Thursday, November 26, 2020

For my American friends, yesterday was the final weekday before a glorious four-day weekend. The folks who invented Thanksgiving definitely know how to do it right. For us in Alberta, yesterday was a time to soak in the new emergency measures being put into place, and hopefully for our fellow citizens to avoid gathering in large crowds as one would for an American Thanksgiving celebration. For me it was a day to test my new snowblower, and to once again tackle the chore of chipping away at our celebration roster. We are nine away from our goal going into the day. Here’s what we conquered:

National Jukebox Day

Back in the day, people marvelled at coin-operated player pianos. They thought this was the pinnacle of music technology: drop a coin in the slot, and the piano will play whatever scroll has been mounted into its innards. How cool! Then in 1890 a guy named Louis Glass teamed up with William S. Arnold to create the first coin-operated phonograph, complete with four “listening tubes”. By 1918 we had a device that could choose between multiple records, not just whichever one was plopped onto the device.

For the name of the device you’d have to look into the fascinating linguistic history of Gullah, a creole language spoken in the southern US by descendants of folks who were forcibly relocated from their African homes a few generations earlier. The word ‘juke’ referred to disorderly, rowdy and wicked behavior, and a juke joint was where that sort of behavior went down: nightclubs with crazy, soul-stirring music. In 1940 the term jukebox came to be attached to the multi-record machine.

Growing up, I always dreamed of having a jukebox. My parents’ best friends had one in their basement and when we’d go over there I’d retreat to that room to listen to Hall & Oates and Foreigner, and play pinball or video games. It was a glorious time. I was, however, somewhat disappointed to learn that my pounding on the glass failed to make the records start playing. I was no Fonzie.

But now I own my own jukebox, which is just a pretty iPod speaker. In fact, the interface is meant to connect with an old iPod, the ones with the outdated, wide plugs. But it also has an aux-in input, so I can still use it with my phone. I own wireless Bluetooth speakers now, so this doesn’t get much use. But yesterday I used the jukebox to crank up Bill Haley’s cover of “Rock Around The Clock” because it seemed the most appropriate song for this celebration. It rocked.

What Do You Love About America Day

The only source I found for this one – and I looked diligently for one entire click of my mouse – is this one. It’s a 2006 blog entry that (a) claims this was invented by “ecard people”, and (b) features an inset photo of a carton of what looks to be organic Christmas milk. The author states she loves the variety in America, and also is looking forward to the upcoming Brigham Young / Utah football game. If BYU doesn’t win by at least ten points, she loses a bet. It’s 14 years later and I can report that BYU did win, but only by two points. So for not covering the spread, BYU may have ruined this particular author’s love of America, I don’t know. There is no follow-up.

I’m going to quickly fly through what I love about America:

  • America the nation just went through four years of being governed by a con-man/man-baby and voted his administration a dismal failure. I love that.
  • I have American familial roots and a deep love for the country’s potential, if not always its execution.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, the band America is terrific. “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair” are classics, as are “Tin Man” and even “A Horse With No Name”, despite its dumb-ass lyrics.
  • America Ferrera, the star of NBC’s Superstore, is a tremendously hilarious comedic actor, perfect as the star of that show. I’m a big fan.
  • “America” by Simon & Garfunkel is one of the few songs that can give me physical chills and discernible goosebumps whenever I hear it.
  • America, as in the North kind, is a delightful continent to live on. I wish it wasn’t so damn cold though.
  • “America” by Simon & Garfunkel, as covered by Yes early in their career, is not chill-inducing, but a tremendous feat of prog-rock mastery, and well worth the investment of time.
  • America (back to the country again) closes up shop for Thanksgiving and gives us three football games, two of which I have found a way to watch at work every year for the last 14 years. Today will be no exception. Well, except they bumped the evening game to Sunday so there are only two.

Thanks, America. All of you Americas.

National Blasé Day

One day I’m going to send a greeting card out to Pennsylvania couple Thomas and Ruth Roy and thank them for making parts of this project particularly weird and/or memorable. This one I’ll classify as weird, but by its very nature it will not be memorable. This is just like it sounds: a day to feel blasé and meh about everything in our lives. I did not work with furor or passion. I shoveled the snow and felt no excitement. I even phoned in my efforts with today’s article. What can I say? I’m feeling blasé.

The expression ‘meh’ could be of Yiddish origin, but no one has traced it back to a specific source. It’s the sound of shrugging shoulders, of wilting indifference. The Simpsons may have popularized it, and led to its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary, but ‘meh’ has been around as an identifiable expression of disinterest for as long as humans have been communicating their disinterest.

Yesterday was a perfect fit for Blasé Day. Nothing really sparked my interest, from sun-up to sun-down and beyond. And I kept it that way on purpose. In a relatively dull day-to-day life, coordinating the blasé is second-nature. It makes me think maybe my life should be more interesting and dynamic, and that I should look into why my life is as dull as it is. But that’s a task for another day. For now, we remain steadfastly blasé and proud of it.

Shopping Reminder Day

We are one month away from Christmas, which means only a paycheque or two left to order gifts online, since there is no chance I’ll be visiting a local mall next month. I’ll be honest – I can’t stand Christmas shopping. I don’t need any stuff, and I don’t like the obligation to buy a bunch of stuff for others. For a birthday? Sure. But because our capitalist overlords say this is something we all must buy into in December? I’m not interested.

But I do it. Admittedly, Jodie does the heavy lifting for the rest of the family, primarily for the reasons I outlined in my last paragraph. But I do love shopping for Jodie… in theory. Every so often we enter a December in relatively good financial shape, and shopping isn’t so much a burden as a fun romp through the reaches of possibility. But when the bank account is groaning at us to ease up, hunting for bargains isn’t fun.

That said, I bought into this day. I went shopping for a few ideas for Jodie’s gifts – ideas I won’t share here since she is one of my three or so devoted readers. But this is a reminder that we must do our capitalist duty and spend heaps of money in the next few weeks. Ideally folks will shop local as much as possible. Something good needs to come from this pandemic, and a surge of support for small local businesses would be a great something good.

Happy almost-holidays everyone!

Blackout Wednesday

Other names for this one: Drinksgiving, Whiskey Wednesday, and Wacky Wednesday. The concept is simple. Many people in America have a four-day weekend starting today. Yesterday saw a lot of college kids returning home for the holiday, and the night before the big family feast is the perfect night to head out and catch up with old friends and drink the night away. It’s also the perfect night to brace oneself for a long day with relatives they might wish to avoid. Though I can’t see how enduring Thanksgiving with a hangover will make it any more tolerable.

In some places, Drinksgiving is the worst drinking-and-driving night of the year – and it’s true, more drunk driving accidents happen around Thanksgiving than around Christmas down south. It’s a little scary, though tempered somewhat by the knowledge that a lot of people are staying home and skipping the big get-togethers this year. Drinksgiving may happen for the most part over Zoom calls. I hope.

Here in Canada, we don’t have a four-day weekend, and even when we do celebrate Thanksgiving we are cheated by having it land on a Monday. So getting ‘blackout’ last night would have been a silly choice. Jodie and I are both reporting to work this morning. But we did indulge in a beverage or two, because to not do so would be to shun this celebration. And now that we have blasted through five in our Wednesday, we now find ourselves only four celebrations shy of 2,000 on the year. That calls for another drink!

Today we’ll smell the tryptophan wafting across the border, and dedicate one of our monitors to tracking the football games. We’ll also have all this to choose from:

  • Thanksgiving (American). As stated above, we will be actively celebrating the football aspect of this holiday. We might also be thankful for stuff if we have time.
  • Turkey-Free Thanksgiving. We shan’t be eating turkey today, so I guess this is an easy one to cross off the list.
  • National Cake Day. We celebrated this one a bit early. Hooray for Cake! Maybe we’ll listen to some of that band’s music today too.
  • Good Grief Day. It’s Charles Schultz’s birthday. Maybe I’ll see if Jodie will hold a football while I run up and kick it.
  • Un-Thanksgiving Day. For indigenous folks who might not feel that the first Thanksgiving was particularly great for their people.
  • National Day of Mourning. Not exactly a celebration, but it counts.

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