Monday, August 17, 2020

The sun has once again revved its motor up to beyond-boiling, and my vacation has tragically reached its post-credits scene on this peculiar August Monday. Fortunately my work day will take place not 50 feet from my hammock, and I plan to make the most of my lunch hour in a very horizontal fashion. The splintered lens of this mangled year has redefined the parameters of a “hot spell” or a “vacation”, so much so that these once-reliable bastions of familiarity are now evolving their own unique skin. We can pine, we can mourn, or we can simply embrace the arbitrary and welcome whatever comes next. I feel little sadness at returning to work, and perhaps even a renewed sense of motivation to tackle whatever gets dealt out next. So long as I can hide out at home and continue to celebrate all of this:

National Tell A Joke Day

I like to consider myself a rather humorous person, in that I’m able to laugh at myself, at others, and at the world’s chaotic blend of hodgie-podginess. I am well enough versed in the history of cinematic and televised situation comedy that I can fire off a sufficient amount of zingers to qualify me to play a wacky neighbour to someone’s life story. This is a source of pride. I was raised as a Jew, but the only Jewish teachings I received were those of comedy. Delivery and punchline. Callbacks. I can lob a dad-joke-level pun or a witty slice of politico ha-ha-ery when needed.

But I don’t tell jokes. Did you hear the one about the guy who couldn’t tell a joke? It’s terrible; I hope you haven’t wasted your time. And yes, I used to own a few joke books that were probably given to me by father in a desperate attempt to train me for a lifetime of working the Catskills, but I just never mastered that delivery. To me, humour isn’t particularly humorous if your audience is gearing up for a punchline. The punchline needs to happen organically.

That said, there are some masterful joke tellers out there. Most stand-ups pitch their delivery in stories and observations, but a few of them lean on the classic joke format. It stems from the greats like Henny Youngman and has evolved through the surreal joke exploration of Emo Phillips, Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg (all three of whom are comedic gold). Even Gilbert Gottfried, a comedian whom my wife finds repulsive but who never fails to split my sides, that guy can still go up on stage and get away with “What do you get when you cross a…” type of jokes.

It’s a masterful skill to pull this off without appearing schlocky. Or, if you’re going to appear schlocky (which Gilbert most certainly does), to be able to do so in a way that magnifies the hilarity. It’s a skill I wish I possessed.

National Roller Coaster Day

Some people are terrified by roller coasters, while others are drawn to them with a sick, drooling hunger for extreme dives, wild loops, and gravitational shmushing into the back of one’s chair. Jodie and I fall clearly into the latter category. We once spent a New Year’s Eve at Six Flags Magic Mountain, watching the crowds race to the exit around 6:00pm to prepare for their wild night of revelry, while we and a handful of others enjoyed no-wait non-stop roller-coasting until the park closed at 10. It was magnificent.

The first roller coasters were called ‘Russian Mountains’, and they were 80-foot ice slides built in the 17th century near what is now St. Petersburg. In 1817, the Promenades Aeriennes was built in Paris. This was the first modern roller coaster, with wheeled carts fixed to a track. Coasters took a while to catch on, but by the end of the 19th century the fad had truly struck. The Gravity Pleasure Road was the first full-circuit coaster with a lifting hill to start the ride. It operated at Coney Island in Brooklyn, which has been a coveted spot for coaster lovers ever since. The Cyclone opened there in 1927, and when we rode it two years ago we found it to be exceptionally thrilling, smooth and wonderful. The magic of a good coaster doesn’t fade.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, which opened in 1959, was the first coaster to use a tubular steel track. Revolution at Six Flags was the first with a loop. To be a coaster enthusiast is a dream of ours; to have the money to travel the world and experience all of these magnificent rides would be amazing.

Unfortunately, the only coasters operating in Edmonton are tucked into West Edmonton Mall’s giant amusement park. This park is, of course, closed due to Covid, so that left us only able to reminisce about the great coasters we’ve ridden on. And to be clear, the Mindbender – the triple-loop monstrosity at the big mall – is not one of them. That coaster is rough and jarring, and not at all a pleasant experience.

But that first drop? Oh, that first drop is divine.

National Bratwurst Day

I am a little displeased that I wasn’t aware of this day on Saturday morning. You see, I have a massive pile of celebrations that I have sketched out throughout the year, but there are a handful of websites from which I am gathering events I hadn’t found in my research. This was from one of them, and we happened to dine at Barb & Ernie’s Old Country Inn restaurant for brunch on Saturday. They make an incredible bratwurst, which pairs delightfully with their potato pancakes and homemade condiments.

But I ordered the eggs benedict. Alas, I simply didn’t know this day was around the corner. For whatever it’s worth, I ordered the bratwurst at least the last three times we ate there, so my record with appreciating this finely crafted sausage is well-recorded. Pictured above is the new bratwurst burger they are offering, and I have no doubt it is as delectable as literally everything else on their menu. We simply don’t get there for anything but brunch very often, since they do brunch better than anyone else in town.

So what the hell is bratwurst anyway? My research suggests it dates back to Nuremberg in the year 1313. This is an unverified Wikipedia claim, so take it with a few shakes of salt. There are multiple varieties of bratwurst. It can be made with veal or beef, but it usually contains pork. The name derives quite simply from two Old High German words: “brat”, meaning finely chopped meat, and “wurst”, meaning crammed into a sausage casing. I’m sure there are numerous ways to season and spice up a brat to make it perfect, but I’m not one to dig around too much into how the sausage is made.

I’ll show you how it’s eaten. That’s celebration enough for me.

True Love Forever Day

This is not simply another arbitrary day for us to celebrate our true love. I mean, it is, but it has a specific origin story.

Fans of Robert James Waller – or at least the truly devoted fans who have memorized every aspect of the author’s work – will probably recognize August 16 as the day that Robert Kincaid met Francesca while he was working in Madison County, Iowa, taking pictures of covered bridges. That was in 1965, and of course it didn’t actually happen because these are merely fictional characters in Mr. Waller’s 1992 novel The Bridges of Madison County, but folks who love a good love story won’t be bothered by this.

So yes, this is a day to celebrate true love, and we did – by building a new home base together. Last night we constructed our king-size bed (an upgrade from a queen), and set up shop in our new bedroom, which used to be our family room. It’s just the two of us now, so why not set up our little love nest in the room with the fireplace, the bigger TV, and the tendency to remain cool without the use of a loud air conditioner?

We took a selfie together on Saturday for Best Friends Day; the pic above is in honour of our own true love forever… and now hopefully in a bed that will accommodate us and the dogs, since they aren’t sleeping without us. Dammit.

National Rum Day

Oh, how I have waited for this day.

I have sipped through numerous alcoholic celebrations – some of which have included rum – but it was all a rocky pathway to get to this, the most divine and sublime of all liquors. Sweet, sweet rum. Rum, mixed with Coke, was my first foray into alcohol after wine, as my aunts and uncles used to pour them for me at most family get-togethers. To this day, rum & Coke is a drink I reserve for the holiday season, since it will always signify a happy Christmas to me.

But rum can do so much more. We have friends who have a tiki bar in their living room – in fact, they don’t have a dining room at all, just the tiki bar. Jones will brew up the most elaborate and intricate beverages, often measuring out ingredients with an eye-dropper as he follows the sacred recipes of Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber. These are storied beverages, which deliver a minimum ten seconds of varying flavour landscapes with each sip. These drinks are journeys, with so many layers of magnificence you’ll want to down a dozen of them. Unfortunately, since most of Jones’s drinks contain at least 4 ounces of alcohol, that isn’t possible.

I would crawl over broken glass for a perfect mai tai. I would also pay dearly for a well-crafted fog-cutter, zombie or hurricane. Rum makes this world a sweeter and more wonderful place, and I hope I have the years to experience every brilliant method that mixologists have bent and shaped rum into something immaculate.

Last night I downed the last of my Diplomatico rum. This was a rum that my aunt Chris and uncle Graham bestowed upon me for my 40th birthday, and it changed my life. It’s a sipping rum – no mix is needed. And it’s so smooth and decadent it warms one’s very soul. Unfortunately, the distributor for Alberta got into some sort of a tussle with another distributor, and now Diplomatico is but a memory to our prairie palettes. The bottle above I’d purchased in BC over a year ago. I was saving its final drops for this special and holy day.

Long live rum. Long live me, so that I can drink lots more rum.

TODAY

Today I’m back at work. This does not thrill me. Fortunately, all of this does:

  • National Nonprofit Day. We will learn of some of the great non-profits we can donate to.
  • National I LOVE My Feet Day. Will Jodie head out for a pedicure? She certainly hopes so.
  • National Thrift Shop Day. We may or may not head to a thrift shop. Given how little we like leaving the house right now…
  • Black Cat Appreciation Day. Anyone I know have any black cats they’d like me to appreciate?
  • International Homeless Animals Day. Sounds like a great day to kick one or all of our dogs out of our house. Or at least out of our new bed.
  • Baby Boomers Recognition Day. Sure, they didn’t solve all the world’s problems, but hey, they gave us the Rolling Stones, right?
  • National Meaning of “Is” Day. Sure, a day to make fun of Bill Clinton. Why not?
  • National #2 Pencil Day. Well, this is special. Jodie loves her pencils.
  • Balloon Airmail Day. Probably not.
  • National Vanilla Custard Day. I actually already took care of this one. In doughnut form, of course.
  • Stay Home With Your Kids Day. We can do the first part, but not the second.

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