Monday, October 12 marked Columbus Day 2020, since it was on October 12, 1492, as recorded by the Julian Calendar, that his misguided expedition to find the silks, spices, gold and jewels of the Orient bumped into the Caribbean island of Guanahani, which he promptly dubbed “San Salvador,” and which, today, hosts the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Of course, this totally ignores the fact that Pope Gregory XIII changed the Christian calendar in 1582 in order to avert celebration of Easter drifting away from the pagan holidays of the vernal equinox upon which it is based. That involved taking ten days out of the month of October so that Thursday, October 4, 1582 was followed by Friday, October 15. Therefore, what was October 12 in the Julian calendar that Columbus employed would be October 21 in the Gregorian calendar used by most members of the United Nations today. Realizing this, scholars created the Proleptic Gregorian Calendar, which reconciles the difference by pegging Columbus’ “discovery” of “the New World” on October 21, 1492. So, naturally, given all this accurate and complete information concerning the situation, we Americans enthusiastically celebrate his achievement on the wrong day, in deep and consistent agreement with the spirit of a holiday celebrating the achievements of a dead white man who didn’t know where he was going, didn’t know where he was when he got there and went to his grave completely ignorant of where he had actually been. Well, this year, I decided to do something about it.
Now, as regular readers of this Web log know, being of Italian ancestry, Columbus Day is a big deal in my family. Not a year went by in the good old great and amazing New York City of my youth that my big sister Rose Lotus Martini, Yours Truly, Tom Collins Martini, and my little brother, Rob Roy Martini weren’t dragged down to the Columbus Day Parade (held on October 12, of course) by my dear, doting dad. And, despite the fact that I later learned, in excruciating detail, what an evil, nasty, sadistic, greedy, self-interested, egotistical, lying, thieving, amoral, sociopathic criminal Columbus was, those parades are nevertheless some of my fondest memories. Hey, like they say, go figure; stu gots, paisan, whatcha gonna do? Okay, here’s what I did, anyway – I held a family Columbus Day celebration on October 21, exactly five hundred and twenty-eight years after Columbus planted the Spanish flag in what he thought was the coastal islands of China. True, there was some pushback from the family, but my arguments in favor of historical accuracy, combined with the fact that everybody knew I was footing the bill for the whole shindig anyway, won out.
Given the Covid-19 pandemic, getting the family together for our traditional Columbus Day dinner wasn’t really feasible, so I put on my N95 mask and hit some of the better gourmet markets in the Washington DC area, then brought all the goodies home and prepared an appropriate menu for our repast. For starters, I made an organic free range prairie herb and grass fed bison carpaccio and a traditional Italian lumache smarrite with a soup course offering a choice of zuppa di lenticche alla Romana or pasta fagioli delle antiche generazioni con frutti di mare. The entrees were a choice of vitello alla Zingara, anitra ai frutti or gamberi parmigiana, with a pasta sides of penne arrabbiate and gnocchi alla Napoletana. For dessert, I made torrone, sfogliatella and torta caprese. Then I packed everything up in picnic baskets and coolers along with several bottles of Tignanello 2017 Toscana and had a limousine service deliver them to Rose’s home in Fairfax and Rob Roy’s in Falls Church. Naturally, I checked with them about what they wanted first, as well as what Arthur Palikowski, Rose’s brother-in-law, and Rob Roy’s wife, Katje and my nephew Jason wanted, too. (Since Katje is a vegan, I made her a nice arugula, chanterelle, dandelion and heirloom tomato salad with Manicardi balsamico oro, Tuscan olive oil and grey French Breton sea salt, a little zucchini casserole with agave glazed cipollini onions and morels with a toasted pistachio crust, a side of vegan gnocchi with dairy-free basil and pine nut pesto, and an organic fruit medley for dessert.) And of course, there was the issue of providing an appropriate feast for that huge brood of Rose and Arthur’s children to consider. For them, I arranged for concurrent contactless delivery of several large pizzas with their choice of toppings, sauces and crusts from the best Italian restaurant in the Northern Virginia suburbs, timed to occur a few minutes before Rose and Arthur were done heating their servings in the microwave and a 350 degree oven according to my directions. (I let Rose manage the kiddie beverage selections, since she likes to control their caffeine dosages.)
The Columbus Day dinner, then, was all set for authentic Italian cuisine and vino – and on the proper date, for once – so all that remained was for Rose and Arthur in Fairfax; Rob Roy, Katje, Jason and Jason’s latest girlfriend Bethany, in Falls Church; and Cerise and I in Great Falls to get together on Zoom to enjoy it together. And at seven o’clock Eastern Daylight Time that evening, that’s exactly what we did.
Things went extremely well throughout the appetizers, soup and entrees. Conversation was convivial and the banter highly amusing as Rose, Rob Roy and I shared Columbus Day anecdotes from our childhoods in Little Italy. When we started tucking into the pastries and coffee, however, in the midst of praising the sfogliatella, Jason unintentionally committed, as Signor Buttafuoco, the old fellow who sold my mother fruit and vegetables out of his little shop on Mulberry Street would have said, “uno sbaglio grosso caduto dalle nuvole.”
Jason: Damn shame we can’t all be together at Tom’s place, though.
Katje: It’s that [expletive] Trump’s fault! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m damn glad he finally got covid!
Arthur: Wait a minute! How can you say that about anyone? Especially him. He’s president of the United States, after all.
Katje: Yeah, he is – and he’s the reason we’ve been staying inside and running around wearing masks since last March! It serves him right!
Cerise: Well, he certainly doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the experience. Checking out of Walter Reed after three days and riding up and down Rockville Pike in an hermetically sealed armored SUV waving to his fans, risking the lives of his Secret Service bodyguards in there with him.
Katje: And running around spreading the virus at rallies and going on television telling the world he’s immune and everyone should go out and confront the disease and beat it like he did.
Jason: And calling doing that developing “herd mentality.” Talk about a Freudian slip. It’s herd mentality that got him elected.
Katje: And the thing he’s actually talking about, herd immunity, is nothing but a fantasy dreamed up by his sycophants.
Cerise: Which amounts to little more than mass murder through deliberate indifference to human life.
Rob Roy: Yeah, he’s definitely off in his own reality, as if everyone could hop on a helicopter, fly to a hospital with a private ICU suite and get their case of covid-19 treated with an experimental monoclonal antibody cocktail that costs a hundred thousand dollars.
Rose: Well, I must admit, he does seem to be acting… recklessly, to say the least.
Katje: Recklessly? He’s acting totally insane!
Jason: It’s probably the steroids.
Bethany: I heard on the news that the side effects include mania, confusion, aggression, euphoria, irritability and delusions of grandeur.
Katje: Right – in other words, use of dexamethasone runs a serious risk of the patient behaving like Donald Trump. And in this case, the patient is Donald Trump.
Jason: So the patient happens to control ten thousand nuclear weapons.
Katje: Gee whiz, what could possibly go wrong?
Rob Roy: You’ve got to wonder what his doctors were thinking, no doubt about that.
Arthur: Thinking what? Look, I’ve seen him on TV and he looks just fine.
Cerise: I’m concerned that “looks fine” is the operative phrase there, however.
Katje: No kidding! He could be rotting from the inside out and they’ll just keep him pumped up on steroids and fever suppressants and supplemental oxygen and whatever else it takes to keep him appearing normal and we’re never going to know anything about it until he keels over and doesn’t get up again.
Arthur: You mean if he keels over. It could be he’s got this thing licked, you know. Maybe this Regeneron stuff is the cure.
Rob Roy: Sure – like drinking bleach…
Katje: Or taking the [expletive] the My Pillow moron was hawking… what was it?
Rob Roy: Which is just slightly less poisonous than bleach, I believe. Or that other miracle cure he was yammering about a few months ago…
Katje: Which doesn’t work on covid and can wreck your heart. Come on, Arthur, what makes you think this monoclonal antibody stuff is any better than the other snake oil he’s been touting in his fits of wishful thinking for the last eight months? Fewer than ten people in the whole world have ever even taken it!
Arthur: Well, they gave him remdesivir, too, didn’t they? Maybe that’s what did the trick.
Rob Roy: You know, don’t you, Arthur, that they don’t give dexamethasone or remdesivir to covid patients unless they are critically ill with the virus, right? But he’s telling everyone it was no big deal. It just doesn’t add up!
Jason: Well, anyway, bottom line, folks, unless he collapses on camera in front of the press, how healthy Trump actually is will remain a moot point.
Katje: Physically healthy, you mean.
Jason: Yes, that’s what I meant.
Katje: Because it’s perfectly possible that he will remain ambulatory and able to speak and post rants on Twitter but in fact be going pathetically insane and increasingly incompetent.
Cerise: Which differs from his prevailing mental state for the last three years and nine months in what way?
Katje: In that it could get worse, that’s what!
Rob Roy: Worse than claiming there is a massive plot to allow the Chinese to print fake Biden ballots and smuggle them into the country? Worse than saying the only way he can lose the election is if the Democrats have it rigged? Worse than re-tweeting QAnon conspiracy theories that the Democrats are pedophiles and cannibals who drink babies’ blood? Worse than endorsing Fox news “opinion” broadcasts that accuse Biden of assassinating Seal Team Six and keeping Osama bin Laden alive in an undisclosed location? Jesus H. Christ on a crutch! If he can get any crazier between now and November third, I sincerely hope he does, because maybe then it will dawn on those meatheads in Iowa and Montana and Alabama and Kentucky that it’s too dangerous to let Donald Trump run the country, no matter how much fun yokels like them get out of watching him show his ass in Washington, no to mention around the world!
Cerise: I’m sorry, but I sincerely doubt that the people in places like those can conceive of any significant political reality short of having a bomb dropped on them. Unless Marine One lands on the South Lawn and Trump runs out of the White House naked to meet it, no amount of bizarre behavior or incomprehensible babbling is going to keep them from voting for another four years of his lunatic despotism.
Rob Roy: Oh, come on! He’s already talking about finding a new attorney general because Bill Barr wouldn’t arrest Joe Biden! Watch him try something like that if the November vote is a landslide for the Democrats! He’ll declare a national state of emergency, suspend habeas corpus and tell the Army to lock up every Democrat who won an election, right down to the county councils and the school boards!
Cerise: At which point it will be the Constitutional duty of the Army to declare his orders illegal and for the Secret Service to take him into custody and turn him over to the Capitol Police for incarceration in the Capitol jail for impeachment and trial for high treason by the US Congress.
Rob Roy: A US Congress where the Republicans control the Senate? Dream on! We already tried that, remember? And besides, do you actually think Donald Trump would stop short of having a fire fight in the White House between the Secret Service and whatever sympathetic goons he could recruit to his side from Bill Barr’s Justice Department and a DHS headed by nothing more than an acting Secretary? Do you have any idea what kind of fire power the BATFE can produce on a moment’s notice?
Bethany: You can’t be serious! You’re talking about the United States of America as if it were some kind of tin-pot third-world banana republic run by a junta of thugs that changes governments by staging coups more often than they change their underwear!
Katje: But isn’t that exactly what Donald Trump wants to turn it into?
Bethany: Um… good question.
Arthur: No! No, it is not a good question! Here you are, accusing the president of paranoid fantasies and meanwhile, you’re making up your own completely paranoid fantasy!
Jason: Well, just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be plenty of people out to get you.
Rob Roy: Actually, I think Trump wants to turn America into something more like Russia, Turkey or North Korea. One last election, one single coup, and then a maximum leader running the country for life.
Arthur: Holy smokes, Rob! That’s an even more paranoid fantasy!
Katje: Then riddle me this, Batman! How come Trump won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power?
Arthur: Because he doesn’t believe there’s going to be a transfer of power, that’s why!
Jason: And isn’t that just more proof that he’s off his nut?
Arthur: No, it means he’s shrewd, that’s all. He knows that making a commitment like that presupposes he’s going to lose! Why should he fall into a Democrat trap like that?
Rose: Um… Arthur?
Arthur: Yes, what is it?
Rose: You didn’t by any chance… vote… for Donald Trump in 2016, did you?
Arthur: Well, what if I did?
Rose: While everybody else in the family was working for Hillary Clinton?
Arthur: Not everybody else in the family! Maybe everybody here in Fairfax and Falls Church, but I sincerely doubt that Hank and Shannon up in West Virginia were doing that! And I know for a fact that Tom is no big fan of Hillary Clinton, either! And besides, who I vote for is my own damn business!
Rose: Well, sure, of course it is, but my God, look what we ended up with!
Arthur: Ha! As if! Ha! As if Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been worse!
Rose: What! Arthur! How can you say that?
Arthur: Because Hillary Clinton is a crypto-lesbian femi-nazi who never did anything to deserve public office – unless you count having sex with Bill Clinton enough times to produce one single viable offspring the necessary qualifications to become a US Senator and Secretary of State! And look at those craven, cowardly Democrats who let her run off with the nomination! They were more afraid of that castrating harpy’s dirty revenge tricks than the Republican members of Congress are afraid of Trump’s Twitter thumbs! Anybody else in the Democratic Party could have beaten Trump! Cuomo could have beaten him! Sanders could have beaten him, Chuck Schumer could have beaten him – God damn it, any male Democratic politician with a pulse and name recognition better than Anthony Weiner could have beat him! Even Joe Biden! But no! They had to nominate the only person Trump could possibly defeat – Hillary [expletive] Clinton! Idiots!
Rose: Arthur, I could understand Shannon talking like that and maybe your brother agreeing with her, but you… I just…
Arthur: You know what? I hope Trump wins a second term!
Katje: Arthur! How can you even say something like that?
Rob Roy: What are you so angry about, anyway?
Arthur: What am I angry about? What am I angry about? You want a [expletive] list?
Cerise: Not really, Art. I don’t think we need a list. Ah… Tom… you’ve been awfully quiet. What do you think?
Tom: God save the United States of America, because obviously nobody else is going to.
Rob Roy: Yeah, I guess we’re pretty much [expletive] at this point.
Bethany: Well, anyway, I agree with Jason.
Arthur: About what?
Bethany: This sfogliatella is absolutely awesome. Thanks so much for making it, Tom.
Tom: You’re welcome.
Rob Roy: And everything else, too.
Jason: Oh, yeah – it’s all better than I’ve had at any restaurant, that’s for sure.
Tom: By the way, I don’t see that anybody’s tried the torta caprese yet.
Cerise: How about everybody has a bite and tells Tom what they think?
Rose: Um… sure, okay.
Katje: Well, being a vegan, I don’t normally… but… Oh, my God, this is fantastic!
Rose: It’s pure heaven, Tom.
Rob Roy: The bomb, that’s for sure!
Jason: This definitely proves it! My uncle is a culinary genius!
Arthur: Uh… yeah… no doubt about it, this is the best damn dessert in the best damn dinner I’ve had since Tom invited everybody over to his place last February for… whatcha call it…
Rob Roy: Martedì Grasso.
Arthur: Yeah, that – Karnawał ostatki. Faworki and pączki are great, too, of course, but I gotta say, Martini, your people taught the world how to cook.
Bethany: It’s absolutely exquisite, Tom. I guess no matter what happens, you Italians will always have your cuisine.
Tom: That, and Columbus Day.