Friday, April 17, 2020

Succinctness and brevity are the guiding principles of today’s article. There will be no whimsical postulation on the nature of excessive revelry in a time of great crisis. This great crisis kept me plastered to work-related tasks yesterday until the evening. After a failed attempt at dinner I found myself putting pen to paper (or, more accurately, putting fingers to keyboard) at a late enough hour that I now just want to wrap it up and go to bed. Huzzah.

National High Five Day

It was a crisp October day (there I go again, making up weather details for dramatic effect two days in a row), when Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke, two Los Angeles Dodgers, slapped a celebratory high-five after Dusty had knocked his 30th home run out of the park on the last day of the season. Apparently Glenn, who was waiting to bat next, ran up to home plate with his arm up high as Dusty trotted in to get the score. Not knowing how to respond, he slapped the hand.

It was the slap that changed history.

That was 1977. Another legend has two University of Louisville Cardinals going in for a low five (a low-down slap had already been established as a thing), when they decided to flip it up top. Another story says it originated with women’s volleyball in the 60s. Magic Johnson claims he invented it in college in the 70s. So no one knows – except it seems to be a sports origin.

My plan for yesterday had been to give a high-five to every one of my coworkers. Naturally, that was not meant to be. So we settled for the next best thing and high-fived one another. Then the dogs entered the show. It wasn’t the high-five-fest we’d hoped for, but it would have to do.

National Orchid Day

There are roughly 28,000 different species of orchid on this planet, making it one of the top two most diverse families in the plant world. A few of the most hearty varieties will even grow north of the Arctic Circle. And they’ve been around forever, with an early species (now extinct) found encased in amber from 15-20 million years ago. Science-people with far more education than I figure orchids may have been around as much as 84 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous period.

Our hope had been to venture out to a greenhouse or at least a flower shop to scope out some orchids and maybe even bring one or two home. These are non-essential services though, so we had to settle for looking at pictures on the internet. It saddens us how many of our celebrations have been reduced to looking at pictures on the internet out of medical necessity.

Orchids, apart from being wildly gorgeous like the excessively happy one pictured above, have a number of practical uses. Perfume makers inject the scent into a number of beloved varieties. Vanilla is part of the massive orchid family, and its uses range from cooking to baking to aromatherapy to white rappers of the early 90s. There’s a Turkish hot drink called salep, whose name may or may not derive from the Arabic word for ‘fox testicles’. I’m not making that up. Anyhow, that beverage uses the ground up root of another species of orchid. There’s a place in the Indian Ocean called Reunion Island where they make rum using orchid leaves, likely the pinnacle of orchid application.

The orchid is a magnificent beast. I’m glad it had its day, even if we couldn’t see any in the flower-flesh.

National Wear Your Pajamas To Work Day

I haven’t changed out of pajamas in over a month, except to change into other pajamas. This has been one of the biggest perks of quarantine. Since my pajamas are really just sweats and a t-shirt I’m even wearing them out to the grocery store. Normally I would never be so slovenly – I am, after all, considered to be a beacon of high-fashion among my demographic of middle-age white Jewish government office-drones in Alberta. But I don’t care anymore – I want to see how long I can go in pure comfort.

Jodie didn’t have much work to do yesterday, but the work she did was taken care of in bed, enrobed in pajamas. Had things been in a state of normalcy we would have both worn our pajamas to work – my boss had already been warned – but alas, we may need to pull this one out next year. Comfort is always a blessing.

And, at least one month in, it doesn’t get old.

National Stress Awareness Day

Years ago, before the age of the online personality test and the rapid-fire ID-stealing Facebook quiz (“Find Out Which Ordinary People Character You Are According To Your Mother’s Maiden Name And The First 8 Digits Of Your SIN!”), I remember taking a stress test. You scored points for every stress you have encountered in the past year or two. Parents’ divorce? Your divorce? Lose a job? Even good stresses scored points. The higher your score the more stressed you were.

Well, right now we’re all humming along at a basic level of constant stress. This is a non-negotiable pact we have with everyday life for the moment. Some of us are struggling in ways that would have seemed unimaginable six months ago. Jodie and I are incredibly fortunate, still having jobs and even getting to work in our pajamas for a month and counting. But even then, there are moments of unanticipated psycho-seismic jolt that cause the ground to quiver. Our in-house life stress is remarkably low – or it was until Rosa was injured, though she’s doing better today. But we live amid the stress of the greater world. Escapes are temporary.

Managing one’s stress is a tough paddle right now, and neither of us are the right ones to be dispensing advice on how to do this. So the only advice we’ll offer is… figure out how to do this. The recipe for easing stress will vary from human to human. Find yours, and keep it close. The world will return to something we’ll one day call normal, and until then every day will be Stress Awareness Day.

Take care of yourselves out there.

National Health Care Decisions Day

Stay home. There – that’s the most important health care decision you will make all day.

This is a solemn day, hardly a celebration, during which we are supposed to discuss our planning for the worst-case scenario, the one with tubes, machines, and a potential plug to pull. It’s important to have these things in place, even if the act of discussing them or drawing up an official document to record them is unpleasant. Jodie and I have had this discussion already.

If you’re feeling like embracing the extremely grim today, here’s a quick link to some info on personal directives in Alberta. If you’re really not feeling up to it, that’s cool. Give your dog a high-five and try a more joyous celebration instead.

World Voice Day

This is, as the name suggests, a celebration of the human voice. It began in Brazil in 1999, with singing teachers, speech pathologists and doctors getting together for what I assume was a wild parade with dancing, music and elaborate costumes. I pretty much assume every celebration in Brazil is some permutation of Carnival.

There were over 100 events around the world planned for yesterday, including a workshop in Italy, a singing performance in Australia and a TV broadcast about voice problems in Azerbaijan. How many went ahead is a mystery – some webinars and online workshops undoubtedly made an effort, but this isn’t the year for grand celebrations. Huh. There’s some grotesque irony in that thought, but I’d rather not dig too deeply into it.

The voice is not something to be overlooked, especially if you need to use yours in any professional capacity. The voice changes and degrades over time, and it has to be cared for. Jodie consults with voice specialists every year when she’s ramping up to her musical, and she encourages her students who are wishing to devote their lives – even in a hobby capacity – to singing or theatre to hire a professional. Our daughter, whose finest singing performance used to involve belting out the word “YEAH” like rapper Lil Jon, worked for years with a voice trainer and now she can belt out a song like a freakin’ pro. Though really, I still prefer her Lil Jon impression.

Yesterday we celebrated the human voice by spending much of the day listening to one of the greatest vocalists of the past century, Mr. Robert Plant. Some of the twists and swooshes he pulled off in his younger days defy the laws of anatomy. And as he grew older and his voice could no longer rattle the tweeters with quite the same ferocity, he adapted his style and his music and allowed himself to grow with it.

As a great man once said… “YEAH!”

National Eggs Benedict Day

Well, fuck.

This was our brilliant master-plan for dinner, to utilize the leftover ham from yesterday’s feast to slide into a home-made eggs benedict – truly the pinnacle of brunchery. 25 years ago when I worked in the kitchen of a nothing-over-5-bucks diner, I prided myself on the hollandaise sauce I’d make from scratch. It was creamy and had a puckish little bite to it that drew raves from customers and staff alike. It was going to be a terrific breakfast-for-dinner treat.

Then I realized I hadn’t made that hollandaise recipe in 25 years. I found one I thought I could pull off, and ended up with watery, buttery garbage. I’m pretty sure I poured the melted butter in too quickly, and let the late hour of our cooking get the better of me. So we had sauceless eggs benny. It sucked.

Delmonico’s, the lower Manhattan restaurant that is the stuff of so much legend, claims to have invented eggs benedict in 1860. Alternately, a stock broker named Lemuel Benedict asserts that he went to the Waldorf Hotel back in 1894 and ordered the ingredients of the dish thrown together as a hopeful cure for his hangover. That sounds less likely, but it’s a better story so I’m going with it.

You can tweak your eggs benedict in so many ways – Eggs Omar uses steak, Eggs Florentine adds spinach, Eggs Chesapeake uses a crab cake. There was even something called Eggs Zenedict, which involved poached eggs on a toasted scone with peameal back bacon and a sundried tomato hollandaise sauce. You could only get that at restaurants in Zellers department stores in Canada, so I don’t know why I felt it deserved a mention.

This day did prompt us to long for a return to civilization and the glorious eggs benedict at Barb & Ernie’s Old Country Inn. We’ll be swinging in there on the first Saturday after the lock-down, and damn will we eat well. A lot better than we did last night.

A day that will hopefully not find us dragged through the muck of our jobs for too long, because we’ve got all this to enjoy:

  • National Cheeseball Day. I’d have liked one of those giant tubs of Utz processed cheeseballs to enjoy, but instead we’ll make one of the creamy kind you dip crackers into.
  • National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day. Ours isn’t too overflowing, but this is a good thing to do once a year.
  • National Haiku Poetry Day. I once wrote 1,000 words in haiku, so I can do this.
  • Thank An Herbalist Day. I probably won’t, since I don’t know any. It would be weird to find one online and send them a ‘thank you’ email, wouldn’t it?
  • Malbec World Day. Okay, this one we will do.
  • Blah Blah Blah Day. I’m sure we’ll find a wild way to celebrate this. Or at least talk about it.

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