Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Free Advice on Getting Your Letter to the Editor Published in the (Not Fake) New York Times

Did you know that the New York Times was in publication during the Civil War? I did some research on the Battle of Antietam, and by golly, the good ol' New York Times had several correspondents right there in the thick of things.

It wasn't fake then, and it's not fake now.

That sound you hear is the buttons popping on my vest. Ten days ago I wrote my first-ever "Letter to the Editor" to the New York Times, and against all odds, they published it -- and first in line!

I'm an old-timer who likes to get her news in paper format. Imagine my conceit humble pride when I opened Monday's newspaper and saw my letter there, at the very top of the column!

(I had advance notice. The editors contacted me about word choice and length, of course. It's the New York Times, they don't mess.)

The letter is about the villainous Betsy Devo$ and her assault on sexual assault victims. It's in response to an editorial the so-called "fake" New York Times published that actually praised the menace Devo$ for her actions.

And here it is!

So, now you are asking ... Anne, what's your secret? Lots of people write to the New York Times every day!

Ahem ... well ... (twirls the casual coat button) ... my first guess is that, in these days of instant commenting, most people don't bother to write a formal letter to the editor, which first you have to look up the email address (kind of hard to find) and then you have to submit it.

Then, well, I sorta figured the best way to proceed was to lard the thing with every big word I ever knew from my days of bi-monthly vocabulary tests in Mr. Hershey's English class.

Finally, there was the passion. A good Letter to the Editor needs passion. Having had numerous friends, colleagues, and family members who have experienced simple and/or sexual assault, especially in college settings, I felt a pressing need to weigh in.

It's that pressing need that gets 'em every time.

If you ever feel a pressing need to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times, keep it short and fill it with big words. You know you can do it. Only smart people read this blog ... so you know you can. You know you can.

Friday, September 15, 2017

An Extra Fairie Festival!

In just a few short weeks, the Spoutwood Fairie Festival will be having its first ever Fall Fairie Fest. In honors of this milestone, I publish below a relic of Fairie Festivals past ... some fun that Olivia and I had when she was still The Spare.

Jabberwocky for the Spoutwood Fairie Festival

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How Do I Stop a God Fight?

Help! Help! It's a deity smack-down in my living room! And one of them is a true expert at ruining furniture!



The bored God Huracan arrived here in New Jersey today, and Cloacina, my dear Goddess, greeted him with the cold fury of a Roman statue!



There's a lot to be said for resting bitch face.

Cloacina was recently charged with keeping our nation's waterways clean, having been given my spare bedroom as Her personal sanctum. She taught herself how to turn on the t.v. with the remote (something I have never been capable of doing). Cloacina, therefore, has watched both Harvey and Irma, nonstop, clicking from Fox News to MSNBC, to CNN and the nightly networks. OMBG, is she pissed!

And here comes Huracan, winded and worn out after a double booking.

Hey, you two, can you take it outside? Cloacina, remember that you shouldn't shoot a gun at a hurricane!

For the love of fruit flies. How can I mediate this thing?

Okay. Okay. Both of you. Take a deep breath and handle this like deities, not roller derby contestants. Thank you.

Huracan, you really outdid yourself. I mean, really really outdid yourself. However (please listen, Goddess Cloacina), You are not responsible for Your ascendant power. Yes, You've gotten larger, and greedier, and more destructive -- which is Your duty and prerogative as a hurricane God. But that level of destruction You're so proud of? How much of it is the product of humankind? Look: they built on barrier islands, low-lying keys, floodplains and in swamps. Places Your original praise and worship team never populated in numbers, out of respect for You. You can't take credit for all this devastation. It's hubris.

Cloacina, I'll bet you know enough Greek to recognize the word hubris.

Now, Cloacina, I know Huracan doesn't want to hear this (especially in His severely weakened state ... just a little mist over Jersey). But those same humans who had their shoreline properties, their boats and their businesses reduced to splinters, will go right back and fix everything up again! Yes, no matter how foolish it is to live in a part of the world that can be leveled by a bored god, people are going to do it. Which means that yes, they will have to boil their water for awhile. (I know, I know how angry that makes you, Goddess!) But they'll fix it. Until the next time. They will. And it won't take long, either. Our government will pay for everything, even though the people asking for the money generally don't want to pay taxes or regulate polluters.

What we have here is a failure to communicate between two fundamentally opposed deities. Huracan was once worshiped as a destroyer, His praise-and-worship team truly fearful of Him, and justifiably so. Cloacina, at the other end of the spectrum, drew all of Her respect from Her willingness to help clean up the human world. Add to that the fact that these two deities are from completely different pantheons from different continents, and you've got a whole lot of area for dissent.

Huracan, you cannot take complete credit for this. Humans are stupid.

Cloacina, calm down. Humans will fix this so they can go on being stupid.

Which means, Huracan, that You'll get many more shots at the same target.

But Cloacina, let Huracan do the shooting! Don't You shoot Him.

Can we just settle down and get along? Tell You what: I'll go get some Chinese carryout and confuse both of You utterly. While I'm gone, don't You dare stain my upholstery!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

A Poem (Not by Me)


Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernandez Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it’s not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I’ll tell you he said:
it’s the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Banana.

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
But
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don’t worry about the noise
Don’t worry about the water
Don’t worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Do the Gods Hate Donald Trump?

For at least 20 years, climate scientists have been predicting that, with a warming planet, hurricanes would become larger and more frequent. This is not information that was passed to them via a burning bush that didn't get consumed. These are predictions based upon the behavior of wind and water, air currents and storm surges.

Please don't tell the bored deities who visit me for tea and Tastykakes, but I've always been quietly skeptical about Higher Powers. There has never seemed to me to be anything predictable about the behavior of Gods and Goddesses, including the busy God.

Still, you have to wonder.

Never, in my impressive lifetime, has there been two massive hurricanes in a space of two weeks. If you count Jose, that's three, and if you count Katia, that's four. In two weeks.

Keep in mind, this is September. Hurricane season lasts until November.

EXHIBIT A: DO THE GODS HATE DONALD TRUMP?


Is there possibly some agency in this? Chills me to the bone to think so, because a deity who would want to make a point about climate change at this particular juncture would be putting a lot of innocent plant life, creatures, and people in danger. And I'm not just talking about the USA. I'm talking about all over the world. South Asia is being inundated as well. Let's not even address the wildfires out West, or the uninhabitable Caribbean islands.

But if you want to make a point ... if you want to make a point to leadership that denies climate change science and is actively seeking to squelch it ... what could you do that would attract more attention than to fling hurricanes and monsoons around with reckless abandon?

It has been a mere three months and a week since Donald Trump announced that he was pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord. Is it possible, possible, that a bored deity or two (or 200,000) could be so infuriated as to visit the good ol' Wrath of God(s) on this nation?

Okay, it's most likely a coincidence. A predicted eventuality that just happened to follow close in the wake of a boneheaded and despicable pro-polluter decision.

What a coincidence, huh? Wow.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Witches to Evangelists: Not Now, Not Ever!

Philadelphia's Pagan Pride Day is always held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. This year was the first in about five that I haven't attended. The last two years I did a drum circle there. This year it was rainy, but mostly I was just tuckered out from paint crew and teacher meetings. I stayed home.

Occasionally the event draws the ire of Christian evangelicals who, in small numbers, come to protest. Since they don't have a permit to use the park, they are always quickly escorted to the perimeter.

This year was no different, except that the protesters were louder (they had a bullhorn) -- and they videotaped the fracas and loaded it up on YouTube, after carefully disabling commentary.

If you want to watch the blighted thing, here it is. It's about 10 minutes long, and it's sad.

I started to watch it and stopped about two-thirds of the way through. What struck me about it was what the pastor said through his bullhorn; namely, "You witches haven't taken over America yet!"

Yet. Yet?

I'll be the first to tell you that I am participating in a Magical Battle for America, which is, yes, a concentrated astral Work. But the aim is not to "take over America." The aim is to protect and defend the America we hold dear:

*freedom of or from religion
*equality of gender, race, sexual orientation, region, and age
*a fair and balanced judicial system
*equitable tax rates based on income
and last, but not least, for me
*the right to organize peacefully and bargain collectively.

I'm not crusading for one nation under Anansi. I want Anansi to be welcome in the mix!

It's a tired old trope to suggest that your religion is the only true religion, and that anyone who doesn't practice it is worshiping a demon and going to Hell. Truth is, the demons belong to the Christians. Satan is not part of my practice!

So, open letter to you poor, scared Christians out there who fear the nation is about to be taken over by witches, who will quickly and thoroughly re-write the Constitution, institute rituals in the schools, and issue every kid a wand:

Nope. Not interested. Not on the agenda. The Philadelphia metropolitan area has more than six million people living in it. We're lucky if we get 300 folks out to Pagan Pride. Does this sound like a vast stampede for social upheaval?

It especially saddens me to see little kids get dragged along to these protests. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon! They should be picking apples or riding ponies or watching Dora the Explorer! Teaching children to fear and hate is not productive. It's not Christian, either.

So, yeah, the "prayer warriors" are on their knees for Donald Trump, and some (by no means all) Pagans are in their circles to block him. That's just democracy at work! I don't look at it as a war, I see it as a battle. A battle for what is, not what hasn't happened yet.

Get a grip on something besides a bullhorn, y'all. We just want to drum and hold raffles.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day 2017

I blame myself.

In 1987, I left a full-time, full-benefits job because I moved out of the state where I was employed. Once the company ascertained that I could legally work for them as an independent contractor (some states did not allow this), I kept right on working for them. Without the benefits and on a per-piece basis.

I bought a computer and set aside part of my home for an office. For the next 20 years, I was self-employed. The company that got my work made a better profit on me than on its full-time workers ... so the company moved more and more work onto more and more independent contractors.

This was a bonanza for me for awhile. I had my husband's health insurance. I could make good money. I got to be home with my kids while they were growing up. I loved the work. I wrote four books plus chapters and sections of many others -- all fascinating stuff. The 1990s were prosperous for me.

Then the whole thing slid to Hell.

Competition ramped up for the contracts. The company forced me to incorporate as my own small business. Then I had to start coding my work (another pioneering effort -- I was coding before coding was cool). The fee structure plummeted.  Then another small corporation undercut my small corporation, and I lost all my contracts. That was 2005.

I had helped open the door to the idea that people will work without benefits. That companies could give work to "independent contractors" rather than hire a staff.

I was essentially an invisible scab.

The company that employed me in 1987 should have had a bargaining unit that would have insisted on rules against outside contractors. It didn't. And who was I? A new homeowner and mother-to-be who needed a part-time job. The macroeconomic implications of the work situation never occurred to me.


The cat is out of the bag. Why hire full time and get stuck with all that pesky paperwork and those expensive benefits, when you can get a few part-timers, work them just as hard, and expect them to care for their own health and retirement? Only some bleeding heart would want to see his profits gobbled by insurance payments and paid vacation days!

This scenario? It's coming soon to every line of work there is. Including public school teaching.

I know you won't believe me, but this used to be a humor blog.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

International Vulture Awareness Day

Drop everything! Today, Saturday, September 2 is International Vulture Awareness Day!


Without vultures, the world would be awash in putrefaction. If only they could clean up politics the way they do festering carcasses!


There are vultures in the Old World and vultures in the New World. They are not closely related genetically. They evolved in parallel manner because there's always a nice supply of rotting meat out there, no matter what (temperate) continent you fly across.


Here's Floppy, one of my favorite vultures! See the bald head? It's a cleanliness thing. No feathers to get all matted up with gore as the bird feeds. Ah, evolution! Magnificent.


So, why do we need to be aware of vultures? Well, in both Africa and India, massive vulture populations have been killed off catastrophically. What kills something that eats festering carcasses? The medicines or poisons those carcasses ingested while they were alive. In the wake of plummeting vulture populations, some countries (especially India) have seen a rise in rabies, wild dogs, and other diseases that vultures shrug off like a walk in the park.


Fortunately, there are vulture rehab programs out there. The San Diego Zoo has spearheaded a modest but significant return of the California condor to the wild, wild West. In Africa, Vulpro is working with several species of African vulture. Due to their reproductive behavior, vulture populations are hard to restore. Here's hoping for success, though. Who wants to slog to work through dead skunks and fly-covered garbage?


So, happy International Vulture Awareness Day! Salute the next buzzard you see! I'm talking about a bald bird, not a political boss.

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture.

Friday, September 01, 2017

My School's New Dress Code: A Haiku

Hillary Clinton
Wears pant suits effectively.
It's just not my style.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Things That Go Boom

I am a high school teacher.

My students know that they are in school to learn and that they must finish their assignments well in order to be successful in my class and in the world.

While I'm in the classroom with them, walking around and checking to see if they're working, they buckle down. They pay attention (mostly). They try.

Intrinsically they know they're working for their own good, but the motivation comes mostly from my oversight and encouragement.

Let's suppose I told my students what to do and just left the classroom, fully expecting them to do what I told them to do. How do you think that would go? Twenty-five kids between the ages 14 and 15, all on their own, with some assignment to do. Would they do it?

Ha ha! That's a rhetorical question. Of course they wouldn't do it! Oh, of course one or two super studious kids would work, but the rest would goof off.

Oversight is important.

Another word for oversight? Regulation. As the teacher, I'm the regulator in the classroom. I'm the person with standards and expectations. These standards and expectations are often followed grudgingly by my pupils ... but they are followed, so long as I oversee.

The federal government is kind of like a teacher. Regulations are like oversight. All these businesses calling for less regulation? They're the kids who want to goof off because the teacher is gone. Except they don't really want to goof off, they want to make more money. Rules get in their way.

Maybe you heard that there was a big explosion in a chemical factory in Texas due to flooding. More explosions can be expected. Buried deep in the story is the fact that this company had ten violations recorded last February. This company should have had a fail-safe plan for a hurricane, but hey. This is Texas, land of conservative Republicans.

Now, even the safest and best company will run risks in catastrophic flooding. But companies who have been like kids in an unattended classroom will be more likely to threaten human health with their products and processes ... if there are no rules.

Don't tell me there are too many regulations! If you let the fox mind the hen house, someone is going to get hurt. Maybe a lot of people. Things will go boom.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Postcard from a Bored God: Huracan

Living in New Jersey, I've had plenty of visits from the bored god Huracan, sacred to the ancient Maya peoples. Once, in a fit of pique known as Hurricane Irene, Huracan knocked down three gigantic trees up the street from my house and snarled traffic for days. And then there was Sandy, which He technically didn't do, but still it bore all His earmarks. That was one terrible storm. Did you know it was five years ago, and there are still folks living in FEMA trailers?

The Maya had enormous respect for Huracan. They sacrificed and danced to keep Him away, which meant that He was always on their minds, so he wasn't bored. Now, He's not only not worshiped, He's downright forgotten. Add to this the climate change that everyone except our dictator has noticed, and you've got yourself a hot and bothered bored god.

He is wreaking savage havoc down in Texas, but somehow He took time to send me a postcard. Thanks but no thanks, o mighty Huracan!


Here's the text of His missive:

Well, Anne, that's a fine new president you've got there! He reminds me of Hernando Cortes in every detail. I'm down here in Texas, stirring things up because I'm BURNING HOT, I'm OVERHEATED, and damn if I don't want to pelt things extra hard! PS - I haven't ruled out New Jersey -- the season is still young.
See you soon,
Huracan

I admit I haven't mounted a praise and worship of Huracan for a very long time. I have thought about Him, though. In my mind I have kind of predicted His swelling power, based on the ocean temperatures and extra water and such.

Some of these bored gods aren't nice. They get angry when no one pacifies them. Natural phenomena like climate change can rile them up. If you combine a neglected deity with a rise in global temperatures, you're bound to start getting worse storms than you've ever seen in ten lifetimes.

What's to be done? I can't fix this with a scone and a cup of tea.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Frank Talk about Nude Sunbathing

If I don't write something funny I am going to crawl right out of my skin.  So it's time for some frank talk. For those of you just joining us, frank talk may contain content unsuitable for the teenage set. But maybe not. Poor teenagers! Staring at computer screens all day, when they could be nude sunbathing!

Right up front I'll admit I've done a fair share of nude sunbathing, skinny dipping, and otherwise lolling by a waterside in a state of extreme undress.


The state of New Jersey, population 9 million, has one sanctioned nude beach. It has limited parking, and -- just look at the photo -- you have to trek about a half mile across blazing sands for the opportunity to stare lustfully at gorgeous studly bodies swim without a bathing suit.

I visit this beach two or three times a year, and it's so refreshing! For one thing, what's wrong with the human body? It's nice. Mostly symmetrical, and nature loves symmetry. For another thing, what's wrong with enjoying looking at naked people? Of course you need to be polite and not get into someone else's personal space, but really.

The thing you learn from nude sunbathing is that everyone is beautiful. When you go to a nude beach, you're surrounded by a nice cross section of American humanity. It's refreshing. Since there aren't any other nude beaches, everyone who likes their clothing to be optional must gather in this one space. You get a real multicultural, multi-generational mix. And very few kids. Don't get me wrong, I love to watch kids have fun at the beach. But in these dark times, a nude beach isn't a very good hangout for the tots.

Here's where the frank talk comes in. Our society is so hung up on nudity that, when you get to go naked in public, you kind of want to act out. It's like having the keys to the ice cream truck. Now add the fact that the beach where I go does not prohibit alcohol. ZzzzzZZZZZttt! Sizzling stuff!

And then the iron fist falls.

It's legal to cavort nude on this beach with your strawberry daiquiri clutched in your palm, but it's against the law (with really ugly penalties) to have sex on the beach. I just don't get it. Anyone can stare at a computer screen and see people having sex, but ... wow ... actually see someone doing it for fun and not for profit? God (intentionally used as singular) forbid!

Don't tell anyone, but last summer when I was at the beach, I saw a couple breaking the law. I did not report the transgression, because honestly it looked like genuine fun to me. And it was realistic too! No exaggerations! That's how I like my salacious sex viewing ... three-dimensional, well-intended, and not performed with a viewer in mind.

There is one downside to nude sunbathing. It comes down to how thorough you are and how much attention you pay to detail. When you sunbathe nude, you've got a lot of skin exposed. (Duh.) If you lather on the sunscreen, and you miss a spot, you're going to get bad sunburn. Please don't ask me to provide chapter and verse on how I know this. Suffice it to say that I'm still wondering what I'll say to the dermatologist when I report my summer sunburn history.

So, on a night when a Category 4 hurricane is slamming into Texas, and our president continues his lunatic ways, I can only anticipate sticking my head in the sand while my glorious bare toosh goes on display for the world to see. Off to do some nude sunbathing! It does a body good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Names Have Been Changed

This blog is 12 years old, and all of that time I have been calling my two daughters The Heir and The Spare. It's what the British press called Prince William and Prince Harry.

Seemed so funny all these years.

But we live in a different time now. I've seen young lives cut short (Trayvon Martin, just one example), and the climate in this country is the worst since 1969. It has always been tempting fate to act as if either of my children was expendable.

How would I feel, using those terms, if one of them came to grief?

THEREFORE, be it resolved, that the names Heir and Spare are hereby retired.

Heir will now be Gumby (because she values her privacy).

Spare will now be Olivia, which is her beautiful real name. If she wants me to add her surname I will, but I must consult her first.

I stayed home from paint crew today, because it's my 33rd wedding anniversary. I'm nothing if not tenacious.

Postscript: The cats will continue to be called Beta and Gamma. They have names too, but they value their privacy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Moving Saga of the Mutt Named Flip Flop

You know all about motherhood, right? Maybe you have sweet daughters of your own who ask very little of you ... until they ask for something big. This weekend my daughter (new name) Gumby and I went on a waterfall crawl in the Poconos.

Oh, I had the thing all planned out. I researched it, printed out trail maps and gentle walks through leafy glens, leading to brilliant, swishing cascades. Because, you know, I'm a woman of a certain age and getting a little creaky, it's best to adhere to hiking trails described as "moderate."  Being a planner, I had both days scheduled. First some bucolic walks in a New Jersey state forest, then -- the next day -- a gambol called Tumbling Waters across the Delaware in Pennsylvania.

It was getting late on our first day when Gumby and I pulled up at beautiful Buttermilk Falls, New Jersey's tallest waterfall. Take a look. Isn't it fabulous?

EXHIBIT A: BUTTERMILK FALLS, DELAWARE WATER GAP, NEW JERSEY


Now, you say to yourself, "Anne, prove to me that this is really New Jersey!

EXHIBIT B: REALLY NEW JERSEY


Gumby liked Buttermilk Falls all right, but when she looked at the trail map at the base of the falls, her eyes glazed over and a little bit of foam appeared at the rim of her mouth.

Buttermilk Falls, you see, is touristy. It's right by the road, and anyone can drive right up to it and cackle with pleasure. But above Buttermilk Falls is a hiking trail that leads to the Appalachian Trail. Once on the AT, an intrepid hiker can stroll to one of several crater lakes, high and lonesome and picturesque in that oh-so-not-a-waterfall way.

Gumby lost enthusiasm for Tumbling Waters Trail (my planned Sunday outing) and instead expressed interest in an amble along the Appalachian Trail, beginning and ending at Buttermilk Falls. Where even the steps to the observation deck will tire a mortal out.

I had done my research. The Buttermilk Falls Trail was rated "difficult," and most of the hikers who chimed in on it using various hiking sites pretty much confirmed that assessment. Of course, it's the hikers who don't use social media who can be the most arresting:

EXHIBIT C: SOUND ADVICE


Trouble was, this sage advisory was at the top of the trail, not the bottom! And in case you're wondering what a difficult trail looks like in our mild Eastern mountains, here's a little photo I captured of part of the one and a half mile straight up trek.

EXHIBIT D: WHERE'S THE TRAIL?


Gumby can leap up these rocks like a gazelle. Who am I to say her nay? Gamely I followed. And followed. And followed. Eureka! We made it to the Appalachian Trail!

EXHIBIT E: YOURS TRULY, TRANSFORMED BY 6 WEEKS OF PAINT CREW


This is where the mutt named Flip Flop enters the narrative.

Gumby and I were tooling along the AT like old hands, when we spotted a spry, mid-sized mutt sort of standing on the path, looking lost. The pooch had no collar. He started to trot towards us, but when he got close, he changed his mind about making our acquaintance and tore off down the trail. He was a sturdy specimen as are most mutts, and his ribs weren't showing, which meant he probably recently got lost.

EXHIBIT F: REASONABLE FACSIMILE OF THE MUTT FLIP FLOP


On a Sunday in August, the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey is not as busy as a shore town, but there are still a fair number of able-bodied folks. Gumby and I started asking everyone that passed us whether or not they had lost a dog. Other hikers reported seeing the pooch, but no one could get close enough to pet him. What would we do if we did? Take him home and keep him forever? By that time Gumby and I were a good three miles from even the most basic form of civilization.

Gumby and I discussed this as we walked. What do you do when you see a stray dog where no reasonable stray dog would ever stray? And what if the dog didn't want to see things your way and tag along until you could find his person? Long story short, this conversation ended when we followed the Appalachian Trail to a portion that looked like this:

EXHIBIT G: NOT GREATLY EXAGGERATING


Yes, the infamous Appalachian Trail just disappeared down a cliff, and you only knew you were supposed to go that way because one of the rocks way below had a white blaze on it.

Scrabbling up this genuine cliff was a scruffy young bro. He asked us if we had seen a loose dog. We confirmed the sighting and pointed in the direction the canine had sprinted. The bro said the mutt slipped his leash when he got threatened by a German shepherd.

Then, as if it wasn't already bad enough that a little doggy was running lost and scared through the nearly trackless wilderness, the bro added: "I'm dog-sitting him."

Truth, dear reader, is always more compelling than fiction.

Gumby and I continued on our way. We descended the perilous cliff (self reminding self of self's age and status as a provider throughout), and at the bottom was a charming little cliff-free path that led to the crater lake.

Boy, it was a really pretty lake!

EXHIBIT I HAVE LOST COUNT: CRATER LAKE


It doesn't look like something you'd find on a mountaintop, after a death-defying hike, does it? Rather put me in mind of Walden Pond, which can of course be reached by either automobile or on foot from a commuter train station.

While Gumby and I took a load off and munched our granola bars, we heard a great to-do from the cliffs above the lake.

"FLIP FLOP! HERE, FLIP FLOP! FLIP FLOP!"

It was the shaggy bro, calling his dog.

This went on for about five minutes and then stopped abruptly. Gumby and I assumed that a happy reunion had occurred.

I don't know if you have ever been hiking on the Appalachian Trail or one of its link trails. It's not for the faint of heart, especially if you have to go down the same way you came up. Because when it comes to hiking, the only thing worse than climbing rocks straight up for more than a mile is going down rocks for more than a mile. Gravity seems to be saying, "Aha! Another aging Baby Boomer, daring to defy me! I'll push and shove and make these rocks really loose and wobbly!"

It took us about 90 minutes to edge back down the Buttermilk Falls Trail, and I for one was never so happy to see a cheesy observation deck in my life as when that graffiti-laced structure loomed below me like a welcoming beacon. Then it was a mere 100 steps (straight down, of course) to the bottom of the falls, where self quickly shed her beloved and ancient hiking boots and shoved her tootsies in the water ... photograph-snapping tourists be damned.

It was during this blissful toe-bath that I heard another ruckus. Something was happening in the parking lot.

Gumby came running over and said the stray dog Flip Flop was in the parking lot, looking just as spooked as he had up on the trail. I quickly re-donned the footwear and pulled out the smart phone to make an emergency call to the Park Service. But the battery on said smart phone had had enough, and I couldn't make the call. So I went to the parking lot, where other baffled tourists were staring at a car.

The lady tourist said, "The windows are open, and the key is in the ignition, and the guy's backpack is just sitting there! And look! This dog just jumped through the window!"

I looked in the open car window, and there sat the dog Flip Flop, looking like he'd just seen 10,000 ghosts.

Now, if I had somehow managed to drive to the Poconos in my 2001 Saturn, I would most certainly have seen an opportunity not only to care for a dog that deserved better, but also to own a nice, newer car. But I had my 2015 Subaru (which, by the way, absolutely lives for such adventures). No contest. Subaru victorious.

Just at this moment, the distraught bro emerged from the woods. He spied Flip Flop sitting in the driver's seat (no irony there) and heaved a sigh of relief.

"Well, I'm glad I was here to see how this little story played out!" I told the bro affably.

He muttered something incoherent, then something half understandable about dog-sitting, and Gumby and I decided we'd seen enough. We parted ways with possibly one of the most misguided and irresponsible humans I have ever encountered and a city dog with enough smarts to smell his way back down one damned difficult trail to his keys-in-the-ignition-windows-open car.

You gotta love mutts. Even when they're scared, they're smart.

I'm not going to state the moral of this sermon explicitly. Suffice it to say, if you have a beloved pet, do by all means pay a bonded pet-sitter to minister to the animal in your prolonged absence. Flip Flop's scaly saga had a happy ending, but I am not lying when I say that I saw a bear track in the one little bit of mud through which we all passed. If dear lil' Flip Flop was afraid of a German shepherd, how do you suppose he'd feel about an Eastern black bear?

If you've read this far, thank you. We all need to laugh at garden variety morons when there's a bigger-than-garden-variety moron at loose in the halls of government.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Wrong War

Honestly, the Orange Menace at his lowest, basest, and most disreputable, hit on the truth.

When asked what would heal racial wounds in this country, he said, "Jobs."

He's absolutely right. He just doesn't have a prayer or a clue how to get the jobs we need.

You're always going to be able to turn over rocks in trash-filled drainage ditches and find Neo Nazis and White supremacists. But they would be fairly content to dwell under there, sucking on sewage, if they had halfway decent jobs.

And now they do have determined opposition. Anti-fascists are training to fight back literally against the hate criminals. Game on! And what you get, sadly, are real casualties.

Listen, my friends: The anti-fascists are not "alt-left" radicals. They are anarchists who don't believe in any government at all. Can you blame them? Do you have faith in this government?

When I see young men fist-fighting in the streets, shouting hateful slogans, and plowing people down with cars, what I see are workers who don't have jobs. The enemy isn't the other young white guy. The enemy is the ownership class.

All the wealth, all the growth, has funneled right to the top of our society. We have a few people who have way too much money and a ton of people who don't have enough. The problem is that the few are so removed, so insulated from ire by gated, guarded compounds. The few pay "newscasters" to manipulate and re-direct hatred. The few encourage race wars and political divisions. This piles on the insulation for the moneyed class.

The rich always smile when workers fight with workers.

I read in the news that one of the Neo Nazis at the rally was recognized from a photograph. He lost his job. His job was serving hot dogs at a Top Dog restaurant. How frustrating is it to be in your twenties, and the best job you can get is at a hot dog joint? Take that anger, and fuel it with Fox News vitriol against liberals, and you get a person who is furious against the wrong target.

The rich always smile when workers fight with workers. And this fight is joined, and it will be joined because good jobs aren't going to materialize.

We need a solid working class in this nation. People are so desperate for it that they voted, stupidly, for a snake oil salesman.

There are indeed two sides: those who have too much, and those who have too little. Who is the real enemy? We're bashing the wrong heads.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

White Hot Fury over White Supremacists

If you turned 90 years old in 2017 you were too young to fight in World War II.

I know this because my dad was drafted in 1944 but didn't go abroad. The war was nearly over when he mustered in. September 23 would have been his 90th birthday.

All World War II veterans are over 90 years old, except for maybe a very few stragglers who lied about their age. They would be, at best, 87.

And now we have empowered Neo Nazis, marching in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.

All the blood, the pain, the loss of life and limb. The loss of sanity. A whole generation profoundly affected by world events. And before the last of them draws a final breath, people in this country are glorifying the very evil that this country opposed!


I'm not even going to start on the Confederate flag, except to say that Sherman should have been more thorough.

In the matter of white supremacy, can I just point something out? Whites are supreme in this country! Their salaries are better than minority citizens, their job prospects are better than minority citizens, their numbers are larger, and they're in charge. You want to see white supremacy? Take a walk on Wall Street and see who's running the world. Look at pictures of our nation's CEOs, strolling together at some exclusive conference. You won't see any minorities there.

The lowest forms of life -- people who blame their own loser status on someone else with a different skin color -- are empowered by our loathsome chief executive, who couldn't bring himself to denounce the white supremacists or the terrorist who plowed through a crowd of counter protesters.

We must resist this. We must stand up against white bigotry and promote the advancement of American minorities. This despicable behavior is unacceptable.

If they came to my town with their damn swastikas and tiki torches, I'd be out there countering them myself.

Donald Trump, go to Hell. And take all your racist followers with you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Crush

When the world is in an uproar, it's best to find multiple effective escapes from reality. In my case I have developed a crush.

EXHIBIT A: ANNE'S CRUSH


This is Andy N. Condor. He lives at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City.

You know, women of a certain age (like me) often get crushes on younger fellas. Not me! Andy is exactly my age! We were born the same year.

I discovered Andy on Facebook, and now I get all of his posts in my "read first" feed. I always comment, and he often likes what I say! Already we have created a virtual bond.

In these dark times, it's good to have an escapist plan of any sort. Here's mine: In just two short years, I'm going to fly to Salt Lake City and meet Andy N. Condor! I'll bet by then we will have escalated our Facebook flirtation to such an extent that I'll have a good long love-fest with him when I arrive at his pad.

EXHIBIT B: DON'T BE JEALOUS


You know, we can't all be Andean condors. They are the few and the special. It's my daily pleasure to flirt with one on the Internet. He's my buzzard Tinder, and at times he keeps me from going insane.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summer Job Haiku

I know how to climb
A 15-foot step ladder
ergonomically

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

What Was I Thinking?

Call it a lapse of judgment if you like. That will do nicely.

I have two daughters, The Heir and The Spare. Neither one of them has a car. Spare has more friends with wheels, which, I suppose, partly accounts for my sympathy for Heir.

I offered to take Heir and her sweetheart to the Jersey Shore for an afternoon. Heir reacted with such enthusiasm that, spur of the moment, I said, "Why don't we go to Asbury Park?"

Maybe you've heard of Asbury Park, New Jersey. There's a music venue there called the Stone Pony. A long time ago, an up-and-coming rocker named Bruce Springsteen performed there. The Stone Pony still keeps a busy schedule of concerts, and there's an outdoor stage. Asbury Park also has a nice beach and a funky bohemian boardwalk with character. By some miracle, the town survived Hurricane Sandy with minimal damage.

Asbury Park is 55 miles from New York City and 75 miles from Philadelphia.

It is August.

It was Sunday.

We set out for Asbury Park at 11:00 a.m. from Philadelphia.

Let this be a reminder that our planet is very crowded.

We got to Asbury Park at about 1:00 p.m. There are probably 5,000 parking spaces in the boardwalk area, and every last one of them contained a car. Not only that, there were people driving around slowly, looking for someone who might be leaving. No one was leaving Asbury Park at 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday in August.

And yet Heir and her sweetheart were like kids in a candy shop. There's a pinball parlor on the Asbury boardwalk that has vintage games from every decade, going back to 1950 and up to virtual reality. So I let Heir and s. off at the boardwalk and started creeping around, looking for a spot.

I looked. And looked. And finally got really lucky, except it was a residential neighborhood where I would get ticketed at 5:00 if I didn't move by then.

Parking space secured for 3 hours, I made my way to the boardwalk. There was a band at the Stone Pony, doing a sound check. (For those of us with the inside scoop on Asbury Park, a sound check means a concert, which means even fewer parking spaces in the evening.)

It wasn't sunny, and it wasn't warm. But the beach was jam packed. It's actually quite a pretty sight, and hard to capture in a photograph. The beach umbrellas (which weren't really needed) were such vibrant colors, and there were a lot of young people who looked good in bright swimwear. I also had a good book to read, This Fight Is Our Fight, by Elizabeth Warren.

Asbury Park requires you to buy a beach pass to have access to the surf for the day. On a Sunday in August, a daily beach pass costs $10,000. (Might be a very slight exaggeration.)

Heir and her sweetie played pinball, and I sat on a bench on the boardwalk, listening to the sound check and reading my book.

Then, after totally conquering Centipede and Millipede, Heir was hungry.

We stood in line so long for cheese steaks that I thought I might have to go move the car before I got to eat. But finally we had our cheese steaks. Heir and s. returned to the pinball parlor, and I went to move the car. By that time the line of concert-goers had started to form at the Stone Pony.

I've been to Asbury Park many times. Never on a Sunday in August. Still, it helps to know the lay of the town if you're in search of a completely elusive parking space.

I got one. The farthest possible spot in the whole town. And I only got that one because someone pulled out just as I rolled into sight.

Maybe you've been to a place like Asbury Park. It's nice during the day, but it starts really working its magnetism at about 5:00 in the evening, and it gets more and more magnetic through the long summer twilight. To summarize, Heir and s. were cavorting like puppies and didn't want to leave.

At 5:30 beach passes are no longer required, because the lifeguard staff goes home. That's when Heir and her friend went into the surf (not very far, I hope). The concert commenced -- an opening act -- and I just kept listening to the music and reading my book.

Next thing I knew, it was 8:00, I had 75 miles to drive home (40 of it featureless pine barrens), and I was standing in line for ice cream.

New Jersey has these things called "traffic circles." It's basically an intersection of two or three congested roads, going around in a circle, where there's no stoplights and it's only the strong who survive. This is not a place you want to be on a Sunday in August at 8:30 in the evening. But hey, my deities were with me! I'm an old hand at these Jersey traffic circles. Good thing, too, because there are seven traffic circles between Asbury Park and Philadelphia. Maybe eight or nine, who's counting?

Very long story short, I treated my daughter and her boyfriend to a day at Asbury Park, New Jersey. It was Sunday. It was August. I sat and read a book and listened to music.

Next time, I will go on a Wednesday. And leave at 8:00.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Magical Battle for America August 2017

All hail and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!"

Gods bless America, land that I love!


Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from above.


From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam...

Gods bless America, our home sweet home ...


Gods bless America, our home sweet home!

Beginning this spring, a group of loosely affiliated Pagans has been performing an intentional work called The Magical Battle for America. You can find the work by scrolling on this site.

When I first started this blog, I wrote with extreme snark about Christian "prayer warriors" who, in between passing the plate, are actively fighting to turn the United States into a "Christian nation."

Whoever thought these creepy evangelicals would achieve power? But they have, and they're still praying.

Do I sound paranoid? What do you think the chances were of a new Supreme Court appointee who is even more right-wing than Scalia? Who promoted Neil Gorsuch loudly and passionately? The prayer warriors. They've been working on this a long time. And look how they accomplished it! Doesn't the whole thing seem sketchy to you? These people are fighting to turn this country into a theocracy.

Think I'm kidding? Here is their web site.

Well, if it's a fight they want (contrary to what their humble Christ would counsel), a fight they will get. The Magical Battle for America is concentrating energy based on American heroes and heroines, tricksters and magical animals, led at the apex by the Goddess Columbia. If you don't know the first thing about the astral plane, you can add your energy just by meditating on Saturday evenings. That's when we do our directed mutual work. But you can practice this any time, in any way. Every voice raised means so much.

Call upon your deities and your values. Visualize the nation you want to live in. Help us make the magic we need to achieve peace, equality, and personal agency for everyone.

Someone might say, "Well, Anne, you speak of peace, but you show pictures of deities who are ready for battle!" Yes! So I do.

So do they.

It's not funny anymore.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Don't Believe Them: Resist

When it comes to the American experiment, we definitely lag behind some other civilized nations in the matter of health care and public transportation. But in one arena of public life, we are doing just fine, thank you.

That arena is public schools.

It's all well and good to say that Finland has better public schools than America. I'm sure it's true. But whoever got the big, fat idea to compare a gigantic country like the US of A with a charming little nation like Finland? I'll tell you who: people who want to trash public education.

Don't believe the haters who disrespect America's public schools!

EXHIBIT A: A MENACE WHO NEEDS TO BE RESISTED


This time we're not even talking about the Orange Menace. We're talking about his Girl Friday, Betsy Devo$.

Betsy Devo$ was not educated in a public school. Nor were her children. She has tumbled millions of her own ducats into charter schools, which are nothing more than private, for-profit schools foisted on our nation's most vulnerable learners. After tanking a bunch of charter schools in Michigan, she is now the Secretary of Education.

This creepy billionairess has an agenda that she calls "school choice." While we are fighting for our health care, she's selling out our students to the highest bidder. She also thinks it's a fine, fine idea to let people get tax breaks for sending their kids to religious schools.

Clap if you think American tax dollars should support religious schools.

That's funny. I don't hear anything.

News flash: Did you know that parochial schools don't have to accept disabled students? They also don't have to administer the draconian standardized tests that our public school kids face all through their school careers. Private and charter school teachers do not need to have formal teacher training. They are not protected by collective bargaining. And it is this latter item -- collective bargaining -- that has led to all these "charter" schools and "voucher" bullshit.

Plain and simple, a group of wealthy Americans wants to undermine the hard-working public school teachers and turn a profit on the taxpayer dime. Billionaires like Devo$ want to pay teachers less and give them no protection from unreasonable dismissal. The money saved on salaries won't go to the kids, though. It will go into the pockets of educational corporations.

Imagine if we already had a single-payer, not-for-profit system of health care, and somebody got the bright idea to improve health care by creating private, for-profit insurance companies! This is pretty much what creatures like Betsy Devo$ want to do with our country's kids.

Resisting this agenda is demanding. You see, the whole charter school dodge is popular with both Republicans and Democrats. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were in favor of charter schools, though not to the degree that the Orange Menace and his Girl Friday are. (The only unabashed supporter of public education in the last election cycle was Bernie Sanders.)

To resist Betsy Devo$ and her sinister agenda, you first need to see how your representatives stand on the whole charter school issue. This is one place where you can't assume that just because your congressman is a Democrat, he or she doesn't like charter schools. Here in my state, good ol' Cory Booker has given his seal of approval to charter schools in the poorest neighborhoods. So, do your research and then send your public officials a strongly worded letter that might go something like this:

Hey dummy,

Public schooling is a right, not a privilege! Say no to Betsy Devo$ and her sleazy attempts to privatize education!

Or some such.

Respect our schools. Keep church and state separate! Selling out an educated workforce will not improve educational outcomes for American students.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lughnasadh 2017

Our Pagan festivals are associated with the growing season, although we look at them metaphorically these days. Therefore, metaphorically speaking, I'm going to say that this has been a year of famine. The crops have wilted in the fields, everyone is ill, and a growing sense of desperation has taken hold of the land.

This is a Lughnasadh with a questionable harvest. How are we going to make it through the dark season with what's happening now? What would Tailtiu and Lugh advise us to do?


First of all, we need to share. We need to look out for the less fortunate among us. We need to chide and hold accountable those who want to squirrel away more than they need. We need to respect leaders who show compassion and dignity and ... leadership.

This will be a lean season. Some years are tough. Can't speak for you, but I don't feel like playing games or building bonfires the way I have in Lughnasadhs of yesteryear.

But I do have a burning desire to help the tribe, our whole tribe, the ones I like, and the ones I don't. A famine spreads misery far and wide. We have to help everyone.

A lean Lughnasadh, this one. We'll have to make do. The future of the tribe depends upon it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Revisions Are Always Necessary

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you wonder what I'm eating here today, here's a hint:


Yes indeed, a big ol' plate of crow for Annie the Pessimist!

I'm not literally eating crow. This is just the crow that The Morrigan sent to tell me off for being so snide to the Girl Scouts. If you didn't read my self-pitying diatribe (below), don't bother. It's not a good demonstration of the big, broad, flexible outlook.

My faith in the power of womanhood is restored, or at least greatly improved!

We Americans just witnessed the most despicable and sniveling performance by half of our nation's senators, and we were saved from the worst by two women.

EXHIBIT A: ANGEL TO THE LEFT, ANGEL TO THE RIGHT


The "repeal and replace Obamacare" bill was so bad that the only people made happy by it were ultra-wealthy donors to the Republican party and media outlets run by the same. By all accounts it would have raised premiums and tossed folks off the rolls. It also would have ditched the supremely sensible mandate that everyone, no matter how healthy, have health insurance.

Never mind how ridiculous this legislation was. The old, ugly beast in the photo wanted it done, and so did the many Republicans who have loudly promised to repeal and replace for years while it was super safe for them to do so. Now, with their feet to the fire, they needed to make good on their spurious promises. They needed a WIN!

But on either side of the beast, there are two women who just said no. They were under crushing pressure to adhere to the party line, and they said no. They were warned. They were given an explanation. Nevertheless, they persisted.

It's all well and good to give props to John McCain, who is actually dying, to come in and vote his conscience at the last minute, basically side-stepping that pressure. The ladies, Senators Murkowski and Collins, withstood the pressure. Thereby giving our nation's Girl Scouts a little whiff of what a powerful, brave, and principled woman can do.


The Morrigan approves of these women. No more nonsense, America! We need strong women in positions of power! And, ironically, we are at a place in history where two Republican women stood up for what was right. The Morrigan likes women who don't cave under pressure. She doesn't care what color they wear, or whether they have pins shaped like donkeys or elephants.

This week is Lughnasadh. On Sunday I travel to the Sacred Grove to celebrate first harvest. I will petition the bored gods to reward and lift up two Republican senators who showed that they cared about their people. Our tribe is not a complete mess. Hope still resides in the compassionate heart.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Year Ago

It's not terribly popular in my circles to admit you were a Bernie supporter. In hindsight all female Bernie support seems like a betrayal of gender. Let me assure you that gender had nothing to do with my enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders. I thought his message had value.


Spare and I went to a Bernie rally in the spring of 2016. We stood in line all day at Temple University. This was as close as we ever bonded, I think ... and life kind of went downhill for both of us after this event.

The Democratic National Convention was held in Philadelphia in July of 2016. There were many well-attended pro-Bernie rallies and marches as a part of that convention. Since I wasn't blogging then, I'm going to walk down memory lane and show a few photos of the marching that came before the real marching.

Of course all the pro-Bernie rallies were organized over Facebook, and that's where I saw the message from the woman named Michelle. She left a comment: "I wish I could be there with you. I'm a single mother of a disabled son. I need single payer and a decent minimum wage. Please, someone, march for me."

So I did. Then I posted all the photos with her name tagged. Below, Exhibit A, is the "establishing shot" with City Hall in the background, so Michelle would know I was for real. I was wearing my Bernie hat and my Phillies shirt with no sleeves that I use on paint crew.


It was about 95 degrees that day with very little shade. The rally began at Thomas Paine Plaza.


It seemed like a huge crowd at the time, but now ... after the ensuing events ... it was little more than a congenial gathering.


I wasn't the only Baby Boomer in that crowd. Seemed like it skewed to older people.


Michelle wanted to feel like she was there, so I asked lots of people to hold my "Hi Michelle" sign.


To be absolutely honest, this was one of the few people in attendance that actually was a Bernie bro. He came in from Akron, Ohio.


Guess I wasn't alone in being a traitor to my gender.


Proof that not all middle-aged white men voted for Trump.


I talked to people from all over the place. Some of them weren't prepared for Philly weather.


Kinda wanted to flirt with this one, but didn't.


This is a sentiment I did not share, even at this rally. I was going to vote Democrat even if they nominated Bill Maher.


... INEVITABLE


More female voters who were seduced by the good looks and shallow charm of Bernie Sanders.


Philadelphia is a big city. It has real, live socialists. They hand out leaflets and everything. Here is someone who probably really didn't vote for Hillary Clinton.


Someone made a Bernie quilt.


Hi Michelle, we need to OVERTHROW this system! Someone? Anyone? Can I get a harrumph?


Again in hindsight, this one seems a little bit prescient. When it comes to voter fraud, I have my suspicions. And they rest squarely upon bullying, intimidation, and sketchy machinery.


Some of these folks, I just wonder. Did they really sit out the election? Or did they, like me, scurry to the polls to vote for Secretary Clinton, who -- I'll be the first to admit -- had every quality a leader of the free world would ever need?


These jackasses were scattered all over the city. There were 52 of them, one for each state, one for Puerto Rico, and one for the District of Columbia. Each one was painted differently. This one was Iowa.

So, on that hot day a year ago, we rallied at Thomas Paine Plaza and then set off on a march down Broad Street, exactly the same route the Mummers take on New Year's Day. It was so unbearably hot that I bagged the march at the corner of Broad and Pine, doubled back and took the El train home to Snobville.

On the way to the train, I got accosted by a young woman with an island accent (couldn't place it, might have been Jamaican or Haitian). She took me to task about Bernie in a way that led me to believe she had lived in Philly long enough to pick up its behavior patterns. How the hell, she wanted to know, could I support Bernie when a menace like Donald Trump loomed? How could I feel right about splitting the ticket? Didn't I know what danger Donald Trump posed to immigrants?

I assured her I did, and I promised that I would vote for Hillary (and I did), and with an airy wave at the throng of protesters, I said, "They all will too. Don't worry about a thing."


Never ask me to handicap a race. This last photo was shot on November 9, 2016. To this day I wonder where that island lady is, and how she is faring. Oh my bored gods, what burdens we bear.

Late addendum: Yes, Michelle saw the photos, and she loved them. She was very grateful and kind of amazed that I went to so much trouble for a stranger. I hope she has her health care and a decent wage.