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. 

Was Socrates a Skier?

“Socrates” by bencrowe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

[See original post here]

This COVID winter, all of my usual activities were indefinitely postponed. Typically, I spend the cold months indoors with friends. We go to events around town, the movies, and last winter got into a memorable altercation in a local wine bar with a woman who threw our coats on the floor.

Faced with the prospect of nothing so exciting to do as that sort of direct communication, I taught myself to ski. I bought a pair of used classic cross country skis from Play It Again Sports in September, and in November I went to Hilltop and puttered around the flat landscape.

It struck me as odd that the skiing destination known as “Hilltop” has the flattest land for skiing in the whole city. I was quickly distracted from this thought, however, by the sheer difficulty of cross country skiing. It takes some time to grow accustomed to the movement. One does not walk on cross country skis, or shuffle. One glides.

Going straight from zero to glide proved challenging, but I picked up some tips from YouTube. Try to shuffle-shuffle-glide-shuffle. Move up to the shuffle-shuffle-glide-glide.

By the time I graduated to the shuffle-glide-glide-glide-shuffle, I’d begun to notice some things about my fellow skiers. For example, the fastest way to annoy a gaggle of cross country skiers is to go the wrong way on the trail. Indeed, most loops are one way, and yet the direction is rarely marked. It’s up to the skier to know the direction.

Sadly, as a novice, it is pretty much inevitable I am going the wrong way. Serious skiers, mind you, are not shy about informing you of your mistake, though their corrections could do with a bit more directness. Rather than throwing my coat on the floor, my fellow skiers want to teach me the error of my ways through the Socratic method, trying to get me to reach my own conclusions.

One evening while happily skiing the wrong way, I was stopped by a female on skate skis. She was tall and thin, with her skis and poles making her legs and arms look even longer than they actually were.

She flapped over.

“Is there a moose back there?” Her voice went up at the end of the sentence, and she cocked her head.

I frowned, puzzled.

“No.”

Did she expect there to be?

“Oh. Well, like, you’re going the wrong way?”

Her voice went up again, and she cocked her head in the other direction.

I wondered why she didn’t make it a declarative statement. After all, I was either going the wrong way, or I wasn’t.

In my defense, there really is no way to know whether one is going in the correct direction. Much like the skiers themselves, the ski signs communicate opaquely. Periodically, there will be one way signs with alarming stop signs beneath, clearly demonstrating the way. The trouble is, the stop signs are only at intersecting trails, which necessitate more signs with more arrows pointing to the new trails. Many of these arrows point in the direction of the stop sign, thereby instructing novices like me to disregard the one way.

Like, do you see my problem?

Clear, comprehensible directional signage is not important to the ski community, but signs telling non-skiers they are not welcome on the ski trails are very important. Around Anchorage, it is not uncommon to see trails labeled, “Ski Only in Winter.”

While I do give kudos to the skiers for at least labeling these trails, the syntax is wrong; when else during the year would one be skiing?

The first time I saw such a sign, I was on a walk in the fresh snow at Service High School. I had not yet attempted skiing myself, so I was not fully indoctrinated in the skiing ethos of restricting trails for skiers only.

I read the sign, frowned in confusion, shrugged, and proceeded. I wasn’t sure why Service High School felt compelled to tell me not to bother skiing outside of winter. Perhaps some rogue student went haywire one year, tried to ski in the summer, and caused such mayhem the school administrators took extra steps to prevent similar chaos in the future.

I was promptly accosted by a woman on skate skis.

She, too, questioned me to show me the error of my ways. How else was I to learn?

“Are you taking a walk?”

She pulled the skier head cock.

“Well…yeah.”

“Like, you’re not supposed to walk here?”

I frowned.

“What do you mean I can’t walk here?”

She pulled her head to the other side, and continued to look at me. The Socratic method was not working.

Really, what could she do to me. This is America. I could walk on any trail I wished.

“Are you telling me you don’t want me to walk here?”

She shook her head piously.

I waited for her to offer a bit of helpful information, such as, where she wanted me to walk instead.

After we engaged in a standoff for several seconds, she motioned me to a different trail system.

Many of Anchorage’s skiers are elite athletes, to be sure. Once the city reopens fully, however, they could stand a lesson in direct communication from any number of Anchorage’s bar patrons.

Sarah Brown is direct. Write her at sarah@browns-close.com. Tweet her @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

A Year in Cuffing Season

(Elkov Oleg/Dreamstime/TNS)

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I first heard about “Cuffing Season” a few years ago from a friend. She described it as the period during the year when singles hysterically couple because they don’t want to be alone for the holidays.

Originally, I accepted this; after all, everyone wants a date for New Year’s Eve.

On Halloween that year, I received her happy text —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On Thanksgiving —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

Shortly before Christmas —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

That’s when it got excessive.

On Groundhog Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On St. Patrick’s Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On Earth Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On Arbor Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

When Memorial Day rolled around and it was still Cuffing Season, I began to seriously doubt the truth of this phenomenon.

According to Merriam Webster, Cuffing Season is formally defined as inclusive of most cold months, beginning in October and concluding right after Valentine’s Day. While my friend may very well be practicing Cuffing Season up through National Mahjong Day (officially August 1), most singles will have moved onto other activities.

However, I was forced to reevaluate the length of Cuffing Season this year with the onset of COVID-19. Faced with the insecurity of a pandemic, quarantine, and certain loneliness, singles were frantically trying to find mates well into April.

According to surveys conducted by UK-based company OneBuy, a full one-third of singles reported receiving texts from their exes during quarantine. It seems lockdowns were enticing singles to behave in needy ways, which they would not do under normal circumstances.

It should be noted, this phenomenon was summarized in an article published on tyla.com, a website which also features links to editorials entitled, “How to Entirely Empty Your Bowels Each Morning (1 Minute Routine).” Make of its contents what you will.

That being said, tyla.com may have a point. Anecdotally, I have indeed noticed a distinct uptick in unsolicited Facebook friend requests from unknown men, and unsolicited messages from same.

One, who dubbed himself “BananaMan,” sent me a Facebook friend request, followed by a Facebook message.

“Hello, my name is BananaMan, how are you today?”

BananaMan, I maintain a strict policy of only corresponding with people who have a space between their first and last names.

Then there was my personal favorite, James Campbell (name changed to protect the guilty). James Campbell added me on Facebook, and proceeded to flood my newsfeed with posts, as he does with all of his Facebook friends.

James Campbell would post 24 hours per day in 15-minute increments about one of five topics:

  1. His cheating, b**ch a** of a girlfriend who dumped him during COVID;
  2. His estranged relationship with his family;
  3. Photos of his tummy;
  4. His deep, personal relationship with God;
  5. Vaguely pornographic photos about how much he likes “thicc girls.”

James’ posts could take on any order in true stream of conscious fashion. Viewers were particularly prone to whiplash when the religious posts were immediately followed by the thicc girl posts.

While I never did meet James, I felt that I got to know him well through these five topics; they provided a firm window into his psyche. Thus, it was a surprisingly lonely day when James Campbell disappeared from my Facebook friends list, presumably because his minder took away his login credentials.

As we round out the holiday season in short order, be on the lookout for new relationships. The couplings may surprise and delight you.

Sarah Brown is an old romantic. She can be reached 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.

Love in the Time of Corona

“‘i saw you on tinder’ Trastevere 2014” by Ithmus is licensed under CC BY 2.0

[See original post here]

Dating behavior has changed due to the coronavirus. Singles are now encouraged to pursue socially distanced dating, be that virtually, or through wholesome, six foot spaced walks.  This phenomenon has been a boon to online dating platforms. Bumble, the dating app with the second highest userbase in the United States, saw more than a 20% increase in usage during the early days of the pandemic, and hit the 100 million user mark in July. The app is geared towards women, with females bearing the brunt of messaging matches first. Men have twenty-four hours to respond, or not.

I am a veteran online dater, and have used Bumble specifically. The field of candidates on the app is endlessly fascinating, and the details men choose to put in their profiles is telling. Over the years, I’ve honed a fool proof vetting method for profiles, based on several cardinal offenses. For example, you must have all of your clothes on in all of your pictures. Possible exceptions can be made for beach pictures, but in that case, you cannot have more than one beach picture.

And then there are the Selfie Sins:

  1. One must never post selfies in bed;
  2. One must never post selfies in the bathroom;
  3. One must never post selfies in the car;
  4. If all of the photos in your profile are selfies, I am forced to assume you have no friends, or anyone else in your life who could take your picture.

Bumble does appeal to female empowerment enthusiasts, and in keeping with this theme, users are encouraged to post information on their profile that traditionally would not be discussed in mixed company. Bumble asks users to disclose their political and religious affiliations, and whether or not the user votes. Singles can then filter out matches who do not conform to their preferred affiliations.

You can also filter by the most important quality of all— the astrological sign.

I’ve had dating success on Bumble, with “success” defined as dating people long term whom I met through the app. Those aren’t the fun stories, however. People just want to hear about the disasters.

Not to disappoint, some dates were resoundingly painful. For example, I went out with a college educated, six-foot-seven math major. He was a self-proclaimed Catholic opera lover and cello player, who now worked as a commercial fisherman. Reading all of these specifics in his profile piqued my curiosity; he sure seemed to have a lot going on.

We had coffee at Starbucks for the requisite forty-seven minutes. I asked questions, and he took full thirty second pauses before he would answer each. He would drag on his drink, look off ponderously at some destination just above my right shoulder, and sigh, “You know, I never thought about that.”

A few days after the date, he texted: “My brain hurts from your questioning. Are you always that intense?”

To be fair, I did ask him a lot of questions. Those questions, however, were about deep topics like, “What’s your favorite movie?”

After he sat silently for a time, and then announced he’d never thought about it, I downgraded to an easier level: “What’s your favorite color?”

That too was a head scratcher.

Among a few other life lessons, Bumble’s most persistent impact on me is to be skeptical of people I find on the Internet:

  1. People on the Internet may not be all there. I stopped seeing one man after he screamed about how much his genitalia hurt while we were at the Anchorage Symphony.
  2. People on the Internet do not waste time. Multiple men over the years have asked me to move in with them on the third date. One even asked me to move state lines.

And yet—

3. People on the Internet are flaky. I once had a guy miss our date at eleven in the morning on a Saturday because he did not set his alarm. Willing to give him a second chance, I agreed to meet him for lunch the following week. He texted to confirm lunch plans that morning, and then later that he was on his way.

The trouble was that he texted to say he was leaving his house in the suburbs ten minutes after the date had already started, and it would take him another twenty-seven minutes to arrive. Honestly, waiting around for another half hour would have been the death knell to my dignity.

4. People on the Internet are weird. One man’s profile had a photo of him completely nude, submerged in a bathtub full of royal blue paint. No other explanation or notation.

Sure, online dating can be fun. It can also be the source of a stellar headache. Good luck to all the Single Ladies.

Sarah Brown is the Love Doctor. Write to her at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Groundhog Days

[See original post here]

There is a Facebook prompt going around that brought me a welcome respite from the otherwise angry political, mask, and/or election messages.

“Can you describe your favorite movie in as boring a way as possible?”

Responses were admirable:

  1. “A group of short men spend a long time walking. They end up throwing away a piece of jewelry.” (The Lord of the Rings)
  2. “A teenage boy doesn’t want to go to school, so he picks up his girlfriend and hypochondriac friend, and they drive around Chicago.” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
  3. “A number of people go to an amusement park where the attractions are not working as intended. The power goes out, and after a day or so the people leave.” (Jurassic Park)
  4. “A woman falls for her boss and his kids. They go for a hike.” (The Sound of Music)

And my personal contribution –

“A guy drives south and is arrested for murder. He’s saved by his cousin.” (My Cousin Vinny)

This got me thinking. In a year where every day seems to be a repetition of the previous day (Groundhog Day), why don’t we reflect on our daily activities in as exciting a way as possible? For example, my days were always action packed, and COVID-19 has only heightened the mayhem.

The day starts when I bound down the hallway, fire up my computer, and glance through my work emails. There is an offer for me to appear in CEO Today Magazine, for the scant price of 1,500 British pounds. This is the fifth such offer in two weeks. I am not a CEO, and I am not British.

My gaze shifts to one of my many other browser windows currently open, where I read about the recent Twitter hackings of high-profile accounts. Such victims include former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, probable 2020 President-elect Kanye West, and likely alien Elon Musk. I am elated I have not yet fallen victim to Twitter Hacker, Cozy Bear, or his associate, Fancy Bear. Fancy Bear is now what I call my mother when I wish to annoy her.

An Outlook Calendar Reminder pops up; it’s Five-Minutes-to-Zoom. I dial in, and am admitted to a meeting with other industry professionals around the nation. One company’s representative does not realize his mic is on. He is speaking to someone off camera.

“Go in the corner and clean up that poop. That poop. That poop there in the corner. We can’t have this place looking like a garbage dump.”

His pets, presumably, were at it again.

At noon, I step onto my front porch for a breath of fresh air. My neighborhood is often a source of whimsy, and today is no different.

One of my neighbors is painting bloody handprints across the front of her house. She completes this pastiche with a giant red “X” on her front door, and then drags a seven-foot-tall red-rimmed cross for display next to the street.

A line of cars starts to congregate outside of her house. The neighbors all get out to gawk at her handywork, and whisper to each other. A middle-aged woman on a bicycle wearing a helmet and backpack begins taking frantic photos from the opposite side of the road.

The posse of neighbors confronts the woman. While her initial reaction is to shout back at them in an even louder voice, she eventually recognizes she is outnumbered. She backs down and drags the cross back into her garage. She leans it gingerly against the wall, and then hurls the entire contents of her municipal garbage can out onto her front lawn and into her driveway.

In a final crescendo, she places a giant handwritten sign in her front window. It reads, “We love.” The “o” in “love” is a smiley face.

I watch the property value of my home evaporate.

Chased away from the fresh air out front, I return to my home office, where I open my window. Perhaps I can enjoy the breeze from out back.

I am immediately treated to the high-pitched shouting of the man who lives next door.

“I am triggered whenever I watch The Shining!”

(“A family moves to a hotel in the off season, but goes back to Denver in the middle of winter.”)

“That’s when it happened! It was at the chalet in Switzerland when I was two! That’s why I stopped eating fruits and vegetables!”

Whatever made Next Door Man forever forsake plant-based food products must assuredly be traumatic. Feeling ethically compelled to respect his privacy, I begrudgingly shut the window, and finish out the day working in a stuffy, hot room.

At the close of the workday, I sit on my couch and look for something to watch on television. Crimson Peak is running (“A girl falls in love with a guy and moves to his house. The house is condemned, but she gets some help from its prior residents”).

I stare at the screen hypnotically until the credits roll. 

That night, I have a number of nightmares about living in a sinking house in the middle of nowhere. In one dream, I wander around the house, watching red matter seep out of the walls. I don’t really panic, however, until I put all of my clothes into one of the house closets. I am unable to locate the closet again, and thereby lose all of my clothes.

I wake up sweating, and turn on the fan in my room.

It was a thrilling day indeed.

Sarah Brown is a folk hero. 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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