Thursday, July 2, 2020

Yesterday yawned to life beneath a thick yoke of relentless rain. It spent much of the day stretching and adjusting its position, with little desire to spark itself into motion or activity. We faced a substantial list of celebrations, and a desire mainly to dig into schoolwork (for Jodie, who is working on her Masters) or nap (for me). The list stared back unblinking from our calendar, offering no respite. Until today, which is pretty much a non-day as far as celebrations go. So we trudged out of bed and got to work:

July Morning / Early Bird Day

Of all the celebrations we have motored through this year – and wow, have there ever been a lot of them – this one is among the purest. It is quite simply a welcoming to the month of July.

This celebration comes to us from Bulgaria, where it is tradition for folks to make their way to the Black Sea coast so they can watch the first rays of July sunlight creep over the horizon and greet them. Some will camp out nearby so it’s a short walk, some will make a lengthy pilgrimage in the dead of night, while others will hold huge parties the night before, counting on their youthful energy and/or carefully paced disbursement of intoxicants to guide them to the dawn.

This is not a centuries-old folklore tradition, let’s be clear about that. It stemmed originally from a 1971 hit by British rock band Uriah Heep, entitled “July Morning.” The single didn’t make a dent in the charts (it was a 10 and a half minute prog rock number, so that may have had something to do with it), but apparently it was quite popular in Bulgaria. It’s thought that perhaps the song came to represent a quiet protest against communism in the 80s (when this tradition began), and a statement of support for the hippie ideals some felt Bulgaria was lacking. Now it’s just a chance to welcome in a summer month with style.

The photo above was taken out our front window shortly before 4:30 yesterday morning. The relentless rain was still thudding to the earth with a mighty force, so there was no point to trekking out to a vantage point to watch the sunrise. It would only have been increasingly brighter hues of grey anyway. But we tried. And we welcomed in July the way we’ll probably spend most of it: sheltered in our home, hiding from the virus. Sounds about right.

Canada Day

For a country turning 153 we hardly look our age, right? We’re still full of that youthful, idealist spirit that wants to give health care to everyone, welcome in foreigners from all around the globe, and stand up for what’s right on an international level. It also helps that our closest neighbour and ally is presently being led into the ground by a man-child who wouldn’t know diplomacy if it burrowed into his skull beneath his silly hair system.

We aren’t a perfect country. Our legacy of devastating our indigenous peoples – not as much genocide-ish as those folks down south, but in a more sinister and systemic way – isn’t good. We may not face the same police-related issues as the US, but ours are similar and less-often mentioned. We have plenty to fix, and we can’t lose sight of that.

But we’ve also led the way in progress in a lot of ways. Same-sex marriage has been legal here for a long time. Cannabis (as referenced in an entry below) has been legal since 2018. Our environmental track record isn’t great, but we’re trying to do better. We aren’t as polite as people seem to think we are, but again – the nation we’re attached to helps us look good in this regard. We don’t all love hockey (some of us can’t even ice skate), and Tim Hortons makes fetid coffee and sadly lacking doughnuts. I’m not a huge fan of the extra vowels in colour and flavour, but I’ll give a big thumbs-up to ‘zed’ over ‘zee’, even if it messes up the rhyme in that song.

We started celebrating Canada Day in 1879 when our nation was but a tween. Back then it was Dominion Day, given our status as still attached to the British Empire. It didn’t really become a huge national party until 1958 when PM Diefenbaker started channeling some funds into making a big show of it. Usually we have outdoor celebrations all day, followed by fireworks at 11:00. Yesterday, as with everything else, the wildness was cancelled. But we still celebrated our good fortune at being born in this most excellent land. Happy 153rd, you magnificent bastard.

National Postal Worker Day / Postage Stamp Day

And from Canada we launch right into a purely American celebration. On this date in 1847 the first US postage stamp was issued. This is also the day that the first zip codes were introduced in 1963. And if that isn’t enough reason to cheer for public service in America, the IRS was founded on this date in 1862. We can probably drop that last one as a legitimate reason to celebrate the post office, but we’ve still got reasons to party.

The US Postal Service has been around since 1789; it is very much a fundamental chunk of America’s core. By no coincidence, Canada Post first came into being in 1867 when we first planted our flag as an independent country. That said, mail delivery within our land began in 1693, and the first letter sent from Canada took flight (well, took to the sea) back in 1527.

Yesterday was a day for the American postal workers however, since the Canadian ones got to put their feet up and enjoy a mid-week stat holiday. Even outside of their commitment to hauling postcards and bills through all sorts of wicked weather, US postal workers have seen their share of weirdness. When it was announced in the early 20th century that the postal service would deliver packages up to 11 pounds, it became a thing for people to mail their children to other relatives, rather than spring for train fare. An Ohio family sent little James Beagle a few miles away to visit his grandpa. It only cost them 15 cents in postage, though they insured their baby for $50, so I suppose that’s what he was worth to them.

Thankfully, the postal service cancelled their policy of shipping “anything” through the mail, so parents had to begrudgingly shell out for train tickets if they wanted their little ones to take a trip. But postal workers still work their tuchuses off every day – if yours were working yesterday, I hope you gave them a socially-distanced thumbs-up for everything they do.

International Joke Day

No one knows who came up with this day, though it’s suspected (by the BBC anyway) that it was some author trying to pitch his joke book back in 1994. The author’s name appears to be lost to the ages, which I suppose would mean that the joke was ultimately on him. Or her. But really, starting an international celebration in a desperate attempt to sell a collection of puns and wordplay sounds more like a guy thing.

Jokes are, for the most part, stupid. I’m not talking about great comedy, physical gags, witty standup observations or clever bits, that sort of thing. I’m talking about a joke in which a person delivers a set-up and oft-predictable punchline. The BBC article touts this gem: “What’s brown and sticky?” “I don’t know.” “A stick!” Seriously, if someone slapped that joke onto the table before your lunchtime entrée was served would you stick around for dessert? I suspect no.

Early records of jokes often involve bodily functions, as those have been proven to be hilarious since the dawn of time. There’s a Sumerian proverb from 1900BC that specifically references a woman farting in her husband’s lap. How awesome is that? Once the printing press took over the world, printers were churning out ‘Jest books’ almost as frequently as bibles so that people could get their fill of giggles after perusing their pious literature. Jokes have been around forever, and honestly, sometimes they are all that separates us from a collective mental meltdown. Well, to be more succinct, comedy does this. Setup-punchline jokes, not so much.

We didn’t celebrate this day by telling a heap of jokes. We’d watched some standup the night before, and that was sufficient. But hey, did you ever hear the one about the Aristocrats?

National Creative Ice Cream Flavours Day / National Ice Cream Month

We’ve sampled some odd ice cream flavours in our travels – really, once bacon has made the leap to frozen desserts aren’t we all degraded just a little bit as a society? – but we don’t normally seek them out. Jodie and I both have our favourites, and honestly I’m more interested in finishing up the pralines & cream in our freezer than getting down and funky with some exotic blend of flavours.

But that wouldn’t be honouring the spirit of the day now would it? So we hopped in our vehicle and headed over to the 80-Flavour ice cream stand that has operated in the west end for the past few years. Our hopes were that we could chance upon some bizarre new flavour that might actually appeal to us. Sure, they had 24 of their 80 flavours crossed out as unavailable, which strikes me as a wee bit of false advertising, but we were able to indulge.

Abbey stretched her sense of gustatory adventure with something called Shark Bite, which was a grey vanilla mixed with blue raspberry. Jodie opted for trying Tiger Tail, which is hardly an adventurous leap, since that’s one of her favourites. I sampled some black licorice, which instantly became one of my top choices. It was a bit of a taste adventure, and hopefully one we’ll get to repeat this summer. Even on an overcast, ugly day, ice cream always hits the spot.

International Reggae Day

The official website for this celebration promised 24 hours of non-stop music, interviews and panels all day. I felt it was more appropriate to simply listen to some quality reggae throughout the day, and check out the new video posted in honour of the day for Bob Marley’s classic, “No Woman No Cry.” It seems as though the world really pulled together to make this day a pretty awesome online celebration.

Reggae is spiritual music. It almost always offers a laid back groove, and its lyrics can range from romance to parties to pushing for significant social change. It came out of the late 1960s when music was effectively changing hearts, minds and cultures all over the world. In Jamaica they were going through some political turmoil that was unique to them, and the voices of reggae threw a spotlight onto the local injustices. It was a Toots & The Maytals song, “Do the Reggay” from 1968, that first used the word and linked it to the style of music.

Jamaican patois had a popular term ‘rege-rege’ which meant ‘rags’ or having ragged clothing. According to Toots Hibbert, the common term was streggae – if a group saw someone of the opposite sex who looked dishevelled and unkempt they’d say he or she was streggae. He and his band showed up to jam one day, and “Let’s do the reggae” just tumbled out of Toots’ mouth.

Maybe. According to Bob Marley – and we’ve got to give Bob a bit of credit, since he’ll probably be known as the king of reggae for all time – reggae comes from the Latin word ‘regi’, meaning to the king. So reggae is the king’s music.

Either way you look at it, whether you’re listening to Bob, to Toots, to Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, UB40, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Desmond Dekker, Black Uhuru, King Tubby, Beres Hammond, Shaggy, Horace Andy or the Heptones, if you’re listening to reggae you are listening to the music of the soul.

National Gingersnap Day

According to a 2009 study (which was probably no more than a quick online survey), the gingersnap was the 10th most popular biscuit in the UK to dunk into a cup of tea. That strikes me as insane. The gingersnap is one of the greatest achievements of cookie-dom ever produced. In New Zealand, they call them ginger nuts. Hey, there’s some trivia.

And that’s all the trivia we need. Gingersnap day isn’t about reading and researching, and honestly we’ve cruised well past the 2000 word mark here. Jodie has a brilliant recipe for gingersnaps which she makes every year at Christmas. Last month she made up a batch featuring the cannabis butter we’d crafted in our slow-cooker.

Let me be very clear about this: if you’re going to whip up your own cannabis edibles, I can’t recommend highly enough the gingersnap as a conduit. They completely mask the taste of the herb, and deliver a very satisfying eating experience. Abbey and I each had one, and it created sufficient fireworks in our brains to negate the cancellation of Canada Day festivities.

National Strawberry Parfait Day

This is a holdover from last week that we didn’t get to, mainly because we are still trying to keep our dessert consumption at a somewhat reasonable rate. Trying, but mostly failing.

Abbey put together the above strawberry parfait, and it was delicious enough to warrant inclusion in today’s article.

Today things slow down, which is great because I’d really love a day of actual rest instead of balancing naps and a lengthy-ass article. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Anisette Day. A day for a liqueur we don’t own, and didn’t feel like purchasing solely for this day. We’ll be skipping this one.
  • I Forgot Day. A day to honour all the stuff we’ve forgotten, assuming we remember them.
  • World UFO Day. This is the other one – we just celebrated this last week, and apparently there are two.