Wednesday, June 24, 2020
The dictionary defines a shrine as "any structure or place consecrated or devoted to some saint, holy person, or deity." Any religion qualifies! Or none at all. I've seen shrines to Elvis in Baltimore. Shrines can be very comforting -- places to meditate, commune with the deities, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits. They need not be large. Here is mine:
You can see a conch shell on there that helps for sizing.
Looks so complicated, but trust me. I have no building skills. You can do this, fabulous you!
When I decided to build a shrine in my yard, I did what every sensible modern person would do: I Googled "backyard shrine" in the Images tab. Of course all the photos are of Catholic shrines, but hey. Go ahead and appropriate. The Catholics sure did.
So when I looked for an image, this lil puppy showed up:
My shrine is not this high or wide, but it's built on this principle.
First I put down a sheet of plastic, so that weeds wouldn't grow up through the shrine. This really works, and it doubles as a nursery for mosquitoes. Hey, bats gotta eat! If you don't like mosquitoes, skip this step.
Next I gathered up bricks I already had in my yard, including some of those nice pavers. I laid them in a semi-circle. Then I went to the landscape store and bought a flagstone and two bags of gravel. Put the flagstone in the semi-circle and poured the gravel around it. This is what it looked like at that step:
As you can see, it was Samhain when this photo was snapped. You could easily stop right after this step and have a tidy and wonderful shrine.
Me, I had some extra ambitions.
I grew up on Polish Mountain, as had seven generations of Johnsons. I miss that mountain like a lost lover. So I drove to Polish Mountain and loaded my trunk with rocks from the mountainside. I took one really nice flat stone from behind my great-grandfather's house to use as an Anchor Stone. I also dug out some little pieces of crumbly shale to put over top of the generic gravel. I placed these mountain stones over and around the bricks. No mortar. No cement.
Except this is just the beginning. This is where you really begin to personalize your shrine, so that it is pleasing to your Gods and your ancestors and the spirits of your place.
You can see that my shrine looks bright and shiny. That's because I went to the beach and collected white pebbles and sea glass to put on it. (There are sea shells too.) I put marbles on there, and crystals, semi-precious stones, trinkets, Mardi Gras beads from the Mummers Parade, silk flowers from the Fairy Festival, and souvenir rocks from hikes. Please note: If there are signs on your hike that say "Don't take the rocks," don't take the rocks! You don't want a sneaky shrine.
A shrine should be fluid. You put new things on it and take the worn-out things off. You re-arrange the rocks and add seasonal garnishes.
Once a year I gather up all the shiny stuff and give it a good bath. Last year when I was doing it, my phone fell into the bucket of water and was in there for awhile before I noticed it was gone. I pulled it out of the water, and it started right up. Not a single problem. When you seek to honor entities on a shrine, They will appreciate it.
When it's not too windy or too dry, I light a candle on my shrine at night. On the solstices (weather permitting) I let the candles burn overnight or for 24 hours. I use jar candles and hurricane globes that I buy at the thrift store. On Samhain I always put a jack-o-lantern on my shrine.
I tend this shrine gently almost every day and do my devotions there on full and dark moons, on holy days, and when I need to petition the Gods, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits.
You know what's the most brilliant thing about my shrine? It's portable. I can pick it up and move it anywhere. No mortar, no cement.
So ... you've got a little piece of ground and a lot of time on your hands, right? Building a shrine is the perfect way to spend a long afternoon outdoors! Go forth and give it a try! And share your results with me. I would love to see them.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
But over the weekend The Heir and The Fair both came for Father's Day, and we all sat out on the porch (it's big) at a social distance. So my favorite chair is still turned so it faces sideways, and I can see across the street.
This morning, as I was taking my tea, I saw the 3-year-old across the street shove down his pajama pants, whip out his junk, and piss on the flower bed. Now, I know, kids will be kids. But there were two adults on the porch, and they ignored the kid and just let his actions pass without any comment.
Yeah, kids will be kids. But there are fucking 5 bathrooms in that house. How far from the front door can one of them be?
When I notice at all, I am aware that a certain permissiveness pervades both new households across the street, but especially the one where the kid was watering the flowers.
Again -- little boys (never girls ... need I say more?) sometimes do such things. And adults can be indulgent. But they should have said something. I mean, gently?
But this is symbolic of what this little white boy with 5 bathrooms is going to grow up to be. He won't have to challenge authority, because he will be the authority. What he wants to do, he'll do. He's yet another Future Kavanaugh of America.
And yes, I am deeply prejudiced against his family. I hear the parents work hard. If they do, it's not in a meat-packing plant.
Oh yeah, it was the kid's 3rd birthday last week, and the parents paid to have their whole front porch swathed in balloons, some of which came loose and wound up in my yard. No big deal, right? Except shouldn't they pick up after themselves? Do you let your trash blow across your neighbor's yards?
Eat. The. Rich.
Saturday, June 20, 2020
And this time, we need to rage against the dying of the light, because there is important work to do. Work that requires energy.
There's a great evil afoot in the land. It's bigger than Trump. It's the Earth herself crying out against the destruction wrought by thinking apes.
It's time to ward our houses and tend our gardens. As you work on your land, say the following petition:
"I'm doing this for Gaia. I'm doing this to counter the evil afoot in the land."
So now you're saying, "But Anne. I don't have a garden!"
A house plant in a pot counts as a garden. Anything that grows from dirt counts as a garden. Even a sky plant is a garden!
We've got to tend the Land. It's practical and symbolic. The more growing things we cultivate, the more oxygen goes into the sky. Every dandelion counts. Grass counts too -- just ask Walt Whitman.
Go to ground. Go to Gaia.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
So when Donald Trump was elected president, shortly after I emerged from the Well of Despair, I said to myself, "Maybe he'll rise to the occasion and be a dignified chief executive."
And then I thought to myself, "Well, maybe he'll stop holding those loathsome, hateful rallies."
And then I thought, "Well, he's such an embarrassment, the rest of the Republican Party will not support him."
Then the coronavirus began to spread, and I said to myself, "Well, this would be a challenge for any president. You can't blame him for floundering a little."
So after he was caught off guard (having disbanded a pandemic task force he inherited from the previous administration), he has not only never caught up, he is now actively promoting further infection.
If I die of this virus, let it always be said of Anne: She was murdered in cold blood by Donald Trump.
My faith in human nature has been torched. Not giving the benefit of the doubt any more.
Friday, June 12, 2020
Who hasn't had a lovely summer evening ruined by these pesky pests?
I went hiking in a salt marsh once and got swarmed. But I was prepared with long sleeves, one of those screen hats, and long pants stuffed into boots. Still it was unnerving.
And now these little winged brutes carry Zika virus. It's really dangerous for pregnant women.
The other day I heard a motorized din. I looked across the street and saw a pest control service spraying the shrubs and lawn of one of those despicable McMansions. The sign on the truck said MOSQUITO/TICK PROTECTION.
This morning at 9:00 the same din sounded again, this time next door: MOSQUITO/TICK PROTECTION. I looked out the window, and there was a guy with no face mask, just showering the shrubs and house with pesticide.
I might have expected this from the pampered one percenters across the street, but I was pretty shocked to see my next-door neighbors, who have always shared my laissez-faire attitude about plant life, doing the same.
Readers, there is such a dearth of insect life in my yard now that I am beyond alarmed. My lawn is all-over speckled with clover flowers. Not a single bee. I have native wildflowers in full bloom in my micro-meadow. Not a single pollinator. No grasshoppers. No beetles. No June bugs and moths beating against the porch light when I sit outside. No little white butterflies.
Are there any benefits to mosquitoes and ticks? Only if you care about the food chain.
Putting aside their gastronomic choices, bats eat mosquitoes. The fewer mosquitoes, the fewer bats. Possums eat ticks. I know, I know, we could all do without possums. Or could we?
Many serious media outlets have written stern warnings about the catastrophic decline in the number of insects on our planet. This is a huge problem, my friends.
In my childhood long, long ago, the world teemed with bugs. I'm not just talking about the wilds of the mountains. I'm talking about ordinary suburban blocks like the one I live on. I can remember a time, even here in Haterfield, when a lawn full of clover had a pleasant number of bees on it.
Want to bet on the End Times? Encourage all your neighbors to get professional pest control companies to come and spray for mosquitoes. The shrubs in my neighbor's yard are now "protected" from mosquitoes, but they are also "protected" from every other kind of winged thing. I wouldn't trust the wild birds around that stuff. I wouldn't want Gamma Cat rubbing against it. And even though the guy spraying it wasn't masked, I don't want to sit outside with that poison so close to me.
A world without bugs is unsustainable. Our whole ecosystem will crash. Yes, the crawly blood-suckers are annoying and dangerous to the health ... but killing them off will be worse.
Please let me know if you still have an abundance of insects where you live. I am so very alarmed by the lack of them in my world. It's mid-June and I haven't even seen a firefly.
Gods ... I'm going to leave standing water on my property. Bats gotta eat.
Tuesday, June 09, 2020
Have you felt it? Like, even before the coronavirus, there's been some deep evil afoot in America. I don't even put it at the feet of Donald Trump. I think he's a symptom. If you were to ask me what's at the root, I would say our cavalier attitude towards climate change is the precipitating factor.
At any rate, I continue to mourn the loss of the champion Black Oak (see below). It has indeed been sawed up and mostly carted away. Friends, I miscalculated its size. It was 6 feet or more in diameter. Standing next to its sawed-off self, it was at least a foot wider than I am tall.
I brought home a box full of sawdust for ritual purposes and a Talking Stick for the Heir, if she wants it. Some of Haterfield's wealthier actually pinned their names to big chunks, "property of" or "save for." Must be nice.
While I've been crying over a tree, my fellow citizens have been marching and protesting about the treatment of African Americans in this country. This is a deep and long-lasting problem, and the advent of cell phones is shining a light on it. Thank the Gods. It's time for a reckoning.
So when the protests began, my daughter The Fair was staying here in Haterfield with me. (The Heir participated in an early march and narrowly missed being tear-gassed.) The Fair feels that white people should financially support the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement. I don't disagree, but I just see financial support as having a broader scope.
Last summer I asked my readership to help me buy books and school supplies for my classroom. Many of you responded either with money and/or the supplies. I got all the books I needed for the year, paper, and a lavish supply of pencils.
Make no mistake: If you participated in my little fund-raiser, you were saying "Black Lives Matter." You helped young people of color that you never met. This is a holy thing, recognized by the bored Gods and Goddesses of pantheons of color, known and unknown. You are held in the Light by the Orishas. And I am grateful to you for your gesture.
There are many ways, large and small, that we can support our communities of color. Buying books may seem like a small way, but improved literacy -- to my mind at least -- is one way to empower people. Not the only way, but definitely a way.
So again thank you for demonstrating that Black Lives Matter even before any feet hit the street.
Friday, June 05, 2020
On Wednesday, June 3 I went in a bus with three other teachers to deliver gift bags and "Class of 2020" signs to 30 members of the Vo-Tech graduating class. Our bus route was entirely in Camden, and I knew about 20 of the 30 kids we feted. Two of them -- the first and the last -- were my favorite students from that year.
I'll have more to say about this experience at a later date.
While we were in Camden, I noticed an ominous black cloud to the west. It moved faster than any storm I have ever seen. And when it hit, it was like a hurricane. All celestial Hell broke loose.
Let's just say I was glad to be on something as sturdy as a school bus, parked by a field with no trees.
The storm passed as quickly as it came, and we actually went ahead and finished delivering our gifts.
While I was in Camden, the storm ripped through Haterfield. And it toppled the Black Oak where I have done my rituals. The tree was 350 years old. It was six feet in circumference. It demolished the house across the street, but miraculously the family living there had just come outside because a little girl was crying and scared of the storm.
How did I find out about this? Glad you asked. The shitty way. Thursday night I saw an off-hand message on a Facebook thread. It wasn't even directed at me. It said, "Did you see the big tree on Lake Street came down?"
It was dark when I read this, but that didn't matter. I leapt out of my chair and ran to Lake Street. And there, to my sorrow, lay my ritual Black Oak. I'm not ashamed to say I cried out loud.
EXHIBIT A: ANOTHER CASUALTY OF 2020
Well, as you can see, this tree was not as healthy as the borough inspectors claimed. But it's so massive that the borough will need to get a crane to lift it. It can't be sawed up.
I never walked past that tree that I didn't give it a little prayer. Part of that prayer was "may the wind and rain be with thee." Oops.
This morning, early, I went up to the site and did a requiem ritual for the tree. I mean, a whole ritual, not just a prayer.
The Haterfield Shade Tree Commission claimed that this tree was the second oldest Black Oak in New Jersey. It was standing on this spot when William Penn arrived in America. But it can't have been terribly healthy, that hollowed out with no root ball.
The people whose house it hit escaped with their lives. They will get a new house. But there will never be another ritual tree like this one for me. We go way back together. Family.
Oh, tree. Blessed be.
Tuesday, June 02, 2020
As a Pagan and a U.S. citizen, I can only oppose this evil by upholding my values and helping those who are the victims of this scourge.
So that's what I'm going to do.
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Trigger Warning: The following post is depressing. If you're already depressed by this pandemic, give me a pass today and go watch "The Red Green Show" on YouTube.
Through sheer luck -- bad or good I can't decide -- I became a public school teacher in 2009 and have been doing it ever since.
I think the lucky part of my experience is where I landed in my career pivot to school teacher. I work at a school that serves an inner city population. I don't get much bad attitude in my classes, and when I do, I don't take it personally. It's too easy to imagine the stresses these kids are under at home and at school, where of course some bullying takes place and there are the usual cliques and jocks to contend with.
I've been "teaching" remotely since March 16. That's more than 8 weeks, with 4 more weeks to go. And that part about not taking anything personally has been very difficult to maintain.
Can I speak freely here? Dumb question. Then I'll go ahead and do it.
About a third of my students have either not turned in any work at all, or they have done two or three assignments and disappeared. Some of these kids are students I would somewhat have expected to be off task, but others are kids who had really good grades going into this.
At first I pestered every one of the disappeared students, but lately I have just given up. Who knows what is going on for them right now? And the longer they avoid looking at their classwork, the more it piles up. Right now, 8 weeks in, it would be a herculean task for them to catch up.
I was having a very good year at my school. My students were hard-working and motivated, for the most part. This is fortunate, because the ones who are not performing now had such good grades going in that they are not in danger of failing my class.
But it's really saddening to see what little I can do on the power of my personality.
Oh well, not to be completely demoralized ... the kids who are doing my work right along have high-in-the-sky grades, because the assignments I've been giving are really softball.
It's hard enough for me to sit here in my quiet house and discipline myself with a good laptop and no other obligations. My students have siblings, they share sub-standard devices, and I'll bet many of them are doing the babysitting while their health care worker parents go into the breach. The virus is still spreading in Camden and Pennsauken, affecting people of all ages. So there's that anxiety too.
Now our administration wants us to do Google Meets where we do Zoom-like meetings with our kids. I set up one of these for each of my classes, gave them plenty of notice and late-day start times, and then I sat with the Meet window open and waited for them. And waited. And waited. Not a single kid signed on. I miss them so much -- clearly they don't feel the same.
Ever had a pair of shoes that don't fit well, but you have to wear them anyway? That's how teaching feels for me. Like, I can walk in it ... but it never fits.
Sorry to vent. Y'all don't need any more whining right now. Just had to get this off my chest.
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
But pish tosh! Why dwell on the negative? Hmmm. What can I write about that is positive?
Well, the Monkey Man visited on Mother's Day, with his monkeys in tow and an Eagles mask.
EXHIBIT A: MY DEAR OL' MONKEY MAN
He's behind that poster.
The Monkey Man is one person I don't have to miss during quarantine. He and I have been doing the pen pal thing. We help the postal service. And I write to him because I know he'll write back.
What are you missing in these stay-at-home times? I am really staying at home. Every other week I put on my Gritty mask and go to the supermarket. Otherwise the only time I go out is to walk around Haterfield. No one else wears a mask.
There's so much I miss! In no particular order:
1. the thrift store
2. the thrift store
3. the thrift store
4. teaching the ordinary way
5. the farmer's market
6. the beach (not going until I have a vaccine)
7. Mummers meetings, now being done online
8. LARP in the woods
9. daughters coming for dinner
12. road trips
13. petting other people's dogs
14. the gym
15. teacher workshops where they ladle out mountains of pastry and candy
16. senior student events
17. the thrift store
19. being able to breathe while outside
20. fitting into my clothes
On the upside, my little back yard has never been more tidy. And there's a jenny wren nesting in the bird house I bought on March 9 before this all hit the fan.
What do you miss?
Tuesday, May 05, 2020
And then I thought of my online exercise classes, and I thought: "Wait a minute. Why couldn't we have an online Faerie Festival?"
I sent a Facebook message to two people I'm close to who I met at the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. Basically, with my limited technology abilities, I just imagined a group page where we could all just post some photos of yesteryear. Just so we wouldn't feel totally alone on festival day.
You know, people know people who can work wonders with the Internet.
Within ten days a young Fairie Festival performer had created a whole virtual playground on Facebook, and on Sunday there was a full schedule of live performances! In ten days more than 1,000 people found their way to that page -- and the photos were shared in profusion! Then came the pre-recorded stories. Then the live interviews with the owners of Spoutwood Farm. More photos, more comments, love in abundance.
Even the dreaded Wotan the Fairy-Smasher sent a greeting from Washington State!
What a weekend! I put on my festival clothes and decorated my front door.
EXHIBIT A: FRONT DOOR
The weather was brilliant. I set my machine up on the front porch and went to a splendid place called Cyberwood.
EXHIBIT B: FESTIVAL CLOTHES, FESTIVAL FRIENDS
All my friends were there. And the one festival pal who doesn't have a Facebook page messaged me, and I was able to send him some of the content.
Festivals exist because people want to be in social groups with like-minded people. Many of us go through the world feeling like misfits ... until we find that sweet, sweet festival. Nobody ever said the festival has to be on a particular piece of ground on a particular weekend. It can be any time, in the safety of home.
All of this will make the reunion sweeter when we are able to gather again in the apparent world. For me this will not occur until I've held out my arm for a Covid vaccine.
The moral of this sermon is simple: If you are missing a yearly event because of the virus, find some bright young whippersnapper and make an online version of it!
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
The television started reporting on a Thunderbird flyby two days ago. It seemed that New York City and Philadelphia were the specific locations of a Thunderbird flyby.
Well! says I. About time that the Sacred Thunderbird gets a good push-out!
Of course I shouldn't be driving to Philadelphia, but there is one place near my house where you can kinda sorta see Philadelphia. There's no such thing as a "high point" in my part of New Jersey, but there is one empty parking lot with a vague view.
So I went to that parking lot about 45 minutes before the worship of Sacred Thunderbird was scheduled to begin.
At first it was just me and two other cars in this big, wide parking lot. But slowly the lot began to attract more people. Not "oh my Gods I'm too close, I have to leave" numbers of people, but significant numbers of people. And off in the distance, over the Cooper River, a pair of Sacred Thunderbirds who seemed to be making their lazy way in our direction.
So many people arrived that I put on my mask. Not that anyone was too close, but there was a subdued excitement. Finally! Thunderbird worship on a grander scale! Should I lead? Should I follow? I had to remember to be humble. Not many people have been worshiping Thunderbirds as long as I have.
And then. Wouldn't you know.
EXHIBIT A: WRONG THUNDERBIRDS
I should have known, right? No respect for the real Thunderbird.
So it was this cluster of planes and then another of Blue Angels. Our tax dollars at work, my friends. Can't get a Covid test, but wow ... look at those planes!
They breezed right overhead, and really low too. I guess it was worth the 1 mile drive. Nice way to get out in the sunshine.
If you're jealous that you didn't get to see the Thunderbirds, take heart. There were 4,000 new cases of virus in New Jersey today. At least you aren't in New Jersey.
I guess the membership in the Church of the Sacred Thunderbird is back down to one. Oh well, at least there's one!
Stay safe, my friends.
Friday, April 24, 2020
Hello out there! Welcome to The Gods Are Bored Memorial Hospital! I know you are really interested in quick and easy remedies for the coronavirus. If you didn't see his briefing on April 23, our president offered the wisdom that injecting or ingesting disinfectant can cure the bug.
How about that? A splendid idea! Gotta tell you, my friends, I put out some lines of dishwasher detergent last night and snorted them. All of a sudden, I didn't care if I ever got the virus, or got a cure. I didn't even care to live, to be honest.
I was ready to try the ultraviolet light treatment the president recommended, too. I figured if I were to lay out in the bright sunshine for 8 hours nonstop, I would probably sterilize myself thoroughly. Promise you I'll try it on the next sunny day. It's pouring here in the Great Blue Northeast just now.
But President VillageIdiot is overlooking some other tried-and-true remedies for a novel virus the human body has never experienced before. Are you feeling under the weather? Try the following, and you'll live a long and happy life!
1. Dry Cat Food. Little known fact: Cat food cures everything from the heartbreak of psoriasis to ingrown toenails! Eat one bowl each day. Feed your cat the food you would otherwise be eating yourself. Omit salad.
2. Pothole Water. You know how water collects in those pesky potholes? Drink that right down! In addition to curing coronavirus, this will be a great colon cleanser.
3. Vitamins. Forget One-a-Day. Try One-Bottle-a-Day. Yes, take the whole bottle at once. Coronavirus is a dangerous foe! Halfway measures won't work.
4. Crayons. Hey, the box says non-toxic, right? Chow those puppies down! If you've got the big box of 64, you will be protected from coronavirus for 64 days! The magenta is particularly powerful.
5. Electricity. Since you were a little kid, people have been telling you not to stick a knife in an electrical outlet. Of course! You didn't need to, because you didn't have novel coronavirus! But now you should employ this sensible remedy. The searing pain and heart palpitations are unfortunate side effects, but hey ... hydroxychloroquine has pretty much the same effect.
6. Prayer. Petitions should be addressed to Yahweh and should be undertaken at a mega-church. Many of the mega-churches are open, because remember -- Jesus is stronger than the virus. Pay no attention to the people who couldn't get this to work! They were lacking in faith.
So there you have it. I feel fairly confident of all these treatments, because heck ... I took Health in high school and (if memory serves) passed with a solid C.
MORON: THIS IS SATIRE.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Here's what a regular class period looks like for me, in easy steps:
1. Get students going with a period of silent reading.
2. Get students to write a little something about what they read during silent reading.
3. Entertain the students with hyper-dramatic teaching for 10-15 minutes. In the lingo, this is a "mini lesson."
4. Students do an assignment based on the "mini lesson," while I walk around the room and make sure they are doing it.
5. If time permits, some students share their answers. Sometimes I "check for understanding" by having them tell me on an index card whether they get it or not.
One glance at this list will tell you how little of it can be done online. Basically I post an assignment on Google Classroom. Students can ask questions on their assignment document. There's a chat feature in Classroom. I can post grades on there.
Seemed like enough to me. After -- how many, I can't even count -- four weeks of remote learning, the motivated kids have done their assignments and asked questions as needed. The unmotivated kids (the ones I have to prod individually in the classroom) haven't done anything. It's either all or none.
And of course I have covered my kiester by calling parents and students who didn't do the work.
Now our assistant superintendent (Janie Junebug, I hope you're reading this!) has demanded that we have Meet-ups using audio and video through our computers. Attached to her chirpy email was "directions," consisting of six different documents with about 16 hyperlinks in each document.
It was hard enough already!
Once more I find myself hopelessly adrift in the world of computers. Me! Anne Johnson! The first person at a publishing house to have used a computer to generate encyclopedia entries!
The world has passed me by. I'm obsolete. Jesus, I wonder what it will be like when I'm 70 and still trying to eke a living from teaching? Or will I even make it? That second wave of Covid is going to hit when school is in session. Then maybe it really won't matter if I couldn't master Google Meet.
Okay, self-pity session over. What problems are you experiencing right now?
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
I'm trying to stay as far from people as I can in this densely populated state. It's not easy. Go out for a walk, lots of people. Can't go to the park in the next block, it's closed.
Alas, there's no avoiding the grocery store.
In this big and busy county of mine, there are innumerable grocery stores, including Whole (Paycheck) Foods and Wegman's. If you haven't heard of the latter, it's a pinky-in-the-air gigantic place that I wouldn't set foot in even before the pandemic. You couldn't hire me to go in there now. Of course Walmart is out of the question.
The borough of Haterfield has its own Acme supermarket, a very tiny little store in what used to be a Friends meeting house. I have always given this Acme my custom, since its workers are unionized and it's a bearable size. Even though I am now doing two weeks of shopping in one trip, I won't go to the mega stores.
My local Acme instituted senior citizen hours from 7-9 in the morning, which was very kind of them. This morning I arrived there promptly at 7:00, hoping the store wouldn't be crowded. It was crowded. Worse, there were so many things out of stock -- bananas, oranges, salad greens, fresh spinach. The shelves were empty. Forget about toilet paper or paper towels or hand sanitizer. The paper products aisle was emptiest of all.
I was trudging around in my bandanna, thinking about how this is like a war. No fresh tomatoes, but they had the specific brand of apple that Mr. J likes. No fresh poultry products at all. (I think there's an outbreak at a chicken processing plant in PA.) And silly things like Pam spray all sold out.
But the place was crowded, and people weren't following the arrows and footprints the Acme posted on the floor to help with social distancing. Not only that, most of the people in the store were indeed senior citizens, way older than me, and they were buying a little this, a little that. For the love of fruit flies, why?
Then again, I filled two carts with stuff, and it took me over an hour to unpack it all and put it away. I sure wouldn't want to try that at age 80.
But soft! A wee bit of luck! As I was checking out -- a process that took 30 good minutes -- I saw that the green grocer was putting out salad greens and bananas ... eureka! The things I was going to miss the most!
Now it's another two weeks before I'll need any foodstuffs. Still teaching from home, so there won't be any need to biff about.
How do the grocery stores look where you live? I'm not sure my little Acme is typical.
Yours in the trenches,
PS - I have been writing letters to the Monkey Man and getting some back.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
April 15, 2020 bid fair to be the first exception to the rule.
My daughter The Fair lives in Philadelphia, not far from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. So close, and yet so far! We're not supposed to engage in non-essential travel, and it would be dangerous to get near her, seeing as how she lives in a house with a Whole Foods worker and a bike deliveryman.
But damn. Her birthday. And the lilac bush is blooming ... her favorite flower.
So it was that I cut a few lilacs, put them in one of the glass bottles I scavenged from the middens on Polish Mountain, and Mr. J and I drove to Philadelphia.
It took us 15 minutes to get to her house. The traffic was about half what it would be for that time of the day.
EXHIBIT A: NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL?
We drove to her house. We stopped in the street and turned off the car. There's very little traffic on her tiny street on busy days.
We cried. We kept our social distance. I put the flowers on the sidewalk.
Then we talked for about a half hour, maybe a little more. Mostly about her job situation and pandemic funds and school plans deferred until next year. She looked good and healthy and about as happy as anyone can be in this situation, which is, you know, meh with a heaping dollop of anxiety.
It was the most bizarre birthday ever, and it didn't help when I got home and started going through old photographs just to get them in better order. When do people take photographs? At birthday parties! Those old pictures showed years and years of birthdays, going back to her first, which she celebrated in a bunny ears headband.
The next fraught occasion of this sort will occur on June 1, when the Heir has her birthday. We might have to do the same thing then. I'm really hoping that we will all be able to get together as a family by July 6, Mr. J's birthday. Right now I must say it isn't looking too hopeful.
So, Governor Murphy, if you want to give me a fine, I'll pay it. What price can one attach to missing a birthday when a daughter is a scant 7 miles away?
Yours in the trenches,
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
I live in Camden County, New Jersey. It's in the southern part of the state, and therefore not nearly as overrun with the killer virus as other areas. Still and all, there are 1400 cases of coronavirus in the county right now, including a reported 20 in Haterfield, where I live. Eighty people have died.
As contrast, on March 13 when I left my classroom and locked the door, there were 3 cases in Camden County.
I'm a woman of a certain age, married to a man who was hospitalized with pneumonia back before any of this got under way. You can best bet I am heeding all the warnings. It helps to read the New York Times every day, because they are pulling no punches in their descriptions of the course of the illness. To call it a blow-by-blow worst case scenario would be hitting the nail on the head.
When one is confined to one's home, surrounded by foodstuffs one amassed prior to any governmental decrees, one tends to wander into the kitchen to whip up a batch of cookies. Every day. This, of course, has led to the COVID 15, meaning weight gain.
Inevitably it becomes necessary to take a stroll outside.
There's a little county park nearby, but it is knee-deep in mud, and I have the ruined pants and shoes to prove it. Therefore, today I decided to walk through the small Haterfield downtown district. What a disaster.
First of all, everybody is saying that there's so much less traffic than usual. Nobody told Haterfield. The traffic is as bad as ever. There are lots of pedestrians, too. Most of them weren't wearing masks.
I had my bandanna on and my hoodie pulled up over my head, and my sunglasses. I know all that stuff won't protect me, but I am courteous.
Pure foolishness led me through the door of the small CVS on Haterfield's main street. There was an employee right inside the door. She was not wearing a mask.
I asked her, "Do you have toilet paper?"
"No!" she barked. Like to take my head off.
I did a 180 and got the hell out of Dodge as quick as I could. Perhaps it was my "thug chic" attire? Perhaps she has had to answer that question 1000 times? Maybe she's just not a nice person.
So I'm walking back toward home, down a street that I hoped wouldn't be crowded. There was a woman walking on the other side of the street, no mask, talking loudly on the phone. To whit:
"YEAH THEY SENT HIM HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL. THEY SAID HIS OXYGEN LEVELS WERE BETTER. AND NOW HIS GIRLFRIEND DOESN'T FEEL GOOD AND HIS DAD, AND I'M REALLY WONDERING..."
I didn't hear the rest because I was holding my breath and sprinting in the other direction as fast as my flabby legs could take me.
Wowsa! The perils of walking in Haterfield!
Stay at home, my friends. I've learned my lesson. Tomorrow and for the unforseeable future I intend to sweep my floors briskly every day. Rake the yard even if it doesn't need it. Make my cookies heavier, so that I'll be working out by lifting them to my mouth.
No more Haterfield for me.
Thursday, April 09, 2020
Having said that, I've never admired a politician more than I have admired Bernie Sanders.
He has pointed out the obvious for decades and has voted accordingly. He has never changed his position for the sake of expediency, except perhaps becoming anti-gun over the years.
When a handful of people sit atop mountains of lucre and flaunt their excessive lifestyles while the rest of us struggle with endless debts and uncertain employment, a great wrong is afoot in the country. Bernie called it out. Every damn day.
Don't expect Joe Biden to allude to this injustice. He's going to rely on Bloomberg money and fistfuls of dollars from other fat cats who will want business as usual when November has come and gone. He is an empty suit with a pretty smile, and I am seriously concerned about his ability to express himself. What is he going to do in a debate with Trump? Trump will lie, Joe will say, "You're lying," and that will be that.
Meanwhile the rich will get richer on the backs of the poor. Our younger generations will drown in debt and be unable to participate in the middle class lifestyle of their parents (which, in the case of this household, means having a house we have never paid for and never will).
And the latest tactic of the oligarchs? Pit the younger generation against the older. "Okay Boomer" is exactly what the one percent wants to hear.
As long as we had Bernie, we had someone who cared about the younger generation. Now we don't. Kids, it's sink or sink for you. Your options? I don't know, but whatever you decide to do, this Boomer is with you.
Bernie may be out of the race, but the need for Bernie rocks on. Power to the people.
Monday, April 06, 2020
But today, and always, I am asking the Bored Gods to save the queen of England.
It boggles the mind that Queen Elizabeth II is still alive and able to make a coherent speech, given that she was born in 1926 (five months before my long-deceased mother) and that she bravely contributed to the effort in World War II while a princess and heir to the throne.
I know she's a figurehead with no political standing in the UK. Still, she's a symbol of the continuity of rule by a series of fairly educated and benign monarchs. She may only be an old lady in pearls, but she descends from Queen Victoria and does it nicely.
When you contrast her message to the citizens of the UK with the horrible, dishonest, self-serving and insulting daily briefings our chief executive is offering, you can't help but wonder if we would have been better off if England had crushed the colonial rebellion in 1781.
View the queen's address here:
How are you getting along? I'm having some difficulties.
Wednesday, April 01, 2020
Of course, your stone cold moron element -- widely represented in America -- respects neither science nor history.
Hot off the press, here's a little tale of a televangelist inviting people from all over the country to a huge outdoor Easter ceremony. He wants it to be of Woodstock proportions, because Christians sheltering from the pandemic are just "pansies."
There are way too many people out there who think Jesus will protect them from anything, even when proven abundantly wrong, time and again. My dad taught Sunday School for 60 years, and Jesus didn't keep him from getting Parkinson's Disease and breaking his hip and dying of a heart attack. Hey, for a brief period in the 1960s I believed in Jesus healing the sick, but my prayers on my mother's behalf did not yield results ... in fact her condition worsened.
Well. I'm no dummy. Pray and don't get results? Either change the prayer, or change the God. Or both.
The particular pastor inviting a national flock for a shindig hasn't been following the news. There has already been one conservative pastor who has died in the prime of life after suggesting the disease is a hoax. And honestly, I don't mind that guy. He didn't invite a festival's worth of people to hug and kiss in the midst of a killer plague.
Mark my words. On Easter Sunday there is going to be a mighty flood of civil disobedience as the stupider brand of Christian heads out to harp and hosanna in numbers. I would say, have at it ... except that these "Jesus will protect me" morons will disperse into their communities and start killing dear old grannies right and left.
Chew on this, morons: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise? Put it another way. Will Jesus still rise from the dead if you don't go hug 300 people in a crowded church?
At least one televangelist has already been arrested, and the Pennsylvania dude in the linked story says he'll gladly go to jail over his big Woodstock Jesus bash. Okay. Lock them up! Menaces to society.
Hey, Christian kids! Are you worried about your granny getting sick if you go to church on Easter? Well, you should be. Let me tell you about religions that respect science and history and would never expect their members to put any human being in the path of a novel coronavirus! Jeez, where should I start? You want the whole list, or just the top 100?
Moron televangelists should go to jail, directly to jail. They should not pass Go. They should not collect $200. Lock. Them. Up.
Monday, March 30, 2020
But here, safely ensconced at "The Gods Are Bored," mostly among like-minded -- and therefore highly intelligent and enlightened -- people, I can post tirade after tirade.
So today I'm inaugurating a new recurring motif: Replying Here. When our sorry excuse of a commander in chief tweets some brainless drivel that heightens my ire, I'm going to post it here and then smack the shit out of it. This is my comfort zone, and I need to vent.
Today's Assault on Humanity comes from March 29, 2020.
Real Donald Trump on Twitter:
"Because the 'Ratings' of my New Conferences etc. are so high, "Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers" according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. "Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him." said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!
For real, are you kidding me, you bone-headed, knuckle-dragging insult to everything Neanderthal? Where's your empathy? Oh, wait! I go way back, watching your antics. You lost your extremely limited supply of empathy during a coke binge at Studio 54 in 1978. A janitor sweeping up the next morning dumped it in the trash and didn't even notice, because it was so small.
Empathy is what we need right now. We need a leader who is actually a human being.
EXHIBIT A: IF YOU CAN'T BE EVEN THIS HUMAN, YOU ARE HOPELESS
Nobody's asking you, Donald Trump, to stride in to an emergency room and kiss elderly women on ventilators. But you should be able to express something more than a brag-out about your television ratings! Oh, right. Maybe you did. Maybe there are 42 compassionate tweets that I don't know about. But it doesn't matter, you chimp! One stupid, ridiculous tweet like the above totally cancels out any sympathetic tweets you send.
Trump, you execrable egg-head, you are only as good as your worst tweet. You are president. You should think, and think hard, about the contents of each tweet. And if you can't think (there is abundant evidence of this), you should turn this task over to someone who can. Oh, wait. There's abundant evidence that you have surrounded yourself with toadies who don't think much either, if their wallets aren't in the game.
Repent, clueless tweeter! Take that ridiculous, unprotected cell phone and fling it into the Reflecting Pool. Your boasting has always added insult to injury, but right now it is intolerable.
From Anne Johnson
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Count me the fuck out, Tex. I'll hang on to my life, Dow Jones be damned.
There is hardly anyone alive now who can remember the Great Depression. My mother was a little kid in the 1930s, and if she were still alive she would be 95. But the point is, America made it through the Great Depression. Without killing grandma! Jesus, has nobody read the last chapter of The Grapes of Wrath?
This bonehead Texas lt. gov. had the bloody nerve to speak for all older Americans everywhere. What does he know about the many households that are headed by grandparents? I'll tell you: He knows squat. Bupkus. Nada. Less than zero. There are significant numbers of such households, including in his state.
And excuse me for pointing something out to this clueless moron, but he forgot to ask grandchildren if they value their jobs over their grandparents. That's a big omission! Oh my Bored Gods, the stories I could tell him about my students and the bonds they share with grandparents! I wish I felt comfortable telling you all about it, but it would violate my students' privacy. But what does an old white guy care about people of color in New Jersey? The economy! Jobs!
I can only talk about myself.
When I was a child, growing up in a household ravaged by mental illness and redneck mentality, my father's parents were a bastion of strength and sanity. My life would have unfolded entirely differently if I had not had them and their gentle care, their little mountain home, and their comfort.
EXHIBIT A: BELOVED ANCESTORS
That's me on the far right. Smiling.
In order to keep my grandparents from dying before their time, I would gladly have worn feed sacks and eaten potato peels, or stood in line for soup, or lost my job. What amount of money can you place on the lives of your grandparents?
This is not to say I would never be willing to sacrifice my life for my daughters. Pish, tosh! I certainly would! But the reason for that self-sacrifice would have to be more than the national economy. My daughters are already suffering from this recession, and they will continue to after the quarantine ends. But I have confidence in the sweep of history. We will bounce back. And if it gets grim, if we find ourselves in a Great Depression, we will live as they did then. Sharing sacrifices.
I want to live to see my grandchildren, if at all possible, thank you very much you clueless moron of a lieutenant governor. A plague upon your house! Go ahead and sacrifice yourself. As for me and my house, we need each other more than that.
Monday, March 23, 2020
I told Mr. J, "I didn't order anything from LL Bean." But maybe someone sent me a gift out of the blue, for no reason? So I opened it. Inside was one of the ugliest shirts I've ever seen. You know that LL Bean look. Aggressively plain navy with some sort of snot-colored print. It was my size, though.
There was no gift card with it, but the invoice said the item had indeed been paid for.
So I called LL Bean. And surprisingly enough, after a very short wait, I got a real human being on the line. She read me the last 4 digits of the credit card used to purchase the ugly shirt. Not my card. Whew!
The question remained: Why did this hideous waste of cotton arrive on my doorstep? And then the customer service rep and I figured it out. The shirt belonged to the other Anne Johnson.
The other Anne Johnson lives down the street in the next block. (I notice her house is up for sale). Things used to get really mixed up between our two houses, but in recent years about all I've gotten is thank-you notes from the Boy Scouts.
I told the LL Bean customer rep that I would just schlep the item down to the other Anne Johnson. Which I did. She wasn't home. I left it in the mailbox.
Now it's just a few months later, and Mr. J and I find ourselves isolated in our house, with two daughters who hardly ever see eye-to-eye absolutely united in their demand that we not go out.
Bowing to the requests from the old kith-and-kin, Mr. J set out to order some groceries from the local store where we do the vast majority of our shopping. We can walk to this store from our house. But to get our asparagus and oranges delivered, we had to go through InstaCart.
At precisely 5:52 yesterday evening, InstaCart sent Mr. J a text message, reporting that our $100 of groceries had been delivered. Only they hadn't. Nor were they placed on the porch at any later hour, and they weren't here this morning.
My nimble fingers did a Google Maps search, and wouldn't you know it? There's another house with our exact address in the very next borough! When I called the house up on Maps, it was clearly and distinctly a single-family dwelling.
Someone else got my oranges. And InstaCart is out of the question, because Mr J spent 90 minutes on hold with them trying to sort this out ... and got nowhere. Never even talked to a human being.
I'm glad I stocked up on March 10, but I didn't buy any perishable fruits and vegetables. I didn't get cheese, either. Guess Mr. J and I will have to do without those luxuries. First world problems.
This is a mixed-up, fucked up country at the best of times. These are not the best of times.
Friday, March 20, 2020
I am posting the following message from my daughter The Fair. It is an offer of reasonably-priced services regarding web design and other tasks.
Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, March 19, 2020
At this time you address your deities personally, petitioning them for clarity or asking them to hold you and your loved ones in the Light. Any concerns or celebrations are acknowledged. Stay in the presence of the Divine as long as you like. You can kindle a bonfire, do a dance, some drumming or singing, or even make a craft. At the end of this period, complete the ritual as below.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
The rest of us are getting laid off, or our hours are reduced, or we've been downright fired. Or maybe you were looking for a job, and had your finger right on one ... and then this happened. Our nation's workers are being sucker-punched.
And as usual in America, the government is going to step in to try to help. It will be the stupidest Republican of all time who votes against stimulus that includes a basic income, a pause in college loan payments, and deferral of income tax.
How is our government going to pay for this? The bill will come due. Here's a modest proposal. Tax those rich bunker-dwelling motherfuckers! They are the reason the rest of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck in the first place.
In special circumstances like this, companies that are highly profitable should dip into those profits to help their workers. You think McDonald's doesn't have a bottomless pit of money somewhere? The C.E.O. should re-invest 9/10 of his salary and all his bonuses into private stimulus grants to employees. (Hint: He would still be crazy rich.) Wal-Mart? Don't get me started. If justice prevailed, the Walton family would be announcing a vast employee assistance program, established with funds from their own personal fortunes.
Sadly, oligarchs have proven abundantly that they don't care how much pain and suffering they cause humanity. An opiate epidemic can claim 100,000 lives -- husbands and wives, beloved sons, daughters, nieces, nephews -- and the Sackler family will blithely collect fine art and yachts. They don't care who they kill.
It's time for ordinary Americans to demand that oligarchs care about the greater good.
Call this what you like: socialism, communism, whatever. I don't care. In the best case scenario, the ridiculously rich would voluntarily surrender wealth in service to the common good. In the next best scenario, the government would compel the billionaires to pay taxes.
In the worst case scenario, citizens will rise up and make the matter very, very personal. The two scenarios outlined above would be far better options.
Workers of the world, unite.
News Flash: You all know my daughter, The Fair, right? She just went from full-time employment to 12 hours a week. The Fair has mad skills. She can make or improve a web site for you. She knows how to market your product on social media. If there's anything of an online nature you've been wanting to do but aren't sure quite how, contact her! email@example.com
I'll post more about Fair tomorrow.
Stay safe, only eat the rich!
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
ANNE'S PANDEMIC HILLBILLY TURKEY
1 frozen turkey from Thanksgiving promotion, thawed and roasted
1 tranquilizer in the benzodiazapine family (I used clonopin) whiskey can be substituted
jar of turkey gravy, or gravy you made when you roasted the turkey
1. Take the tranquilizer or imbibe the whiskey. This will be the only way your nervous stomach will accept food.
2. Put 2 cups cooked turkey in a pan with the gravy. Heat.
3. Make Bisquick biscuits according to recipe.
4. Cook peas according to recipe
5. Serve when you're calm enough to eat.
It is recommended that you do not watch television, most especially the nightly newscast, before you begin to prepare this recipe.
Hey, let's trade! If you have a pandemic recipe, post it in comments, or put it on your blog and let me know. We're all in this together.
Monday, March 16, 2020
EXHIBIT A: THE DANGER IS REAL
Mr. J and I are in a high-risk group for the virus, so we are chilling at home for at least the next two weeks. I'm essentially an alarmist, so I stocked the freezer on March 7. I didn't stockpile more than Mr. J and I would need, though. That's despicable, doing that.
Even when I went on March 7 there was no bleach, no wipes, and no hand sanitizer. I did get a package of toilet paper, and let me just say...
EXHIBIT B: THE DANGER IS REAL
I know some of you who donated paper and pencils to my classroom are wondering: How are my students going to do their schoolwork at home? There are indeed many kids at my school who don't have Internet, or only have smart phones. I made paper-based packets for all my students, and their work will go into writer's notebooks that we set up in September and use all year. I gave some precious loose leaf to the kids as well. No one should have to type a paper on a smart phone with their thumbs. And those assignments? They're based on personal choice books the kids took from my classroom -- books that y'all sent me. Books that they will want to read.
As you might imagine, being confined to my house means I'll have plenty of time to blog. I'm going to try to figure out how to set up a blog for my classroom that will be independent of this one. But I'm also going to get back up to speed on this one.
May the Bored Gods bless and keep you. Stay safe, maintain a distance at work, and remember to check Etsy for all the vendors you'll miss at your spring festivals!
Talk to you tomorrow, crow-navirus willing,
Thursday, March 12, 2020
My grandparents lived 12 miles from the nearest convenience store and 25 miles from town. Their little cottage sat on the mountainside, and you couldn't see another house in any direction -- just mountains and forests.
Being that remote, my grandparents were ready to hunker down. They had shelves of canned goods and boxes of powdered milk and potato flakes. They had big jars of medicine and even cans of motor oil. It wasn't that they wanted to stay home all the time, it's just that frivolous trips to the store were a waste of time and gasoline.
I'm in the thick of coronavirus scare, and my store doesn't even have powdered milk. It's gross, I know, I know. But it serves a purpose.
Although I just ignored another birthday, and I feel like a spring chicken today, I had a whopper of a virus in January. I coughed for weeks. Worse than that, Mr. J had the same virus and developed pneumonia. He was in the hospital for two days.
The minute I heard "novel coronavirus" on the local news, I went out and bought a boatload of supplies. (Too late for hand sanitizer, but I'm not a fan anyway.) I stocked the freezer and the pantry and took some heat for it from picky Mr. J, who likes his foodstuffs minty fresh.
I have reason to believe my public school will be closed on Monday.
When Donald Trump was elected, I soothed myself by reading books about contagious diseases. The big ones, like smallpox and bubonic plague. Little did I know that this seemingly irrational choice of literature would be a cautionary tale. Not that the coronavirus is smallpox (which killed 3 of 10 who caught it), but if you're over 60 and have a history of pneumonia, it might as well be.
I think I have everything I need to live in this house for two weeks except one prescription that can be delivered.
There are people quarantined in my county. We have had one case confirmed.
As you might imagine, I'm sitting here thinking about the little cabin on the mountainside, bulging at the seams with foodstuffs and medicines, with rain barrels and kerosene lamps and pup tents and army blankets. Oh, to be at home once more!
Kind of hoping some bored deity will protect me, considering how much I do for Them. Okay, so I don't do much for them. But I used to, and they have good memories.
Wednesday, March 04, 2020
EXHIBIT A: I MADE THIS JAWN
It's revealed now because it has been delivered. I did enjoy making it, because while it's a cheesy kit, it has a little bit of an edge to it. The elements kind of sneak out of their squares, and the central tulip spreads over two squares. I didn't put a back on it or any ruffles, because I wanted it to be light and portable, and washable (which it is).
I also didn't sign it because I didn't want to mess with its vibe.
I hope this pleases the Bored Gods. They let me live long enough to finish it, so there's that.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Here's the thing to read today instead of Anne.
Young, hip, and a timely bit of self-help!