Wednesday, March 18, 2020

While it appears more and more likely that we will be isolated at home for the next two weeks, we contemplated how this might impact our daily revelry. Without question, it will. We have numerous items on our calendar that involve us heading out to public parties and events – even yesterday I was looking forward to downing a green beer for the first time since I was 20. Provided we can acquire our needed groceries, our cooking celebrations should remain. Goofy stuff like Everything You Do Is Right Day won’t change. But some will be sacrificed to the demon that is COVID. So be it – our attitude and our mission remain the same. Feel free to party with us from your own socially distanced panic room.

St. Patrick’s Day

Oh, for the debaucherous madcap mayhem of our St. Patty’s Day youth. Even when the day has the audacity to show up on a Tuesday, we would still indulge tradition, consume some libations and buy into the stereotypes. Yesterday, as stated above, we had planned to revive this state of irresponsibility and get a little goofy, but our plans had to change. Jodie’s pneumonia has hit cruise control and maintained its debilitating groove, so the party was left for me. Luckily, I had some Irish whiskey left over from Irish Coffee Day, so I enjoyed some of that. I listened to some Van Morrison. It was a fine, if utterly sedate celebration.

It should be pointed out that St. Patrick’s Day is – as the name implies – first and foremost a religious celebration. Specifically it honours St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It has become the most widely celebrated national holiday on the planet, probably because celebrating it can be as simple as wearing green (for kids), right up to severe public intoxication (for the rest of us). I was surprised to learn that in Newfoundland & Labrador, St. Patrick’s Day is an actual off-work holiday for government employees.

As for Pat himself, his big claim to Christian fame was that he allegedly converted thousands of druid-types to Christianity. There were no snakes driven out of Ireland – snakes weren’t really there to begin with. The reason shamrocks are associated with the day is that Pat used them to illustrate the Holy Trinity. Not sure why a visual was needed to illustrate this point, but I don’t know how swift the 5th century Irish pagans were.

The list of worldwide celebrations to honour this day are fantastic. Numerous celebrations stretch out over multiple days, even a week. Montreal, a city so Irish it has a shamrock on its city flag, has held a huge parade every year since 1824. In New York the parade has endured for more than 250 years. This year both parades have been postponed – not cancelled, because you don’t fuck with tradition. But it saddens me that these joyous celebrations will not be rocking the middle of March as they always have. Oh well, we’ll get to them.

National Corned Beef & Cabbage Day

Our original plan for this day involved a traditional Irish recipe of corned beef and cabbage. This was altered – not because of our current state of quarantine, but because we both agreed this looked like a mostly unpleasant meal. And a great corned beef is a terrible thing to waste, so we opted instead for some corned beef on rye, with a side of coleslaw obtained from Da-De-O, our favourite dining establishment, just hours before they closed down for a couple weeks. Dinner was terrific.

Corned beef is beef brisket cured with salt, and usually other spices. The meat is treated with large-grained rock salt, apparently called ‘corns’ of salt. Usually nitrates are used, which gives the beef its pink colour. Ireland was the big producer of corned beef for trade, which is likely why this day lands on St. Patrick’s Day. The twist here is that, while the Irish were producing most of the corned beef for the western world, they didn’t eat a lot of it. It was pricy stuff, and since Ireland wasn’t swimming in cash back then, most of it was earmarked for export.

While corned beef had traditionally been associated with Irish cuisine, it hit its stride in the 20th century when it morphed into Jewish-American food, using brisket as the beef base. If you smoke the stuff (like, using a smoker – don’t try stuffing your brisket into a bong), you’ll wind up with pastrami. Either way, you’ve got yourself a tasty sandwich.

As for cabbage, we covered that on National Cabbage Day back on February 17. The coleslaw is, I believe, cabbage’s highest achievement. It was a tasty celebration yesterday.

National Introverts Week

This couldn’t have landed at a better time. Just as we are all being sentenced to living life as introverts until this virus blows over, we can celebrate the lifestyle.

Introvertism is pretty easy to figure out. Humans are social creatures, but that sort of general statement needs to be considered as a spectrum. Some folks don’t feel comfortable out in big crowds, or even in little crowds. To some, social distancing is something worth celebrating on its own, and if the government is wagging its bureaucratic finger and insisting we all do it, those folks will have no problem adjusting.

Jodie is a homebody, but not so much an introvert. So she’s happiest here within our walls, dogs on hand and tranquility a-plenty, but when called upon she is outgoing and extraverted. I’m somewhere in the middle – I don’t thrive bouncing from stranger to stranger at parties, but I also don’t shy away from conversing with new people. I’m a mid-vert.

But this week we’re all introverts. We’ll yap and share pics and spread our presences around social media, but all from the comfort of home. It’s medically prudent today – though for the true introverts among us, it’s a way of life. We can learn something from these people. Mostly we can learn that we’ll get through this just fine.

How about a quartet of items, all of which we can celebrate from our little bunker?

  • National Awkward Moments Day. Our lives are full of them. We will likely not experience any today, but we can discuss some of our lingering ones.
  • National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day. My mom, our team baker, has us covered for this one.
  • National Sloppy Joe Day. I guess we’re having some sloppy supper.
  • Forgive Mom & Dad Day. All this merriment, and now we have to get a bit solemn and serious. Oh well. We’ll follow it up with some lacy oatmeal cookies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ah, St. Patty’s Day, when everyone pretends to be Irish, in that they drink food-coloured beer and insensitively adopt every Irish stereotype within reach. It’s a bold and brash slap on the post-Ides cheek of March, and our first holiday since the wee hours of January 1 that is widely known as a hub of drink and merriment. Which makes it particularly tricky to deal with in a self-imposed quarantine. But that’s for today-me to fret over; let’s see how yesterday-me fared.

Everything You Do Is Right Day

Sunday we were told everything we think is wrong – Monday was meant to balance the scales of karmic justice. Let’s look at the decisions we made on Monday. I went to work, but Jodie drove me. This kept me off the buses and away from the coughing masses, at least until I arrived at work. I then decided to watch the new Curb Your Enthusiasm at lunch (always a good call), while Jodie decided to nap (always a great call). I then decided to head home early to take care of her, because I’m a top-notch nurse and everything I did was destined to be right. Right?

Just as I critiqued Everything You Think Is Wrong Day, I have similar disdain for this one. Should we be encouraging people to act without thinking things through? The brand of hubris this day embraces should be reserved solely for those who can take it as a joke. That said, I see no errors in my yesterday behaviours, so we’ll call it a wash.

National Artichoke Hearts Day

This seemed like a wasted opportunity to me: why celebrate the hearts and not the entire ‘choke? As a child one of my favourite foods – in part because it was one of the weirdest – was artichokes. You peel off each section one by one, dip it in butter and scrape the tiny bit of edible stuff with your incisors. Repeat over and over until you reach the sacred core, then dig down to the heart and enjoy. It’s a food that eats like a reverse craft project.

Because my earliest grown-up, moved-out meals were mostly ramen noodles and ketchup packets, and then because Jodie has never shown an interest in artichokes before, I haven’t downed one of these things in probably 30 years. Yesterday changed that. I simply called my mom to ask how she made them, then followed her instructions. They went really well with our chicken main course.

The artichoke is part of the thistle family, which makes me wonder how anyone found out they were edible to begin with. That said, the concentration of antioxidants in artichokes are about the best you’ll find in a vegetable. Artichokes have been part of the human diet for more than 1,200 years, and they still grow wild in North Africa. There are numerous ways to prepare a ‘choke, including the Jewish style, which involves deep frying them. We kept it simple. As our one food celebration for the day, it was a definite win.

National Panda Day

What can we learn about pandas? We know they’re cute, they eat bamboo, they’re not big on getting’ jiggy with one another, and when they fall and roll down a hill it’s damn irresistible.

The first thing we learned is that there are 1,864 giant pandas on the planet, based on a 2014 check. That’s disconcerting, knowing that there are fewer of these glorious creatures in the world than there were students at my high school. That said, because their numbers have increased by 17% in a decade, they are no longer classified as endangered. That’s a huge deal. They aren’t free from worry yet though – because they’ve been driven from their habitat in the lowland areas they are still a conservation-reliant vulnerable species, which means human-folk must continue to intervene in order to keep those numbers up.

In China, the most common name for the panda is dàxióngmāo – meaning “giant bear cat”. In Taiwan they call them dàmāoxióng – which means “giant cat bear.” So now we have that information. There was a strange incident at the Tainan zoo in Taiwan, in which a sun bear was painted black and white and exhibited as a giant panda. This was exposed not long after when the spots on the fur started to change. You’ve got to touch up those roots.

Pandas have the second-longest tail among bears, and they tend to live 20 years in the wild, 30 if they’re in captivity. They have round faces due to their powerful jaw muscles, and big ol’ bodies because they have a low metabolic rate – both are due to their mostly-bamboo diet. They don’t usually attack humans, but when they do it’s mostly out of irritation and not aggression. So don’t be an annoying prick if a panda is about. China used to give pandas to zoos as gifts, but since 1984 they have only loaned them for ten years at a time, and then only in exchange for $1,000,000 per year. I guess that means they’re renting the pandas.

As noble and majestic as these creatures are, we need to keep our eyes on them. The world is losing some of its most awesome species, and once the giant pandas are gone, why would any of us want to stick around?

Lips Appreciation Day

Yes, this special day has its own website. The goal here is to take care of your lips, balm ‘em up, slap a new colour on them, and appreciate their multiple uses. We whistled a couple of tunes, and I’m quite certain we made liberal use of the bilabial consonants (b, p, and the farting noise). We even kissed a few times, in between Jodie’s coughs.

The website offers some great lip facts. The most interesting is that women who have a prominent fleshy bump around the centre of their upper lip are more likely to have great orgasms. This was apparently proven by science, which is another reminder of just how much fun a career in science can be. Lips also do not have sweat glands or oil glands, and along with the nips they have the highest density of nerve endings on the body. I’m not sure that’s accurate – there are likely a few zones a little further south with more nerve endings, but what do I know? I’m not a doctor, I’m a celebrator. The pay is suckier, but I have more fun.

If you spot freckles on your lips, get that checked right away. You also lose a lot of moisture through the lips, so you should be licking them regularly. Or get someone else to lick them for you – that’ll be more fun. That’s about all the information the Lips Appreciation Day site has to offer. I say, dive into this holiday full-throttle. If you have a brass instrument handy, blast some tunes. If you’ve got a baby lying around, zerbit that kid’s tummy like it ain’t no thang. If neither of those apply, crack open a beer, wrap your lips around the bottle, and drink. That’s how we celebrate, dammit.

National Act Happy Day

And when all else fails, twist those lips into a grin and fake some glee. In 2004, Dr. Dale Anderson declared that the third Monday in March should be known as National Act Happy Day. He suggests looking in the mirror and laughing uproariously for 15 seconds. I would opt for actually finding something funny to laugh at, but then I guess you wouldn’t be acting, would you?

We did our part to appear happy to the world yesterday. I took Liberty to her training class and did my best to keep a smile on my face, despite the fact I wanted to stay home and hide from the world. I was gracious and friendly with my coworkers. I did my part.

This is, without question, the strangest state of the world I’ve seen – even stranger than those first few days after 9/11. People are in a perpetual state of fear, trepidation or denial, and the news – along with social media – is thoroughly inundated with grave warnings and reminders that a few squirts of soap may be all that saves us from a premature demise. Acting happy won’t make any of this go away, but if you can channel that pseudo-joy into finding genuine reasons to tweak your mouth-corners in an upward fashion, you’ll be doing wonders for your mental health.

I don’t recommend laughing in a mirror. I recommend reaching into the grimy depths of your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feeds and finding any and every excuse to crack a joke, or to lift the collective spirit. Post something fresh that has nothing to do with viral infections, and elicits a chuckle from a few of your followers. One cannot dictate to oneself that they can be happy, but sometimes faking it just a little can go a long way.

No Selfies Day

We took no selfies yesterday, thus honouring our commitment to this sacred celebration. There’s really nothing more to say about it.

Today features only a pair of celebrations (unless I find more), and they’re pretty easy.

  • St. Patrick’s Day. There will be no public mayhem, but we’ll celebrate in our own way.
  • National Corned Beef & Cabbage Day. I guess that solves the mystery of what’s for dinner.