Sunday, April 5, 2020

Every day we chase a purpose which eludes us like vapour, we target our goals upon treacherous pathways, and we lob a hunch or several toward what might let a little more sunshine into this new normal of weirdness. Friday we raged against the white noise of modern life by whipping up chocolate mousse. It worked, albeit temporarily (which is the pinnacle of success these days). Here’s how we fought the demons of stir-craziness yesterday:

National Walk Around Things Day

At this point I was not expecting to glean any deeper meaning from this celebration. As we learned yesterday from National Find A Rainbow Day, sometimes these things are not meant to be interpretational. Sometimes these weird celebrations are meant to be exactly what they are. I couldn’t find any definitive source for this day, and the sites I visited simply suggested walking around things to celebrate the day.

So we walked around things.

Rather than knock over the kitchen table when I was done lunch, I walked around it. Instead of kicking our sleeping Trixie on the kitchen floor, I walked around her. And where the option presented itself to step deep into the pile of turd that Liberty, our youngest canine research assistant, opted to leave in the middle of the driveway, I walked around it. This may have been the silliest, least-vivacious celebration of 2020 so far. And we had a day last week where we celebrated the pencil.

I don’t know what to say – this celebration will not live on as one of our finest. But we did what we had to. Sometimes that’s all we can ask.

National Hug A Newsperson Day

As expected, we were unable to complete the true aim of this day. We hugged one another, and often we learn significant news stories from each other when a headline appears to one of us first. But that’s a flimsy hook upon which to hang this celebration, so I’m going to say that doesn’t count.

This era is seeing the pool of valued newspeople drying up – or more accurately getting shuffled out of the spotlight. Our local newspapers are both owned by the same company – which also owns the two major newspapers in Calgary. That’s one corporate voice for two cities. They have trimmed their local newsroom to the size of a generous closet, and run mostly stories and features put out by the national company to all their media outlets. Our TV newspeople are still thriving, but their ratings have taken a hit.

Sure, we still have Gord Steinke delivering the 6:00 news on Global (I assume – we’re both among those who have fled TV news for the internet). I can’t hug the guy today, but I do appreciate his decades of service informing our town. We read a lot of New York Times articles, but it’s not like I can call up Charles Blow and invite him over for a warm embrace.

Instead I opted to reach out to one of the greatest newspeople of the last century, Mr. Dan Rather. Dan was the face of CBS News for 24 years. Since retiring, he has written books, made numerous TV appearances, and has become an outspoken voice against the corruption and division of the current state of federal American politics. A fresh news brand, News & Guts, which is admittedly biased to the left, but has not posted any inaccurate information from what I’ve seen, has been created by Dan’s hand – his 88-year-old hand – and he continues to lead with positivity and optimism, tempered with a realistic grasp on the events of the current age. I sent him a note and thanked him – that will have to do for a hug today. You can bet if we ever met him in person, we’d both slap a couple of hearty hugs on him.

National School Librarian Day

Every year on April 4, the world celebrates National School Librarian Day. The first and most obvious question is: why the fuck? This day should land on the first Friday of April, or better still (because that might be Good Friday sometimes), the first Wednesday. Celebrate it on a day when these hard working souls can be showered with gifts, praise, and the adulation they so definitely deserve.

The school librarian is not just the keeper and the cataloguer of novels and reference materials. They teach students how to study. How to read. How to understand the Dewey Decimal System, which is still absolutely a thing. For this coveted celebration – and in the wake of the devastating cuts our provincial government just delivered to our education system – I feel I should pay tribute to a school librarian that meant a lot to me. (I know, no politics, but the aforementioned cuts were simply fact, and they suck)

Mr. Gibson, about whom I have written before, was our school librarian, and in his final year before retirement he was my eighth grade Language Arts teacher. The man offered us little in the way of creativity or fun all year – it was almost completely about spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Yet he somehow delivered the most drab and dreary part of junior high English lessons in a way that made me fall in love with the language. He showed us how to find the poetry in regular prose, and how a properly-tweaked sentence can elevate a clump of words into a thing of beauty.

Also, he taught me the Dewey Decimal System, so thanks for that, Mr. Gibson. To all school librarians out there, whether or not you still have employment you are most likely sitting around home, wishing you could be back among the spines of literature and the clattering of curious minds inside young skulls. We thank you for what you do, and look forward to next year when you get to do it again. We hope.

Maybe not in Alberta.

National Vitamin C Day

As a kid, I downed 500mg of Vitamin C every day, along with my Flintstones chewable vitamin, which is no doubt why I am the picture of perfect health today, extensive dessert celebrations notwithstanding. Vitamin C, I was told by my father, was the greatest natural supplement on the planet. When the first inklings of a cold would hit, my dad would tell me to triple or quadruple my Vitamin C intake, as that would push the cold from my system in record time. Then he would insist I self-isolate for 14 days, and socially distance from him as much as possible. My dad was either ahead of his time, or kind of a dick to sick people.

Vitamin C is indeed tied to the immune system, and it’s a great antioxidant. It will not keep a cold at bay, but there may actually be some scientific grounds for claiming it will make a cold dissipate faster. Vitamin C is also the OG Vitamin. It was discovered in 1912 and was the first vitamin to be chemically produced for intake on its own, in 1933.

Without Vitamin C you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to scurvy, which is kind of bad-ass in a pirate sort of way, but ranks only slightly above having a peg-leg in terms of pirate awfulness. You’ll get spots on your skin, spongy gums, your hair will be all twisted and weird, your wounds won’t heal, you’ll be depressed, your teeth will fall out, and you’ll eventually die. Screw that – have an orange.

The Kakadu plum has the highest concentration of Vitamin C, a whopping 5,300 mg per 100g of fruit. By comparison, a guava only has 228mg, a serving of kale only 120mg, and an orange only 53mg. Unfortunately you won’t stumble across any Kakadu plums unless you’re wandering through the wilds of western Australia. Your best bet among fruits and vegetables in this part of the world is the guava I’m afraid. But Health Canada states we only need 90mg per day, so a couple of oranges will do the trick. I had a glass of delicious orange juice yesterday, and celebrated my health. Now if only they’d make Flintstones vitamins for grownups.

Bonza Bottler Day

Every month when the day number lines up with the month number, we enjoy a special bottle of something. Why? Because why not? It gives us the opportunity to try out numerous beverages throughout the year, and to tack on a repeating celebration that will last throughout the entire year.

Jodie was not particularly adventurous yesterday, opting for a bottle of Stewart’s Root Beer, which is precisely the same thing she drank last month. She knows what she likes and she sticks with it. I guess this is the secret to our long marriage, so I best not complain.

I went for a Longboat Chocolate Porter from Phillips Brewery out of Victoria, BC. I’ve had one of these before, years ago at the Next Act – back when venturing to a local bar for delicious burgers and unforgettable beers was a thing we humans could do. I was thrilled to sample it again – the chocolate really stands out and transforms this beer into a dessert all its own. It was dark and flavourful, and instantly transported me from my quarantined seclusion onto Willy Wonka’s river of delicious chocolate – only without all the dead and dying children and indentured slaves.

Looking forward to May 5, when we may perhaps savour our Bonza Bottles outside with other humans. If not – oh well. We’re getting pretty good at this.

National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day

This was the recipe we bastardized in order to come up with our own little version of chicken cordon bleu last night. It was fantastic, and incredibly easy to make. Jodie was dead set against using Swiss cheese however, and I am not a fan enough to have mounted any firm defense. Instead we used Havarti, known for being creamier than pretty much any other cheese, and with a delicate and less intrusive taste than Swiss. Maybe it’s not true cordon bleu. Maybe we don’t care – we wanted to celebrate the spirit of the dish, and this worked.

“Cordon bleu” translates from the French as “blue ribbon.” This is a highly-esteemed ribbon, even outside of the dog show circuit. According to the Larousse Gastronomique, which is an encyclopedia of French cuisine which no doubt every aspiring chef has to purchase and probably memorize at some point in their training, the blue ribbon reflects the ones worn by the highest order of French knights back in the day. This is champion chicken.

Chicken cordon bleu is not a dish that can be traced back to ancient roots in Brittany, or back to Gaul before the Roman Empire moved in and shook up the local address book. Brig, Switzerland is believed to be where a similar schnitzel dish was popular in the 1940s, and the first reference to “chicken cordon bleu” by the New York Times wasn’t until 1967. This is a dish of the atomic era, and it holds up well.

Pound some chicken flat, stuff it with ham and cheese, roll it up and top it with a tasty, creamy sauce. Simple as that. It was a great little dinner celebration.

International Pillow Fight Day

On March 22, 2008, the largest pillow fight in the world broke out. This is not something that was reported on widely, but you can be certain it will be studied in history books decades in the future. Over 25 cities around the globe took part, with more than 5,000 people swatting each other with cushions in a single battle in New York City. This was a pillow fight of truly Churchillian proportions.

Every year since, organizers have tried to duplicate the coordinated madness of this day, having moved the annual celebration to the first Saturday in April, because a massive pillow fight on a weekday would be silly. Naturally, like everything else fun in the world, the nation-spanning fight was cancelled this year. This left us to pick up the slack with a little in-house battle.

Just a helpful tip for those of you who want to dip into some crazy cushion warfare: if you have dogs, they will want to join in. Trixie, our eldest canine research assistant, stayed back and watched the quick battle unfold with trepidation. Trixie is scared of most things – including human sneezes – so this was not her scene. Rosa and Liberty did everything they could to join in, and in turn we did everything we could not to allow either of them to get caught in the crossfire. It was a fun way to spend a chunk of our isolation, and really the closest we’ve come to actually battling one another in the entire 3 weeks of our quarantine so far. Not bad.

International Carrot Day

Ah, the wonderful daucus carota. It shows up in purple, black, red, white and yellow, but it’s our orange friends we love best. We all know that eating carrots will improve your night vision and fill your gullet with vitamins K and B6, but did you know that the single ancestor of all the world’s domestic carrots can be traced back to Persia?

Over the centuries carrots have been bred to reduce bitterness and improve the taste. The first bounty that carrots provided were its leaves and seeds, which were devoured through Asia and up into Europe some 5,000 years ago. This still persists with a number of the carrot’s close relatives, like parsley, fennel, dill and cilantro. It wasn’t until the 1st century AD when the Romans recorded a fondness for a root vegetable, which was either the carrot or the parsnip. Having sampled both, I’m leaning toward the carrot.

The orange carrot we know and love today was actually crafted by the Dutch in the 1600s as a way to honour William of Orange and the Dutch flag. Before then, most of the carrots people ate were purple. Carrots have found their way into all sorts of modern culture, most notably as Bugs Bunny’s favourite oral fixation while he asks the local Doc what is up. Also, carrots have found their way into a number of urban legends. Like that thing about the Dutch creating orange ones for their flag? Yeah, that’s probably bullshit. They won’t help you see at night either – the British put out that little nugget of false propaganda during WWII in order to confuse their enemies into thinking they had superpowers.

What a weird little tangent this carrot research took me through. Whatever – it’s a great vegetable, a very modest source of Vitamin C (double celebration?), and we were happy to devour some carrots with dinner last night. Even if they didn’t help us see in the dark.

404 Day

Celebration not found.

Carry on.

Tell A Lie Day

Only three days after the day we are supposed to promote dishonesty for the purpose of ensnaring a friend or loved one in a prank, we find a day in which we are purportedly supposed to tell a falsehood. Why? Just for the sake of doing it.

No one knows who started this day. I’m thinking no one would be able to piece together specifically why. A day for lying? How does this benefit humankind, to have a day devoted to dishonesty? Celebrations that drag down our collective humanity are not the type we should be indulging in, however we are so presently mesmerized by how many celebrations we have packed into this pandemic-laced year so far, we simply couldn’t drop it.

So, we lied. I told that bit about carrots granting night vision. Jodie lied and told me I still look acceptable to leave the house despite my refusal to wear pants that aren’t sweatpants. We lied, then moved on to more positive, rewarding celebrations.

Today will find us facing the sunrise with integrity and honesty, and getting a little goofy with the following reasons to party:

  • National Caramel Day. The greatest sweet treat on the planet finally gets its due today.
  • National Deep Dish Pizza Day. While it’s unlikely we’ll be able to recreate the majesty of a true Chicago-style deep dish pizza, we will do our damnedest to try.
  • National Nebraska Day. Back on our cross-America food tour, we’ll be wetting our whistle with Nebraska’s greatest contribution to beverages: Kool-Aid.
  • National Read A Road Map Day. I love road maps. And I love reading. So today we’ll combine those two things.
  • Cold Food Festival. A lot of eating today, and not all of it will be hot food.
  • First Contact Day. In just 43 years we’ll watch as Dr. Zefram Cochrane first employs warp drive and initiates our first contact with the Vulcans. It’s a special pre-commemoration day.

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