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.