Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Glory be to the slow yawn of a morning off, when a twitch of desire to pop a Star Wars movie on the screen during my morning coffee is met with nothing but a snort of approval from our canine companions. Yesterday was a day carved from hot tar and turkey gravy, drizzled in breaths beneath a tea-kettle sky. The dogs were more playful, the breeze more cleansing than an average day. Some days land above the curve, and this was one of them. Here’s what was up:

National Virginia Day

Welcome to Virginia, a state so noble and cromulent it isn’t known as “The Something State” – its nickname is simply “Old Dominion.” Virginia was the first colony of England’s brash footprint in North America. It remains the only state to get so disgusted with itself, it split in two. Its General Assembly, which set up shop 401 years ago, is the oldest continuous law-making gaggle on the continent. 62% of the state is blanketed in forest. It’s a ludicrously attractive succession of landscapes.

Virginia is deeply intertwined with American history, from George Washington’s birth right up to the present. It’s where you’ll find Arlington Cemetery and the C.I.A. headquarters. The two highest-income counties in the nation are located in northern Virginia. There’s more defense spending per capita in Virginia than anywhere else in the country, no doubt because the Pentagon is located there. They also have the highest speed internet in the country, and the third-highest in the world. I’m willing to bet even the residents of Virginia didn’t know that. Also, I’ll credit the presence of the Pentagon.

It’s a smart state too, consistently in the top 5 states for academic achievement. In contemplating what to enjoy for this beloved state, Jodie asked a friend of hers who was raised there. She claimed that crabcakes were the way to go for a true Virginia feast, so crabcakes we had. We could taste the history.

How about a few great humans from Old Dominion? Well, there’s Shirley MacLaine from Richmond, Jason Mraz from Mechanicsville, Wayne Newton from Norfolk, Rob Lowe from Charlottesville, Patton Oswalt from Portsmouth, Tim “Venus Flytrap” Reid from Norfolk, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson from Richmond, Bruce Hornsby from Williamsburg, Willard Scott (the O.G. Ronald McDonald) from Alexandria, Vince “Break My Heart With Another Goddamn Cliffhanger” Gilligan from Richmond, Gene Vincent from Norfolk, D’Angelo from Richmond, Clarence Clemons from Norfolk County, Patsy Cline from Winchester, and Ella Fitzgerald from Newport News.

Sounds like a great state to visit, if we ever get to visit states again. Meanwhile, there’s also:

National New York Day

Another state to be celebrated on the same day? Well, sort of. National Virginia Day was last week, we just put off the celebration until we could come up with a suitable food. New York Day was yesterday, and yes – it looks like National Pepperoni Pizza Day from last weekend. But there were leftovers, and as any student at Columbia or NYU would attest, cold leftover thin-crust pizza is a New York staple. Let’s not dig too deeply here.

The Empire State has given us so much. All the cuisine, culture and innovation that has come from its most populous city, and still the rest of the state had the good sense to create stuff like Finger Lakes Chicken and Buffalo Wings. Four of the world’s top ten tourist attractions are in the state (remember, they have the lesser version of Niagara Falls there too). New York is where stuff happens. It’s the heart of American culture, diversity, and LGBT rights.

Pizza was an easy choice for New York Day, but there were so many other options. Most of the great bastions of American Jewish cuisine – thick-cut pastrami, bagels & lox – were born in New York. At least one of the claims to the invention of the hamburger is from New York. Westernized Chinese food sees a lot of its roots in New York.

In short, New York is the state we yearn to return to the most. Jodie in particular – she was scheduled to take off with her school on a trip to the Big City next month. Instead she’ll be stuck here with me. Such is 2020.

A list of cool humans to have come from New York would take several pages, so I’ll just pick a few: Humphrey DeForest Bogart from NYC, Matthew Broderick from NYC, Chevy Chase from NYC, Rodney Dangerfield from Babylon, Steve Buscemi from NYC, Peter Falk from NYC, Scarlett Johansson from NYC, Al Pacino from NYC…. I mean, the list is really too long. We will forever heart New York.

National Pecan Cookie Day

There isn’t much to say about this one. Our team baker is astoundingly adept at crafting pecan cookies, and she has already done so for Pecan Sandy Day. She made a very similar batch for this very similar celebration, and they were goddamn fantastic. They aren’t my favourite cookies on the planet, but they’re easily somewhere in the top 20. Far better than any pecan-featured store-bought cookie would have been.

Thanks, mom. And thanks, calendar gods for giving us another batch of pecan cookies to devour. We’ll never go hungry in 2020.

National Chai Day

I’ll be honest… we would have loved to slurp back some masala chai yesterday, but we remained housebound. The real stuff – in case you’ve somehow avoided sampling it in all your years – is delightful. Black tea flavoured with aromatic herbs and spices, and often brewing in a pot for an entire day. It used to be an herbal medicine, and it’s obvious there’s some magic in those delicious drops. But today it’s just top-notch tea for most.

For us, we adopted the “other” meaning. Chai literally translates as ‘tea’, so Jodie simply had some blueberry tea that we had on-hand. I know, this is a subdued celebration, but it’s about all we had in the tank yesterday. We do what we can.

Pause The World Day

A day to hit pause on the craziness of the world. We did that. We will be doing that every Sunday for the remainder of 2020, because failure to do so may threaten to overthrow our sanity and drive us into an inescapable conniption. Honestly, the stress of the world is beating a tympani drum roll outside our door right now, and when Jodie is at school that drum roll is downright deafening.

So Sunday we will pause the world every week. If football lasts for the entire season that’s great. If not, we’ll fill those days with movies, with music, or with the blissful magnificence of silence. At this point, hitting ‘pause’ on the world is the only sane thing to do, given that the world doesn’t come with an option to stop, eject, and load a different tape.

This ties in with Self-Care Awareness Month, which we discussed a couple days ago. Everyone needs to find out how to get through this madness in a way that works for them, with as little fall-out to others as possible. Sunday pauses are ours.

National Sponge Toffee Day

Sponge toffee is just a clever way of twisting brown sugar and corn syrup or molasses into something fantastically chewy and wonderfully tasty. I have a friend who has made the stuff at home, and it’s apparently quite simple to do. We might have tried, except for the fact that we really didn’t want to. We could just pop over to the convenience store and grab a Crunchie bar; why go to all the trouble and mess of making it ourselves?

Actually, we opted instead to head to Carol’s Quality Sweets, the greatest (without exception) candy store in town. They make their own, and they do it perfectly. There was no need to welcome a mess into our lives or to cheap out by buying a candy bar. We crunched, we chewed, we tried our best to pry the sticky stuff off of our teeth, and it was wonderful. Exactly what a celebration should be.

For those who may be interested (and who knows? It might be you!), sponge toffee is also known as cinder toffee in England, hokey pokey in New Zealand, honeycomb in South Africa, dalgona in Korea, gulali in Indonesia, and in various parts of the United States they call it sea foam, sponge candy, angel food candy, fairy food candy, and puff candy. Doesn’t matter – it’s all good stuff.

National Fried Rice Day

One day late, but we made some delicious home-made shrimp fried rice last night to go with our Virginia Day crab cakes. I’d write more, but honestly what else do I need to say? Fried rice is delicious.

Today is a work-filled, busy-type day, but we will try to cram what celebrations we can before the curtain closes:

  • Autumnal Equinox. In China they gaze at the moon on the equinox. Is that enough to celebrate? Can we just look at the moon?
  • National Ice Cream Cone Day. We will definitely celebrate this one. I mean, come on. It’s an easy one.
  • Car Free Day. This does not mean we get a free car, which was disappointing to learn. But I didn’t use a car at all today. Jodie drove our Rav4, but that’s technically a truck…?
  • National Legwear Day. I call them pants. I wore pants.
  • National White Chocolate Day. Carole’s Quality Sweets will come through for us again with more homemade goodness.
  • National Girls’ Night In Day. We can’t invite friends over, but our girls will spend the night in.
  • Dear Diary Day. I shan’t be starting a diary.
  • Chainmail Day. It’d be a great day to dress up in our chainmail armor, but we haven’t stumbled upon any in the dungeon yet.
  • National Elephant Appreciation Day. We have already appreciated the elephant this year – no need to let their heads swell.
  • World Rhino Day. Fine and noble beasts. Do they like ice cream?

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