Thursday, December 24, 2020

We crept out of bed yesterday at the crack of noonish, ready to face a day that involved so many chores: Jodie had to pick up some bacon for Christmas morning, and I had to… walk the dogs, I guess. That’s about it. I also talked Jodie into baking one more batch of medicinal cookies for the year. We had heaps of time for celebrations, or – ideally – not celebrations. For sitting back and contemplating the silent sublime while we played video games or watched TV. This is chorin’ in a time of vacation, people. It’s going to feel a little weird. And I’m okay with that. Here’s what occupied our limited attention yesterday:


While we had no aluminum pole to mount, we certainly indulged in some feats of strength, as pictured above. We limited our wrasslin’ to human-vs-dog action, as we had no desire to meet one another in combat. We still have to be holed up in the same house with each other for another ten days, so it wouldn’t be prudent to unleash hostilities and leave open the door to vengeance. National Vengeance Day isn’t a thing, or if it is, I don’t believe it shows up within the next week or so.

Then there’s the airing of grievances. Oh boy did we have a few of those. Most were directed toward the people who have actively campaigned to make this year worse for everyone – Republicans, anti-maskers, the idiot executive at the W Network who felt it sensible to completely edit out the Martin Freeman story from their prime time airing of Love Actually, and so on. And of course we had a snarl or two for the virus that has kicked this world on its ass and messed things up for everyone.

But the people who most deserve our grieve-ish ire this year are those who have continued to gather and party, denying that Covid is a threat, likely because they don’t believe they would die from it, so who cares? Thanks to those folks, who march in a ‘freedom’ rally every weekend in our little town, we are spending the holidays without our son, with my mother nervous to leave the house just to see us, and with my aunt in the hospital, deprived of any family to come and visit her. I’m sure most of you survived, but if I did have an aluminum pole on hand, I’d gladly use it to smack you around the head and neck. Selfish pricks.

And that, folks, is the true spirit of Festivus. Created back in the 60s by author Daniel O’Keefe, Festivus is a day geared toward those who don’t want to buy in to the Christmas trappings. Originally it was held on the anniversary of Dan and his wife, Jeanette. Over 30 years later, Dan’s son (also Dan) pitched the idea as a story for George Costanza’s family on Seinfeld, where he was working as a writer. The episode, The Strike, was a huge hit, and Festivus is still mentioned widely on social media every year on the 23rd. It’s likely this anti-holiday will outlive almost every other non-traditional celebration we’ve honoured this year, and that’s pretty impressive. Finally, something that will last. For the rest of us.

National Roots Day

We have already combed through our family histories earlier this year, so setting this up as a rerun didn’t hold a lot of interest yesterday. After all, there was a nap to be had, and it wasn’t going to sleep itself. But it’s good to look back and contemplate a few of the brighter points from our lineage:

  • My great-grandmother was a professional tea-leaf reader at a café on our city’s main drag back in the day.
  • Jodie is descended from a legitimate slave who escaped via the underground railroad.
  • My grandfather once sold guns to the New York Yankees in their early-Depression-era prime.
  • Jodie’s grandmother worked as a waitress in a westernized Chinese restaurant into her eighties, simply because she loved the work.

To make this into a celebration, we had to learn something new. We asked Jodie’s mother for some new interesting piece of information. Having been adopted as a baby, she didn’t know much about her biological roots. Last year she obtained one of those 23-and-Me kits, and looked into her history. Weirdly enough, she learned that her birth mother had passed away just two months before she received the kit. How’s that for a cruel chuckle of fate? She also met numerous siblings though, so in the end it was a big win for her.

I asked my mother about my Uncle George, about whom I don’t know much (except that the man and his wife knew how to pack away the Christmas booze at my childhood Christmases). It turns out he worked for Edmonton Power. Neat.

It’s always good to learn a little something about oneself. Maybe my next project will involve hunting through my past for some cool stories. Or maybe I’ll just get back to that nap.

Tibb’s Eve

Tibb, for those who aren’t hip and in tune with 17th century English theatre history, was a character who popped up in multiple plays, usually as a loose-moraled woman intended for comic relief. Modern Tibbs would include Blanche on Golden Girls or the character portrayed by Jackée on 227 (bonus points for anyone who gets that dated reference). The term ‘Tibb’s Eve’ referred to a date in the future that would never actually happen. “I’ll pay you back on Tibb’s Eve” means you’ll never see a dime.

But how does one celebrate that? A day that never happens? Fortunately, the Newfies come to the rescue on this one.

At some point around the second world war, people living along the south coast of Newfoundland decided to designate December 23rd as Tibb’s Eve. Also, Tip’s Eve, and Tipsy Eve. The idea is that advent – a time of year that I always thought of as the period in which one counts down to Christmas by using waxy drug-store chocolates hidden behind tiny cardboard walls – is a time of sobriety and devoutness. Tibb’s Eve is celebrated by partying and drinking for just this one day, this close to the end of the advent period.

Americans probably don’t understand the relationship between Newfoundland and the rest of Canada. They have no equivalent. New Jersey is a frequent punchline (at least for New Yorkers), Florida Man is a celebration of bath-salts-snarfing criminal weirdos, and there are plenty of jokes that can be made at the expense of the residents of the deep south. But Newfoundland isn’t any of those. Newfies are our goofy partiers, the coiners of the most bizarre expressions in the lexicon. From my experience, we don’t resent or revile the Newfies – they add a splash of astounding flavour to our culture.

And for Tibb’s Eve, a celebration we can observe simply by cracking a drink or six, we are grateful.

Night Of The Radishes

Radishes are originally from China. At some point in the grotesque and often violent colonization of Mexico, the Spanish friars brought them over and introduced them to Mexican cuisine. When the friars still ran the show down there, it became fashionable to grab some particularly large radishes and carve religious iconography into them to display around Christmas. Weird? When you consider the bizarre traditions we have combed through this year, it’s pretty much normal, really.

In 1897, the mayor of Oaxaca proclaimed a radish-carving contest. That has continued every year since, and it still went down last night, albeit virtually. These folks are carving radishes that are larger than any I have seen at any store or in any restaurant around here. They are also carving with actual skill, something that I do not possess. Perhaps I should have practiced on a few.

Last night we dropped the religious iconography notion and simply carved a radish face apiece. It was a weird way to pass the time, but we aren’t getting out of this year without a few more bizarre indulgences. As is tradition, since the radishes don’t hold up for long after being carved, they will be tossed out later today. Or maybe we’ll keep them around and display them as long as possible, just to see what happens to a carved radish over time. It’s not like I’ve ever looked into that before. Actually, the dogs already ate one of them, so maybe this is simply a completed experiment.

From feats of strength to radish carving, yesterday was an unusual one. And I still got my nap.

I’m sure most folks are celebrating something today. Here’s what’s on the menu, in case you’re looking for something to fill the void without your extended family visiting:

  • Christmas Eve. Well, obviously. We will celebrate this relatively traditionally (for us), with new pajamas and a classic piece of cinema.
  • National Eggnog Day. A beverage no one but me enjoys. Do we drop money down on the stuff anyway?
  • Last Minute Shoppers Day. We can stretch and relax throughout the last minute. We were prepared this year.
  • National Regifting Day. Another Seinfeld reference? Cool. We have regifted in the past. We’ll admit it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Well ho, ho, and nearly ho then – Christmas is looming like a Universal movie monster, albeit shrouded in grainy half-light this year. We have already celebrated more than two thousand other things so far in 2020, so making a big deal over the anniversary of Santa’s bar mitzvah (or whatever – I haven’t yet done my research into the Christmas story) doesn’t seem quite as important. But it is. This is when families usually gather in masses, toast with various forms of intoxicating cheer in the glasses, and occasionally smooch, punch or drink one another onto their asses. And this year it’s profoundly different. But we will endure, and embrace the knowledge that this is a one-time glitch in our lifetimes of Christmases. Besides, look at all the other fun shit happening during Christmas week:

National Cookie Exchange Day

A cookie exchange, as we all know, comes under the Oakley protocol, which is a protocol of key management. Now that I think of it, Wikipedia may be letting me down on this one. I’m pretty sure this cookie exchange page is a computer thing, and not a baked goods thing.

That’s okay – we all know what a cookie exchange is, right? Everyone bakes up a batch of whatever, then in a grand get-together which features rigorous sampling, everyone goes home with an assortment of everything after only having had to bake up one type. It’s a great idea, and it makes absolutely no sense in the time of Covid. No one is getting together, and if they are, we are supposed to call the police, apparently. I won’t be calling any police if my neighbours get together this holiday season, and I won’t even scowl at them from a distance if it happens to be a cookie exchange and they float me a few freebies.

Because there was no exchanging of baked goods for us yesterday, Abbey and I took a more straightforward approach to this celebration. We each picked a cookie from our selection of baked goods (which grew in number once again yesterday), and exchanged them with one another. Technically, this counts. Technically is good enough in 2020, as we have established already. Besides, why complain when the end result is eating cookies?

National Flashlight Day

Technically the birthday of the flashlight is (maybe) January 10. It was in 1899 when David Misell filed a patent for the thing, which used dry cell batteries, invented only 12 years earlier. Maybe there were flashlights before that, but it doesn’t really matter – it wasn’t until the invention of the tungsten-filament lights we know and love (1904) when flashlights became a must-have tool.

So why celebrate them yesterday? Technically we simply bumped this one from a day earlier – National Flashlight Day is meant to land on the year’s longest night. This is, after all, the biggest chunk of time in which someone might wish to use a flashlight.

I’d love to spiral into an interesting flashlight anecdote from my past, but I really don’t have one. I have used one to read under the covers, to lightsaber duel with a friend at a sleepover, and to find stuff when the power goes out. Like pretty much everyone else. We celebrated the day by using a flashlight for a few moments, which was more than we’d actually needed to use a flashlight yesterday.

Still, we’re glad we have it.

National Look At The Bright Side Day

Okay, I’ll do one more of these, and that’s it. Of all the celebrations (seriously – over 2,000?) in which we have indulged this fanciful and oft-frightening year, this is by far the most common recurring motif of the bunch. Things are good. Appreciate the good. It’s good to be good. Power of positive yadda yadda and all that.

And we have celebrated these well. We have watched the world spiral through an utterly ridiculous year that will one day get its own set of shelves in reputable libraries everywhere. Doom and gloom and the same ol’ room have dominated conversations, and every other day we see an article or two about society’s crumbling state of mental well-being. Well, speaking on behalf of those of us whose mental well-being was crumbling long before 2020 came along to shake things up, we will get through it.

And one of the best ways to get through it is to look at the bright side from time to time. We have skipped over a handful of these, but I’ve found the ones we’ve tackled to be a welcome pause in the crap-packed deluge of 2020. There is always a bright side. Even when it’s fifty to sixty times tinier than the crappy side.

So we’ll indulge once more. The bright side of this lost Christmas is that it’s the only one. Down the road we can all reflect on things with thoughts like, “Hey, at least it isn’t 2020.” Another bright side of this year is that we all went through it together. Putting aside numbskulls who still don’t believe there’s a pandemic or who feel American democracy is worth sacrificing so that the rich guy doesn’t have to go back to his golden toilet, we have all endured a shared cultural experience that will shape our collective understanding. In ten years there will be a generation of young people who won’t get any of the references to this year, or life before it. That will be weird. And we old folk will be even more firmly united.

I encourage everyone to look around you and find the bright side of this mess. It’s there. You just might have to dig. And dig. And dig.

Be A Lover Of Silence Day


I am. No question. As much as music provides the billows to the flame of my being, silence is just as necessary for survival. Sometimes it’s the silence within the music that moves me. Sometimes it’s the pure, uninterrupted bliss of utter peace.

I don’t get a lot of silence in my life. At work there is always a dull hum of monotonous blather in the distance. Even working from home, if I don’t have music playing I usually have the serenade of my fingers tip-tapping on the keyboard to fill my earholes. At night, with three dogs on our bed (two of whom are flat-nosed perpetually-snoring bulldogs), I am ensconced in white noise, not true silence. So when I get the opportunity to savour it, I like to savour it.

Yesterday I took a few quiet moments while writing to pull my hands back and just listen to nothing. The dogs were even courteously downstairs, allowing me the closest to absolute quiet I can achieve without leaving the house and hiding somewhere. Colton, our absentee (not by choice) son, has told me about the wonders of a sensory deprivation tank – a true immersion in absolute silence of the senses. But I never got a chance to try one out before Covid hit and all those places have shut down for now. Perhaps that’s a goal for 2021: to achieve that true complete silence and to swim in it.

Until then, I’ll deal with the snores.

National Short Person Day

Yesterday I took a few moments to spew out some loving words for my lovely wife, who fits the definition of a short girl perfectly, by being both short and a girl. Today is Short Person Day – note the word ‘appreciation’ is not in there anywhere – and I don’t feel it’s right to simply repeat the thing I did literally one day ago.

So instead I’ll contemplate my own shortness. At 5’9” I’m not exactly living in fear that I’ll be barred from riding any roller coasters due to my stature. But I’m also keenly aware that I never rose to my dad’s 5’11”. I’m also aware that my height is ‘average’, but average means there will always be shelves in my home that are tricky for me to reach without standing on something. It means I probably won’t be obstructing many views in a crowd situation, but I also have a strong possibility someone will be obstructing mine. Not that a crowd situation is likely for the next few months, but still.

Randy Newman famously penned a song that claims that short people have no reason to live. He reportedly hated that people took that song seriously, when it was clearly meant to be a satirical look at the arbitrary and fickle nature of prejudice. People don’t get nuance, that’s the lesson here.

I am fine with my averageness, and Jodie rarely bemoans her legitimate shortness. There are plenty of other things to complain about in this world – though even then, we need to keep Look on the Bright Side Day in our minds – and being short is easily conquerable with chairs, stepladders and high heels.

Rock on, little folk.

National Hamburger Day

We celebrated this day back in May, as I’m sure you recall. Why wouldn’t you recall that, fictional person to whom I’m addressing this paragraph? Were you not paying attention? Should you go back and re-read everything I wrote until you understand? Christ, even I don’t plan on rereading all this.

We have celebrated hamburgers, cheeseburgers and bacon double cheeseburgers this year. I have poured through the history of the burger and dissected its importance in western culture several times. Yesterday, which is acknowledged as the second National Hamburger Day of the year, seems to have no special significance, date-wise. So we simply made some burgers and ate them.

Some of these are just too easy.

Today is the ultimate last-minute day for folks who still need to shop, wrap, and deliver gifts. We are fortunate to be done with all that, so we’ll have plenty of time for this:

  • National Pfeffernusse Day. This is some sort of complicated German cookie. We are plenty full of cookies at the moment.
  • National Roots Day. A day for looking into our family history, which we have already done this year. Maybe we just listen to the band?
  • Night of the Radishes. It’s a day for carving radishes, which apparently is a big deal in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Tibb’s Eve. This is a Newfoundland tradition, which automatically tells me it’s probably a blast to celebrate. Sure enough, it’s a day during the period of advent in which it’s groovy to crack a few and drink up. Nice.
  • Festivus. I look forward to challenging Liberty, our beloved golden retriever, to some feats of strength.