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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Yesterday was my final day of shopping, and it featured the entirety of my wrapping for the year. As such, despite a massive slate of December observances, we weren’t able to get up to very much. I’m willing to consider bumping a few of these auspicious celebrations until later in the week – as we have done in the past – as I don’t expect we’ll see another day quite this manic before the year is up. Here’s what we managed to scrape together for our Monday:

Winter Solstice

There are numerous ways around the world for folks to celebrate the shortest day in the northern hemisphere. In Iran they celebrate Yalda Night, which features a massive feast with family (or with one’s cohort this year, assuming they’re keeping things tight like the rest of us), plus reading of poetry. I think we came closest to this one: we had a feast (of pulled chicken tacos), had some drinks (gin & tonic for me), and I even read a bit of poetry just for completeness sake. I opted for the work of renowned Persian poet Hafiz, as his work is the most traditionally associated with this night. A good friend of mine turned me onto the music of Hafiz’s words last year (back when we could visit with friends). Here’s the one I went with:

Let Thought Become Your Beautiful Lover

Let thought become the beautiful woman.

Cultivate your mind and heart to that depth

That it can give you everything

A warm body can.

Why just keep making love with God’s child – – Form

When the Friend Himself is standing

Before us

So open-armed?

My dear,

Let prayer become your beautiful Lover

And become free,

Become free of this whole world

Like Hafiz.

I like how he ties it in at the end. The moral is: be like me. And the bulk of the piece explains why that is a decidedly groovy thing to be. I read a few more of his poems, and thought for a while how this long dark night will give way to brighter evenings and warmer mornings over the next few months. 2020 will end, not with a miraculous dismissal of all of its ruin, but with a step forward toward our society’s recovery.

The winter solstice was a sacred time in the pre-Christian pagan traditions, and it’s most likely because of those traditions that Jesus’ birth is celebrated when it is. With the solstice technically landing at our planet’s greatest tilt, this day becomes a majestic intertwining of faith and science – equally poignant and special to both.

Crossword Puzzle Day

Yes, the crossword puzzle has its origins in the 19th century. But the first puzzle to most accurately resemble the puzzles we have today appeared in the New York World issue that was published 107 years ago yesterday.

I don’t mind the crossword puzzle, and I will confess to having learned to do them by leaning heavily on the crossword dictionary my mom owned (and wore completely out). Nowadays I do the electronic kind in my Puzzle Page game, like the one pictured above. Crosswords are not only a good test of one’s vocabulary and knowledge of culture and history, but also it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate some of the incredibly clever clue-creation that the puzzle-makers put together. It’s an art form by itself.

I couldn’t do much other than play the one crossword game yesterday; time was tight. But I wasn’t going to let this day slip by.

Don’t Make Your Bed Day

How to celebrate this one? Easy – don’t make your bed. I knew Abbey would come through for us on this one, as she never makes her bed when she stays with us. I have no doubt she is meticulous about keeping up with it when she’s at home, along with the rest of her household chores, but when she’s here, all bets are off. I’m lying of course – I know she hasn’t made her bed since junior high. Come on.

This celebration was created by Shannon Barba, a fifth-grader from Tijeras, New Mexico. In 2014, Shannon pushed a petition up to Congress to get this day enacted officially. She argued that kids have been making their beds every day for the past year, and they deserve a day off. I don’t believe that’s true, as I’m sure there are plenty of parents as lackadaisical and easy-going as Jodie and I out there, but the thought is nice. There is even some extra logic behind this thinking. It’s the shortest day of the year, therefore the day that people would theoretically spend the least amount of time out of bed. So it makes sense to not make the beds, right?

Right, Shannon. I’m totally with you. And in solidarity, we did not make our bed yesterday. Not even once.

Humbug Day

This day exists simply for folks to grumble and grouch about the impending holiday season. I’m actually feeling quite positive about this holiday season, apart from the cruel reality that Colton and his girlfriend have not been able to jet across the country to visit. But that’s no way to approach a celebration. I can absolutely bitch and moan with the best of them. So, keeping in mind my typically sunny disposition, here is what pisses me off about the holidays.

The music. Fuck that music. Almost every single Christmas song is obnoxious and sub-par. I love music – it is the manna that propels each of my breaths. But I don’t agree with listening to a certain album or a certain song only at a certain time of year. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” works just fine in the dead of winter. But why doesn’t “Jingle Bell Rock” belong in July? Because it’s an inarguably shitty song, and it doesn’t even belong in December.

The obligations. I like buying presents for the kids, and I love shopping for ideas for my mom (who is tough to buy for) and my wife (who is not, at least for me). I don’t like the fact that we feel obligated to buy gifts for nieces and nephews we seldom if ever see. Or for office secret santas, or other weird traditions. I get that it’s a huge boost to our economy, but I think we need to ditch the Christmas presents and start ramping up the birthday presents. Get your loved one a full-on stocking full of goodies for their birthday next year.

The war on Christmas. There is no war. There never was. The only people who bring it up are the people who are trying to convince you it exists. Christmas is doing just fine.

That’s all. I can’t dwell in negativity, but I can appreciate the catharsis of letting some of that grumpiness out. Humbug to all.

Ribbon Candy Day

Hey look, we have some ribbon candy! Not really – this is more of a sour jelly candy that is shaped like a ribbon, whereas proper ribbon candy would land under the hard candy designation we talked about yesterday. But this was what we had on hand, and it was delightful. I’m not going to get all deep with this one – we had a ribbon candy thing, and we ate the ribbon candy thing. A pleasant time was had by those of us who ate it.

National Short Girl Appreciation Day

I married a woman who tops out just a hair below 5 feet. She makes me feel like a giant, and I’m 5’10” if I stand on my toes. I remember my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Foster (whose reputation for smashing yardsticks in class was legendary), gave me a tip about short people. He said you’ve got to watch them – Napoleon, Hitler, and my friend Scott (who I think wound up taller than I). Mr. Foster was a cautious one.

Well, I watch Jodie every day. I watch her until my eyes get tired, and then I watch her even more in my dreams. She is the light of my world, and the primary reason I have made it through 2020 with a smile on my face and a song (not a fucking Christmas song) in my heart. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate her, and I’ve been spewing out 1,500-2,000 words every day about this and that. But not one of those words is enough to do her justice.

Every day is National Short Girl Appreciation Day around here. If I want someone even shorter I’ve got three dogs who fit the description and I appreciate the hell out of them as well. But we’re sticking with humans for this party. I’ve got my favourite one here, and I’m lucky as hell for it.

Today we might still tackle flashlights, shorts, hamburgers and bright sides. Here’s what else we might deal with:

  • National Date Nut Bread Day. No. We don’t need more sweet breadstuffs in our house, dammit.
  • National Short Person Day. Can I just copy-paste from today? Is that cheating? That’s probably cheating.
  • National Cookie Exchange Day. A classic holiday party that we won’t be indulging in this year. Neither should anyone else; there’s a pandemic, remember?
  • Be A Lover Of Silence Day. I’m a huge fan of silence. It’s my second-favourite after ‘noise’.