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Got your coffee or Big Gulp? Got your beignet or apple fritter? It’s a long one today…
Happy May Day! (Mayday! Mayday!)
Or, if you are in Hawaii, Happy Lei Day! Yes, today is Hawaii’s 82nd year of celebrating Lei Day. On this day in 1785, King Kamehameha I (whose real name, you probably didn’t know, was Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea) defeated political rival Kalanikupule to formally create the Kingdom of Hawaii.
I am assuming that marking today as Lei Day is related to this fact, although, as the idea for the holiday was originated by newspaperman Don Blanding to celebrate island culture, it may only fall on this date because, after all, it rhymes with May Day. The day even has its own song, written by Red and Ruth Hawk (I know, yes, really, “Red” Hawk), entitled “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” (catchy, huh?). While the song is now performed as a Hawaiian hula, it was originally composed as a fox trot. Somehow the image of women and men foxtrotting in grass skirts is rather incongruous.
Our friend Andrew used to live in Hawaii, and he would always bring me back beautiful tuberose leis when he returned. I, most unfortunately, have never been to Hawaii. Just one of many omissions that I have yet to repair.
Today in 1751, the first cricket match was played in America. It may also have been the last, for all I know. Understanding this game is on my list of things to do before I die, albeit low on the priority totem pole.
Have you ever tried to figure it out? Or have it explained to you? I have. About six years ago, an English friend sent me an email attempting an explanation. Here’s a short verbatim (including CAPS) excerpt:
THE ‘CRICKET PITCH’ IS THE TWENTY TWO YARD STRIP IN THE APPROXIMATE CENTRE OF THE GROUND OR PLAYING AREA; A ROUGH CIRCLE OR OVAL, BUT NEVER A SQUARE. THE TERM CRICKET SQUARE IS USED TO DELINEATE THE AREA WITHIN THE CIRCLE OR OVAL THAT THE ACTUAL PITCH, OR ‘WICKET’ CAN BE PLACED, AS OPPOSED TO THE OUTFIELD (BEING THE REST OF THE GROUND). THE EXACT PLACEMENT IS DECIDED BEFORE THE START OF THE MATCH BY THE BY THE HOME TEAM’S ‘GROUNDSMAN’; A PERMANENT EMPLOYEE/ NOMINEE CHARGED WITH CARE OF THE GROUND. IT CANNOT BE ALTERED DURING THE COURSE OF THE MATCH, EVEN THOSE LASTING FOUR OR FIVE DAYS, HOWEVER MUCH IT DETERIORATES, AS THE STATE OF THE PITCH AT ANY TIME AFFECTS THE BOUNCE OF THE BALL AND IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THE BOWLING STRATEGY ADOPTED BY THE FIELDING TEAM (FAST, SPIN OR SLOW BOWLER ETC.).
The entire explanation was only a brief summary, and it was 4 PAGES LONG. I don’t believe there is enough ALCOHOL IN THE WORLD to make this sport logical.
Today in 1759, Josiah Wedgwood opened the Wedgwood pottery company in Great Britain. (Note that, contrary to what your fingers find logical in typing, there is no “e” in Wedgwood.) Wedgwood, who was related to Charles Darwin, was ahead of his time as far as industrialists were concerned, so much so that he built an entire village on an estate called Etruria to comfortably house himself, his workers and his state-of-the-art factory.
His jasper ware, originally in Poland Blue, but later in shades of green and pale yellow, with themes based on greek mythology, was a favorite of Queen Charlotte, Queen Elizabeth II, and, most importantly, my mother. She had a few treasured pieces of genuine Wedgwood, and taught me how to recognize imposters just by touch. It’s lovely stuff.
Today in 1851, Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Continents. Held for 5 1/2 months in an amazing temporary structure in London’s Hyde Park, this was the original World’s Fair. That structure, called the Crystal Palace or the Great Shalimer, was a magnificent construction of glass, similar to a greenhouse.
I wish I could have seen it. It had the dubious distinction of housing the very first pay toilets! Of the 13,000 exhibits, some of the most noteworthy were a voting machine;
a very early model of the fax machine;
the Ko-hi-noor Diamond (which was the largest known in the world at the time);
and – my personal favorite – the Tempest Prognosticator – a barometer that used leeches as part of its measuring system.
Today in 1869, the Folies Bergeres opened in Paris.
Located at 32 rue Richer, Folies Bergeres was the first music hall in Paris, and its concept of exotic women in revealing costumes has been flatteringly imitated around the world for decades. Many a less-than-mainstream performer launched her career on the stage here, most notably American expatriate Josephine Baker, who rocked the world with her risqué “banana dance” in 1926.
The painter Manet captured a slice of the Folies Bergeres in his canvas aptly titled “A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres” in 1882, which has been subject to much analysis and interpretation from art critics over the last century. By the way, it was Manet’s birthday yesterday.
Please note the mysterious green shoes on the mysterious cankles in the upper left hand corner.
Today in 1930, planet Pluto was officially named. And I refuse to buy into the whole “dwarf planet” crap.
The little planet of rock and ice with the eccentric orbit was good enough to be one of the cornerstones of “My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Porcupines.” It should not be demoted – or underestimated. Like Southerners who continue in their hearts to fight the Civil War, it’s just biding its time. Kelsea is a huge Pluto fan, and sports several T-shirts and posters calling for justice for her buddy.
Today in 1991, Oakland A’s Rickey Henderson stole his 939th base, breaking the all-time base-stealing record. Now, I am not a baseball fan. So why is this historical? Because my Mother and I both thought that Rickey Henderson had the nicest ass in baseball. Ever. I recall my Dad sending me a newspaper clipping of RH in mid-swing that provided an excellent view. He attached a note saying that my Mom had asked him to send this along, but he had no idea why. I don’t believe either of us ever enlightened him.
Yes, on this May Day (or thrimilce, as the Anglo-Saxons called it), you can see we have much to celebrate. So do so in one of a myriad of traditional ways:
Gather oodles of flowers – in other words, go “a-Maying”. (I remember my friend Martha and I did this when we were 17 – we filled her father’s old Cadillac convertible to bursting with blooms. We put the top down and waved and blew kisses to everyone. Then we had a wreck. But just a tiny wreck. Boy, was her Dad mad.)
Festoon your cow with floral garlands and dance around her. A maypole may be substituted for the cow, if needed.
Wash your face in the early morning dew.
Throw eggshells at disagreeable strangers. (You can thank Germany for this one.)
Mark small cakes (a.k.a. bannocks) with a cross and roll them down a hill.
Bring beer, vodka and food to the graves of your loved ones.
Sacrifice a reindeer to the goddess Rauni.
Lay some eggs beside a stream for the woodland elves to use in making cakes.
Carefully make a bonfire, and even more carefully, jump through it.
If you happen to be a chimney sweep, wear gold paper on your clothes and line your face with pink paint and white chalk.
That should keep you busy.
Thus endeth the history lesson. Hope you feel slightly enlightened.