Sunday, August 16, 2020

Yesterday was a truly rowdy higgle-piggle of activity, in that we actually had plans to see someone. This has proven to be a unicornesque rarity in 2020, which has given us more than ample time for confounding celebrations, but has stifled our social lives into an inaudible whimper. On top of that we treated ourselves to a brunch in the real world, which when coupled with our daily dog-walking, food-cooking, and house-organizing left but a smidgen of time to celebrate, and an even smidgier sliver of time to write about it. Yet we troop onwards, boasting all this madness to add to the teetering pile:

National Honeybee Day

I had thought we covered this particular species with a special day earlier this year, but alas I was thinking of National Don’t Step On A Bee Day on July 10. We didn’t step on a bee on that day (or any other in 2020, to our knowledge), but this is the day to truly offer our heartiest of salutes to these magnificent creatures.

So why care about bees? They can sting you, they can bring about a panic attack (or allergic reaction), and that movie with Jerry Seinfeld was really quite mediocre. Let’s start with our food. Bees do more pollenating than any other creature, and it’s estimated that 1/3 of the food we eat exists because of bee pollination. They also pollinate clover and alfalfa, which gets fed to the bovines who then gift us with Quarter Pounders. Then you’ve got beeswax, or cotton – bees are also responsible for plenty of non-food substances we rely on. Bees are crucial to our existence; they’re the behind-the-scenes techs who are necessary for us to put on this little show we call life.

If you don’t care about the food angle – for example, if you subsist solely on Twinkies and you can survive that way – you probably care about the economy. That food and that other stuff that the bees are spurting into existence often gets sold to other nations. Even if a crop doesn’t come into contact with honeybees, it still benefits from the biodiversity that is created in a bee-heavy environment.

Bees are declining in number, and this should concern the heck out of us. I enjoyed a sampling of honey yesterday, but more than anything I celebrated this one simply by becoming bummed out by the plight of our planet’s bees. If you can hive it up, please do – we need more bee-lovers out there.

National Leathercraft Day

Leathercrafting is, without question, awesome. From the moment humankind learned that skinning those big mooing beasts can yield a workable material that can make anything from bracelets to belts to that tremendously inappropriate thong I was advised should never again be worn on casual Friday, we have let loose with our creativity. There are a number of day-courses we could have taken to learn the craft – or at the very least, learn to do it rather poorly over the course of six hours – but this world is not presently accepting such dalliances in casual education, masks or no masks.

But we do own some leathercrafts; I’m pretty sure everyone does, unless they have a definite moral objection to wearing cow-parts. Above are a couple of bracelets Jodie owns, which she was happy to model yesterday. Tandy Leather created this day just two years ago, in an effort to encourage people try directing their artistic leanings into the world of leathercrafting, and probably also to do so with Tandy quality leather products. I’ll happily shill for Tandy if they’ll supply me with some leather stuff. Hell, they made great computers back in the 80s, I’m sure their leather is top-tier.

It’s unfortunate that our celebration for this day involved wearing some leathercrafts and not actually fashioning any. I had a look at the tools used in this craft work, and some of them are pretty cool. Plus apparently anvils are a part of the process, and I have always wanted to own an anvil, just in case any cartoon antics should arise in my day-to-day life. But for now we’ll have to settle for showcasing the leathercrafting of others. Maybe next year we’ll dive in and create a few of our own.

National Relaxation Day

Some kid named Sean Moeller came up with this celebration back in 1985. He was a fourth-grader at the time, and he felt this should be a day with no clean-up and no work to be done. I’m guessing Sean had a list of chores at the time, and this was his way of getting out of it for a day. But he has a point. And as someone who was a fifth-grader in 1985, I am ready to jump on board and say that 35 years later, Sean couldn’t be more right.

And we did relax. Sort of. Our lives have been in a semi-perpetual state of relaxation since mid-March when the world did its presto-change-o thing. I still work, but from home. It’s hard not to be just a little relaxed when you have dogs sleeping at your feet, even when the workload is heavy. And this project has helped us to tune in to our inner peace, if only to prompt us to bitch about a lack of inner peace when we’ve got 20 celebrations to cover.

Yesterday didn’t actually feel like absolute relaxation. I can’t claim that having a beer with a loved one is “work”, and even walking the dogs is an act of enjoyment on our part, at least during these summer months. But we didn’t truly tune out and indulge in concentrated daytime relaxation. That is on the schedule for today, however, as we see the summer sun crank up its volume and lure us outside to our lawn furniture and/or hammock. So thank you Sean – you have provided one of the most sacred and special celebrations of the year. I hope you’re still celebrating it at 44.

National Lemon Meringue Pie Day

No, we did not consume a lemon meringue pie yesterday. We didn’t want one in the house; our team baker (hi, Mom!) baked us something called a peach dump cake, which was delicious and is taking up all of the space we have for dessert treats in our kitchen. We are drowning in sweets this year; we didn’t need another pie to deal with.

But I present to you the above doughnut, known as Ode to Sunshine, concocted by the extremely brilliant doughnut-Jedis at Destination Doughnuts on 124th street. The meringue is always fluffy and fantastic, leaving its remains upon my mustache hairs for a terrific post-treat treat, and the creamy lemon innards are sweet and sublime, just as they should be. That was how we celebrated, and I’m calling it a deep and thorough win.

It’s believed that Swiss baker Alexander Frehse came up with this recipe back in the 1800s. Lemon custards have been a thing for centuries, but meringue didn’t show up until the 17th century. How Mr. Frehse (or whomever) realized that the two belonged together like chocolate and peanut butter (a miracle mixing that wouldn’t occur until Mr. Reese showed up in the 20th century), we’ll never know. But we are glad he did; lemon meringue is a perfect pie. It’s fluffy, it’s creamy, and if the crust is made properly it’s an absolutely perfect dessert.

But, in a pinch, the doughnut will fill in nicely.

Chant At The Moon Day

I’m all about the celebrations in which I feel like just a little bit of an idiot whilst executing them. I mean, we had no problem sneaking zucchini onto our neighbour’s porches last week (and by “we” I mean “me” – Jodie had nothing to do with it). And I have written one of these articles in the nude for World Naked Day – thankfully this was after I’d started working from home, which is why I still have a job. But standing in my back yard and chanting at the moon? Why on earth would I do that?

Cherries. This celebration is all about cherries. Specifically, Stemilt’s, a cherry producer based near Wenatchee, Washington. They felt that harvesting their cherries just before a full moon would make them sweeter. Apparently there is some effect that the moon’s gravitational pull has on cherry tree roots, which sounds both dubious and delightful, as far as weird legends go. So they created this day to encourage people to chant vigorously at our little celestial friend, and perhaps to enjoy some cherries while doing so.

Well, we didn’t have any cherries lying about. And the moon is creeping quickly toward being a new moon, so at best it was a sliver in last night’s sky. And for the entirety of my awake-time last night, the moon was hovering below the northern horizon (I have an app that confirmed this), so I didn’t actually get to witness the moon at all. But, I’m devoted to these weird celebrations so I did let out a little chant toward the sky. I was a little unsure of what the moon might like (the Marcels’ “Blue Moon” seemed a bit too much on-point), so I just chanted the opening vocal line to the Beach Boys’ “With Me Tonight”, which no doubt appeased both the moon and any local wildlife who happened to be camping out in our yard. It was a weird, yet enjoyable little celebration.

National Best Friends Day

This day already dropped on June 8, yet here it is again. We have devoted roughly as many days to cherishing our friendships this year as we have to celebrating happiness. It’s a generic form of revelry, and honestly a bit disappointing, especially when you consider we literally snuck zucchini onto our neighbour’s porches last week.

But who am I to complain? Just the guy who has to write these articles, and come up with a new way to point out that Jodie is my best friend, and the one I want to spend every one of my days with until the great earthly shimmer that propels me into the next mortal coil. We spent our entire day together yesterday, ironically except for the period of time in which I wrote this article.

So I betrayed my quality best friend time in order to write about best friends. Is this right? Is this how we should be celebrating? I say no – and in saying no I’ll simply move on to the next item in an effort to speed things along. That is what true best-friendship is – plowing through all the bullshit so you can spend the time you need with that special person. Right?

National Failures Day

A day to celebrate our failures? Okay, I can see that. Failure is a necessary ingredient to success – that’s in the Bible. Or maybe I heard it on an episode of ALF, I honestly can’t remember. But the words are true, whether they were spoken by Solomon or Willie Tanner. We need to fall on our faces in order to rise to achievement. And I have made falling on my face into an art form over my 45 years.

I have written three novels, none of which were particularly brilliant, and none of which were published. I flunked out of high school due to a concentrated lack of common sense and a natural ease at being distracted. In fact, I somehow managed to score a final grade of 1% in my high school film studies course – an impressive little failure. I started a massive project to celebrate every holiday in existence, and failed to gain the attention of Oprah or Ellen or anyone else who would bankroll the remainder of these parties to the tune of at least six figures.

But let’s look at what those failures got me. No, I didn’t publish a book, but I became a better writer, and that led me to enjoying the everloving fuck out of the craft. I did flunk out of high school, but that led me to getting a shitty line-cook job at the age of 20 which introduced me to Jodie and ultimately defined my life’s purpose of domesticity and unfettered bliss. And I wound up going to university and getting a degree anyway – a film studies degree, which makes that 1% all the more laughable.

And I refuse to consider this project to be a failure, as the goal was never really to get that Oprah money (though that may be the goal of however I package this weirdness next year), it was to finish. If we decide to throw in the towel and give up on this project before December 31, then I will concede it was a failure. But that isn’t likely to happen.

Especially not with National Bacon Day landing at the very end of the year. We’ll stick it out for that.

On to a Sunday in which we will be celebrating National Relaxation Day more intensely. No national state cuisine this week; I guess we’re entitled to two weeks off in the year. But we’ve still got all this:

  • National Tell A Joke Day. Is this my chance to finally produce my own take on The Aristocrats? I hope so.
  • National Roller Coaster Day. Well, fuck. There are three roller coasters in this city, and they are all shut down due to Covid. This one hurts.
  • National Rum Day. I’m not going to say that this celebration was *not* the reason we undertook this entire project…
  • National Bratwurst Day. I was at my favourite German brunch spot literally yesterday, and I didn’t have bratwurst. But I eat it often enough, I should still be able to celebrate its magnificence.
  • True Love Forever Day. Awww….

Saturday, August 15, 2020

With our insides immersed in focussed tranquility, we exist in the present, shunning thoughts of returning to work until they are absolutely necessary. The ego dreads; the id celebrates, as instructed. We are four and a half months away from the dramatic conclusion (which so far is nothing more elaborate than a video of us napping for most of January 1), but we steadfastly remain locked onto the moment. Our moment is virus-free. Our moment is geographically contained to our house and peppered with puppy antics. Our moment is also jam-packed with all of this nonsense:

National Creamsicle Day

Back on our first popsicle day I wrote about how 11-year-old Frank Epperson accidentally left some powdered soda with a stir-stick outside on his porch back in 1905, inadvertently inventing the Popsicle. But who invented the Creamsicle?

I have honestly no idea. The depth of research I’m able to comb for this exercise is scant; I’ve got a pile of celebrations to cover and an actual life to live. Every search result I found pointed me to Frank Epperson, or to the history of the Popsicle. Clearly it was put out by the Popsicle company long after Frank had been bought out or sold for parts. It is the logical evolution of the ice-pop, with creamy soft-serve perfection tucked inside.

And there’s really not much more to say than that. There is no better way to celebrate the Creamsicle than to just eat a damn Creamsicle, which we did – that’s a blue raspberry flavoured treat that Liberty is considering stealing from me. Some celebrations are this simple. Others are more like this one:

Color Book Day

For this bizarre celebration we travel way, way back to 1457. You’re probably aware that the first book ever pumped out of the first printing press was the Gutenberg Bible, written by star of stage, screen, and the best of the Police Academy movies, Steve Guttenberg. But what about the second book?

That second book was published on this day (yesterday’s this day) 563 years ago, give or take a little due to calendar restructuring and such. It was called Mainz Psalter, and the reviews call it a real page-turner. A psalter is a collection of psalms, so clearly ‘religious texts’ was the first literary fad. The book is notable for a number of reasons.

First of all, it features a date of publication, which the Gutenberg Bible did not. This is how we know to celebrate this particular achievement on this day. It was the first book to contain a printed colophon, which is a quick description of the book itself and the publication details. In that sense, it was the first printed book to get meta, and to draw attention to the act of printing. It featured two sizes of type, whereas the Bible only had the one. And perhaps most importantly, it was the first book printed in colour.

We went through decades of photography and filmmaking before anyone figured out how to reliably create those artforms in colour. But Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, two apprentices who split from Gutenberg in order to create this piece of history, made use of black, blue and red inks. It was a time-consuming process, and one that no one was eager to reproduce, which is why you won’t find a lot of colourful books from that era apart from this one. There are only ten copies of Mainz Psalter in existence today, making it even more rare and precious than a Gutenberg Bible.

To celebrate this one we simply learned about something we’d never considered. The first of anything is immortalized forever, but the second can occasionally be even more impressive.

National Kool-Aid Day

Kool-Aid was a Nebraska creation, specifically one procured by Edwin Perkins. Edwin’s dad ran a general store in Hastings, Nebraska, which paved the way for Edwin’s profession: manufacturing stuff people would want to use around the house, then selling that stuff door-to-door. The year was 1920, and this was a legitimate way for someone to make an entrepreneurial buck.

One of his most popular creations was called Fruit-Smack, which sounds like a particularly child-friendly brand of heroin, but was actually a liquid concentrate. In 1927 Edwin figured out how to make the same drink in powder form, which he sold as Kool-Ade in grocery stores, tucking the powder into a small envelope and promising that 10 cents worth would produce 10 glasses of drink. This was the secret. Edwin’s product was in huge demand, and he went from a door-to-door salesman to the head of a successful drink company based out of Chicago.

Edwin became wealthy from his powdered creation, especially when he sold it to General Foods in 1953. You can also become wealthy from Kool-Aid if you’re so inclined, by becoming a collector of vintage products. If you’ve got a packet of Yabba-Dabba-Doo-Berry sitting around, it could net you $225. Got any Pink Swimmingo in the cupboard? You can get $400 for a case of it. Hang on to that stuff and make a mint in 20 years if you’re feeling bold.

Not us. We just drank some of the stuff. It was tasty. Not the tastiest thing we’d drink all day, but for that you’ll have to keep on reading.

National Prosecco Day

If you’re a fan of bubbly wine (and how could you not be? Just look at Liberty, trying yet again to steal the spotlight), you can set aside the expensive champagne and drop-kick that knock-off champ-ale you bought at the dollar store. Prosecco is Italian in origin, made from prosecco grapes, and it is every bit as tasty. To my wife’s palette, it’s even better.

The history of prosecco goes all the way back to Roman author and philosopher Pliny The Elder. Pliny apparently used to rave about the Pucinian, a tremendous wine. The same vino was also touted by Livia, Emperor Augustus’ wife, for its medicinal properties. In the early 1500s a local Trieste wine was created with the marketing gimmick that it was a genuine recreation of the Pucinian. They called it Ribolla. Thing is, there were other wines by that name in nearby regions, so instead it was referred to as ‘catellum nobile vinum Pucinum’ after the castle where this mythical wine had been produced.

That castle happened to be adjacent to the town of Prosecco. Over the ensuing centuries I’m sure that particular wine changed tremendously, but for the sake of inflating our sense of historical gravitas I’m going to pretend that the $20 bottle we downed last night was in fact an exact replica of Pliny’s beloved Pucinian. I know it wasn’t, but we can pretend, can’t we?

And yes, we finished off the bottle. Prosecco is easy on the tongue, so much so that even Jodie indulged a little, and she tends to skip over the alcohol-related celebrations. This one was a treat, and our final alcohol celebration until… cool. Sunday. I can handle that wait.

National Financial Awareness Day

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 57% of American adults give themselves top marks on how much they know about personal finance. I would most certainly fall into the 43%. I’m not quite at the level of believing lottery tickets are the easy road to financial freedom, but I also have a terrible time when it comes to saving money, keeping to a budget, or investing. If Jodie could counter all of this with a buck-savvy mind we’d be in great shape. Unfortunately she’s all that, plus an impulsive online shopper. If we could afford an accountant, he or she would tell us we’re screwed.

Fortunately, financial habits are not, to my knowledge, hereditary. When our son found his industry sidelined indefinitely by the virus (he is not in an essential vocation, like professional hockey), he decided to train himself to be a day-trader. This is in stark contrast to my approach when I learned I’d be working from home, which was to train myself to be a day-sweat-pantser. I hope his journey is as successful as mine has been.

I also do not possess the financial acuity of my father, whose stack of credit cards upon his death was simply astounding. He would pay one off with another, ride the six months of no interest for the new card, then repeat with another one. I’m not quite that bad. So here’s hoping our daughter learns more from her brother than from us.

We checked our bank balance yesterday and found the news wasn’t as horrible as on some days, though it was worse than others. Our key retirement planning has been our government pensions at this point, which may be ill-advised given that the current inhabitants of said government want to place our pensions into some shaky investments. So maybe the lotto is our ticket out. Either that or one of our kids had better get rich.

Navajo Code Talkers Day

Back in 1982, President Reagan declared this day to honour the 400+ Navajo folks whose code skills helped the US to pull off a victory in WWII. In 2014 Arizona made this an annual affair, and the governor has been commemorating it ever since. Yesterday we took a stab at it.

Why were Navajos enlisted for this? At the time of Pearl Harbor’s bombing, the Navajo language was still an unwritten language. The grammar is tremendously complex, and the language bears no resemblance to any other, even to that of American Indian nations who lived nearby. At the outbreak of the war, it was believed that fewer than thirty people of non-Navajo descent could make any sense of the language. You pretty much had to be raised in the thick of it to make sense of it.

Early in 1942, engineer Phillip Johnston (who came up with the idea to enlist the Navajo in this task) demonstrated under simulated combat conditions that his Navajo volunteers could transmit a three-line English message in 20 seconds. This would have taken thirty minutes by coding machine at the time, and it was virtually unbreakable. The Battle of Iwo Jima would have turned out very differently were it not for the six Navajo Code Talkers who worked around the clock, translating and sending more than 800 messages.

There are only four of those original code talkers left alive today, and the Navajo code remains the only spoken military code to have never been broken by the bad guys. For putting in service above and beyond what anyone could have anticipated, these folks deserve to be memorialized annually.

Saturdays are always a bit more packed than other days. Alas, we find ourselves staring down the barrel of all this:

  • World Honeybee Day. We’ve done a couple of bee-related days already; not sure how to celebrate another.
  • National Leathercraft Day. We had planned to take a leathercrafting course, but that was before the world melted into a puddle.
  • National Relaxation Day. This one I can promise we will celebrate.
  • National Lemon Meringue Pie Day. Another celebration we can tackle in doughnut form. Which is good – we don’t need an entire pie.
  • Chant At The Moon Day. If our neighbours didn’t think we were nuts for sneaking zucchini onto their porches, they’ll think we’re nuts now.
  • Break The Monotony Day. What is monotony? I don’t think I even remember.
  • I Love Cowboys & Cowgirls Day. Do I? Well, considering I’m just a few hours into playing Red Dead Redemption 2, I think I know how this celebration will go down.
  • National Best Friends Day. I am 100% positive we already celebrated this.
  • National Failures Day. Well that’s fun.
  • National Check The Chip Day. A day for reminding us to get our animals chipped, though I suppose we could take this title a number of ways.
  • Chauvin Day. A day to honour the guy they named chauvinism after. That should be a riot.