Friday, March 20, 2020

The mind’s penchant for sarcasm is, at times, our only way of scraping from sunrise to sunrise. This is but one of the tiny calculations that maintain the momentum of the molecules of the universe, thus ensuring that not only life but life divine has a chance to gasp and wheeze and haul us forward. Into another day of 2020’s perpetual party:

National Corndog Day

It seems that every food noble enough to warrant its own National Day features a history of grappling over who came up with it first. The corn dog is no exception. The most likely culprits were Germans who had emigrated to Texas in the late 1920s. The best story though comes from a high school baseball game in Adel, Iowa in 1937. Vendors ran out of hot dogs, so a local bar owner brought in some cornmeal batter he’d made for a fish fry. They weren’t mounted on a stick, but fans loved them.

My first corndog experience came when I was 17, over-indulging in alcohol at my friend Ian’s house. We did as most tipsy kids did back then – we headed to 7/11 for snacks. When your first corndog experience is a drunken corndog experience, you’ll spend the rest of your life loving corndogs. I mean, unless you get so drunk that you throw up. I suppose that might alter one’s perspective. But I didn’t.

We were ready to abandon this celebration when we got up yesterday morning. A lot of businesses are closed down for the time being, and popping into another retail experience when we should all be hiding at home didn’t seem smart. But there was Pa Peterson’s, right on our way to pick up dog food (not a negotiable errand). They were open, no other customers were in the store, and their corndogs, smothered in mustard and only $2, were perfect.

Hmm. I found one source that actually pinpoints National Corndog Day on March 16. Another says it lands on the first Saturday of March Madness (so… never this year?). I have another source that put it down yesterday. Oh well, we celebrated the day, whenever it lands. It’s always a good time for a corndog.

National Poultry Day

The catch-all term for any domesticated bird whose eggs, meat and/or feathers are the end goal, we could have done so much with National Poultry Day. Instead we simply had chicken for dinner – hardly a revolutionary party. But times are weird – we shouldn’t be tossing away our money on expensive goose meat or foie gras. Actually, I don’t think anyone is supposed to be eating foie gras anymore; I think it’s an animal cruelty thing. Anyway, we had the chicken.

Chicken, turkeys, geese and ducks are the headliners of the poultry cabaret act. All four are sought for their meat, all but the turkey for their eggs, and to a lesser extent we want their feathers. But poultry also includes Guinea fowl, which is drier and gamier than chicken, but still quite popular in Africa. Poultry is also pigeon, or at least young pigeons which are known as squabs in the culinary world.

To give you an idea of the importance of poultry, over 50 billion chickens are raised each year for their meat and eggs. Things move so efficiently in the western world that taking a chicken from clucking and pooping status to wrapped up and ready to sell at Safeway takes just a little over two hours. That’s a movie I do not want to see.

Poultry isn’t just about murdering and devouring these creatures and their unborn children though. It’s said that cockfighting is the world’s oldest spectator sport, dating back to Persia around 4,000 BC. Damn, we really aren’t nice to these birds.

Geese and ducks are elegant and quirky. Chickens and turkeys have plumage dipped in madness and chaos. We should be kinder to these winged beasts, and we would… if only they didn’t have such tasty nuggets.

National Let’s Laugh Day

Why March 19? I looked at several sources and have absolutely no clue. Is it someone’s birthday? Bruce Willis… Glenn Close… former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren… no, I cannot fathom why yesterday was chosen as National Let’s Laugh Day.

We treated this as any other day. That is to say, any other day in some weird quarantine whilst watching the world melt down from a distance. For the last few days of relative isolation, we have been binging through Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, inviting the most uplifting brand of laughter we could find into our lives.

It’s cliché to talk about when we need laughter “the most”. We always need laughter. When the momentum of a given moment is swinging at a positive vector, laughter clads the course in iron and strengthens the experience. When our hill of mental serenity is overrun by uncertainty, by fear, by looming plague or economic teeter-tottering, laughter can be the stunt-person air-cushion at the bottom of the plunge.

With all that in mind, I think we should just call these the National Let’s Laugh Days – all 366 of them, or at least the 287 days we have left in 2020. Let’s keep on laughing until the weight of the news bulletins feels more tolerable. Re-watch Arrested Development, 30 Rock, The Office, Friends, whatever cranks your giggle-handle. Life is too short to allow fear to be the loudest voice in the room. We can all laugh louder than that fucker.

National Chocolate Caramel Day

The sweet side of this project may propel us into premature diabetes, but at least the journey there will be packed with variety. The chocolate caramel is one of the purest, most exhilarating chocolate varieties conceived by humankind. Our plan was for me to wander downstairs from my office and find a particularly delectable variety from Sweet Lollapalooza, Edmonton’s award-winning chocolatier. Alas, work was not in the cards yesterday, nor was an extensive trip to see which shops were open and which were not.

So Rolos won the day. We rolled a Rolo to one another, and that was going to have to do.

So what’s up with the Rolo? First of all, if you’re looking to describe their shapes, they are frustums. A frustrum is a cone or pyramid with the top sliced off. So that’s a piece of trivia you can whip out at your next party when you want to drive someone to the other side of the room. Rolos used to be made by Mackintosh, that company with the teeth-gnarlingly thick toffee. They created the product in England in 1937, and Mackintosh remained at the helm of the brand until Rountree took it over in 1969. Now they’re made by Nestle, which kind of makes me regret picking them for this day. Fuck Nestle.

Chocolate and caramel work together, whether it’s a Rolo, a Caramilk, a Mars, a Snickers, a Milky Way, a Caramello, or one of those weird Kit Kats that tries too hard. This was a premium-level dessert celebration – perfect to follow the chicken dinner and accompany our evening of chuckling.

Absolutely Incredible Kid Day

So are we supposed to spend this section of the article boasting about our kids and how absolutely incredible they are? Thankfully no – I tested them the other day, stated that I really didn’t care for one of them, just to see if either would ask about it. Turns out they aren’t big readers of this project, so…

No matter. This day has an actual mission. It was founded in 1997 by Camp Fire, a 110-year-old organization that sought to be the girls’ answer to Scouting. This organization dates back to the same year the Girl Guides were formed, so I suppose they’d be ‘competitors’. Really though, while the Guides has stuck with its female populace, Camp Fire has been coed since 1975.

They designated this day for us to encourage the young people in our lives. To that end we texted both our kids and advised them they were awesome (which, we truly believe, they are). They appreciated this, but we stopped short of explaining it was tied to this day, and therefore mandated by the calendar that we extend such a pleasantry. They’ll find out if they read today’s article, but… they probably won’t.

Vernal Equinox

Clocking in at eleven minutes to midnight (eastern, so 131 minutes to midnight here), yesterday marked the earliest vernal equinox in 124 years. Because the solar year is not quite 365.25 days long (365.2422 actually), the equinox shows up about 5 hours, 49 minutes later than the previous year, and for a leap year about 18 hours, 11 minutes earlier than the year before it. The last time the equinox struck earlier than this, it was on March 19, 1896, about 2:20 earlier than yesterday.

At the moment of equinox, the earth is not tilting either of its hemispheres toward the sun. If you’re at the equator, you’ll theoretically see the sun rise due east and set due west, with the day lasting exactly 12 hours. This gets shaken up a bit by light refraction in our atmosphere, but just how science-y is this article going to get?

The Persian calendar launches on the first day of spring, and the multifaceted celebration of Nowruz is celebrated. A number of Arab countries celebrate Mother’s Day when the equinox lands. This is a national holiday in Japan, usually filled with family reunions and trips to honour the dead at cemeteries – all probably shelved this year, but whatever.

The one distinctively American celebration I found for the equinox is the Burning of the Socks festival in Annapolis, MD. The boating community in Annapolis is big on tradition, and on the equinox they burn their socks, not wearing them again (I assume whilst boating, but maybe completely) until summer has passed.

In all religions and pagan traditions, the spring equinox is a sacred and venerated day, due to its astronomical magnitude. We fire off a big salute in its direction, and look forward to its arrival on the more logical March 20 next year.

Today I begin an adventure in working from home, and learning just how slow and clunky our network can be from a distance. Luckily I’ll still have time to party.

  • National Ravioli Day. Picked up some ravioli from Costco, so we’re set for this one.
  • French Language Day. Sacre bleu! Une journée seulement pour célébrer la langue Française? Je croix que oui!
  • International Day of Happiness. We will be happy as internationally as possible. Whatever that might mean.
  • National Sparrow Day. We will learn a bit about sparrows, I suppose, and why no professional sports teams have used the name.
  • Great American Meatout Day. Well, the ravioli we bought has chicken in it, so we won’t be forsaking meat for the entire day. Maybe the remainder of the day, outside that one meal.
  • Kiss Your Fiancé Day. If we ever get remarried it will likely be to each other, so I guess that counts?
  • Snowman Burning Day. We might build a small snowman, then burn it.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day. Might be a day to re-watch some old Mr. Rogers episodes, or perhaps the bio-pic that came out last year.
  • World Storytelling Day. We’ll tell a little story. Or something.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Fresh from a supply run to Costco, and we are happy to report that it in no way resembles in the apocalypse there, unless you’re looking for toilet paper or flour. Unfortunately they were also lacking a few other items we’ll need for the next two weeks, so some of our food-related parties may wind up on ice. But our spirits are soaring, and the celebrations keep on rolling.

National Awkward Moments Day

If you’re like me – and I have absolutely no reason to believe you are in any way – you instinctively reach for your phone or for some sensory distraction whenever Larry David turns a situation painfully awkward on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Awkward, cringey comedy is a staple of the genre, from David Brent or Michael Scott on The Office to the girls on Broad City. It’s funny – we laugh at those situations because we are thankful we are not in those situations.

But we have been. We relate, because we have experienced these moments. These are the memories which pop into our minds like a shitty car dealership jingle at the most undesired times. We might be feeling good about ourselves, perhaps enjoying a snack of pork rinds and cottage cheese (your tastes may vary), when suddenly we’ll remember that time in the fifth grade when our pants fell down in the middle of a dodgeball game. Why not just leap to a time we got an A+ on a paper, brain? How about a sudden recall of the 2015 AFC Championship that saw Peyton Manning and the Broncos send the Patriots to the off-season? No, it’s always something unpleasant and embarrassing. Thanks, brain. You’re the dick of the head, you know that?

So yesterday we put those memories to bed, or at the very least simply acknowledged that they are fairly typical. For Jodie, she recalled the time she accidentally referred to one of her kids as “dingletwat” – a long and weird story. Me, I remembered the time I was interviewed and hired by a guy, only to show up for work on the first day and completely forget that I’d met him. It was a shitty first impression.

But so what? We’ve all left shitty impressions. Shrug ‘em off and move on to the next celebration.

Forgive Mom & Dad Day

This one is a bit more personal. Yes, even more personal than horrible embarrassing and awkward moments from our past. This was a celebration that required no celebrating – only honesty, reflection, and hopefully a bit of emotional closure.

I have spent a good deal of my adult life working my way toward forgiveness for my father. He left us when I was a teenager, and was less of an emotional rock in my younger days than most TV dads, which is why it hurt so damn much when Tom Bosley passed away. He was judgmental about my choice in spouse (I know – fucking crazy, right?), and very much an absentee grandpa from my kids’ lives. When his cancer took hold in 2006, I had the breakthrough forgiveness moment everyone hopes for, and I think when he departed this mortal coil the following year, forgiveness had been achieved. That is, until I saw his medical records, which indicated that he could have smacked that prostate cancer early if he’d followed advice and gotten a biopsy when it was recommended. That has taken some extra time to forgive.

As for my mom, there’s nothing to forgive. Every parent scrambles to figure their shit out, but my mom has been a solid rock of support and awesomeness in my life for the last 45 years of my planetary existence. Okay – one thing. Mom, I officially forgive you for raising me to believe that lasagna contained no meat, only spongy mushrooms and soggy zucchini.

Jodie’s need to forgive her dad isn’t really a thing either. He had his flaws as a father, and certainly spent a lot of time away from the family, but she had forgiven him for all that years ago. In the last quarter-century he has been nothing but supportive and terrific. Her situation with her mom is a bit more complicated, and we’ll just leave it at that.

Holding grudges and harsh condemnation for one’s parents is hardly a novel concept. But it’s unhealthy. Forgiveness doesn’t mean sweeping people back into your life, especially if it might invite new reasons to need to forgive them. But it cleans out the creaky corners of your own soul, and might bring a bit more peace and serenity to your life. It’s truly worth it.

National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day

The lacy oatmeal cookie is a thing of utter beauty.

It’s not like a plain ol’ oatmeal cookie (which is delightful as well, and gets its due on April 30). It’s super-thin, and sweet as all hell. My mom, our team baker, did an incredible job, and I’ll be savouring every last one of these little beasts. Jodie likes them, but after having one she feels they are a bit sweet. Me, I could eat 30 in a sitting. Fortunately I have exquisite willpower.

Some folks drizzle icing or chocolate overtop lacy oatmeal cookies. Others serve them with a scoop of ice cream or sorbet, both of which sound like a great idea. Others will use the cookies as decorations on top of a cake, as they are so wafer-thin they won’t weigh down any cake structure.

I find them to be ideal just as they are, in all their lacy goodness. So far this is the best national cookie day of the year. Fortunately we have many more coming up, because in spite of all its inherent awfulness, 2020 will continue to deliver the treats for those of us who open up our gullets to accept them.

National Sloppy Joe Day

We… we didn’t have sloppy joes last night. We had planned to, but we are finding an increasing abundance of leftovers in our kitchen, and it wouldn’t do for a household in the midst of quarantine to start throwing away food. Besides, we still had plenty of Lou Belle’s meatloaf left from National Kansas Day on Sunday, and a sloppy joe is extremely similar, though the meat is generally loose and not in a loaf form.

The noble joe has gone under many pseudonyms in cookbooks: toasted deviled hamburgers, Hamburg a la Creole, minced beef Spanish style, Beef Mironton, etc. They are believed to have originated in 1930s Sioux City, Iowa, marketed as loose meat sandwiches, created by a cook named Joe. No last name provided.

The term ‘sloppy joe’ used to refer to any cheapo diner selling mediocre food quickly, but by the 1940s the joe had taken the form we know today. The sauce – mostly consisting of a tomato base with some Worcestershire sauce and seasonings – has been sold in grocery stores since the 1960s. I was surprised to learn that Manwich – a favourite from their 70s and 80s TV commercials – is still being sold today.

We don’t regret skipping actual proper joes yesterday, but we’re thankful they get a day of tribute. It’s a great, albeit messy sandwich. Thanks Joe, whoever you are.

Wellderly Week

This week is meant to encourage the elderly to get some exercise, and to do things to promote good health and a positive lifestyle. This has become increasingly difficult given current global goings-on, so for 2020 the week may have to be seen from a modified perspective.

With a mother who is 70 and not in the least bit ‘elderly’, I can honestly say I don’t know a lot of actual elderly people right now. But if you do, this is a good week to remind them to get some exercise, and that walking outside – while still full of pitfalls like ice and slush around here right now – is still safe and permissible during this massive quarantine operation.

Unfortunately there are no seniors events happening right now in which we can participate or volunteer. We are caring for the elderly in our society by staying home and behaving like we’ve already caught this virus and don’t want to pass it on. But pop a bookmark into this one – when the frantic panic passes, those old folks are still going to benefit from getting their heart rates bumped, and remaining healthy.

National Bubble Week

Let’s reflect on some of the most important bubbles in our bubbly little lives, shall we?

  • Bubbles in water make for a much more delightful experience. Big thanks to my friend Nicole for gifting me with a Sodastream. It’s getting a lot of use.
  • Bubbles are what separates beer from the more earthly delights.
  • National Bubblegum Day reminded us last month of the pristine, meditative pleasure of concocting a floppy pink sphere next to our faces.
  • Bubble Bobble was the second video game I ever completed, after Super Mario Bros.
  • There’s something fascinating about soap bubbles being blown through the air, whether you’re a baby, a dog, a stoned guy, or… really anyone. But especially those three.
  • Shout-out to our insular political bubbles on social media, which keep the scuffles and kvetching down.
  • How about Glinda, the Good Witch’s lovely little bubble which doubles as a means of transport? Pretty neat.

Hooray for bubbles.

Another day of improvising with quarantine conditions. Jodie may be on the mend, so most of these may get their full appreciation.

  • National Poultry Day. My initial plans had us… visiting a poultry farm in the evening after work? Instead we’ll enjoy some chicken for lunch. Makes more sense.
  • National Chocolate Caramel Day. Again, initial plans changed. First it was getting some top-notch chocolate caramels from a local chocolatier. Now, Rolos may have to do.
  • National Let’s Laugh Day. We’ll be spending our time enjoying comedy.
  • National Corn Dog Day. This one might be tricky. We’ll see if there are any places open with corn dogs on the menu.
  • Absolutely Incredible Kid Day. I guess we ask some friends if they have absolutely incredible kids? Surely we can’t brag about our own, can we?