Saturday, May 16, 2020

As our city pries open its doors from an extensive lock-down we keep ours bolted shut, so to speak. We both need haircuts but are willing to wait. We both want the restaurant experience but we’re sticking with pick-up and delivery. We both want the normalcy of walking side by side with other humans in public, but we’re continuing our plans to weave into the street when strangers approach as we walk our dogs. This re-open only works if those who don’t need to go out and mingle don’t go out and mingle. Besides, we have all this fun to keep us distracted:

National Pizza Party Day

Is there anything more fun than a pizza party?

I mean, probably, but in our current swash of interconnected days on perpetual repeat since March, a pizza party definitely made last night a stand-out. Not that we leaned heavily on the party aspect; there were no guests and no paper hats were donned. But our trio of canine research assistants make every day a party, in particular when Liberty and Rosa get their energy up and proceed to leap all over one another whilst making odd noises. Which they did for every moment of our pizza party when they weren’t begging for food scraps.

So sure, it was a party. And thanks to Tony’s Pizza Palace, makers of the finest pies this side of the city limits, it was a true pizza party. National Pizza Day rolled by on February 9, and we also enjoyed a Deep Dish Pizza on April 5, but we will never complain about having too much pizza. We’ve also got Cheese Pizza Day and Pepperoni Pizza Day showing up in September. Pizza is the perfect food. It was a perfect party.

National Chocolate Chip Day

The mighty chip: a glob of goodness that holds in its being so much potential. Be it in cookies, in banana breads, in croissants, in muffins, or in anything else that stands a chance of being enhanced by a dollop of cocoa, the chip reigns supreme.

It all traces back to an astoundingly awesome woman named Ruth Graves Wakefield. Ruth was a chef, a dietician, and the owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. She also cooked all the meals served at the inn, and became fairly well-known for putting on a great spread. Some time around 1938 Ruth took a semi-sweet Nestle chocolate bar, cut it into chunks and invented the first ever chocolate chip cookie. I’ve no doubt when Ruth bit into that first sample, still warm from its time in the oven, she knew history had entered a new era.

The cookie was a huge hit, but it exploded in popularity overseas before it took over America. The reason? US military personnel, stationed abroad for WWII, fell in love with them. Ruth was soon inundated with requests for care packages, and more local requests for the recipe. This ballooned into a nation-wide trend and a huge boost in sales for Nestle’s bars. Ruth and Nestle came to an agreement: they would hold the rights to print her recipe wherever they wanted, in exchange for one dollar and a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. Ruth didn’t get rich off this, but her guests were well fed. And because of Ruth, Nestle started selling their chocolate in chip format, printing her recipe on every package up to this day.

Sadly, the Toll House Inn burned down on New Year’s Eve in 1984, and all that’s left are a commemorative plaque and a heap of delicious memories.

We enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies today, in particular from a batch Jodie had made with cannabis butter. Because a chocolate chip cookie is awesome, but one you’re still enjoying hours later is even better. Thanks Ruth!

National Nylon Stocking Day

Once upon a time, stockings served the sole purpose of keeping ladies’ legs warm beneath their dresses. Sure, they could have worn pants but back then doing so would have identified them as an obvious witch, and they’d have been burned for it. Then the 1920s happened. Hemlines got shorter, and women wore flesh-colored (well, white lady flesh-colored, let’s be honest here) silk stockings. They were great, but expensive.

Then along came DuPont, the same company that gave us Styrofoam, weird 70s Lucite furniture, and as we celebrated on April 6, Teflon. In 1939 DuPont came up with nylon, a synthetic fabric that made stockings much more affordable, and presumably less comfortable? I honestly don’t know. I know that there was a huge demand for them right away (like, as many as four million pairs sold in a single day), which was poor timing because the stuff was impossible to get during the war. Then came the riots.

After the war, when DuPont had shifted from making war materials back to making nylon stockings, the nation lost its collective mind. On that first day they hit the shelves, 40,000 women lined up in Pittsburgh for the 13,000 available pairs of stockings. This was worse than Cabbage Patch dolls, Tickle-Me-Elmo and the Nintendo Wii all rolled into one cruel Black Friday. There was violence and bloodshed, and some suspected DuPont may have been shorting production on purpose just to create a fever. We’ll never know.

Given our steadfast commitment to sweatpants and pajamas during our lockdown, wearing stockings for a night out seemed excessive. But Jodie considered trying on a pair, shrugged her shoulders then quickly slipped back into pajamas. The nylon stockings get our salute though, as they were officially released to the public exactly 80 years ago yesterday. Nowadays we can brawl over toilet paper, but back then it was all about the legs.

NASCAR Day

The National Association for Stock Car Racing, better known as NASC(a)R, has been around since 1948. I know, this sport is seen by many as the ultimate fusion of skills between man (or woman) and machine, and watching those cars loop around the same oval 500 times is nothing short of absolute drama. Tragically, I am not one of those people. I’m not a car guy in any sense, nor can I be drawn to the taut edge of my seat by the subtle skill of watching a bunch of drivers scoot around in a tight pack. I understand the inherent danger, and I have no doubt being in one of those cars whilst racing at top speed mere inches from other vehicles is intense. It just isn’t great television.

So let’s learn a little bit about this sport. Unfortunately the races for 2020 remain cancelled due to the… oh wait, I should amend that. Turns out, being a good ol’ Florida institution, NASCAR is opening up its first race this Sunday at Darlington Raceway. Fans will only be invited to watch on TV though. At least the beer will be cheaper.

Stock car racing in America started in a notoriously bad-ass fashion, with bootleggers building small, fast cars to evade police during Prohibition. After 1933 they kept up the tradition, running moonshine to customers while still having to avoid the cops, since moonshine remained illegal. It took mechanic Bradley France moving to Daytona Beach and realizing people will enjoy watching these races for fun for NASCAR to be invented. His son, Jim France, is the CEO today, so really NASCAR is a family company.

George Carlin once remarked that the only reason people like watching car racing on TV is to see the accidents, and for many he has a point. Jodie and I have tried; her stepfather is a massive NASCAR fan, and I put in a few efforts trying to watch with him. Sure enough, the crashes were spectacular, albeit with a twinge of guilt. The work of the pit crews was more fascinating to me, which begs the question: would it be an entertaining sport to watch teams race against one another to do auto repairs? Someone should get on this.

Shades Day

We venture overseas to the UK for this one. With the UN’s International Day of the Family creeping closer, this is a fundraiser for the Family Holiday Association. From what I can tell, this is a charity that raises money for families in need, and their gimmick for May 15 is for people to wear sunglasses and tag themselves in social media. Which we did.

If you live in the UK you can also text SHADESDAY to 70331 and you’ll donate three pounds. That won’t work in our part of the world, and if it did I’m sure the exchange plus some weird telecommunications donation export levy would jack the donation up to $50 or $60 Canadian. Still, it’s good to raise awareness and donate if you can – I have a feeling every charity on the planet is going to see a surge in people needing to make use of their generosity during this weird and twisted year.

So happy shades day to all. And a shout-out to the earliest versions of sunglasses, which include walrus ivory glasses with little slits cut in them, used by the Inuit peoples, and 12th century China’s invention of smoky quartz shades. Without them we might never have landed at the inherent coolness of the Ray-ban Wayfarers.

Straw Hat Day

Why on earth would the simple straw hat get its own day? I have no earthly idea, but I celebrated it by wearing my straw hat. It was somewhat shy of glorious, but it temporarily hid my ballooning shag from the world (which yesterday meant my wife and dogs) so there’s that. I’m more interested in a search result that tweaked my attention: the Straw Hat Riot of 1922. I mean, we’ve discussed one riot already today, let’s look at another.

In the early part of the last century, when weird traditions and date-anchored obligations still drove our culture, it was unseemly for a man to be seen wearing a straw boater hat after September 15. If your friend (not a stranger) was wearing one past this date, you were fully allowed to smash it. They called it hat bashing. It was weird.

Cut to September 13, 1922, two days before hat bashing was acceptable. A group of teens set out from Mulberry Bend neighbourhood of Manhattan – now technically Chinatown but back then it was close to the notorious Five Points area. They grabbed hats off of factory workers’ heads and stomped on them. Then they went down to the docks. Dock workers are not known for being particularly jovial when someone pulls off their hat and destroys it, so fists started flying. Eventually the Manhattan Bridge had to be closed down due to the massive brawl. The next day it got worse – teens headed out armed with weapons, like boards with nails sticking through them. Hats were destroyed and anyone who protested got a beating. It was quite possibly the most idiotic reason to get arrested in the entire 1920s.

So to those who are ready to pop their straw hats on for the summer, be warned: some foolish schmuck kids may jump the deadline and try to smash your hat early. We all know how kids are in tune with fads of the 1920s, right?

Relive Your Past By Listening To The First Music You Ever Bought No Matter What No Excuses Day

This is a tough celebration to fit onto a lapel pin. A cake for the occasion is out of the question. Alas, here we are.

The first music we ever bought… not received as a gift but actually bought ourselves… this one hurt our brains a little. I’m pretty sure the first piece of music I bought was the 12” extended mix of Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F”. Unfortunately I no longer own that record, nor do I possess a record player upon which to play it if I did. And Spotify features only the original version from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. There is a ‘club mix’ by something called “Crazy Frog”, but it’s awful. I mean awful on an epic scale. So that was a big pass from me.

Jodie’s first bought record was the greatest hits of Three Dog Night, so that rocked our world for the afternoon. Joy to you and me.

Another stupid-crazy Saturday, much of which we will be unable to enjoy.

  • Honor Our LGBT Elders Day. A good tribute, and particularly poignant since we won’t have Pride this year to celebrate them.
  • National Barbecue Day. We own a barbecue now. Steaks will be for dinner.
  • National Do Something Good For Your Neighbours Day. What can we do? Maybe a gift of fudge is in order.
  • National Love A Tree Day. We will each pick our favourite tree in the neighborhood and pay tribute to it.
  • National Piercing Day. I had planned a piercing, but have no desire to do it at home. We might postpone this one.
  • National Sea Monkeys Day. We should buy some sea monkeys!
  • National Coquilles St. Jacques Day. We may have to postpone this one too. It’s BBQ day and that’s more important.
  • National Learn to Swim Day. Full confession: I never learned to swim. I learned to sink, but that’s about it. No pools are open, unfortunately.
  • National Mimosa Day. Now we’re talking.
  • National Wear Purple For Peace Day. Did I already wear my purple shirt and dirty it up this week? I sure did. Dammit.
  • World Whisky Day. We had International Whiskey Day on March 27 – could this be an error? Better drink some whisky, just to be safe.

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