Thursday, September 29, 2022

Lunar Faire New Jersey

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Out Shopping!" I'm Anne Johnson, and for once I got a raise this year. Time to spend, spend, spend!

Well, um. Not exactly. I'm actually losing money over last school year, because I quit all the after-school side hustles that padded my paycheck.

But pish, tosh! Last weekend was Dark Moon, and New Jersey is beset with this new event called Lunar Faire. It happens on New Moons and Full Moons, from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. This time it was close to my house, so I went.

I had high hopes for Lunar Faire, because the advertising for it includes "chaos" in the activities. And it is a dedicated Pagan event. How could I not have a good time?

If there's anything I've learned from writing "The Gods Are Bored," it's that you'd better gird your loins if you're going to say anything critical about a festival. Lots of people make money from vending and organizing festivals, and they don't appreciate feedback.

But in my search for information about Lunar Faire before I went, I found -- next to nothing. One short article about the two women who founded the event. That was it.

So if you're Googling Lunar Faire and finding this, I am going to be as candid as possible, so you can make a judgment about going.

The Lunar Faire I attended was held at Burlington County Fairgrounds, which is a good, large venue with lots of parking. And it turned out they needed those acres of parking, because this event was more than well-attended. It was crowded. There must have been 4,000 people there.

Mr. J and I went together. Two tickets cost us about $27. We got there about 45 minutes before dark and joined a throng of young, enthusiastic New Agers flocking into the faire.

Knock me over with a feather. I had no idea there were so many Pagans in South Jersey.

Lunar Faire is a night market. There are vendors with booths, selling merchandise. There were lots of crystals for sale, and jewelry, and candles, and tie-dye, and personal care products. There was a sound healing booth and several tarot booths. Stuff was affordable.

Uh oh. I've got to say it. The event was so crowded, it was hard to see what was in the booths. And then it got dark.

There was entertainment at Lunar Faire, but the darkness was a problem. There was a singer doing acoustic covers of classic rock at one end of the venue, and a small drum circle in the middle. I'm usually all in for drum circles, but this one had an odd vibe (at least to me). It seemed like the other people were enjoying it, though. It was dark.

The other entertainment was a drag queen show. And again, most of the spectators seemed to be loving it, but it was dark. The MC, Cookie Dough, had all the moves, but she was shrouded in shadow. And again, it was so crowded that Mr. J and I couldn't get close enough to really see what was going on.

I think there was a ritual -- at least the little piece of paper they handed out said there would be a ritual -- but there wasn't any real list of events to consult, no program, and no listing of events online. I didn't see the ritual, so I can't comment on it.

Mr. J and I wandered around for about two hours. We bought a brass candle holder and some moisturizer. Very affordable and high quality.

I guess what I want to say is, if I'm paying to get into a venue, I want to be entertained more. I want a list of activities at least posted where I can consult it, and those activities should be well-lit and variable. Most festivals that require an entrance fee have roving performers who interact with the crowd. Lunar Faire doesn't have that.

This is a very young event, like two years old or something. And for such a new event, it was extremely well-attended. I can't confirm that its popularity is due to Tik Tok influencers, but that's what I've heard.

Long sermon short, if you want to go somewhere in the dark where you will be surrounded by New Age people, or if you want to purchase items from Pagan-themed vendors, this is the place for you. But if you don't like crowds, and you're spoiled by decades of flawlessly crafted Fairy Festivals and earnest Pagan Pride Days  (I stand accused), you're likely to be disappointed.

Watch me get hexed for writing this.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Great Wide Open

 Boy, is it ever hard for me to keep my mouth shut about my religion in my classroom! After all, we at "The Gods Are Bored" have dedicated ourselves to promoting and respecting deities who have been deprived -- by time or tide, or both -- of their praise and worship teams. So when a student comes in and proudly shows off his brand new, store-bought book from home called Celtic Mythology, ahem.

You know how "religion" turns into "mythology?" Some other religion steals its holidays and relegates its deities to "myth" status. The winning religion gets to keep the title of "religion," and the losing one gets flung in the dustbin of "myth." I tell you what. I'm not going to be the one who tells The Morrigan that She's a damn myth.

Well! That's actually an aside! Today's sermon is about something else.

For reference, here's a photo of the front of my school where I work:

EXHIBIT A: VO-TECH WHERE I WORK



Isn't that a gorgeous building? It was designed by the same architect who designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Yes, those are pillars! And above the pillars is a motto: "He Who Hath a Trade Hath an Estate."

What I want you to dwell upon, though, is that nice grassy lawn, and the lovely mature trees. The school was built in 1926. They just don't do it like this anymore. I would say there's about three acres of lawn in front. We also have a standard-sized football field and a baseball diamond out back.

Yesterday morning I was sitting at my teacher desk, conversing with a student who is sitting right up front in what I jokingly call the "teacher's pet seat." This student is a very quiet young lady.

The school will be having a pep rally next week, and the student asked me where pep rallies are held. (I teach freshmen.) I told her we all go out to the back fields and sit on the bleachers.

She said, "That's so much space out there. And there's so much out front. I've never seen so much open space before."

Reader, look at the photo and let that sink in.

My heart just broke.

Kids have said heartbreaking things to me before, but this one I guess just mangled my aorta because of my own lived experience. My school was bordered by a county park and was three miles from the vast swath of Antietam Battlefield. When I was that girl's age I could ride my bike to the Potomac River and sit all day by myself on the bank.

What kind of childhood has this poor girl had?

I do know that many of my students have to stay inside all the time because of crime, or repressive parents, or babysitting, or all of the above. Still it boggles my mind that someone has attained the age of 14 without ever having at least made one excursion to the beach just 50 miles away.

My students keep writer's notebooks, and sometimes I read about grandparents in the Dominican Republic, about riding horses and milking cows, and gathering eggs, and swimming in those gorgeous tropical playas. But I also read other notebooks in which the writer goes to school, goes home, locks the door, and stays inside. I remember one girl wrote, "I can't even sit on the stoop."

Tomorrow I will take all of my students outdoors onto that front lawn. I will literally point out the Quarters to them, and the motto on the building, and the soft grassy lawn, and the old trees. We will be present in gratitude to the open space that was a gift from the taxpayers of New Jersey to kids who want to fix cars.

If it's the most open space some of them have, then we'll honor it as such.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

When the Queen Was Scheduled but Didn't Arrive

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you tired of reading about Queen Elizabeth yet? I won't keep you long. Promise.

My mother was born the same year as Queen Elizabeth II and was a huge fan throughout her life. The largest part of our home library was devoted to picture books about the royal family. My name, Anne, comes from Queen Elizabeth's daughter, and my sister Margaret is named after QE's sister. Any time that anything pertaining to the royal family made the news, we were all over it in my household. 

When I was a kid, life could be chaotic in my house. I never knew quite what to expect when I arrived home from school in the afternoon.

On one memorable occasion, I came through the door with my school books and found the kitchen table set scrupulously with all the fine china and crystal my mother owned. She had also pulled out the sterling silver flatware and the linen napkins.

Mom herself was dressed in her best dress and high heels. The first thing she did when she saw me was to tell me to take a shower and dress in the clothes set out.

In my room she had laid out my poofiest Sunday dress and my Mary Janes.

When I asked her what was going on, she said that Queen Elizabeth was coming for dinner. Now get in that shower!

The last thing I wanted to do after a long day of school (and probably a night without much sleep) was to indulge my mother's newest delusion. I was old enough to know that she had mental illness and that the Queen of England was, in fact, at home in England.

But there was no arguing with Mom when she was certain of something.

I don't know how I did it, but I dodged the shower and the Sunday dress. Maybe I just shut the door on the whole mess, and that was that.

At any rate, the hours passed, my dad came home from work, my sister was somewhere (perhaps staying with a relative), and the queen didn't come to dinner. This was probably for the best, because my mother didn't cook anything, she just decorated.

After waiting for Her Majesty until nearly 10:00 pm, my mother wouldn't hear of putting away the fancy tableware. There must have been a mistake. The queen would arrive tomorrow.

I don't remember how many nights we prepared for a visit from the queen. Probably not many. By the time my mother got that far along in a manic episode, the chaos would become more widespread. But I have never forgotten the evening my mother spent, done up to the nines, waiting for her heroine to arrive to our little brick ranch house in Appalachia.

Queen Elizabeth outlived my mother by 20 years. I lit a candle on my Shrine for both of them the other night. If there is indeed eternal life waiting to torment us, Mom will get an infinite number of dinners with the queen, and an infinite number of dinners with all the queen's ancestors. Sheesh. I would rather be with the faeries.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Our Civic Religion

 Still hot as Hell in Philadelphia this Labor Day Weekend, but welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" anyway! Here -- have an iced tea. You can sit right next to the fan, unless some bored deity drops in.

Speaking of deities, I'm freshly back from Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day, and what a great day it was! No protesters, just lots and lots of fun people in Clark Park, both inside and outside the event.

(Aside: The Proud Boys called Clark Park the "Belly of the Beast." If it truly is the Belly of the Beast, then I want to be a heaping hot plate of Beast food!)

The nice thing about living in a big city like Philadelphia is that we always get some first-class keynote speakers at PPPD. This year it was Diana Paxson, novelist and Heathen. And her talk really made me take a cold, hard look at the Independent Republic of Johnsonia.

In a nutshell, Diana Paxson feels that Pagans should not cede the American experiment to the Christian nationalists but should instead fight for the nation's civic religion. Then she explained what that civic religion is.

If you think about it, it's so obvious. America, being a pluralistic nation, has created a whole religion independent of any sect or creed. We have founding documents and iconic figures ("mighty ancestors"). We have holy days, and a Pledge of Allegiance that sounds a whole lot like an oath. We have hymns. And a flag that flies in both blue states and red states. Not only that, we have Lady Liberty out in New York Harbor, and the Goddess Columbia (I've interviewed her here before) whose statue graces the very pinnacle of the Capitol building.

Rather than rejecting this civil religion, Diana Paxson suggests we embrace it, because it has dope rituals and is predicated on everyone being equal, which let's face it, most religions aren't.

Well, this fine lady already had me swayed pretty firmly, and then she sealed the deal. She told everyone to put off shopping for bargains on Labor Day and instead celebrate the workers, because Labor Day is a holy day! And boy, did I swell with self-righteousness, because I was already planning to do just that!

Ms. Paxson then led a ritual that touched on the same themes and included Lady Liberty as the deity of moment. And she again mentioned Labor Day as a time to honor all the workers, past and present, that have moved this country forward.

Gosh, I wanted to bake her a pie.

Now I'm feeling as if the ol' US of A actually needs me. I would call the government of Johnsonia into session with the prospect of dissolving the union, but I can't wrangle a quorum of squirrels in this heat.

Happy Labor Day, America!


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Night Before School

 Whelp, my friends, it's 7:15 pm on August 31, 2022. Which means in 12 hours I'll be back in the saddle as a school teacher.

It would be so much harder without y'all.

Donations of books have poured in. I got some brand-new titles from Barnes & Noble and lots and lots of lightly-used books from ABE and Thriftbooks. I have 20 books and haven't even spent all the money yet.

I won't get to my classroom until Friday morning. When I get there, I will have a big bag of books that I know my students will want to read. That's such a relief.

May the Gods bless and keep you all. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Bullhorn Bullshit

 Summer is winding down here at "The Gods Are Bored," and that means there are two events upcoming ... and we always go to both.

The first is Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day. It's held on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. The second is Labor Day itself, which includes a parade of unions along Philadelphia's waterfront.

Only one of these events draws protesters. I'll bet you can guess which one.

I can't remember if there was a Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day last September. I wouldn't have gone, because Covid was still an issue in our household. However, I did go in 2019, and readers, it wasn't all tree-huggy.

PPPD attracts the attention of the Christian fringe, and they come bearing bullhorns and banners proclaiming that all Pagans are going to Hell. Since they don't have a permit to protest at our event, they are supposed to stay on the fringe. But lately the Philly cops have been -- hmm, how should I put it? -- a tad lax. It's possible that these disruptors may lurch right into the event area with their noxious nastiness.

Honestly these protesters haven't bothered me personally in the past. But I know that their presence is very very triggering to some people in the Pagan community. Paganism has attracted many practitioners who have escaped the abuses of the radical evangelical Christian churches. Being accosted and harassed at a Pride event causes a lot of angst. For that reason, I deeply resent the intrusion of these moron zealots.

The event organizers at PPPD have been very adept at minimizing the Christian presence. Volunteers form a kind of human wall around the noise so that it doesn't drown out the programs and the rituals. And eventually the bullhorns must get heavy, because the protesters usually leave after about an hour.

Who is to say, though, in these emboldened times?

Now I know that West Philly is chock-a-block with anti-fascists who are able to rout any incursion by Proud Boys or other such rabble. But that's politics. This is religion, that other thorny subject. Doubtful that antifa will lend us a hand on this one.

According to trustworthy sources, Christian protesters have become more aggressive at Pagan events this year. I sure hope this isn't the case in Philly. All we want to do is see each other, donate a few cans of food and some pet supplies, buy trinkets from the vendors, and have a workshop or a ritual, or both. Why is that anyone else's business? We don't go to their stupid storefront churches and shout that they're headed to Hades! (Ahem, though it could be true.)

What should I, Anne Johnson, do if these nitwits crash our Pride Day? Don't suggest glitter bombs, because it's a city park with big old trees. Otherwise I am open to suggestions.

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Devil Went Down to Anneland

 Greetings from "The Gods Are Bored!" Wow, what an eventful long weekend I have had! Time to flip up the tank top and gaze deep into that navel!

But before I do, thank you again to everyone who contributed to this year's Personal Choice Reading Book Drive! My students will thank you. I do tell them where the books come from.

I'm just back today from a stay at my lovely, shady, untouched and untrammeled property in Bedford County, PA. I have named the tract Anneland. It's a colony of the Independent Republic of Johnsonia, and there could be no better place for such a colony. Why, only a half mile from its border there's a cemetery chock a block with Johnsons, including my direct ancestors.

Anneland is in fine shape. Meaning that it's just a forest, doing what forests do when they aren't pestered by people.

My daughter The Heir went with me on this trip. For her, Anneland was a source of constant wonder. There were mushrooms everywhere, and fossils, and she set about clearing a pathway and a little campsite where we could sit and feel cool.

We didn't spend the night on Anneland. It would be very, very dark in those woods. As luck would have it, there are some cozy and clean tourist cabins not far from the property. Nice to have a shower and a fridge and a microwave at your disposal while visiting the primitive colonies!

There is also a swimming hole near Anneland. One morning, Heir and I stopped by to check out the water level. I started to walk upstream a ways, and suddenly Heir shouted for me. "Mom, come quick!"

I obeyed my first born's directive and rejoined her by the side of the creek. She pointed, and I gaped.

EXHIBIT A: WHAT THE DEVIL IS THAT THING?


This is a case where a photo does not do a creature justice. This thing would have stretched from the tip of my middle finger to my wrist. It was like a big, green, horned, spiky cigar. It fell out of a tree, five feet from where Heir was standing.

Boldly going where no one had gone before, Heir guided the oversized insect to shore, because it fell in the water. Then, after we gaped at it for some time, she used a camp shovel to carefully lift it from the side of the creek to the safety of the woods.

Later that morning, when I found myself at a place that gets Internet signal, I asked Dr. Google what this thing actually is. Turns out it's a hickory horned devil caterpillar. They burrow into the ground to build a chrysalis, which explains why it fell out of a tree. You would think that such a monstrosity would be poisonous, but it's not. Poison would be redundant for something so huge and scary-looking. Oh, and by your leave, it's the largest caterpillar in North America.

There are more wild critters in my little New Jersey back yard than there are on four acres of Anneland. I've got a dozen species of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, groundhogs, possums, moles, and raccoons. But I have nothing like the insect representation you get when you go to the mountains. "Hickory Horned Devil" is a great name for that caterpillar, but I'm tempted to call it the Lord God Bug. Because you best believe I said "Lord God" when I saw that thing.

We also did a little waterfall collecting, at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia.

EXHIBIT B: A NICE ADDITION TO THE COLLECTION


And guess what else, readers? There are windmills upon windmills on the mountains in the Mountain State! Whole lines of them atop the high ridges! A feast for the eyes.

I also moved some roadkill off the road for the Sacred Thunderbirds, and later I saw them feasting on it safely. That was the religious portion of the trip.

Heir and I also feasted like kings at the local eateries, the Road Kill Cafe (not kidding) and the Chat & Chew Diner outside Keyser, WV.

But mostly we just hung out on Anneland. This is the hottest part of the summer, and those woods were cool.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Oh, Romeo Romeo Why The Hell Is That Your Name?

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," William Shakespeare edition! What ho, and wherefore?

Herewith an explanation:

"Romeo and Juliet" is a rite of passage for our public school teenagers. Seems like every freshman in the US of A (not to mention the UK) has to read it.

And since all three of you know I teach public school freshmen, you know I must needs teach this tome.

Aye, there's the rub.

As you might imagine, my freshmen can't even graze the surface of the original text. Oh, me! Zounds! It biteth like an adder!

Kind of a shame, because "Romeo and Juliet" is full of poetry and all sorts of fabulous imagery, especially name-dropping, at numerous intervals, bored deities. At the same time, it's a ripping good tale with lots of action and those fabulous plot twists.

My district purchased a "side by side" edition of "Romeo and Juliet" that has Shakespeare's text on the right-hand page and a "translation" on the left-hand page.

Aye, zounds, there's another rub. My students can't read the translation! It's still too hard. Their eyes glaze over. And those long speeches? Forget it. No one is willing to read them out loud.

There's another translated version of "Romeo and Juliet" online, called "No Fear Shakespeare" by Spark Notes. In previous years I have used that one, because it really is easier to read. However, this year Spark Notes put the whole thing behind a paywall. And my district won't buy it because we already have the unreadable one.

Enter Anne, with a Bear.

Readers, I wrote my own translation of "Romeo and Juliet" this summer.

I was faithful to the original. In fact, I was more faithful than the translations. I used some rhyme!

Only one character got a new name. The Apothecary became the Drug Dealer. After all, who these days has a gram of poison that can knock you dead even though you have the strength of twenty men?

And I made one other change that was inspired by this year's freshmen.

It's hard to explain the term "banished" to modern urban teenagers. Let's see. Romeo has to leave the city, and he can't come back or he'll be killed. That was a thing 400 years ago.

As one of my students pointed out this spring, it's still a thing. Now it's called deportation.

So Romeo doesn't get banished. He gets deported.

If you have idly wondered what I've been doing this summer, this is it. I re-wrote "Romeo and Juliet" with struggling urban readers in mind.

This year it will get a pilot run, and if the students like it, I may try to sell it on a teacher platform. Not sure how that will fly with Spark Notes, but hey. I didn't plagiarize their text. I can't even access it!

What a sad story. "Romeo and Juliet," I mean. Not my awesome hood-inspired translation!


Tuesday, August 09, 2022

A Teacher Begs for Books

 First let me say, books are not ever purposely stolen from my urban classroom. I'm firmly convinced that there are dozens of dusty volumes under dozens of beds in Camden and Pennsauken, New Jersey. And probably more than a few scattered around other boroughs that contribute students to my Vo-Tech.

Nor are books purposely defaced or brutalized. They just wear out from use.

The person who holds the purse strings at my school has accused me of not keeping good enough track of my classroom books. And she's right. My classroom library operates on an honor system. There is no way in Hell I am going to submit fine cards for my students if they lose a book. These are kids who get free breakfast and lunch! Why would I make the school charge them for a beat-up paperback?

And with all that said, I don't lose that many books from my room each year. I did when I sent each kid home with a book during quarantine, but can you blame me for that? I thought we would be back in two weeks. It was almost two years.

Anyway, here are a few titles that I could use more copies of. I'll tell you a little bit about them as well.

If there's a book that really does walk frequently, it's Tyrell, by Coe Booth.


These days I'm running a risk stocking this novel in my classroom, because our hero gets a blow job on page 4 and has plenty of action thereafter. But when I say that boys who won't read anything hang on every word in this book, I'm not exaggerating. Besides, this is one of the best books I personally have ever read. It's like the author channeled Charles Dickens and created a brand new Oliver Twist. This story is memorable and a really scathing social statement about our modern society. (Sadly, this book is issued with a weak binding and a flimsy cover. I have had to retire more than one copy after it fell to bits in my hand.)


Tyrell has a sequel, called Bronxwood.


In ten years of teaching, I have only ever had one student who read Tyrell and didn't clamor for Bronxwood. Same hero, same adventures.


Here's another novel that I've had disintegrate in my hands from overuse. It's Snitch, by Allison Van Diepen. The cover art may vary.


This author has several titles that are hugely popular in my classroom. The settings are urban high schools. This one is a sort of love story that includes gang initiation. I've read it, and it's a page-turner. I'm down to one copy.


Now, I'm going to admit that multiple copies of this next one went walking. But no wonder! It's so good. It's Butter, by Erin Lange.


"Butter" is the nasty nickname a bunch of bullies have given an overweight teenager who has no friends. So this teenager decides to livestream a fatal eating binge on New Year's Eve. When he announces this on social media, surprise! He's suddenly popular. Y'all want to read a good young adult novel? This one is tops.


One genre of book that is popular in my classroom is the verse novel. These are particularly coveted by students who speak Spanish at home. And this is a good one. It's called The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo.


Our heroine wants to live a normal life, have a boyfriend, and write spoken word poetry. But her parents are religious extremists who don't allow her to leave home except to go to school. Needless to say, she starts sneaking around.


Now these last two are the most recent and are just getting traction in my classroom.


The first is Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older.

In case you haven't noticed, most fantasy literature has white, white, white protagonists doing white, white, white things. But this one has a Puerto Rican heroine with a Haitian boyfriend, and her adventures are all based on interacting with the Orishas. Why shouldn't minority students have fantasy novels they can relate to? And by the by, this is a ripping good read.


Same goes for this last title, which was popular with my African American students. It's called Slay, by Brittney Morris.


This one is about a gamer who gets targeted online by racists. I think it's the topic that sells this one. Very relatable for my students.

If you plan to endow me with one of these tomes, email me for my address. My email is annejohnson17211 at gmail dot com.


So there you have it. Miss Johnson's hot read needs for 2022! I thank you, and my students thank you, and my administration bean counters would thank you if they weren't so busy counting beans that they can then stockpile as a surplus.

One bit of good news is that I don't need any school supplies this year. I have plenty of pencils and paper left over from past generosity. And I do still use pencils and paper. I tell my students that their grandchildren won't know the art of hand-writing things. But until then, we do use the basics.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

FAQ about Loki

 Wow! Tens and tens of you read my awesome interview with Loki, below. I'm humbled by the outpouring. I want to leave that important message active for a few more days, even though Lughnasadh is upon us.

I must have gotten two or three passing thoughts about why I would serve Loki two pieces of blueberry pie when I have a white couch, white walls, and a white quilt on the bed upstairs. 

It's very simple. There are stains, and there are stains. If my cat Gamma stains the white upholstery, that's unfortunate. But if Loki stains the furniture, that's a stain from a God. I can point to it and say, "Look. Loki did that. Praised be."

All stains aren't created equal. Some are holy.

If you haven't read my interview with Loki, it's right below. You don't want to miss it, because it's trending in the labyrinth of my imagination.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Interview with a Bored God: Loki

 Oh, how we at "The Gods Are Bored" have strayed from our central theme: giving downsized deities a public platform! It's what put us on the map, so to speak, and has been a favorite pastime since 2005. Yep, that long.

And mostly this has been an uplifting and fun ride. (Ares is the exception, He speaks in all caps and sets the furniture on fire.)

Today I heard a lot of ruckus outside, and I do love me a good ruckus. Investigating, I found Loki on my front lawn, juggling squirrels. Even though the squirrels were having the time of their lives, I sensed that Loki had something to tell me, so I have invited Him inside. (I'm glad the house is a mess. He loathes a neat house.)

Please give a warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Loki!


Anne: All hail, aww Hell, oh well, howdy, Loki! Sup, cuz?

Loki: More than the usual chaos, Annie.

Anne: You mean extra chaos? Please tell me it's the kind that leaves everyone out of breath laughing and maybe only a few new stains on the upholstery.

Loki (looking around): What could have possessed you to buy a white couch?

Anne: Would you believe it's my second white couch? I know I shouldn't, but I take pride in how little I've learned. Here's a piece of blueberry pie for you, and that wide, wide expanse of white couch ...

Loki: Hey Anne! Watch this!

[Insert laughing emoji]

Anne: At least pick up the big chunks, willya?

Loki: Sure! Because I see you also repainted the walls -- blushy white!

Anne: This is the silliest of questions, seeing as it's You, but is there a reason for Your visit? Other than giving the squirrels a joyride, I mean.

Loki: I am going to ask you to amplify a message for Me.

Anne: Only too glad to oblige, Tricky Sir.

Loki: The message has been reported seriously and factually here. It came through a Seeress.

Anne: For real, for real? I saw a possession ritual once, and it scared me snotless! I'll bet you put that poor Seeress through her paces. But listen. I know that many blog readers don't want to follow a link from one page to another, so can you tell me the message without possessing me? Or could you at least wait to possess me until the weekend, when I'm going to a LARP and there will be water mods?

Loki: Snap, I love water mods! I'm in!

Anne: But the message ...

Loki: Okay. Part one: Dig up the joy! Look at you and everyone around you. Misery, misery everywhere! You know, misery and joy are both contagious, like viruses. Spread the one, get vaxxed for the other.

Anne: But there's so much to be ...

Loki: You want to sprain an ankle before you get to the water mods? What did I just say?

Anne: Spread joy. Okay, I'll try!

Loki: DO I HAVE TO GO ALL YODA ON YOU, WOMAN? Do or do not, there is no try!

Anne: Got it. Another piece of pie?

Loki: Do you have that white quilt on the bed upstairs?

Anne: White is my failing. Is there more to the message?

Loki: Yep. You know all those plans you have to deck your classroom with witchy stuff and witchy books? Revise and edit those plans. It's not a safe time to be a Pagan in America.

Anne: Dang! You are the last one I ever thought I would hear say this. Go on the down low? A Norse God telling me to go on the down low? Knock me over with a feather!

Loki: Done! Shame to ruin such a nice pillow. But if I can be serious for half a minute, you heard Me right. You are more valuable alive than you are as a martyr. And there are a lot of Christian wingnuts out there with guns, looking to create martyrs.

Anne: I've always had a sneaking suspicion that martyrdom is overrated.

Loki: Yep. So dial back the righteous protest over your Supreme Court's religious rulings. Because this is the remainder of my message: Time will catch up with these fools. All of them. Yes, you can expect some rough sledding. It's dangerous right now. We deities are feeling it as well. But when the smoke clears, some people will walk away like Mad Max, bruised but unbeaten. And those people will rebuild.

Anne: But Mad Max didn't rebuild, he just tramped off into the Outback...

Loki: Let's see what happens if I hold this feather pillow up to the fan ...

Anne: NO! NO! I GOT YOU, BRO! I hear you! Only to glad to amplify the message!

Loki: Thanks. And again, for more details, your fans can go here. Now. About those water mods...

Anne: You'll need a swimsuit that's at least passably in-game.

Loki: Everything I own slips nimbly into a LARP.

Anne: I daresay. Anyway, I'm going to the game on Saturday. Meet me here at 9:00, and please don't do that thing with the bugs and the windshield like you did last time.

Loki: Don't worry, Annie. Last time we didn't have anywhere important to go.


Image: Thalia Took


Monday, July 18, 2022

I Have a Crop!

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Property Owners!" I'm Anne Johnson, proud yeoman of the soil. I'm here to report on my crop yields.

I bought a plot of land in February and visited it in April. Nothing much was growing then except a little bit of sturdy lichen.

This past weekend, my daughter The Fair and I made a sojourn back to the property. If you recall, I named it Anneland.

The Fair is very much into foraging. If you haven't heard of that, it's basically bypassing the local eateries in favor of finding something wild to eat in the woods. The Fair actually found some morels when they were in season ... and those are solid gold.

It's not morel season anymore, but I was so, so glad to have The Fair with me, surveying Anneland. Because as it turns out, there's a crop growing on the hillside. I mean, all along the hillside. As in, probably a quarter acre or more.

EXHIBIT A: PRIMARY CROP, ANNELAND


This is an actual photo from Anneland!

Now, I am intensely grateful to The Fair for positively identifying the wild blueberries, because if I had gone there by myself, I would have assumed that these were poisonous dingleberries or some such, and I would have given them a wide berth. Instead they will be nurtured (along with one tiny raspberry plant I also found).

As you can see, very few of these were ripe. The Fair says I will still have some to pluck when I return to Anneland in August. Maybe enough to make a tart!

It's kind of fun to have your own blueberry patch. Thanks be to Venus Cloacina, great Goddess!

Thursday, July 07, 2022

I Can't Fucking Believe I Have To Defend Librarians

 When this blog started, I threw the shade of a sprawling oak over the lunatic fringe better known as the evangelical Christian right. That group is still the lunatic fringe, so how have they seized the nation in their evil iron grip?

Now they're coming for librarians.

Librarians.

You know, those quiet and underpaid people (predominantly women) who check out books and tell you which floor the restroom is on in a whispery voice.

Librarians are being called groomers for showing up at work and checking out books. They are being threatened with firing and physical harm.

Librarians.

I was a bookish kid from the time I could crawl. I've spent countless hours in libraries. I can remember my parents taking me as a toddler. I went just last week to the Haterfield Public Library to ask about the summer reading program.

Sixty years of libraries.

And in all that time, the only librarian who ever offered me books was the one on the Bookmobile that came to my neighborhood in the 1960s. She would have a stack of Dr. Doolittle and Freddy the Pig books for me. Was she grooming me to talk to animals?

I've never known a librarian who was outspoken. I've never known a librarian who tried to befriend her patrons. Librarians are more anonymous than the servant staff of a British estate. If teenagers are paying mind to librarians these days, it really and truly is a whole new world.

But the lunatic fringe is painting this humble profession as a den of vipers, out to turn straight kids gay by having LGBTQ books on the shelves.

I am genuinely curious, readers. How do you choose what book to read? Do you ask a librarian for a recommendation? I literally haven't done that ever. The Bookmobile librarian brought me Freddy the Pig books because my mom recommended them. When I outgrew my mom, I had friends. In 60 years of using libraries, I have never asked a librarian for a recommendation.

But the librarians choose the books that get put on the shelves, right? Well, let's take a look at that task.

There are hundreds of books published each month, and I've never seen a library that didn't have a tight budget. This means that acquisitions librarians (who are even more shy than the ones at the desk) read the trade publications and choose the books that get the best reviews. If these acquisition librarians have any agenda at all, it's to try to stock books in a way that all the readers using the library will find helpful.

So, having conquered abortion rights, having distributed lethal firearms far and wide, now the lunatic fringe is coming for those gentle creatures who check out books, just because the gentle creatures have titles that include all kinds of people, and not just lunatic fringe people.

This is like the fucking Red Scare.

Librarians. It boggles my mind. It's like blaming chipmunks for your cat clawing the furniture.

Shout out to the lunatic fringe: Threaten the librarians, by all means. But don't hesitate to trust that clean-cut youth pastor who wants to build blanket forts for late-night "Bible study." He's all up and up.

Fascist morons.





Tuesday, July 05, 2022

When Boycotting the 4th of July is a Great Idea

 Nine years out of ten in Philadelphia, the weather sucks on the Fourth of July. It's usually hot as hell, or else there are thunderstorms or hurricanes.

This year the weather was outstanding. Low humidity, temperatures topping out in the mid-80s, sunshine from horizon to horizon.

Philadelphia always hosts this big ass "Welcome America" festival on the Fourth. The city closes down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and has a concert and fireworks overtop the Art Museum.

I've never gone to this festivity. I don't like heat, and I don't like crowds. I do like fireworks, but this year I didn't even have the appetite to see them.

So about an hour before Philly's firework show was scheduled to start, I settled into the La-z-boy recliner for another evening of "American Carnage: Active Shooter." Otherwise known as CNN.

I entered into a text conversation with a friend of mine named Nicole.


Nicole: You always pop into my head on July 4 remembering the time we sat and watched the fireworks together

Anne: Aw, I didn't even see any this year!

Nicole: I'm at the Art Museum now waiting

[Nicole sends crowd photo]

Anne: Here I sit at home. I've never done it!

Nicole: I was here two years ago and it's the best I've ever seen by far. I believe Channel 10 is broadcasting them should start in a few minutes

Anne: Next year I will go with you

[Nicole sends a smiling emoji.]


18 hours passed before Nicole and I exchanged a few more texts.


Anne: Almost afraid to ask you about last night ...

Nicole: All good, just a lot of panicking people. I thought of you in the middle of it and glad you weren't there

Anne: I'm glad you're ok!!!

Nicole: Thanks


In case you missed it, there was a shooting on the Ben Franklin Parkway at the height of the fireworks display. Two cops were injured. The shooting sparked a panic, needless to say, and people -- thousands of them -- ran for their lives.

I'm glad I wasn't there. I can't run very fast anymore.

Stick a fork in America. It's done.



Friday, July 01, 2022

Johnsonia's Response to Recent News from the USA

 Whew! I almost let the charter for the Independent Republic of Johnsonia expire, but hooray! I didn't! My little plot of land is still a sovereign nation, governed by me, The Grand Wazoo, Anne Johnson.

Since Johnsonia is surrounded on all sides by the United States of America, the laws of that nation directly affect our little country. Therefore it's necessary to issue some policy statements in order to clarify Johnsonia's ongoing diplomatic responses to U.S. decision-making.

POLICY DIRECTIVE 1: Johnsonia hereby declares that all U.S. or U.S. state laws governing bodily autonomy will be disregarded and unenforceable on our soil. Our Constitution may be written on the flyleaf of a Carl Hiaasen novel, but it's still serious business. And it supports bodily autonomy.

POLICY DIRECTIVE 2: Christians are tepidly welcome, but not favored. Religion is a matter of conscience, not law. No public rites will be allowed.

POLICY DIRECTIVE 3: In light of the worst Supreme Court decision of all -- the one that strips the EPA of its regulatory power over fossil fuel interests -- fully half of Johnsonia will now be a No-Mow-Zone. Already, parts of our homeland are so dense with milkweed and jewelweed that one can't move through it. This will continue and expand. Further, thanks to our access to a hand-cranked composter, it is now illegal to dispose of biodegradable scraps by throwing them into the trash. All food matter will be composted.

POLICY DIRECTIVE 4: Immigration will still be extremely limited in Johnsonia, but our tourism industry will expand as needed. Feel free to drop by and look at the native plant garden!

One last thing, in case you're wondering. Johnsonia does not recognize the Fourth of July as a holiday within our borders. We celebrate Johnsonia Day on January 1. So keep your damn noisy fireworks and your smelly hot dogs off our land. America is a terrible neighbor, and only getting worse.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Paganism in Public Schools: A Teacher's Guide, Part One

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," public school teachers! Perhaps you have noticed that things have changed overnight in the ol' US of A. And while none of us like it, well, there you are. Personally I am heartsick, because separation of church and state has always been important to me. But pish tosh! We've all got to suck up and live by the new rules.

If you are a Pagan public school teacher, chances are that you have been entirely closeted about it in your classroom. Me too! However, I have always had a feeling that some of my students could benefit from some basic Wiccan/Druidic/Santeria influence. Over this summer break, I will be offering helpful tips on how to conduct Pagan practices in a way that is not coercive but is true to your personal faith.

First you need to spruce up that drab desk of yours!

Calling the Quarters is an important part of my practice. In years past, I have marked the Four Directions on a discreet sticky note that I stuck to my desk. This year I plan to mark my teacher desk in a more prominent way: a bright green paper taped to the desk for East, a bright orange or yellow paper taped to the desk for South, a bright blue paper taped to my desk for West, and a bright violet piece of paper taped to my desk for North.

I will feel free to talk about the Directions to my students if they ask. I'll also be sure to take some photos of my desk when it's all done up!

Ancestor Veneration is also an important aspect of my practice. This is the easy one. Nobody is going to look twice if you load your teacher desk with photos of the ancestors you admire. I've never taken pictures of my family in to school before, but wow. What a great idea! 

Deities. We all have Deities that support our work as teachers. But I'll bet you never had a picture of your Goddess on your teacher desk! I guess I am a bit ahead of you there, because since the pandemic started I have had a beautiful work by Thalia Took right behind my desk, discreetly looking outward. Here is my school Goddess:

EXHIBIT A: Artemis Brauronia


I have this photo in an ornate frame. A few students have asked me about Her in passing, and I have given vague answers. Now I will be more detailed, including how Artemis and I found each other.

(Aside, Artemis is not necessarily the Goddess for you. Check out Thalia's gallery: She has a lot of Goddesses!)

Herbs and crystals are something I haven't placed openly on my desk before. I have kept them in a small portable altar box. I'm actually really excited about getting some nice crystal geode to use as a paperweight. It really will soothe me to have an actual crystal on my desk! Take a crystal that speaks to you and use it! I wouldn't take one from your supply already, because things do disappear from teacher desks. Buy a new one specifically for your classroom and charge it yourself.

Instructive reading material. In my school district, which serves minority urban students, we teachers are encouraged to have compelling classroom libraries. I have a really good one, liberally supplied by readers of this blog. One thing I haven't had before, but will have now, are books about Witchcraft. I know some of my students are interested in this topic, and I also know that the secretary who runs our school library is a Christian zealot and Trump supporter.

There is actually a really nice introductory book about Witchcraft specifically for teens, and I have done the Amazon link here just because it's easiest. The best thing about Amazon is that they will have similar titles underneath the listing. I'll be adding this book and at least one book about astrology to my classroom library in the upcoming school year. Do some research! I'm going to try to find books about ancient religious practices of the Caribbean, because many of my students are from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Here at "The Gods Are Bored" we like to do series posts, so please check back for future installments about creating a Pagan classroom and modeling your religious faith for your students. It's a new dawn. It's a new day. None of us are rejoicing, but we must be heard and seen. It's in the Constitution.

Blessed be!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A Thousand Questions

 I'm thinking this morning of Town Creek. It begins in Pennsylvania near the tiny town of Rainsburg and flows from north to south 36 miles to Oldtown, Maryland, where it flows into the Potomac River. The Potomac can be easily forded at Oldtown. It's not very deep there.

If you were a slave fleeing the South before the Civil War, you could follow a stream like Town Creek up into Pennsylvania. In the absence of maps, it was a way to move north, and most of it can be waded, which helps cover tracks. You would also have a clean water source.

My ancestors lived along Town Creek, just over the Mason Dixon line in Pennsylvania. In one instance, documented in The Chaneysville Incident, by David Bradley, they discovered a group of 13 runaway slaves who had committed mass suicide on their property, rather than be taken back to Virginia. Those suicide victims are buried in the Imes family graveyard along Town Creek, in plots marked just with the local shale.

If the escaping slaves committed suicide, it follows that they must have known they had been discovered and were going to be captured. This means that my family must have had to stand up to bounty hunters. Dead bodies were as valuable in the South as live ones, because of the terror they would inspire.

My great-grandmother was an Imes, a direct descendant of the patriarch who would have had to make decisions in the days of the Underground Railroad. I was three when my great-grandmother died, and although I met her I have no memories of her. Second-hand I learned that she was hard to live with. She suffered from intense anxiety and projected the worse outcome for every small thing. My uncle told me that her favorite expression was "Hit's a carshun." Translated, it means "uh oh."

It's not a leap to imagine that the Imes family had a streak of anxiety in the days of the Underground Railroad. They were less than three miles from the Mason Dixon. Helping runaways of any kind must have been a fraught exercise for them.

Today I am imagining the conversations that must have occurred in that farmhouse along Town Creek. What's right? What's wrong? What can we do? How will we be held responsible? How will this impact our family? Do we really want to involve ourselves in this?

For people who (perhaps) projected the worst outcome, this must have been excruciating.

This is not to minimize the 10,000 times worse situation of runaway slaves. I'm only speculating on how my particular family might have reacted to the situation they found themselves in, situated on a stream that flowed from north to south, ending across a wadable river from Virginia.

I want to overhear those conversations in that farmhouse. I want to ask Aaron Imes a thousand questions. I want his courage in the face of atrocity. How did you do it, family?

I'm saying this because something has changed in America, and something has changed in my neighborhood as well.

In America, we have slid back into a dark era. Many people have lost autonomy over their very own bodies.

And in my neighborhood, three blocks from my house, this:

EXHIBIT A: RIPA Center


My friends, this morning I want to step back in time. First I want to go see the Imes family and ask them a thousand questions. Then I want to go to see Anne Johnson, circa 2008 and tell her that her cocky, cheeky, snarky belittling of the Christian Right completely minimized the damage they could do -- not just in matters of women's reproductive freedom, but in a larger and more sinister plan to control lives, ALL lives, on behalf of the wealthiest elites.

I feel like Town Creek has come to my doorway in Haterfield, New Jersey. Do I have the courage to be an Imes, anxiety be damned?

Gods help me. Gods help us all.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Another Pesky Supreme Court Decision

 I'll keep this one brief, since the decision isn't published yet. But ...

Our new Spanish Inquisition Supreme Court conservative majority is about to issue a ruling about prayer in school. Specifically, Christian prayer on a football field after a game. Can a coach kneel and pray on the field at a public school, subtly encouraging his players to do the same?

I would lay a hefty bet that our current Supreme Court is gonna say OH JEHOVAH YES, LET'S SWAY THOSE FINE YOUNG MINDS.

To which I say: Fine! Will do!

As a firm believer in the separation of church and state, I have kept my Pagan beliefs entirely to myself. One time I saw a student reading a book about witchcraft. That was the only time that I ever had a conversation about Paganism in my classroom. And it was just with that kid.

My religion doesn't belong in my workplace. Or, I should say, right at this moment it doesn't. If the Supreme Court rules as above, re, swaying the fine young minds, then strap yourself in. I'm gonna sway.

This doesn't mean that I have changed my mind about the separation of church and state. This means that the Supreme Court is reactionary and regressive, and five supposedly intelligent human beings have not thought through the entirety of the possibilities of prayer in schools.

If the court decides for the coach who prayed on the football field, I will be offering up free advice to all my Pagan public school teacher colleagues nationwide. It'll be a whole doggone series on how to call the Quarters in the classroom, how to display an altar on your desk, and how to weave the tenets of Paganism into daily lessons.

Do I want to do this? No. Do I feel called to defy these dark times? Yes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Full Moon, Solstice Soon

 Teacher in September: By golly, I'm going to go to the gym after work! I've been doing it all summer. How hard can it be?

Teacher in June: Let me sit here in the recliner for an hour before I change that tablecloth.

My lieblings, this is not hyperbole. The tablecloth dodge literally happened to me a week ago.I feel even worse today.

With three days left in the school year (one of them devoted entirely to picky paperwork), I am fried like your granny's Maryland chicken.


I don't like to bitch and moan about my job, because I've got one. But dang on a biscuit, it's an exhausting bit of business.



Like, I didn't even need to make these memes. I just Googled "tired teacher." There are so many of us!

But the full moon will soon be rising, and Solstice is next week. I will finally staple the last piece of newspaper over the last square of bulletin board and walk out for a nice long holiday.

It will take me about a week to regain my energy. But once I start getting enough sleep, I'll be full of piss and vinegar again.

And speaking of sleep, the sun is still high in the sky, and I'm ready to hit the sack. Yep, 7:15 p.m. is the new midnight.

But I'm not worried. Every little thing is gonna be all right.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

What Did I Just See?

 For those of you just joining in the fun here at "The Gods Are Bored," you should know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of organized labor. I want to be buried with my union card in my cold, dead hand. United we bargain, divided we beg. Therefore it was with great happiness and anticipation that I got up this morning and headed into Philadelphia for the AFL-CIO Unity Summit.

Every four years the AFL-CIO has a whopper of a convention, and I guess it's just about like any other convention, with lots of people cheering and saying all the right things. This year's convention is in Philadelphia, which is a neat 20 minute train ride from my door. Joy!

Except the convention starts on Sunday, and the Unity Summit was on Saturday.

If the date wasn't tip-off enough, the invitation I got to this Unity Summit was just another email to my inbox with a link to register. Just out of curiosity (to see how much it cost to attend), I filled out the registration. Turns out it was free, with lunch provided. 

Better yet, there was a whole day of speakers scheduled for the Unity Summit, and there was a breakout seminar called "Next Gen Organizing" having to do with bringing more young people into the labor movement.

To say I had high expectations for this bash was an understatement. Philadelphia is a union city. Our Labor Day parade is impressive. My first thought was how long I might have to stand in line before I could get my registration badge.

The first tip-off that my expectations were about to be shattered was how long it took me to get my registration badge. I walked right up.

The festivities were scheduled for a ballroom on the top floor of the Convention Center. And the last time I was in that space was at Netroots Nation in 2019. Elizabeth Warren was one of the speakers that day, and the freaking Fire Marshal was at the door because of the crowd.

Today the Fire Marshal must have been home with his feet propped up, drinking his coffee and placing a few online wagers. When I say that ballroom was sparsely populated, I mean it was embarrassingly empty, considering the heft of the AFL-CIO.

To make matters more depressing, the speakers were outstanding. They all had rousing messages about battling voter suppression and systemic racism, and one or two of them mentioned in passing that Amazon and Starbucks workers were organizing here and there ...

Wait. What?

Over the past six months, about the only good news was that workers had successfully organized an Amazon warehouse and numerous local Starbucks stores. To me this is huge. It's the future of the labor movement, and the AFL-CIO should be all over it. In fact, I expected "Next Gen Organizing" to feature some of these brave people from Amazon and Starbucks. Nope.

So there I sat in a dark, cavernous ballroom, watching enthusiastic speakers dish out heaping helpings of platitudes to empty tables.

Worst part was that the "Next Gen" segment featured people who were indeed young, but they were also children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of union members who happened to go into the organizing business. Which is what it seemed like - a business.

All of this I can forgive, because solidarity. But you know what is unforgivable? There was no swag. Dang! What's a convention without swag?

(Well, I think some people got some swag, but all I got was an N95 mask I had to put on right away, and two Covid testing kits as I left.)

The whole thing reminded me of how the administration in my school district celebrates National Teacher Week by giving each of us a bag with some random penny candy and a mini bottle of water.

Either go big or go home, that's my motto. The AFL-CIO could have thrown a gigantic party today at the Philadelphia Convention Center if they had just invited everyone who marches on Labor Day to come in their union t-shirts, gather in some swag, and have a nice lunch. The ballroom would at least have been populated. As it was, any oligarch who might have wandered into the Unity Summit could quickly conclude that the halcyon days of organized labor are over and done.

Don't get me wrong. The convention only gears up on Sunday, and rumor has it the president might drop in before it's over. So I'm sure that all the union muckity mucks from all over America will be descending.

But not the most important muckity mucks. Not the brave people stepping out of line at their workplaces to form bargaining units. Not the soldiers. Just the generals.

Oh well. The day wasn't completely lost. On my way back to the train I went through Reading Terminal Market and snagged a Beiler's doughnut.

Now I'm back in my lounge chair, having learned nothing about how to help those Starbucks baristas get unions in their shops.

In solidarity,

Anne Johnson

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Free Advice on Traveling without Being Tracked

 Hi ladies, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I am Anne Johnson, a happy Pagan in the Great Blue Northeast, USA. I live in a state that has not only enshrined a woman's right to body autonomy into its laws, it also stands poised to be a "sanctuary state" for anyone looking for private medical care. 



If I can toot my own horn a bit more, I'm also a woman of a certain age. What's that age, you ask? Oh, I'm not shy about it. I was a stripling of 14 when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.

A lot has changed since then.

The biggest change, bar none, is the cell phone. Did you know the doggone thing tracks you everywhere you go? And you would have to find someone WAY techier than me to tell you how to disable the tracking, should you need to for personal reasons.

But I can still help you. What if you took a trip and left your phone behind? Then no one could track you at all.

Scary, right?

Well, I'm here to tell you, it can be done! When I started traveling across state lines in 1974, nobody carried a phone with them. The phones were in little glass booths on the street corner. Or stuck to the wall in your house.

So. Let's suppose you want to travel from, oh, I dunno, Oklahoma to sunny Atlantic City, New Jersey, without your phone. Sounds terrifying. And I'm not gonna sugar coat it. This will not necessarily be like hopping in your car and turning on your Maps app.

First, you need to plan ahead. WAY ahead. You need to pretend that you may need a medical procedure at some point, and you need to put away cold hard cash. Don't wait until you need the money! Start now. Today. Put away as much as you can. You'll need cash for travel and for your medical procedures, and for a hotel room. In Atlantic City, most of the hotels are ridiculously expensive, but not all of them.

Second, you need a paper map of the old USA. Buy it right away and keep it handy. Then locate the nearest Greyhound bus terminal to where you live. I know, I know, Greyhound is the suckiest way to travel. But they go everywhere, and they take cash and give you a paper ticket if you ask.

If you plan way ahead, you can even enter some hypothetical destinations in Greyhound's web site and find out how much you will need for your excursion.

But how can you book a procedure in a strange hospital in a strange state? Again, ladies, you need to have an abundance of foresight. Locate the names and numbers of clinics you may some day need to visit. Write the names and numbers down on old-fashioned paper with an old-fashioned pen. Then, when you do need to call, you can buy a burner phone or borrow your best friend's phone to make the appointment.

Once you get a person on the phone to help you with the appointment, you can ask them: Where can I stay? Can someone pick me up at the Greyhound terminal? Is there any support system in place for a lady in my predicament? I'm hoping we will all be pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of aid that will flow in certain cases.

Thank goodness cash is still an option for so many ventures! When they do away with good old-fashioned dollars and cents, we will all be up Shit's Creek.

Most of us don't have a lot of ready money lying around, nor do we have easy ways to earn it. So my free advice to you, ladies, is save what you can. If you can put two bucks a day in an envelope, you'll have about $700 in a year. That takes a lot of discipline, but it's a sensible plan. 

I spent a lot of miserable hours on Greyhound buses. They are slow and stinky. But they go from A to B to Z. My free advice on Greyhound travel? Have that paper map, and pay attention to the stops! You don't want to miss your stop. (Well, in the case of Atlantic City, you won't miss the stop. It's as far as you can go on dry land.) You'll probably have to change buses a few times, though. Stay alert.

My last piece of free advice really shouldn't cost you a dime. You need to go to the board of elections and register to vote. Here's something you can freely look up on Google! You can find out just how to do it in your state. Then, once you are registered to vote, go out there and vote these monsters out of office. Bad things happen when you don't vote. Very bad things.

I hope you never need this advice. But take it from me, it is still possible to leave your phone on the shelf and take a trip somewhere. You just have to plan the old-fashioned way. Beforehand. Before you need to go anywhere.

This is what we did in 1974.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Guns Are the New Cigarettes

 Smoking was very fashionable when I was a kid. There were t.v. commercials that promoted it, there were brands for women and brands for men, and the product was available everywhere and affordable. The tobacco industry employed thousands and thousands of workers.

Everybody smoked.

I have no idea why, but my family was an exception. My parents and grandparents didn't smoke, although their siblings did. But my tobacco-free household was the exception to the rule.

Movie theaters were hazy with smoke. Buses were clouded with smoke. Go to a restaurant, everyone would be smoking with their meals. Cigarette butts lined the gutters. Every house had ashtrays.  And nobody gave it a second thought. People weren't defensive about smoking, it was just something everyone did.

Big Tobacco knew as early as the 1950s that smoking was linked to lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, and emphysema. They released "study" after "study" that showed no link between tobacco and cancer.

Lots of people were dying, though.

It took a long while for reality to sink in. Figure that cigarettes became widely popular in the 1920s. So by the 1960s, people who started smoking in the 1920s were getting sick. In droves.

My best friend's mother was a chain smoker. She died of emphysema in her 40s. And this unfortunate woman was not an outlier. I had numerous friends whose grandparents were battling cancer. My parents' friends were all sick.

In the face of such carnage, Big Tobacco could no longer lie their way out of responsibility. Better yet, the widespread public perception of smoking changed.

Smoking was banned in theaters. Then on planes and buses. Then in restaurants, hospitals, libraries and schools. Then in bars. Then in outdoor settings. Nowadays, if you light up a gasper in a crowded Irish pub, you'll get the stink eye and the bouncer along with your shot and chaser.

So many people had to die for this major social change. It was a rare family that wasn't touched in some way by smoking-related illness.

Guns are the same way.

The NRA will tell you that there's no correlation between gun violence and gun ownership. They have "studies." They have a veritable Bible of philosophy on the goodness of guns.

The assault weapons ban enacted after Ronald Reagan was shot was allowed to expire in 2004.

If guns have a 40-year run of death and destruction the way cigarettes did, the American public will finally be fed up and ready to enact bans around 2050. Sadly, that is my prediction. We are looking at a situation where gun violence will have to touch a majority of American families, the way smoking-related illnesses did, before any action will be taken.

Then it will be taken. Gun owners will get the bouncer and the stink eye. They will be shamed in public for their bad habits. They will give the guns up for their own safety and encourage their friends to do it too. They'll do it because they will personally know multiple people who have died due to gun violence.

This is the anatomy of a public health crisis. People blithely use a deadly product and justify their use, right up until there are widespread deaths directly linked to the product. Then, and only then, do people step back and show some common sense.

The difference between guns and cigarettes is that not many kids died from smoking-related illnesses. Kids are dying from guns. But until lots and lots and lots of kids die, until the gun-toting citizenry loses its own loved ones, nothing will be done.

Gun ownership is a public health crisis. It's a plague masquerading as a pastime.

As a teacher, I hope I survive it.