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.