Sunday, October 18, 2020

The world outside my window is draining its colour into memory. The grass has transitioned from bold green to a defeated yellow. Most of the leaves on the trees I can see are still clinging to their autumn spectacle, but a steady breeze is pulling that glorious display down to the earth. The sky seems to have surrendered its blue boastfulness and offers only a palette of uninspiring grey. So now the colour and light in the world must be cranked up from within. We must supply the roll to move this rock. Fortunately, we are well-equipped with all of this keeping us busy yesterday:

National Edge Day

In scanning the lengthy list of potential celebrations for today, the one that was to be celebrated by not consuming alcohol did not pop out as the first one I’d want to do. We’ve done sober days before this year, and for the most part they aren’t particularly interesting. Nor are they necessarily genuine, as we are both fortunate to not have a dependency on alcohol, and we can comfortably enjoy a drink or two the day before or after.

But this one struck me as particularly inspiring in its backstory. I’m a lover of music of most genres (bro-step polka honky tonk never really hit me right), and this is tied in with a musical subculture that doesn’t get a lot of press.

Yes, I’m talking about football punk.

Ten Yard Fight was a Boston-based punk band that had a decent local run from 1995 through 1999. Their twist was that they were truly straight-edge: they shunned alcohol and recreational drugs, and promoted a clean lifestyle. Clean, and blasted with the satisfying endorphin rush of hardcore punk. Football punk. Their name was no coincidence; they were legitimately an American football-themed punk band who used to perform in a mix of football safety gear and punk clothing. Which is all well and good, except that being from Boston they were probably Patriots fans, and the Patriots are the least punk-rock franchise in the NFL. If they were from Oakland, I might be tempted to hunt them down and give them a listen. Besides, it was the 90s – what could they rhyme with “Drew Bledsoe”? Maybe “Where did all the beds go?”

Actually, I did give them a listen. I checked out “Proud To Be Straight”, which features some great work by the rhythm section and a genuine hardcore vibe that did not blend well with my Saturday afternoon post-brunch feeling of chill. I also wondered about that title – I get that they’re talking about their pride in not taking drugs or drinking booze, but it could be misconstrued in certain communities.

No matter – it was the final concert of Ten Yard Fight (October 17, 1999) that created this day, for sober punks to cheer on themselves and other sober punks. So we listened to some punk and abstained from alcohol. It was life on the edge.

Black Poetry Day

A big ol’ happy birthday to Jupiter Hammon, who would have turned 309 yesterday, though I think he has passed away by now. Jupiter is the grand-daddy of African-American literature, having had his poetry published in 1761. He was born into slavery, and spent his entire life as a slave in New York. Fortunately, the Lloyd family who owned his parents (and by extension, him) allowed him to learn to read and write. Jupiter’s writings were often about slavery, but he was clever enough to write in metaphor and symbols.

It should be no surprise to anyone that the first published black poet was a slave. It makes sense, and it sets the stage for the great black poetry to come. I haven’t done a poetry day in a few weeks, but this one was too appealing to ignore. The perspectives of black Americans in particular, who have been under the yoke of some form of oppression and strife for the entire duration of their cultural existence, are the ultimate teachers. We pasty types can never know their experience, but through poetry we can try to understand.

I also read some work by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. I also listened to some Gil Scott-Heron and Tupac last night. This was an enlightening little celebration.

If you’re looking for a little bit of light in your day, you could do much worse than perusing this piece by Langston Hughes, a magnificent statement on the current (still today) state of America. It’s my gift to my readers today – please enjoy and share it.

National Mulligan Day

For National Mulligan Day, named after the weirdly accepted method of cheating in golf, we decided we could either go back and re-celebrate something we’d celebrated earlier in the year and do it better, or skip back to some day we’d missed and knock it off in the present. I was ready to relive National Drink A Beer Day, because obviously that’s one that deserves revisiting. But that would have messed with National Edge Day. So much conflict to balance in this mess.

So instead let’s venture back to June, back when we were still in the first wave of this pandemic and speculating how long it may last. Now, of course, we’re well into the second (or even third) wave, and still speculating how long it may last. But on June 9 we missed the opportunity to dive deep into a very special celebration: National Lettuce Day.

Yep, lettuce. The most generic and oft-forgotten vegetable on the planet. Lettuce is one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon humanity by the Egyptians. It’s the baseline of a salad, the entry point to eating something green in order to feel better about that bacon-cheddar-double-burger and fries. It’s also a decent source of vitamins A and K, as well as folic acid and iron. It’s good stuff, though the tiny leaf you spread across the mountain of bacon on that burger isn’t going to save you from anything.

I indulged in this day with some delicious lettuce wraps from the Cactus Club Café. Lettuce doesn’t have to be boring. And, thanks to National Mulligan Day, and specifically to the Mulligan it was named after (there are competing stories – I won’t get into it), for giving us the opportunity to get busy with some lettuce. This is the magic 2020 was meant to provide.

National Fetch Day

I don’t need to get into the history of the game, or its positive benefits for puppy health and puppy-human bonding. It’s fetch. If you’ve had a dog in your life, you’ve probably played it. We have with our many bulldogs, but they usually weren’t in for more than a throw or two. It’s a lot of work. Liberty, on the other hand, loves to play.

We played fetch to celebrate; it seemed the rational thing to do. And we enjoyed it – it’s great to have a dog with significantly more energy than I have.

Today is Sunday, which means it’s tune out and watch football day. If we feel so inspired, we might dive into some of this too:

  • National Chocolate Cupcake Day. I should have probably given our team baker (sorry, Mom!) more notice for this one.
  • National No Beard Day. Will I shave my beard? The one I grew for a Halloween costume back in 2013 and haven’t gotten rid of since? No, probably not.
  • World Toy Camera Day. This day is already being stretched rather thin.
  • World Menopause Day. Nope. Probably not this one either. It’ll be a light day today.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Please be forewarned that this article was written as the first intensive snowfall began plummeting from a colourless sky. If these paragraphs appear peppered with cynicism and spite, this is why. I have once again been handed the task of defending my ability to work from home in spite of growing virus numbers and increased productivity from my fingertips. It’s a silly dance I must do to protect my sanity, and if nothing else it will serve as a reminder that I may not wish to spend the remainder of my working days as a beige-cubicle drone. Could I be a professional celebrator instead? Given that I’ve earned zero dollars so far this year I’m guessing no. But dammit, this year won’t quit and neither will we. Here’s our yesterday:

National Department Store Day

I’m going to start out by getting all middle-aged-guy and reminiscing about the beauty of the department store, a dying breed of retail establishment that will probably never make a true comeback. We’ve got Walmart, but Walmart is usually a bit different. If there’s a grocery component involved then technically it’s a ‘hypermarket’. The ones without grocery would be discount department stores, but if we were to compare them to the greatest department store chains, the only thing they’d win at is price. Quality of goods, depth of knowledge by staff, and the overall aesthetic of the retail space is far better in the more traditional department stores.

When I was young my mom had a job at Eatons, one of Canada’s foremost department stores of its time. She worked in the fabric department, and while she’d work (no idea why we didn’t have a babysitter for me), I’d roam through the toy section, then pick up some scotch mints at the candy counter before settling on the floor of the book department with a Garfield classic. Department stores cater to everything.

The history of the department store stretches back to dry goods and general stores, which sold bits of everything to the community. You’ve got Tapis Rouge in Paris in the 1780s, Bennett’s in Derby, England back in the 1730s, and in this part of the world Arnold Constable is the department store that first set up shop on Pine Street in New York in 1825. But really we can go much further into history, back to the origins of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which started up 350 years ago, in 1670.

HBC wasn’t a department store at first – it was a company that capitalized on the fur trade in what would become Canada, and served as the governing body for the massive swath of land north of the 49th parallel. My entire city was once owned by the same place where we still shop for dress shirts, watch batteries and Christmas tree ornaments. We offer a hearty salute to the few true department stores that remain, and while we fell short of visiting one yesterday, we deeply endorse a trip to the Bay either in the flesh or online. If only to keep it afloat so that Walmart isn’t eventually our only retail option.

Boss’s Day / National Hug Your Boss Day

Well, we found a weird little source of controversy in the halls of Wikipedia with this one. From the opening paragraph of the article about this day: “It has been pitched as a day for employees to thank their bosses for being kind and fair throughout the year, but some have opposed the concept as nothing more than a meaningless Hallmark holiday, as well as placing unfair pressures on employees to kowtow to managers who earn more than they do, while exercising power over them.”

Well, ouch. Hot take from some Wikipedian who did not want to buy into the capitalist system and offer gratitude to his whip-holder. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

First of all, this was not created as a suck-up-to-your-boss day. It was created in 1958 by Patricia Bays as a suck-up-to-your-dad day. She worked as a secretary for her father with State Farm Insurance, and created this day on his birthday as a way to demonstrate how much more she values him than any of the other lowly employees who worked at that branch. And now we all have to suffer.

But do we suffer? Yes, Hallmark does make cards for this, so if you’re the type who feels the need to give a card to everyone for every special day, this could cost you $5-8. I can’t imagine who’s out there buying gifts for their boss though, but it probably happens. The Society for Human Resource Management, which I’ve never heard of but who seems to have a good handle on this thing, suggests that HR should do a thing for all bosses in the company, rather than putting the pressure on individual employees. Sure. Cool. That makes sense.

I did not buy my boss a gift, or even a card. I didn’t offer to hug him either, though it is Hug Your Boss Day as well. But I wished him a happy day. He has been my boss officially for two weeks now, having recently been promoted. Before that he was just a guy at work whom I respected, and who is more tuned in to the bullshit factor in government work than pretty much anyone else there. He’s a good guy to work for. So I said thank you. If any of my coworkers actually went out and bought him a gift… well, they didn’t. I’m sure they didn’t, because they aren’t as in tune with all these celebrations as I am. No one is. Happy day, bosses.

Oh, and I should point out that Jodie did offer her (acting) boss a virtual hug from across the room yesterday, so that one has also been duly celebrated.

National Learn A Word Day

After work on that nudiustertian evening I was surprised to see there was no NFL football game scheduled to be played.

Given that this project requires me to be fascinated by the minutiae of the calendar, this seemed like a perfect word to learn. Nudiustertian is simply a fun way to refer to the day before yesterday. This can also be referred to as ereyesterday if you’re looking for a specific designation. And it pairs well with overmorrow, which refers to the day after tomorrow.

I’ve never owned one of those page-a-day calendars with a new word to imbibe each morning, but I’d certainly welcome one for my desktop. I might even annoy my friends on social media by using each new word in a post every day next year. It would replace the way I annoy them this year, which is through these celebrations. Maybe I’m just cruel. But coming up with an effective way to use one word per day would be a lot less taxing on my time. I’m considering it.

Ask me again overmorrow.

National Liqueur Day

I get it – some people do not like liqueur. It’s usually super-sweet, and extremely insistent upon the tongue it happens to envelop. Indeed, peach schnapps is one of only two alcoholic beverages I’d rather never drink again due to having over-indulged one evening and paid for it with my stomach’s contents and a wicked headache. The other is the peach vodka I consumed on New Year’s Eve last year in preparation for National Hangover Day. On the surface it may seem that peach is the common thread here, but really it’s the hangover.

The rules in Canada and the US state that liqueurs must be blended with plant products to extract their goodness, must feature at least 2.5% sweetening agent, and be at least 23% alcohol. We have indulged in celebrating numerous liqueurs already this year, which made this one tremendously easy to partake in. With so many options crowding up our liquor shelf, I opted to sample some Grand Marnier, as that would expel the lone airplane-bottle on the shelf.

Amaretto is my top pick for liqueurs, and if the stuff weren’t alcohol-filled and supremely sugar-heavy I’d drink it every day. It’s a terrific flavour. Props also go to Sambuca, Kahlua, and of course the magnificence of Irish Cream. Liqueurs are wonderful, and as luck would have it they are an ideal sipping drink for winter. Which appears to be here, or at least is pulling into the driveway. Fuck.

The first frigid and unpleasant Saturday of the season will still offer all of these options for indulgence:

  • Sweetest Day. This is it? The actual sweetest day of the year? Sweet!
  • National Edge Day. No, frantic masturbators, this isn’t about you. This is for “straight-edge punk rockers”, so no booze or drugs today. Except that which is purely medicinal, of course.
  • National Mulligan Day. Tragically this is about the golf term, not Richard Mulligan, the hilarious actor. But we get a do-over. Of any celebration we’d like, I guess.
  • National Pasta Day. Pasta is always a treat.
  • Black Poetry Day. Let’s dig some powerful poetry once again.
  • National Pay Back A Friend Day. Do we owe anyone money? A favour? Perhaps pay them back with an act of vengeance?
  • Bridge Day. I think this is about the engineering structures, not the game, not the guitar component, and not the middle section of a song.
  • Forgive An Ex Day. I’ll get back to you on this one.
  • International Cassette Store Day. This makes about as much sense as International Spinning Jenny Retail Outlet Location Day. Yes, that’s a textile joke for you.
  • Four Prunes Day. Four? How about zero prunes? I’d celebrate not having to eat any prunes.
  • International Sloth Day. I’ll type this one out slowly.
  • National Fetch Day. I’m going with the literal meaning on this one, the game I can play with my dogs.
  • Spreadsheet Day. On a weekend? I think not.
  • National Playing Card Collection Day. Thankfully I don’t have such a collection handy.
  • Wear Something Gaudy Day. Do I own something gaudy, or has Jodie eradicated all those options from my closet? Tune in to find out!