Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Valliant as ever, we forge onward into another rainy day, packed to its gills with a slew of celebrations each more bizarre than the last. Depending on which order we choose, I suppose. But isn’t the audacity of perpetuating this project an increasingly more bizarre endeavour? We are tucked into isolation, cut off from the world of shops, restaurants and fun-filled trips on public transit. And yet we are hyper-focused on piling up the parties. Is this a bastion against madness or madness itself? And more importantly, do I really want the answer to that question? Or should we simply steer our attention over to this:

National Macaroni Day

Could this have been our easiest celebration meal ever? Pop a couple of boxes of KD (that’s good ol’ Kraft Mac & Cheese for my American readers) onto the stove and be done with it? That’s a happy thought, except that I can’t stand the stuff. I get the childhood appeal of powdered cheese-substance slathered all over dried pasta, but it doesn’t clock in as one of my favourites.

Macaroni doesn’t quite look the same in Italy. Maccheroni in Italy will still have its tube-shape, but the pasta doesn’t need to be cut quite so short. The name may have one of several origins, including ‘blessed dead’, ‘barley broth’, ‘crush’ or maybe ‘blessed happy’. What’s weirder is its use in Russia and Iran, where the term ‘macaroni’ is a generic term used to refer to any pasta. Over in England they serve a sweet macaroni pudding, which sounds goddamn awful.

The most common cohort of macaroni here, in the US and in Britain is cheese. I don’t know why macaroni gets shunned from marinara and clam sauces and propelled into cheese country; it might be due to the shape that cradles the cheese nicely and tucks a little sploosh of it into its innards. Maybe it’s because the Kraft corporation marketed it so well.

Some consider Kraft Dinner to be the national dish of our country. I shudder at the thought of our national dish being a chemical-rich compound you can purchase for under a buck. Not only that, but KD was not invented here. We do consume 55% more of the stuff per capita than America, but still… it’s not the peak potential of this food. Yesterday I whipped up a Food Network recipe for a baked macaroni and cheese with chorizo sausage. I think it gave us a lot more reason to celebrate than had we simply mixed some orange chemical powder into some noodles. But then I’m just picky.

World Chocolate Day

Chocolate. We have so many celebrations related to chocolate you may have wondered when we’d finally hit upon National Chocolate Day. Ah, but wait… that doesn’t show up until November 11. This is the day the entire world embraces its love for chocolate. And it’s a deep, personal love.

It’s well known that chocolate has its origins in Mexico, nearly 2000 years before year 0. It’s also fairly well known that the Mexicans used to use it as a beverage. But what’s interesting is that they likely used the sugar in the cacao beans to create a fermented drink. So like most great inspirations throughout history, intoxication was at the heart of it.

Chris Columbus first encountered the stuff on his fourth voyage to the New World, so he gets credit for bringing the bean back to Europe to launch a few million addictions there. But chocolate is at its heart a pre-Mexican treat. We have the opportunity to celebrate it dozens, or possibly hundreds of times this year. I kept it simple and enjoyed some delicious, pure fudge after lunch. Abbey got a little weird with it, and sprinkled Chocolate Frosted Flakes overtop her ice cream.

Chocolate is life. We should all be celebrating this day.

National Father Daughter Take A Walk Day

No idea who came up with this one, but it happened to land on an ideal day for it. Abbey is presently visiting us, so this saves us from having to do a ‘virtual walk’ via Skype or Facetime. We have, in fact, been walking together every day, since our three canine research assistants insist they require this daily chore in order for them to perform their duties at peak capacity. Yesterday was, unfortunately, thick with rain. One of our dogs had spent the day at daycare, another was too wounded to walk, and Trixie just wanted to sleep. So Abbey and I went for a quick stroll around the house and garage, one of us nearly falling over when I snapped this pic.

There’s really nothing more to this celebration. It’s a celebration of father-daughter relationships and a celebration of physical activity. The physical activity part is obvious; Abbey and I have a terrific relationship to begin with, so there was no healing or growing during this walk. We simply conversed as we always do, about music, movies, and how closely Liberty’s poops resemble that of a full-grown human male.

It’s always a fine day for a stroll.

Tell The Truth Day

Okay, this one is pretty straightforward. It’s a day to consider the value of honesty and being truthful in all of our endeavours. Ugh… not sure it counts as a celebration, but SURE! We can celebrate honesty. It’s an election year down south, so honesty will be at a premium for the next four months. We have a corrupt government running the show in this province (and that’s not politics, that’s just fact), so truth is obviously subject to interpretation by some.

Honesty is usually the best policy. Sometimes we lie to be kind, and sometimes we lie to avoid the negative fallout if the truth were to rain down. Sometimes we lie just for the hell of it. Sometimes we lie without even knowing why we do it, like when someone calls you and wakes you out of a slumber but for some reason you insist that no, no… you were already awake. Why do we do this?

We did our best to remain honest all day, and given that we didn’t talk to anyone but each other (and I to a few of my work colleagues) there wasn’t much opportunity to fib. And to be perfectly honest (ha!) all this day really did was put that Derek & The Dominoes song (“Tell the Truth”) in my head for the duration of writing this part of the article. So… mission accomplished, I guess?

Global Forgiveness Day

Putting aside for the moment that this is a celebration launched by the Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors (it strikes me that the word ‘Christian’ in that title is not really necessary), and that we don’t do religious holidays here, I like the idea behind this day. We are often burdened by resentment, and that serves no purpose but… well, to burden us. If you’re holding onto a rage over which you won’t forgive somebody, chances are that person either has no idea or it isn’t affecting their life one bit.

So why not forgive? I saw some very touching video last week in which the brother of Botham Jean, the man who was shot to death when a cop who came “home” to the wrong apartment reacted too quickly, forgave his brother’s killer in court. That hit me like a brick. I can’t imagine losing someone I love to gun violence, and to believe I’d have the strength of character to forgive them is depressingly far-fetched. I don’t know if I’ve got it in me, and I hope I never have to find out.

But we’ve all got resentments toward someone. Sometimes that simply gets directed inward – for me I took on the challenge of attempting to forgive myself for some of the stupid choices I’ve made. And there are many. Forgiveness is essential, and much like the resentment and rage it will likely not affect the original trespasser one bit. But it can heal the forgiver, and in the end that’s what matters.

So we’ll embrace this day, even if its originating source is a religious organization, and even though that organization actually states on its Global Forgiveness Day page the phrase “Webster’s Dictionary defines forgiveness as…”. We forgive you, CECA. We forgive your double-Christian reference in your name, as well as your hackneyed writing skills. And with any luck, we’ll forgive ourselves too.

National Dive Bar Day

Leave it to Seagram’s to create a holiday to honour the dive bar. I mean, it’s a good promotional idea. Get the dive bars who sell your hooch on board, and they’ll run some drink specials. Everybody wins. Except for this year, of course, since going to a dive bar during a pandemic is not only ill-advised, it’s kind of a little bit sad.

I have a long, proud tradition with dive bars. When I was of hearty drinking age (17-20) I often started evenings in the tavern at the Strathcona Hotel, where beer cost 70 cents a glass and tasted like swill. Some may consider Blues on Whyte to be a dive bar, given its occasionally seedy clientele, but to us it was simply one of the premium live music venues in the city. I never felt endangered in either of those places. I did, however, stop short of spending much time in those dreaded downtown bars like the York Hotel or the Milla Pub. You can visit a dive bar without it having a ‘No Knives’ sign out front.

The dive bar that warmed my heart in recent years is a place called Rudy’s on 9th Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of New York. It was around the corner from our Air B&B a couple summers back, and we popped in often to enjoy the pint, shot and hot dog for $5. In fact, our last night of that trip featured just me and my kids, pounding back drinks and laughing into the night at that place.

So here’s to the dive bars out there: may they survive this hideous virus and return to kick around the livers of those with taste and a sense of adventure when all of this is over. I’ll be lining up to join in.

Bonza Bottler Day

For the seventh time this year the day of the month lines up snugly with the month’s number, giving us an excuse to celebrate… well, that. Just that. That’s all it is. Traditionally we crack open a bottle of something new or something we enjoy but in which we rarely indulge.

Jodie was surprised to see that Snapple is now producing alcoholic drinks. She picked up the above watermelon ice tea, and found it to be decent enough, but not something she’d want to commit to for an entire evening. It was too sweet. And yes, we’re aware that this was sold in a can and not a bottle, but there were not bottle versions available, and if Jodie were to rely on a bottle from the store we visited she’d either be drinking beer (which she hates) or cider (which she also hates). So let’s just give her a thumbs-up for trying something new, even if most of it wound up dumped down the sink.

I ventured back to Unibroue, the Quebec-based brewery that delivered the aptly titled Fin Du Monde I tried a couple months back. I didn’t want a repeat (though it was one hell of a fine beer) so instead I opted for Trois Pistoles, which at 9% was a delightfully potent Belgian ale that tasted somewhat like a port. This beer has won 35 awards in beverage competitions all around the world, and has no doubt bolstered our nation’s reputation for being able to put together a thoroughly tasty and deeply ass-kicking beer.

Can’t wait to see what Bonza bonanza we uncork on August 8.

Today we begin a slight downshift to fewer celebrations before the weekend blitz. But knowing me, I’ll keep adding to the list anyway. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Chocolate With Almonds Day. More chocolate. Woohoo! We’ve got some M&Ms with Almonds for this one.
  • National Video Game Day. I’m sure I can manage to squeeze this celebration in.
  • SCUD Day. Savour the Comic, Unplug the Drama. So it’s another “let’s appreciate the power of laughter” thing.
  • Be A Kid Again Day. Given that we’ll be laughing, eating M&Ms and playing video games, this is on point.
  • Math 2.0 Day. Nope. We’re all about being a kid again, but minus the math homework.

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