Nick VarneyNick Varney

Nick Varney Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: 2020 — The Halloween Year

2020 has nixed Oct. 31 as the official observance of Halloween and hijacked the mantle as its own.

2020 blew onto the world stage with the usual fanfare of fireworks, concerts, parties, subsequent hangovers but barely a clue of the witches’ brew steeping overseas that would soon be exported around the globe.

The year has now nixed Oct. 31 as the official observance of Halloween and hijacked the mantle as its own.

The beast’s spawn of 365 days has been laying it on so thick that some people don’t know whether to be exceedingly alarmed or just shake their heads at the plethora of weirdness. Probably, both.

There is no question that the Halloween year has given a whole new meaning to the expression, “unprecedented times.” There’s the coronavirus pandemic, Australia’s and the U.S. devastating bush fires and, of course, rapper Kanye West announcing his presidential bid and then promptly dropping out before he dropped back in again.

The announcement that the Olympics contests were postponed was poignant, but why was the trumpeting of Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, naming his new son X Æ A-Xii, even noteworthy?

It must have been a slow “breaking news” week because rabid politicians are normally flinging so much dirt on each other that their dust is starting to blot out the sun. Much to the delight of drooling media commentators wearing the ridiculous costumes of supposed journalists.

Let’s see. Oh yeah, a star went missing.

For nearly two decades, astronomers have been studying a star in a galaxy 75 million light years away. This year, when they took a look, they couldn’t find it. Conjecture is that it could be the first instance of a star collapsing into a black hole without first exploding into a supernova. Eerie stuff. The star probably took it in its celestial shorts when its personal 2020 rolled around.

Stranger yet, the reports of mystery drones spotted over Colorado and Nebraska back in January. According to the New York Post, drones about the size of cars were supposedly flying around during the night in grid patterns. The Colorado observations were questionable because of the state’s population has easy access to primo legalized weed. No excuse of the Nebraskans.

Lest we forget, this full year of Halloween also conjured up the infamous Asian giant hornet in a bottle trap near Custer, Washington. The invasive, predatory frankensect, dubbed the “murder hornet” ignited terror due to its antisocial behavior pattern that included stinging multiple times while delivering large doses of venom, just because it could.

It didn’t help matters when an entomologist at the Washington state Agriculture Department, stated, “What we’re told from the literature is that most people can survive one or two stings.” Most? Jeeze, not cool. Rumors were already circling that several unfortunates had assumed suborbital status after they sat on one.

What else? The brain stems in marketing at the Planters Peanuts plant ghoulishly released a Super Bowl commercial where Mr. Peanuts perished after a nasty fall and subsequent fiery explosion. Backlash from Mr. P fans reflected that they were less than amused watching their beloved nut getting roasted. Co-advert stars Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh must have been mortified to lose a popularity contest to a 104-year-old legume.

Come on now, you say. Has 2020 really been all that bad?

Well, there was the massive disappearance of toilet paper that directly led to a tree bark shortage and a dynamic upswing in emergency room visits for impressive butt sliver extractions and keister balm applications.

Paper towels along with antiseptic wipes, disinfectant sprays, and face masks were designated endangered products adding them to the panic-stockpile items of the moment. Meat nearly assumed the status of bullion.

And the year’s assorted chicanery continues:

The pandemic seems to mimic the ocean tides flowing in cycles of high and lows as arguments continue flare as to the efficiency of mask wearing, lockdowns and social distancing.

It’s also a presidential election year that has become so polarizing that even friends and family members are sniping at each other while politicians go out of their way to chainsaw each other’s reputation. Speculation is rampant that Michael Myers might have a chance as a write-in.

Common courtesy and civil discourse is becoming as rare as snowshoe hare taking out a lynx with a roundhouse kick.

So, what’s next?

How about an asteroid the diameter of a refrigerator striking the day before the November election? It’s hurtling towards Earth at a speed of 25,000 miles per hour but, supposedly, is not large enough to do any serious damage and has less than a 1% chance of clipping the planet. Really? 2020, anybody?

Just to pile on, last Monday, Oct. 19, we had to immediately ghost the Homer Spit because of a tsunami warning. Come on man!

When is it going to be the lava-chuckers turn?

Don’t put it past H-20 to go for the record held by year 536 when a volcano erupted in Iceland and the sun dimmed for a year and a half, leading to a catastrophic global cold spell.

The way things are working now, it will wait until New Year’s Eve to play the last surprise in its bag of 365 goblin tricks.

Stay tuned.

Nick can be reached at

More in Life

This screenshot from the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference website shows the faculty who will be attending the conference, held virtually May 15-18. From left to right, top row, are Francisco Cantu, Victoria Chang, Ernestine Hayes, and Brandon Hobson. From left to right, bottom row, are Anis Mojgani, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and Vera Starbard.
Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference includes readings for the public

After hiatus, annual event back as program transitions out of pandemic

Alex Rydlinski holds one of his pieces in an Instagram photo from July 18, 2020. (Alex Rydlinski)
Alex Rydlinski holds one of his pieces in an Instagram photo from July 18, 2020. (Alex Rydlinski)
Art Guild welcomes self-taught artist as new executive director

Originally from Fairbanks, Rydlinski was looking for a place “off the grid”

Foreground, from left to right: Kenai Middle School seventh grader Cooper Tallent-Darling and eighth grader Gavin Hunt perform as their “Lion King” characters, Simba and Mufasa, while the rest of the cast acts in the background. The school drama department recorded and filmed a rendition of the Disney movie and premiered it in May 2021. (Photo provided by Kenai Middle School drama)
Kenai Middle School produces movie musical rendition of ‘The Lion King Jr.’

The film is available to stream online this weekend.

Sierra Moskios is the coordinator for the REC Room. Moskios recently received an Alaska Afterschool Superhero award for her dedication to the youth of Homer. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Moskios earns Alaska Afterschool Superhero award

Sierra Moskios earned the Alaska Afterschool Superhero award for her dedication to Homer youth.

A souffle omelet takes a delicate hand but offers rich flavors and sophisticated textures. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A Mother’s Day omelet from the heart

Mother’s Day has been one of the hardest days of every year since my mother left this world 13 years ago.

Brie and caramel apple voulevant is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, photographed in April, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A celebration of food

Make first gatherings special with this simple but sophisticated brie and caramel apple voulevant.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Time to enjoy, not to annoy

I’m already overhearing growing concerns about whether or not the usual influx of tourists to the peninsula will be dampened due to the surging tsunami of fuel costs.

Photos courtesy John Schoen
Mary Beth Schoen admires a large-tree old-growth stand in Saook Bay on northeastern Baranof Island. Some individual trees were over 6 feet in diameter and many centuries old. This riparian area was adjacent to a salmon stream and was full of bear trails. Large-tree old growth stands are rare on the Tongass.
‘Tongass Odyssey’ explores decades of research, politics and change

‘What we learned is that old growth forest is very important’

Will Morrow (courtesy)
When did I get wise?

When did I turn into that old guy who feels like he has to give everyone else advice?

Most Read