Saturday, February 8, 2020

One celebration that did not escape our attention yesterday (though it was unofficial) was the 40th birthday (unofficial) of hip-hop. The Sugarhill Gang’s self-titled debut album dropped on February 7, 1980. Produced by Sylvia Robinson (the mother of hip-hop), the album only contains a few rap tracks, as Sylvia didn’t think a full album of that stuff would sell. At least not yet.

But while we were rockin’ it to the bang bang boogie, say up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat, we had other things to keep us busy.

National Wear Red Day / American Heart Month

A number of my colleagues joined me yesterday, making the community celebration vibe around the office truly delightful. The purpose of wearing red today is to raise awareness of heart disease. This will only work in two situations: someone asks you why you’re wearing red (which would be strange, as red is not some obscure, seldom-seen colour), or you walk up to people and announce this is why you chose this particular shirt today. I don’t think we changed a lot of lives today.

So let’s take a moment right now and churn that ol’ cauldron of fear that will leave us hearing our frail heartbeats in our eardrums and fearing the grim reaper is tucked behind the couch, laughing and waiting:

Roughly one in every twelve Canadians over 20 is living with heart disease. Men are twice as likely to have a heart attack than women. Every five minutes another Canadian over 20 who has heart disease dies. This shit is public enemy #1 to our insides. The good news is this: between 2000 and 2013 (the Canadian government stats are still catching up), the death rate among heart disease sufferers dropped 23%. So we’re fighting it.

How can you prevent it? Quit smoking. Don’t eat so much junk. Exercise. Lose some weight. Stay off the booze. Stay off the weed, unless you can do all the above while you’re high, in which case smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. And wear red on the first Friday of February, making sure you tell everyone you meet – even if you’re in line behind them at Wendy’s – exactly why.

Give Kids A Smile Day

I felt I had no obligation to take on this particular celebration. First off, Jodie is surrounded by kids all day. Second off, I’m… well, I’m not. It would be inappropriate for me to seek out children and try to make them smile in any way other than pretending to comically slip on the ice (which, admittedly, might be hilarious).

Fortunately, Jodie is the kind of teacher who regularly elicits broad grins on her students’ faces. She sees this as part of her mission, the reason she ventured into the teaching profession. I’ve seen this in action: she was a way of mocking her students so gently and with so much empathy and compassion, she can deliver a titanic burn and the kid will appreciate the moment and laugh along. It’s a weird art, but it’s brilliant.

Now, to peel back the façade and keep things genuine here, this is not a day created to draw guffaws from children’s throats. Give Kids a Smile is a program orchestrated by the American Dental Association in order to deliver free dental services to children. But it would have been silly (and wildly dangerous) of us to give a root canal to some eight-year-old, so we celebrated in our own way. This is a brilliant program though – if you’re reading this and you happen to be an American dentist, get on board!

National Bubble Gum Day

Now we’re getting to the meat of it, beyond the gristle and gums-deep in the top-grade tenderloin of today’s celebrations. This was more than a party. This was war.

The combatants: Bubblicious vs. Hubba Bubba. We would rate them on a scale of 1-5 in the following categories: initial flavour, texture, flavour after 5 minutes or so, and bubble potential. The bubble blowing portion would have to take place after the majority of the sugar had been chewed out of it, and the gum was the right consistency for action. How do I know this? Jodie used to be a professional teenager in the 1980s. This wasn’t her first chewin’ rodeo.

Here’s how they fared:

  • Initial Flavour: Bubblicious: It’s a bit tart, but not a bad flavour at all. I gave it a 4, Jodie a 3, so let’s say 3.5. Hubba Bubba: This is absolutely bubble gum flavour, exactly what gum should be. 5.
  • Texture: Bubblicious: We both agreed it was a 3. A little hard until you get it going, then it’s pretty good. Hubba Bubba: Squishy, just like the commercials. It fills your mouth more than the other brand. This is an easy 5; it’s just what bubble gum should be.
  • Flavour After 5 Mintues: Bubblicious: A solid 1. The flavour boarded the train three minutes in, and by five it was halfway out the county. Hubba Bubba: The flavour had dipped as expected, but the act of chewing was still pleasant even ten minutes after the first chomp. A good 4.
  • Bubble Potential: Bubblicious: To flatten it out for maximum bubble area is difficult. Once the flavour went, it became very rubbery. The bubbles were fine to a point, but they couldn’t expand much beyond the tip of the nose. We’re giving it a 3.  Hubba Bubba: Come on. These bubbles were awesome. Solid 5.

So our conclusion? Obviously Hubba Bubba is still the near-perfect bubble king.

Send A Card To A Friend Day

We each selected a friend, and those lucky souls will see a personalized card that commanded an entire two, maybe two and a half minutes of our time. But I trust it will be a bright spot in their day when the cards arrive. Why? Because no one sends cards anymore. Maybe for birthdays or other occasions, but Just Because cards? Never happens.

And really, what is left in our mail? I know, we heaped praise (and rightfully so) upon our mail carrier earlier this week, but the content of said carrier’s bag tends to be bills and junk. So for the purposes of delivering a grin or two today, this was a fun one to commemorate.

Work Naked Day

No explicit photos necessary. I penned this article al fresco in my home office with the lights turned off, so as not to offend my neighbours. My coworkers were thrilled that I was reserving this party for the privacy of my own home. This made me wonder… do they see my commitment to this perpetual madness as so beyond the pale of rational thought that I might be tempted to disrobe within the confines of my grey-beige cubicle? Do they truly believe I’ve launched right off the pier of sanity completely? Is it because of the dog?

No matter – this was a party we didn’t feel the need to prove. In fact, Jodie didn’t feel the need to join in at all. And this allowed me to get my work done.

National Fettuccine Alfredo Day

This made deciding what’s for dinner delightfully pleasant. This is, some may say, an entry-level pasta dish. It’s easy to make, contains few ingredients, and it’s so common Kraft added it as its first non-orange-cheez variety of boxed noodles. Back when Alfredo di Lelio, the Italian chef whose name will live on in culinary infamy, used to make it, it was done tableside as an event.

The Italian (or correct) way to make Fettuccine Alfredo involves butter and cheese and that’s it. If you put cream in your Alfredo you are Americanizing a classic. If you buy a premade Alfredo sauce and plop it onto your noodles, you aren’t even trying.

Wave All Your Fingers At Your Neighbours Day

Remember when all this began and I mentioned that Pennsylvania DJ guy who arbitrarily made up a bunch of weird holidays just because he could get them published in Chase’s Calendar of Events? This was one of them. It was silly, but what the hell. We waved.

It’s another wild Saturday. And some of these things we won’t be able to do.

  • National Boy Scouts Day. Not being affiliated at all with this organization, perhaps I can find a few interesting things to learn about it.
  • National Kite Flying Day. Not exactly ideal in the tundra. We’ll see if there is any wind.
  • National Iowa Day. We will be preparing a Maid Rite Sandwich, apparently an Iowa classic.
  • Propose Day. Should I? Will she say yes? If she doesn’t, will it negate our 20 years of marital bliss? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
  • Preseren Day. A Slovenian holiday, so we may need to source some Slovenian food. It’s always best if we celebrate with food, right?

Friday, February 7, 2020

On this inauspicious Thursday, offering little more than meetings and spreadsheets at work (meetings and children for Jodie), I found myself immersed in exhaustion. I worried for the stability of my consciousness, even as I walked from desk to boardroom to desk. Was it the cumulative effect of nearly 200 celebrations gobsmacking my endurance? Or was it the presence of a canine cyclone, chewing and leaping and peeing through our home?

Definitely the latter. Good thing she’s cute.

National Frozen Yogurt Day

No pic for this one, but here’s Rosa yawning as Trixie sits on her.

Oh, froyo. You’re like ice cream with a snarky, thick accent, one which is not at all unpleasant. You’re lower in fat, though that episode of Seinfeld will keep us all a little suspicious of that claim. You were rolled into North American mouths in the 70s, but people complained of your yogurtiness, as though you could express yourself in some other way.

Ah, but you did. You first called yourself Frogurt and slopped into cones. Then you mimicked soft-serve behind TCBY counters. New sweetener tech enhanced your Q rating. Overseas you greet your audience with an ebullience of yak and camel milk. You get your own National Month in June (when it makes more sense for us tundrarians to snarf you down). And you maintain your outlaw status by not being regulated by the FDA in America. Why? Because you’re just too bad-ass for all that paperwork.

The curse of dairy which has befallen those of us with late-onset lactose intolerance is broken by yogurt, that glorious dairy product with live bacteria cultures who eat the nasties and allow us to digest it. But froyo / Frogurt / Frogozyurt is more cruel… most varieties contain no lactose-munching bacteria and are therefore toxic to my insides.

And that’s why the heavenly creator gave us Lacteeze and its competitors. Pop a pill or four, and I can dive head-first into a swimming pool of frozy-yogi and live to tell the tale. Unfortunately, last night was dedicated to another, far superior dessert substance so our only tribute to this icy yum-fest is here, in prose..

National Singing Day

Again, no photo but here’s Rosa and Liberty, regretting my lack of talent.

Yesterday evening I improvised a wholly arbitrary lyric and melody as I tidied up the house, giving an impromptu concert that received scathing reviews from Trixie (whose musical tastes are immaculate), but some positive comments from Rosa, who was most likely just sucking up for some treats. Liberty, in a response we’d fully expected, bounded chaotically into a snowbank, then came in and peed on our floor.

Jodie joined in a Tommy James & The Shondells singalong during her afternoon staff meeting. Truth is, neither of us are seasoned singers. Jodie can actually hold a tune in place, whereas I tend to kick it above and below key like a hackey-sack, rendering it actually painful for me to listen to myself. When our kids were young I’d serenade them each night before bed, usually with a Beatles song (it’s good for the soul if their catalog is intrinsic). They didn’t care that I sucked. I didn’t care that I sucked. Our neighbours… well, we just didn’t ask them.

Singing is an expression of unrefined, raw energy. It immerses us in a moment, and connects us to something infinitely grander than anything in the tangible universe. Singing is, by its very nature a celebration, which is why so many traditional celebrations (real ones, not like National Nutella Day ones) include singing as one of their rituals. To celebrate singing in and of itself is to wrap one’s emotional arms around the galaxy.

Waitangi Day

The Treaty of Waitangi, signed 180 years ago yesterday, welcomed New Zealand into the British Empire, and set forward the nation’s roll of history. The key issue was, of course, what to do with the Maori, who had arrived there much earlier. Rather than enslave or sequester the indigenous tribe, the Treaty gave them ownership of their land and all the rights of any subject of the Empire. I don’t know enough about New Zealand’s ups and downs to know how things worked out for the Maori in the decades after the Treaty was inked, but this was a positive note upon which to begin to build a country.

The Treaty was grand, but there weren’t really annual festivities in place to celebrate it until much later; New Zealanders tended to cheer their nation on January 29, honouring the day William Hobson first showed up and planted his foot on local soil. In 1974 “New Zealand Day” was declared a national holiday, and (after a federal election flipped their leadership) it was renamed “Waitangi Day” in 1975, in order to properly commemorate the treaty.

The parties on Waitangi Day tend to include Maori traditions and military salutes. Locals aren’t parading through the streets or launching fireworks into the night – it’s more like our August long weekend. Just a great time for a day off in the middle of summer. Unfortunately, like Canada Day / Independence Day, it always lands on the 6th instead of getting bumped up against a weekend.

My beloved auntie (one of them) dropped by with a pavlova, a dessert that contains meringue, fruit, and some otherworldly dash of unfettered, unrestrained nirvana and bliss. It is a dessert that haunts you with memories for weeks afterward. There is simply no possible way to overstate the magnificence of this dessert. It makes my taste buds swoon so much they bump their heads against my teeth. I will likely dream of nothing else until at least June.

Named for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this treat exudes an ethereal grace and unconquerable charm. We’d proudly call this the celebration of the week – possibly of the year, thus far.

Except for that damn dog. She’s still stealing the show.

Once again the volume cranks upward, as today takes on a bevy of unabashed bonanzas.

  • National Wear Red Day. I can do that! In honour of American Heart Month we will be sporting some crimson threads.
  • American Heart Month. While we’re at it, we will learn a bit more about why the heart deserves its own month.
  • Give Kids A Smile Day. I would have to seek out children for this, so I’ll entrust my lovely wife to get some giggles out of her students.
  • National Bubblegum Day. Hubba Bubba? Bubblicious? Some other brand? We’ll do a bit of testing and blowing and popping.
  • Work Naked Day. I have already promised my boss I’d celebrate this one from my home office, not from within the confines of my grey-beige cubicle.
  • National Send A Card To A Friend Day. I can do that. I have friends and access to postage.
  • National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. I love when these days select my evening menu and save us the consternation.
  • Wave All Your Fingers At Your Neighbours Day. Great. Because our neighbours don’t think we’re weird enough.