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,

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


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.


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.


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.


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

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