In the early days of 2020, the big news in the world of What’s Up With That? was an Everett woman selling socks, totes and other merchandise adorned with the F-word.
Who knew some of us would be using that word so often this year?
The pandemic changed life as we knew it — and claimed the lives of more than 340,000 Americans, so far, with 388 fatalities in Snohomish County and about 3,400 statewide.
In March, those at ground zero of beauty control — the hairdressers, nail techs and eye-lash goddesses who gussy us up — were shuttered after being deemed non-essential services.
The year’s top online-viewed What’s Up column was in March, headlined, “No more pretty hair or feet.” It included a photo of hair stylist Julia Barbee with one of her last clients before salons closed.
Business is down since Barbee reopened her Mill Creek salon in June with stringent sanitizing measures in place.
“I’m kind of picky now,” she said this month. “My people all seem to be pretty safe and smart. I’m not going to take some random person off the street.”
A column in April about bad DIY home haircuts ranked sixth in What’s Up online views.
Two of the Top 12 What’s Ups written in 2020 were about toilet paper hoarding and another was about the Marysville couple on the show “Hoarders.” Others included Mukilteo’s Grouchy Chef restaurant, a Starbucks cup designer from Everett and the Snohomish real estate twin sisters starring in a new HGTV show.
The story about my trek to the Iceland Costco, where my fat, fuzzy husband Max got a hot dog, was No. 12. Max is still demanding a correction over the fat and fuzzy part.
The story about the business with F-word fashion items did not get Top 12 clicks online. Nor did some of my favorites.
Such as the newborn with six names: Charlotte Daphne-Celeste Buzard Simmons-Otness came into the pandemic world on Aug. 19, weighing 6 pounds, 14 ounces. The Whidbey Island baby’s first three initials are CDC.
And what’s not to love about Gary Locke, the checker at QFC who everybody knows? He was honored in the “2 minutes of gratitude” Mukilteo parade for COVID-19 heroes.
The “Blisters and Bonding” story in September detailed Jake Sirianni and his dad, Fred, on their 40-mile trek from New York City to Connecticut over Labor Day Weekend. It was a 19-hour odyssey for this Marysville father and son.
It prompted Herald reader Doug Beyerlein of Mill Creek to write me about a solo 32-mile run he devised for himself to challenge COVID boredom. He has run 122 marathons.
“Nineteen hours is a long time to be on your feet. I know the feeling,” Beyerlein said. “Back in June, at the tender age of 69, I decided to attempt an equally quixotic journey by running solo from Everett City Hall to Seattle City Hall.”
He said he let his subconscious pick the music: “I sang in my head ‘Abilene, Abilene; Prettiest town I’ve ever seen; Women there don’t treat you mean; In Abilene, my Abilene.’”
Over, and over, and over.
He made it to Seattle City Hall in 5 hours, 47 minutes and 39 seconds. But I guess it seemed like 19 hours with the “Abilene” ear worm.
Top 12 online viewed What’s Up With That? columns in 2020:
1. No more pretty hair or feet: COVID-19 closes beauty salons
Cosmetology in the time of the coronavirus pandemic halted as a non-essential service. No tattoos, either.
2. Life after ‘Hoarders’: 2 years, 250 tons lighter in Marysville
They put Marysville on the map for the show “Hoarders.” Now, 250 tons lighter, Andy and Becky Otter just want to move on.
But it’s not so easy when you’re Netflix famous. People recognize the couple at the grocery store and stop in front of their house to snap photos. Some try to look in the windows.
And pesky reporters won’t leave them alone.
3. Twin sisters do makeover magic to local homes in HGTV series
Snohomish real estate twins Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis are the makeover mavens of “Unsellable Houses,” a new series launched in February on HGTV. The sisters work their magic on modest homes in desperate need of help.
4. Coronavirus sparks rush on toilet paper — and condoms?
It always helps to have the word “condoms” in the headline.
5. Another toilet paper shortage? No, but hoarding has resumed
Having the words “toilet paper” and “hoarding” in the headline also gets clicks.
6. COVID home haircuts: A bad coif is better than a bad cough
Watch your ear, wear a hat: DIY hairstyles flourish with “non-essential” barbers and salons closed.
7. For sale: Bulletproof island survival ranch and supply cache
The spread on Whidbey has an escape tunnel, workshop, 20,000 gallons of fuel and a lifetime supply of TP.
8. Starbucks red cup is Instagram gold for artist from Everett
Taylor Mattson, raised in Everett, designed the most popular Starbucks holiday “red” cup in a holiday sweater-type pattern.
9. Twin-sister stars of ‘Unsellable Houses’ get a second season
A follow-up story in August, when the HGTV twins got picked up for another season.
10. Home, sweet, depot: Train station pad yours for $1.2 million
Bruce and Marie Ferguson went off the rails building this house — a full-size train station replica. It can be yours for $1.2 million. After 12 years, the Fergusons are ready to move from their home depot at 1021 Maple Ave. in Snohomish.
11. Grouchy Chef owner denies being grouchy — he’s focused on food
Sit up straight. No clinking crystal. No shoveling food in your mouth. NO jeans!
For 16 years, Chef Takayuki Masumoto has been a one-man show at Grouchy Chef, a fine-dining French restaurant in a Mukilteo warehouse that offers delicious cuisine at a ridiculously low price. He sternly points out etiquette infractions and shushes those who talk too loud.
Takeout wasn’t an option pre-COVID, but now fans can enjoy his gourmet meals in their homes, without his rules.
12. I went to Iceland for the Costco and my husband got a hotdog
This story that ran in October was about a trip in February, before COVID.
Iceland was on my bucket list, and so is visiting a Costco in every country.
The Iceland newspaper Fréttablaðið interviewed me after reading The Herald story, which came up on their Google feed.
People love reading about Costco, the reporter told me. The island nation has only one Costco for its population of 365,000.
I was on Page 2 of the Fréttablaðið under the headline, “Hin íslenska Costco komin á lista Brown.” It shared a page with a photo of a construction worker taking a selfie with a statue of a naked man on a roof.
Andrea Brown: email@example.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.