Thursday, September 17, 2020

One may legitimately wonder if we have reached a turning point in this endeavour. Yesterday’s article included only two celebrations, and several “low-ball” celebrations were dropped, like “National Thank You Day”, which would have been very easy to plop into the mix as filler. But ‘filler’ is failing to spark my motor. We remain cognizant that our new (and final) goal for this project is 2,020 celebrations at least, and that we are more than on track to hit this goal. But sometimes the fire of inspiration ebbs, and that’s where we presently sit. Yesterday I tried to squeeze some juice out of these prescribed events:

National Stepfamily Day

The truth behind the notion of stepfamily is that it’s often a perilous and precarious relationship. One chooses (hopefully) who one may marry, but the ramifications for those who get roped into a stepfamily situation can go in a million different ways. I have been fortunate in this regard, having had only one true step-person in my life, my stepson, Colton.

This was so easy it almost shouldn’t count. Colton and I bonded immediately, and it was second nature to raise him as though we shared a handful of genes. So for me, I had one person to share this day with (virtually, of course), and it was happy. Jodie’s situation is somewhat more complicated. Her stepfather has allowed a political difference of opinion to come between himself and the entirety of our family, which for as long as I live will never make sense to me.

It’s a difficult situation. The second chunk of the word ‘stepfamily’ indicates that yes, this is family, and one must overcome pettiness and even mid-level assholery in order to embrace one’s family members. It’s just what we do. But the empirical definition of family does not always conform to how the heart ticks its beats. Our daughter is happy to write off those whose blood she shares if she feels they have mistreated and/or disrespected her. And in the end, she may end up healthier and happier for it, compared to those of us who attempt to slog through shaky relationships because of the sanctity of ‘family’.

Time will tell. As for this day, I wished a happy day to my kid and moved on. Stepfamily is still great family.

National Guacamole Day

So what is guacamole anyway? Does the stuff above, smeared on my noontime toast yesterday, count? Well, our favourite Cajun restaurant is closed on Wednesdays, and their delicious home-made guac (with tequila!) was not available, so this is what would have to do. But if we look at the etymology of guacamole, we learn it comes from a classical Nahuatl word that means ‘avocado sauce’. That’s kind of what I had going up there. An avocado sauce.

Guacamole tends to feature lime juice, sometimes jalapenos, and often cilantro. The stuff I made has chili peppers, and lemon juice instead of lime juice. I’m calling it a guacamole. My game, my rules.

Yesterday was also Mexican Independence Day, which is why this day lands on the 16th of September. We had hoped to spend the evening engaging in some sort of celebration with the local Mexican community, but of course that particular brand of revelry has been put on the shelf in 2020. We hit a bit of bad timing running this project this year. I might do better trying again in 2024, though I wouldn’t count on either of us actually wanting to run this gauntlet a second time.

The largest serving of guacamole occurred in Tacitaro, Mexico, in April of 2018. It featured more than 8,300 pounds of the stuff, and was no doubt tainted immediately by some joker double-dipping.

Gross. I’ll take my home-made substitute for now.

Stay Away From Seattle Day

This one comes to us from Thomas and Ruth Roy, those lovable weirdos from Pennsylvania who stacked Chase’s Calendar of Events with more than 80 strange, home-brewed celebrations. We have tried to indulge in almost every one of those celebrations so far, because there are only so many times we can cook a meal, take a picture of it, and say, “Look! We celebrated!” The bizarre must also get its turn in the sun.

This was concocted after a study was released that indicated that Seattle was the best place to live in America. I don’t know what the criteria were for that revelation, though I suspect “weather” was not among them. So Thomas Roy felt that this would be a day for people who are eager to pack up and move to the nation’s most admired city to back off. Give the folks in Seattle one day of the year in which newcomers won’t show up and jack the population through the roof.

That’s sweet. A little odd, but sweet. And while I’d certainly place Seattle on my short-list of places I’d like to live in the US (it’s a truly hypothetical list, as I have no intention of abandoning this country), I did my part yesterday and went nowhere near Seattle. I mean, it was an easy thing to accomplish, but some of these should be easy, right? Some of them?

National Tattoo Story Day

Every tattoo should have a story. I don’t understand the generic tattoos, the ones people pick from a catalog and declare that this is what they want to look at for the remainder of their lives. I have held off getting a tattoo, not out of some religious belief (we Jews may be discouraged from the tattoo game, but I’m a wholly non-religious Jew-type), and not out of a fear of needles, but because my chronic indecisiveness has left me perpetually unsure of how I want my flesh adorned for the remainder of my days.

I have landed on a theme though. Given my love for movies and TV, I am plotting out an elaborate tribute to some of my favourites, expressed through some of their finest inanimate objects, like the titular Maltese Flacon, the handless clock from the dream sequence in Wild Strawberries, or maybe a bloodied box-cutter to honour Breaking Bad.

Jodie actually has tattoos though, and both of hers have a story. One features the comedy and tragedy masks that represent her love for theatre, sketched in a hauntingly artistic manner. The other includes a New York skyline and an adaptation of a quote from Rent, which expresses her connection to the present and immediate. Abbey has a handful of tattoos, my favourite being her first – a tribute to her dad by means of a big ol’ Yellow Submarine on her leg. Kind of sweet.

Wrinkled Raincoat Day

First of all, a huge happy birthday to Peter Falk, who would have turned 93 yesterday. Falk created the character of Columbo (well, Richard Levinson and William Link did, but Pete brought him to life), and it is for that character that this day was made. It’s a day for us to admire just how awesome Detective Columbo was.

And he was. Throughout the series, which played more as a succession of TV movies, there was never any mystery as to who the bad guy was. There were no car chases, no unexpected twists, no wild shootouts. Each episode was simply an exercise in watching how Columbo’s brilliant brain eventually led him to catching the perp. So let’s learn a little about the dude.

A 1971 episode, which was praised by critics as one of the show’s best, was directed by then-unknown Steven Spielberg. There have been 69 episodes of Columbo (nice), dispersed between 1971 and 2002. NBC used to have a weekly “Mystery Movie”, and Columbo episodes were a regular part of that rotation in the 70s. It’s said there are nine ‘seasons’ between 1971 and 1989, with a maximum of eight episodes. The so-called season ten comprises all 14 TV movies shown between 1990 and 2002.

Columbo was based somewhat on the character Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment. I don’t know what to do with that information, as I’ve never read the book, but there it is. The character first showed up in a 1960 episode of the NBC anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show. He was portrayed by actor Bert Freed, an actor who worked often throughout the 20th century, though not in any roles you’re likely to remember.

Peter Falk owned the role though. He provided the wrinkled raincoat and the high-topped shoes from his own wardrobe. And all of those stammers and non-sequiturs, like finding a grocery list in his pocket while looking for a piece of evidence, those were improvised by Falk in an attempt to keep the actor he was working with – almost always a big name guest star – off-balance. For being one of the greatest characters network TV has ever given us, we’re happy to salute Detective Columbo.

National Collect Rocks Day

I used to collect rocks when I was a kid. I had maybe 30 of them, none of which were particularly interesting. But now it’s my mom’s turn – she has come over almost every day in the last two weeks to gather a bunch of rocks from our yard and bring them to hers. She’s improving the look of her place and getting rid of some unwanted debris from around ours. It’s a win-win situation.

It’s not necessarily a ‘collection’, but it is a bunch of rocks. So thanks, mom, for this weird landscaping tactic which has provided us with a legit celebration for this one. Rosa, as pictured above, completely approves.

After ramping back up to a healthy six celebrations in a day, how many will we attempt to tackle on this busy Thursday? Here’s what we have to choose from:

  • National Professional House Cleaners Day. Hey, we know one of those! We’ll send her some love today.
  • National Apple Dumpling Day. We could bake this. We won’t, but we acknowledge that we absolutely could.
  • National Monte Cristo Day. Either the sandwich or the guy. Didn’t Monte Cristo host Let’s Make A Deal?
  • Free Queso Day. Anyone want to send us some free cheese sauce?
  • Time’s Up Day. Well this sounds grim.
  • National Table Shuffleboard Day. A fine game that I have absolutely no way of playing under the present circumstances.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Far from being a flight into the vast and curious unknown, yesterday was merely a Tuesday wearing its Tuesday face. We opted not to enslave ourselves to the prescribed food celebrations, as real life has prodded us in another way. So instead I turned to a couple of the more esoteric calendar ticks, in hopes they would provide some interesting content. They provided content to be sure, but interesting? That is in the eye of the individual reader. Only two entries for the day because sometimes that’s just how days go. Here’s what we were up to:

National Online Learning Day

Where last year this day would have been a hat-tip to the folks who are upgrading their marks or trying to squeeze in some extra education into an otherwise busy life, in 2020 this is a very different beast. Just about all post-secondary has switched to online in this part of the world, and a substantial percentage of kids are also plunking themselves in front of a computer, hoping to learn something.

It’s not easy. To power through online learning it takes motivation, organization, and more self-control than most folks possess. I’ve done it a few times – when I was younger I lacked all three of those traits and failed miserably. As I pushed toward my degree in my 30s it became necessary. And as it became necessary I found I was able to balance it and make it work for me. Jodie is working toward her Masters now, and her course work is 100% online. She’s making it work.

But there are scads of kids who are struggling this year, because online learning simply isn’t for them. My cousin just started at the University of Alberta, and he’s already feeling the strain. The key is to make it a routine – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel to tune into work. Have an office set up; using the dining room table, as Jodie will attest, sucks. Treat it like it’s another place to go to get stuff done.

So to all the kids out there who are plowing through Zoom lessons and the wealth of distractions that are bundled with online learning, we wish you all the best. It can be done, just have a little faith.

National Felt Hat Day

Today is a day for folks to bust out their felt hats and wear them. That’s assuming you have a felt hat, which I do not. But Jodie does, so we can take part. And that is literally all there is for today. It’s not “Wear Your Felt Hat To Work Day” or even “Wear Your Felt Hat In Public Day”, which is great because I’d look a little silly wearing that hat while walking the dogs.

I mean, we could have gotten really creative with this and simply fondled any hat and say we “felt” our hat. Okay, that’s not “really creative” but more of a logistic work-around. But one we didn’t need! We own a felt hat!

I’m a little disappointed in myself that I dumped Double Cheeseburger Day for this…

What? That’s it? Yes folks, that’s it for today. Too much real life to tend to, too many fluffy celebrations I had to handle. Here’s what we’ve got for today’s menu:

  • National Play-Doh Day. Do I have any play-doh? I do not.  I hope they hold some sort of national play-doh building competition though. I’d tune in for that.
  • National Cinnamon Raison Bread Day. We don’t have any of this lying about either, which is a shame.
  • National Step Family Day. This I do have.
  • National Guacamole Day. Does avocado toast count?
  • Stay Away From Seattle Day. This should be relatively easy, given that I’m a few thousand miles away from Seattle.
  • National Working Parents Day. Unless this means we get to take the day off, I’m not interested.
  • Anne Bradstreet Day. A poet I’ve never heard of, but she gets her own day. Well done, Anne!.
  • National Collect Rocks Day. Looks like it’s time to find Penelope some friends.
  • National Tattoo Story Day. I don’t have any tattoos for which I could tell a story, so perhaps today is the day to experience the back-story that will lead to my tattoo.
  • National School Backpack Awareness Day. I can see raising awareness for diseases or endangered animals, but for school supplies now?
  • Wrinkled Raincoat Day. Weirdly specific.
  • Teenager Workout Day. I guess I have to workout with some teenagers.