Monday, May 4, 2020

Yet another day in paradise. And by ‘paradise’ I mean in pajamas, trying to plow through another massive article whilst dogs chew upon one another’s leg parts at my feet. Also, another day in which we have a few weird celebrations to tend to, some great food awaiting our frantic mastication, and a bevy of things to celebrate just by writing about them. Where is all this free time people boast about? When do we finally crack that jigsaw puzzle? Perhaps after all this:

Colton’s Birthday

Yep, I’m hijacking this little experiment to raise a hearty toast to our beloved first child, who is celebrating the end of his 27th year on this planet today. I met Colton when he was two. He was a special kid – quiet and contemplative, and deeply inquisitive about the world around him. To most 20-year-olds – certainly to all my friends – the notion of dating a woman with a 2-year-old kid was unfathomable. But this was no normal kid. I connected with this dude right away, and it was clear we’d be a part of each other’s lives.

Raising Colton was daunting. He was a smart kid, and not in that way that most parents see their kids as smart because they don’t eat as many bugs as the neighbour kid. He was genuinely smart, with a sense of empathy that could rival that of someone ten times his age. We didn’t want to fuck this kid up. He expressed a passion for math, logic and reason, and when he was on the verge of graduating high school with a 90% average, it seemed as though architecture or engineering might be his future.

But alas, we’d fucked this kid up. We sent him to an arts-centered high school, and he emerged wanting to go to school to play the trumpet. He’d uncovered his artistic soul, and he felt with such depth the music he listened to and played, there was no way we could deny him the opportunity to follow his dream. The hardest part was watching him do that across the country in Toronto, a move he’d never reverse. Jazz trumpet morphed into a deep understanding of sound technology and auditory physics, and a lucrative career in theatres. Not only that but his intelligence, empathy and immeasurable wisdom has followed him into adulthood and made him one of the coolest, smartest and most excellent human beings we’ve known. Happy birthday, bud.

National Lumpy Rug Day

We have one fine rug in our house, and coincidentally it’s the one upon which my chair rests while I type these articles. This is one of two rooms in our house (not counting the basement) that used to have wall-to-wall carpeting, but after numerous dog-related urea mishaps, the carpet was yanked. We have yet to replace those carpets due to various chronic pain issues that prevent us from being laminate-flooring wizards, so an area rug will do for now.

Also by coincidence, the rug beneath me is quite new. You see, Liberty, our #3 canine research assistant, devoured a half-pound of butter from our kitchen counter a few days ago, which led to one of the most heinous-smelling vomit episodes either of us had known, and we used to have a bulldog who ate underwear. The butter puke meant that the rug had to go, and a replacement was laid down in its place. But what does that have to do with lumpy rug day?

It depends on how you look at it. There are two interpretations of this day (meaning whoever came up with it did a poor job of explaining it): one is that we should start our spring cleaning by tidying up or replacing our lumpy rugs. The other is that we contemplate the stuff we gloss over in our lives by “sweeping it under the rug.” One is literal, the other metaphorical. If we wish to take the literal interpretation, then we celebrated this heartily when we tossed out the butter-puke rug. Metaphorically, I suppose we swept that memory under the rug.

Either way, yesterday was not a day for spring cleaning. We’d already begun that process in our yard a week ago, and honestly yesterday was a day for relaxing. It seems odd to designate a day for relaxing at a time when we do so little outside the house, but that was how we felt. Lumpy rug and all.

National Garden Meditation Day

As mentioned yesterday, we don’t have an actual outdoor garden. That worked out well for us when World Naked Gardening Day might have put us in danger of an indecent exposure charge, and it worked well for us yesterday when our meditation would have occurred beneath a determined rainfall. So we meditated inside with our houseplants. It was great. The houseplants seemed to enjoy the company.

Meditation takes on several forms, with many practitioners claiming they know how to do it best. But there is no wrong way to meditate. If you want to sit and clear your mind, and just hang there for as long as you can until you either fall asleep or get bored, cool. If you download an app that features a gentle voice delivering soothing messages of how to feel the shut down of your extremities one at a time, go for it. No matter what, as long as your mind is allowed to slow down to a calm stretch, it’s a healthy way to spend your time.

I do take back one thing. There are probably many wrong ways to meditate. Whilst juggling, for example. Don’t do that.

We have been practicing Transcendental Meditation for years, welcomed into the world by our dear friend Rhonda. She’s one of those souls with whom you can speak for five minutes and feel the calmness of your mental waters soothing your every cell. I was first drawn to TM by the Beatles, whose journey into the mind sounded exotic and fascinating. It takes 20 minutes, twice a day, and it’s as great for the mind as a full-on workout is for the body, but with no painful after-effects if you’re out of shape. If you’re questioning the footing upon which your mind is standing during this crisis, meditation will help. So will juggling, I’m sure. You do you.

National Two Different Colored Shoes Day

Who would have guessed that such a bizarre celebration concept stems not from those two goofballs in Pennsylvania who gave us Wave All Your Fingers At Your Neighbors Day on February 7, but rather from a powerful social statement on racism? I would have, but then I cheated and read ahead.

Dr. Arlene Kaiser came up with this day for us to celebrate diversity in our culture by making a statement of individuality through unexpected footwear selection. It may get you some weird looks in public, but I suppose that’s the point. Stand out in a crowd in the same way people of colour used to stand out in a crowd? Well no, it’s not at all the same. But I can see what Arlene was getting at.

Unfortunately, her webpage is not a great source of information on this. Where some of the source pages we’ve visited contain outdated, pre-COVID information on previous years, hers merely states that due to current circumstances they won’t be promoting this event this year. There is nothing about previous years, and even the About section is blank. All we have to go on in the entry in Chase’s and the photo of children’s feet wearing different coloured shoes. I suppose this would be a good rudimentary way to introduce children to the notion of diversity and individualism.

Her heart is in the right place, but we can’t really discuss the day’s successes without the data to do so. We did our part – when we left the house today it was in varied footwear. Diversity is cool. Looking goofy is cool. Racism is totally L-7.

National Paranormal Day

Edmonton has its share of spooky, allegedly haunted locations. The Hotel MacDonald downtown has a couple of haunted rooms, and apparently the spectre of a horse who died in the foundation when it was being built can be spotted sometimes. The Firkins House at Fort Edmonton Park – an amusement park themed after our city’s beginnings – features a ventriloquist doll that appears in the cupboards. Apparently a bride hung herself in the Princess Theatre in the 1920s. An old volunteer firefighter haunts the Walterdale Theatre.

We decided to check out the Charles Camsell Hospital, which is listed as one of Alberta’s most haunted buildings. It used to be a Jesuit College and eventually became a tuberculosis sanitorium. It was also the site of some curious ‘experiments’ done on indigenous people for a spell. It was finally closed down in 1996 due to asbestos concerns. The place sat idle and decaying for years. Urban adventurers would sneak onto the property and sift through the wreckage. These are the folks who most loudly proclaim this to be a haunted locale. That said, they were illegally trespassing, watching for guards, and probably susceptible to allowing their imaginations to distort their perceptions.

The place doesn’t look very spooky anymore, especially since they’ve started turning it into condos. But we had another hospital get re-made into condos, that one right on Whyte Avenue, an important and busy street. And yes, there are stories of ghost sightings there too. It all comes down to whether or not you believe.

Personally, I don’t. While I embrace that there are metaphysical goings-on that we don’t understand, I don’t like the idea of a spirit hanging around this realm to get all spooky up in our faces. It seems like a dreary outlook on the afterlife to me. Jodie is a more vehement believer though. And we both enjoy the tingle of thrill upon hearing a ghost story that defies quick explanation. Perhaps this site is haunted. I hope, for the sake of its future residents, that the ghosts are more Casper and less Zuul.

National Raspberry Popover Day

When National Blueberry Popover Day rolled around on March 10, our team baker (hi, Mom!) opted not to prepare the elaborate dessert. She told us she’d have to make them on that specific day and we’d have to eat them as soon as they came out of the oven. This was a work day (back when those existed) and it was determined by all that we’d let this one pass. Instead we picked up some blueberry granola bars and called it a wash.

Well, now we’re back in popover territory, and once again we have opted to pass on following the elaborate recipe. “But you have so much more free time now!” I hear you cry. We don’t. My articles, as you may have noticed, have gotten considerably longer and more in depth, and we are both still working full-time jobs, albeit without the commute. So we compromised again with these delicious Pillsbury Raspberry Flaky Turnovers. Yet another entry into the dessert-fest that 2020 has become.

Actual popovers are made with an egg batter, and they swell up like a Yorkshire pudding, so they don’t last long after they come out of the oven. No one wants a leftover popover. But a leftover turnover? Hand ‘em over. Those will stack up finely along with the leftover cheesecake, doughnuts, cinnamon buns, cookies, jelly beans and truffles we have on our counter. 2020: the year of indulgence because there wasn’t much else to do. Happy popover day, everyone.

National Montana Day

I had the good fortune of visiting the Treasure State, a.k.a. Big Sky Country less than a month after I’d turned 21. It was a pilgrimage for five of us from Edmonton to Missoula to see Phish perform. I was struck by the state’s wild, curving highways which it seemed legal to cover at dangerous speeds. It was beautiful though. And buying beer at the convenience store was a trip.

Montana is the fourth-largest state in America, yet the third-least densely populated. You’ve got mountains in the west and a whole lotta fields in the rest of the state. You also have Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, so plenty to see. Montana joined the Union in 1889, part of a flurry of state formations that put to rest the lawless western frontier. And the state clearly never filled up, which has led to an impressive percentage of the state (35%) to be protected by federal and state agencies. Montana is all about conserving the beauty of the land that predates us.

Montana has played an interesting part in history. When WWI welcomed the Americans into the game, a population miscalculation led to around 40,000 Montanans, or 10% of its population, either signing up or getting drafted. The state suffered more casualties per capita than any other state during that war. A similar percentage joined up for WWII, but that was not due to a miscalculation – they just wanted to get out of the state and away from the Depression. Montana’s big game right now is tourism: in 2018 12.2 million non-residents visited the state. Only about 1.06 million actually live there. It’s one hell of a draw.

Famous Montanans include director David Lynch from Missoula, Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams from Kalispell, Pearl Jam bass player Jeff Ament from Havre, High Noonist Gary Cooper from Helena, denture-wearer Martha Raye from Butte, newsman Chet Huntley from Cardwell, and apparently Violet Beauregarde, who blueberried herself in Willy Wonka’s factory.

Montana cuisine is classic frontier cuisine, so for this day we indulged in a bison burger. Thankfully we didn’t have to make it ourselves (or *myself* – I’m the cook around here), as The Next Act, one of Edmonton’s greatest little restaurants and makers of the best burgers inside city limits, is doing curbside pickup now. We dined well beneath our own big sky last night, as thankfully they had a bison burger special. Which they called the Quarantina Turner Burger, because their resident Bob Belcher is probably thrilled to be back at work.

National Lemonade Day

So many options for celebrating this day, which should really pop up in one of the smouldering summer months. Do we buy some frozen instant stuff in a can? Make some shikanji, the ages-old Indian drink with lemon, ginger, salt, pepper and sugar? Listen to some Beyonce? Or just get some lemons and squeeze them the old fashioned way?

None of the above. We’ve heard folks talk about this new pink lemonade vodka, that folks we know have described as “delicious”, “dangerous” and “so-so”. With such words of praise how could we not give it a try? Besides, any beverage with “Barstool Sports” written on around the cap must be great, right?

Mixed with some soda water, this was a kick-ass lemonade beverage. Nothing like the earliest form of lemonade, which has been traced back to Egypt about a thousand years ago. They used dates and honey to sweeten the drink instead of sugar. In Paris lemonade sales were granted as a monopoly to the Compagnie de Limonadiers, who used to wander the streets with their carts, selling to the people. Over in this part of the world, lemonade was the first introduction to capitalism for many of us. My friend Nicole and I opened up a popcorn stand in our neighbourhood, but we’d have probably made more bank with lemonade. Everyone loves lemonade.

Apparently the brain behind pink lemonade, which is lemonade made with other fruit juices or flavours, was a guy named Henry E. “Sanchez” Allot. No idea why “Sanchez” shows up in quotations in his name, but this is the New York Times so who am I to argue? Anyhow, Henry dropped some red cinnamon candies into his lemonade by mistake, and allegedly that’s how pink lemonade came to be. Is this true? Who knows? I’m enjoying this vodka too much to care right now.

World Laughter Day

We’ve had Belly Laugh Day, Moment of Laughter Day and Let’s Laugh Day. Four laugh-based days already. Fortunately we laugh every day, so celebrating this is easy. If you wonder how or why, just check out the video of Rosa whining I posted a few days ago for Viral Video Day.

So what is laughter? Babies do it before they can speak; apart from their “pooping face” and crying, it’s their first means of communicating with their parents. All humans laugh, and one study suggests it may be genetic. There’s the example of the “giggle twins”, two twins who were separated at birth and didn’t reunite until 40 years later. Both ladies were raised by adoptive parents whom they described as humorless and dour, yet both of them emerged into adulthood with a powerful optimism, and the ability to laugh more than anyone else they knew. Their laughs, even their senses of humor, may have been inherited.

Laughter has been linked to healthy blood vessels, so it’s doing wonders for you physically as well as mentally. It reduces stress hormones. So if you’re feeling the weight of the world crashing around you, pop on some 30 Rock and chuckle a while. According to one study there are ten different kinds of laughter. Try to enjoy some of each:

  1. Etiquette laughter, when you don’t necessarily find something funny, but you want to be a part of the gang, or to be polite.
  2. Contagious laughter, when you don’t even know why you’re laughing, but everyone else is and it’s just so damn funny.
  3. Nervous laughter, like when you didn’t study for a test and know you’re screwed by question three.
  4. Belly laughter, like when you first saw John Belushi shoot mashed potatoes out of his mouth and you just couldn’t contain yourself.
  5. Silent laughter, when you’re in a college lecture and your friend beside you shows you a really funny meme and you are able to control yourself enough to have a belly laugh with no sound.
  6. Stress-relieving laughter, for when you’re about to get an injection and you say something stupid like, “I hope I don’t deflate” to the nurse just to get over your terror.
  7. Pigeon laughter, when you laugh without opening your mouth, producing a humming sound. No idea who does this or why.
  8. Snorting laughter, which is how I know I landed a great joke with Jodie.
  9. Canned laughter, which lulls us into a hypnotic state when we’re watching old sitcoms, or sitcoms that haven’t evolved to the one-camera format.
  10. Cruel laughter, when you laugh at someone else’s expense. If this is the one you do the most, you might be an asshole.

LOL.

And on to Monday, a day I have off and a day Jodie does not. Fortunately, that won’t change our travel plans one bit. And fuck me, it’ll be another 3000+ word day.

  • National Star Wars Day. All because of that little pun you’ll see in memes all over the place today. I’m sure we’ll find a way to celebrate with Disney+
  • National Weather Observers Day. We will learn how to use clouds to predict the weather in a very inaccurate way.
  • National Renewal Day. Did we abandon our New Year’s Resolutions? Maybe. Who remembers?
  • National Orange Juice Day. We will go wild and drink some OJ.
  • National Candied Orange Peel Day. I spent much of my Saturday night making these, and they look gross. Hopefully they don’t taste like they look.
  • Anti-Bullying Day. We won’t bully anyone. Jodie was going to do something with her kids for this, but that isn’t really an option.
  • Dave Brubeck Day. We will gladly listen to some more Brubeck.
  • World Give Day. Always a good thing to do.
  • Greenery Day. If the weather is decent, we will go for a walk in a place where greenery will eventually be, once spring hits its stride.
  • Cinco de Quatro. Any Arrested Development fans want to throw some sombreros into the bay?
  • International Respect for Chickens Day. We have so much respect for chickens. Doesn’t everyone?
  • Melanoma Monday. A good day to check out our body spots. If we have time.

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