Saturday, April 17, 2010

Traditional Fare

Flowers growing somewhere else.
For folks in these parts, Easter brings the first long weekend of the year.  The provincial government has been nattering on for years about creating a February holiday, but nothing ever comes to pass.  

Oscar says the absence of a statutory holiday during the dark days of winter is disgraceful.  At the very least, he thinks a mid-winter break would be good for everyone's mental health.  He could be right about this.

For many Sack residents, the Easter long weekend is a four-day affair.  On this basis alone, it's a highly anticipated break.  It also represents an informal end to the grayish tones of another Maritime winter.

On Good Friday, your agent encountered Oscar as he ambled down his front steps into the glorious morning sunshine.  The weather, as it would be throughout the weekend, was spectacular.

 "Four days off," I called out in greeting.  "It doesn't get any better than this."

Oscar smiled broadly in agreement.

"All I can say," he replied, "is thank God for Jesus for getting us some time off."

It's a pity there wasn't a roving photographer in the Sack during the Easter holiday weekend.

In the course of their weekend activities, Sack residents provided numerous opportunities for some interesting snapshots.  Some people displayed the mundane and routine aspects of suburban life.  Others certainly reflected its oddities.

Good Friday at Big Doug's house.
Big Doug offered a good example of both sides of this spectrum on the first day of the long weekend.  Generally, he's known for his fervent attention to lawn maintenance and snow removal.  April, however, is the no-man's-land between those seasons.  It's too late to shovel and too early to mow.  This leaves Big Doug with only one other significant activity to pursue.

He washes his truck.

While this may seem like a routine matter for some, it's serious business as far as Big Doug is concerned.  He doesn't just wash his vehicle, as much as he gives it a thorough, loving cleansing.

Shortly after half-past eight in the morning on Good Friday, Big Doug's open garage door revealed a flurry of activity.  For the first half hour, he organized the various tools and materials required for the job.  His preparations seemed almost ritualistic in nature.

Big Doug as a kid.
Once everything was assembled, Big Doug carefully and repeatedly washed his truck inside and out.  It was a sight to behold.  His concentration and attention to detail was astonishing.  Every nook and cranny bore inspection and careful cleaning.  In total, the entire process took about four hours.  I don't think he took a break during the entire period.

To say the least, Big Doug's truck received a very serious washing.

Oscar was most impressed by the fact that Big Doug actually washes his truck.  He said he couldn't remember the last time he washed his own vehicle.  It never seems to cross his mind as something to do.

"Besides," he added, "I thought that's what rain is for."

Weed, however, was awed by Big Doug's marathon truck washing effort.  He said people do a lot of crazy things, but as long as they're not hurting themselves or others, we should give them our respect.

"If washing your truck for four hours floats your boat," he said, "then knock yourself out."

A curious lens would surely have fallen on Computer Doug over the Easter long weekend.

Your agent first encountered him early on Good Friday afternoon.  This wasn't long after Big Doug finally finished washing his truck.  I was returning from a pleasant run in the old town.  Computer Doug was picking up his morning newspaper.  We stopped for a brief driveway conversation.

Not Computer Doug
Computer Doug has a distinctive flair when it comes to suburban leisurewear.  On this particular day, he wore a pair of orange sweatpants and a faded, baby blue Tears for Fears concert T-shirt.  On his feet were his customary bear claw slippers.  A tangled mass of hair swirled atop his skull.

Computer Doug explained that he had just recently awakened from a lengthy slumber.  He said he was enjoying a brief period of wakefulness before returning to bed for an afternoon nap.  Apparently, his wife, Marion was gone with their kids until the supper hour.

"That sounds like a good way to spend a day," said your agent.

Computer Doug nodded his agreement.  He said there was only one thing on his to-do list for the entire day.  Later, he had to go out to pick up an order of fish and chips for the family meal.

Eat me.
According to Computer Doug, Marion insists on eating fish for supper on Good Friday.  She says it's a tradition that she's bound to follow regardless of his opinion on the matter.

Despite being the only item on his to-do list, Computer Doug expressed some dissatisfaction with Marion's requirement for fish and chips.  He couldn't see anything wrong with having an old fashioned Easter ham.  

Marion's requirement for fish, according to Computer Doug, had nothing to do with her religious beliefs.  He said she was simply honouring her late mother's devotion to the same tradition.  Marion's mother, he noted, observed the practice for the same reason.  Her mother forbade her family from eating animal meat on Good Friday. 

"No one in her family has been religious for two or three generations," said Computer Doug, "so no one has the slightest idea why they only eat fish.  But apparently, Marion's mother and her grandmother will be rolling in their graves if we barbeque a steak on Good Friday."

"God forbid," replied your agent.  

"You've got that right," said Computer Doug.  With a wave of his newspaper, he hitched up his orange sweat pants and walked back to his house.

Go fish.
On Easter Monday, I encountered Computer Doug again.  He was leaving the local coffee cathedral with a take-out order.  I inquired about his welfare and whether he enjoyed his Good Friday fish and chips.

"Please," said Computer Doug, "don't get me going.  Fish have caused me a lot of trouble lately."

Apparently, a lot of people in the old town are crazy for fish and chips on Good Friday.  The first place Computer Doug visited was packed with customers.  He said the anticipated wait for take-out orders was over half an hour.

"That's ridiculous," he said.

Unwilling to wait, he went to another fish and chip shop.  There was a big line-up there, too.  It was even longer than the first one.  This one extended onto the street.

Computer Doug said there was only one other fish and chip in the old town that came to his mind.  He was en route to this establishment when he passed a roadside purveyor of fresh fish.  This is a common sight in the old town.  Commercial fishermen make some extra money by selling their catch from the back of a pick-up truck.

On the spot, Computer Doug decided he would stop to investigate the fisherman's goods.  A handwritten sign by the truck indicated there was smoked mackerel and scallops available.

"I thought it would be even better than fish and chips," said Computer Doug.

He purchased a quantity of both products.  He was the only customer, so he didn't have to wait.  Even better, the seafood actually cost less than a family-size order of fish and chips.

Holy Mackerel!
Computer Doug said he was unprepared for the negative reaction to the seafood when he got home.  He was expecting to be congratulated for his ingenuity and adherence to Marion's suspect family tradition.

Instead, he discovered that Marion has no stomach for mackerel.  She only eats scallops to be polite.  Computer Doug's two young boys were equally disappointed.  His youngest declared the mackerel to be "gwoss."  The eldest believed the scallops to be revolting, if not a little bit frightening.  More important, both were livid about the absence of french fries.

"In other words," said Computer Doug, "I blew it."

There was only one way to rectify the situation.  

He went back to the first fish and chip shop and stood in line.  The wait was even longer than when he first visited.  He said it was well after seven o'clock in the evening when he got home with the family's Good Friday supper.  Marion was still upset with him.  The kids were cranky.

The next day, he gave the smoked mackerel and the scallops to Little Doug.

If you're going to have a tradition, Computer Doug says you should at least believe in the reason for practicing it.  This way, you'll put a lot more energy into things.  He said he would've been happy to stand in a long lineup for fish and chips, if he felt it was a righteous thing to do.

"But I guess I'm not prepared to line up at a fish and chip shop just because my mother did it."


1 comment:

Death Becomes Her said...

It was so nice to come home to the Sack for the holiday. Thanks!


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