Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Awesome Speech at the Girl Scout Jamboree

Lately I've been having fantasies about being president. Like, a black SUV stops in front of the house, picks me up, and drives me straight to the White House, where I take over immediately.
 I never had these fantasies before. As a woman of a certain age, I know that presidents have to be male. This is America.

Even though I can't really dream of becoming president, I can still be the featured speaker at the annual Girl Scout Jamboree! I've drafted my speech, and I'm waiting for them to call. You can read it below:


Hello there, lil' ladies! My, look at you! All clean and well-groomed, shying away from those pesky bugs so your uniforms won't get dirty! Oh, that takes me back to my youth in the 1960s! I was a Girl Scout in good standing for years. I still have my sash, and it is covered with badges. Cooking, reading, health care, safety, dance, art, pet care, citizenship ... I've got tons of badges. I'm very proud of them.

This is no exaggeration when I say that I trudged through icy cold slush to sell Girl Scout cookies. I know, I know, it's something that could be an urban (actually rural) legend ... but in this case it is absolutely true! I trudged through icy cold slush to sell Girl Scout cookies!

How do you know it's true? Because I got my feet icy cold and soaking wet, and I didn't sell any cookies! You see, Girl Scouts, every girl in my neighborhood was also a Scout, which meant that she was also selling cookies. The competition was fierce. The winners, of course, were the girls with powerful daddies who could take the cookie order sheet to their offices and factories and get orders by the dozen. Here's your first lesson! Life is all about wealth and power, and if you don't have it ... I mean, if your daddy isn't rich, you might as well give up on those cookies and any other big dream you have. You'll be able to supply your immediate family with nice, fresh cookies, and they will love you for it. But those big orders? Forget it. The deck is stacked, my dear little tots.

Speaking of stacked decks, you know all those uplifting speeches you get from your Girl Scout leaders about how you can be anything you want to be? I really hope you don't believe that. Start with your Scout leaders themselves. Who are they? Mommies who cram Scouting into their already over-busy days in some tedious, middle management position where they report to male supervisors. There's nothing fake about the New York Times, and they are here to tell you that the top is not within your reach. Seriously, you should do what I did. Toil anonymously for years, lose your position to a man, and become a school teacher! Better yet, save yourself the frustration of losing your job to a man and go straight into school teaching! At least then, at age 58, you won't be painting cinderblock all summer in the heat like I'm doing. You'll be ready to retire, possibly with a pension!

Dear Scouts, the list of things you can't do is long and wide. Pretty much choose a profession that doesn't require you to care for other people tenderly at a low wage, and you won't be able to rise far in it. But don't be sad! Think of all the good things you can have as a woman in our society! You can drink wine, and sell Mary Kay cosmetics, and wear fast fashion, and own lots of cats. Who doesn't love cats? Adopt a cat, revolve your life around it, and give up those silly plans to pursue a STEM career!

Remember when everyone told you a woman would be president of the USA some day? Me too, and look how that turned out.

I'm just trying to protect you from the crushed and broken dreams I see when I look in the rearview mirror at my own pathetic but predictable life. From age nine, when I couldn't try out for Little League, right up to the present, I've played second fiddle to men who -- if they were better at all -- weren't that much better than me. At the risk of being repetitive, let me say again: Save yourself the bother. Set your lil' eyes on a service profession. Only do it in a hurry, because society is encouraging unemployed men to seek those jobs too. I know of at least one mediocre male nurse who got a job in a jiffy! Look smart, or you might not even be able to snag one of those coveted, low-paying, high-stress service jobs!

I know what you're thinking: What's good about being a woman? Ha ha! At least you'll know for sure that you are the parent of your child! What dad can truly say that? *fist pump*

Oh no! Don't cry! Whoa ... I'm making you cry! No no, there is a silver lining, my children.

Long ago, when life was tough and short, women got all the props for keeping the Tribe alive. It was an honorable thing to be a mother, and an honorable thing to keep the peace and solve disputes and issue wise directives. Women were so respected then! So, you ask, how can we restore that essential balance between the genders, short of a massive population crash? Well, I'll tell you. Pray to a bored Goddess. There are so many wonderful, powerful Goddesses out there who've been marginalized by the Big Daddy God. If enough of you Girl Scouts turn your back on the Great I Am and start putting your faith in a better basket, you could indeed change the trajectory of this sagging nation.

So I want all of you out there today to contact your legislators and demand comprehensive health care. It's a right, not a perk. Then I want you to drop those patriarchal Bibles in the recycle bucket and start dealing out the love to the Goddess of your choice! Don't waste time on Christianity the way I did. The captains of that ship will always be men. Find yourself a better boat.

If enough of you Scouts ditch the busy God, you could be part of a Great Awakening in America. Perhaps it would at least give you positions of religious leadership, which are, after all, the jobs your foremothers held in the Days before Time.

One last thing. The only insect you really need fear is the common mosquito. Everything else that crawls should be quietly respected. How would you like it if some bug looked at you and said, "EWWWWW!!!!! Get it AWAY!!!!!" Damn, that shit's gotta end.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy your Jamboree! And may the Goddess be with you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Across the street from my house there are eight healthy, mature trees slated for the ax. The trees have big red X marks painted on them. (See Exhibit in previous post). Additionally, there are two ornamental trees also bearing X marks.

Today was a Sunday, which meant that I would immerse myself in the New York Times for a few hours like I always do when I'm home on the weekend. I took the newspaper and sat out on my front porch, which has always been kind of like the Shady Rest with such a leafscape across the street.

While I read the paper, I also watched my neighbors walk past the house that is slated for demolition by the middle of August. (In case you're late to this news feed, the house is in great shape, stem to stern, but the property was bought by a developer who wants to build two houses on the property, somehow necessitating the destruction of all those trees.)

It was interesting to see peoples' reactions to all those X marks and the real estate sign "lot for sale."

One man stood and stared, shook his head, and moved on.

The young jogging girl didn't notice.

A woman my age from the next block over stopped and talked to me about it for 30 minutes. She explained the importance of everything being brand new (and that master bath!). To whit, busy working millionaires don't want to spend their weekends on home improvement and maintenance. They want everything new and perfect. She estimated the yearly property taxes on each house would be $30 to $40,000. You read that right. Five figures. Yearly.

My neighbor whose house will be next to the destruction/construction came out, found the surveying marks that delineate his property, and put posts by them. He is rightly concerned about incursion. We wondered together if perhaps the largest of the trees might be on someone else's property.

A couple walked by with their dogs. They stopped, looked, said something to one another, moved on.

A neighbor who frequently walks his dog past my house looked at the sign, looked at me on the porch, and shook his head sadly. He was wearing earbuds.

A black Mercedes Benz with tinted windows pulled up in front of the sign and stopped. I could barely see two people in the car. I heard a phone ringing in the car. It rang seven times and then got picked up by an answering machine. The Benz drove on.

A man in a maroon SUV drove up. Stopped at the "lot for sale" sign. Reversed to the other edge of the property. Drove forward again very slowly. Stopped at the sign again. Then moved on.

A few other dog-walkers went past without noting or commenting.

My Beta cat slept on the back porch. Gamma tiptoed around. He's kind of spooky.

Snobville is very quiet in July and August. Most folks go to the Jersey Shore. There's a feeling in my heart of All Hell about to be broken loose.

Nor did reading the New York Times improve my sensation of Impending Doom.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Through the Lean Months

One of the biggest misconceptions about public school teachers is, in part, true. Yes, we do get July and August off. But we do not get paychecks in those months.

There are some single teachers at the high end of the pay scale who can spend the summer touring Europe or Alaska or some such. I'm not single, and I'm at the low end of the scale. The way low end.

Fortunately I found a summer job. I did it last year, when I wasn't blogging. I am doing it again this year.


For July and August, my profession is interior painter at my school. The day begins promptly at 6:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. This year we have a crew of four. Already we have completed a corridor and a classroom. Today we were in an air-conditioned guidance office, but that won't last long. (This photo is from last year. I was painting the ceiling in the auto tech shop.)

How did I get from graduating 15th in my class at Johns Hopkins University (1981) to a 40-hour-a-week paint job at thirteen bucks an hour (2016 and 2017)? Life is curious. The answer, I think, can be summarized with a line from the movie Mad Max: "Maybe it's just a result of anxiety."

But la di dah! Unfulfilled potential, or luck of the draw? Who cares? I'm a painter!

This is what I have learned by being an interior painter:

1. Edge first. Then roll.
2. Move all furniture. Don't paint around stuff.
3. Getting up early in the morning is a good thing.
4. Being able to move fairly nimbly at 58 is a really good thing.
5. Paint rollers never come clean no matter how long you work with them.
6. Screw drivers are not, after all, incomprehensible.
7. The custodians are the nicest people in the school.
8. Physical fatigue is preferable to mental fatigue.
9. Painting is far easier than teaching.

When I started on paint crew last year, I had a bad attitude about it. I thought, "Look at you, Anne. What a loser you are! What happened to that novel you worked on for 15 years? And the other ones you were going to write? How did you become a school teacher, and not a very good one at that?" And much more of the same.

The first week nearly killed me. As bad as I needed the money, I didn't think I would make it. But I needed the money. So I persevered.

By the beginning of August, I noticed something. I no longer got winded climbing the stairs. The paint poles weren't as heavy. I could carry more cans and tarps. And I finally figured out how to open and close the cans without splattering paint everywhere.

Then I decided to go on a hike.


Why not? Nothing like a pleasant little jaunt on a summer's day.

This is the trail head for Glen Onoko Falls. It is in the Pocono Mountains. If you read up on it you get the picture really fast that this hike is not for sissies. And it wasn't. I should know, because I did it!


Glen Onoko Trail actually has three large waterfalls. This is number two.

By the time my daughter The Heir and I got to the top of Glen Onoko Trail, I was the only person my age to be seen. Everyone was younger! As far as the "trail" goes, you're looking at it. It was basically climbing rocks, straight up.

Without becoming a school teacher, I never would have seen these waterfalls. Without becoming a painter I could never have had the stamina at age 57 to climb those falls. Forget Phi Beta Kappa! I'm Far Better Hiker!

This year I am back to blogging along with my painting. I double dog guarantee that I will engage in some sort of extreme outdoor trek some weekend soon. You'll hear all about it.

The moral of this sermon is: How wonderful to be mostly pain free, able to move and breathe and smile! With a little money to pay the bills kicked in as part of the bargain.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

There's a Word for Everything

Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about how to make your little property more oxygen-friendly? I said that I wait until winter and then cut certain trees down to the nub. They come back in the spring as "bushes."


Remember I said that this "bush" has been here as long as I've lived in the house I live in now, i.e., since 1987?

You don't remember that? Don't feel bad. It happens to all of us.

Anyway, the bored Goddess Cloacina tells me there's a word for this. It's a verb: coppice.

When you coppice a tree, you cut it when it's hibernating. In the spring when the sap rises, and there aren't any leaves to gather sunlight, the tree trunk sends out new branches. Can you believe it? By doing this you preserve the tree in a kind of eternal youth. It will live decades, just like this. And then if you let it get tall, it'll get tall. Or not, you can keep it small.

There are trees in Europe that date to the Middle Ages that have been coppiced. When I was back visiting the family farm in Appalachia, I noticed signs of coppicing there too.


This practice makes me happy, because I have a maple in my back yard that I am growing to make a staff for myself. It's nice to know I can do that without killing the tree.

And speaking of killing trees, I came home from work today to this, across the street:


The general rule of thumb in many forests is to mark "cut" trees with yellow and "save" trees with blue. Look at the color choice here. It could be any color, but the evil developer reveals his inner soul with one swatch of paint.

And so the majestic oak is slated for death, while its little offspring across the road lives on, diminutive and child-like. This consoles me.

A little free advice: Coppice a few of your trees! Why buy some expensive and fragile little bush when you can grow a nice native that will require no maintenance and will rock on for decades?

The economy is humming, so this free advice is really free. I won't have to pay you to take it. Have a nice day!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Together

In a million years I never thought I would say this ... but I love New Jersey.

Today my daughter The Heir and I went to Absecon Inlet for a short beach day. It was so festive! There were kids everywhere, swimming and having a good time, and the parents and grandparents were all so chill. Someone near us was playing old school rap on a boom box, and folks were grilling burgers right on the beach. I volunteered to photograph not one but two cute couples with the surf in the background.

Speaking of surf, on the Jersey Shore the waves can knock you right off your feet, face first into the sand. But if you live in Jersey long enough, you learn where to go. Absecon is an inlet. The waves don't crash. They swish lightly to shore. Today the water was so clear that Cloacina gladly accepted an invitation from Oshun to check out the awesome school of dolphins that cavorted just beyond the pier.

Regarding the dolphins, almost everyone thought they were seeing a shark. Including me. Looked just like the fin you see in all the Jaws movies. But the lifeguards weren't perturbed. So I went to the guard stand, and the conversation went something like this:

Anne: Um, should I be concerned about the fin I just saw out there?

Lifeguard: That's a dolphin. Sharks swim under water.

Anne: I should know that! Geez, maybe we all ought to take tests before they let us out on the beach, huh?

Lifeguard: Nah, that's what I'm here for.

Sweetness and light, don't you think? And that same guard had to streak into the water two times to rescue little tots who got in over their heads. That's what he's there for!

The sky was bright blue, the water was bright blue, and there was a boat named after The Spare.

You'll just have to believe me. I couldn't zoom.

I always take the back roads to Atlantic City, or Asbury Park, or whatever beach I visit. Today, driving home from AC, we passed roadside farm stands full of peaches and corn and crabs, and then we drove through the peach orchards, and then we drove through the blueberry farms, and the trees and the earth smelled so sweet. Everything is green and ripe, and the sun didn't set until 8:30.

Years and years ago, New Jersey had a tourist campaign called "New Jersey and You: Perfect Together." The masot's name was Perfy. Oh, I used to belittle this weird-looking thing, and the whole smelly state! I'm a proud Appalachian, after all.

Just now I'm feeling that New Jersey and I could be perfect together.

You see, across the street from Absecon Inlet beach is a high-end shore house that had a TRUMP flag (and a big one) flying from the second floor. And across the street at the beach, Heir and I were almost the only white people, and all of us had our backs to that damn flag!

Did you ever notice that the sea shore smells different from the rest of the world? Of course you've noticed that! Well, the rest of New Jersey is starting to smell pretty good too. We've all turned our backs on Donald Trump, and soon Chris Christie will be history as well.

Then it may well be perfect. Perfect.

Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Br 5 Ba

O frabjous day! My computer is humming contentedly again. So, once more into the fray I go!

I have played  hostess to many bored Goddesses in the past twelve years, especially feeling the presence of Queen Brighid the Bright. Still, Brighid never moved in the way Cloacina has. Possibly because I never had a spare room until recently.

I thought it would be difficult to converse with Cloacina, who is after all an ancient Roman deity, but by golly, that one year of Latin in high school has set everything on a smooth course! I've got the prefixes and suffixes and the root words, so we communicate very well indeed.


This is a Goddess I can get behind. My bathrooms have been spotless since She arrived.

Bear with me a moment while I post a photo:


This is the house across the street from my own. Isn't it charming? And those two beautiful oak trees. They warm a Druid's heart. You can't see it, but behind this house is a two-car garage with a one bedroom apartment over top. The house was built in 1923.

Some time ago, a developer bought this property. Very soon he will demolish this house and the garage. He planned to put two houses on the lot. Instead he's going to demolish everything, build one house, and try to sell the vacant side of the property for someone else to build a house. The oak trees will be chopped down, as will four mature trees along the property line off to the left and out of the photo.

Snobville's planning board gave him the hearty green light, of course. I went to the meeting. I don't know why I bothered to stand up and ask the board to vote the project down. It was a waste of breath.

There are no structural problems with this house (Cloacina prefers the word "domicile"). It needs some updates, but it has its original wood floors with the cute trim and a center hall staircase with carved banister. It has a finished basement, which means it has two small bathrooms and four bedrooms (if you count the room in the basement as a bedroom).

But hey, let's tear this old gem down and build something brand new and shoddy!

You know what I've noticed about modern day Americans? Everyone wants their own bathroom.

One of the things the greedy bastard developer is going to do in his shoddy new construction is provide each bedroom with its own bathroom. This is the rage these days. All you need to do is look at the multiple listings, and you'll see that newer homes all have restrooms everywhere, kind of like ballparks. Or hospitals. Or hotels.


My grandparents had one of these when I was growing up. It sure wasn't pleasant, I didn't linger in its confines, but it got the job done.

(Cloacina finds this appalling, but She's also dismayed at the modern home with its five-and-a-half bathrooms. How to keep them all shiny clean?)

I have to wonder about children being raised in homes where they have their own bathrooms. Talk about privilege! They're literally growing up without ever having to smell anyone else's stink. Call me gross if you like (Cloacina is again appalled), but I believe we should all get a little whiff of something unpleasant now and then. It keeps us grounded as mortals. It teaches us to love other people because they are mortal too.

The house being torn down once had seven people living in it. Seems like it's a fine size for a family like that. The house that will be built in its place will have three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, including -- of course -- a master bath.

The whole concept of "master bath" baffles me. Why does a bathroom need to be luxurious? Why have a bath tub so large it takes forever to fill, or a shower with granite tiles? No one spends more than 30 minutes in the tub or the shower. Forty-five minutes, tops. Why does that room need to be private and posh? Oh yes, I forgot. Privilege. How can I forget that I live in Snobville, where privilege flows through the streets like milk and honey?

Sadly, I don't think you've heard the last of this demolition/rebuilding project. It's right in my face, literally, and I can't do anything to stop it.

However, when the house goes up on the market, my Bernie sign will return to my front lawn. Let them know that workers live in my house. Workers, who share one restroom and a water closet.

Time for a bath ... just as soon as Mr. J is finished his shower.

All hail Cloacina!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

He Haunts Our Dreams

You would never know it, but this used to be a humor blog.

I poked fun at the Christian Right for their politics and prayers, calling them "chippies." Now look around. They're in charge. First thing they did, they sat one on the Supreme Court. Our vice president is a chippie and a scary one.

Scary. The operative word is scary.

I made brutal fun of W and Cheney and all their chicanery. Now, when I see W on t.v., my eyes tear up with nostalgia. I miss that daft little bugger.

It's nearly impossible to poke fun at our current sitting president. I know, I know, the late-night hosts do it, and memes do it ... but for me, this is too scary to be funny. No one sat in a lifeboat and laughed while the Titanic was sinking.

This morning I was at a teacher meeting, and two of my colleagues reported having dreams about Mr. Old and Ugly. So did I, which makes it three.

My dream is the closest I can get to being funny about the sitting president.

I dreamed that he was flirting to me and trying to grab my ... do I even have to elaborate?

So I said to him, "Okay, I'll have sex with you if you give up tweeting."

How's that for a soothing night's sleep? I woke up in dire need of Pepto-Bismol and a long, scalding shower.

The man haunts my dreams. He is a menace to society and a menace to my personal sobriety.

Maybe Cloacina will avert her gaze and allow the plumbing in the White House to back up, overflow, and soak the carpeting.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Haiku Monday

My computer should be fixed later this week. In the meantime

The others shun him
sits alone at the Summit
pariah supreme

Thursday, July 06, 2017

A New Goddess Joins the Magical Battle for America

I'm just off a short but memorable vacation, and when I got home my computer was so sick it can't be used. So this very important post lacks images (not that they are necessary).

Let's start with a mental image: Picture a beautiful Goddess of the Greco/Roman pantheon. She has curly hair and fine, keen features. Of course she is attired in a flowing toga. What makes her unusual is that wherever she walks, pristine water sprouts behind her steps. Her name is Cloacina.

In ancient Rome, Cloacina was charged with water purification. All of those elaborate sewer systems and aqueducts were dedicated to Her. Sometimes she is named Venus Cloacina, which tells you how beautiful She is and how highly the ancient Romans esteemed her.

Years and years ago, I petitioned Cloacina to safeguard a little dry run out in the land where I grew up. A developer bought a 900-acre tract and planned to build housing for 11, 000 people on it, mostly in the form of high-density townhouses. Since there's no infrastructure for 11,000 people in that part of the world, someone would have had to build stores. The local fire department would have had to expand, as would law enforcement. Traffic would have been a nightmare, since the only road to the entrance of this proposed development is curvaceous, two-lane Route 40.

The dry run's name is Terrapin Run. (A dry run is a small stream that can go completely dry, or just become a series of shallow pools, when the weather gets hot and dry.) I became involved in a citizens' campaign to save Terrapin Run and block the development. Since Terrapin Run is a Tier II waterway (meaning it's pretty damn pure), I thought Cloacina might be interested in helping with this campaign.

Cloacina is the very essence of a bored goddess. In modern times she is nothing more than a name for an orifice we all have below our waists. She was only too happy -- indeed, She was thrilled -- to have an important miracle to perform in the here-and-now.

And She performed it brilliantly. Not a spade of earth was turned on that development! The entire property sits idle, with Terrapin Run burbling through it, when it does burble, which is usually springtime.

Now I have asked Cloacina to take on a much bigger project. I'm sure you're all aware that our sitting president has ordered his cabinet members to roll back regulations on clean water and pesticides. This means that all of our major waterways could degrade from their current condition. Cloacina is all about clean water. She kept the Romans alive and healthy, and they loved Her for it! She can do this for us as well. We are, after all, another vast, militaristic, and far-flown empire, like the one that provided Her praise and worship team.

My friends, I am asking for you to find a place on your altar for Cloacina. I'm asking you to petition her to protect our sacred waterways from degradation. She wants to join the Magical Battle for America. She wants work. Let's give Her a big job, with full faith that, if we worship Her, She will deliver us from evil.

Please find room for Her in your heart! This Goddess delivers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Plan B

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," safe and sanitary through a long school year! My name is Anne Johnson, and I did not get the stomach virus during the school year that just concluded. I consider that an accomplishment!

Now I would like to keep the streak going.

Customarily, this is the weekend where I go to Four Quarters Farm, which is a quasi-Pagan campground near my dear old family property that no longer belongs to my family. For the past five years I've gone to 4QF for a nice long mountain retreat.

This year, 4QF has played host to festivals on many, many weekends since Beltane. The two festivals that were held most recently were bedeviled by a virulent strain of something ... there is no news yet about what it was, but quite a number of people fell ill, and some needed to be hospitalized.

The festival I attend annually is all about drumming. Except this year, with the unidentified something still perhaps clinging to a leaf here or a fly leg there, many of the drum instructors bailed. As with them, so with me. I'm not going.

I still have to go to the mountains, however. My uncle's magnificent piece of land was purchased by a new owner last year -- someone who is interested in the history of the property. So I am going to meet this gentleman. I'm going to wear my Girl Scout smile and a stylish shirt and hope to make a good impression. One never knows if this could turn into a friendship that might lead to the sale (to me) of a nondescript acre at the very edge of the tract. Whether or not that happens, I would like to have the owner's leave to stroll the grounds.

I was fortunate to find a room in a cheery b&b in Hancock, Maryland. There I will base my stay as I undertake Plan B.


This is Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. For my money, this is the most beautiful spot on the Potomac River and one of the best in all of Appalachia. One blessed summer I worked in Harper's Ferry, and I adore the place. I haven't been there for a serious hike in years. Day One, serious hike around Harper's Ferry. See that cliff? If I get there early enough, I'm going to hike it -- there are always buzzards biffing about up there.


Got to do the ancestor work. No one else gonna do it for me.


This unassuming establishment is Snider's Road Kill Cafe in Artemas, PA. Don't let the exterior fool you. Within those walls lies exceptional country cooking and home made pies. I promised Anansi we would go there on this trip. Of course, we always go to the Road Kill Cafe when we visit home. Thursday is ribs night.


My number one reason for going to Four Quarters Farm is the plethora of swimming holes on that land. The exhibit above, however, is not a 4QF swimming hole. It's in another watershed. I'm going to give it a try and report back to you. Local swimming holes can get dicey when you're alone with New Jersey license plates. But I aim to swim. If not here, then somewhere. There are lots and lots of creeks in the mountains.

So, wish me bon voyage! I'll be off the grid and all by myself. Not exactly what I anticipated, but a woman just doesn't go through a whole school year without stomach flu, only to get it on vacation. You feel me?

Monday, June 26, 2017

My Grandfather, the Diarist

This is my grandfather, Daniel Webster Johnson, Sr.

This photograph doesn't do him justice. He was a very handsome man. He looked a little bit like Henry Fonda, only with softer features.

Granddad had many interests. He was a pioneer in the synthetic fabric industry, creating and designing microscopic drills. He repaired watches and clocks. He loved insects, flowers, and gardening. He liked to hunt squirrels.

How do I know all of this? Well, I know all of the above except the squirrel thing from talking to my grandfather, watching him work, and seeing the fruits of his labor.

The squirrel thing I got from his diaries.

Yes! My grandfather Johnson kept a daily diary from 1936 until 1948! That's a long time! Think of it: Granddad kept a diary right through the Great Depression and the Second World War. Talk about a primary source!

It gets better. I, Anne Johnson, own all of those diaries.

I've perused these diaries many times, but only in a cursory manner. Today I sat down with them to take a closer look. I was particularly in search of information about my grandfather's older brother. I also wanted to know more about the house Granddad built on the family farmland, round about 1939.

My grandfather was a dependable diarist. He wrote down something almost every day. And that something ... that something ... was an observation of the weather.

Sometimes he notes when he visits someone, or someone visits him. But only after he has noted the weather.

"Fair and warm today, got cool at night."

Multiply that by 300 and you get the spring portion of Granddad's diaries.

Another thing my grandfather noted punctually was his church attendance. He abbreviated Sunday School "Sunday S." On Wednesday nights, he attended the Knights of Malta lodge (abbreviated KofM). This is always noted after the weather.

He did note the birth of his youngest son, who was born in 1937 (weather report was first). He did not note the high school graduation of his two older sons, in 1942 and 1944 respectively, although every day in June of those years have entries. Only once, at the 15-year mark, does he note his wedding anniversary. After the weather. Grandma's birthday? Once or twice ... after the weather.

He does hunt squirrels, though. I found about 40 entries mentioning squirrel hunting. Seems his best day was eight. Sometimes he got one, sometimes none at all. After the weather.

He mentions the construction of the house. "Worked on cabin." Then "spent first night in cabin." Then "spent the day at camp." Then "spent the weekend out at camp." Then "painted the house." Occasionally he notes what he was planting in the garden "at camp." Every entry that includes this begins with a weather report.

On December 7, 1941, Granddad noted that the weather was cloudy and cold. Then he added, "The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." That is literally the only piece of world news I have found in his diaries from any year.

If he was alive today, I would tease him about this. I would say, "For the love of fruit flies, Granddad, why did you always write down the weather?" And he would say, "Well, Anne Janette, you see ... it's a small notebook, with only a few lines for each day. The only thing that will fit is the weather. And I was busy living my life -- I didn't have time to go into more detail."

Well, bless his sweet heart, my grandfather kept diaries. They reveal nearly nothing of his personality, his relationship with his family and siblings, his challenges at work, or his creation of an iconic, hand-made homestead in the Appalachian Mountains.

The moral of this sermon is that I must have inherited something from my mother's family. Don't you agree?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Free Advice about that Farm in the Mountains

One thing you learn, growing up in Appalachia: The land and weather aren't as sacred as they are savage. There just aren't enough bored gods and busy gods in the universe to make everything run smoothly when you call the mountains home.

Ask anyone who tries to farm this land. If you can't find that person (which wouldn't surprise me), visit the graveyards and look at the ages of the deceased. Also round up the folks like me, who, although they love the mountains with the white hot passion of 10,000 suns, can't live there because people gotta eat.

And yet you'll find a passel of starry-eyed optimists who seize upon a plot of mountain farmland, give it a pretty name, and commence to building a utopian community on it. This one will do "sustainable agriculture." This one will have bee hives and make mead. This one will grow artisan apples. Oh my, there's nothing more inspiring than a quiet evening in the country, when nobody's around and the whippoorwills are serenading one another from ridge to hollow! A modest living for a few people can surely be had, right?

This is where the utopian vision comes in. The optimist invites his friends to a gathering, often on a Pagan festival day, and the next year the friends bring their friends, because the property with the pretty name is so gorgeous. Within a decade, as the bees die and the apple blossoms take a frost and the groundhogs eat the peppers, the optimist has luckily happened upon a way to self-sustain: the paid festival. Okay, the land gets a little crowded, hectic, and trampled. But it's worth it. The money pours in, and the rest of the year things are so quiet and beautiful for the optimist and his small nucleus of companions.

All might be well in these cases, but it's really hard for the optimist not to become a capitalist. After all, isn't it nice to be able to make a genteel living in such a benign way? What's a festival? It's a chance for people who don't live in the mountains to come to a property, link elbows with like-minded naturists, and have a heart-warming and safe time. Word of mouth brings more and more folks each year, keeping the entrance fee quite affordable. So the optimist invests in sound equipment and heavy duty lawn mowers. He contracts port-a-potties and lines up hay bales in case it's rainy. And then he has festivals.

Here's where it goes one of two ways. In the first way, the optimist has one festival a year, upon which he stakes his whole budget. It's only held once a year, and that makes it very special, and -- again word of mouth -- numbers of attendees just keep climbing. In the other way, the optimist devises many festivals of different sorts and different sizes, flings them out across summer weekends, and waits for the customers to find the event that suits their tastes.

I personally know two such optimists who are finding out now that the land isn't sacred, it's savage. It will punish your ass no matter how lofty your intentions happen to be.

Case number one features the nicest optimist you would ever want to meet. His big once-yearly festival was hit by torrential rain. Cars skidded out of control on the parking hill, and people couldn't stand on their feet in the slippery muck. At a devastating financial loss, he had to close down a day early. There's just no way he can recoup that day of receipts at another event. This was his event. Chances are, next year, the sun will shine and the people will return. In the meantime, it's gonna be one bloody lean year.

The other case features the optimist with multiple festivals. This dreamer has invested more: bigger parcels of land, permanent bathroom facilities, even a dining hall. But as he increased the number and size of events, health problems surfaced. On two recent weekends, hundreds of festival attendees became violently ill with an aggressive and highly contagious stomach flu. And of course the Internet is blowing up over it, which has led at least one person I know to cancel her plans to attend a festival there next weekend. Nor does this person I know expect to get a refund, because you know that bottom line is going to be threatened.

The multiple-festival optimist will also recover and persist, but he's going to take a financial beating for years, and perhaps forever. Word of mouth works both ways. When people have fun, they bring their friends. When they get sick on your land, they tell all their friends who weren't there. It's a hole that's hard to climb out of, and in the meantime the optimist still has to eat and pay the notes on the parcel of land he bought for bigger festivals.

The one unifying factor between these two optimists? They both grew up in the city and lived in the city for a long time before taking up residence in the lovely rural spaces.

So here is Annie's free advice for anyone and everyone who wants to live la dolce vita on some bucolic rural farm: The land is untamed. It is untranslatable. It does not love you back. And the harder you work it, the worse it will treat you.

It's too late to ask my great-grandfathers if I am right about this, because they are all long gone. You'll just have to trust me. Would I lead you wrong? Of course not, I'm straight-up.

The economy has improved, so this free advice is really free. Heed it, though, and you'll always eat.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stepping into Darkness

June 21 marks the greatest amount of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. Depending upon your mindset, the day is either the beginning of summer or the beginning of darkness.

There are so many good things about summertime: fresh produce, long twilight, fireflies, beach days, porch sitting. Gotta say, though, the only part of that I fully endorse is the long twilight. Otherwise give me a brisk morning and a forecast that includes snow.

I'm still a little bit shaken about the Anansi story below. It might have come off my fingers, but it was Anansi all the way. Scary to be divinely inspired, honestly. It's an outcome of the magickal work I've been doing ... but wow. Still unexpected.

Ah well, may the joys of Solstice be with you and yours. Here comes the heat. Let's get out of the kitchen!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Interview with a Bored God: Anansi

My goodness, as I live and breathe, one of my favorite bored gods of all time is Anansi! He's all puffed up with pride these days, because through one medium or another, Neil Gaiman has made Him a star again.

Anansi is a flirt and a trickster, the kind of critter that with a mere wink can persuade you to part with your last piece of pecan pie. He pilfers the pretzels and leaves the lettuce. He snickers when you stub your toe, principally because He's the one who pushed the ottoman just so and made you do it.

Anansi preys upon people's weaknesses and leads them to downfall. He enjoys doing it ... sort of a matter of just desserts.

And speaking of desserts, that must be why He's here. I'm going to make a strawberry pie. How did He know?

Anne: Anansi, my friend, while I'm making this pie, will You tell me a story?

Anansi: With pleasure, Anne. Better make two pies. You might get company...

Anansi and the Jackal
by Anansi

Once upon a time, there was a jackal who was dissatisfied with his life. He had plenty to eat, and he was popular and well-liked in his circle, but he craved more attention and admiration.

Jackal went to Anansi and asked the Spider to make him more famous ... all-powerful over the rest of the animals on the savanna, in fact.

"I will do this,"Anansi said, "If you first give up one of your possessions. Think about it and get back to me."

Jackal thought about it. He was pretty good-looking, in a paunchy, overripe way. He didn't want to give that up. It was already getting harder to attract lady jackals! He was really good at manipulating other animals (particularly those who weren't as smart as they ought to be). Jackal couldn't imagine being powerful without being able to manipulate, so he didn't want to give that up, either. That left him with two possessions: the ability to lie, and a perfect memory. It seemed pretty clear that a good memory wasn't really important if you had lots of power, so Jackal returned to Anansi.

"You can have my memory," he said.

"Done!" Anansi said.

And Jackal was happy, because he felt just the same.

And the animals heaped him with praise and set him in the best seat and gave him the ability to make decisions that would affect the whole savanna.

In his most manipulative and lying way, Jackal promised all the animals that he would make everything great for them. He promised every kind of animal exactly what they wanted. The lions would get more meat. The wildebeests would get more forage and eat it in perfect safety. The zebras would get to cross the rivers safely. And since nobody liked the hyenas, they would be rounded up and sent away.

Needless to say, the hyenas weren't happy. They went to Anansi and complained.

"Wait it out," Anansi said. So they did.

Not long after Jackal assumed power, the lions got hungry. The wildebeests were fat from eating so much forage, so the lions hunted and killed a few.

The other wildebeests went to find Jackal. "The lions hunted us! You said we would be safe!"

"Did I say that?" Jackal replied. "I don't remember."

"You said it," Elephant answered. "I remember everything."

Next thing you know, the zebras went to cross the river. The lions were waiting.

It wasn't pretty.

The other zebras went to Jackal and complained. Jackal said he couldn't recall the exact details of his deal with the zebras.

But once again, Elephant chimed in: "You promised the zebras they would be safe crossing the river."

Jackal was furious. "I'm tired of these elephants!" he shouted. "As of this minute, all elephants are fired!" He sent the elephants away, one and all.

As time passed, Jackal continued to rule, but all of the animals were sullen, if not outright contemptuous. This didn't sit well with Jackal, since he'd gone into the scheme for approval. So after a few months, he went back to Anansi.

"You didn't tell me the job of ruling the savanna would be so hard!" he told Anansi.

"You didn't ask me," the wily Spider replied.

"I didn't know I couldn't make both the lions and the wildebeest happy," Jackal whined.

"Jackal," Anansi said, "you have lived on the savanna all your life. Have you ever seen a time when lions and wildebeest got along, or when zebras could always cross the river safely?"

"I can't remember," Jackal said, feeling exceedingly sorry for himself.

"It's too bad your memory is so poor," Anansi said, clicking His legs together. "The elephants could have helped you with that, but you sent them away."

"All I wanted was universal admiration!" Jackal wailed. Then he got an idea. "Say, Anansi, could you just put things back the way they were ... as I recall, if I'm right ... so I at least have a little band of followers? The rest of them, lions, zebras, one and all, can go rot."

"I can do that for you," Anansi said. "But you'll have to give me another possession."

Jackal couldn't remember his possessions at all. So he said, "Go ahead and just take one. Whichever one you want."

Next thing he knew, Jackal found himself on the savanna with the other jackals he used to hang out with. They all burst into gales of laughter. "Look at you!" they howled. "You are one old, butt-ugly Jackal!"

Jackal ran to the watering hole and looked into the water. At that moment, Anansi gave him his memory back.

It wasn't pretty.

In the end, the elephants and the hyenas returned to the savanna, and everything fell into its old, natural routine. Except for poor old, ugly, Jackal, who could not buy a best friend no matter how much he lied, manipulated, or remembered the past.

Anne: Wow, Anansi, you are amazing! Here, have both pies! And that dusty corner of my attic? It's all yours, whenever you want a bunk.

Anansi: Thanks, Anne, but I'm due back on set in a week. I'm a big star now.

Anne: Justly deserved, Anansi. Justly deserved.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bucket List Cross-Out

I just love the Chesapeake Bay! It's beautiful and nearby.


The only part of the Chesapeake Bay I haven't visited at length is the very bottom of it (geographically), where it spreads out and flows into the briny Atlantic. There are two islands, Smith and Tangier, that I always wanted to see. Lately I've changed my mind about that. I've crossed these two intriguing communities off my bucket list, thank you very much.


Turns out that Tangier Island has two problems. First, it's disappearing at the rate of 15 feet a year. Second, it's voters went for Donald Trump by 87 percent. Apparently none of the residents of Tangier Island believe in climate change. What's happening to their island is simply erosion, and they're looking to our current commander-in-chief to build them a Wall (yes, that again) around their whole island.

After being on CNN and saying that he loved Donald Trump like family, the mayor of Tangier Island got a call from the president. Does this surprise you? El presidente loves him some filial devotion!

You might think I am making this up, but honestly DT called the mayor of Tangier Island (who was out crabbing) and said to him, "Don't worry about your island. It's been around for hundreds of years, and it will be around for hundreds of years to come."

Of course that's as much truth as our fearless leader usually offers, so what's new?

My friends, delightful Tangier Island is in the damn bull's eye. With erosion (yes, it happens) and sea level rise, this is a place where you soon won't need a boat to catch crabs, they'll be skittering across your front porch. One Cat 5 hurricane will destroy it completely. A wall might slow the whole thing down, but forget about it. Done deal.

Might have been a nice place to go for a long weekend before the deluge, but I'll pass. Anyone who can live on a small island and not pay attention to science is just too blithe for me.

PS - Our president is a moron.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Shoulda Been Done Long Ago

Today it was 95 degrees (35 C) outside. Which meant it was 95 degrees (35 C) in my classroom. The fans just move the air around, like a convection oven.

One of my best and sweetest little girls found a bed bug crawling along the edge of the cabinet, right where she was sitting. This occasioned a lot of angst on the part of my students and myself.

My co-teacher positively identified the vermin by Googling a photograph of one. Neither of us had ever seen one before.

As a class we are about to begin A Raisin in the Sun. Half of my students said they already read it in middle school (!) and had seen the movie. They pronounced it stupid and boring and darkly hinted that they wouldn't do it.

At the last faculty meeting, the principal said we would have a "dress and grooming code" in the fall for all teachers. We will be expected to attire ourselves in "industry standard" clothing.

The refrigerator in the faculty dining room broke. My salad dressing got thrown out.

The water fountain across from my classroom is broken. It has been broken all year. School rules prohibit bottled water in classrooms.

Some classrooms are air conditioned. Some aren't. This means that we never get early dismissal on hot days, because all of the students have at least one class in air conditioning. The exercise room and the locker rooms are air conditioned. All administrative offices are air conditioned.

All this is my way of saying that school should be out for the summer. Last Friday should have been our last day. But we soldier on, right to Solstice. This is public school, and this is what we do.

If you have any idea what "industry standard" attire is for a public school teacher, please post your findings.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Don't Say the Word -- It's That Simple

I don't know about you, but most Friday nights by 10:00 I am drifting off to dreamland in my chair. It just happened that the past two Friday nights I was lucid enough to watch Bill Maher on HBO.

I don't like the guy, even though his politics are similar to my own. I find him pompous, never more so than when he has a Republican guest for an interview. If I treated bored deities the way he treats Republican guests, I'd be smote into oblivion.

So it was that, during an interview with a Republican senator, Maher dropped the "n" word. Hours later, he was issuing apologies and mea culpas. And this Friday, he had three guests of color on the show, probably to prove that he's a cool white dude who loves African Americans and feels their pain.

His Black guests basically took him to the woodshed.

It was typical Maher hubris to invite Ice Cube on the show in the first place. Here's a rapper who has made a lavish living mining his people's pain and injustice, and he wasn't going to give Maher a pass. You go, Mr. Cube. His best remark was, "That's our word. It belongs to us." And it does.

The "n" word should never escape the lips of a white person. Never. Pagan readers, don't you hate it when the word "witch" is used in a pejorative, or even joking, way? Now multiply that by 1,000.

As a teacher in a school that is 99 percent minority, I hear that word all day long. Students call each other "n," in an affectionate way. It's their word. If I'm teaching a passage of literature that has the word in it, I don't utter the word out loud.

Bill Maher had a million excuses for letting the "n" word slip. He blamed the Republican interviewee, for one thing (bad form). He blamed the nature of live comedy (flimsy). He said he shouldn't be judged by one offhand tasteless remark (slightly less flimsy but still flimsy). You know what he didn't do? He didn't say, "I won't use that word again. Ever."

It's tough work being a comedian, especially in live situations. Improv comedy requires a mental acuity that's daunting to say the least. But it's not that hard to expunge your vocabulary of an offensive word and -- this is overlooked -- the racist way it was dropped in reference to a type of slavery. I've never heard Bill Maher call anyone a "cunt." If he can bypass that word, he can remove the "n" word from his oral vocabulary.

I'm sure he will from this day forward, so would it have hurt to promise? Humble people work to change their ways.

Sitting at the top of a mountain of righteousness today I am,

Your most humble and obedient servant,

Anne Johnson

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Memory Lane

Funny what will come into your head sometimes.

I'm remembering a field trip my class took to Washington, DC in 1974. Of course, some details are fuzzy. I can't remember if it was a history trip or a French language trip, or something else. I don't remember the name of the classmate who sneaked off with me. All I can remember is that we descended from the school bus, and someone wasn't looking or counting. My friend and I went AWOL in Washington, DC.

Jesus, I was cheeky! Now that I'm a school teacher myself, I have a whole new appreciation of kids who don't follow the rules on field trips.

But that is an aside.

I was on a field trip to Washington, DC in 1974. I got off the bus, and there was the Watergate Building. I said to my classmate (whose name I forget), "Hey! Look over there! It's the Watergate Building! Let's go!"

And we did. Like two swells, we strolled down to the Watergate Building and went in the lobby, and we stood there looking around. Then we went back to the bus with plenty of time to assure that we weren't missed.

I have no idea what I should have been doing while I instead went to the Watergate Building. What I do know is that I don't remember much about high school, but I remember sneaking off to the Watergate Building during a field trip in 1974.

Why do you suppose I'm thinking of that tonight?

Monday, June 05, 2017

In Which I Take on ISIS

Last thing I want to do is tangle with a terrorist. They really give us no choice, though ... unless you think "join or die" is a choice.

I have a student who I'll call Sweetie Pie. A year ago, Sweetie Pie started a blog on weebly, after she was bullied and harassed in middle school.

Sweetie Pie is very proud of her blog. Last Friday she told me, "I get comments on my entries. I'm kind of surprised, because I have readers in the Middle East."

Indeed. Red flag, anyone?

Okay, so Teacher Annie goes home Friday night and calls up Sweetie Pie's blog. It's a nice little site, and commendable in these days of Instagram when kids have no attention span. But I noticed right away that the comments on Sweetie Pie's blog went to her email and not in the comments section.

Oh, by all the bored gods, do you know what these terrorists do? They contact young American girls and groom them for membership!

Today, when Sweetie Pie came into class, I took her downstairs to the school psychologist. We sat with her and asked about her Middle Eastern reader. She said he was from Dubai, and just her age.

The psychologist asked her if that wasn't a bit suspicious? She blushed and said she wondered how his English could be so good. Apparently they have been corresponding via email for quite some time.

Sweetie Pie's mother is very, very protective ... to the point where Sweetie Pie can't bring her phone to school. So the counselor and I couldn't call up any of her correspondence to analyze it. We can't even look at her blog in school -- it's blocked by the firewall.

The psychologist and I warned Sweetie Pie in no uncertain terms that her correspondent was probably not some nice young teenage fellow from Dubai. She said she would block him.

Now what do I do? I could use your free advice. I don't want to alarm Sweetie Pie's mom (who apparently is easily alarmed). But Sweetie Pie is a frail young lady. She would certainly be a candidate for an online courtship of dubious and possibly dangerous origins.

What should I do? Tell Mom, talk to Sweetie Pie further, or trust Sweetie Pie to block her Dubai gentleman?

It's a sick world we live in. Sick!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Climate Change Resistance

It's been very heartening to see the immediate and widespread blow-back against our toxic president and his vindictive, stroke-the-base decisions. The foam wasn't dry on Fearless Leader's mouth before a group of "climate mayors" formed to uphold the Paris Agreement. So far, the governors of ten states -- California and New York most prominently -- have promised to work toward the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

The state of New Jersey, and the borough of Snobville, are not on that list. Our current governor here in New Jersey is the repulsive, abrasive, Trump-butt-kisser Chris Christie. His days are numbered, though ... and when he goes I'm pretty sure lots of Republicans will go with him. In the meantime, I have to ask myself: What can I do personally, in my house and on my property, to resist global warming?

My biggest contribution is expensive, but I'm proud of it. I have no business living in a high-rent district like Snobville. But I've decided to stay, and pay the outrageous property taxes, because my house is 4.5 miles from my workplace. It takes me 12 minutes to drive to work. Even better, Mr. J has a home office, so he doesn't go anywhere. We try to burn as little gas as possible, day to day.

But this is not what I do to resist. I have another thumb-my-nose that hits me right in the feels. You can do it too! Here's some free advice.

People in Snobville are very picky about their properties. They're always weeding, and fertilizing, and mowing, and leaf-blowing, and edging, and planting annuals, and grooming shrubbery. It's annoying. Snobville has many mature hardwood trees, which is a virtue, but the lawns are as snobby as you can imagine.

Behold my very own climate change-resister property! You, too, can give it a try.


This is a maple seedling in my back yard. It's pretty, and look at those wide leaves, just sucking up that CO2! I've got four this size and a bunch even smaller. Used to be I would cut these down (a job I hated). For the nonce I'm going to let them grow.


This undisciplined stretch of ground used to be my vegetable garden. Then one day I just said "fuck it," and I planted native stuff. There's plenty of milkweed, just sitting there waiting for the monarch butterflies -- who haven't come yet -- and I do see honeybees on the flowers. Eyesore? Maybe. Something I have to tend? Nope. And again, sucking in that CO2, spitting out that oxygen, requiring no chemicals or watering. If it was up to me, my entire small lawn would look like this, instead of just part of it.


This oak was a seedling when I moved to Snobville -- in 1987. Maybe I've thwarted its ambition to tower, but it's alive and doing fine. Look at those wide leaves! You can almost see the oxygen wafting from them. I've got three of these basically bonsais along my driveway and two more in the back yard.

The moral of this sermon is, if you can't deed your whole property over to trees, you can let a few of them grow a little bit, here and there, just to capture a little CO2. This project of mine is the stupidest thing you ever saw, but it's a molecule in the drop in the bucket. It's all I can do with what I've got.

A final note: There's been a lot of talk about witches putting hexes on Donald Trump and otherwise wishing him ill. That's not how I roll. I wish no physical ill on the man, but I'm only too happy to engage in mystical work that seeks to undermine his agenda and protect our nation from his bad deals. Therefore I have joined an online effort called The Magical Battle for America. This is esoteric work on the astral plane, but you need not step onto the astral to be a part of it. Your meditation on the work will add to its power. Every Saturday, the leader posts a new set of instructions. You can join any time, or just drop in to give your quiet support. See you on the plane, or on the ground.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

In Which I Resign from the Daughters of the American Revolution

Bad timing. Very bad timing.

This afternoon when I got home from work I found in the mailbox my yearly dues notice from the Daughters of the American Revolution. I have been a member in good standing of the D.A.R. for exactly 28 years, as of June 2.

National, state, and chapter dues total $68.50, plus $2.00 suggested for the State Regent's project.

To put it bluntly, there are more pressing needs for my $70.

Here is the text of my letter to our local Regent:

Dear [Name Omitted],

After exactly 28 years in the D.A.R., I will not be renewing my membership. My decision to leave N.S.D.A.R. and Snobville Chapter has nothing to do with the fine members of our Chapter or with the mission of the D.A.R.

I have lost my patriotism. I am no longer proud to be an American, which, I think, is a cornerstone value of the D.A.R.

Please remove me from the rolls.

[My so-called Married Name, because they never bought that feminist stuff]

My ancestors hid behind rocks, muskets clutched in shaking hands, to establish this nation. I've always been proud of that. But who can be proud, who can hold her hand over her heart, when her country joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only other nation outside the Paris Climate Agreement?

America has been undermined by racism, espionage, the corporate agenda, and the massive power of the very wealthy. It is not a nation I can stand behind.

I never came to this place during the presidency of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. I would welcome either of them into the Oval Office on this or any other day, if it rid us of the scourge of Donald Trump and Republicans who support him to advance their own anti-woman, pro-rich, polluting agenda.

To arms, Warrior Women! The time to drink tea and pledge the flag is over.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Memorial Day 2017 edition! My name is Anne Johnson, and I can feel the spirits of the soldiers who died for this country weeping for the way we are now.

Many soldiers died with weapons in their hands. How would they feel if they could see ordinary citizens, with guns slung over their backs, shopping at WalMart? Would they find that wise ... or disrespectful?

Many soldiers died fighting against people who were trying to protect slavery as an institution. The slavers had generals (quite competent ones, in fact). How would union soldiers feel about torch-bearing Americans trying to protect monuments to those Southern generals? Would they find that admirable ... or disrespectful?

Many Americans fought and died in Europe, where there is now peace. Where our enemies are now our allies, and our long-time allies are closer yet. How would they feel about a president who belittles this alliance as a "bad deal" and will not promise to uphold climate accords? Would they find that patriotic ...or disrespectful?

Disrespectful! And it starts at the top.

So, to our heroic dead, I say the following:

I'm sorry it has come to this.

I hope the situation is temporary, and we can soon correct the course.

I, too, weep for this land.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Here, Sharky Sharky

Hot off the press! Just in time for Memorial Day, a great white shark is tootling up the East Coast, no doubt looking for two scoops of ice cream rather than one.

Don't you just want to call this lil cutie and offer him a banquet of nicely-aged millionaire meat?

I know, I know, I shouldn't have so much hate in my heart, but it's just so tempting to round up the chief executive, his scary Barbie doll daughter, and a couple of cabinet appointees (okay, well, all  the cabinet appointees and the new Supreme Court justice too) and take them for a nice boat ride off the Jersey Shore. They could take in all the sights -- all the pizza parlors and arcades and Ferris wheels and gift shops and tattooed gibrones and bikini-clad cutie pies -- and then dive off the ship for a refreshing swim in the drink. Jaws would do the rest.

I wonder if rich people taste different from poor people? I mean, rich people can afford the best quality health care, which means they probably have expensive prescription pharmaceuticals in their bodily tissues. Heck, if you wait a few years, it might be that poor people won't have any pharmaceuticals in their systems at all, possibly making them more palatable to ol' Jawsie. But we're talking about now, right now, because that shark is bearing down, and everyone these days can get the medicine they need. Taste be damned, Jaws would no doubt savor the cabinet secretaries and Barbie.

As for persuading el presidente and his charming family and staff to ditch Trump properties for a jaunt to the Jersey Shore, well, is there anything more all-American than a beach visit over Memorial Day? It's not like any of those people plan to honor the memory of soldiers who died defending America. Let's get a boat, round them up, and do a little reverse fishing!

Oh, who am I kidding? Sharks are notoriously omnivorous, but even a famished great white would probably pass on a platter of Trump. Sharks aren't buzzards, after all. They don't want food that's rotten to the core.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old and Ugly

I got up this morning at 6:00 and was at work by 7:00. I left work at 3:45 and drove home. I collapsed in a chair, and all I can think about is where I'll get the energy to make dinner.

I'm 58 and tired. So what does that make Donald Trump?

I think in the minds of many morons taxpayers, Donald Trump is a permanently youthful figure, invigorated by his years of sexual conquest and macho bluster. It's quite easy to perpetuate this myth when you're standing behind a podium, and all you've done that day is a 60-minute tirade political speech.

But the presidency? That's a different story.

I'm slender and in great health, but my mind boggles at a 9-day trip through a half dozen countries, out of my time zone and language competency. Oh, I could do it, but it would age me prematurely (as it does most presidents).

Donald Trump is 70 years old and overweight. Nothing in his previous work history has prepared him for the pace of governing one of the world's largest and most complicated nations. It's no wonder that he retreats to his golf courses and country clubs when he can -- the job is wearing him out.

This fact, not his horrible personality, will likely be his downfall.

Will he resign? Will he be impeached? Or will he just fall ill and need a very long vacation? I know the old fart isn't a quitter, but I'll bet even now he wishes he could ditch the day job without losing face.

I don't wish bad health on anyone, but hey, I don't have to. Donald Trump asked for it himself. He didn't sit down and think, "Wow, I'm going to be hella busy at a time of life when most rich men just hit the links." Yes, there's money and power in the game for him, but at the cost of his golden years.

Donald Trump's last bad deal was winning himself the presidency. Now he has to do the job. It just might kill him.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Just a Few Chores

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have you ever opened your eyes onto a sunny, springtime Sunday morning and thought, "Oh! I have absolutely nothing to do today!" Yeah, well, having absolutely nothing to do is actually a curse. It's something devised by bad faeries under a dark moon with much muttering and wicked giggles.

I woke up this morning in my own bed, having driven home from my mother-in-law's funeral because both the Heir and the Spare had to be back to Philly on Sunday. Mr. J stayed behind in Baltimore, which meant ... me ... all alone in the house in Philly with no plans!

Now factor in cats.

We know what cats do. They wake us up early, because they are hungry. Mine were hungry. It was 7:00, and they wanted breakfast.


So you know where that goes. You get up to feed the cats, and you decide to have a cup of tea. Then you look in the fridge and find some of those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that should have Surgeon General warnings on the side, and -- looking for something to have with your tea -- you flick on the oven.

Then, when they are freshly baked, you eat four of those sugar bombs, only pausing to realize that now you'd better work off those calories.

So you open all the windows to air out the house. You re-arrange closets. You drag stuff to Goodwill. You wash towels and clean cat boxes and re-pot plants and fold laundry and throw out day-old newspapers, and go grocery shopping, and drive an extra 5 miles for local strawberries. You hang pictures, re-arrange furniture, hose the pollen off the porch,

Suddenly it's 2:30, and you're famished. Off to Chipotle for another repast that probably packs enough calories for a pride of lions.

Then you come home, fold the towels and clean up the kitchen.

What a beautiful thing! I got all of this done, and it was only 3:45! There I was, having accomplished multiple chores that didn't particularly need to be done, with plenty of hours left to read the New York Times!

The moral of this sermon is, if you want to thwart bad faeries who seek to ruin your weekend, get a cat. The cat will get you going so early that, on a long spring evening with lots of daylight, you'll still have time for your porch and your op-eds.

Of course, now it's 8:00 and I'm ready for bed. Does this mean the faeries win?

Friday, May 19, 2017


La dee dah, another evening at home, watching MSNBC even though I can't stand those smug preppy hosts. The empty nest encompasses me like a desert. I have few friends, and they are far-flung. These days I have no social life at all.

"Anne!" you say. "You're such a lively, spunky old thing! Why are you sitting around? You've got 50 colleagues at your school, and you live in a walking community full of educated people!"
The simple answer to this is twofold: I don't drink, and I'm tired at the end of the day.

There are a lot of swell folks where I work. Many Friday afternoons, they go out to happy hour. There's nothing stopping me from accompanying them except for the fact that I'm a recovering alcoholic. Being a recovering alcoholic in a bar is like being a diabetic in a candy shop. You can resist the urge, but the effort makes you miserable.

Fatigue is the real killer. I get to work at 7:00 in the morning and return around 3:45, if I don't have any errands to run. By 7:30 I'm nodding. By 10:00 I'm asleep. I used to go to a drum circle, but half the time I bagged it because I was too tired to go. Now I don't even try.

You want to hear something weird? When I'm actually with people and socializing, I'm awkward. It's like I've lost the talent for conversation. I used to be the life of the party (probably because booze was the fuel), but sobriety has brought me shyness and isolation.

These thoughts are occasioned by the rites surrounding the services for my dear mother-in-law. Her funeral is tomorrow, and the reception afterwards promises to be chock-a-block with guzzlers. This would be a time I would love, getting together with my husband's family (who have always been very kind to me), but the thought that everyone -- including my daughters -- will be imbibing just makes me sad. I expect I'll find a quiet chair somewhere by myself and take a nap.

The moral of this sermon is, can someone suggest a few diverting dramas I can watch on Netflix or online? Rachel Maddow gets on my last nerve.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Free Advice on Spotting Fake News

How do you know that your news is coming from a trustworthy source? How do you know if it's true or not? That is the question.

I, Anne Johnson, am here to tell you some tips that will help you to distinguish the truth from the falsehood! Just remember these handy rules, and you'll soon enough know whether your news is fake or not.

1. If your mother tells you, it's not fake. This should be obvious. Mothers may lie like egg-sucking dogs, but not to their kids. Well, most of the time. If you want 100 percent verity, then ...

2. If your grandmother tells you, it's not fake. Mom may occasionally stretch the truth, but Mee Maw? OH no.

3. If you see it with your own eyes, it's not fake. I know, I know, we all try to fool ourselves, but at the end of the day, most of us face the truth. Most of us.

4, If it comes to you from the Gods, it's not fake. Be careful which deity you call a liar, because some of Them will smite you! Don't all the preachers say, "Trust God?"

5. If the results can be replicated in a controlled experiment, it's not fake. Science, bitch.

6. If you can wrap a fish in it, it's not fake. Yes, there are tabloids, and they are outrageous. But most newspapers have reputations to uphold. Take it from the wife of a journalist: Reporters have their pride. Like, George Washington and the Cherry Tree pride.

On the other hand ...

7. If the person delivering the news is wearing makeup, it could be fake. What are the talking heads trying to cover up with all those grain-fed faces? If the person you're getting your news from is on t.v. but could star in an action flick, no problem, you better fact check. You may be getting some stretchers.

8. If the news is free, it could be fake. Someone's paying for it! If you don't know who, it could be a baldfaced, egg-sucking, lowlife liar. Unless it's this blog, which is 100 percent true, 100 percent of the time.

9. If the news comes through the grapevine, it could be fake. Notice I said could be. I mean, the dude in the song did find out his gal was planning to make him blue with some other guy she knew before. That turned out to be true. So judge the grapevine carefully. If it includes Mee Maw, it's probably trustworthy. If it includes two or three of your co-workers, BAMP BAMP BAMP! Red flag.

10. If the news is good and will have a pleasant and uplifting effect on your life, it could be fake. Play it safe. Be a pessimist. When did anything ever turn out to be all for the best?

11. If the news is on the Internet, it could be fake. Except this blog, see above #8.

12. If the news involves some vast, complicated, and secret conspiracy, run by provocateurs hidden deep within the recesses of daily life, it could be fake. Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret? Okay, the Illuminati have been very successful at hiding Tupac, but ... other than that one instance, it just doesn't happen.

The moral of this sermon is, evaluate your news sources carefully! Trust your grandmother first and foremost. If she's out to tea, you can depend on The Gods Are Bored to get the straight scoop. The Gods tell me everything! See above #4.

Supposedly the economy has improved to such an extent that I no longer have to pay you to take my free advice! Now it's just free. What a relief to my fraying wallet!

Monday, May 15, 2017


Did you hear that Donald Trump posted a tweet that said nothing more than "We?"

As in:


This would have remained very mysterious had he not deleted it a few minutes later. But you know the Internet. Lots of people saw it.

I sat down with my dear friend, the faerie Puck, to try to decode this tweet, as it seemed to be an intelligent attempt to get people to finish his thought for him. What could be behind the impulsive We?

Puck betrays my age as he helps me to translate.

are the champions.

Easy and obvious.

will, we will rock you.

No fair, Puck, that's the same song.

all went down to Montreaux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline.

Whoa, Puck! You heavy metal faerie, you! You might be on to something there. Here's what I think:

are stardust, we are golden.

Puck says that's absolutely the last possible one that Donald Trump would choose. He thumbs his nose at me and says Betsy DeVo$$ was using Trump's device, and she meant to tweet

don't need no education.

Thanks, Puck. I love you too. Well, it was Mother's Day ... perhaps he meant

are family. I've got all my sisters with me.

Does he have sisters? I'm not gonna look it up. Instead I'll pump my fist, resistance-style, and say

are strong. No one can tell us we're wrong.

Puck says it could be an early Christmas tweet. Maybe he meant

three kings of Orient are,


wish you a merry Christmas.

Wrong time of year, Puck! Nor is it Thanksgiving, so ditch

gather together to ask the Lord's blessing.

I guess we could go on and on like this, especially if you start adding apostrophes:

're off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

've only just begun ... to live ... white lace and promises ... a kiss for luck and we're on our waaaaayyyy.....

Okay, okay, Puck! I'll stop singing! I know that last one hopelessly anchors me in Geezer Bay!

There is only one ending to that elusive We that I can completely rule out, because the tweeter in question is a hard case, seriously interested only in his map of his electoral college victory and his ratings on the nightly news shows. There is no way, sadly, that Donald Trump would have followed that We with

shall overcome.

What do you think? Help Puck and me out here!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

My goodness, they are both all grown up.

When I started this blog, one was still in grade school! That one made brunch for the whole family, in the house she just moved into in Philadelphia.


The other one was in high school when I started blogging. She doesn't like to have attention drawn to her. But if you need someone to pour molten aluminum into a mold, just ask her.


Of course, these posed shots don't capture their personalities very much ... so I have to add ...


Mother's Day isn't happy for everyone. Maybe you've lost your mom, and you miss her. Maybe your mom didn't have very good parenting skills (or any at all ... I can relate). But just remember that we all share a Goddess Mom who we can feel under our feet. She says bring Her some sweet tea, She's had a long day, and She's overheated.

Take care of your Mom!

Happy Mother's Day from Philadephia, where it's always sunny!