBIT A: BOYS AND BIGGER BOYS



The gaggle of colonials in the street had a cannon that they fired with reckless abandon at a small aggregate of Redcoats advancing on them. Lots of noise. But just like in Star Wars, no matter how much the two sides shot at each other, no one fell down.

I honestly wouldn't mind battle re-enactments if they were really authentic, as in people paying a good couple hundred bucks for movie-quality gaping wounds, which they would claw at in futility as they screamed for their mothers. Another compelling element always missing is the panic in the populace. There were lots of women standing around in colonial attire, just watching. Whereas, to be authentic, they should have been screaming and running, their few possessions or a child clutched in their arms.

All this is my way of saying there's nothing historical about re-enactments. They are a more expensive form of LARP with different rules and no dragons.

But, to make matters worse, this particular "skirmish" had a new loathsome attraction.

EXHIBIT B: UGLIEST "GODS ARE BORED" PHOTO SINCE THE END OF THE CHRIS CHRISTIE ERA


So they had a guy re-enacting an Iroquois Indian. He was on the British side.

See, if I didn't write this blog, I would have just uttered a few select expletives and walked away. But I wanted to get the reporting done, so I could bring this travesty to y'all.

This person said he has no Iroquois ancestry, he dresses like this "for the history." I asked what his gear cost, and he said around $1,000. I asked him about the red paint, and he said it's what the Iroquois wore into battle, so they could wash up afterwards and go about blithely, like blend in with the populace.

I couldn't resist. I have such a smart mouth. I said, "Well, you're lucky to be in a brand of entertainment that is more accepted than mine. I'm a Mummer, and if we came out looking like this, we would be fried on a spit." And I walked away.

Mind you, I know the difference between a battle re-enactment and a Mummers parade. In one, grown men dress up in weird costumes and make a lot of noise. In the other, grown men dress up in weird costumes and are silent.

The way I carry on with every deity from every kind of pantheon, both Old World and New World, you would think I would be okay with cultural appropriation. But for a Caucasian man to dress up like this, "for the history" or otherwise, is disrespectful beyond the pale.

I've never liked watching people shoot at each other. I think it shows bad taste. It minimizes the suffering that wars inflict upon an entire populace and the ecosystem as well. I doubt that you see many of them done in Syria or Afghanistan these days.

Well! Enough of the sermon! I know you need to have your palate cleansed, so feast your eyes on this short video clip of my Mummers club, the Two Street Stompers, covering the same material a few years back.

Palate cleanser found here.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Another Milestone Birthday

Hard on the heels of Walt Whitman's birthday comes that of my daughter The Heir. This is a milestone for her as well, but she doesn't want to talk about the number, and neither do I.

The Heir has a style all her own. It's definitely out there somewhere in the ether.

EXHIBIT A: CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK


My family is definitely "grab a costume and ride." The Heir has the most flair in this regard.

EXHIBIT B: THE APPLE DOESN'T FALL FAR



I remember once, on Halloween, Heir went out dressed as a drag queen. That's a girl dressing up like a guy dressing up like a girl.

It's such a cliche, the idea that the moment you hold your baby in your arms, you become smitten and the Earth quakes. That certainly doesn't happen for everyone, and I would be the last to suggest it ought to be this way. Speaking only for me, it was. When the nurse handed me The Heir, the ground moved under me. I was never the same. Eventually the love I felt for her and her sister pushed me to the Goddesses, because for me, the mother/daughter bond was transcendent.

At a very low moment in my life, the Heir had occasion to read me the riot act. The fact that I had angered her altered my behavior completely. I changed overnight. That's the power a loving child can have over you: that you're willing to be your best self to make them happy, even if that takes a hell of a lot of work.

The Heir got a bachelor's degree from a 4-year liberal arts college, where the deans assured her she would be employable once she clutched the sheepskin to her bosom. Well, she does work ... and five days (sometimes six) a week, too. The jobs she has require that sheepskin. But they don't pay well, and they don't provide benefits. Her college loans hang over her, not enough to color her world, but enough to feel the flecks of pigment when she wants to be part of the purchasing economy,

I've got to hand it to her, though. She had a good season at Penn Christmas this year, snagging (among other goodies) a lifetime supply of freezer bags.

EXHIBIT C: HEART OF BRIGHTNESS


In so many ways she has surpassed me. Almost every Sunday she goes into Kensington, which is the worst drug neighborhood in the Mid-Atlantic, and she hands out clean needles, first aid supplies, and food to the addicts living there. She is part of a group. I worry for her, but I'm also proud of her. She cares about her world and the people in it.

So, here's to The Heir! May she rock on and on and on! I love her beyond words.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Bicentennial Birthday

Two hundred years ago today, a son was born to a struggling carpenter living on Long Island. The oldest child in a large family, he was sent to work at an early age in a printing shop. But he longed to write, so he pursued a career in journalism, wandering here and there, keeping his observations in little notebooks he stored in his pockets or travel bag. He wrote about everything and anything: spiders, grass, slavery, working people, ferryboats, the beach, the Gods, the jealous God, the spirit, the soul, the passion of lovers, science, family, politics, war, and this country, America. Eventually he turned all these observations into poetry. And then he became our national poet.


This is the bridge that bears his name today. He would be flabbergasted.

When I despair about this country, when I think it cannot get any worse, I remember that he saw worse. He worked in an Army hospital during the Civil War. He wrote about it, too. And yet he kept his optimism about America, about love, about the soul, and about the body and its place in the world.

I feel his spirit in Camden, the city where he chose to be buried. I stopped to see his tomb today, and it was open.



His work is timeless. If you want to see its latest iteration, try this. It's amazing.

Happy birthday, Walt Whitman! Prop us up here! Keep America singing -- its varied carols, for all of us.


"Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness,

All seems beautiful to me."

--Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road"

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Helen Dishaw Is Living My Dream

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your highway to hilarity in a world of woe! I'm Anne Johnson, denizen of this nuthouse garden, and you're very welcome to stop on by. Just don't stain the furniture. I'm very picky about my upholstery.

My regular visitors will recall that, last month, I took a real, live vacation to Salt Lake City to meet a fabulous condor named Andy who lives in a posh aviary there. But I was also keenly interested in meeting Andy's friend, Helen.


This is Helen with the aviary's black vulture, Chewie.

Helen is the reason Andy has become an international celebribirdy. Before she arrived in his life, he lived in a cave-like enclosure by himself (his sister died of cancer). Helen coaxed Andy out, and now he takes a daily stroll with her, in order to meet eccentric buzzard-lovers such as myself.

Helen has trained other birds in the aviary as well -- you should see Chewie with her. A vulture acting like a puppy! She and her crew also have shows featuring spoonbills, toucans, hawks, a turkey vulture, and an owl. 

The most impressive of Helen's accomplishments is that the birds in her care all seem so happy. Can birds be happy? If you have to ask, you've never had a meaningful relationship with a bird.

Someone at the aviary told me that Helen takes birds home with her when she is trying to bond with them. I'm sure she didn't do that with Andy, but he positively dotes on her. She coaxed him out for his birthday even though he had to go past some bright, flapping fabric and lots and lots of people. She calmly said, "You've got this, Andy." And he did.

Lots of people ask Helen how she got her job, and she demurs. She's not a university-trained bird person. Like so many folks who are really, really good at what they do, she's just been able to put her dreams into reality. She is very motivated.

As would I be, if every day began with a jovial stroll, just me and my Andean condor.

Helen's job isn't stress-free. Birds are touchy, and they can bite, so she needs to be vigilant without seeming so. She was pretty tense on Andy's birthday, because the aviary was so crowded. But all in all, she's clearly loving her work. I don't think I could prevail upon her to switch careers with me.

Imagine getting up every day to go see a veritable aviary full of cheery birds, who you will walk with, talk about, and perform with for people of all ages! No profession is a total bowl of cherries, but I'll bet working with Andy is at least a bowl of craisins.

All hail Helen, the lovely bird-whisperer of Salt Lake City! Helen is living my dream.