Sunday, April 26, 2020

Yesterday my fingers strained with each typed letter, having already put in a week’s worth of work, then spending my Saturday ridding our back yard of a winter’s worth of feces. That’s 2.5 dogs’ droppings (Libby joined us in February) over 5.5 months of snow, minus what they deposited at daycare or on our walks. Coupled with the leaves and arbor detritus that gravity pulled down after our last big rake ‘n clean in the fall, it totalled ten large garbage bags from our back yard. Our yard isn’t that big. Those dogs just poop a lot. It left us little time or inclination, but we did celebrate all this:

National Hug A Plumber Day

I almost left this one off the list, but honestly we celebrated it as much as humanly possible. Actually inviting a plumber in – which we really need to do, since our water pressure has inexplicably deteriorated to the point where if a toilet is flushed no other taps will dispense water for 30-45 seconds – was not allowed. Hugging the relative stranger who might have shown up would have been way across the line.

So Jodie hugged me. I am the closest thing our household has to a plumber. I have replaced faucet screens. I have replaced the chains and rubber flap thingies in our toilets. I have poured drain-cleaner down our drains. Jodie has snaked up a bunch of her hair a few times, but I think I’m still ahead. Either way, we hugged each other and that would have to do.

An honest, capable plumber is a treasure. If you know one, do not take him or her for granted. Plumbers have been among the most valued professions for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire. The word ‘plumbum’ is Latin for ‘lead’, so plumbers were the folks who dealt with the lead drainpipes. Back in medieval times anyone who worked with lead was considered a plumber, even if they worked on rooftops or in manufacturing pipes. Actually the profession was known as being a ‘plumbarius’ which sounds more dramatic.

If you live with one, hug your plumbarius. They are worth far more than their weight in gold… or lead.

National Kiss of Hope Day

The purpose of this celebration is pretty clear: tell your loved ones you love them. I mean, I guess that can be difficult for some, but we don’t need to delve into all that – Jodie and I told both our kids we loved them yesterday. We also dug a little deeper and found a more profound meaning for this little chunk of our calendar.

The Kiss of Hope Foundation was founded by Bill Gobin in 2015, and it aims to help out families and individuals in need. We felt that this was a more important way to honour the day, especially given the weirdness of the world right now. I tracked down this page, which lists a bunch of COVID-friendly volunteer opportunities people can take part in. These include driving food to people who need it, grocery shopping for Meals On Wheels, knitting for people, baking for people, or even just reaching out to seniors who are probably going out of their minds with boredom. After all, few seniors are wanting to pass the time in quarantine by playing Grand Theft Auto V or surfing Pornhub all day.

We flagged a few of these for the upcoming weeks. We don’t have quite the free time most folks do right now, given that we’re both still working full time, but we have the resources and the ability to help some folks out. Also, getting out of the house and doing some good might make this lockdown a bit more tolerable. Who else is in?

National Sense of Smell Day

The Sense of Smell Institute, a subsidiary of the Fragrance Foundation, created this holiday. For some reason I keep re-reading that sentence and it just sounds stranger and stranger. But I didn’t make any of it up. The Fragrance Foundation features professional development programs for up-and-comers in the perfume industry. They spread information and awareness about how the industry works, and through a channel that may or may not exist anymore (their site appears to be 404’ed), they created this day.

The aim is to appreciate one’s sense of smell, and to smell stuff that inspires the olfactory in some way. We did a lot of smelling yesterday – as I mentioned, we cleared roughly 30-35 tons of poop from our backyard so there was that. But we also indulged in some great scents.

First there were the doughnuts. We made our Saturday excursion to Destination Doughnuts (an absolutely essential local service) and grabbed a couple for last night’s Saturday Night Live broadcast. Then we went for lattes at Credo – there is almost nothing on the planet with a more intoxicatingly perfect smell than coffee. After that it was a voyage over the river to Da-De-O, our favourite hangout in the city, now open for pickup. We grabbed a couple of po’boys (one pictured above), and the smell of our impending lunch haunted the inside of our vehicle as we cruised through a car wash.

In the evening great smells were also on the menu. I made a tasty dinner of hoisin pork meatballs. We stuffed our noses in some freshly-laundered linen. I downed a growler of Da-De-O’s signature chili-spice lager, brewed by the brilliant local brewsmiths at Alley Kat Brewing. We ate our magnificent doughnuts. I enjoyed a bowl full of Pink and Black Kush. Everything produced an enticing odour, and each of those odours was appreciated.

Especially the doughnuts.

Independent Bookstore Day

That little slice of magnificence, tucked into one of Edmonton’s oldest heritage buildings, is our greatest local bookstore. There used to be two titans of this industry, Audrey’s and Greenwood’s. Unfortunately we lost the latter many years back, but Audrey’s still stands up to the national chains, to the simplicity of online amazonery, and continues to purvey its books in a setting so charming and cozy you’d almost expect Meg Ryan to emerge as the owner.

Upon diving into this portion of the article I see that, according to the official website, Independent Bookstore Day has been postponed to August 29. This is so that the day doesn’t get left behind in COVID fever, which I get. I’ll flag the day in August, and maybe we can celebrate it twice. But Audrey’s is still doing curb-side pick-up, and they will even deliver free within the city for orders over $50.

Neither Jodie nor myself are in need of new books at the moment (she’s big into audio books, and I’ve got a stack of paper ones here that I need to get through), but Audrey’s also sells some gorgeous jigsaw puzzles. Given that we are middle-age, empty-nester homebodies, we obviously enjoy building jigsaw puzzles. So we flagged a couple to pick up on payday next week. Amazon doesn’t need our help. Chapters/Indigo doesn’t need our help. The indie stores, they’re the ones who deserve our support. I don’t like speaking in hashtags, but dammit, #shoplocal.

International Dance Day

Perhaps we should have observed this day prior to undertaking the massive yard project. By 4:30 yesterday we were both taking inventory of the parts of our bodies that didn’t hurt, because that took less time. We both aimed for maximum horizontality after all that work, as much as could be found when we still had to walk dogs, cook dinner, and somehow dance.

We had hoped to take a dance class, or do something outside our comfort zone for this day. This is another UNESCO holiday, created in 1982 to encourage everyone to get their groove on around the planet. There are usually events, festivals, and possibly even those dance-offs like they had back in the 1950s, resulting in bobby-soxers and lettermen-sweater guys passing out from exhaustion. It doesn’t matter – none of that went down this year.

Every year there is a host city chosen for this day. From what I can see on the day’s official site, there was nothing put together at all for this year. No announcement of cancellation, no indication of which city was supposed to host 2020’s events, just a lot of generic info about the organization, about the day, and about previous years’ activities. Oh well, we can dance if we want to. We can leave our friends behind. Because our friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well…

I didn’t get sidetracked down that little road without hats by accident. Last night whilst enjoying my Pink ‘n Black Kush in the garage I did a little jig to the tunes of the Saturday Night Safety Dance show on SiriusXM’s First Wave station. It’s a nightclub-style dance-mix of 80s tunes, and it most certainly included the titular “Safety Dance” from 1982, as well as a lengthy remix of Madness’s “Our House”. It was as much as I could move after over-doing it with the yard work. Perhaps we’ll have more in us on September 19 for National Dance Day. Boogie on.

Bob Wills Day

This day, which is usually spread over a three-day period in Turkey, Texas, has also been bumped to later this year. But since our celebration of this day will essentially be our learning about this day, we’ll just do it now. A trip to Turkey, Texas isn’t any more likely to be in our cards in October than it is now. So who the hell is Bob Wills?

Bob was a master of western swing music. Merle Haggard said he was the best damn fiddle player in the world. Anyone you might love from what we call vintage country (from the era that overlapped with the early era of classic rock) looked up to Bob. Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, etc. These artists kept Bob’s music alive with tributes and by singing his praises. Even Fats Domino built his rhythm section based on Bob’s.

The guy had stage presence. He charmed the crowd. He stretched the borders of the music genre he was helping to create by working with folks like Bessie Smith and Emmett Miller. He added a trumpet and even a saxophone to his band, and brought in some drums to round everything out. Back in the 30s, as Bob was carving out the landscape, this just wasn’t being done in this style. He and his band, the Texas Playboys, also had a film career, years before Sinatra or Elvis would cross that threshold.

When he showed up to play the Grand Ole Opry in 1944, the Opry refused to allow his drummer on the stage. Drums (and horns!) were not considered appropriate for country music. A battle ensued, leading to a compromise that would place Bob’s drummer behind a curtain for the performance. At the last minute, Bob moved the drums in front of the curtain and made his stand. What could the Opry do? He was a star.

The great strides in country music have been fewer and further between than in rock music, as a basic form is still generally at the heart of the genre. But Bob Wills was the Hendrix and Beatles of his time, spewing out hits, and writing, arranging and performing in ways no one else had thought of. With Bob’s birthday in March, I have no idea why this day is celebrated at the end of April. But no time is a bad time for a 3-day celebration of a great artist’s work.

International Marconi Day

Guglielmo (pronounced Googly-Elmo) Marconi turned 146 yesterday. If you aren’t familiar with the name, you should be.

Gugli (as I call him for short) was working on developing a wireless telegraph system back in the 1890s. He tried using light, using electric conduction, even using electromagnetic induction, whatever that is. Then along came Heinrich Hertz and his ‘Hertzian’ waves, better known now as radio waves. By the summer of 1895 he was able to project his radio signals over a half mile, and he believed that was the extent of the technology. Then he started raising up his antenna and grounding his transmitter and receiver. Suddenly he was broadcasting over hills, up to two miles away.

By 1902 Gugli was working aboard ships, recording how well he could hear Morse code signals being broadcast from shore as he got further away. He noticed the signals travelled further at night than during the day. At this point the technology was pushing broadcasts over 1500 miles across open water. In December of that year a transmission from his station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, became the first to cross the Atlantic.

A couple of Marconi’s employees, along with some of his equipment, were aboard the Titanic on its doomed voyage. It was that radio that was able to signal for help; it could safely be argued that every person whose life was saved that night owes it all to our buddy Gugli. He gave us all radio, an invention that has changed the world more than most any other over the last century. And most of it he did in his 20s. Pretty damn impressive.

Happy birthday, Gugli.

National Telephone Day

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared May 12 to be National Telephone Day, and I can’t for the life of me find where or why it was bumped back to April. I looked over the history of the telephone and did find one notable occurrence on an April 25: in 1935 the world saw the first phone call around the world, using wire and radio. I guess that ties us in with Marconi, which is kind of convenient, but that’s probably not it. It will remain a mystery.

In our lifetimes we have seen the phone elevated from clunky wired tech to our new pocket everything. We both grew up with phones bolted to the wall, trailing long coiled cords around corners and across rooms. We marvelled when cordless phones became a thing, walking to the edges of our yards to experience the freedom of no longer being tethered to the wall. Then came caller ID, which was magical. Then call-waiting, which was an exercise in rudeness.

When I worked at Radio Shack in the 90s (shortly after my stint as a submarine captain, as we learned two weeks back), I sold cellular phones. The Motorola flip-phone was the pinnacle of the tech back then. We could not have imagined that in just one decade we’d all be using our phones to replace our cameras, our daily organizers (not that I had one), our video game systems, our PCs, our music systems, our TVs, our encyclopedia sets, etc, etc. We celebrated National Telephone Day yesterday by using our phones (how could we ever not?), and by appreciating just how awesome they are. Happy phone day, everyone.

Can Sunday possibly exceed Saturday? No, I had a lot of great beer yesterday. But we’ve still got all this:

  • National Audubon Day. We’ll go check out some birds once more. No joining a seasoned bird-watcher though. We’re on our own.
  • National Help A Horse Day. We were going to visit horses, but alas that won’t be in the cards. I was hoping we could help one by brushing its hair or rotating its hooves or something.
  • National Pretzel Day. Pretzels!
  • Hug An Australian Day. Lots of hugging days this weekend, which does not align with current COVID restrictions. So virtual hugs to our Aussie friends.
  • National South Dakota Day. Apparently something called lamb chislic is a South Dakota thing. It’s meat on a stick, so we are up for trying it.
  • Alien Day. Not a day for contemplating extra-terrestrials, but literally a day for the movie Alien. If we can find it, we’ll watch it.
  • National Static Cling Day. It’s laundry day, so we will acknowledge static cling and attempt to avoid it.
  • World Pinhole Photography Day. Always good to learn a little about an artform we don’t know very well.

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