Wednesday, August 19, 2020

There is little question that this journey through 2020 has tested each of our mental resources. Many of us have hit the once-distant frontiers of our mental well-being and blasted through to the other side. I have used this project to crank the knob of the immediate all the way to the right, eyeing not the potential fall-out of possibly contracting this virus but instead the moments of bliss and comfort as they happen. I may be done my summer vacation, but as long as Jodie is home and we can both remain safe in our comfy little hidey-hole, the present will continue to hold court. And we will continue to pour our efforts into our myriad of distractions, like these:

National Mail Order Catalog Day

Here’s a relic from the past. Mail order catalogs still exist, but they are hardly the consumerist force they once were. People relied on their Sears & Roebuck catalogs to outfit their homes. As a kid we scoured the Consumers Distributing catalog to pick out the toys we’d be harassing our parents for. And it wasn’t very long ago that we’d look forward to flipping through SkyMall’s catalog on a lengthy flight, if only to scratch the itch left behind when Sharper Image went away.

The first modern version of a mail-order catalog was set up by a guy whose actual name (and I double-checked this) was Pryce Pryce-Jones. He was a Welsh entrepreneur, and in 1861 he created a mail-order catalog to move his stores of flannel. Pryce Pryce-Jones was also the inventor of the sleeping bag and the recipient of a knighthood, so he did pretty well for himself with such a goofy name.

The first mail-order catalog set up in the United States was the coveted Blue Book, put out by Tiffany & Company. Montgomery Ward beat out Sears & Roebuck by launching their mail-order catalog in 1872. Even Timothy Eaton’s company started publishing theirs in 1884, four years before Richard Sears began selling his watches that way.

There aren’t a lot of paper-printed mail-order catalogs left, though Hammacher Schlemmer claims to produce the longest-running of its kind, having first been printed in 1881. Even SkyMall has shifted to an online shopping experience. Luckily we still have the Bradford Exchange, where you can get ultra-cheesy Americana, angel tchotchkes and Elvis belt buckles. I think the only folks who still thrive on mail-order catalogs are the ones who fit the Bradford demographic.

Yesterday we perused a couple of mail-order sites as they exist today. And we pined for the days when a Kenner AT-AT would brighten our holiday season.

Bad Poetry Day

From Thomas and Ruth Roy,

Many strange days were deployed;

Their voices were oft-heard,

And thus, this verse: a turd.

We cringe and force a rhyme

Like a most reluctant mime;

And when one slips our tongue,

We use the same word: tongue.

Bad poetry’s an art;

It’s not too late to start,

But don’t expect applause

For adding to this cause.

My words may not be thicc,

And to a predictable rhythm I may not specifically stick,

But try not to be sad;

It’s meant to be this bad.

In trying to suck it’s fun;

I’d give this verse a ‘1’.

Perhaps I’ll add more depth:

We are all teetering upon the eternal abyss of unflinching death.

Too far? Perhaps a bad limerick before I go.

There once was a man from Peoria

Who once in a state of euphoria

Declared, “I can’t rhyme!

Nor find enough time

To finish a thought.” And that was pretty much it for that idiot.

International Ice Cream Pie Day

Ice cream pie? I mean, we had Ice Cream Cake Day on June 27 (which we skipped over), why on earth would we indulge in ice cream pie? Who even makes ice cream pie, apart from Dairy Queen?

Fortunately we didn’t need to figure out the answer to this confusing riddle. I decided to build my own, using an open-face ice cream sandwich and some blueberries. It looked weird, and fell apart at the moment I snapped the above photo. If this project doesn’t kill us from pure exhaustion it will drive our calorie count into the stratosphere and rub us out that way. Don’t get me wrong, it was remarkably tasty – and I am looking oh-so-forward to National Soft Ice Cream Day (that’d be tomorrow, in case you’re keeping track of our food-induced demise), but damn. How much can we eat?

2020 will hold the solution to that question. But while we’re at it, how many paragraphs can I bring to a conclusion using a question?

As many as I damn well want. And I’ll eat all the home-made ice cream pie I damn well want. Because this is 2020, and if you can’t devour some MacGyver’ed frozen treats while the world is burning down, what’s the point?

Serendipity Day

Serendipity may be one of the most fun words to say out loud. Try it. Serendipity. Isn’t it pretty? That was fun.

Alas, this day is another for appreciating the unexpected good fortune in our lives. One site actually says we should try to experience moments of serendipity on this day, but that strikes me as running counter to the purpose of the day. Serendipity is simply supposed to happen. You can’t will it into being.

We are told to step out of our comfort zone, but in this new-fangled world of restricted possibility, what is outside our comfort zone anymore? Wandering into a crowd of folks downtown while not wearing a mask? Actually setting foot on public transit? No, the most serendipitous thing about 2020 was discovering just how great my comfort zone actually is, and that I want to remain here as much as humanly possible.

I suppose that honours this day, in some weird fashion. I think we’ve all found a moment or two of unanticipated joy from the bizarre circumstances of this year, and maybe that should be the serendipity we embrace.

National Fajita Day

The difference between eating a fajita and eating a soft taco that happens to contain grilled meat can be negligible. That’s all a fajita ever aspires to be: chicken or beef (usually), topped with peppers and onions and cheese and whatever else tickles your fancy, curled into a flour tortilla. The term used to point to the skirt steak that was once the focal point of the meal, but no one will look at you with disgust if you order chicken fajitas. Unless you try to order them at Burger King, I guess.

The fun in ordering fajitas at some restaurants (and here I’m remembering when it was our go-to dish at Chili’s) is assembling them yourself. The history of this dish goes back to feeding ranch hands with some freshly-slaughtered cow parts, though I’m sure the cowboys of old didn’t get to include caramelized onions or fresh pico de gallo on their campfire fajitas.

For this celebration, we were torn. We found a recipe for chicken fajitas, but we sought not to spend an inordinate amount of time in our sweltering kitchen. Instead we ordered the above fajitas from Julio’s. It meant a trip to the south side to pick them up (and me putting on pants for the first time in two days), but it was worth it. They were delicious.

If only there was something to wash it down with…

National Pinot Noir Day

The pinot noir grape (which, unsurprisingly, is where pinot noir wine comes from) grows in colder climates, so naturally it’s a prized source of great Canadian wines. It also creates some dynamite vinos from America, France, Italy, England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It even gets to feature in sparkling wines in the champagne region. While the grape may grow in our complicated climate, it’s still a very tricky grape to bring to fruition. It packs into clusters as it grows, which leads to an entire mess of cultivation problems that I can’t even pretend to understand.

It also provides the grape’s name. ‘Pinot’ refers to the pinecone-like clusters of grapes, while ‘noir’ indicates that this particular grape would taste delicious in a 1940s Dashiell Hammett cinematic adaptation, ideally starring Robert Mitchum and lots of fedoras.

Look, I do a great job of pretending I know a tremendous amount about wine (just look at that timely Robert Mitchum reference in the previous sentence), but the truth is I do not. I enjoy it, and I’ve enjoyed it since I was eight days old, but I don’t believe my tongue possesses the equipment to discern the complexities from grape to grape, or vineyard to vineyard. Isn’t it enough to simply enjoy the stuff? Do I have to pretend like I can notice the robust cherry undertones or the “savoury fleshiness” of a pinot noir?

No. I do not. This is all about the celebrating, and the only way to celebrate wine properly is to drink it, not to pontificate about it endlessly. So that’s what we did. We are pros.

Hopefully today will find us firing our rockets into the blitzing glory of all of this wonderful celebratory mayhem. Either way, we’ll do our best:

  • National Soft Ice Cream Day. This falls into the category of ‘unskippable’ celebrations, so yes, we will be enjoying some.
  • International Bow Day. The tie? Don’t own one. A pretty one for Jodie’s hair? Don’t own one of those either. So I guess we’re wearing Christmas bows.
  • National Potato Day. Woohoo! Potatoes!
  • National Hot & Spicy Food Day. We did enjoy a magnificent hot and spicy chicken sandwich from Popeye’s a couple days ago. Does that count?
  • International Orangutan Day. Finally, a day we can celebrate all of our favourite international orangutans.
  • World Photography Day. We will take some photographs of the world around us, I suppose.
  • National Sandcastle & Sculpture Day. We don’t have any sand around here to play with, but looking up some of the greatest sand castles sounds like a good time.

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