Tuesday, December 1, 2020

As we dance all down-geared-like into our final month of this project – the quietest month for arbitrary celebrations, thankfully – we do what we can to block out the realities of this oft-twisted timeline that has made up our 2020. History books will be written about this year. At the very least, more sweeping texts will require an entire chapter for this global shift from the normal. And this is the year we happened to select for celebrating just about everything in the known universe. Coincidence? Cruel fate? Maybe we should simply be welcome for the distraction. Speaking of distractions, here was our Monday:

Stay Home Because You’re Well Day

So Thomas and Ruth Roy, those curiously prolific holiday-inventors from Pennsylvania whose musings have provided at least six dozen acts of celebration from us this year so far, came up with this call to arms for folks to play hooky from work. Call in sick. Stay home. Do it because you’re healthy and you deserve another day off.

I like this sentiment, and the plan had been that I would celebrate it (unless I happened to be sick, which would have been a shame) by watching TV and enjoying the peace and quiet of a day off. But this is 2020, the year when nothing goes quite as expected. Yesterday found me working at home for the gazillionth day in a row, while Jodie indulged in her PD Day in the new temporary environment in which teachers are severed from their standard in-person teaching activities. Specifically, her staff was advised to do their professional development from home.

So here we were, both tucked inside our weekend walls, both still working, but both utterly well, health-wise. This celebration has taken on an entirely new directive: simply show up and work from home as expected. Not nearly as triumphant, but if this is the way normal is going to stay for a while, I’m on board. Our office companions (pictured above) make it a lovely place to be.

National Mississippi Day

Our culinary journey through American cuisine and history finally drops us into the Magnolia State, one of the deepest of the deep-south states. Mississippi, while I’m sure it’s beautiful and picturesque and full of good, noble people who would throw out their backs in feats of southern hospitality to help their neighbours, has spent a lot of time on the wrong side of history. As such, it would be really easy to paint it with a brush of disgust and derision. But let’s try to look at both sides.

On the down side, Mississippi features more black people per capita than any other state. I call this a down side because black folks have suffered immensely in this state. In 1860, as the state was packing its bags to become one of the first to hook up with the Confederacy, a full 55% of their population was made up of slaves. There have been riots, murders and fantastic feats of oppression to keep racism alive and well there over the years. Further to these efforts, you’ll find more poverty, and worse health, education and development here than pretty much anywhere else in the country.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin too. Over half the state is covered by gorgeous forest. There are over 200 native fish species in the region, more than most anywhere else in the country. In short, wherever there are no people in this state, it’s quite fantastic. If you’re a big fan of mandated sobriety, this is the state for you. Mississippi went dry in 1908, more than a decade before the rest of the country. Apparently it remained dry until 1966, so that’s something. I don’t know – so much of this state’s post-colonial history is drenched in the blood of racism; it’s hard to extract the good parts.

Perhaps a list of accomplished Mississippians will shed some light onto this situation. There’s Fred Armisen from Hattiesburg, Jim Henson from Greenville, James Earl Jones from Arkabutla, Gerald McRaney from Collins, and Tig Notaro from Jackson. Then you’ve got the musicians. If there’s one thing Mississippi does right, it’s produce great musicians: J.B. Lenoir, Little Milton, Charlie Musselwhite, B.B. King, Albert King, Robert Johnson, Jimmy Johnson, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy and David Ruffin, Otis Rush, Pop Staples, Barrett Strong, Willie Dixon, Eddie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Ike Turner, Conway Twitty, Britney Spears, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson (the second one), Mary Wilson, Tammy Wynette, Mose Allison, Eddie Boyd, Big Bill Broonzy, Eddie “Bongo” Brown, Jimmy Buffet, Otis Clay, James Cotton, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and the great Sam Cooke. It’s a who’s who of brilliance. Mississippi is clearly at its best when set to music.

And they love their shrimp. So we made some shrimp pasta last night and listened to some fantastic old blues. That’s how you celebrate a quandary like Mississippi.

Cyber Monday

I will hold off on yet another rant about the evils of mandatory capitalism around this time of the year, as my wife is ready to throw something at my skull for bringing it up so much, and honestly, so am I. My point is made. I’m not a fan. But still, I indulge because… tradition.

This year, I imagine more people will be doing their shopping online than ever before, given that malls and retail spaces are festering germ-dens these days. I am doing everything I can to use Amazon as little as possible, but it won’t be fully avoidable. And yesterday I did my part to contribute to this crazy day of electronic retail by picking up a few stocking-stuffers online. I would include a photo of this endeavour, but since my wife is one of my few diligent readers and also intended to be the recipient of everything I bought yesterday, I’ll go with the still shot from the 1995 Sandra Bullock vehicle The Net instead.

I hope you all took part, found some good sales, and didn’t blow your monthly bill-payment money on gifts. Gotta keep it responsible. We know what 2020 gave us; we should try to save up a little in case 2021 has a sucker-punch or two waiting for us.

National Personal Space Day

This one is a heartwarming, yet weirdly-timed little tale. Carol Winner was taking care of her mom, who was battling cancer. Her mom was a fighter, but Carol became aware that even a well-intentioned hug from a well-wisher could muck with her mom’s immune system and make things worse. She came up with a campaign that promoted giving space to those who need a bit of time to get their immune systems up and running again.

Now the weird part. This day was created in 2019. Its first appearance in any celebration-tracker calendars was for November 30, 2019. Within only four months, we were all watching supermarket floor stickers and copious signage telling us to maintain a decent personal space from others, sick or not. I’m sure Ms. Winner had no expectations that her well-meaning attempt to preserve the lives of those who are battling for their health would become the societal norm within such a short time.

But here we are. Keeping our space from one another en masse, apart from the moronic few who feel the need to protest such notions. Yesterday we simply celebrated the irony of this one and kept our distance from strangers. This is remarkably easy when you don’t leave the house.

Perpetual Youth Day

Yesterday would have been Dick Clark’s 91st birthday. For those of us old enough to remember him pre-stroke and pre-Ryan-Seacrest-takeover, he was the guy who wouldn’t age. Some said his forever young face was due to the rock ‘n roll that surrounded him. Some said it was because he was devoted to youth culture for all of his days. Others credited plastic surgery. Never underestimate plastic surgery.

That said, Dick always denied having plastic surgery. Comedian Bill Hicks felt that the obvious reason Dick never seemed to age was because he was the antichrist. I know Dick denied the plastic surgery, but I’m not sure if he ever addressed this particular rumor. Let’s let our suspicions roll for this one.

I’m happy to celebrate perpetual youth, for while grey hair and increasing face-lines may keep me from looking forever youthful, I can proudly boast a consistent level of immaturity and silliness that keeps me feeling young – well, younger – every day. Yes, I still enjoy drinking from time to time, and I love my legal cannabis. I also get to visit my actual youth every week with brand new Star Wars and Star Trek content to drink in. I’ve got video games to play. Even the way I look at the world has not aged in that crusty and gross way that leads so many adults to turn to conservatism.

I may not be young by any standards but those of the elderly, but I’ll play with my perpetual youth every day. It’s a good way to keep sane.

National Mason Jar Day

John Landis Mason – no relation to John Landis, director of Animal House, but it’s an interesting coincidence – died in poverty in a New York tenement house in 1902. 44 years earlier, he was the darling of the jar set, having patented a wide-mouth fruit jar with a threaded screw-cap. Everyone was using these things. The Supreme Court ultimately decided Mason had abandoned the patent, and by the late 1870s he was making no additional money from it. Yet still we see those jars today, and many of them bear his name and the patent date of November 30, 1858.

It’s an outlier in free market history, I’m sure, for an inventor’s name to be so closely tied to his product 162 years later, yet the guy died in poverty. He also came up with the world’s first screw-top salt shaker too, but we don’t call those Mason shakers.

Pictured above is my preferred water glass – a plastic Mason jar replica that won’t break when I sleepily knock it off my bedstand (and yes, that has happened). I took some hearty sips and toasted the man who made it all possible.

The first of the month is usually a pretty packed day, but this one accurately foretells of a manageable December: busy, but not insane. Here’s what’s up for today:

  • National Pie Day. Very generic, and we are not without a pie to do it justice.
  • National Eat A Red Apple Day. A very specific celebration with the instructions right in the title. I love those.
  • National Day of Giving. Not Thanksgiving, just plain old giving. Not a bad sentiment for a day.
  • World Trick Shot Day. I’d hoped to hit a pool hall today to try to invent some sort of trick shot, but given that I’m Covid-stranded, that won’t happen.
  • National Christmas Lights Day. The day when it becomes truly acceptable to mount and light up your decorations.
  • Day Without Art. Why on earth would we do this?
  • Wear A Dress Day. Jodie will have to do this one, as none of my dresses fit my full figure anymore.
  • Rosa Parks Day. Certainly someone worth celebrating.

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