The Young and the Redemption

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

[See Original Post here]

While I was hoping the next report would be from the other side, alas, I’ve enjoyed eight full weeks of quarantine here in West Anchorage. This is largely due to my own sense of caution; the Municipality of Anchorage is well into Phase 2 of reopening.

On the first day that restaurants were open, I stepped out onto my front porch and into the brilliant sunshine. I took a tentative step forward, breathing in the fresh air. As detailed in Episode 1, my main source of entertainment over the last eight weeks has been my daily hour-long walk through my neighborhood; my cardio stints come from the quick weaves and dodges to avoid my neighbors.

But the day restaurants opened, well that porch stepping had the added significance of being the possible first move into the world beyond my neighborhood. I could actually go to some destination, should I so choose.

The man in the next driveway was climbing into his car, and I cheerily waved at him. While not one to normally greet anyone, least of all my neighbors, I was overflowing with the spirit of goodwill for my fellow man.

He waved back, and promptly coughed.

I dropped my hand, scandalized, and scuttled back into the dim recesses behind me.

Every day now, I peer eagerly out of my windows, awaiting news of either devastation or recovery.

Nevertheless, this is the third installment of series sponsored by COVID-19, preceded by “The Young and the Restless” and “2 Young 2 Restless: Covid Drift.”

Updates to key dramatic subplots are included below for your convenience:

  1. Workouts – I’ve joined three fitness challenges through work. I’ve got seven blisters and two biceps to show for it.
  2. Karate – Someone circulated a rumor that my karate sensei trained the Karate Kid. This story soon evolved into he trained the guy who trained the Karate Kid. Latest version is that he may have seen the Karate Kid once. Bottom line, the sensei’s life continues to remain shrouded in mystery.
  3. Speaking of karate – I am due to test for my “yellow-orange” belt at the end of the month. Logistics remain uncertain and I am not sure whether a virtual test will be easier or harder than an in-person test. Most students advance to black belt (i.e. master ten belts) in three years. At my rate, I can expect to become a black belt in twice that time. I advance through life at half the speed of a nine-year old.
  4. Television – I determined it was time to tackle a movie with slightly more gravitas than Alice and Wonderland (the last feature film I watched in quarantine). Netflix had The Shawshank Redemption on rotation. I’d never seen it, had no idea what the plot was, and sat down to watch it with no advance research. Upon viewing, I became unduly morose, and spent 48 hours worried about whether there was any reasonable likelihood I would one day have to stage a prison break through a hole in the sewage piping.
  5. After a few comforting episodes of Parks and Recreation, I started Hollywood on Netflix, thinking it would be a cheerful cartoonish reimagining of post-war California. It is not; I’d say the early tone of the show is cynical at best. I watched the central character’s employment struggles for about fifteen minutes, became unduly morose, and went back to Parks and Recreation.
  6. I thought a third venture was warranted, and went back to that tried and true genre of British period soap operas. Julian Fellows of Downtown Abbey fame debuted a new show over the Easter weekend and I tuned in. Sure enough, the first episode had a surprisingly affecting death scene, after which I became unduly morose and swore off new content for the foreseeable future.

Reports from the front lines both locally and nationally are promising, but with an added dose of whimsy. Women can return to beauty parlors, but cannot have their hair blown dry. Nail salons may take customers, but manicurists must wear the equivalent of a moon suit to protect themselves and their customers. Gyms can hold classes, but only outside.

In a nutshell: businesses may take customers, but customers should stay home.

Drawing courage from the relatively tame scene locally, I stepped onto my front porch for the second time a few weeks following my neighbor’s assault.

Again, I blinked my eyes against all that new bright May light, and glanced down at my phone.

Per the news, giant murder hornets have arrived in the United States.

I retreated again.

The Egyptians understood plagues, and darned if I wasn’t going to follow their hunker down example.

Sarah Brown delights in the outdoors. When she is not frolicking in nature, she can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

2 Young 2 Restless: COVID-19 Drift

Courtesy Netflix

[See Original Post here]

Today we view “2 Young 2 Restless: COVID-19 Drift,” the sequel to “The Young and the Restless.” In case you missed Episode One, you can catch up here, and view updates to key plot points below:

  1. As described in our first installment, I am unable to consume any television shows with even a modicum more plot than a typical twenty-minute sitcom. The one exception to this rule is Tiger KingTiger King has every possible plot mashed together into one show. So far, I count polygamy, cults, murder, animal rights, arson, blood feuds, a woman with a mysterious past, magic, illicit drug smuggling, and illicit animal smuggling. Granted there may be more; after all, I’m only on Episode Four.
  2. I stopped watching The Office towards the end of Season Five. It is at this point that layoffs become an all too real plot point. I was watching The Office for the express purpose that nothing bad happens, and no character’s actions have any material consequences. Layoffs, however, are bad and are real consequences.
  3. I started watching Parks and Recreation in place of The Office. I’ve never watched it before and am halfway through Season Two. The show is about local government. This guarantees there are no layoffs, and no consequences.

And now, we continue with “2 Young 2 Restless: COVID-19 Drift”

  1. I’ve consumed more chips and salsa in the last three weeks than I have in the last five years combined. Sodium intake is reaching medically concerning levels.
  2. For about two hours, I contemplated doing my first ever juice cleanse. Before this pandemic, a juice cleanse never sounded remotely appealing. These days, however, a juice cleanse would just be another new activity. 
  3. I began researching any steps and needed materials to embark on a juice cleanse. It turns out, juice cleanses are either very expensive, very labor intensive, or both. I went back to eating chips and salsa. 
  4. I find myself fantasizing about the other forms of self-improvement I will be able to do post-quarantine. Waxing my legs suddenly seems like an excellent use of time. Much like a juice cleanse, waxing my legs has never held any pull before now. It always appeared time consuming, costly, and painful. Also, much like a juice cleanse, now it’s an activity.
  5. I’m grateful for my foresight in obtaining a quarantine haircut prior to the Municipality of Anchorage shutting down. Else, I would be mightily tempted to experiment with giving myself a haircut.
  6. My brother got a puppy. Now I want a puppy. This is new as I am allergic to dogs.
  7. I’ve added thirty minutes of daily internet puppy video viewing to my schedule. 
  8. When I am feeling otherwise bored, I take my temperature.

Clearly, in my nearly four weeks of isolation I’ve formed many bad habits. I have, however, also made a few notable improvements. For the first time in my life, I am cooking every day. My weekly menu consists of a rotating schedule of scrambled eggs, tuna salad, oatmeal, fruit and cheese, and frozen salmon. Much like my sodium intake, my mercury, cholesterol, and omega fatty acid levels are unsurpassed.Advertisement

In addition to cooking, I’m now exercising. My usual fitness classes are broadcast via Zoom, and all have added daily sessions. I am now not only working out every day, I’m working out every day, twice a day.

My Pure Barre classes with other Millennial women via Zoom are significantly more orderly than my beginners’ karate classes with children. None of the children know how to mute the microphones on their parents’ computers, so the classes are conducted amid loud shrieks of delight, making it difficult to hear the instructor. Periodically, a noisy family squabble breaks out in the background. During the last session, one girl tripped over her dog. The instructor more or less gave up on teaching us new material and instead had us kick at the wall for a few minutes.

While we Alaskans share much anxiety about the future, we also share a stalwart commitment to an isolated misanthropic lifestyle. Stay safe fellow cabin people. 

Sarah Brown is still a shut-in, but not a hoarder. If you must, she can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

The Young and the Restless

Courtesy Hughes Entertainment

[See Original Post here]

Like many of my fellow residents of the Municipality of Anchorage, I am currently living under a state of quarantine, social distancing, and general loneliness. It’s been difficult, mostly resulting in me chewing on my leg out of sheer boredom.

All, however, is not lost. Thus far, I have accomplished the following tasks:

  1. I’ve made it to Season 5 of The Office. Any show with even a mite more plot is proving too overwhelming in this chaotic time.
  2. I’ve compared quarantine snack choices with anyone who will entertain the question. We’ve concluded peanut M&M’s and popcorn are the most popular snacks. Curiously, one survey participant said oatmeal was his favorite snack; he was mildly crushed to hear that Quaker Oats is selling for $30 per unit online.
  3. I’ve disinfected my television remote three times.
  4. I obtained a quarantine haircut. Prior to complete isolation, I had my hairdresser cut my hair into a nineties style bob. I’m good on haircuts for the next four months. My brother’s hair, on the other hand, is now long enough to be tied back with a rubber band.
  5. I’ve purchased canned vegetables and baked beans for the first time in my adult life. When this is over, canned food drives will be more bountiful than in any prior decade.

Aside from my little triumphs, my community and its residents are fighting back, overflowing with self-improvement. For example, everyone I know has turned into a public health expert. I am pleased how much my Facebook friends have improved their scientific knowledge, seemingly overnight.

No one, however, beats out newly minted epidemiologists, and my beloved parents, Fred and Ann Brown, for coronavirus pandemic preparedness. Fred and Ann Brown are currently quarantining their mail.

It is encouraging to see how seriously businesses are taking this crisis. Businesses of all sizes have a coronavirus task force, regardless of the applicability of said task force to any particular business’ industry. Thus far, I have received coronavirus protocols from the credit union where I opened my first bank account at age eight, Groupon, Ollin Tea & Café, Nordstrom, and the Whistler Film Festival (which is not currently scheduled to take place before December).

While I find it comforting that Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union has a coronavirus task force, I’m really much more curious what United Healthcare intends to do about all of this.

Small business owners are finding ingenious ways to keep their customer base intact. For example, prior to the Mayor’s order closing all bars, restaurants, and sites of recreation, my gym sent out sweet, optimistic, daily emails describing how the floor was antimicrobial, how management was capping class sizes, how staff were increasing cleaning regimens, and how instructors would no longer touch the students. Pure Barre on 36th and Old Seward was determined to remain a sanctuary for the women who faithfully frequented it.

Post mayoral mandate, this happy little community disbanded for all of three days. Not to be gainsaid, they surged back, offering online streaming classes.

Come what may, they will lift, tone, and burn.

My daily online workouts require some adjustments as I do not have a complete supply of gym equipment at my house. For example, my hand weights for these online classes consist of two giant jars of baby dill pickles from Costco. Magically, the weights are getting lighter as time goes on. I must be getting very strong indeed.

I attempted to get Fred and Ann Brown to take these online classes with me. I did one class with each parent. Afterwards, they opted for the workout regimen prescribed by The Wall Street Journal for “The Aging Athletes.” Exercises consist of pushups against countertops and rising up and down on your tippy toes.

The highlight of my day is usually an hour long walk around my neighborhood. Since schools closed and most businesses sent employees home, the streets of my neighborhood are more crowded these days than they used to be on a typical weekday afternoon. My neighbors, to their credit, are very respectful of my space; they regularly run to the other side of the street whenever they see me approaching.

Apart from my neighbors, however, everyone else I know has gotten abundantly chatty. Before the pandemic, the only person who would call me on FaceTime was my brother. Now, FaceTime requests have increased 5,000% and I am very rarely camera ready.

Anchorage’s Mayor is pleading with citizens to cease hording behavior. Until this time when the mania ends, may there be a paper towel in every kitchen, and a roll of toilet paper in every bathroom.

Sarah Brown is a shut in. She can be reached any time, day or night, at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

The Path to Enlightenment at Okamoto’s Karate Studio

“Karate” by The Consortium is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

[See the Original Post here]

Six months ago, I began classes in beginner’s karate at Okamoto’s Karate Studio. I was about to turn thirty, and decided now was the time to take better care of my body than I had for the last ten years.

I am one of three adults in my class; the other two adults are parents of fellow students. Average age of the students is seven and three-quarters. Naturally, I stand out a bit.

Nevertheless, thus far, I have made one friend, Mary. Mary, a distractible second grade, is generally a naughty student. Instructor Shane takes your belt away if you misbehave in class, and her belt has been under a constant state of threat since I’ve known her.

Mary is very concerned about my social and financial wellbeing. Every day I come to class, she approaches me with a look of polite worry.

“Do you have a mom?”

“Yes, I have a mom.”

“Why doesn’t she come with you?”

Most seven-year-olds were accompanied to karate by their parents.

“Well, I drive myself.”

Mary nodded somberly.

“Does your mom sign your papers? Does she pay for your lessons?”

“Well, I’m an adult, so I sign my own papers and pay for my own lessons.”

That allayed her fears for about two weeks. Then she saw me walk into the locker room with my karate gear in a trash bag.

All of the children have fancy embroidered gym bags that say, “Okamoto’s Karate Studio.” I, however, refuse to buy into the trappings of branding, and am content to carry my items around in a white plastic bag the way God intended.

I loaded my garbage sack into my cubby, when Mary tapped my leg.

“Why don’t you have a bag?”

“A bag?”

Mary pointed to the column of identical red and black bags in the cubbies.

“Oh, a gym bag? I didn’t buy one.”

Mary frowned.

“Did you not want to spend the money? Wait…”

She trailed off.

“Do you have money?”

I considered her question. My wealth, or lack thereof, struck me distinctly relative.

“Um, yes, I have money. I just didn’t buy a gym bag.”

Mary looked unconvinced.

The weeks dragged on, and Mary continued to pepper me with questions about my financial stability.

“Do you walk from home?” she grabbed my leg, and once more regarded my trash bag suspiciously.

“Uh, no, I drive.”

“Really? Do you have a car?”

“Um, yes, I have a car. That would be a long walk from home!”

And last night at class, she sliced even more to my gut.

“Are you a mom?”

“Am I a mom? Well, no, I don’t have any kids. No kids or husband. Just me.”

Mary looked scandalized, and asked, “How old are you?”

Way to cut me down to size.

“I’m thirty.”

“That’s so old.”

Tell me about it.

“So you’re an adult?”

“Yes.”

“But you’re not a mom?”

“No.”

That’s when I was rescued by our resident Class Genius, a small girl who had just informed us moments prior that she had, “skipped first grade for some odd reason.”

The Genius scoffed at Mary.

“You don’t have to be a mom to be an adult! Not if you’re a girl!”

I nodded fervently in agreement.

Although, I must admit, I got a bit more than I bargained for when I started karate. While I’ve gained muscle, flexibility, and a lot of sweaty gear made out of rubber, Mary has also forced me to confront some uncomfortable truths. Am I an adult? Am I financially successful? Am I fully formed, fledged, and independent? Am I too old to learn a new (and might I add, very physical) sport? Is my personal and family life in order?

Gosh Mary. Out of the mouths of babes…

Sarah Brown is the most wizened, longest tenured white belt at Okamoto’s Karate studio. When she is not training to finally earn her yellow belt, she can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.