Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In doing our ever-present best to maintain a positive, enthusiastic approach to this project, even when the sunlight and other distracting forces suggest we pour our attentions elsewhere, we won’t complain. We won’t complain about our sore post-shoveling muscles. We won’t complain about the lack of pep and originality in our daily missions. We won’t complain about the arrival of winter since we complained about that already last weekend. We’ll keep our dispositions tuned to sunny, and our eye on the proverbial prize of seeing this project to completion. And along the way, we’ll even make time for this:

National Louisiana Day

We have missed a handful of these state-feast days, and for that I’m a little sad. I haven’t ruled out swooping back and getting to all of them, but it will take some creativity and some motivation on my part. For now we’ve visiting the Pelican State, the one we visit culinarily more often than most, given that our favourite restaurant is a Cajun-style diner. Pictured above is the gumbo from Da-De-O on Whyte Ave – a gumbo I enjoyed the hell out of a few days back. Louisiana food is known for being spicy and intriguing, wholly different and beyond most other regional American cuisines.

But what of the state itself? Louisiana gets hit by natural disasters, given its placement in the Gulf of Mexico and its prime city being built below sea level. Like many southern states it is besieged by poverty and low scores on education and health care. It has had the highest homicide rate in the country for more than 20 years, and in 2018 it was rated the most unhealthy state in which to live. And yet, apart from its urban centers, the state continues to vote against their best interests, including passing a ballot measure last week to chip away at women’s abortion rights.

Given New Orleans’ position at the mouth of the Mississippi, it has always been a key strategic spot, which is why Thomas Jefferson moved to snatch it up in that infamous purchase from the French. This is also why it was ground zero for the most slave-trading in the nation at one time. In 1860 the state seceded in order to protect its right to keep slavery going, despite 47% of the state’s population being actual slaves. But we don’t want to focus solely on the negative here. It’s a small-business friendly state, an active producer of some of our best hot sauces, and it has a thriving film industry. Its greatest contributions to the planet have been its food and its music. Don’t even get me started on the music: the Meters, the Neville Brothers, Trombone Shorty… New Orleans has its own cultural texture and it’s magnificent.

The state has also produced some cool people: there’s Ellis Marsalis (and family) from New Orleans, Jelly Roll Morton (self-proclaimed inventor of jazz) from New Orleans, John Larroquette from New Orleans, Lead Belly from Mooringsport, Jared Leto from Bossier City, Jerry Lee Lewis from Ferriday, Little Walter from Marksville, Wendell “Bunk” Pierce from New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson from New Orleans, Dr. John from New Orleans, Anne Rice from New Orleans, Richard Simmons from New Orleans (who knew?), Clarence “Frogman” Henry from New Orleans, Allen Toussaint from Gert Town, Reese Witherspoon from New Orleans, Buckwheat Zydeco from Lafayette, Buddy Guy from Lettsworth, Ellen DeGeneres from Metairie, Fats Domino from New Orleans, Mark & Jay Duplass from New Orleans, Truman Capote from New Orleans, Harry Connick Jr. from New Orleans, plus so many other brilliant musicians, talented football players, and even a supreme court justice who got her job without really accomplishing much in her career. Neat!

Thanks to Louisiana for all the food and music. I’ve never been there, but it is undoubtedly one of my favourite states.

World Freedom Day

I had thought this would be a United Nations Day celebrating how great freedom is around the world, especially in contrast with its alternative… not freedom. But this is actually an American-based day, first declared by President George W. Bush in 2001 to commemorate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the end of communist reign in eastern Europe.

This may appear odd, the president declaring a World Freedom Day in early November of 2001, when his attention was mostly pointed elsewhere. But it caught on, and has been proclaimed by both presidents since. Young Republicans like to celebrate this one so that they can praise Ronald Reagan, whom they credit with the downfall of communism in the Soviet Union. I’m pretty sure the actual factors that went into it stretch beyond Reagan, but there’s no need to dig into all that here.

This day we can celebrate freedom in America through the process of democratic election leading to a peaceful transition in power – at least for the previous 45 instances in which it applied. I’m not sure how peaceful the next transition will be, but that’s for others to fret over. I’m glad we’re all free from having to pay close attention to what that man-baby rants about on Twitter. Freedom is a beautiful thing.

Carl Sagan Day

Sure, it’s just his birthday, but there is a website that calls it a ‘day’ and we’ll go with it. Carl Sagan was more than a scientist and much more than a TV host. He was one of our most brilliant minds, and he saw in humanity the potential for a kind of cerebral greatness, an evolution of our minds to a place of greater understanding and (as a result) civility.

Carl won a Pulitzer, a Peabody, two Emmys and a Hugo. He fell in love with nature and science at a young age, and pursued them on his own. His work included learning about the atmospheres of Venus and Mars, figuring out climate change in the earliest stages of research, and theorizing about extra-terrestrial life. He then brought science into our homes through his Cosmos series, some of which we watched yesterday as a tribute to the man’s great scientific mind.

Science is once again in style, and just in time for Carl’s big day. He should still be with us – yesterday would have been his 86th birthday. But the knowledge and wisdom he passed on to us will long outlive him, and isn’t that really the point? Thanks for everything, Carl.

National Chaos Never Dies Day

For all of the celebrations that remind us to take moments from our lives to appreciate the calm and tranquility that we’re able to cobble out of our busy everydays, this one is the opposite. The chaos in life never really goes away, does it? Even in those precious moments of peace, absolute madness is perpetually poised just outside the door, waiting to pounce. So let’s give a little shout-out to that madness. In the grand equation of the universe, it’s kind of crucial.

The chaos is life. It’s that simple. The trick is to find the rhythm of it, and to appreciate the greatness of it. It’s also important to be able to escape it in temporary spurts, and whenever possible to tailor the chaos to fit with your own goals. American politics will retain its sense of chaos, even with the election over. We can hide out from this virus inside, but chaos looms in the fallout from a lockdown. The chaos never goes away.

But it can take on a different hue. In 2021 the chaos of this project will appear to subside, but that madness will simply hop onto a different commuter train and find some other route into my brain-parts. And I’m okay with that – I have to be. If you spend your life trying to flee the chaos then that’s all you’ll ever be doing. Find a way to harness it and have fun with it, and you’ve quite possibly stumbled upon the secret of a happy life right there.

Or maybe not. I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

TODAY

Today the sun rises on yet another day of unpredictable whateverness. I look upon our list of celebrations with trepidation. Is there enough to keep us excited? Here’s what’s up:

  • National Forget-Me-Not Day. This is a type of flower, and presently there are no living flowers in our world, apart from at florist shops.
  • National Vanilla Cupcake Day. We have had a lot of cupcakes this year.
  • National Pupusa Day. This is an El Salvadorian treat. We probably won’t be picking any up tonight, but we might get this one on the weekend.
  • Sesame Street Day. Another day to celebrate the Street – Cookie Monster had his own day; this is for the whole gang.
  • Area Code Day. What a thing to celebrate!
  • International Accounting Day. And here I was, worried there wouldn’t be anything fun today.

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