Sunday, May 17, 2020

If ever an unmotivated day had crawled out of the unseemly crag of 2020 woodwork, yesterday was it. The menu of celebrations stretched longer than Manute Bol’s arm, yet after setting up my hammock and testing its capabilities for upwards of an hour under a toasty sun, I feel more inclined to nap than write. That lengthy list sneers at me from the calendar beside my desk, but sometimes one’s mental health must supersede a ludicrous writing project. Some celebrations had to stay on the hook. But we were busy enough with these:

National Barbecue Day

Living in what we quaintly refer to as the Arctic tundra, we have found it within ourselves to barbecue all year round, even in the depths of winter. A pan-fried steak can be spectacular, though it’s a lot more work to make it so. A pan-fried burger is tolerable, but can’t compare to the magic the grill bestows upon the meat. One of our favourite recipes, a white-barbecue-sauce-laden Finger Lakes chicken dish, falls to crap if you prepare it any other way.

And we have lived without this glorious device for over a year. Our last barbecue gave way to rust and decay. And so we travelled through the summer of 2019 cooking only indoors. But yesterday that all changed as we set up our brand new grill and broke it in with the greatest food one can prepare upon a grill: some tenderloin steak. Between last night’s dinner and the pizza party on Friday, we can wrap this project up as an absolute success right now as far as I’m concerned.

The word ‘barbecue’ comes to English via the term ‘barbacoa’ from Haiti, referring to a framework of sticks set upon posts. Barbecuing customs range from digging a hole, dumping a lamb upon it and setting it ablaze to cooking food indirectly with smoke. It all traces back to our first methods of cooking, and it delivers a flavour unlike anything else. We will be making great use of this little grill for the remainder of the summer, and for the number of grill-related celebrations that await us. And yes, there are several. Thank goodness.

Oh, and Liberty, our youngest yet tallest canine, also enjoyed the celebration. Prior to the meat’s journey to the grill, she hopped up to check out what was on the counter and snagged herself half of one of the steaks. The jerk.

Honor Our LGBT Elders Day

In the beginning, it was natural. Then it became a sin. Then it was a Sin with a capital ‘S’. In many places – like, almost all the places – it became a crime. Then about 50 years ago, beginning on a little street in Greenwich Village, a movement began. The western world unhinged its jaw and set forth a reckoning. The number of people who lost their lives through violence, neglect, and the low motivation to cure a disease because it was ravaging “that” community, is one of recent history’s greatest tragedies.

But for all those lost, many of those pioneers stuck around. And when they could or would no longer hide themselves, the rest of society had to bend. It took until 1977 for a gay man to be a regular character on network television, and even then many of the avenues they took with that character would be offensive by today’s evolved standards. But the arts kept pushing the message, and gradually that message morphed from ‘tolerance’ to ‘acceptance’ to complete integration. Really, too gradually.

Yesterday was a day to pay tribute to those who carved that rocky path, those who crumbled the façade of shame and secrecy and created a better world. We know a few of these folks, who have been on the front lines through decades of collective societal idiocy and derision. And now that we find ourselves in a world wherein the youngest generation is growing up to be the most accepting, welcoming batch of humans on the planet, it’s easy to sometimes forget just how much ground there remains to be covered. Not just for legal equality, but for a complete societal acceptance of the return to ‘natural’.

Thank you to everyone who brought us this far.

National Do Something Good For Your Neighbour Day

A big ol’ congrats to a man from Buffalo, NY named Starr Valentino. Not only does this guy have a deeply awesome name, but he’s the guy who came up with this particular celebration. He has been spreading the word about it since 2009, and has received official proclamations in everywhere from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta. It’s a day for kindness and patience, and this year it pops in just as our neighbourhood crawled from their homes to kick off the long weekend.

We have a pretty decent batch of neighbours around us. Even the ones with whom we have quarreled we get along with now. Yesterday a package of goodies, including nutty chocolate fudge and some rock-looking jelly beans, was delivered next door. But what’s more, we witnessed a greater sense of community and camaraderie on our block than we’d seen before – and we’re quite sure no one else knew about this day. We’re pretty certain none of our neighbours are following our project.

This day deserves more attention. Of all the days that actually make it to official calendars, too many are either religious, honouring dead people, or are worthy of only a semi-passionate salute (looking at you, Arbor Day). We may be plagued by division and differences for most of the year, but something like this is great for refreshing our perspective. Thank you, Starr Valentino, for creating some brilliance and spreading it around.

National Love A Tree Day

Here I am ragging on Arbor Day, and its oft-neglected twin shows up to make me feel guilty about it. Oft-neglected because it’s just one of several tree-loving days that show up throughout the year. But hey, we’re always happy to play along, even if it’s a summer repeat. So we took some time to pay attention to trees.

Last time we paid attention to trees it was Arbor Day last month, and we took a pic of the little pine tree that nudged its way out of the soil a couple years ago in our front yard. Yesterday we stretched our tree-loving arms a little wider, heading off into the neighbourhood in search of some greater beasts. Next door we used to have a magnificent tree that stretched high above every other on our block, and who shifted into autumn hues after all the others, thus signalling that winter was indeed upon us. Then that neighbour chopped down that glorious tree in order to make way for more inflatable Christmas decorations, of which he displays upwards of 50 or 60 every season. We weren’t happy about it, but what could we do?

Select a different neighbour to receive our fudge ‘n candy gift for the celebration above, that’s what.

So we took our canine research assistants out for their evening sojourn, and along the way we each picked out a few magnificent specimens of photosynthesis magic to appreciate. It was a fine welcome back to that precious little window of life and nature here in the tundra. Thank goodness for spring.

National Sea Monkeys Day

We’ve all been there. Scrolling through our favourite comic book as a kid, following the goings-on of the characters we love, acknowledging the obligatory ad depicting Charles Atlas helping out some geek who got sand kicked in his face to come back to the beach, beat up the bully, and win over the girl who was ready to ditch him as soon as someone stronger came along. The bitch. Then we’d flip over and see this magnificent ad for sea monkeys. They live in a kingdom with a castle and bubbles everywhere. They smile broadly, the females making their gender known with blonde hair and a bow in their antennae. For only $1.25 (plus 50 cents for shipping and handling) we could own this majestic palace and all its residents.

Then they’d show up, and we’d learn what our parents knew along: they’re brine shrimp. They feel no sense of community, none of them has blonde hair, and there is zero resemblance to monkeys. Still, $1.75 is a small price to pay for that thrill of anticipation, right? Maybe?

Inventor Harold von Braunhut, who was also the guy who unleashed X-Ray Specs upon the comic ad landscape, invented these in 1957, one year after the ant farm became a popular fad among baby boomer youths. The secret here is cryptobiosis, a state of apparent lifelessness in which the shrimp eggs exist between factory and counter-top fishbowl. You pour in the packet of Water Purifier, which contains some eggs, then you add the “Instant Life Eggs” mix a day later. This includes more eggs, some yeast, borax, soda, salt and some food for the critters. Just like that, the sea monkeys are born. And just like that, they die not long afterwards.

Sea monkeys have gone to space a few times. Senator John Glenn took them up in 1998 and upon return, they hatched just like normal. They were brought to the moon in the 70s (why, I have no idea), but the cosmic radiation killed most of them off. I guess that’s good info to know, in case it ever comes up.

You can still buy a set of Sea Monkeys through amazon, now in their own little plastic aquarium that reflects the cheapness of the products themselves. Kudos to Harold von Braunhut for making a thoroughly memorable, if unimpressive, long-lasting weird fad item.

National Mimosa Day

One of my early experimentations with employment had me working as a ‘salad boy’ at a local Cajun restaurant. I was responsible for preparing desserts, prepping veggies, and two salads: the Caesar and the Mimosa, which was made with butter lettuce and shrimp. That was the first definition I’d ever ascribed to the word. Then I learned about the plant. Then, when the universe was prepared to open up its finest glories to me, a lowly schmuck from the tundra, I learned about the drink.

It’s so simple: sparkling wine (prosecco or champagne, depending on your inclination) and orange juice. The perfect excuse to get twizzled at brunch, but really it’s a fine drink for any time of the day. And its history doesn’t consist of a myriad of bartenders who all claim they created it; the notion of fruit juice with sparkling wine goes back centuries in Europe.

You can vary up your mimosa game: make a Lemosa with lemonade instead. Try a Soleil with pineapple juice. The Poinsettia is made with cranberry juice. Or just keep it simple and mix up your OJ with sparkling wine because it’s a perfect beverage as-is. Due to sun-baked constraints yesterday afternoon (as well as a necessary supply run), we didn’t get to our mimosas until later in the day. It didn’t matter – perfection is perfection. And then we polished off the entire bottle, so it was very much a win.

World Whisky Day

The third Saturday in May is set aside for whisky lovers (and whiskey lovers) of the world to taste some of that ol’ water of life. Sure, we’ve already had International Whiskey Day, which should be the same thing, but if we’re going to keep rolling reruns into this celebration a toast to whisky is an ideal contender.

We’ve already written of the types of whiskey and their various histories, so yesterday was reserved simply for enjoying the stuff. Jodie likes her whisky mixed with Diet Coke, and even then it’s only rye whiskey. I’m a fan of Scotch, Irish and rye whiskeys, and I happened to have all three of them on hand for yesterday, after our mimosas. Jodie, ever the teetotaler (not really, she was already sufficiently tanked on mimosas), passed on this one.

And that’s fine – more for me. In particular I enjoyed the Northern Harvest Rye from Crown Royal. This whiskey was the first Canadian whisky to win Whisky of the year back in 2016, and it needs no accompaniment, just some ice. Yesterday contained more alcohol-related mirth than we’d anticipated, and for that I am grateful.

Today we will once again do what we can with the weird world before us.

  • National Pack Rat Day. A good day to do a bit of spring cleaning, and maybe get rid of some unnecessary shit.
  • National Cherry Cobbler Day. My plan was to enjoy dessert somewhere out, but most ‘out’ places are still shut down. So we’ll see what we can do.
  • National Walnut Day. See the next entry.
  • National Idaho Day. Found an interesting recipe for smashed potatoes with – you guessed it – walnuts.
  • Take Your Parents to the Playground Day. All of our playgrounds are locked up and taped off, so my mom may only get to visit the backyard, or as we call it, our dogs’ playground.
  • Ride a Unicycle Day. Damn, I wish we could do this. I’m running low on bruises.
  • Stepmother’s Day. Jodie has one of these… sort of. We’ll send her some love.