Brown’s Close Reviews Sam Hunt

My fiancé, Matt, and I went to the Alaska Airlines Center for Sam Hunt’s July concert, the first concert to take place at the venue in three years. Matt and I got dressed up in our country best (jeans and flannel), and drove over to the venue.

The Alaska Airlines Center had a somewhat slow start recovering from the pandemic; Anchorage Performing Arts Center successfully hosted a full concert season in 2021/2022. I personally slept through David Sedaris’ essay reading there in May.

I’m not saying David Sedaris wasn’t entertaining (he was).

I’m saying he has a soothing sonorous voice that lulled me into a deep dreamless slumber for 45 minutes.

And I’d say much the same thing, if this was an official review of David Sedaris’ performance, as opposed to Sam Hunt’s.

The Alaska Airlines Center, on the other hand, has hosted no events, save the Donald Trump rally in June. This event was pulled off by hook or by crook; the University of Alaska Anchorage Student Union eagerly attempted to cancel it. They failed, licked their wounds, and redoubled their efforts to cancel Sam Hunt, which also failed.

For its post-COVID grand concert debut, the Alaska Airlines Center pulled out all the stops. Early arrivals were ushered into the basketball gym, where they could purchase beer, popcorn, and pulled pork sandwiches.

Surveying the crowd, Matt began ticking off the number of people he knew. Matt has lived in Anchorage for more than a decade longer than I have, and grew up in a large church community; he invariably recognizes people when we go out to community events.

I too surveyed the crowd, recognized no one, and instead began ticking off the number of people wearing Matt’s shirt.

“There’s a guy over there wearing the same shirt as you,” I nodded. “Oh, and there’s another who just walked in… wait, no, there’s a woman over there. Also wearing your shirt!”

Something about this seemingly nondescript red and grey Duluth Trading Company print was very popular.

Two more men surfaced in the same shirt when the doors to the stadium opened, and we walked inside.

Passing through the impressively orderly ticket check, Matt busily explained how he knew an entire family sitting against the wall.

Finding our seats, we sat down as the opening band started up.

The crowd, thirsty and eager for live entertainment, went wild.

“You know, I’m so honored to open for Sam Hunt,” the lead singer introduced himself. “But…”

He paused.

“…I also get so mad. Sam Hunt is so handsome. And I’m not as handsome.”

It was a bold choice for the unknown singer to begin his entire set by talking himself down.

Matt elbowed me as he pointed out seven more people he knew.

Finally, I spotted someone I knew.

“There, I know someone.”

I pointed out a man across the way. We’d gone out on one date six years ago, and he would text me periodically for years afterwards asking me what color my panties were. He only stopped when I found myself seated next to him at a bar and loudly told my friend the story.

“This guy, check out this guy next to me!” I bellowed over the music.

I hadn’t thought he’d heard me at the time, but I could be wrong.

“So, that story itself warrants me knowing twenty people,” I concluded with finality.

Matt’s expression darkened.

“That’s true. None of my stories are that good.”

Matt is a very competitive person. He is no longer allowed to play games with his immediate family because someone inevitably starts to cry. Now, they only play cooperative boardgames where they work together to build imaginary farms, or fight imaginary dragons.

I could see I had infuriated him by having a juicier story about a random person in the crowd than he had.

He frantically searched the audience.

“There! I’ve got one!”

Matt pointed to one of the forward rows, where a slender, pretty brunette was leading her nine year old son by the hand to their seats.

“Her! I have one! We went out on a date nine years ago. Eharmony. She asked me if I wanted kids. I said, ‘I don’t know, I’m only twenty-three!’”

“What happened after that?”

“Never heard from her again.”

“Well, it looks like she found someone very soon after that,” I nodded to the woman’s son.

Sam Hunt jumped on the stage and proceeded to give a very energetic performance for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Normally, his performance would warrant at least a 9 out of 10. Sadly, I have to dock him two points.

He was not wearing Matt’s shirt.

Sarah Brown is a music critic. Send her requests for reviews on Twitter @BrownsClose1, or by email at sarah@browns-close.com. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Brown’s Close Encounter

2017 Fremont Solstice Parade 125” by Joe Mabel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

My friend and I took advantage of the federal Juneteenth holiday for an overnight trip to Girdwood. I had never been to the Sitzmark Bar and Grill before, and thus that featured high on a list of potential activities.

Saturday night, we entered.

A small woman with short gray hair in her late sixties was sitting at a table at the top of the stairs in an oddly official capacity for a ski bar.

“$25 each please!” she trilled.

I forked over the cash, thinking this seemed like a hefty cover charge.

Sensing my skepticism –

“We have so many activities this evening!” she gushed. “A drum circle, an aerial dancer, and live music!” Apparently, a lot was on offer for the night.

Passing beyond the table, we were greeted by another woman, wearing a long flowing blue mumu. She carried a very tiny bag on her back, and a very large floral wreath on her head.

“Welcome!” she greeted us warmly and passed us each a streamer. “Welcome!”

I looked around at my fellow Sitzmark patrons. Most were dressed in hiking clothes as we were, although many wore onesies with space themed patterns (stars, super nova’s, the galaxy, etc.). One man was clad in a onesie, covered in Sesame Street characters, though the top half was rolled down to his waist. Children ran around clad in their best tutus and tie dye.

We wandered over to watch the band currently playing. They were all dressed in neon. One woman was wearing cat ears. Another was wearing a large velvet navy blue bathrobe. Most of the instruments in the band seemed to be fiddles and washboards.

I rocked side to side to the somewhat tuneless music for a song or two. Then the band finished and took a deep bow.

The lead singer breathed in deeply.

“Thank you,” she sighed. “Happy Solstice everyone!”

A light bulb went on. I turned to my friend, feeling like an idiot.

“It’s the solstice,” I shouted.

That explained everything.

But the lead singer was not yet finished with her speech.

“We will now go out and watch this beautiful woman perform her dance.”

She gestured to the woman clad in the super nova onesie.

The “beautiful woman,” a petite blonde with a bouncy ponytail, waved cheerily and departed through a side door.

Obediently, the assembling crowd followed her outside.

In the back near the ski lift were a number of poles, constructed such that a long piece of fabric looped and draped down to the ground. The bouncy blonde grabbed the fabric, and shimmied up. She must be the aerial dancer.

I don’t know that one could call her performance “dancing,” per se. She twisted to and fro to tinkly music in the background, oftentimes doing splits midair. The act certainly required an impressive amount of flexibility and core strength.

Behind me, two men were muttering to each other.

“Yeah, she was a performer with Cirque de sole!”

The speaker paused, then continued.

“Well, at least, an alternate.”

Flipping herself around, and still suspended, the aerial dancer gestured broadly to the audience.

“Thank you,” she sighed.

She gestured magnanimously. We will now listen to this beautiful drum circle!

The neon clad band shuffled out onto the grass.

Cat ears woman could be heard complaining that the program wasn’t moving fast enough.

“I’m a very busy woman!” she bellowed. “I do all the things!”

The neon band began banging drums held between each member’s respective legs. The woman wearing the bathrobe played the washboard with a vacant, ecstatic smile emblazoned across on her face.

The drum circle swayed placidly for a few minutes, before the aerial dancer, feeling perhaps that she didn’t want to be left out, shimmied unexpectedly back up the fabric, and began twisting around once more.

Far from appearing irritated that she’d stolen their limelight, the drum circle swiveled gamely around to watch her as well, continually banging on their washboards.

This went on for some time before the grand finale; the aerial dancer descended to the ground, wrapped herself up in the fabric to which she had just been clinging, and began thrashing around wildly on the ground. The thrashing and the banging reached a crescendo, before ending promptly at 8:45 PM.

Dancer and musicians all took deep bows, and the crowd broke out into polite, albeit quiet, clapping.

Best Solstice Ever.

Sarah “Sun Goddess” Brown is a devotee of Mother Earth. Whisper to her softly on Twitter @BrownsClose1, or by email at sarah@browns-close.com. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

2021 Year in Review

“Happy New Year 2021” by Shahid Abdullah is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

[See original post here]

In some respects 2021 was a great improvement over 2020. People were rarely locked at home. Travel resumed. Vaccines and toilet paper were plentiful. In other ways, however, 2021 was disappointingly similar to 2020. Fights broke out in public places over sundry items. The Rockettes again cancelled their Christmas spectacular. One man was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iowa for beating up and coughing on someone who asked him to pull up his mask.

In celebration of New Year’s Eve, let us review some of Brown’s Close’s highlights from 2021:

January: While there was an obvious riot in the Capitol, there were a few other, much neglected, events. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West broke up; Bernie Sanders wore mittens; and Anne Hathaway demanded everyone start calling her Annie.

February: The Kansas City Chiefs failed to score even one touchdown in the Super Bowl, devastating my coworkers in Kansas City. Also on Super Bowl Sunday, I participated in Alaska Ski for Women dressed as an apple.

March: While murder hornets plagued the world in 2020, a swarm of locusts pestered the citizens of Kenya in 2021. In other, chillier places, I finished near the bottom (but not last!) in the Tour of Anchorage ski race.

April: A blockage in the Suez Canal halted international commerce for six days. This made me wonder, when was the last time the Suez Canal was in the news — 1956?

May: In the normal course of my shopping, a retail store worker informed me Donald Trump was still the president. Her proof was a cell phone video of him walking out to “Hail to the Chief.” The video was presumably filmed in 2018.

June: Twitter was banned by the entire nation of Nigeria.

July: Simone Biles backed out of the Olympics due to a case of the “twisties.”

August: I took my dad to see “The Guess Who” at the Alaska State Fair. The entire week leading up to this event, I kept telling people we were going to see “The No Doubt,” and/or “The Good News.” At the concert, a pair of 60-year-old women seated in the wet section stormed the stage and sat on the edge of it for the remainder of the concert. The lead singer gamely came over and sat with them for a few songs.

September: The QAnon Shaman plead guilty to entering a restricted building. Not only known as the “QAnon Shaman,” I discovered he sometimes goes by “The Yellowstone Wolf.” He’s also the accomplished author of two self-published books.

October: Scared straight by news stories that Christmas would be cancelled by the supply chain crisis, I began my Christmas shopping.

November: I concluded my Christmas shopping, just in time for all gifts already purchased to go on sale for Black Friday.

December: One of my friends is from Minerva, Ohio. In lieu of a traditional Christmas movie, we sat down to watch famed Bigfoot documentary, “Minerva Monster.” The film, with an audience score of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, does not have a critics rating.

Minerva, Ohio, is, apparently, one of the most prominent sites for spotting Bigfoot. In 1978, Bigfoot terrorized the home of the Claytons over the period of several months. The Claytons claimed they mistook Bigfoot for a large hairy man who weighed over five hundred pounds.

It’s unclear whether they know an actual person who fits this description. Nevertheless, the residents of Minerva were somewhat unconcerned with ensuring they proved Bigfoot’s existence. For example, one of the Claytons did claim he had photos of Bigfoot bites on his brother’s neck. He did not think to produce these for the documentary. Also, while the residents went through the trouble of collecting a sample of Bigfoot’s fur and sending it to Malone College for analysis, when the sample went mysteriously missing they took no steps to retrieve it.

Just as the Claytons quietly accepted their Bigfoot DNA analysis was going awry, I am dutifully plodding into the new year expecting the chaos of the last two years to continue. However, let us be optimistic. From this mighty army of one at Brown’s Close, Happy New Year, and may we all have a more peaceful 2022.

Sarah Brown had an action-packed year. Before she gets too busy in 2022, tweet her @BrownsClose1 or email her at sarah@browns-close.com. “Close” is a British term for an alley or cul-de-sac.

A Crowd Pleasing List of Thanksgiving Dinner Topics

“The 2019 National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation” by The White House is marked with CC PDM 1.0

[See original post here]

No family gathering is complete without at least three political discussions so passionate they clear the room. To aid you at your forthcoming Thanksgiving feast, here is a proposed list of timely dinner topics, sure to make your evening a night to remember.

  1. Masks.
  2. Vaccines.
  3. Inflation? Yay or nay?
  4. Does Joe Biden sniff women? Or do women sniff Joe Biden?
  5. Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk?
  6. Bernie Sanders, or Elon Musk?
  7. What’s Mike Pence up to these days?
  8. Can cryptocurrency be most likened to the Holland tulip bulb mania of the 1630s?
  9. Was Aaron Rodgers immunized?
  10. Airline seats – to recline, or not to recline?
  11. Meghan Markle versus Piers Morgan.
  12. Janet Jackson versus Justin Timberlake.
  13. Britney Spears versus Justin Timberlake.
  14. Britney Spears versus Christina Aguilera.
  15. Britney Spears versus all of the other Spears.
  16. Is Benedict Cumberbatch hot?
  17. Wired headphones? Or wireless headphones? What’s cool now?
  18. Did Epstein kill himself?
  19. The ecclesiastical calendar, subdivided by the difference between All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
  20. The pros and cons of Kamala Harris’ laugh.
  21. Hepatitis A.
  22. Is Jennifer Lawrence hot?
  23. Is Justin Bieber a good singer?
  24. Turkey and gravy soda – a genius invention, or a monstrosity inflicted upon man?
  25. The First Amendment.
  26. The Second Amendment.
  27. The Third Amendment.
  28. Nicolas Cage’s acting career – please submit responses in the form of a dissertation.
  29. Why is everything so expensive?

I, for one, look forward to discussing the elusive sex appeal of Pete Davidson, whether or not Joe Biden’s neurologic exam was honest and above board, and to finally resolve, once and for all, whether aliens are invading Hawaii.            

Sarah Brown is, what her grandmother would call, an instigator. Tweet her @BrownsClose1 or email her at sarah@browns-close.com. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

A Love Letter to Airplanes

[See Original Post here]

Long standing readers of this column will recall there was a time when I was a frequent flyer and bona fide road warrior. Since February 2020, however, I largely stopped traveling due to the obvious complexities presented by a global pandemic. I spent a year without voluntarily giving up my civil liberties at Ted Stevens International Airport. I went 365 days sans random cavity searches by TSA. Twelve months lapsed since I last elbowed my fellow passengers while staking claim to overhead bin space.

When it became obvious to everyone that we’d all been grounded for the foreseeable future, I thought, well, there is much to be gained here. My skin will clear up because it will not be exposed to that weird airplane air that always makes me breakout. I will not have to eye my seat prior to lighting for large, half chewed bits of cookie left lovingly behind by the previous passenger. No concern about the stale nose tissue that may, or may not, be lodged way, way, far down at the bottom of the seatback pouch in front of me. I will not have to look at the bathroom floor with trepidation, wondering if the puddles on the ground were caused by people who cannot neatly dry their hands, or by some other, more sinister, fluid.

I was as shocked as anyone to discover after a while … that I missed it. Ironically, despite the ever-present and all-powerful weight of the Federal government, air travel struck me as, well, freedom. I looked back fondly on the stale smelling circulated air, the fiesta mix pretzels in tiny packets, and the unique taste of a Bloody Mary at thirty thousand feet cruising altitude.

I am pleased to report, however, that air travel is returning. Pandemic weary Americans are back to jamming themselves into these tiny cylindrical tubes and jettisoning themselves as far away from home as possible. Iceland is now open to vaccinated Americans, and the European Union is expected to follow suit shortly. Spring break travelers to Hawaii were treated to $1,000 per day car rentals, as demand surged despite companies having previously sold off inventory to stay afloat in 2020.

Personally, I have completed my first pleasure trip post COVID and will begin travelling again for work in May. Expectedly, things have changed since I last flew. TSA now checks your driver’s license, and not your ticket. Masked passengers remove face coverings long enough for the security agents to verify passenger faces match passenger IDs. After a year in quarantine, I can’t imagine all faces look the same, and the agents studied a few of my fellow travelers for a while, trying to determine whether they were imposters, or had just been living life rough for the last thirteen months. I am somewhat dourly resigned to looking like a demented bank robber forever, my baby blue disposable mask covering up the bottom half of my face, and my glasses the top half.

One of the more disappointing changes to airline travel is the meal service. Previously a joyful activity on flights, meal service could be counted on to dependably absorb twenty minutes of flight time, followed by another seven minutes in the bathroom line, three minutes maneuvering in the bathroom itself, and a minute forty-seven seconds spent eyeing all the bathroom puddles. Then there was always the possibility of a bathroom surprise, like the time someone dangled a used Lipton tea bag from the inside bathroom door handle. These little diversions would necessitate me staring for another fifty-two seconds, at least! Altogether, such points of recreation would eat up over half an hour, which would be correspondingly deducted from the amount of time spent in bored silence.

While I am nothing but sympathetic to an industry brought to the brink of extinction one year ago, it was a nevertheless disappointing meal service that brought me a cup of water, half a cracker, and a virtual pat on the head. Snack time lasted thirty-eight seconds, and I swiveled around wildly wanting to know how I was going to burn up all this new quiet time.

With a few accommodations, I was nevertheless thrilled to skip down the jetway for the first time in 2021. TSA, baggage crew, officious ticket checkers abundant… I love you!

Sarah Brown is a Captain of Industry. You may pitch her at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

COVID Year in Review

[See original post here]

March marks a full year that COVID-19 has moderately to significantly impacted my life. Rather than a “Calendar Year in Review” in December, I am opting for a “COVID Year in Review” in March.

March: Anchorage is introduced to former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s “hunker down” order which, as summarized by Andrew Jensen, is “a stay-at-home order, but if you want to take a walk, they’ll allow it.”

All of my usual activities are replaced with stockpiling paper products and canned soup, and eating chips and salsa.

April: The chips and salsa snacking is replaced with consuming family-size packages of sour gummy worms. Knowing this will all inevitably catch up with me, I start exercising furiously. I delight in building muscles from scratch.

What with all the restaurant closures, I figure now is the time to embrace learning to cook.

I confirm a long-held suspicion that I hate cooking.

I break down and order a pizza from Uncle Joe’s. It is the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

May: I debut my COVID-perfected, knock you on your rear, margaritas. The recipe remains proprietary, such that I can keep friends around.

Brown’s Close launches its website. We are immediately followed by fifty magnanimous Facebook friends, and three bots.

June: I attempt to buy a new bike, as my current bike is 17 years old and wheezes whenever we round corners. Anchorage’s stores are completely sold out, as is Facebook Marketplace. I turn to Marketplace’s older, grungier associate, Craigslist. While there are bikes listed on Craigslist, they are all obviously stolen. Some of the inventory still has the broken bike locks on them in the pictures, and others, chains. One adult man is selling what he claims to be his bike. It is pink, floral, and large enough for a six-year-old girl.

July: I go camping for the holiday. On the drive home, the car more or less calls it quits on life. I grind to a halt on the highway, walk a mile to cell phone service, and find one tow company open on the Sunday after the July 4th weekend. Given how busy the road is on the holiday weekend, and what with no offers of assistance from passing motorists, I am forced to conclude that chivalry is dead.

August: The town erupts in very strong opinions on Kriner’s Diner, a restaurant that I can’t imagine has ever seen the kind of publicity that its standoff with the mayor garnered, not to mention those hefty $15,000/day fines.

September: Learning my lesson from my bike-less summer, I purchase used cross-country skis at Play It Again Sports. The lettering on the skis is electric blue, and the boots are satin red and gold. The boots prove to ultimately give me blisters, but pain is weakness leaving the body.

October: Photos of Anchorage Mayor, Ethan Berkowitz’s pimply back appear. Though meant to be seductive, they have more of a medical quality.

November: I teach myself how to cross-country ski and become accomplished enough to participate in Alaska Ski for Women, and the Tour of Anchorage. Alas, I am dressed inappropriately for both events. My parka and snow pants are too bulky for the Tour of Anchorage, where current and former Olympians are dressed in spandex. My attire is similarly not bulky enough for Alaska Ski for Women, where participants are dressed as strawberries and blueberries, and wear neon pink wigs.

The politics of masks come to a head when Alaska State Senator, Lora Reinbold, has a midair confrontation with the “Mask Bullies,” also known as Alaska Airlines.

Senator Reinbold has not stopped there. A Google search of “Lora Reinbold masks,” yields 3,060 results as of the time of this writing.

December: Our office Christmas party takes place virtually at ten in the morning. I annoy an entire Zoom breakout room with my passion for Die Hard.

January: Capitol rioters reveal many Americans have closely held beliefs about the existence of Lizard People.

February: Two men shoot Lady Gaga’s dog walker and make off with her French bulldogs. Most media coverage, and Lady Gaga’s reward offer, focus on the safe return of the dogs, and not so much on her critically wounded employee.

March: Bitcoin reaches its highest value ever. I have friends who’ve sextupled their initial investment with Bitcoin. However, when the currency is explained to me, it just sounds made up. For example, there is what is called “The Halving,” which takes place at predetermined times. This ceremony “halves” the number of “Bitcoins” that “the Bitcoin Miners” receive when they “Mine a Block” after “solving a Hash Puzzle.” After that, there’s “The Reaping,” where teenagers are taken from their parents to fight to the death in service of “Bitcoin’s glorious future.” Only after both “The Halving” and “The Reaping,” can there be “The Quickening.” It is at this point that the “Final Bitcoin Miners” battle it out to ascertain who will become the “God of all Bitcoin.”

April: Next month, I’ll get to see my brother for the first time in 16 months. We will use this precious time to catch up on an entire holiday seasons’ worth of family political debates.

And thus, in the words of modern poet, Maria Athens, “Have a great Friday, you motherfu****!”

Sarah Brown is a troubadour, specializing in chronicling local political life. You can reach her at sarah@browns-close.com, or on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. 

2020 Redux

[See original post here]

It’s the end of January. I gave it some time. I, like my 7.8 billion fellow Earthlings, looked forward to 2021 with good spirits. With the turn of the calendar, we all could usher out the most outlandish year in modern history.

There’s an old Yiddish saying. It goes, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”

Once again, the joke is on us. 2021 is merely an extension of 2020.

The year started off lamely enough with the announcement of the death of Bond Girl, Tanya Roberts. Normally, there would not be anything unusual about that, except that Tanya Roberts was very much alive. Once this was established, she died for real.

Then there was the dissolution of the marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. As a lifelong follower of Kanye’s work , I was saddened, but not entirely surprised. The divorce was reported a scant two months after Kanye gave Kim a hologram of her deceased father, Robert Kardashian, as a birthday present.

Kim and Kanye, however, were promptly upstaged. The next day, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, where they broke into Statuary Hall, and proceeded to march around in neat lines within the confines of the velvet dividers. Things descended into bedlam, however, when the invaders began pooping in the hallways.

Out of this stinky rubble, we met a few characters who have since become national folk legends. Most notably, there’s “The QAnon Shaman,” (so dubbed by The Daily Mail) who after donning fur, horns, and face paint for the Capitol siege, has since refused prison food because it is not vegan. Learning this surprised me; if ever there were a group of people I assumed were big time meat eaters, it was the MAGA crowd.

And speaking of QAnon, I’ve learned a lot about this society in recent weeks. Before, I was never entirely sure what the group believed, other than that it was a “loosely organized …community… who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs” (per The Wall Street Journal).

I’ve come a long way since this vague interpretation. I now know that QAnon thinks the Chinese military is massing at the Canadian border, and that furniture company Wayfair uses product listings to send secret messages concerning human trafficking. Supporters also maintain the closely held belief that Tom Hanks is a cannibal.

At a more innocent time in my life, I would have thought all of this totally bonkers. But I now have to give it pause. As of mid-January, there is a celebrity who is a confirmed cannibal, it’s just not Tom Hanks. Multiple women have come forward accusing Hollywood A-List actor, Armie Hammer, of anthropophagy. One former flame claimed he used to suck her blood, another that he branded her, and still another that he designs his own bondage attire. Other screenshots of texts to paramours, allegedly from Armie Hammer, go into detail about wanting to eat them, and not in the traditional way.

I’ve never had the pleasure of receiving a text message from Armie Hammer, or one of his famous requests to remove and barbeque my ribs. Instead, I must settle for my own peculiar correspondence. Not to be gainsaid, a stranger emailed me on Jan. 25 in response to this column, published fourteen months ago. The unsolicited message detailed the many years of life he’s spent in therapy because he likes to wear women’s underwear.

Those of us who expected life to go back to normal at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 were sorely mistaken. It’s going to be a long hard road back to sanity.

Sarah Brown resides in a bunker in Oklahoma. Only there can she find some godd*mn peace. Clearly, she is forced to check email occasionally, so, if you really must, you can reach her at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

A Modest List of Things to be Thankful for in 2020

“Thanksgiving Spread” by CarbonNYC [in SF!] is licensed under CC BY 2.0

[See original post here]

Off the top of my head, a list of catastrophes that have occurred in 2020 include:

  1. Global pandemics;
  2. Wildfires in Australia, California, Washington, and Oregon;
  3. Tornadoes in the Southern United States. These also struck roughly one month after COVID-19, which frightened everyone away from the designated tornado shelters;
  4. An invasion of murder hornets;
  5. A jet plane collided with a bear;
  6. And, of course, the death of James Bond.

With all of this upheaval, Thanksgiving may be subdued. In such times of tribulation, will Americans feel gratitude? State and local governments might even prefer citizens not give thanks, taking it upon themselves to restrict the number of guests permitted per Thanksgiving feast. Enforcement measures remain unclear; it’s hard to imagine even the most officious mid-level bureaucrat will want to be the designated government representative to knock on neighborhood doors, verifying the number of approved party guests.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving may be raucous; perhaps Americans may count their blessings more generously than usual.

I believe we continue to be blessed, despite what President-elect Biden has dubbed “a dark winter” ahead. In a quest to prove the point, I conducted some market research. Based on an anonymous survey, respondents consider themselves thankful for many items:

  1. “I’m grateful for chips.”
  2. “I’ve forgotten what work pants feel like. I’m grateful for that.”
  3. “You know what I’m grateful for? I discovered I can still somehow manage to be late for work. Even though I don’t commute. Nothing is impossible for me!”
  4. “I’m thankful that Costco installed checkout lines for shoppers with only a few items. I only ever have a few items.”
  5. “I’m grateful for Grubhub. Not even a pandemic can get me to cook apparently.”
  6. “I’m grateful I am not married. Explaining 2020 to a Quaranteen would be rough.”
  7. While limiting Thanksgiving dinner sizes struck me as churlish—“I’m thankful that I have an excuse to not go to Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t stand listening to my family argue about the election.”
  8. “I’m thankful for masks. I like the anonymity.”
  9. “I’m grateful the toilet paper shortage is over.”
  10. “I’m grateful for the toilet paper shortage. I finally learned how to use my bidet.”

I personally have much to be thankful for. The second season of Haunting of Hill House was released on time on Netflix without incident. Also, grown adults have finally learned how to wash their hands.

I am also thankful for the endless insights into the lives of other people, which I can glean through Zoom. One particularly memorable Zoom meeting early in the pandemic featured a participant with chains hanging from his walls. He happily sat on a meeting with fifty strangers, seemingly unaware that his choice of decor could be considered a tad radical.

I am grateful that the world has finally embraced the wonders of telemedicine. I’ve been a frequent user of Teladoc ever since I discovered that I no longer have to physically go to the doctor’s office to have my rashes examined, or pervasive pink eye diagnosed. I’m pleased to welcome everyone else to this new, glorious, shame-free reality.

Finally, I am thankful for the downfall of makeup generally, and Big Lipstick specifically. I have not worn makeup in eight months, thus gaining hours cumulatively back into my life. For years I resented the extra minutes per morning I was expected to spend painting on a face. In particular, I found lipstick to be insidious in nature; the constant application causes your lips to become addicted to all of the added moisture. Without lipstick, your lips soon become egregiously chapped.

No longer will my lips be slaves to Big Lipstick! I’ve broken my addiction lo these eight months, and will never go back.

I’m not alone. A study from late July proclaimed the death of the “lipstick index,” an economics measure previously used to measure how women spend money during lean economic times. My fellow sisters in arms have also broken free.

Count your blessings folks, including what may be the most significant blessing of all –  that it is almost 2021!

Sarah Brown is a grateful person. She would be so thankful should you choose to contact her at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Unmasking Halloween

[See original post here]

As with every other extracurricular activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Halloween will assuredly be dampened this year. I am not the first person to note the irony; Halloween is a holiday based entirely on the idea that everyone should wear a mask.

Will Anchorage’s new mayor issue a municipal wide ban on live Halloween, as the old mayor did with live music?

Will anyone host Halloween parties?

Will anyone else attend?

Will families go trick-or-treating?

Is trick-or-treating a socially distanced activity?

Should I just leave a basket of candy out on the porch and call it quits when one small marauder takes it all?

Is bobbing for apples illegal?

Should it be?

Should we wear masks in the water while bobbing for apples?

Will people dress up in costume?

What will be the top costume of choice?

If we assume Halloween will not be stricken from the calendar, and that there will be costumes, and that people will dress up in them, below are the clear favorites for the Most Desirable Halloween Costume of 2020:

For those who remained single before, during, and after quarantine – 

Top Singles Costumes for Halloween 2020:

  1. The Karen – Karen with bobbed hair, crow’s feet, and a bitter expression, has already been dubbed “the scariest Halloween costume of 2020,” by Good Morning America;
  2. Hunter Biden – all you need is a crack pipe and a wire transfer. No shirt required;
  3. Mask-ed Vigilantes – no obligation to separate along party lines here. This costume can be applied to both pro, and anti, mask vigilantes.

For those who managed to find love, despite quarantine –

Top Couples Costumes for Halloween 2020:

  1. Pilots and flight attendants;
  2. A pair of Sheeple;
  3. Donald Trump and Joe Biden;
  4. Amy Coney Barrett and Ruth Bader Ginsburg;
  5. Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir.

And for the rarest life form of all, those who managed to maintain friendships despite quarantine, and subsequent highly charged political events–

Top Group Costumes for Halloween 2020:

  1. The cast of Tiger King:
    • Joe Exotic;
    • Carole Baskin;
    • Fraudster Jeff Lowe;
    • Pony-tailed polygamist Bhagavan Antle;
    • Stool pigeon Howard Baskin;
    • Victim and tiger feed, Don Lewis.
  2. The cast of General Hospital:
    • Doctors;
    • Nurses;
    • COVID virus;
    • COVID vaccinations;
    • Ventilators;
    • N-95 Masks.
  3. The cast of former Anchorage Mayor, Ethan Berkowitz’s sex scandal:
    • Ethan Berkowitz dressed in a backless suit and carrying a selfie stick;
    • Maria Athens;
    • Molly Blakey, intermittently dispensing booze and cookies;
    • The escort known as Rae – She’s mysterious, so costumes are open to interpretation.
  4. The cast of Current Events, not to exclude:
    • Plague;
    • Pestilence;
    • Exodus (sometimes known as Brexit);
    • The Apocalypse – This can be subdivided into the Four Horsemen, and One Woman, of the Apocalypse:
      1. Scott Atlas;
      2. Alex Azar;
      3. Deborah Birx;
      4. Anthony Fauci;
      5. Mike Pence.
  5. The cast of a Zoom meeting:
    • A baby;
    • A pet;
    • A bra;
    • A toilet;
    • A thermos of vodka;
    • The Mute Button.
  6. The cast of Cancel Culture:
    • Woodrow Wilson;
    • Teddy Roosevelt;
    • J.K. Rowling;
    • The New York Times;
    • Mount Rushmore;
    • Broadway show, Hamilton;
    • And, of course, The Founders.

I myself choose not to rank costumes, but shall instead dress up as everything. On Halloween, you will find me isolated indoors eating cookies and drinking vodka out of my favorite tiger mug. Photos of Mount Rushmore will cycle repeatedly on the television, and I will don my beloved pair of fluffy sheep slippers. I will then promptly miss the mute button as I talk on the phone while doing a highly personal activity.

Every year, Sarah Brown celebrates Halloween with maximum enthusiasm. This year, she can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Birthday Battle Royale

“Quidditch” by John-Morgan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

[See original post here]

Back at a time in the distant past of October 2019, my friend’s son turned eight. He and I share a special bond; I once spent an afternoon helping him fold paper airplanes. At his instruction, I then threw said airplanes at him; he wanted to practice his ducking skills.

We’ve been friends ever since.

During that time, the citizens of Anchorage could mark such an occasion with a celebration. Thus, my friend threw him a “Harry Potter” themed birthday party, held at The Dome; she magnanimously offered me my pick of activities. I could make pizza, make butterbeer, make a pinata, make a cake, or referee Quidditch.

Refereeing was most in line with my life goal of bullying humanity. I volunteered for this, under the condition that I could use a loud, high-pitched whistle.

On the day of the party, I set out for The Dome for the first time in the history of my Anchorage residency. I drove around the neighborhood three times looking for the entrance, consistently getting pulled into that vortex known as the Changepoint parking lot.

Once inside, it was obvious which section of The Dome was designated for the Harry Potter party. One of the soccer fields was cordoned off, with three Quidditch goal rings erected on either side.

I walked over to my friend, easily spotted as a tall thin woman dressed as the Golden Snitch in a glittery jacket.

“Can you round up the kids and start Quidditch?” she squawked by way of, “Hello.”

“They need to burn off some energy,” she continued. “I’ve got a dad refereeing with you.”

I bristled at relinquishing any portion of my power, and grumpily walked flat-footed over to The Dad. He smiled at me bemusedly.

“Uh, you know the rules?”

“Nope,” he grinned. “No idea!”

My mood lifted.

Now I had an adult to push around, in addition to thirty children.

We strolled to the middle of the Quidditch pitch, where I picked up a white volleyball, and blew my whistle.

Children looked up from wrestling matches, punching matches, and other rudely energetic forms of aggression.

“Anyone who wants to play Quidditch, come to the middle of the field NOW!” I barked.

Twenty-nine small people scampered to my side.

“I need you to break into two teams!”

Instead, everyone went back to wrestling a neighbor.

I blew my whistle again.

“Hey! Two teams! NOW! Let’s go!”

A handful of obliging children splintered off into a second team. Everyone else stayed put, looking at me expectantly.

“Uh, the teams need to be even. We need more of you to move.”

All twenty-nine children ran over to one side.

The Dad walked over.

“I think we should just count off, ‘One, two, one, two,’” he offered knowledgeably.

I bowed to his wisdom; reasoning with children is a perpetual struggle for me.

We counted off, and yet two-thirds of the kids were still magically on one team.

I pointed.

“You five over here. The rest of you, stay put!”

Birthday Boy sidled up to me.

“Can my mom play?”

“No kiddo, she’s doing other things.”

Birthday Boy’s lip quivered.

“Can Zed be on my team?”

No, we’ve only just got the teams even.

“No, Zed has to stay where he is.”

Birthday Boy looked completely crushed.

“Can we be Gryffindor?”

A blond boy with large eyeglasses blinked at me.

“Uh, sure,” I agreed distractedly.

“Wait, we want to be Gryffindor!” a tall gangly boy cried out, asserting his side’s rights.

“Sure, you can be Gryffindor too.”

I blew my whistle.

“Alright, listen up! I need you to pick one person to be the Beater per side.”

In Harry Potter, the Beaters have the enviable power of throwing balls at their fellow players. And, as in the books, this position proved popular amongst my twenty-nine charges. Two boys from one team both declared themselves Beaters.

“Uh, you’ll be a Beater first, and then you’ll switch,” I pronounced.

Again, I made the mistake of ascribing utter reasonableness to school children.

Beater Number Two turned an impressive shade of crimson in an even more impressively short period of time.

“BUT I WANT TO BE A BEATER!”

He threw himself onto the ground and began to pull out his hair.

I looked at him, nonplussed. Even I had to admit, I was unequipped to deal with this total meltdown.

I chose to ignore him, and turned away to blow my beloved whistle.

“The rest of you, throw this volleyball through one of the rings on the other side. If a Beater hits you with one of their red balls, drop the volleyball and run back to your team’s rings.

“On my whistle. One, two –”

I blew the whistle and tossed the volleyball directly above my head.

The outcome of the match was immediately certain. The big gangly kid scored twice in under a minute.

Both sides’ Beaters watched their fellow teammates running joyfully around the field. Seemingly regretting their positions, each started tossing their red balls through the rings.

“Goal! Goal!” they screamed helpfully.

“No goal! No goal!” I waved my arms around maniacally. “Beaters, you have to throw your red balls at the other team!”

Both Beaters ignored me, and continued to throw their balls through the rings, and not violently at their fellow players as J.K. Rowling intended.

Gangly Kid scored four more times.

My friend, the glittery Golden Snitch appeared, holding the hand of a very tiny girl dressed as Tinkerbell.

“We have another player. Can she join the melee?”

I puffed my chest out authoritatively and waved my hand dismissively. I had more important things to concern myself with than some small child dressed as a character from the wrong story.

My friend directed Tinkerbell to join the game. Alas, she appeared to have very little actual interest in playing. Instead, Tinkerbell sauntered off and began hitting a punching bag.

The volleyball fell to the ground, and was snatched up by Big Eyeglasses, who was promptly tackled by four other players.

I contemplated breaking up the fight, but decided against it. It was high time these children learned the law of natural consequences.

Gangly Kid yanked the ball away and scored three more times.

I waved to my friend. As the Golden Snitch, she was the most desirable object in Quidditch; per standard rules, the first team to catch her won one hundred fifty points.

I decided to simplify the scoring; I did not want to do complex addition.

“We have now come to the final portion of the game!” I bellowed, blowing my whistle. “I need everyone to line up over here to my left.

“This,” I gestured to my friend, who was now wiggling to and froe at the other end of the field, “is the Golden Snitch. The first player to tag her wins his team ten points.”

“She’s worth one hundred fifty points!” Birthday Boy corrected.

Outsmarted again.

“On my whistle. One, two—”

On the whistle, thirty children ran forward.

The Snitch was tagged by Gangly Kid within seconds.

I trotted over to him.

“You! Kid! Yeah, you kid! Which team were you on?”

He looked momentarily confused.

“Uh, that team!” he decided. “The team going that way!”

He pointed.

I blew my whistle.

“The team going that way wins!”

One of the moms walked up to me.

“Wow, you really had those kids in line. You really made them hop-to!”

My chest swelled with pride; kinder words were never said to me.

“It’s all in the whistle,” I mumbled humbly. “All in the whistle.”

Sarah Brown is training to be a world-class drill sergeant. In the meantime, she can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

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