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

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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.