Saturday, October 12, 2019

Meanwhile, in Haterfield

I'm quite sure you three regular readers are tired of hearing about the ugly new houses that were built across the street from me. They've been done for awhile, and I've been about as passive-aggressive as I could be about it.

But yesterday I arrived at my home to find that the Borough of Haterfield had planted this:

EXHIBIT A: CONSOLATION PRIZE


I'm no expert on trees, but this little maple looks like it's suffering from about 10 major diseases. I don't care. I'm going to throw my whole heart and soul into keeping it alive and thriving.

This is a borough tree, meaning that it will be pruned by the town. They will even give us the "gator bag" for watering next summer. I got a nice little note through the letter box telling me all about it.

Today I ran into a neighbor who sits on the Planning Board in town. He said that my street was the last one in the whole town to get an ugly tear down and re-build. All the other streets had already gotten one (or many). And since this giant driveway was installed, the town has changed the laws about big ugly driveways. Figures. But oh well, la di dah! I got a tree!

Today was a banner day in Haterfield. Our dinosaur sculpture turned 16. That means it's been about 18 years since I started leaving toy dinosaurs at the historical site on the edge of town. (Some of this blog's most devoted readers will remember about that.)  Happy birthday, Hadrosaurus fucku!

EXHIBIT B: HATERFIELD'S CLAIM TO FAME


One thing I can say about this statue is, it's life-size. This was a formidable critter. Life was probably better then, when herds of these things browsed some ferns and minded their own damn business.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

When the Anxiety Is Justified

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," melting down like ice cream on a sidewalk since November 2016! I'm your anxiety-plagued hostess, Anne Johnson, and are you as nuts as me?

First I thought that the office of the presidency would hold so much gravitas that even Donald Trump would assume a mantle of dignity. Nope! That hope was dashed in about 20 minutes.

Then I thought that members of his party would stand up to his outrageous behavior and school him on his adolescent tweets. Didn't happen.

Then I thought the Muller report would show that he cheated his way into the White House. It didn't.

Then I thought wiser heads would school and advise him on foreign policy. They did ... and got fired.

Finally I thought he would do some blatantly impeachable thing that would turn everyone against him. He did it. He got away with it. He'll keep doing it.

Oh my Gods I am melting down. Our country is falling off a cliff. A third of the citizens don't give a flying fuck, and another third are pushing it so it falls faster.

I read somewhere (don't have a link, this is a blog, don't need a link, why should I have one when the creepers don't bother) ... emmm ... I read somewhere that anxiety is actually a positive genetic trait. Anxious people are planners who assume the worst to try to keep it from happening. There's a need for people like this, because if the whole human race was blithe, everyone would be surprised when shit hits the fan.

At the same time, anxious people get criticized for "looking on the dark side." Okay, motherfucker, I look on the dark side! And guess what? It's dark! There's no "things will all work out" here! My anxiety about this loathsome beast in the White House was perfectly, completely, and utterly justified. He is worse than my nightmares predicted.

Now is when it pays to be anxious. At least I know shit-hitting-fan when it comes. I expected it all along.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Anne's Sanity Protector

Good afternoon, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Wowsa, wowsa, wowsa, I'm taking a trip down memory lane! I'm here at the Haterfield Library on one of the desktops. We had a whopper of a storm last night, and it fried our boxy box that gives us internet at home. Nearly fried the tree outside too. An eventful Saturday night!

Equinox has come and gone, and the dark is descending. It's early in a long school year, and our Fearless Leader has proven yet again that he truly is stupidly fearless.

And so I turn to my blankie.

When I was a stripling, my mother had bipolar disorder before there were any effective medications for it. The good ol' home was in turmoil. Whenever I could I escaped to the mountains, to be with my grandparents.

Grandma loved to embroider. She taught me how. I embroidered a jean jacket that is now the (much admired) centerpiece of daughter Fair's wardrobe. And it is indeed "vintage," like its maker.

A few weeks ago I learned that Mr. J's youngest sister is expecting her first tot in January. I went to the craft store (NOT Hobby Lobby) and bought one of those cheesy baby quilts that you cross stitch/embroider. These are made for grannies to craft. The stitches are large and the colors are few. And it's so doggone therapeutic. Takes me away from the computer and, mostly, the telly. I can sit on the front porch with my back to the fuckin ugly McMansions across the street, and I can stitch by the hour, only pausing to swat the clouds of voracious New Jersey mosquitoes.

I'm making a blankie for a tot. It's a huge project. I won't be on here as much talking to y'all, but I'll find time for updates.

In the meantime, here are some of the books I ordered for my classroom and paid for with your generous donations:

1. Dime, by E. R. Frank
2. Tyrell, by Coe Booth
3. Bronxwood, by Coe Booth
4. Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga
5. The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
6. The Education of Margot Sanchez, by Lilliam Rivera
7. Street Pharm, Snitch, and Takedown, all by Allison Van Diepen
8. Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson
9. A Child Called It, by Dave Pelzer

I actually got multiple copies of some of these, because they are the "best seller" books in my classroom. Oh yeah! I forgot! My Bloody Life, by Reymundo Sanchez, about being a Latin King. I'm gonna be really, really careful about who sees that!

Back to my blankie that I'm stitching. I was thinking of embroidering "Resist" on one of the hemlines, but what do you think? Does one really want to encourage a baby to resist? They might take it literally and be a real little blister.

Love to all,
Anne

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Let's Call Them Kavanaughs

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the first whiff of late summer is (briefly) in the air! It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Sort of.

Every year in September, the borough of Haterfield trots out a nice binge -- a flea market and a book sale on the same morning. I can't deal with the Haterfield book sale (crowded with dealers, high prices for used white people books), but the flea market is always a nice stroll. Also, every Saturday there's a farmer's market with local produce. All in all, this Saturday was a morning to toddle around the ol' village and take the air.

First I went to the flea market, which was chock a block with the stuff the millennials won't buy -- and I don't blame them. The place was pretty crowded with shoppers, many of them older than me. And right through this throng of tottering seniors came a male in the prime of life, riding his bike. Not slowly, either.

"Rude," I thought to myself. "He could knock someone down."

Hard on his heels, also on bicycles, came several strapping white teenagers, also riding too quickly for the foot traffic.

"Damn!" I thought. "Can't these kids see all these older people?"

Answer: Nope, they are blinded by privilege.

Matters became more fraught when I made my way to the farmer's market. It's packed into a smallish court, with not much room for pedestrians and the merchants. And wouldn't you know, here came another pack of white teenagers on bikes, scattering mayhem in their wake.

That's when I thought of the name. I hope it becomes used far and wide.

I dubbed them "Kavanaughs." As in a Supreme Court justice who would have done the same damn thing at the same damn age.

The name was so catchy that, when the last kid passed me, I said, "Watch out, Your Honor."

And then when another one passed me as I walked home, I sing-songed "KAVANAUGH" and said, "Your Honor!" to the blithe and blond brat.

From now on, that's what I'm going to call these shitty wastes of genetic material. If a teenager of color did this in Haterfield, he would be sternly warned and possibly ticketed. But who's going to discipline Biff? No one. The world is his oyster, and perhaps it always will be.

I think Haterfield should have a club called Future Supreme Court Justices of America. Just a modest proposal.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

About Those Books - Again

If it weren't for y'all, I'd be up the creek.

I'm back in school now. Temperatures are still cresting to the high 80's, and my classroom has no air conditioning. With the fans going, it's like a convection oven. But it is September, and the weather is bound to break in a few weeks.

School opened, but the school library didn't. It's closed until further notice. I mean, closed. Individual kids can't even go in to check out a book.

Over the summer, the buildings & grounds crew started a renovation of the library that still isn't finished. They took out the carpeting and put in laminate floors. The best part is, they removed the book shelves and didn't put them back in. The director of buildings & grounds wanted the library to look open and spacious. This meant removing the entire nonfiction collection.

Oh, and we just got a new librarian. She is 23 and looks like a Bambi just before the SUV plows into it on the highway.

Long story short, I am charged with improving the literacy of 70 students, without access to the library.

Can you imagine how grateful I am for the book donations y'all sent? Close your eyes and think of the cutest kitten in the world. That's how I feel about you.

I'm not forgetting the folks who sent me paper, either. My colleagues are using the photocopier to "make" loose leaf paper.

Ah, September. I love it! Said no teacher ever.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The America-Hating Left

Can you believe the leader of the Free World calls a portion of the population of the nation "America-hating Left?"

I support left-wing policies, but that doesn't mean I hate America. I'm just as patriotic as the next schlub out there. Hey, I know the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner! That puts me way ahead of the pack.

When Donald Trump was elected, I silently hoped that the gravity of the position of president would work on his higher instincts. Fat chance of that. The old coot was set in his ways, kind of like a stretch of sidewalk. What he was then, he is now: an aging celebrity with a big mouth.

I've written a lot of things about Donald Trump. I've called him old, fat, conceited, ignorant, ugly, uncouth, illiterate, and tasteless. But I have never accused him of hating America. He doesn't hate America. He really isn't thinking about America. He's focused on his ratings, and he needs to foment hate to get the crowd pumped up.

I've got a news flash for the Trump pestilence: There's a difference between hating America and hating you. Contrary to your bloated sense of self-worth, you are not equivalent to America. You're a human being. A particularly loathsome human being, but one nevertheless.

And yes indeed, Donald, I hate you. I'm embarrassed by your behavior, I'm concerned about your lack of expertise that extends even to the way you wear your neckties, and I'm worried about the upcoming fallout from your ineptitude. I would like nothing better than to see you turn purple and keel over at one of your despicable rallies, preferably before uttering the opening remarks.

To summarize this sermon, Donald Trump is a man. He is not a nation. I hate him. I do not hate America.

Gods bless America!

For those of you who donated books, I will put a list up here on "The Gods Are Bored" very soon. The books have arrived, and tomorrow, 70 inner-city teenagers will be tucking into them, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. If you still want to contribute to the cause, I'll be posting another wish list after I read some of the most recent batch of urban YA books. Wowsa, you wouldn't believe how explicit some of them are! I have to fan my menopausal face!

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Friends

You know how it is. You're sitting in the dining room with a cup of tea and the newspaper ...

Wait. This dates me.

You know how it is. You're sitting at the island with a solo cup and your phone, and you start feeling sorry for yourself. You start wondering why you don't have any friends.

Earlier this summer, I was wondering why I didn't have any friends. Of course, I had the answer. I'm not a bit sociable. When you spend your whole day entertaining teenagers, it's hard to find energy on the weekends to lift a teacup (or solo cup), let alone socialize like a normal person.

I was really and truly convinced that my years of having friends and being a friend had passed me by. From now on it would be family and cat. Crickets when the weather starts to cool.

And then came August, when I was told I could just forget ordering any books for my classroom.

The first hint that I'm not friendless came on this blog, when I issued my shameless plea for school supplies. Loose leaf paper started arriving at my door. Then books. Lots of books. Including books that are appropriate for sophomores!

All of this generosity served to remind me that I have good pals out there on the World Wide Web. Even if I haven't met them. What does that matter? They're friends.

Then something else happened. My daughter The Fair had a show that she wrote and directed make its debut in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The show (now over) had a run of four nights.

At first I wasn't even going to mention the show on my Facebook, but I broke down and posted something about the production, and if any of my friends wanted to see it, they should hit me up.

They did.

On Wednesday night, my friends Buzz and Patti McLaughlin joined the Johnson family for the debut. I met Buzz and Patti at the Two Street Stompers Mummers club. So I've only known them about six years -- but it seems like they're family. Like I found myself with a brother and sister-in-law that I never knew I had, but suddenly they just appeared.

EXHIBIT A: BUZZ (LEFT), NOT DRESSED FOR THE SHOW



On Friday night, my friend Diane Rugala went with me to the show. We worked together at the Vo-Tech for about four years until she retired last year. We were thick while working, finding that our political views go together like a hand and glove. It was a pleasure to take the El train with her, and she really enjoyed the show.

EXHIBIT B: DIANE AND ANNE ON ANOTHER OCCASION



On Saturday, for the matinee, my good, long-time Mountain Tribe faerie friend Pam drove all the way from Maryland, and then had to take the El train to the theater all by herself -- having not set foot in Philadelphia since a heavily-supervised 8th grade field trip -- to come to the show.

EXHIBIT A: ANNE, MR. J, PAM, and FAIR AFTER THE MATINEE, PHILADELPHIA FRINGE FESTIVAL



The bored gods have taken time out of their busy schedules to remind me that I do indeed have friends, and they're straight-up swell friends at that. The Fair's play was not free admission. It was a regular Fringe offering, with tickets. These friends of mine traveled to Philly, bought tickets, and saw the play.

If you combine that with the largesse for my school that has floated to my door, you will agree I need not be crying in my tea, or my solo cup, over the newspaper or the IPhone, because I don't have friends.

If you contributed to my classroom library (or paper), and you didn't get a thank-you note, drop me an email at
annejohnson17211@gmail.com

because I don't want to miss any friends!

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Two Bedroom One Bath, Philly Fringe Festival

It's a real honor to have a production in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. This festival has been around for a long time. It runs through the whole month of September and includes numerous shows at multiple theaters in and around Philly.

I direct your attention to this "dramady," about a mismatched pair of roommates:



I happen to know the writer/director of this play very well. I read the play in progress, and again when it was finished. It's awesome.

Elise has her life planned out perfectly, keeps her room perfectly tidy, and has her act together. Maura lolls on the floor in a heap of blankets, hitting an apple bong and bringing home dodgy fellows for hookups. Which roomie will flake out first? How can they survive a landlord who breaks the pipes on purpose, because he has a crush on one of them? What kind of boyfriend puts a brawl with a Cowboys fan ahead of a marriage proposal? (Answer to the last question: Half of Philadelphia.)

"Two Bedroom One Bath" makes its Fringe Festival debut tonight at the Philadelphia Improv Theater at 7:30. I'll be there on the front row. Taking tissue for many reasons.

If you're local, hop on down! The show will run through Saturday night and has a Saturday matinee as well.

Monday, September 02, 2019

The Great Tomato Gravy Caper

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Labor Day edition 2019!

In the interest of fair and honest reporting ... I didn't go to the Labor Day parade. I was still recovering from the Great Tomato Gravy Caper.

In Philadelphia and its environs, tomato sauce is called "tomato gravy." I don't know why. Maybe it's because of the consistency of the product.

Every Nonna in every row house in South Philly has her own recipe for tomato gravy. A lot of restaurants around here advertise "spaghetti ala Nonna" or some other dish "ala Nonna."

I'm not a Nonna. My Ancestry DNA says I have some Italian heritage, but I don't know a thing about it. What I do know is that fresh, garden-ripe tomatoes, when simmered simply with a few ingredients, make one damn fine tomato gravy.

I don't have a recipe, except to say that good tomato gravy starts with local produce. This year I was lucky enough to find a market that sold me two big boxes of plum tomatoes for $30.

When I was younger I used to grow my own tomatoes. But I got sick and tired of finding them, just at the moment when I planned to pick them, lying on the ground with one damn bite taken out of them by some critter. Do I look like someone who can build a fence? So I let my whole yard go to organic, free range native plants and looked for places to buy tomatoes.

Making tomato gravy is a long process. I haven't done it for at least five years, because when you have a strenuous summer job, like painting all week for 40 hours, you pretty much spend the weekends flat in the Barca-lounger. But this year, chock full of vim and vigor, I decided to cook and freeze tomato gravy!

The four batches last weekend went off without a hitch. My daughter The Fair came over to sample, and I noticed that she pecked a little bit at a smallish chunk of tomato. Well, a true Nonna wouldn't ever permit her gravy to have chunks in it! So this weekend I added a step to the process.

After the gravy had cooked and cooled, I flipped it into the blender and pulsed for a half second. Voila! Gravy smooth as silk!

I'll bet you can predict where this is going.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of having Fair back to dinner, along with my other daughter, the Heir, and Heir's boyfriend. Oh boy! Fresh spaghetti and tomato gravy with meatballs! Everyone was stoked.

Except 30 minutes before suppertime, I flipped the gravy into the blender, and ... I think maybe it was a little too hot? Or I didn't get the lid on it right?

I have white cabinets. Light beige walls with no backsplash.

Mama mia! Modern art! Or a mess, but either way it had to be cleaned up.

This escapade delayed supper, which delayed the departure of Heir and Fair, which delayed final kitchen cleanup, which delayed bedtime, which led to lolling in bed instead of going to the Labor Day parade.

Regular chain of events, so to speak.

I have a final pot of tomato gravy simmering on the stove. Farewell, summer! Back to work tomorrow, with lots of new books and plenty of paper.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day

Hello again, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you're new here, I'm the Reverend Irreverent Anne Johnson. What Gods do I worship? What have you got?

Most years I attend Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day, which is always held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and always located in verdant Clark Park. Clark Park is in West Philadelphia and is a largish square with some fine old trees and grassy knolls.

There are Pagan folks who take a dim view of these Pride Days, feeling them to be "Pagan lite" and little more than a shopping spree and a place to wear your pentagram. I feel that this view is short-sighted.

In a city the size of Philadelphia, there are a number of established Pagan traditions (Wiccan Eclectic, Druid, and Heathen), and all of these groups have booths at the Pride Day. This is an opportunity for people to talk to members of those established paths and possibly find a group with whom they can worship. Also, because Philadelphia is a big city, the Pride Day attracts published authors who give nice, introductory talks and then have books handy if you want to learn more. Last year's principle guest was Byron Ballard, and this year's principle guest was Laura Tempest Zakroff.  (Amy Blackthorn also attended this year.) These formidable Witches have done work on magical resistance and surviving these troubled times. Both Byron and Laura give a damn good keynote talk.

There's always some music, and a soothing labyrinth, and fund-raising raffles. You know what else I always find there? People -- most of them young -- who have traveled significant distances out of curiosity or longing, just to see what it's like to be in a group of Pagans. I met a young fellow from Hunterdon County, NJ ... and that's a seriously long hike from Philly.

The event also attracts a group of protesters who helpfully inform us that we're all going to go to Hell. This can be triggering for those who have escaped damaging Christian sects, so the PPPD volunteers are trained to keep the assholes protesters at bay. Worked this year. I didn't even see them. I heard about it afterwards.

These Pride Days and inclusive festivals are cropping up even in mid-size towns like Frederick, Maryland, and they are at very least a safe space for people who feel alienated from society and mainstream religion. Fall seems to be the season for them.

The beauty of Pagan Pride Day is, some Christians might come and hassle us, but we don't hassle each other. There's a shared purpose. And that is nice.

Labor Day is upon us, and you know what that means if you're a long-time haunter of this site: parade! Gonna rub elbows with the unions tomorrow ... another place where solidarity is welcome.

Respectfully submitted,
Anne Johnson

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Meanwhile, in Philly

What a week here at "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm nearly breathless.

Another round of thank-you-very-much for your generosity to my classroom! I went over to set things up today, and I felt far less anxiety than I would have before the donations rolled in. With one week until school starts, I'm halfway feeling okay about going.

 So now, as a change of pace, it's story time!

Story 1: "Why I Want to Like Cops but Just Can't"
by Anne Johnson

My daughter the Heir volunteers on Sunday mornings with a nonprofit group that serves the opiate- addicted population in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Basically her group sets up a card table, and there's a nurse who does vitals and dresses wounds, and Heir gives out snacks, clothes, blankets, whatever donations they have. Heir's group also picks up discarded needles for disposal and gives out clean needles.

This past Sunday, Heir and her fellow volunteers were seated at their card table. A Philly cop approached them and told them they had to leave. The nurse talked back. She said, "We are just doing a little first aid here." So the cop called for backup.

In just a few minutes, there were nine police officers surrounding the volunteers, and a sergeant bellowing in their faces: "You can't do this! You don't have a permit!"

Know what happened? The citizens pulled out their phones and started recording the encounter. That helped to de-escalate ... but Heir and her companions had to fold up their table and leave. Only they didn't leave, they just walked up and down the street, performing their good deeds.

Y'all know how I feel about unions. Well, the police have a union. They are public sector employees ... like me. But if I screamed in the face of one of my students, especially one who just wants to help sick people ... my butt would be fired and on the curb before you could say, "Racist cops, off our streets!"

Heir was pretty shaken up. But she's going back next Sunday.  I worry about her, but I'm proud.

Story 2: "Fly Iggles, Fly"

When the Philadelphia Eagles won their first and only Super Bowl in 2018, my daughter the Fair was a stripling of 23 living smack dab in the center of town. She was part of the happy, drunken throng that spilled into the streets to celebrate the victory. Since then (and before it too), she has bled Eagles green.

On Tuesday, the Fair performed as a production assistant (PA) for a commercial shoot at Eagles practice. The work wasn't glamorous, but she got up close to the entire team, including the quarterbacks and all of the remaining heroes of the Super Bowl. The irony is that all of the other film crew were males, and none of them knew anything about the Eagles!

There'll be more about the Fair next week. A play she wrote and directed will debut at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I'm proud of her too.

Proud of the Heir and the Fair. They are my life.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Things I've Learned

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," 14 years and counting, your destination for Pagan humor! With more than a little politics stirred in for good measure.

The death of David Koch, pictured below, has prompted me to be a bit philosophical today.

EXHIBIT A: DAVID KOCH

One of the things I have learned in a long life is, don't rejoice in the death of your enemies. They manage to live on in all their malevolence. (I learned this upon the passing of Antonin Scalia.)

That's not all I've learned, though. Here's a helpful list for you striplings. Free advice, so to speak.

1. I've learned that plum tomatoes make the best sauce.

2. I've learned that there are jobs where the paycheck is secondary to the enjoyment of the work. These jobs are rare.

3. I've learned that first impressions can be horribly off the mark. Don't make snap decisions about people.

4. I've learned three Walt Whitman poems by heart. Oh, wait. That's bragging, not advice.

5. I've learned that if you want to make an outdoor shrine or worship area, look for images of shrines to the Virgin Mary. They can be adapted.

6. I've learned that Calomine lotion and an oral antihistamine can help with poison ivy infections. In my last three outbreaks I haven't needed to go to the doctor.

7. I've learned that wild coincidences happen with enough frequency that they call into question the strict scientific worldview.

8. I've learned it's ridiculous to think humans are superior to cats. When was the last time your cat fed you and cleaned your bathroom?

9. I've learned that when you start talking about all you've learned, and how different the world is now than it was when you were a kid, people stop listening to you ... and I can't blame them.

So, go forth, striplings, with your toolkit enlarged by this essential wisdom!

Oh, and one more thing of immense importance:

10. Upholstery should be professionally cleaned once a year. Don't try to do it yourself.

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.