Sunday, May 24, 2020

The art of 2020 is in the approach. While some divine force may have shaken up our little snowglobe planet, our response as the foam bits settle will determine our individual experience. For many, that response may be increased snacking and embracing tranquility. For others, rage and venom-tinged spittle at the forces who seek to protect us. For us the response has never deviated: we give all we can to our jobs, soak up all the warm and chill vibes from our dogs, and we face down each day’s multitude of tributes to that which shines bright in our universe. For example:

National Taffy Day

Salt water taffy, a treat I have always associated with vacations for some reason, was born in a place built specifically for attracting tourists: Atlantic City, New Jersey. One thing to note – it doesn’t technically contain any saltwater. It contains salt and water, but from separate sources. Of course one of the origin stories of this treat has some candy assistant accidentally (or because he couldn’t be bothered) mixing in sea water into the taffy blend. Another story tells of a great swell of ocean that propelled waves into the shore, and drenched all the taffy. Then, because it was the 1800s and health codes weren’t really a thing yet, they just sold the salty taffy as-is.

Despite taffy having sweetened tongues since the 19th century, some schmuck named John Edmiston snagged a trademark for the term ‘salt water taffy’ in 1923 and proceeded to demand royalties from everyone who uses the phrase. This got him sued, and the trademark was rescinded two years later. The lesson here? Don’t be a dick. Always a good lesson to learn.

We picked up some taffy from Carol’s Quality Sweets of course – just a sampling of a few fruit flavours. We didn’t feel we needed to load up, since neither of us are huge taffy fans and we were also picking up another massive bag of those jelly beans from a couple weeks ago. The taffy was superb, though Carol tried to mix things up by offering a dill pickle one. It was surprisingly delightful. I was not expecting I’d write those words, but here we are.

World Turtle Day

Turtles are one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. I’d expand that, actually, given that there are so many varieties. Turtles are many of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. They are fortified and protected, and move at a pace befitting one who understands the universe and their place in it. Have you ever known a turtle to be the bad guy in a story? From the one who races the hare to the chill surfer dude in Finding Nemo to Bert, the guy who taught our parents to duck & cover, to the teenage mutant ninja variety, turtles (or tortoises) are always the good guys. Okay, maybe not in Mario land, but that place is just a fucked up acid nightmare anyway.

World Turtle Day launched 20 years ago, courtesy of Susan and Marshall, the co-founders of American Tortoise Rescue. Tortoises, for those who aren’t clear on the difference, are all part of the turtle family. Tortoises only live on land though, and while turtles will eat whatever they can, tortoises stick to an all-veggie diet. There are a number of species of turtle (many of whom are tortoises) who are in danger of becoming extinct. So if you have the ability to support the good folks at the official World Turtle Day website with a few bucks, please do.

Not surprisingly, turtles have been around since the Triassic period. They’re modern age dinosaurs in a sense. This despite the fact that they aren’t the best parents. Sea turtles lay their leathery eggs on the beach, then take off and let the little ones hatch and fend for themselves.

We’d hoped to venture out and meet a few yesterday, but of course this was one of those COVID sacrifices we’ve had to make for this project. Our local zoo, which I haven’t been to since my kids were little and which has undergone a massive transformation since then, has a few tortoises. Our nearby super-mall has some turtles in their Sea Life Caverns exhibit. Both of those options were closed, so we did the next best thing and bought some praline-chocolate-caramel Turtles candy instead. A celebration is a celebration.

National Lucky Penny Day

Reading the suggestions for this day are cute and woefully outdated. Find a penny and pick it up today and it can be your lucky penny, a talisman to protect you and guide you to fortune and success. Good luck finding a penny on the ground around here though – Canada eliminated the penny from circulation seven years ago. We round up or down for cash purchases now, and not a soul we know misses the extra clatter of relatively useless change in our pockets.

Let’s face it, an inanimate object being considered ‘lucky’ is a silly superstition. Luck itself is merely a manifestation of the universal chaos clattering to our feet, presenting us with something that may or may not yield a positive result. That said, the expression “we make our own luck” can sometimes be true. Experience and skill can help us nudge the forces of chaos slightly toward our favour. And confidence will help to channel that experience and skill into manipulating the elements that will determine our so-called luck. So if a particular object, be it a rabbit’s foot, a 4-leaf clover or a lucky penny, gives us that extra oomph of confidence, then indeed there is truth to the luck therein.

Neither Jodie nor myself have a ‘lucky penny’, but yesterday we decided to change that. We scrounged up a couple of pennies laying about in those darkened and seldom-accessed corners of our home, then tucked them into our wallets. We’ll see if we notice any additional luck fall our way in the upcoming months, at least on those few occasions where we actually leave the house. She got a 1995 Canadian penny, which is the year we met. I found a 1974 American penny, as old and withered as I – also minted in 1974.

In truth, we both feel we have been gifted with scads of luck this year already. With both of us maintaining our employment and, in my case, enjoying it significantly more during this crisis, with our dogs providing us with heaps of joy and entertainment, and with learning that being quarantined with each other is actually a pretty rad time, we are among the luckiest right now. Do we need the help of a penny?

Well, it couldn’t hurt.

National Best Friend-In-Law Day

This is a day to appreciate the folks who have come into our lives as the great friends of our spouses. These are people we would never have likely met, let alone intertwined our lives with, had we not married the people we married. Jodie’s friends from before our marriage are either far away or have oozed out of our lives over the last couple decades, so I selected Brenda, who teaches music and band at Jodie’s school.

Brenda is one of those arts teachers who values the students more than their commitment to note precision. Not that she doesn’t put together a remarkably tight band given the age and talent level of her students, but she sees the value in what the arts can provide, and how it can help these kids grow. More importantly (to me anyway), she and Jodie have leaned on one another through a 2018-19 school year that was heavy with staff conflicts and questionable leadership, and through a 2019-20 school year that got weirdly derailed by a virus. There are days I know Jodie would have felt helpless and alone without Brenda on the other end of her text chat. For that, I’m truly grateful for Brenda’s existence. Also, she’s a pretty hip broad.

Jodie opted to send some love to my pal Stew, who was best man at our wedding and has been like a brother to me since that day in 1992 when we first hung out and bonded over our love of Big Brother & The Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills album. I’m not going to rave on and on about Stew, because he’s a gifted musician and such ravings may go straight to his ego. Needless to say, our lives are much richer for having him and his kids in them. She also reached out to my pal Steve, without whom I wouldn’t be the weird and only semi-responsible schmuck I am today. It was nice.

I like this one. Some celebrations stand out in a very humble way, but really spread the most grooviness. Appreciating people in your life who don’t otherwise get a salute is a wonderful indulgence – certainly more significant than eating yet another food item. That said, we also ate another food item:

National Vanilla Pudding Day

Vanilla pudding. Also known as plain pudding. Uninteresting pudding. Why not just a pudding day – why break it down? Chocolate, tapioca, butterscotch and rice pudding each get their own days later this year. I suppose specificity means more pudding sales, at least for those of us who celebrate everything in a year, which from what I can tell is just us.

I don’t mind vanilla pudding, though part of me wonders why I bought a mix we’d have to prepare instead of those little plastic cups of pudding that kids get in their lunches. This is more work, and if there’s one thing we don’t need from these celebrations it’s more work. Oh well – it was fine. National Vanilla Pudding Day was actually on Friday, but we realized too late in the day (one paloma and one cooler into the evening) that we needed milk. So it got bumped. That’s okay – vanilla pudding is rarely much more than “fine”. We added some blackberries in the mix to give it some oomph. That helped.

What we call ‘pudding’ is more like a custard in the UK – at least as far as the vanilla stuff is concerned. Haggis, which we enjoyed (to stretch the use of that word to its brink) back on Robbie Burns Night, is considered a savoury pudding. Ours came from a box of Jell-O mix so it was anything but fancy. Still, it did the job and tasted fine. Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it all, which means the desserts are adding up. What a weird problem to have – that’s kind of a childhood dream of mine, having more desserts than I can possibly eat.

International Jazz Day II

Every reputable site I combed through listed International Jazz Day as April 30. And we celebrated the hell out of this day on April 30, cruising through some vocal jazz, some funk-jazz, some bebop and some cool jazz. So why do a couple of sites point to today instead? I’m guessing “in error” is the only response here.

But you know what? I don’t care. Jazz is not my #1 genre to sink into, but it’s one I truly love. Renowned jazz bassist Marcus Miller has an amazing show on the Sirius/XM jazz station that explores all corners of jazz and I happily listened to that while passing the time yesterday afternoon between our supply run and our evening meal. Jazz is eternal and magnificent; as I said last month, if you claim to not like jazz then you simply haven’t found the style of jazz that best suits you. And it’s out there.

I did come up with a legitimate source: Park West Gallery, the world’s largest art dealers, feature an article on their website citing May 23 as International Jazz Day… in 2009. This one was conceived in 1991 by jazz artist D. Michael Denny. Is this day more authentic than the UNESCO day we celebrated three weeks ago? I don’t know, nor do I care. After Marcus Miller’s show came a play-through of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew album. I’ll celebrate Jazz Day every few weeks if the calendar tells me to. It’s nothing but a joy.

National Tire Safety Week

Woohoo! Here’s something fun.

Okay, I shouldn’t be making light of this – we discussed yesterday how this weekend is going to be a heap of trouble on American roads, and tire safety is one of the most oft-neglected aspects of a vehicle. Many modern vehicles now have alerts that pop up when a tire is running low, including the BMW we used to own, which delivered us this warning even when it was entirely inaccurate. Our current vehicle doesn’t tell us a thing.

The US Tire Manufacturers Association created this day to provide us with some information on how to care and maintain our tires, and also to remind us to check our treads and ensure we’ve got some safe tubes of rubber keeping our cars and trucks afloat off the ground. Usually I approach these celebrations founded by an industry for their own products with a touch of cynicism, but this is rather focussed on safety and education so I’ll give it the thumbs-up.

When I was younger I drove on mostly bald tires when I had to, and that was on Edmonton’s iciest and most deadly roads. I was young and stupid, and I felt my money would be better invested in records and hashish than in a boring old new set of tires. Fortunately I’m older and wiser now, and able to afford records, hashish, and tires if I need them. I’m also less confident in my ability to conquer the perils of winter driving on sub-standard equipment. So I did a run-through of our tires yesterday. The tread is still pretty good, and the tire pressure was holding strong.

Celebration accomplished.

National Foster Care Month

Above you’ll probably recognize Liberty, our junior canine research assistant and all around galumphy gal. She is with us as a foster dog, as our vet is hoping to show and perhaps breed her once she’s old enough (and once dog shows are happening again). She is an absolute delight, and has even learned to open the back door and let herself in, which is always a delight on rainy and muddy days when she trots across the kitchen floor to greet us with filthy paws.

We used to foster human kids too, back in the day. For about nine years we took in teenage boys whose home lives were for one reason or another not entirely great. It was a daunting endeavour, and of course we worried about the influence on our own kids, but for the most part it was terrific. We met some incredible kids, many of whom enriched our lives. We made it our mission to get the kids back at home if it were possible (and advisable), and to get them off their daily doses of drugs when it wasn’t necessary. The 2000s was a decade of heavy child medication, and quite often kids who were going through shit would get a batch of pills instead of any actual help.

Fostering was tremendously rewarding, and also quite exhausting at times. We decided to stop after one kid, who had been with us since his 14th birthday, had reached the age of 18 and was ready to move out. End on a high note, we figured.

If you’re considering fostering, consider it with care. If you’re only in it for the extra money the government sends you, please don’t. The kids in care need actual affection and consideration, not just a warm place to crash. But if it’s in you, you can really do a tremendous amount of good, just by welcoming someone into your life. It’s totally worth it. Or just foster a dog. They’re fun too.

National Salad Month

Who doesn’t love a great salad? I mean, kids don’t for the most part, but this isn’t about them. We had a terrific caprese salad last night (no olives, because olives are heinous to our taste buds). And we have been enjoying great salads all month, from the Asian-cashew Costco salad we downed with last week’s National Idaho Day celebration to the magnificent Next Act salad we snagged from one of our favourite eateries a few weeks back. We also grabbed some of their dressing too, because with the right dressing a salad is a quick and easy way to feel less guilty about eating a deep-fried main course.

Salads with dressing can be traced back to ancient times. It took a bit of convincing to spread the fad throughout Europe, but its health benefits were visible, even before anything resembling modern medicine was known about. Salads can be based on lettuce or cabbage, they can center around spinach or arugula.

We enjoyed fruit salad on May 13 when the calendar told us to enjoy fruit cocktail. We enjoyed both actually, but we enjoyed the salad a lot more. Salad can be pasta-based, potato-based, or even Jell-O based. In this sense, salads are like jazz – there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Our advice is simply to avoid the pre-packaged stuff, as it tends to taste a little like the plastic it was bagged in. But after that, it’s all about what you love on a salad. Want to load it up with bacon bits and croutons? Sure! Put all the effort in for a massive chef’s salad? Sounds great. Prefer to lean on the classics, like the magnificent Caesar? Whatever fills your salad bowl is fine.

Get Caught Reading Month

In 1999 the Association of American Publishers felt it would be a good way to remind everyone that reading is fun by devoting an entire month to “getting caught” doing so. I found a teachers’ site that offers a number of reading-related lesson plans and project ideas, none of which Jodie has a chance of initiating, given the weird sparseness of her teaching this year. That’s okay – this year is an anomaly. And she is still pushing her kids to love reading. Fortunately, their novel study had already wrapped up before kids were sent home to learn from a distance.

We both still enjoy reading. Soaking up an author’s manipulation of language to evoke emotion and electric response is a terrific way to spend time. Jodie has blasted through several books whilst in lockdown, and I have focussed mostly on articles and shorter readings, given that I’m also required to stare down my own set of words on a daily basis. But getting caught reading is something we both enjoy. It’s certainly better than getting caught watching garbage reality TV, or getting caught masturbating to old Yosemite Sam cartoons.

November challenges folks to write an entire novel from scratch if they are so inclined. While I appreciate the madness of such a project, neither of us will be trying that one out. But we’ll keep reading, and Jodie will keep encouraging her kids to find the joy and imagination from doing so. It’s one of her favourite responsibilities as a teacher.

Another crazy day past and another crazy day to come. Here’s what we have to look forward to today:

  • Brother’s Day. Jodie will send some love to her brothers. I have none, so I’ll send out a hey-dude to the friends who have been like brothers to me.
  • National Scavenger Hunt Day. Our plan on this day was to set up the annual scavenger hunt Jodie runs with her students in late June. Alas, our plans aren’t going to come through this year.
  • National Escargot Day. Another one we’ll likely be skipping. I’d be willing to down some escargot from a good restaurant, but we aren’t going to a restaurant today and I’m not making the damn things myself.
  • National Wyoming Day. A classic of Wyoming is the simple steak. We’ll actually be getting to this one tomorrow, as we’ve designated tonight as a pizza-worthy night.
  • National Sunscreen Day. Sure, we’ll wear sunscreen. It might even be warm enough for that not to be weird.
  • International Tiara Day. Unfortunately Jodie doesn’t have one. She deserves one though.
  • Asparagus Day. We might also delay this one, as we have none in the house. And asparagus, with its innate healthiness and pee-smelling capabilities, should be celebrated properly

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