Sunday, November 29, 2020

Our spiritual froth was in full fluffy fervor yesterday as we executed our weekly supply run and returned home to help our #3 canine research assistant (Liberty) celebrate her first birthday. The day gave way to evening, and the only laborious chore on my radar was the act of sitting down and writing an article about whichever celebrations happened to pique my interest for the day. There weren’t many. We presently crave the moment, not the documentation of the moment. But we signed up for a year, and we shall serve out our sentence. The best way to do this is to mine it for the positive. Here’s a great example:

Small Business Saturday

Black Friday saw people cramming into malls and into lineups outside of stores for great bargains and a complimentary exposure to the Covid virus. Cyber Monday, showing up tomorrow, will send scores of folks to help buy Jeff Bezos’s next meal, which I believe is slated to be roast unicorn with a side of that most dangerous game: man. Crammed between these two days, which aim to separate as much of our money from us as possible, we have Small Business Saturday.

Buying local isn’t just a catchy hashtag in 2020; it’s a lifeline to independent businesses in a fractured economy. I get that none of us want to leave the house right now, and Amazon has made it so damn easy to have purchases sent to our homes with a single click of the mouse, but every city and town needs its local economy to thrive. That’s where the magic is.

On Friday we dined at Dadeo, our favourite restaurant and one of Edmonton’s most beloved small businesses. For our Saturday outing we stopped at Destination Doughnuts (of course – we have now been there every Saturday we’ve been in town without fail for the last three years). Then we wandered over to the small but swanky High Street shopping centre and popped into The Heart of the Home, a brilliant kitchen shop. This isn’t one of those shops where everything is stupidly overpriced – their stuff is reasonable and really nice. A great spot for gift shopping. From there we went across the parking lot to Zack & Finnigan, which features everything I’d want to decorate my home. Then we went next door to Carol’s Quality Sweets, where we loaded up on stocking stuffers, supplies for an upcoming celebration or two, and candy for us because we love candy. Our last stop was Callingwood Flowers, probably the grooviest store in Edmonton’s west end.

We won’t make it through this year’s mandated shopping season without throwing some money Bezos’s way. But as much as possible we’ll be trying to funnel our cash toward local entrepreneurs. They deserve to be celebrated.

International Aura Awareness Day

I’m only including this one because I once had my aura photographed. I don’t believe in auras any more than I believe in astrology, teacup readings, the Cleveland Browns or the Easter Bunny, but I do find it interesting to speak with people who do believe in them. My dad, who moved to Los Angeles in the early 90s and hooked up with all sorts of weird people, was behind this photograph, and I wish I could have tracked it down for inclusion in this article. You’d see a 16-year-old me looking like a doofus with a pale orange glow around my head.

Why orange? I’m glad I asked. Your aura, according to those who can see it (or who have purchased magical cameras that can reveal it), will reveal what kind of person you are. While I’d like to think if this were accurate that orange meant I’m a neurotic weirdo who likes self-indulgent, seemingly-eternal writing projects, it simply means I’m creative and full of emotion. Well, that’s not untrue.

And while one can cram themselves into whichever astrological sign they’d like, with their vague ‘traits’ and personality types that could really be extrapolated to almost anyone, these auras are a bit more limited. Had I revealed a purple aura, for example, it would have meant I was charismatic with a powerful personality. That ain’t me. Still, blue would have meant I’m caring and nurturing, and pink would have said I’m sensitive and gentle, so really those would have fit me too.

I don’t believe in auras, but I can appreciate the awesomeness of the mythology. And if I find that photo, even if it’s after this project is done, I will vow to share it. It’d be good for a laugh.

Hip Hop History Month

A wise man once said, “I said a hip hop, the hippie to the hippie, the hip hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a-rock it to the bang-bang boogie, say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat. A-skiddlee-bebop, we rock, scooby doo, and guess what America, we love you.” He was, in retrospect, so right.

Hip hop is one of the most fascinating cultural movements of the last 100 years. Where rock ‘n roll fused r&b, blues and country together for the masses, those masses were, for the most part, white. The only true movements in western black music culture have been blues, jazz and hip hop. And while the first two are essential listening and powerful influences, neither has come close to be quite the cultural juggernaut of hip hop. White folks have joined in – as we did with jazz and blues – but this is the realm of black expression and it likely always will be.

Fans of classic hip hop (and, I suppose, of the movie The Wedding Singer) will recognize those lyrics up there as belonging to the Sugarhill Gang, from their 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight”, which most consider to be the first time hip hop hit the world on record. It had been bubbling up in the underground scene before that, of course, primarily in the Bronx where DJs would spin their records and improvise their skills in neighbourhood block parties and house parties. Hip hop was a fresh form of expression, and it’s fascinating to peruse the genre’s history to see how that expression has evolved.

Often that expression is self-inflating, with lyrics (even in “Rapper’s Delight”) extolling how awesome the rapper is, how well he does with the ladies, and how much money he has. Whether or not it’s true is irrelevant – the nature of these expressions of bravado and success are the key to the message of early hip hop, and it demonstrates the genre to be a positive and powerful means of restructuring one’s perception of the world. Hip hop got political and topical early on, and it has reflected much of the black experience in America over the last 40 years.

I’ve often tuned in to LL Cool J’s station on Sirius/XM (which used to simply be a retro-hip hop station called ‘Backspin’, with no celebrity affiliation). I love the stuff, whether it’s Run DMC boasting of their Adidas shoe collection, Salt-n-Pepa flipping the tables on boastful sexuality, or N.W.A. advising us that the po-lice are not necessarily the most upstanding humans in their world. It’s great music, and it speaks to an ever-evolving rich culture. I love it.

National French Toast Day

French toast has been around since the 4th or 5th century. Back then it was not known by that name (obviously), and honey was the topping of choice. It’s a simple recipe that has popped up in various cultures all over the place because, well, it’s just that simple of a recipe. It also goes by the name Eggy Toast, Gypsy Toast, Bombay Toast, and Poor Knights of Windsor (seriously).

Apparently an early variation of this dish involved dipping the bread only in milk, not in egg. Other variations involve dunking the bread in wine, rosewater or orange juice before or after cooking it, which suggests to me that people will try pretty much anything, at least once. In the United States it was a popular railroad dish, being served on fancy train dining cars in the early 1900s. New Orleans cuisine, of course, raises the bar by including spirits in their egg mixture.

We love French toast, and often make it with some bacon when we have leftover French bread from a night of pasta or some other such revelry. Yesterday we bought the French break specifically so we could enjoy breakfast for dinner and celebrate this properly. We may have surpassed our goal for this year, but dammit we are still committed.

It’s another Sunday of football and relaxing, and not leaving our bed for most of the day. Here’s what we could get up to if we feel so inspired:

  • Electronic Greetings Day. We just had an electronic greeting card day last week, so I don’t see the need to revisit this.
  • National Lemon Cream Pie Day. You know what works in place of buying or preparing an entire pie? A doughnut!
  • Customer Is Wrong Day. I was wondering what retail concept would get shoved in the middle of this shopping weekend. This works for me.
  • Small Brewery Sunday. Yep. We will be celebrating this one. I let stout day go by without celebrating so we don’t want to miss another beer party.
  • National Square Dance Day. Oh hell no.
  • Throw Out Your Leftovers Day. A day to dispose of those unwanted Thanksgiving holdouts. We don’t have any – or really any leftovers sitting around.