Lunar Observer records upcoming dates of interest: holidays, birthdays, best day to cut hair.
There’s a lot going on this week, big stuff. This Monday the 16th is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day on which we honor someone who fought with dignity and compassion for justice and the rights of all Americans. This Friday the 20th is Inauguration Day, and unfortunately we will be honoring someone who did not (and with some certainty will not) fight with dignity and compassion for justice and the rights of all Americans. Others can and will reflect on these days, and probably compare them to great effect, and hopefully provide some uplift or some suggestion of a direction to take our inspiration, even if that inspiration should be in the form of anger, madness, or abject despair. I will leave that goal, the exploration of the dramatic axis of this week, to others. Our topic will be Jan. 19, birthday of artists Paul Cézanne, Janis Joplin, prolific UK rapper Wiley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Dolly Parton.
How do you celebrate the birthday of an artist you adore? The easiest way is to engage in their art — listen to their music, read their stories, look at their paintings, and so forth. But that’s not the only way. For over 60 years, starting sometime in the 1930s, an anonymous person known only as “the Poe Toaster” marked each Jan. 19 with an appearance at Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. Wearing a white scarf and a wide-brimmed hat, and arriving in the early, early morning, this person stood at the grave, poured and drank a glass of cognac, and left three roses on the gravestone.
This was not in reference to any Poe story or specific element of Poe’s life — he had no special connection to cognac, roses, white scarves, or wide-brimmed hats. The Poe Toaster wasn’t engaging in cosplay or imitation, but purely in the spirit of Poe: death, mystery, drunkenness, fog. In 2001 the Toaster left a note indicating their support of the New York Giants in the Super Bowl over Poe’s namesake team, the Baltimore Ravens. This ridiculous declaration was perhaps an engagement with Poe’s aptitude for erratic behavior. It’s widely believed that the Poe Toaster stopped in 2009, but considering that they were never identified, it’s possible that they simply moved to another location, out of the limelight, further into the unknown.
I’m sure every Poe fan on Earth is capable of bringing something new to the table in the realm of Poe Toasting.
In this time between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day 2017, between our celebrated past and our uncertain future, I strongly recommend taking time out to raise a glass to those artists and lovers and mysterious people whose creations and lives touched us in joyous everyday ways. They inspired and positively affected our lives, via sad songs, or ghost stories, or beats, or whatever. Even if only a little bit, they made our lives better.
I don’t exactly know how you’d presume to toast the spirits of Paul Cézanne, Janis Joplin, Wiley, and/or Dolly Parton. But I’m sure you can think of something. Similarly, I’m sure every Poe fan on Earth is capable of bringing something new to the table in the realm of Poe Toasting. In 2016 the Maryland Historical Society officially selected a replacement Poe Toaster to dress up as the original and do the same schtick but during business hours. If you’re considering toasting a beloved artist on the 19th, we recommend against re-enactment, against recognition, for the spirit, and during the dark, sacred night.
The best day to cut hair this week, if you don’t want it to grow out too fast, are the 17th and 18th. If you’re trying to grow your hair out, it’s best to wait and have it trimmed on the 29th or 30th.