Saturday, April 11, 2020

Yesterday marked the first day of the most unnoticeable four-day weekend either of us have every experienced. We found ourselves sitting at the same desks as any other day, at roughly the same time as any other day, only instead of work stuff we were doing other stuff. Jodie has her classes she’s taking, and I have this wonderful cavalcade of weirdness doled out by the calendar. For example:

National Cinnamon Crescent Day / National Bake Week

My sources could not pinpoint the originators of these sacred and special feasts, but my experience is tilting me toward Pillsbury or some such pastry merchant. For our celebration we simply followed this recipe put out by the little dough boy himself. A baking task that we didn’t have to farm out to our team baker (hi, Mom!) because it was simple enough for me to pull off with my limited baking skills. This recipe is credited to Dorothy Veasey, who entered it as part of the 1973 Pillsbury Bake-Off and is now immortalized on their website.

Sure, heading to Cinnabon or some such establishment would have been easier, but National Cinnamon Roll Day is October 4, and by then we should be able to venture into public for high-carb, high-sugar treats. Besides – it says ‘crescent’ in the name, so there’s no point in aiming for a “close enough” when we can hit the real thing.

It was delicious and simple. And we made enough to get us through today, which is great because we don’t get to celebrate another dessert celebration for two whole days. Next week is food-heavy, even more than usual. This was a great way to kick that off.

It’s also National Bake Week, which I suspect is another creation by the good folks at Pillsbury (but I cannot prove yet). So it’s appropriate that we ventured into the realm of baking. Mom already hooked us up with that coffee cake this week, so it’s only fair that we give baking a shot, even with a ridiculously low degree of difficulty.

Encourage a Young Writer Day

Again, this is a day (much like School Librarian Day last Saturday) that should be slated to land on a weekday that doesn’t get turned into an April holiday. Jodie could have done heaps of this at school, given that she’s an English teacher and a portion of her students (albeit a tiny portion) has some skill with the written word. Fortunately, we’re becoming masters of distance-teaching and distance-working so the day was salvaged.

I always send words of encouragement to our daughter in Vancouver, who has sufficient skills to amaze me with every paper she sends me to look over for school. She’s brilliant, but I didn’t want to heap too much praise on her – she can dance, draw, act and tell jokes. If she thinks she’s too awesome she’ll do the honourable thing by slaying me and taking her place atop the artistic mountain that is this family. We can’t have that.

Jodie sent some emails to a couple of her students who have the gift, and did her best to prompt them into continuing with the act of creation during their quarantine. Preteen kids have got to be tiring of video games and binges of weird tiger-related shows by now, right? The hope is that enough quality writers will create enough quality greatness with all this free time. And yesterday was about celebrating the young ones.

National Siblings Day

This celebration was started by a woman named Claudia Evart, who had lost a brother and a sister at a very young age. Claudia launched the Siblings Day Foundation, which first established this day in 1997. The organization includes a lost siblings registry, a siblings rights project, a support group, and an adopt-a-sibling program. I may look into that last one, since this day means absolutely nothing to me. Siblings-in-law? Sure, I’ve got some great ones. But Jodie was the one hogging all the brotherly and sisterly love yesterday.

And in that spirit, she sent out a loving message to her brothers and sisters on social media, and they all exchanged pleasantries from their socially-isolated homes. Our three dogs, who are technically adopted siblings, spent a great deal of time with one another, but they opted not to specifically honour the day for some reason. Might be the whole language-barrier thing.

President Clinton acknowledged this day in 2000, and since it began it has been endorsed by 49 out of 50 US governors. The one outlier? California, for some reason. Wherever you live, if you no longer cohabitate with your siblings this might serve as a good reminder that they, like you, are going through the weird trauma of watching the world in its weirdest state of melt-down since everyone was ducking and covering under their desks in the 60s. Reach out and give them a call. Appreciate them – some of us never had ‘em.

National Hug Your Dog Day

Not to be confused with Hug Your Hound Day (that’s in September), the long tradition of National Hug Your Dog Day stretches all the way back to… yesterday, I guess. I mean, this showed up online last summer when I began research for this project, but has anyone actually heard of this day before now? No. They have not.

There are a weird amount of days during the year in which we are supposed to acknowledge our canine friends with some love. I say ‘weird’ because that should be an every-day occurrence. Heck, we’ve even got a day just for bulldogs coming up on the 21st, so these dogs are going to get downright sick of our love and attention before the month is up. I joke, of course. Dogs – in particular bulldogs – do not get sick of love and attention, which is one reason we love them so much. For almost four weeks now these three have spent just about 24 hours of every day in our company, and they don’t seem to mind.

Neither do we. We gave our dogs their due, then threw in an extra hug for good measure. They have been great company during this spell of weirdness, and we are grateful for having them around. I suspect when this day rolls around next year we will forget about Hug Your Dog Day (unless we check our social media on-this-day link), but our dogs will be hugged nonetheless. After all, they work so tirelessly for us.

Global Work From Home Day

And if you were looking for a delightful little chuckle of irony to brighten your April 10 in this particular year, look no further. As stated in the previous (and much more fun) entry, we have both been working from home for a while – four weeks this Tuesday for me, and a full three weeks for Jodie, thanks to spring break. Working from home is a radical shift for both of us – Jodie because she is deprived the experience of truly watching her students grow and learn, and me because I don’t have to poop in a stall. Also, the 2-ply quilted TP is nicer than the sandpaper they supply at work. That’s really where most of the advantages lie: in pooping.

Setting up the dual office situation around here has been challenging. We have only one office with a desktop PC, and since I have to be remotely connected to my office at all times I get dibs on it. Also, the laptop is our only PC with a mic and camera, so that fits Jodie’s needs better. Unfortunately she is relegated to operating the thing at the dining room table, which may soon become unworkable if we begin the massive jigsaw puzzle that’s waiting for us.

So adjustments have to be made. But we can both wake up five minutes before work starts, let the dogs out, start coffee, and make it to work on time. I have never been so well-rested in my life. It’s like all we needed was for the world to shut the hell down for a little while so we could get caught up on sleep.

Jodie will be working from home until summer, not returning to her school to teach until September. As soon as that mean ol’ curve gets flattened a little, I expect I’ll be called back to my hour-long bus trip (each way), my grey-beige cubicle, and my crappy bathroom options. But until then, we will celebrate the ever-loving fuck out of this day, as long as the greatness of it lasts.

National Public Health Week

Wow, more irony today, given that we are all presently obsessed with public health right now. To celebrate this week, stay the fuck home. There is literally nothing better you can do, unless you’re one of those front-line public health workers, all of whom should be getting massive raises when all this is done.

I will allow for a slight exception to our no-politics rule just this once, given that it is in the spirit of this particular celebration. Here in Alberta, our doctors were handed a pay cut that amounted to about 30% of lost income right before this fecal matter made complete contact with the fan blades. Think of that. 30%. Think of the young physicians who are probably dragging a boulder of student debt behind them, and have perhaps just invested in a home or a car. Now they have to scrape nearly a third of their income out of their budget.

Then the pandemic hit, and no relief was given. Our doctors have actually filed suit against the government – this is the fight they have to undertake for basic respect while they deal with the public calling them heroes for risking their lives as the rest of us hide out with our families. Our provincial government is hot garbage right now, and when all this is over I won’t blame any of our doctors if they opt for a sunnier environment where their dedication is recognized by the people in charge. And don’t even get me started on how they’re treating our nurses.

That’s all. No more politics. Thank you to everyone charged with maintaining our public health, and thank you to every corner of Canada that still cherishes our public health system and fights to keep it strong. Now stay the hell home everyone – if you can.

Scottish-American Heritage Month

Having already paid tribute to my Scottish heritage earlier this week for National Tartan Day, I feel I am in good shape for this month. I’m not particularly proud to have Scottish roots, nor am I proud that my grandfather was born in Brooklyn, giving me American roots as well. I didn’t do anything to achieve either of these things so pride doesn’t make sense. I’m happy to share both nationalities in my lineage. Good enough?

I’m told the Scots are as stingy with money as the Jews allegedly are, which makes any hope of gregariousness pretty much nil for me. Except I’m a notoriously great tipper, and as generous as I’m able to be most of the time, so perhaps those stereotypes are garbage. The Scots are big drinkers I’m told (and there’s some Irish and Polish muddling about in my blood too, so watch out), but I’m really not. What nationality prefers smoking herb to downing booze? Jamaican? Am I part Jamaican?

This celebration probably shouldn’t be a celebration of which cookie-cutter stereotypes I fit into. I have indulged my Scottish side more this year than ever before, with our true haggis-n-whisky party on Robbie Burns Night. And my American side always gets lots of love from the culture I consume. I hope all Scottish Yanks and Yankee Scots out there take some time this month to appreciate the awesomeness of who they are. It’s a pretty good mix.

Minus the haggis.

National Poetry Month

I love discovering that we have both been celebrating something calendar-appropriate without even knowing it. National Poetry Month might have slipped past my radar, but Jodie happens to be stanza-deep in the poetry unit she’s teaching her students. Those lucky kids get to learn about the haiku, the quatrain, the subtle groove of iambic rhythm, and so on. Most kids hated learning about poetry, but I loved it. The challenge of sculpting a thought into such a rigid format was a welcome challenge of wordsmithery to me.

Of course, that’s not the true essence of poetry, merely the parameters of the medium. Once you sink into words so beautiful they cause your mind to quiver and quake, you have uncovered the language’s hidden magic. Good poetry, whether or not it conforms to a specific style or format, is absolute music. Whether your jam is Keats, Browning or cummings, once you’ve found what moves you, then you have uncovered a fast-track to cerebral bliss.

My poetry intake is oddly up this month, thanks to Sir Patrick Stewart, who has taken to reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets on Facebook, one per day. His voice may not carry the same smooth thunder from his younger, Captaining days, but he pours the Bard’s words into the camera like harmonious molasses, shining light from each syllable and leaving no doubt to the meaning and intent behind each piece. I can think of absolutely no better way to enjoy some poetry this month than to drink a few of these performances in. And they’re all free. Damn, this world is better with him in it. And so much better when you can wash it all back with some beautiful poetry.

National Gin & Tonic Day

We are a couple days late on this one, but due to obvious restrictions on everyone’s mobility it didn’t seem wise to venture into the world to pick up the ingredients we were lacking. Specifically, the gin and the tonic. We had the ice and limes. But yesterday was supply run day, and we snared some of each. Some celebrations we will let pass us by (it was Be Kind To Spiders Week, but fuck those little verminous shits). Some will slip past us much to our displeasure (never did get around to Moscow Mule Day). But the beloved G&T will not be tossed aside.

Jodie has kept gin from her life for the most part. She isn’t a fan. Besides, it was the one alcoholic libation that led her dad into a bout of extreme sickness and hangover, so it never held much appeal for her. I went through a brief gin phase when I was still learning how to consume hard alcohol without making a scrunched-up face, but haven’t had a taste of it in decades. No particular reason – I just haven’t gotten around to it. Yesterday that changed.

National Craft Distillery Day shows up on May 22, and if the world is back in service by then we plan to visit our city’s first craft distillery for a tour and a sampling. But that might not be possible, so this may be our only gin-devoted day of the year. Gin gets its heft from juniper berries, but there are a million ways to twist and twirl those berries into something magical. Tonic water is similar to the soda water we drink on a regular basis, but with the addition of quinine, a medication commonly used to treat malaria. Interesting factoid – shining an ultraviolet light on a bottle of tonic water will cause it to glow, thanks to the quinine inside. I’m kind of sorry we didn’t have one.

So we didn’t get malaria, and we did get a blast of delicious refreshment. I’m sorry to say I still enjoy the hell out of gin, and I think it will work its way into my refreshment routine going forward. I’m doing everything in my power not to become an alcoholic or even more of a sugar-junkie through this project, but the calendar is stacked against me.

Oh well.

Good Friday

Yes, it was Good Friday yesterday, and no, we didn’t celebrate it. Jodie is a lapsed Catholic and I, as a Jew (by heritage, not so much by religion), am kind of the villain in the history of this day, so I kept my mouth shut.

I did have a question though. Why, if this is a tribute to the day Jesus was nailed to some wood and left to die, is this considered “Good” Friday? It wasn’t a particularly bullish day for Jesus. Is it weird twisting of “God” Friday? That doesn’t seem right either.

Thankfully, Google exists and we no longer have to wonder about much of anything anymore. The Good in Good Friday refers to a different meaning of “good” – think “holy” or “pious” or “righteous”. It’s a holy day for Christians, in the same way the “good book” is their holiest of tomes. So that’s it – a seldom-used definition of the adjective creates a smidgen of confusion to those of us who aren’t good – at least in the pious sense. But it’s still a good day for us heathens, and has always been, because it’s a day off.

A day off of working from home, but a day off nonetheless, and we appreciate it.

Today we get rolling with a whole heap of fun parties:

  • National Barbershop Quartet Day. We’ll be listening to some hardcore ‘shop tunes today.
  • National Cheese Fondue Day. Will we half-ass this one? Hell no – we put in an order with a local restaurant for a feast of cheese and chocolate fondue later on. Hell yes.
  • National Eight Track Day. I don’t have an 8-track player laying about, but we will listen to some tunes from the 8-track era and do a bit of learning about this antiquated technology that somehow my family never owned.
  • National Pet Day. Cool. Our dogs get more hugs.
  • National Submarine Day. Can’t hitch a ride in one, but we can eat one of the sandwich types for lunch.
  • National Poutine Day. But we just did this on March 5! How can there be another? We’ll look into that (I guess), but who cares? More poutine!
  • National Louie Louie Day. One of the most fascinating songs in rock’s history gets its own day. Be careful if you sing along incorrectly – you might end up on an FBI watch-list.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Normally a four-day weekend revs with a throaty rumble, blasting through the monotony of daily life in a cloud of spectral smoke, driving thoughts of workday grind into a frenzied scurry out of sight. This particular quartet of sunrises will see us taking a break from the relatively convenient task of working at home so we can… sit at home. This four-day weekend will emit barely a sneeze of surprise and wonder, but such is the downside of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. We will have more time for celebration if nothing else (and yeah, not much else). Here’s how we tackled our last day before the weekend yawned open:

National Cherish An Antique Day

March 1 (remember March 1? When life was normal?) was National Old Stuff Day, and we dug out Jodie’s old doll (made with actual human eyelashes, so that’s gross) and my old copy of Sgt. Pepper on reel-to-reel. So why celebrate essentially the same thing just a few weeks later?

No, we’re taking a different tactic for this day. Yesterday we spent some time discussing what antiques we would like to own – stuff we cherish out in the world, but don’t possess ourselves. Like I said yesterday (or possibly the day before, I can’t tell anymore), this is our tune, we’ll choose the notes we play. We are presently in a state of object-divestment – we are aiming to rid ourselves of possessions rather than accumulate them. So this is all an act of pure theory.

Jodie’s dream vehicle is a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. They seem to be going for between $35k and $50k online so we are absolutely in the realm of theoretical discussion here. The original T-birds were 3-seater sportscars designed with luxury first, speed second. The ’56 slapped the spare tire on the back, giving enough room for two or three bodies in the trunk – ideal for sneaking folks into the drive-in. The Thunderbird was described by Ford as “a personal car of distinction.” Well, Jodie is a personal woman of distinction, so I guess this fits.

I don’t have a particular antique that I fancy. I would love the customized neon palm tree and rainbow that used to take up an entire wall of my childhood home. It would be fun to have an antique pinball machine – a friend of mine is restoring them for fun now, and I have to settle for pictures. If you have a particular antique that brightens up your life, give it a hug today! Or yesterday – but you can still do it today. We won’t tell.

National Name Yourself Day

We did an entire week of name-related celebrations at the beginning of March, including Fun Facts About Names Day, Discover What Your Name Means Day and Unique Names Day. We also went over the origins of our names – what’s left? Yesterday we were supposed to name ourselves.

I asked Jodie if there was a name she’d always wished she had. There wasn’t. I thought about that myself – having never liked the name Martin as a kid (and I’m still not fond of it), did I wish I was a Lloyd? A Julius? A D’brickashaw? Not really – Marty has served me fine ever since Michael J. Fox made the name cool in the summer of 1985.

Should we give ourselves porno names? Nope, Jodie wasn’t into that. I suggested a few for us: Lou B’dupp, Slappy Thunderthrust, Regina Kokksokkett… nope, not happening. We have been named, and these are the names we’re sticking with.

But it did prompt an interesting, albeit frustrating (for Jodie) conversation yesterday. That’s more celebrating than I was expecting from this one.

International ASMR Day

Autonomous sensory meridian response. That’s what this celebration was about. If you’re not familiar with ASMR, it’s essentially a tingling sensation that starts on your scalp and oozes down to your spine in a little wave of pleasure. Think drugs without the drugs. It’s a gentle euphoria that can be brought about purely by sound.

“Great!” says the beer-swilling, weed-smoking voice inside of you that has grown weary of booze and cannabis and is longing for a cleaner, more natural high to pass the time during quarantine. “But will it give me the munchies?” The answer is no. Probably – I didn’t look it up, but it’s not likely. This will cost a lot less than the more commonly thought-of libations however. All you need is a pair of headphones and someone whispering softly into the mic. I checked out a video of Gillian Anderson doing ASMR and it was neat. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Gillian Anderson whisper the word ‘braingasm’ into your ear, you should check out the video.

Some people can get that tingly feeling from certain types of music, listening to light tapping, or even watching someone perform a mundane task. Once you get the hang of it, you can just sit quietly and bring yourself to a ‘braingasm’ on your own, with no outside stimulus. The people who can experience this best are those who would score high on the neurotic scale in a personality test, and usually more often the introverted folks among us. You know, the ones who are shrugging off this quarantine like it’s no big deal.

If you’ve never tried out ASMR, you absolutely should. There are no side effects, and it can be quite relaxing. If it turns out not to be your thing, that’s okay – alcohol and cannabis stores are considered to be essential services right now, so there’s always that option.

National Unicorn Day

The unicorn. A horse with a horn in the front. Sounds magical? I don’t know – have you seen a platypus? That’s a creature that looked as though God was blasting through the tequila (or possibly a lengthy ASMR session) when He invented it. The unicorn is pretty tame in appearance, at least by comparison.

The Greeks spoke of unicorns, not because they factored into their extensive mythology structure, but because they were certain the creatures were real. They were described in records of natural history as living in India, which at the time was the pinnacle of foreign and exotic to the Greeks. Might still be – I haven’t asked a Greek person.

The unicorn was picked up in Christian stories as a beast that can only be tamed by a virgin. <insert cheesy 80s movie joke here> The beast was also tied to the plight of young lovers, so it showed up a lot in the spiritual artwork of the medieval period. As far as mythical beasts go, the unicorn has a lot more staying power than, say, a minotaur or a hydra. It is associated with calm, with love and with innocence. It’s attractive and never frightening. So yesterday we paid tribute to the noble horned steed and its remarkable dent in the historical record. Not bad for a pretend creature.

After a super-quiet Thursday, we venture into Good Friday with another relatively light schedule. Gin & Tonic Day was yesterday, but we’ll celebrate that a couple days late, when we head out for supplies. For today:

  • National Cinnamon Crescent Day. Great, more desserts!
  • Encourage A Young Writer Day. We both know a few of these, so we’ll send out some kind words.
  • National Siblings Day. This one is all on Jodie – she will reach out and say hi to her siblings. I have none, so I’ll just weep quietly and eat all the cinnamon crescents.
  • National Hug Your Dog Day. Okay, I’ll do this instead.
  • Good Friday. We don’t celebrate this in any religious capacity, but we are grateful for the day off.
  • Beatles Good-Bye Day. Again, not a celebration for us, but a day of note: 50 years ago today the Beatles announced their break-up. That one hurts.