Monday, June 15, 2020

June’s ides find us tapping our feet to the rhythm of the birds and praising the long distorted shadows of an evening that seems to stretch to the ensuing dawn. We are enriched by the boundaries of our imagination, as it is those boundaries which provide us with the edges of our path to eternal wonder. And such wonder is immeasurable if you squint hard enough to see through the daily drek of an encumbered life. For example, we had all of this to keep our Sunday full and fiery:

National Strawberry Shortcake Day

Strawberry shortcake is about as elderly a dessert as we’ll be celebrating this year, dating back to at least 1588. What we know as usually a sponge-cake-based recipe used to be a round biscuit, served hot with butter and sweet cream. Early recipes called for a rounded pie crust, or broken up pie crust bits underneath the strawberries. It wasn’t until the French stepped in and added whipped cream around 1910 that the dessert was truly elevated to perfection.

As a kid, I knew Strawberry Shortcake to be some doll that broke up the important commercial breaks which informed me which sugary cereal I craved or which G.I. Joe action figures I’d beg my parents for next. Those dolls were the creation of freelance greeting card artist Barbi Sargent back in 1973. According to my research (which isn’t going to stretch must past Wikipedia, I promise you), Barbi was granted the copyright to the characters in 1983, so she did make some money off them. Then it says she returned the copyrights to American Greetings, the card company, so that they could continue with the success of the franchise.

So did Barbi get rich off her creation or not? It’s hard to say. There was an extensive legal battle (I seriously can’t believe how much I’ve read about this topic), and clearly she won. But then it seems as though she simply turned the copyright back to the greeting card company so that her creation could continue to flourish and be successful. So I have no idea if she can retire on any share of the hundreds of millions of dollars the Strawberry Shortcake franchise has made. I sure hope so.

Wow – I wrote much more on the dolls than on the food, and this day has nothing to do with the damn dolls. But it does have to do with delicious dessert, and really the point of celebrating is to celebrate, not to write about it. It was a delicious evening.

International Bath Day

We have already celebrated two bath related days this year, so what’s the point of this one?

Actually, this one has the most interesting back-story, and it goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. Archimedes, whom you may remember from such inventions as the lever, the pulley, and the hydraulic screw, gets credit for this one. He was sitting in his bath one day when he came to the realization that the amount of water displaced by immersion into the tub can be used to calculate the density of an object. The story goes that this could be used to determine if a crown made for King Hiero II of Syracuse was pure gold, or gold mixed in with silver by some dishonest crown-maker.

Archimedes (or, Archie to his buddies, probably) was so excited by this realization that he infamously yelled “Eureka!” and ran through the streets naked. In the legend – which may or may not be rooted in truth – this occurred one week before the start of summer, hence our celebration of it on June 14.

Again, I don’t know how much of this is true, given my suspicions over the pinpoint accuracy of most human history from that long ago. But it’s a great tale, and it speaks to the bath as being a place where untold inspiration can thunderously crash through someone’s cranium and bring about a life-altering moment in time. Abbey, our beloved far-away daughter, had a bath yesterday, though she did not report any life-changing revelations or astounding scientific epiphanies. Maybe next time.

National Pop Goes The Weasel Day

A couple weeks back we celebrated an idiotic children’s song about a faulty bucket, now we’re supposed to pay tribute to an equally idiotic song about an exploding rodent? That hardly seems like fun.

The song is thought to trace back to the 1700s, but it rose to prominence in the early 1850s as a dance, much like how the mashed potato, the slop, and the stroll would take over culture a century or so later. And hey, I found a site with some sheet music from 1853 that actually describes the  dance thusly:

“Top couple ballançez, four bars – then gallop down inside and back, four bars – take the next lady, hands round four bars – then two bars back and (while all sing Pop Goes the Weasel) pass her under your arms to her place – repeat with the lady’s partner then gallop down inside and back, four bars – and down outside to the other end of the line, four bars, which finishes the figure.”

Got it? Cool.

The other option is simply to grab an old jack-in-the-box and turn the handle. Of course then you’ll miss out on the lyrics, which are plenty cryptic on their own:

“Every night when I go out,

The monkey’s on the table;

Take a stick and knock it off,

Pop! Goes the weasel.”

Is that a heroin reference? Were monkeys frequently found in English homes back then? Do I really need the answers to these questions? No, I’m pretty sure I don’t. And I don’t think this song is truly deserving of a celebration, but that’s not my call to make. I just pass on the news. To celebrate this, I wrote this piece while the melody to the song played over and over in my brain, nudging me just a little closer to insanity. Damn. I hope there are no more celebrations like this.

National New Mexico Day

Ah, that’s better. Back to something that makes sense: food. In particular yesterday we celebrated food from the Land of Enchantment, the 47th addition to the tapestry of those United (so-to-speak) States. New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular, has seen a recent uptick in popular culture, thanks to the wacky antics of Walter White and the rest of the Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul troupe of lovable goofballs. One could extrapolate from those shows that the state is full of meth-heads and organized criminals, but that would be unfair. Meth-heads and organized criminals can be found in every state.

Nuevo México was founded as a province of New Spain back in 1598, when Europeans were desperately trying to subdivide this big new continent into bold extensions of their own home nations, indigenous populace be damned. Santa Fe was created as its capital in 1610, making it one of the longest-lasting cities in North America west of the thirteen colonies. The name came from the Valley of Mexico, a plateau where the Aztecs dwelled, and which had been visited by Spanish explorers. Mexico the country wouldn’t get its name until 250 years later, so New Mexico actually holds the longer claim to the name than the country.

New Mexico’s economy relies on oil drilling, cattle ranching, and lately filmmaking. It’s a state without any professional sports teams, and with a climate that stretches from snowy-cold to sweltering desert. The state tends to rank low in the quality of its education, yet in 2000 it had the highest concentration of PhD-holders in the country. The lowest recorded temperature in the state’s history was -50, or -46 Celsius. I wouldn’t have expected that, especially after having watched all those Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Famous folks from New Mexico make for a pretty decent list: Jeff Bezos (yeah, I know) from Albuquerque, Ronny Cox (the bad guy in Robocop and Total Recall) from Cloudcroft, John Denver from Roswell, Neil Patrick Harris from Albuquerque, Demi Moore from Albuquerque, and a heap of others. Because of New Mexico’s claim to the largest percentage of Latinx Americans in the country, we decided Mexican food would be the way to go for our state-inspired cuisine. We ordered in from Calle Mexico, an incredibly popular restaurant that we had yet to sample. The food was great. And I’d love to visit this state someday.

Especially now that Gus Fring won’t be a problem.

National Bourbon Day

Oh bourbon, you magnificent nectar of wonders, how grateful am I to be basking in your glow once again. To mix things up I enjoyed some on its own terms, sipping its splendour in carefully spaced moments of exquisite harmony. I considered enjoying another Black Cow because the evening necessitated another dessert, but I’d eaten too much shortcake. The bourbon was fine on its own.

I’ve heard a rumour that bourbon must be crafted in Kentucky in order to be called bourbon. This is absolutely false; there is no such requirement as you’d find in Champagne with their guarded beverage. Bourbon simply has to be brewed in the United States, must contain at least 51% corn in its blend of grains, and it must be aged in new, charred oak casks. There are alcohol requirements as well for the various stages of its creation.

Straight bourbon whiskey made in Tennessee tends to be labelled as ‘Tennessee Whiskey’, even if it meets the legal requirements for bourbon. Jack Daniels fits this description, so if that’s all you have laying around with which to celebrate National Bourbon Day, it’s allowed. Bourbon is a brilliant ingredient in a number of delicious beverages, like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. This is our third deployment of bourbon in the last couple of weeks – we also used it to make mint juleps, which were not particularly tasty.

But I’m blaming my weak mixology skills. How could a drink so astoundingly tasty as bourbon find its way into something less-than-palatable? Nope, this was the right way to do it – let the bourbon do the talking. And it spoke to me deliciously.

World Blood Donor Day

Here’s something we learned yesterday, as we drove across town to the blood donor clinic at the University hospital: the blood donor clinic at the University hospital is closed on Sundays. Dammit.

Luckily Canadian Blood Services now has an app. We were able to book an appointment for next weekend to go spurt out some of the red stuff. It’s a good thing for anyone to do as often as allowed, which is 56 days from one’s last donation. Look, nobody likes needles, and unless you’re into some really weird shit you probably don’t want to spend a great deal of time making visual contact with your own blood.

But donating blood saves lives in an extremely direct way. Some of the policies surrounding blood donation I get – like having to wait for a while to donate after getting a tattoo. But the Canadian Blood Services restrictions on gay men donating still irks me. They have reduced the requirement now so you can donate if it has been three months since your last same-sex encounter (which could simply account for a reasonable dry spell in one’s love life), but it still isn’t right. But that’s an argument for another day.

This isn’t the kind of issue people should protest by refusing to donate blood. The demand for blood in hospitals is unrelenting, and we all need to step up and help out. Besides, they give you juice and cookies afterward. I’ve learned throughout my years that I’ll do a lot of stuff for juice and cookies.

Family History Day

This is a day for folks to dig into their deep pasts, to scour their sources for genealogical knowledge. This is terrific for people who haven’t yet done this. I’m sure we’ll both get around to digging through our ancestors’ closets for some juicy bits someday, but not today. We’re both a bit nervous about sending our DNA through the mail to a private company, as I’d hate for someone to use mine to clone some sort of evil Marty-lizard that winds up taking part in a government overthrow. I really don’t need that publicity right now – I’m just trying to celebrate shit.

So instead we’re going to share a couple of interesting stories from our own family histories. Jodie’s story is about her father, who was a member of a certain organization that was mostly known for riding motorcycles, but also delves into some… other activities. Jodie was aware growing up of the reputation of the club of which her dad was a part, but this gave her an interesting insight. She realized that all people, no matter what organization they may be a part of, are someone’s mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, etc. They’re people. And they should be defined as people, not as part of the greater whole. Her dad joined the group when they were fresh to this country. Back then it was about riding bikes and drinking beer and embracing freedom in its purest and most vibrant sense. The other stuff came along later.

My story is about my grandfather, who used to regale me, in his thick Brooklyn accent, with tales of the Great Depression, of sharing a soda with a girl on a date, or of going to a movie for 25 cents, and that included popcorn, a drink, and a new tailored suit. My grandpa quit school at a young age to help his family out, and this included a stint selling firearms, despite being far too young to legally own one. He somehow talked his way into the Yankees’ dressing room once to show off his goods, and it was one of the highlights of his life. It makes me smile to think of my grandpa, basking in his heroes whilst offering them the opportunity to purchase something to kill someone with.

Family histories are always full of weird stories. I hope that we are contributing our own for our offspring to share. Maybe it’ll have something to do with a ridiculous year-long project or something.

Write To Your Father Day

I’ll be honest, this article is getting away from me a little. Yesterday was such a busy day that chronicling it all became a bit too much – sometimes you just have to celebrate in the moment and leave the writing to the more esoteric topics.

I found one article online which described this as a “Major New Holiday” back in 2006. It’s been around 14 years and I’ve never heard of it. The idea here is simply to write to your father, then expect the postal service will get the message to him within a week for father’s day. The article goes into 70% of prisoners growing up without a father, but I don’t think we really need to delve into statistics for this one, do we?

Quite simply, a message to my father isn’t going to reach him in a week. He passed away years ago, so I would simply be writing one of those symbolic letters to spew out my unexpressed feelings. I have no need for that; I was able to tell my dad everything I needed to tell him, good and bad. We didn’t end things with a big blank pause, we simply ended them too soon.

Jodie’s dad, on the other hand, is alive and well and awesome. She penned a lovely Father’s Day card to him, which she’ll be mailing out tomorrow. That is the spirit of the day – no need to keep writing about it. Right?

Race Unity Day

There’s really nothing I can add to this one. Right now the races are far from anything resembling unity, but that does not have to be a permanent condition. We are doing our part, but I’m going to hit the pause button on this site become a place to preach about that. We have said our peace and we continue to say it each and every day.

We really hope this celebration reflects a much happier world in 2021. But everyone has to want it. That doesn’t seem to be the case. This day was started with much optimism by the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly in Evanston, Illinois back in 1957. Their ultimate aim is peace, and they saw racism as a significant barrier to peace. They were right, of course.

Unfortunately we have no easy answers to this one. All we can do is hope it someday comes true, and we can celebrate our unity rather than be disgusted by our stunning lack of it. But this is the fight currently underway in the streets of America, and really around the world. It’s a necessary fight, and I hope it continues until it no longer has to. We’ll see. Today I’ll try to be as optimistic as the Baha’i.

On a much happier note, today will be jam-packed with all sorts of goofy goodness:

  • National Smile Power Day. Hey cool, a day to acknowledge the power of a smile and of positivity and of… yes, again. We are doing one of these again.
  • Nature Photography Day. We’re both working today, but given our weird situations we should be able to pop out and take a few nature pics.
  • Global Wind Day. I guess we acknowledge wind and its awesome globalness.
  • National Beer Day (UK). Well you know I’m going to celebrate this one. And I have a tasty English beer to help me out.
  • National Prune Day. Prunes. We’re gonna snack like we’re nonagenarians!
  • National Kiss A Wookiee Day. I’ve been told I resemble one. Maybe I’ll get some action.
  • National Electricity Day. We will celebrate by using electricity. Often.
  • National Lobster Day. Pricy and hard to find right now. But we can certainly celebrate our love of the stuff.

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