Thursday, March 26, 2020

In the days prior to the horizon’s defeat, folks gathered and raised idols, donned face paint and engaged in pagan ritual. They celebrated the sun, the moon, the planet and whichever gods ascribed to them by geography and circumstance. This was their connection to community, their expression of basic humanity. This was the clanging of harmonious collective uplift, drawing life from the petals of potential. We honour those rites, those sacred touchstones in our own way, in part by committing ourselves to savouring the divine celebrations of our own time and culture. Such sacrosanct tradition as:

Manatee Appreciation Day

Ah, the beloved sea-cow. It floats along, a big ol’ lump of aquatic wonder, chowing down on plants and not bothering anyone. They seem to defy the laws of nature, appearing as slow-moving buffets for predators, yet somehow existing in abundance. What can we learn from these magnificent ocean-dwelling flesh-blobs?

First of all, they aren’t dumb. They are ranked up near dolphins on associative learning, task learning, and long-term memory. They spend half their day sleeping, and most of the other half grazing just below the surface. So you’ve got a brilliant beast who has dedicated their lives to eating their vegetables and taking it easy. Yeah, we can learn a lot from the manatee. Oh, and they can live up to 60 years. Keeping the stress down is a healthy thing. The oldest living manatee in captivity was a dude named Snooty (pictured above), who made it all the way to 69. Nice.

Manatees stick to where the weather suits their Lebowski-esque lifestyle choices. They mosey around the Caribbean, and can be found in the freshwater Amazon and in the rivers and estuaries of Northern Africa.

They have to watch out for crocs, and of course for humans who do terrible things to wild creatures. But one of their biggest threats is ships. When a ship hits a herring, no one but the herring is aware. When a ship crashes into a manatee, it can devastate both. Perhaps if we outfitted every wild manatee with some bright clothing that might help. I recommend the gaudy floral prints from Tommy Bahama in order to maintain their tropical, laid-back groove. Happy day, manatees!

National Tolkein Reading Day

I have confessed before – on January 3, National Tolkein Day, in fact – that I have never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, only The Hobbit. I have also only seen the first LotR film. It’s not really my groove – Jodie grew up enjoying fantasy literature, but it was never my favourite genre. The first thing I learned about this day is that March 25 was selected because it honours the fall of Sauron (spoiler!) in the third book. This surprised me, as I was not aware that Middle Earth made use of our calendar system.

This day was suggested by a columnist named Sean Kirst, and launched by the Tolkein Society back in 2003. This is a group of super-fans who have devoted themselves to studying and promoting Tolkein’s works. They are also a registered educational charity, because with great literature comes great responsibility, and it only makes sense for someone as grand as Tolkein to have his legacy attached to some do-goodery in the world.

We grabbed our copy of The Hobbit and enjoyed a couple of chapters. It really is a well-told tale, and the fact that he created such an elaborate (and profoundly influential) universe is truly astounding. Tolkein’s immersive world goes beyond the lore of Lucas or the personalities of the Marvel Universe. He created what we now call the fantasy genre, compiling mythical beasts and a perfectly-crafted hero’s journey. Or two.

Maryland Day

Once again we see a state receive two days in our little perpetual party. National Maryland Day, in which we will be sampling some Maryland cuisine and learning all about the history of the great Old Line State, shows up on August 24. This is the actual Maryland Day, the one when Marylandians celebrate the day in 1633 (or possibly ’34) when newcomers first put up a cross and claimed the land on behalf of the King of England.

The celebrations in the state looked interesting: walking tours of parks and cemeteries, events at the local museums and open spaces, and so on. Of course, everything has been cancelled this year because it seems that *everything* is being cancelled this year. That’s okay, Maryland will live to party in ’21.

The irony of this project is beginning to spread its morning light on my brain. We have committed to a 366-day party this year, while most actual parties and celebrations around the world are getting canceled. Does that make us the best party in town? Probably, and that’s a little sad. So we’ll simply fire off a sympathetic salute to Maryland, and trust that they’re partying in their own ways.

National Waffle Day

Dinner last night was supposed to be a glorious sounding dish called Lobster Newberg. I had a recipe bookmarked and everything. Alas, our ability to obtain lobster was cut off last weekend, either because panicked COVID-fearing hoarders felt they need to abscond with all the lobster meat from Sobey’s and Costco, or because the shipping lines have been messed with. Lobster is not always easy to come upon in local grocery stores at the best of times, but right now I guess it’s impossible.

So, we enjoyed some waffles. Last Wednesday we honoured National Oatmeal Nut Waffle Day and yesterday we got to dig into our regular waffle recipe, accompanied by some berries and some bacon (not pictured). Another breakfast-for-dinner situation, and another big win for the Celebrate366 team.

The humble waffle’s origin goes back to ancient Greece, when they’d cook flat cakes between two hot plates. Move forward to the 9th century, and you’ll find oublies, more similar in their construct to communion wafers, but pressed between plates with ornate carvings on them, often leaving biblical images on the resulting food. The early versions of the waffle irons we know now dropped sometime in the 13-1400s. Over time they became more sweetened and more popular.

The waffle, which Mitch Hedberg astutely pointed out were pancakes with syrup-traps, is one of the greatest breakfast foods on the planet. They can be adorned with sweet and/or savoury accompaniment – a local restaurant serves an amazing waffle with smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce. We enjoy the opportunity to truly celebrate and savour that which we already love. ‘Twas a great little day for a waffle.

National Little Red Wagon Day

The famous little red wagon we can all picture on our brain-screens is mass-produced by Radio Flyer. Uncoincidentally, Radio Flyer also came up with this celebration to honour their creation, first launched on the 100th anniversary of their wagon in 2016. Now on the last Wednesday of every March, we are meant to pay tribute to these toys of our youth. Well, not *our* youth per se – neither Jodie nor myself owned one of these – but we all knew someone who did.

Their Wikipedia page indicates that Antonio Pasin, founder of the company, started building his wagons in 1917, so either Wikipedia is off, or the company was racing to celebrate their 100th a little early. Whatever, we won’t judge.

Pasin’s gig was selling phonograph cabinets, and he started building wagons to transport his goods from client to client. Soon clients were more interested in the wagons themselves, and Pasin, a smart dude, switched his focus. In 1930 he named his most popular steel wagons after two topical celebrities: Marconi and Lindberg. “Radio Flyer” was about as hip a name in 1930 as if he’d called it the TikTok Influencer today.

The Radio Flyer managed to become the standard for little red wagons, and as recognizable a part of youth culture as Barbie or GI Joe. There’s a 12-foot high Radio Flyer that doubles as a playground slide in Spokane, and a 15,000-pound sculpture of one commissioned by the Radio Flyer company for their 80th anniversary. Or possibly their 79th, I don’t know. So to anyone who has owned one of these things, congrats – you owned a piece of genuine 20th century history.

Today is another manageable day, which is good because we’ll be busy again on the weekend. Busy and house-bound – always a good combo.

  • National Spinach Day. We’ll pop some Popeye steroids and enjoy a good salad.
  • National Nougat Day. Once again, Carol’s Sweets comes through with some tasty nougat chews.
  • Make Up Your Own Holiday Day. We’ve been looking forward to this one. New holidays will be crafted and submitted to Chase’s Calendar of Events. Next time someone does a silly project like this, they will celebrate our days.
  • Live Long And Prosper Day. Good advice to follow. Also, a great day for the season finale of Picard to drop.

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