Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Could these beautiful sun-splashed walls be closing in on me? Is my mental catamaran, which has been successfully scooting above the waves of a mucked-up 2020, in danger of slipping below the surface? These are the questions which plague every moment of my day when I’m not either engaged in celebrating or doing my best to write about it. Yesterday I kept one weary eye on National Tequila Day at the end of this week, while my managers insisted I return to the office next week, reaffirming that no, they will not actually be providing us with a full roster of steps to keep us safe. Cool. Yesterday was also the anniversary of my quitting smoking, and while I didn’t think that was necessarily appropriate as a celebration in this project, I have since changed my mind. Fuck it, I deserve this:

I Quit Smoking Day

Late in my 10th grade year, my parents went out of town. As a deeply cool teenager, I immediately planned a party, by which I mean a half-dozen friends came over to play poker and not drink alcohol because none of us could pass for 18 yet. As a joke, my friend Scott and I planned to casually pull out a pack of cigarettes and start smoking, specifically to freak out our friend Andrei. Never one to keep a prank simple, I conspired with Andrei to then offer him a smoke, then to have him accept it like it was nothing and light up, thus turning the prank on Scott’s reaction. It worked brilliantly; we had some laughs. And that was the night my buddy Josh (who was also present) and I started our habit.

I only smoked for five years, so I didn’t do a lot of internal damage to my lung-parts. But then on a toasty July day five years later I was out shopping pawn shops for a cheap stereo to place in the kitchen of the restaurant where I worked. My friend Kevin was joining me. I mentioned that I was out of smokes, and having quit two weeks earlier Kev began to regale me with stories of deeper, cleaner breaths and increased energy. You know, the way most reformed smokers like to preach at their former cigarette buddies. Only it worked. I didn’t buy another pack, and I honestly didn’t suffer from withdrawal, unlike the dozen or so times I’d tried to quit before.

I was simply ready to quit. And it was one of three brilliant decisions I’d end up making in the summer of ’95, along with going to my first Folk Festival and hooking up with that hot waitress at work. Twenty-five years later, I’m still smoke-free, I’m a lover of our annual Folk Fest, and that hot waitress has been successfully suckered into participating in a ridiculous year-long party-fest with me. This is not an official celebration, but I’m so damn happy about it I’m including it.

National Get Out Of The Doghouse Day

Due to what some folks may consider a successful marriage or others may write off as adequately suppressed rage, neither Jodie nor myself have spent much time in the proverbial ‘doghouse’. We don’t argue often, and when we do we tend to resolve it with almost 80s-sitcom efficiency (though our profanity level would never get past the censors). But I get it, this is a day for forgiveness and moving forward. I have no problem with that.

That said, the onus of this day – and I don’t use that word very often because it looks and sounds so much like ‘anus’ that it always makes me giggle and get off-track – is on the doghouse resident first. If you have wronged someone, the responsibility of this day should fall to you to step forward and attempt to atone. Those who feel they have been wronged should then have a responsibility to listen, and forgive if possible.

Forgiveness is a downhill skedaddle on a wobbly penny-farthing bicycle while suffering through a bout of hiccups: it can eventually be guided onto stable terrain, but throughout the process there will be bumps and sketchy moments. It’s a patience game. Even if the person who has wronged you still hasn’t pulled their head out of their onus and tried to make things right, you can still find it in your heart-bits to offer forgiveness.

The only folks in my doghouse right now are the faceless schmucks who have decided I should return to the office despite working more effectively and efficiently at home, merely so they look good to the party line. And they can stay in that doghouse, as I find it difficult to forgive those who will acknowledge no wrong has been done. But we did honour this day, and in a rather specific way (though we don’t own a doghouse). It was Liberty we opted to forgive, for reaching up onto the counter on Sunday evening and grabbing her (still frozen) Monday morning raw food and eating it when our backs were turned. She made amends. She was forgiven.

National Moon Day

This is not an “official” official day, but that’s not due to lack of trying. A guy named Richard Christmas (to whom we shall refer as ‘Dick Christmas’ because it’s much funnier) started a letter-writing campaign in the early 70s to try to get this anniversary of the first moon landing to be declared as an official holiday. He called it a ‘Christmas Card’ campaign, because Dick Christmas was a funny and bright dude. Ultimately he got 12 states to sponsor bills to make Moon Day a thing by 1975, but alas it was not meant to be.

Dick Nixon (a much bigger dick and not nearly as clever) did celebrate July 20, 1971 as the two-year anniversary of the landing, and the current president declared July 20 last year as an observance of the day’s 50th anniversary, but I think we would have celebrated that without his help. And still no national holiday exists. But we don’t need official status to raise a glass for this project.

I found a great Spotify playlist featuring songs about the moon (including Paul Simon’s “Song About The Moon”) and listened to that for the afternoon. I was hoping to check out the actual moon last night, but ironically it was a New Moon, and there was none to be seen. Which reminded me that the truly appropriate “New Moon On Monday” by Duran Duran was not on that playlist and needed to be listened to separately.

Happy Moon Monday to all – humankind did some pretty cool stuff 51 years ago.

National Lollipop Day

There is only one way to truly celebrate the lollipop, and that’s by enjoying a lollipop. Sure, you could watch an old Shirley Temple movie or get all down and jiggy with the official Munchkin brigade in that one dance number, but that’s neglecting the true joy of the lollipop, which lies in its sticky, tasty sugar.

There is no origin story; ever since we figured out we could boil sugar into something tasty we’ve been cramming a stick into it and using that stick to transport the goodness into our mouth-holes. Of course, a number of confectionary companies have stood up and claimed they invented the thing. I’m going to ignore those claims and center instead on the person who came up with the bizarre name. I guess ‘lolly’ referred to the tongue (given that ‘langue’ is French for ‘tongue’, I guess I can see the connection), and ‘pop’ meant a ‘snap’. English lexicographer Francis Grose recorded having heard the term in 1796. Another theory is that we can trace the word to Romany origin, since red apples on a stick are called ‘loli phaba’ (‘red apple’) there.

But as I implied two paragraphs ago, who cares? The lollipop is a visceral joy. We both enjoyed cotton candy flavoured lollipops last night for dessert. It wasn’t nutritious, but then almost nothing about this project seems to be.

International Chess Day

Well this has been a long time coming. Jodie has never learned to play chess, and we’ve discussed on a few occasions the possibility of me teaching her the game. I am far from an expert, and in fact I probably haven’t played an actual game of chess in at least 30 years. But I remember how the pieces are supposed to move, and really that’s most of it.

Except for the strategy part. There’s a move I learned about in my last project wherein you can achieve checkmate in two moves. It’s called Fool’s Mate, and it likely never occurs at the professional level. I know zero gambits or scenarios, nor am I adept at thinking seven or eight moves ahead. What I can do is slide the pieces around the board, so that was what I showed Jodie how to do.

And we had some laughs. It was fun for me, stretching my brain in that once-familiar way once again. It was fun for Jodie because we made sure to enjoy it and not take it all too seriously. This day was launched by UNESCO and has been landing on July 20 every year since 1966. It commemorates the July 20, 1924 founding of the International Chess Federation. So if all 600 million or so chess players around the globe found a partner and played yesterday, I guess we added a couple more to the list.

Nap Day

National Napping Day is a day that falls on the first Monday after the return to daylight savings time, giving us all a chance to catch up on the hour that we’d lost when we ‘sprung ahead’. We did this on March 9, and it was spectacular. I can find no legitimate source for Nap Day in July, but who are we to argue?

I had to work yesterday, and honestly my work right now has a tendency to wind up my inside parts into a rubbery stress-mass, so napping after work was not an option. But Jodie had no such worries, and she freely enjoyed the spirit of Nap Day, whether or not it’s a legitimate thing. It is now. Napping is heaven.

National Ugly Truck Contest Day

I can find no history for this holiday, only its mention on two holiday-listing sites, one of which uses the other as a source. So no, I don’t think this is a real thing.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t jump on board and celebrate. I present the above motor vehicle as evidence that Edmonton is a proud participant in Ugly Truck Day. Sure, I find it much uglier to see some racist or politically moronic sticker on the back of a truck (and up here in redneck country, those are everywhere), but for pure aesthetic insouciance, nothing beats the west Edmonton weirdo who was in love with James Cameron’s 2009 film, Avatar.

I can only imagine he stops at every red light and asks the folks in the vehicle beside him whether or not they are pumped up for the numerous sequels reportedly in the works. If he does this to me, I’ll nod carefully, not wanting to set him off. You don’t fuck with crazy fans of blue cats, or so I’m told. Oh, and this is an actual pair of photos of the truck’s owner. He has gotten more tattoos since. We live in a strange time.

Global Hug Your Kids Day

This would have been much more convenient had it dropped three weeks ago when we actually had kids at home within hugging distance. But it didn’t, so we sent our kids some virtual hugs through the phones yesterday. It wasn’t an acceptable substitute, but it would have to do.

There is an origin story to this day, and it comes from a woman named Michelle Nichols, who launched the day in 2008 to commemorate ten years since the passing of her son from brain cancer. So as simple a sentiment as this day may convey, I can’t really rag on it. We are told every couple weeks or so by our strict, unforgiving calendar that we are to show some love to our children somehow. It’s never a bad idea, so we never scoff at these suggested celebrations. This one carries with it the pang of urgency; kids may not always be around to hug. And even if they do stick around, they won’t be kids forever. Unless they are perpetually immature. You’re welcome, mom.

So hug your kids. It’ll make you feel good, even if you can only do it remotely.

World Jump Day

On the one hand, this day is brilliant. On the other, it’s astoundingly ridiculous. And on the other (we have three hands in this particular explanation, just go with it), it’s wonderfully audacious.

Let’s start with the brilliant. Jumping is quality exercise, and can mean a number of different things. The long jump, the triple jump, the high jump… jumping on a trampoline… jumping in sport, whether to sink a basket, block a kick, or fling one’s curling broom angrily into the stands… it’s all good exercise. You can jump from a plane, bungee from a bridge, or just crank up the Kriss Kross, Van Halen, Cyprus Hill or Pointer Sisters and bounce in place. It’s good for the heart and for the soul.

Now to the ridiculous. Artist Torsten Lauschmann conceived of this day in 2006, and it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above suggestions. He felt that if everyone in the western hemisphere were to jump and land at exactly the same time, we’d be thrown out of our orbit into a new one. That one might not present the same environmental issues, in particular climate change. That was his plan, and he allegedly (and this is a big ol’ allegedly) he had 600 million folks registered to make the jump. Spoiler: nothing happened.

And lastly we land in the blissfully audacious. Torsten likely had no actual belief that he’d solve climate change with something like this, but he’s an artist so we have to look deeper. On the surface we have the dastardly magnificent thought of 600 million people all jumping as part of a 1-second art exhibit. Beneath that there lies a message, either in the futility of creating simplistic solutions to complex issues like climate change, or a message of hope that our best bet at making a change is if we’re all united. Either way, it’s thought-provoking and interesting, exactly what art should be.

As for us, we jumped. No orbit shift occurred.

National Fortune Cookie Day

Ask anyone where the fortune cookie originated, and you’ll either get “China” from someone who doesn’t know much about actual Chinese cuisine, or “North America” from someone who is fully aware that the tradition only came to be a thing through westernized Chinese food. But the actual answer would be… Japan?

Allow me to introduce the concept of O-mikuji. These are randomized, mostly generic fortunes written on pieces of paper, one of which you can take when you make an offering at a Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple in Japan. They also came up with stuffing these fortunes into cookies, though the cookies are vastly different than the ones we know. It’s believed that Makoto Hagiwara, who operated the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, first introduced the concept to this part of the world, either in the 1890s or the early 1900s.

There are others who lay claim to the invention, but we’re sticking with the most likely candidate, Mr. Hagiwara. They were called Fortune Tea Cakes up until World War II, when the phenomenon switched from Japanese cuisine over to westernized Chinese cuisine. This may have been because most Japanese business people were crammed into internment camps, or perhaps the American palate simply shifted due to their general disdain for the Japanese during that time. We don’t know, and we’ll probably never know.

Fortune cookies were introduced to Hong Kong in 1989 and to mainland China a few years after that, but they were deemed ‘too American’ and never took off. We tend to get a kick out of the ones we get, but we don’t take them seriously. You should never take them seriously.

We ordered Chinese food for dinner last night in order to snag a couple of fortune cookies, but they forgot to include them in the bag. This truly sums up 2020: even the fortune cookies have forsaken us.

The week rolls on, and we roll over these distractions like a grateful bazillionaire, rolling through piles of his ill-gotten cash:

  • National Junk Food Day. I have spent decades getting ready for this, and I truly feel I’m prepared to celebrate it right.
  • National Be Someone Day. Well, it’s certainly better than the alternative.
  • Invite An Alien To Live With You Day. Anyone know how to get ahold of that lady from Total Recall with the three boobs? I’m kidding, honey…
  • Legal Drinking Age Day. I don’t know if I’m supposed to drink on this day or simply contemplate the notion of a drinking age, but I’m hoping it’s the former.
  • National Lamington Day. A day to pay tribute to a cake product I wasn’t even aware existed.
  • National Tug-Of-War Tournament Day. I doubt we’ll organize a formal tournament, but Liberty is always up for some tug-of-war.
  • Take A Monkey To Lunch Day. Hopefully a dog counts. Probably not. Then hopefully I do, then the dogs can celebrate it for me.

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