Sunday, November 19, 2023

New Birds in the Yard

 If they gave out awards for trash picking, my daughter The Heir would garner the gold. But if you think about it, championship trash picking is intrinsically rewarding. You come home with better stuff than some stupid trophy.

Yesterday we had a little pre-Thanksgiving get-together here at Chateau Johnson, since the Heir is going to Harrisburg to have Thanksgiving with her significant other's family. When Heir and her s.o. arrived at our house yesterday, I head a little hubbub in the front yard. Then she came to the door and said, "Mom, there's someone here to see you!"

EXHIBIT A: Someone

It was a breezy afternoon. The birds were teeter-tottering back and forth, and their wings flap too. The unit still had its sale tag (although not the price).

Heir trash picked this from in front of a house in Germantown. It was in a plastic garbage bag at the curb. She lugged it all the way to West Philadelphia before she unwrapped it to see if it was damaged. That's a bus and a regional rail line and another bus.

It works perfectly.

EXHIBIT B: L'Oiseau en Up de Close

If I had stacks and stacks of cash, my whole yard would be covered with such wonderful things. But this is far sweeter than buying a dozen silly metal lawn ornaments. This one was free!

EXHIBIT C: L'autre Oiseau

This is the happy outcome of teaching your youngsters to sift through other people's discards. Both of my daughters learned trash picking at my knee, but living in the city they can elevate their achievements to new heights.

Never mind that they both have jobs they like, jobs that make a positive difference in their communities. Never mind that they both have amiable gentlemen as partners. My kids can trash pick. Say what you want, that's a skill.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

In Which I Ponder the Ultimate Fate of My Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Runners

 Wow! Look at the length of that title! Might be a Gods Are Bored record! Long story short, I'm at a crossroads with my beloved Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Runners. It's decision time.

A little background information first.

My feet are the part of my body that scream "She's a witch! BURN HER!" I have bunions, hammer toes, and fallen arches. Between 2009 and 2021 I didn't have one single pair of comfortable shoes. I had to size up two numbers to find anything that would fit over my gnarly feet.

Finally, in desperation, I went with The Fair to R.E.I. to look at their shoes. If there's no R.E.I. in your hood, let me introduce you: It's an outdoor goods emporium that manages to be rugged and bougie simultaneously. Not my kind of shopping experience, necessarily, but desperation will do that to you.

Fair and I went to the shoe department, and a nice outdoorsy kinda guy listened to my foot woes and disappeared into the stockroom. He returned with a box. When he unwrapped the goods inside, Fair exclaimed, "Ew! Don't buy those, they're hideous!"

Undeterred, I tried them on. It was like Dorothy landing back in Kansas with Toto in her arms. Ugly they might have been, but Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Runners were the absolute tits.


Fair wasn't lying. They aren't things of beauty. But they are joys forever.

Altras are lightweight and arch-support-free, with zero drop and roomy toe boxes. The price point is competitive. The colors are a bit ... umm ... intense, but oh well! When you have witch feet, you'll settle for any hue.

And boy, did I settle. I settled right into those Altra puppies like I was born in them. I was such a satisfied customer that I joined the Altra fan page on Facebook. There, when I wistfully commented that I wish I could get Altras in black leather, I was led to Altra Torins. In shiny black leather. The best old lady teacher shoes ever.

So I had a pair of Altra Lone Peak 6 and a pair of Altra Torin 5. Then I bought a second pair of both. Then, in an uncharacteristic burst of self-indulgence, I bought the Altra Lone Peak waterproof hiking boots. For Anneland, and boy oh boy are they perfect.

This is where the Ultimate Fate part comes in.

It's November. That time of year when the Philadelphia Mummers Parade is coming into view.

Last year one little thing marred my Mummers Parade bliss. My feet hurt. The shoes I bought at the thrift store and painted gold might have been two sizes too big, but they still bit my bunions savagely.

My first pair of Lone Peak Trail Runners have given me two good years and are still rocking on. But I need a pair of gold shoes for the parade. Once I douse the trail runners in gold spray paint, they won't be good for daily use anymore. But they will give me many awesome struts on Broad Street...

It's a quandary.

I have until December 31, 2023 to make a final decision. I'm inclined to sacrifice the daily use of my first pair of Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Runners on the altar of having a super comfortable pair of golden slippers to strut in during every Mummers Parade for the rest of my life.

Sacrifices, sacrifices! Let no one say Anne Johnson doesn't sweat for her art.

Friday, November 10, 2023

In Which I LARP

Welcome back to "The Gods Are Bored," if you've kept the faith all this time. My name is Anne Johnson, and I talk to book case brackets and bored deities. Not necessarily in that order.

It's no secret that I've been struggling at work since September. Mightily. But this here girl knows her some struggle. That which does not kill me only makes me more stubborn.

One gambit that has always worked for me when I'm struggling is to veer off into a fantasy world. And knowing this about myself, I have to wonder: Where has LARP been all these years that it took me so long to find it?

Since I myself didn't know what LARP was until about 2019, I'm going to attempt to define it for you. LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Basically you join a group, create a character for yourself that fits the parameters of whatever game that group is playing, and you go off into the woods to be that character for a weekend with lots of other people doing the same thing.

Like, dang. This was my entire childhood in the 1960s. 

There is, of course, a big difference between pretending a fallen log is a dragon and riding it while your buddies slash the underbrush with sticks (1965) and attending a modern LARP (2023). LARPs are, so far as my limited understanding goes, based on rules that have descended from Dungeons & Dragons. In other words, the whole thing is complicated. It's almost akin to going to an exotic foreign port as a tourist who knows a few basic phrases of the language and nothing else.

Not only that, these LARPers really know their stuff. They have fabulous gear and deep understanding of the process. They camp overnight at the LARP property from Friday until Sunday! Again, dang. Hats off. This is serious fun.

Several times before the pandemic I attended this LARP and gave it up as a botch. I just couldn't get it at all. It didn't help that I was clearly at least a decade older than the other "older" players, and basically old enough to be almost everyone's mom.

But last spring, this group of LARPers started a whole new campaign. I went down a few times to help spruce up the property, and I got to know them. They, in turn, took me under their wings and helped me fit in. Since everything was new in a fresh campaign, I was a little less lost (only a little).

This fall, LARP has saved me.

My character is Feather. She has an arcane shield and direct knockback, level five wing it, arcane restore, and umami blood type. She has joined a monster-fighting vanguard as a healer. If that makes no sense to you, I totally get it. Still wrapping my own noggin around it.

The LARP is held on a private property near the Pinelands. It's part piney woods and part Christmas tree farm, all tucked away from the world of public education and highway upgrades. The people are smart, funny, cheerful and youthful. There are golems, and basilisks, and hydras, and zombies, and booby traps, and lava pits, and then dinner is served.

I have attended three events since school started. The game is held once a month.

When I set off for LARP last weekend on an early Saturday morning, I was so beaten down and dispirited that I mulled just driving to the beach instead to spend the day pacing some lonely stretch of boardwalk. Instead I went to the game, and it totally breathed life into this withered brain of mine.

You want to get LARP in a nutshell? I was with a group of players, and a vulture happened to fly overhead. I launched into my whole Sacred Thunderbird prayer, which invariably draws strange looks, and instead of those s. l., the whole group that I was with dropped their gear and started praising the Sacred Thunderbird without really knowing what they were praising. When they discerned that it was a carrion bird, they praised it with all the enthusiasm of true Vulture believers!

I think I have found a new tribe.

Readers, I'm still wading through the Gods Are Bored archives, excising spam comments. It's a herculean task, but heartwarming to see all the great comments left on this site by so many of you, over and over again. May the bored Gods bless you, early and often!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Huge Housekeeping Chore

I'm going to make this quick because Blogger just ate my more polite post.

My blog comments section, going back years, is full of bad spam. There's no easy way to delete the bad comments. I'm going to have to look at each and every post and hand-delete the spam.

I have begun this project because the stats reveal that half my readership is in the nation of Singapore (?) and I'm getting thousands of views a day on a blog with less than 250 subscribers.

And so I have turned on moderation (already caught a dozen spammers), and I'm going back laboriously through each blog post and deleting the spam.

In August 2020, a single spammer put a comment on every single post I wrote in 2019.

I don't even want to think about the thousands of blog posts I have written. They all have to be checked. I'll look at it like climbing a mountain: one batch at a time. The last thing I want is to wake up some morning and find that Google has excised "The Gods Are Bored" because of criminal activity through its comments section. This blog is my life's proudest work, and I'm going to get it all cleaned up and protected from further pollution.

Thank you for your patience while I perform this essential task.

There is a future for "The Gods Are Bored," trust me. Wait until you hear my plans to host the entire Greek pantheon in my classroom for a whole marking period!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Dark Night of the Soul

 The bored Gods know I've been through some things and have had some dark times. This is one of those times.

On or about August 7, I got a call from the schedule director at my school. He told me I had been moved from freshmen to seniors for my entire school schedule. In 15 years I had never taught seniors. I have always made it abundantly clear that I like freshmen.

Not only do I have seniors, I have all the seniors who don't qualify for Honors or Advanced Placement. Our school also sends our best and brightest seniors to the junior college. So the seniors I have are mostly male and mostly cashed out already. I gave them a questionnaire about their reading habits (or lack thereof) and only one of 76 students reported liking to read.

Two teachers of seniors quit last spring. The only other teacher of seniors this year has all the Honors and Advanced Placement seniors. She is starting her sixth year, while I am starting my 15th.

Rarely does my reality match my anxieties about what might happen, but the first two and a half weeks of this school year are coming damn close. Students who flounder academically are more likely to act out. They are more likely to have poor attendance. And if they have perfected any skill, it's manipulating the system.

I have poured vast amounts of energy into engaging these students, and the best I can say is that they are not openly defiant. But I am dreading each and every morning and coming home exhausted every afternoon.

No worries! Only five more years to go after this one! [Sarcasm]

It's not clear who made the decision to put me in this position. The man who called me on August 7 blamed the woman upon whom I had already initiated banework. She, in turn, told me to my face that she had no hand in the schedule.  It could have been the principal himself. He only cares whether or not the students are wearing their uniforms and IDs, which is an easy ask with freshman but impossible with seniors.

I could have been placed with 76 students who hate school simply because I had success keeping my freshmen in their uniforms and IDs.

Or, more likely, it was yet another vindictive act from someone who bears me ill will and can lie with a straight face as well as any cheap politician.

Either way, I have ramped up my work for the union. Our steward has noted that the chronologically oldest teachers at both campuses have suddenly been given seniors for the first time.

Yes, I have initiated my banework, using multiple tactics.

The only consolation I have in this dark night of the soul is that I have so many great connections with the support staff in my building. I know all the janitors and security guards and enjoy warm, friendly relationships with them. They don't blink an eye if I ask them to unlock an office door or point out a parking space. This is my only blessing in the workplace just now.

I have so little energy at the end of the day that I can't even contemplate writing an amusing blog post. Best I've been able to do so far is drag myself to the gym to exercise, but I'm not sure how long that will last when it starts getting dark earlier.

Last week I took a plate of fresh scones and a pot of tea to Sisyphus, just to ask for a little good advice. He said I should go review The Exile and the Kingdom by Camus and adjust my enthusiasm to match my students'. Sounds like a plan.

Here's hoping this Equinox finds you in a patch of sunlight with a soft cat on your lap. Don't give up on "The Gods Are Bored." I'm a stubborn someone. I'll be back.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

How I Met My Anneland Neighbor: A Horror Story

 Trigger warning again from "The Gods Are Bored": The story you are about to read is pretty horrifying, especially since it's true. If you don't like to be scared, stop here.

The estimable Oscar Wilde once said, "When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers." Not gonna argue that one, Oscar. And I've met lots of Gods and Goddesses.

I bought a 4 acres of undeveloped, off-the-grid property in 2021. It's about a half mile from where my great-grandparents are buried, and it's all wooded. It was a longtime prayer I offered to the Gods, to let me have a little piece of ground in the land of my ancestors.

When I bought the property, my family (and some of you too) were worried about bears. There are bears around in those mountains, but I have only ever seen one in all my 64 years. I wasn't particularly worried about bears.

But I was worried about people.

My family in New Jersey found this baffling, especially when I said that the biggest problem I would have in the area was my New Jersey license plates. This observation met with wide ridicule in the bosom of the fam. Who looks at license plates? Ridiculous!

Hmmm. Not like I grew up in the mountains, and they didn't.

Anyway, just lately I went to Anneland for a long weekend. The weather turned out absolutely splendid. Instead of being hot and humid, it was breezy and cool, more like September than August. This allowed me to do some serious trailblazing to make it easier for me to get up and down the hills.

On Saturday evening, I parked my car where I could see it and decided to stay to star-gaze. The Perseids are sort of over, but the star-gazing is just fabulous on any given clear night in the mountains.

First I watched the sun set. Then I listened to the katydids as they geared up. The twilight was lovely, and the insect symphony was gorgeous.

Just as the sky was turning from deep blue to black, a big white pickup truck passed my car on the road. The truck drove really slow. It took me about five minutes to decide that I'd better scrap the star-gazing and mosey along. (I overnight in a nearby campground with cabins.)

I had just reached the car and had my hand on the door handle when a very tall man with a very large German shepherd emerged from my property, raging about "motherfuckin' New Jersey tags." I literally didn't even have time to hop in the car before he was in my face.

It was dark. He was drunk. The dog didn't bark.

I said, "Hey, hey, hey. I own this property, I bought it from Charla. Are you B*** P*****?"

(The said B.P. is the nearest neighbor, living off the grid and unseen across the road.)

He said, "What are these goddamn Jersey plates?"

I said, "I live in New Jersey, but I grew up around here." I then began to go down a list of all my relatives, living and dead, in the township. I dropped the names of my three second cousins that I was sure he knew.

He said, "What do you know about the fire ring up on the state land?"

I said, "Nothing, because it's not on my land, but I don't like it there. It's too small and surrounded by dry leaves - a forest fire waiting to happen."

Then I went back to the "Who's Who," and he began to confirm that he knew these people. The guy was blotto, but some of what I was saying began to filter through. And then, as drunken men in the backwoods will do, he began to tell me how the government was buying up all the land around there, and -- yes, this sounds like a conspiracy -- they had plans. That's why he was concerned about the New Jersey plates. "I took a picture of them when you was up on the state land," he said.


So in my most soothing voice, throwing in a little accent for good measure, I explained that my grandfather's farm got sold, and I just wanted a little piece of ground, and I was lucky to get this tract from Charla at a good price, and I had no plans to build anything on it, and he could hunt it to his heart's content.

At this point he introduced me to his dog, who sniffed me politely and let me pet her massive head.

But that's when it got really terrifying.

So convincing was I with the genealogy, the name-dropping, and the "pity poor me that I even have to live in New Jersey," that he got flirty. He wanted to know if I was married, and where my husband was. He wanted to know why I used my maiden name, which he reassuringly pronounced "Jawnson." As I answered these questions he began to address me as "milady" and started apologizing. He wanted to know how old I was, and when I told him he said I didn't sound that old (this whole conversation took place in pitch dark). I said he would know my age if he could actually see me, but I didn't open the car door or turn on my flashlight.

The nearest house to my property is about 150 yards away. And it's around a bend. Only about three cars use the road during an entire 24-hour period, so there was about a ten percent chance another driver would come by.

The convo continued, self keeping it light as possible, and it did run on, because the dude was in his cups in that effusive way that would put your hair on end if you were sitting in a crowded pub. Finally after about 20 minutes the tension was mostly diffused. Then I politely bade him good night, saying I had to phone up the husband at a certain time. With a few more "milady" and a "blessed be," he stepped aside. I got in my car and waved to him and his oddly benign dog as I pulled away.

I have never been more terrified in my life.

Safely ensconced in my tourist cabin, I mulled what to do as my heart rate very, very slowly came down from mortal peril to red alert. Then I decided. I couldn't let this man scare me off my land that I had waited so long to obtain. I had planned to go back to Anneland in the morning. I determined to enact that plan. To hold my ground, so to speak.

After a sleepless night I put on my big girl pants and went back to my land. I plopped in my folding chair and read my book. Sadly, instead of being soothed by the fabulous forest, I was on hyper alert, fully realizing that the Gods were punishing me by answering my prayers. But it was quiet, and I did a little more trail blazing, and then at about 2:45 I started back for my car, which was parked at a pull-off just beside my property that is on state forest land.

As soon as I got to my car I saw the white pickup truck coming. He must have been waiting for me, but he made it look like a coincidental encounter.

He stopped, rolled the window down, and said, "I'm sorry about the ruckus last night."

We shook hands and chatted a little bit about how he had Jawnsons in his family tree, and we were most definitely related somehow. I repeated pretty much the spiel I'd given him the night before, figuring he probably didn't remember much of it. The dog was in the passenger seat.

We chatted about 15 minutes, and I wish I could tell you that, in the sober light of a Sunday afternoon, he was a changed man.  Well, he wasn't combative, and he wasn't flirty, but he had way too much to say about government takeovers, and how the state police had violated his rights on more than one occasion. He inquired about my profession, and I told him about teaching at the Vo-Tech.

Chillingly, he asked, "Anyone in your family in the military?"

I replied emphatically in the negative.

After some parting pleasantries, he drove off and so did I, in opposite directions.

Did you ever notice that, when buying a house or a property, people will ask dozens of questions but never inquire about the neighbors -- what kind of people they are, and if there's ever been any problems with them? I sure didn't think of it when querying the property seller about the surroundings. She said merely that her brother lived off the grid, down over the hill, and that she didn't really talk to him. This family's surname is quite known and respected in the vicinity.

Call it a lapse, or wishful thinking. I just didn't account for a paranoid hermit just a few years younger than me. The mountains have always hosted people like this, but just as with everything else, the Internet has stoked a whole new level of anxiety.

The "ruckus" happened four days ago, and I still haven't recovered. I'll never be comfortable staying on my property after dark. And the bear spray Yellowdog Granny sent me will be in my pocket at all times.

It'll be like forest bathing with a snapping turtle in the tub.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Why I Hated the Barbie Movie


Oh boy, here comes that curmudgeon from "The Gods Are Bored," about to sneer and jeer at the summer's most iconic (and history's highest earning) movie. Trust me, though, this will not be a defense of Ken. Instead I feel like someone ought to point out the failure of imagination, the indefensible and incomprehensible messages about mothers and daughters, and about the autonomy of tweens in this troubling confection of a film.

What? Barbie is a failure of imagination? But Greta Gerwig! Nah, it's not Greta's fault. It's that big ol' Mattel, trying to be cute and boost the bottom line with more sales of a flagship product.

Let's start with the character Weird Barbie. Oh boy! This movie is going to explore the fact that some kids clip their Barbies' hair and bend them out of shape!

Oh brother.

Let me tell you about the Weird Barbies that dwelled in my home when one of my daughters was a tween and the other an impressionable stripling.

Oh yes, my tween daughter played with Barbies. Gosh, we had a bin of them.  We had:

*anorexic Barbie

*pathological tattooed Barbie

*drug addicted Barbie

*parkour Barbie with attendant injuries


*gender fluid Ken

One day I heard a lot of drama being performed in the living room, and when I investigated, these are the Barbies my daughter introduced me to. Now, I have lived long enough to know that nothing -- and I mean nothing about my lives or my children's lives -- is unique to our home. I'm 100% certain that other imaginative youngsters in other imaginative homes were playing with their too-skinny-too-cheerful dolls in the same manner.

See the dark turn this film takes if a director tackles the reality of this toy meant to be sold in the truckloads to enhance shareholder value? But wait, there's more.

In the film, our heroine Stereotypical Barbie becomes existential when her real-world owner starts entwining real-world thoughts with the toy. Okay, that's an interesting premise. Whoa, see above! But I have a deeper question. If Barbie's toy behavior is interwoven with her owner's behavior, what happens to

*naked thrift store Barbie hanging upside down in a plastic bag?

I'll leave that to you to ponder.

Let's move along.

In the opening sequence, listless young girls are seen playing with baby dolls, an activity that the narrator ensures us lacks all imagination and prepares the children for nothing but motherhood. As if motherhood in and of itself has no worth. Thank you, feminists of the 1960s and 1970s, for vilifying the human race's most important task, thereby providing the oligarchy with a workforce it could pay less and work harder while dumping children in daycare! And thank you, Barbie creator, for Supreme Court Barbie, as if every youthful beauty with a 26-inch waist can sit on our nation's highest court! You know what Barbie has never been in all her incarnations? A mom. And that is our nation's disgrace. But it does make rich men richer.

Ironically, the secondary hero of this film is a mom. This mom is sad because her tween daughter is dressing in grunge and separating from her, as all tweens do. The tween caught my attention more than the mom. For my money the best scene in the whole film is where Barbie, in all her blonde fake pinkness, introduces herself to the grungy teen and quickly gets showered with disdain and sent packing. I loved that! If there was a brief moment of verisimilitude in this film, that was it.

But as the film unfolds and the tween's mom becomes ascendant, the tween goes along for the ride and winds up pretty in pink, dancing and laughing with the Barbies. Friends, this was seriously offensive. Tween girl, you've got it all wrong, with your grunge and dirty hair! Get with the Mattel program! Here's a pink bolero jacket. Look how cute you are in it!

No. Just no. Grunge tween should have had the autonomy to tell Barbie and her mom that clothes don't matter. Thinking matters. Being yourself matters. And if your self loves dark shapeless clothing, you have the right to your choice. And you're a tween. It's natural to be seeking some distance from your parents and to make a statement about who you are.

Now it gets personal.

Barbie was created the year I was born. Of course I had one of these dolls by the time I was four. I didn't play with Barbie much. Her big tits and wasp waist bothered me. Also, she came clad in a swimsuit, and if you wanted her to be dressed you had to buy clothes. All my friends had better Barbie clothes than I did. So I ditched Barbie in favor of playing Vietnam War with the boys.

In the film we meet Barbie's creator, an actress who I just love who here plays against type as a gentle, struggling grandma who wanted to earn a living wage. Okay, Mattel. Whatever you say.


This gentle grandma creator gives Stereotypical Barbie the greatest gift - becoming human. And what does it mean to be human? Well, many of the images projected on the screen are of mothers loving and nurturing children. Very sweet indeed. But, Barbie? You were born in 1959. You are no longer the Maiden or the Mother. You're now a Crone. Welcome to being a 64-year-old woman! You are:

*hip replacement Barbie

*arthritis Barbie

*anxious mammogram Barbie

*chronic earache Barbie

*underpaid overworked bullied Barbie

*true existential crisis Barbie

*anxiety disorder Barbie


*OK Boomer Barbie

How do you like it so far?

The bottom line is that the Barbie movie was funded and produced by two companies, Universal Studios and Mattel, whose interests lie in market share. So they got a talented director to make a pretty film that takes shots at the patriarchy but certainly never addresses the problematic role Barbie has played in the lives of generations of young girls. I have to give credit to my own daughter for sinking her Barbies deep into the dark side of America, making them suffer the way so many American women do.

And by the way, that same daughter reversed an overdose on the streets of Philadelphia this weekend. The victim was a slender young girl who ran away as soon as she could stand.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

She Is the Storm

 Here at "The Gods Are Bored" we had a whopper of a storm a few weeks ago. For about 15 minutes all hell broke loose outside. The power flickered. Wind shook the house. Stuff started hitting the windows. Mr. J and I just looked at each other, one waiting for the other to be the first to sprint to the basement. Curiously, our phones didn't beep for a weather emergency.

There was no thunder or lightning. Just wind and rain. Then it passed as quickly as it had come.

Prior to the storm, I was grilling a few nice hotdogs outside. (It was the Fourth of July, now that I come to think of it.) I kept looking at the clouds, because they were roiling, in all sorts of dark and ominous patterns, with no discernable wind direction. Again no thunder or lightning. Just clouds acting weird. Just a scary sky.

Fast forward to the aftermath of this storm. My yard was strewn with big oak branches that had blown two blocks from the little park to the south. When I walked around to see the park, it lay in shambles. On the street neighboring mine, so many trees had been toppled that they lay 20 feet high all along the lane. Houses were damaged by falling trees all around. I don't know how Mr. J and I got lucky, with only branches to be rounded up.

This kind of weather event is called a "microburst." It only affected Haterfield and one other community. This meant that the next day, every tree service in the Delaware Valley arrived all at once to begin cleanup.

We've been hearing chain saws and wood chippers ever since. For a solid month. There is still work to do.

This is the second catastrophic microburst we've had around here in 3 years.

I wouldn't give that any more thought, except that John Beckett reports in his blog "Under the Ancient Oaks" that some people are hearing from a nameless Storm Goddess, and they don't know what to make of it. The only thing they're sure about was that this is a Goddess, and not a bored god like Huracan, who has a name.

Hindsight is 20-20, so I'm pretty sure now that this ancient Storm Goddess passed through my neighborhood. I would never have had the courage to invite Her in for tea and pie, but I wish I had at least gone out on the porch to hail Her.

The people hearing from this Storm Goddess are perplexed because She doesn't seem to be part of any historical pantheon. To this I say, why would She be? We only have the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the deities who have been praised and worshipped by the human race.

Ha ha! As luck has it, I have a shrine in my back yard that is dedicated expressly to all of these ancient and forgotten deities. So as I prepared my shrine for Lughnasadh, I tried to commune with this Storm Goddess.

My feeling, after some meditation, is that this Goddess comes to us from the end of the last Ice Age. She does not relate to any pantheon we have on record. She is not a Goddess of weather, but a Goddess of climate. She has been roused by the warming.

There must have been generations of Paleolithic people who watched their lands change right under them. Or who found their living space inundated by new or swollen rivers. My goodness, the whole Chesapeake Bay went from a river valley to a vast brackish expanse in just 7,000 years. There had to have been some cataclysmic moments in that.

I'm no mystic or seer. Have you noticed? I'm a humorist. But when I went to the Shrine of the Mists and started musing on this Storm Goddess, all I saw was the end of the Ice Age.

My take on this Storm Goddess? She doesn't like it hot. She is the Goddess of Climate.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A Rant about Baseball

 This is "The Gods Are Bored," and I assure you, I love baseball. It's my favorite sport, because I am in constant awe that anyone could hit such a small ball, moving so fast, in such a way that it will fall somewhere in a field. It's amazing. And it's the only sphere (ha ha) of life where being 1/3 good at your job makes you a superstar.

As a child, I went to sleep listening to the Baltimore Orioles on the radio. My parents were Orioles fans, and they would put the game on at night. I can clearly remember wondering how all the players' names were spelled. Sure, Jim Palmer and Brooks and Frank Robinson, easy. But Andy Echebarran? Carl Yazstremski? Mike Cuellar? Woof.

The Orioles were great throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Then they got hot again in 1979, just in time for me to be living six blocks from the stadium through the summer. To sweeten the pot, the Orioles had a student ticket price of $1.75 for upper deck. Yes, the decimal point is in the right place.

I went to every home game that summer.

The way it worked was, I would walk down to the stadium, go to a ticket booth, show my student ID, get a paper ticket, and go to the turnstile. At the turnstile, one of many ushers would tear the ticket in half and give back the stub. Done! Find a seat. Sometimes I sat by myself, sometimes I had friends with me, and sometimes I sat in a section full of rowdies who, like me, went every night.

When I got home from a game, I would take a piece of scotch tape and tape the ticket stub to the wall in my apartment. I didn't start doing this until nearly mid-season, but I'm pretty sure I had more than 50 stubs on that wall.

Good times, good times.

But enough of the great bygone days. Let's look at a modern trip to the ballpark, shall we?

The Orioles were in Philadelphia for a three-game visit. Self, Fair, and Mr. J got seats for the 7/25/23 game, which cutely happened to be "Christmas in July." I am fully aware of how Philadelphia fans treat visiting teams and their fans, but I was determined to wear my bright orange Orioles Hawaiian shirt that The Heir had trash-picked from West Philly. More about that in a moment.

Mr. J purchased the tickets, lower deck on the third base side. They cost $60 apiece, with another $20 for guaranteed parking near the third base entrance. The cost alone is jaw-dropping. But to make matters worse, I had to download an app to access a QR code that was my ticket. Ponder this. Go ahead, I'll give you a moment.

This is Philadelphia, so of course I got trash-talked before even getting within spitting distance of the ballpark. But the Orioles are hot at the moment, and Baltimore is only 100 miles from Philly, so I had plenty of fellow fans in orange to commiserate with. (Mr. J wore neutral colors and Fair, a fan of all things Philadelphia, was decked in home team colors.)

When we got to the entry kiosk, I didn't know how to hold my phone so the stadium could scan the code. Fair had to do it for me. And oh yes, before that step we had to go through a security checkpoint that took an X-ray of the contents of our purses.

Finally in the stadium, $200 out of pocket, and one "go back to Baltimore" so far.

Reader, have you been in one of these modern ballparks? They are as loud as the halls of Hell. It isn't fans cheering, it's the jumbo-trons. DANG you cannot hear the person sitting next to you! (Which, given that I was surrounded by Phillies fans, might have been a good thing.)

Mr. J and I had been determined to eat an early dinner before we went to the ballpark. But one thing led to another, and we didn't. The worst place in the world to be hungry is a modern baseball park. The food is dreadful, and you have to take a second mortgage to purchase it. No exaggeration: a bottle of water is five bucks. I don't know what Mr. J spent on the inedible sandwiches he bought for us, but he tells me they don't take cash at the food stands. Lord love ten thousand fruit flies! I'll bet he paid more for the food and beverages we consumed during that game than we did for the half bushel of large, fat crabs from TL Morris Seafood last week.

The stadium was packed. The fans were loud. The Phillies either trailed or tied until the bottom of the ninth, when they got two outs and then scored and won the game. This exhibit about sums it up.


About all I can say is, my shirt is the tits.

I wish I could say I'm done with live baseball for all time, but I already have a ticket to another game in late August. This ticket only cost $40, but then I bought a plus-one for Mr. J, so oh boy. It's possible for us to use mass transit to get to the ballpark, which will maybe save us a whopping $10. But I am going to be like Persephone in Hades and not let a morsel of food or drink pass my lips while there.

Just think of it. I saw a whole damn season of home games in 1979 for less than one game in 2023. And I had something to tape on the wall when I got home.

About the only thing that's stayed the same is my devotion to the Baltimore Orioles. What a great team. Go Birds!

Monday, July 24, 2023

Annie's Helpful Guide to Hiking Steep Mountains When You're Past Your Prime

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Hard to admit, yes it is, but I am past my prime. And for those of you striplings who say, "Age is a mindset, not a number," well. You must still be young. Age isn't a number, but it's a reality.

I may be past my prime, but I'm nowhere near dotage. This means that the urge to dance, hike, and otherwise carry on is still an itch that can be scratched.

Hiking is one of those pastimes that come with an unfortunate drawback. The drawback is, if the hike is worth taking, it's going to be steep, rocky, or both. Take my word on this. I live close to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and the hikes there are soft, level, and devoid of rocks. They are also boring as a Methodist tithing sermon. Pine trees, pine trees, and more pine trees. With an oak or ten thousand thrown in for variety.

I'm just back from beautiful Anneland, and the hiking there is middling interesting.


As you can see from the helpful exhibit, the mountains in the region of Anneland are not terribly tall. But any mountain is steep when you start climbing it.

I have been frustrated with my inability to climb mountains for the past three years. But this year I figured out a hack. It will drive the striplings nuts, but for me it works!

Here are the steps:

1. When the hiking gets steep and/or rocky, proceed thirty paces, looking only at the few paces right in front of you, then rest. 

2. Do not look ahead at the trail in front of you while resting, except to confirm the next blaze. Look back at what you have accomplished.

3. If, after 30 paces you feel like you can go farther, go ahead. Stop when you run out of breath or see a cute mushroom or find a stand of wild raspberries.

4. In the summertime, go hiking early. It's too hot in the middle and end of the day.

Now you, too, can be a successful (if slow as hell) hiker!

One final piece of free advice: It's never a good idea to hike alone. However, if you do, be sure to let two different people know what trails you'll be on and when you plan to be back. When you get back, call both people to check in. This is what I did on my last visit to Anneland, and by this means I was able to conquer the nearest steep trail.

All the blessings of the bored Gods to you! Let me know about your hiking. It's a great way to spend a morning.

Monday, July 17, 2023

A Chirpin' and A Cheepin' Y'all

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm just off the surreal adventure of driving back to New Jersey from Anneland. The first 40 miles are country roads with epic vistas and no cars in either direction. The last 40 miles are frenetic, bumper-to-bumper freeways leading into the center of Philadelphia. Whoosh! Like entering another dimension.

When I visit Anneland (I will have photos in a future installment), I frequent the local eateries. One of the things I like to do, sitting alone over a steamy plate of sausage gravy and biscuits, is evesdrop on the conversations around me. I don't do this out of nosiness, but rather because the peoples' country accents are such music to my ears. I lost my rural accent long ago, but I love hearing it coming from other folks.

But here's something I bet you didn't know. Wild birds have regional accents too! Can you believe it? It's true. After hearing it with my own ears, I asked Dr. Google. Yep, so true.

The spoiled and pampered blue jays in my New Jersey wildlife refuge -- the ones that get fresh peanuts in the shell every morning -- make a soft peep peep. The blue jays out on Anneland, scrawny and peanut-deprived, have a hoarser pip pip and a throatier caw. The cardinals in NJ say TWEET pow pow pow. The same call near Anneland is GECK o.

One bird that has the good sense to boycott suburban New Jersey is the eastern towhee. For my money, this is a great bird. It really brings back my happiest youthful days to hear the towhees calling one another as evening falls. They say Drink your TEA. 

I guess if they lived in New Jersey they would say Wanna BEER?

I had lots of fun adventures. More soon!

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


 I'm doing a little self critique here at "The Gods Are Bored" today, and one of the pesky bad habits I'm looking at is my use of social media.

I would probably be better off if I couldn't remember a time before the Internet, but I can. So even when I start every morning checking up on The Fair's posts on Instagram, and "The Turkey Vulture Society" on Facebook, I know I'm being lured into something unproductive at best and downright soul-sucking at worst.

I have a Twitter account, but I can't even remember the username. Therefore I can't shut it down, even though I want to. During the brief time I spent on Twitter, I felt it was a smelly, slimy place where people went to belittle other people who don't think like they do. I'll take the word of the scientists and scholars who say it has helped them communicate with one another. Not being a scientist or a scholar, I only found Twitter scary.

Now there's a new platform, "Threads," which sounds like pretty much Twitter except run by that weasel Zuckerberg instead of the weasel Musk. And already the authors I follow on Facebook have opened accounts and are all ready to muster new forces in yet another social media cavern.

This is an easy PASS for me. The last thing I want is another time-wasting mess of a social media website prying into my life choices. Keep your Threads! No one will miss me if I'm not there.

I'm going to visit Anneland for a few days, and one of the best things about it is that there's no Internet signal there. Not great if I get bit by a snake, but really swell if I just want to sit in the woods and be quiet. Which I do.

If you open up a Threads account, more power to you. Let me know what the scenery is like. If it's anything like Twitter, it's a bust.

Blogger remains the best, the very best. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Interview with a Bored Goddess: Venus

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the streets are full of tree limbs and the temperature is halfway between scorching and blistering! I'm Anne Johnson, and yesterday I heard the three words that strike a chill into my soul: "Help Me Plan." So I called upon dear Goddess Venus to help me deal with the anxiety.

Please give a warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Venus, the Goddess of Love!

Anne: Here, Your Greatness, try this pie that Mr. J just made. It's peach/blueberry!

Venus: Oh, this is delightful! Now, my good and (somewhat) vigilant follower, what is your concern?

Anne: First the back story. When Mr. J and I got married, I spent two days planning the wedding. Basically I booked a church and preacher, and a lunch at a restaurant. Then I invited 14 people. Started the ball rolling on Tuesday, said "I do" on Thursday.

Venus: Anne. Honestly. Why would you wed in such haste? Were you ?????

Anne: No! I JUST HATE TO PLAN EVENTS. In fact, the only thing I can think of that I'm less suited for than teaching is event planning.

Venus: Oh, I see where this is going. You lit the nicest candle for me on full moon ...

Anne: My daughter is getting married, and she loves a big do! First she wants an engagement party on this Labor Day weekend. Then she wants a wedding on the Chesapeake Bay same time next year.

Venus: You can hire people to take care of these things, you know.

Anne: No I can't! I'm not made of money. I'm not even made of bargaining chips. And this engagement party. She wants me to host it at my house.

Venus (perusing said house): Hmmm. Yep, starting to see your point. This is the moment when I bring up your deficiencies.

Anne (hiding her head): The deceased baby mouse on the altar.

Venus: Yes. The one that had been there so long it was dried out. The one that your daughter noticed, not you! And you have the nerve to petition Me to help you with magic, and now listen to your whining about being poor! I'm a Roman deity. I want my worshippers to be wealthy -- or at least observant enough to keep vermin off the altar!

Anne: Your Greatness, You can look around and see that this house, while not a showplace, is not filthy and crawling with mice! I have no idea how that little corpse got onto the altar. I'm absolutely sure Gamma Cat was involved -- he likes to chase mice up the stairs. But I can't imagine how that thing got onto my altar. Gamma couldn't have put it there himself. But I promise You, I am SO SO SO sorry! I am fully aware that you Greco-Roman deities are easily insulted. How about another slice of pie?

Venus: This pie is all that is saving you from being turned into a toadstool.

Anne: Which I richly deserve. But I did clean everything up and promise to do better!

Venus: That you did. And you'd better be serious, because another such gesture of disrespect will not be healed by pie, even this extremely excellent pie.

Anne: I'm confident that this won't happen again. I've worked myself into a lather wondering if it was an omen.

Venus: Not an omen. Just a sorry coincidence. Which I would forgive instantly if you hadn't ignored your altar for quite some time.

Anne: My altar will never be neglected again! As you know, I spend more time at the shrine in the back yard.

Venus: No excuses! Let's get back to your petition. Do you want me to teach you to be an event planner?

Anne: Can you turn me into a toadstool instead? Large parties give me hives. I don't know why. 

Venus: All right, I will do the whole thing for you with a flick of My shapely wrist! All you have to do is stand up at the wedding and proclaim Me the Creator of the Nuptials and the Best Goddess in the World. Before the couple says "I do."

Anne: A red toadstool with white spots?

Venus: I don't get credit, I don't do the work. Ask anyone.

Anne: I really didn't mean to ask You to do this -- although I bet You could do one bang-up job of it. I just want some celestial advice.

Venus: Here's some real world advice: Pay for professionals. Stop whining about the cost. That's what credit cards are for. I mean, it's not like I see you taking a pilgrimage to Rome or anything.

Anne: Because I don't have any money!

Venus: Here's an idea. Throw a bake sale. Get Mr. J to make six dozen of these pies, and sell them for $50 each.

Anne: It took him three hours to make this single pie.

Venus: Well, you asked for my advice, and there it is. I've given you several admirable options.

Anne: If I become a toadstool, can I really talk to trees? Because I read an article somewhere that said fungi form networks with deciduous plants, and ...

Venus: I am not going to turn you into a toadstool just so you can avoid planning and executing your daughter's wedding! She's a capable girl. Have faith in her. Write a check and show up in a decent dress. Let's go look at your wardrobe.

Anne: OH NO, LET'S NOT! Ah, the stress, the stress!

Venus: Chill, Anne. Write a check, wring your hands, and roast five wild boars on an altar to me.

Anne: And if I do that, You'll help me?

Venus: No, I won't help you. But you'll live. Does your daughter's betrothed have a mother?

Anne: Yes, but she lives in Georgia.

Venus: No matter! Get her to do everything. Dab your eyes, develop "the vapors," and write a check. I'll take the rest of this pie with me.

Anne: But ...

Venus: Mouse on the altar!

Anne: I'll get you a Tupperware container.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Tough Night in the Wildlife Refuge

 Welcome to The World of Anne, better known as "The Gods Are Bored!" It's been a tough 22 hours in the wildlife management area, let me tell you.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm going to write about my beautiful little piece of property in the Appalachian Mountains. But actually I am referring to my 1/8 acre in sunny (today) Haterfield, New Jersey. There's far more avian and mammalian wildlife in my little suburban back yard than there is on the four acres of woods I own in Bedford County, PA.

We're not talking about insects and mushrooms. Just animals and birds.

But it was a super tough night for the mice, voles, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, and feral cats. Also put upon were the blue jays, cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, sparrows, finches, robins, woodpeckers, catbirds, and mourning doves. The refuge took a beating.

Yesterday, just as I was pulling my Fourth of July hotdogs off the grill, it began to rain. The sky was roiling. I took myself inside, and Mr. J and I ate dinner as the rain got heavier and heavier.

Then all Hell broke loose. We had hurricane conditions for approximately 15 minutes. The wind blew the outdoor furniture over, and projectiles began hitting the house. It was a white-out of rain. Mr. J and I just looked at each other as if to say, "Should we hoof it to the basement?" Then the power flickered, and the storm ratcheted into even a higher pitch.

Gradually conditions improved. Mr. J stepped outside and righted the furniture, declaring that the damage "wasn't bad at all." But he was only looking at the 1/8 acre Johnson Memorial Wildlife Management Area. He didn't stroll down the street.

I was the one who strolled down the street, about an hour later. And the whole landscape was upside down. There was a downed wire sparking in the next block, and at least a dozen trees uprooted and blown over. Neighbors were already pulling huge limbs out of their back yards. And I couldn't see, but it felt like a whole tree had fallen across the street, on one of the Millionaire McMansions. My own yard is littered with branches from the park that is a block away.

I'm just back from a longer stroll, which I took because all the streets are closed and I needed to get downtown for a lunch engagement. There are trees down everywhere. A local constable that I spoke to said that, in addition to the wind damage, many cars were swept into flash flooding, as high as four feet in some places.

This was a pretty localized weather event, so all the tree companies in the county -- and every electric company truck as well -- descended on Haterfield. The din around here first thing in the morning was deafening. They're still sawing and shredding in the block behind mine. It was completely impassible.

My question is, where do all the critters go? There aren't as many birds or mammals in the Wildlife Management Area today. Well, the squirrels are here in force, but otherwise it's critter quiet.

Why have I never thought of this before? What happens to a one-ounce finch in a wind storm that knocks over 200-year-old trees?

Oh! I hear them! The finches (some of them) are back on the bird feeder! I wish I could put my question straight to them. I think I'll ask around for a bored deity that can converse with wildlife, because I really am curious.

Where I live -- and especially in these climate-challenged times -- a true hurricane is not out of the question. Judging by what I have seen today, wowsa. Hope it never happens.

So far as I know, distant rural Anneland is fine. Four acres, one chipmunk who looked desperate to relocate.

If you know what happens to birds during hurricanes, please tell me. I could ask Chat GPT, but it isn't trustworthy, and you are.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Clarence Thomas Is Henry VIII

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," end of the Supreme Court calendar edition. I am one very pissed off Anne Johnson today.

In this circle of Hell called the USA, we have a court that is a final arbiter, containing three judges chosen by a president who did not win the popular vote. This is not how a democracy should work.

To make matters worse, we have a single individual on this court who rose from abject poverty to the priciest yacht travel in the world, who doesn't want anyone to think he did so because of affirmative action, because somehow the taint of affirmative action besmirches his clear superiority over all common folk.

This man parties like a king, and his wife behaves like a conniving queen. They sit in their luxury and make decisions that affect ordinary Americans without ever feeling the pain of the people whose lives they are impacting. Workers, women, debt-ridden college kids? Pish, tosh. Peons all. Pass the caviar.

When I was a teenager I couldn't get enough books about Tudor England. It always amazed me that Henry VIII could order his citizens to change churches on pain of death just because he wanted to divorce his old wife and marry a new, young one. Like, dude. You're ending peoples' lives because you're horny? You've got issues.

But Henry VIII was a king. America isn't supposed to have kings.

Turns out you can act like a royal without having the title. We have, on our Supreme Court, a sitting justice who enacts his own self-loathing as a fiat with bitter repercussions for rank-and-file citizens. His finances are opaque, his friend group is elite, and he only concerns himself with pleasing those few. Why? Because the man isn't comfortable in his own skin. He's a ruler with issues.

Of course this fucked-up operator has partners in crime, all with issues, all beholden to the moneyed interests. Multiple 50-year-old precedents overturned in one year. This is a disgrace more befitting an absolute monarchy than a democracy.

Aux armes, citoyens!

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Felicitous Announcement

 It is with great pleasure that Lord Mark and Lady Anne Johnson announce the engagement of  their youngest daughter, Fair Johnson, to an amiable gentleman of high moral repute and moderate, diligent habits. The two young persons reached their understanding during a tour of the Italian provinces, concluding today. A date has not been set for the nuptials.

Lady Anne received this news with utmost enjoyment, having no other goal in life than the happy unions of her daughters with worthy gentlemen.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Making Magick Work

 A new entry from "The Gods Are Bored!" will wonders never cease?

Well, forgive me, friends. The last month of school is always a special circle of Hell. About the only good thing I can say is that I'm putting an enemy to work for me: Turns out Chat GPT cranks out wicked lesson plans in an eyeblink. And since my district wants my lesson plans to be basically novellas, I'm glad for the help.

Today's sermon is an update on my latest magick spell. I'm adding the "k" merely for algorithm, figuring there may be two or three American teens who are still Googling such things rather than going directly to Tik Tok.

Two months ago I learned that a very toxic person would be remaining in my workplace even though her high position had been eliminated. The elimination in effect made things worse for myself and my colleagues, as the toxic person took a demotion and is now once again in closer proximity to teachers and students. The drag on morale is palpable.

I mean this woman no harm, even though my limited interaction with her over the last several years has proven to me that she bitterly despises me. I guess I would feel bad if she didn't bitterly despise so many other people, but hey. It's how she rolls.

But it's possible to mean someone no harm and still work a spell on them. My goal is not to inflict any kind of pain on the person, but rather just have her heave a sigh of relief and move on to another phase of her life -- a phase that takes her out of my workplace.

Hence the "move on" spell.

It's an Appalachian hoo doo spell that requires one ingredient: dirt from an active railroad track. In a previous post I described my adventure in obtaining the dirt (no mean feat, as Amtrak guards its tracks zealously). Now, dirt in hand, I have begun the working.

Twice already I have had to turn in paper communications to this person. Each one looks just a tad smudged, especially at the places where her fingers would land. Adding a little extra to the effort, my notes to her have subtle wording having to do with moving:

*Moving this on down the line to you.

*I think we're making good forward progress.

These are the ones I've used so far. There will be more opportunities for this in the future.

Here is something I learned from my last successful spell: This magic comes at a cost. Through the efforts of my toxic boss (perhaps unwittingly) I am already out several hundred dollars in missed overtime opportunities. I am resigned to this outcome. It's the price of doing what I have to do.

I feel like I'm performing a public service. Over the past decade I have watched this woman make decisions that hurt students and teachers. I'm not alone in my low opinion of her. Some of my colleagues think that the demotion will humble her, but that remains to be seen. I'm skeptical.

Yours truly from the witch trenches I remain,

Anne Johnson

Monday, May 15, 2023

Spoutwood Says Goodbye Sometimes

 Ah, Spoutwood, Spoutwood! Home of the first and biggest fairy festival! We at “The Gods Are Bored” salute you and daub a tear from the eye.


The May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm was held at a private property (Spoutwood) until 2019. The weekend event – spiritual if you wanted spirituality, silly fun if you wanted that, music and drumming if you wanted that – outgrew its location at long last. Since 2019 it has been held at two different venues near Baltimore.


As with any community, the dedicated Spoutwood volunteers have become like family over the years. We have watched children grow up from tots to tweens to teens to twenty-somethings. We’ve developed real bonds and genuine care for one another. Anyone who says the only place you can achieve that kind of agape love is in church, well. Either Spoutwood is a church, or agape can develop among people who are like-minded and willing to show other people how to have a good time.



As far as I can count, the 2023 May Day Fairie Festival was my 18th year in attendance. And just as those tots have turned to twenty-somethings, I have moved along from Mother to Crone. The walking, the dancing, even the shouting, has become more difficult. And yes indeed, my enthusiasm has waned as I pine for dear Spoutwood Farm, even though this year’s venue was breathtaking.


For many years I built my whole spring around Spoutwood. This year, when I set out on Saturday morning to drive to the event, I realized I had forgotten my dragon, Big Red. I had forgotten the small Mountain Tribe banner hanging in my spare room. I had forgotten earrings, for crying out loud. I only brought the one costume I was wearing. And my energy level – more and more it’s non-existent in May – was almost underground.



All three of you long-timers here at “The Gods Are Bored” might recall that I have been leader of the Mountain Tribe for about 15 years. Oh my bored Gods, how I have loved doing Mountain Tribe! But time marches on. When one forgets her dragon and her earrings, it’s time for a change.


And so I decided to step down from Mountain Tribe. I had a person in mind to replace me, and when I asked him to do it, he got tears in his eyes. The beauty of this festival is that there’s a whole new generation of young people who are willing to put in the hard work to organize and run it. One of those people is now the new leader of Mountain Tribe.


And so, at the Sunday ceremony, I formally removed my Mountain Tribe insignia (which somehow I didn’t forget) and gave it to the new leader. I thought I too might cry, but I didn’t. In fact I felt quite happy to see this young man, with all his devotion, take over something I have loved for such a long time.



The new location for the May Day Fairie Festival is waterside, Chesapeake Bay views with a rocky point and a sweet, small beach. But time after time I found myself daydreaming about Spoutwood Farm, in the rolling Piedmont hills just before Appalachia, how green everything is there, that bright golden green of early spring so beloved by the poets. And I thought about the folks who were in Mountain Tribe there who live in that area and didn’t make the journey to the new location.


It’s time for this magnificent festival to continue without me. Its future is bright.


Being a part of Spoutwood has deeply enriched my life. But Spoutwood says goodbye sometimes. And I wave, and blink back tears, and move on down the line.

Friday, May 05, 2023

If It's Baneful, Can I Still Laugh?

 Hello, Witches! It's Anne at "The Gods Are Bored," chiming in with another installment of the Blog That Just Won't Quit. Today's sermon: performing hillbilly hoodoo in suburban New Jersey! Talk about a challenge.

I don't like bane work, but it's part of my culture, so I'm not afraid to do it. Bane work originated among oppressed people who had no other recourse when The Man shoved them around. Needless to say, that is still happening in the here and now.

Take my situation, for example. There is a person in my workplace who is universally despised. I don't wish that person ill, I just want them out the door, on to other horizons.

This post isn't about that person and the grievances. It's about gathering the necessary ingredients for this particular bane work. Namely, dirt from an active railroad track.

If I was out in Appalachia where I come from, this would be so easy to do: just saunter out to the track with a shovel and dig. But I'm not in Appalachia. I'm in New Jersey.

 It's not like there aren't any trains - there's an El that runs every ten minutes just six blocks from my house. But the first thing you notice about an El train is that it doesn't run across dirt. About the best dirt you could get from the El is if you either swept up the platform (a job I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy) or swept up one of the cars (even more disgusting). Nope! Can't use the El.

This leaves an Amtrak line that sort of shares the El right-of-way in places. And the first thing you should know about Amtrak is that they don't like people on their tracks. Any area worth its salt will have its Amtrak tracks well guarded by chain link fencing.

I am a lady of a certain age, unable and unwilling to scale chain link. It never stopped me when I was younger, but now I would be hard pressed, you know? To save my life, sure. But not just to dig up some dirt for a spell.

Fortune was in my favor, though. I know where the Amtrak line is, and one time when I was out walking during the quarantine, I blundered upon it unannounced at an obscure trail that's surprisingly close to my house. At the point where this mostly unmarked trail crosses the tracks, the chain link has been helpfully peeled back. I remembered this, and after trying three or four other spots, I set off for the peeled-back fence.

I suppose the last time I approached this railroad track it was high summer, dry and hot. But now it's springtime, and we just had a week of hard rain.

I couldn't remember if the rushing stream was on the east side of the tracks or the west side. I sorta kinda remembered east. But even so, when last I forded it (summer, hot, dry), it was a little dainty leap, and all done. 

Turns out the stream is on the west side. It was a torrent not to be trifled with.

Admittedly, I tried to ford the murky waterway by jumping from rock to rock. Alas, just as with the chain link, I'm no longer so spry. Inevitably I found myself up to my calves in a gushing brook. At least I had on my good Altra trail runners with decent tread. When I fell, I was nearly to the bank. Nearly.

At last, having crossed the brook like a badass mountain hillbilly, I scaled a rise (steep, used my hands and fell anyway), found the path, and proceeded to the train tracks. 

I was just in time to be shooed off by the 4:00 Express bound for Atlantic City. But the engineer didn't see me (even in my neon tie-dye, it was 60's day at school).

The AC express is the only train that uses this particular track, so I knew I was in the clear after the 4:00 sailed past. But ah, here's the next rub. Your modern train track is chock-a-block with big stones, not gravel and dirt. I had to chuck a good-sized layer of stone aside before I got even a few smaller rocks and - finally - a little bit of dirt. When I say that train track was cleaner than the platform of the El, I am absolutely not exaggerating. I felt positively elated to extract about three tablespoons of dirt from that train bed.

Back I went with my goods, down the steep rise (on my kiester) and through the rushing stream (not even trying to stay dry). I sloshed back to my car and melted into the thick rush-hour traffic, the daring hillbilly witch with her bane work ingredients.

The final piece of this spell was to actually write a script for the work. Now, your seasoned witch has a grimoire for such things, no doubt written in cursive with a feather pen and inkwell. Me, I felt like I had already achieved the primeval just by daring Amtrak to part with a tablespoon of dirt. So I used the school computer and the school printer to write the spell. It seemed fitting, somehow.

Now comes casting that puppy on Sunday night during the Dark Moon. But before I do that, there's a May Day Fairie Festival! What a good place to gather up some energy for getting big things done!

The moral of this story is, never judge New Jersey by its turnpikes. It's possible to take a real hike in a tick-and-poison-ivy-infested woods, having to ford a stream without step-stones, and still get caught in traffic afterwards. You just have to know the lay of the land.

And bane work is serious. Unless you're Anne Johnson. Then, it's serious but also humorous. Humor is energy, after all, and it's a good weapon.

I haven't talked about the solar eclipse on here yet, have I? Boy am I glad summer's coming! There's so much to say!