Sunday, January 26, 2020

We tunneled upwards yesterday, through a cloud of freneticism, with wind gusts from this calendar’s obtrusive wagging finger propelling us onward. It was a day of manic ups and downs, with a bizarre sideways turn into a plateful of strange at the end. Without a doubt, one of the most memorable days thus far.

National Opposite Day

So many possibilities with a day such as this. Do we wear one another’s clothes? Wake up and say “good night” in a pithy twist with almost zero creativity? Walk backwards all day? Listen only to music we despise? Abandon the project entirely for the day, as a statement of the opposite of our original intentions?

Alas, we merely did the opposite of what Saturday is supposed to be: we motored through it without resting. We picked up groceries and went to Costco (we just enjoy standing in lines, I suppose). We picked up doughnuts, grabbed lunch, and stopped at a meat shop. We bounced from errand to errand around the city, finally arriving home with roughly 45 minutes to spare before starting dinner.

Then, I proceeded to do the very opposite of what I’ve done for the previous 24 days: I published no article. Turns out I’d saved the day’s article on my local drive at work instead of on the cloud, so I had nothing to edit and no time to re-pen the same sentiment. It was a crushing defeat, but in light of National Opposite Day, I suppose it can be interpreted as a win.

Chinese New Year

Welcome, all, to the year of the rat. We celebrated this a little early, heading on Friday night back to the Yang Ming buffet (see January 2), where patrons and staff were dolled up and prepping for a weekend of concentrated revelry. I am a renowned denier of Zodiac mythology, but in the spirit of this occasion I had a look at what a few different websites are telling us to expect this year. For the record, Jodie was born in the year of the Horse; I was born in the year of the Tiger.

I’m supposed to experience adventure and travel this year, according to the Calgary Herald. The former, sure. The latter, not likely – I’m chained to a calendar this calendar year. Jodie may experience surprises (how specific!) and must exercise patience – always good advice for a junior high teacher. CNN says I should take care of my emotions this year. I’m hoping my varied alcohol consumption thanks to this project will take care of that. Jodie will be facing some “large expenses” this year, so we’re definitely screwed. Reader’s Digest claims I’ll have a “rock star year”, and that I’ll enjoy great fortune in 2020 – hopefully that will offset Jodie’s large expenses. They say Jodie will have to rein in (ha! Get it?) her emotions, and that her sign is the most intelligent of all.

I’m at least smart enough not to dispute that.

The knotted rope above was a gift from my good friend and fellow beige-grey office drone, Bo. It’s a symbolic and beautiful symbol for a life of abundance. The gift carried my spirits into this weekend of madness, and may have been what kept me sane through yesterday’s chaos.

National Florida Day

So many wonderful exports from the Sunshine State, like orange juice, the witty repartee of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia, and the glorious news stories of idiots high on meth, nakedly patrolling the highway or biting local dogs. This is the first National State Day where Jodie and I have both spent extensive time in the state. Jodie has fond memories of Disney World, whereas I got to experience life in a Fort Lauderdale condo complex, surrounded by elderly Jews with complicated ailments. It’s a wonderful place!

The Florida Reef is the third-largest coral barrier reef on the planet. Florida is also the only spot in the United States where you can find turquoise water off the coast (often without floating trash, syringes and dead bodies!). Florida is the flattest state in the country, and if it were a country it would have the 16th largest economy on the planet, much of it consisting of tourism and spaceships. The state insect is the zebra longwing, a gorgeous butterfly that was thankfully chosen over the Florida mosquitos, which are vicious enough to bring down a Rancor. And the state pie?

That would be the key lime pie. We sampled one from De-De-O, the unofficial restaurant of this project thus far. They bring in their limes from the Florida Keys, which makes their pie more tart and puckish than you might find elsewhere. And this is what makes key lime such an irresistible pie: the sweet roasted coconut and the crumbly graham cracker crust do the heavy lifting for the sweetness, creating a spectrum of flavours in every bite. This was a glorious respite in our errand-packed afternoon.

A Room of One’s Own Day

In 1928 Virginia Woolf presented two lectures at the University of Cambridge, which led to a subsequent essay called A Room of One’s Own. The gist of these lectures was to establish the need for women to stop being seen as outsiders in the field of writing. She spoke of women needing (and deserving) access to education. She even dropped in a pitch for the normalization of lesbianism. It was a feminist mic-drop, and it absolutely deserves recognition in this storied sequence of celebratory gushing.

While Jodie has dedicated her professional life to uplifting her students, male, female or otherwise, into becoming feminists, I can at least take solace in having helped to raise two feminists to adulthood. Were this a school day, Jodie may have done something specific for the girls under her watch, but instead we took the meaning literally. She graded papers in one room, I struggled to write in another. A fun and easy way to commemorate, but to lose sight of where this celebration comes from would be a tragedy. Women’s rights have come a long way – some may say most of the way (others may not) – but there is no question the fight ain’t over.

And if you aren’t in the fight, you’re part of the problem.

From that sloppy bluntness we move to the sloppiest of celebrations today:

Robbie Burns Night

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,

How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?

How can ye chant, ye little birds,

And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!

Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,

That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:

Thou minds me o’ departed joys,

Departed never to return.

Last night we had some friends over and recited some poetry of the great scribe from Alloway. We also indulged in the tradition of the Burns Supper, which was first held in 1801 on the fifth anniversary of Burns’ death. Last night would have been his 261st birthday though, and it’s always better to celebrate someone’s life on their birthday, innit?

Burns had a way of dancing through language like water. The brogue and burr rises like froth in a vocal recitation of his poems, and even if the meaning is initially unclear (I believe the verse above is about birds and deep-fried wantons), the beauty of his verbiage elicits a sensational choreography for the tongue. It was an honour to raise glass upon glass of single-malt scotch to the man and the gifts he bestowed upon the planet. And to dine upon…

Haggis? Yes, Burns wrote Address to a Haggis, thus ensuring that a celebration of his legacy would involve various animal parts (I believe it was the first time I dined upon heart) crammed into a sheep’s stomach. Haggis has always been the go-to for a grotesque food reference (at least before Fear Factor showed up and upped the game). But I was disappointed by how disgusting it wasn’t. Its flavour was reminiscent of the chopped liver my mother used to make, but with a somewhat stronger (and more lingering) edge, and the strange chewiness of the steel-cut oats mixed into it.

More disappointing were the Neeps & Tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes) we had with it. I followed a great little recipe that incorporated shallots and sage, but there was nearly no flavour, it was watery, and enjoyed by absolutely no one. My friend Stew, who also shares an unexplored Scottish heritage, brought along some delicious Scotch eggs, and we had a few Scotch mints for dessert.

I was looking forward to this celebration, if only to conquer the spectre of haggis, and conquer it I did, finishing every bite on my plate. I consider it a tremendous victory, one that capped off a frantic day with glass after glass of delicious scotch. I think Robert Burns said it best, when he said:

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o’ fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware

That jaups in luggies;

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,

Gie her a haggis!

Gie her a haggis indeed. I, on the other hand, will skip the leftovers.

Things will stay quiet today, as we catch up either on work or napping, whichever feels more urgent.

  • National Irish Coffee Day. This was actually a celebration for yesterday, but the madness of the day (and the excessive dose of scotch at night) made it a better fit for a Sunday morning.
  • Australia Day. Australia has been through a lot lately. Seems the least I can do is pay tribute with a homemade Bloomin’ Onion.
  • National Green Juice Day. The only juice described by its colour… I mean, unless I’ve been mis-reading orange juice all these years. We’ll have one of these.
  • National Peanut Brittle Day. Homemade peanut brittle? Well, not from my home specifically, but this will be a great little treat.

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