I’ve always liked making a post on New Year’s Eve, kind of a virtual milepost. I find nothing more appropriate than where I’m writing this one: in the backseat of a car taking me and my wife to the airport for our first trip to Paris.
October has come to present quite a paradox for me. Itâ€™s hands-down my favorite month of the year, home to the best holiday. But itâ€™s also the month my job crescendos in terms of stress and workload, often leaving me with limited time and energy to enjoy it.
This is, of course, the way things go. Iâ€™m 35 now, more than a decade removed from my salad days of spending every Friday and Saturday traipsing through haunted houses with teenagers jumping out and making loud noises. Given a rare Friday night off this past week, I opted for a relaxing dinner out with my wife and another couple rather than carnival food after a hayride or something.
But we still do a pretty good job of getting in the spirit. Our decorations arenâ€™t quite as over-the-top as my window displays of yore â€” which featured multiple strobe lights, spotlights and other fire hazards â€” but we do still have Chucky leering at us from a table in our living room. Every few nights, we curl up with our dog and a pumpkin beer and watch American Horror Story or some terrible movie from my collection. And we did squeeze in some apple-picking, a wonderfully campy daytime hayride and even a petting zoo.
The way we do things obviously changes as we get older, but one tradition Iâ€™ve continued is my annual Halloween Mixtape. Probably about a decade ago, I started curating my own mix to drive around with since I wasnâ€™t particularly enamored with the CDâ€™s on the market. Tubular Bells is great, but there are only so many times you can hear it before it loses its desired effect. And Iâ€™ve long since lost my affinity for Screaminâ€™ Jay Hawkins.
Two SeptembersÂ ago, exactly two weeks before I got married, I decided to try somethingÂ called “The Survival Race,” kind of a 5K onÂ steroids. It served asÂ a bonding experience with some longtime friends, and a relatively wholesome “sowing wild oats” kind of thing before I tied the knot.
Every year during WrestleMania, Twitter is split completely down the middle. On one side, you have people tweeting passionately about a fake sport; I’m typically in that group. On the other side, you have people complaining about that first group clogging up their timeline by tweeting about a fake sport.
My general stance is that you can’t really help what you’re into, and so long as it somewhat conforms to society’s norms, you should embrace it. There are blogs out there dedicated to Garfield comics without Garfield in them, or inserting images of Drake into scenes from Breaking Bad. And I think that’s totally fine. Who am I to judge? I collect ski caps with high school basketball logos on them.
This isn’t to say I believe it screams normalcy for a 34-year-old guy to enjoy watching men in Speedos pretend to fight with each other. But I cling to the belief that there’s a difference between me and the infamous “IT’S STILL REAL TO ME, DAMMIT”Â guy. I have a relatively legitimate job with a livable salary, I’m married to a lawyer and I appreciate a cup of tea and a good novel.
It’s just, I happen to think wrestling –Â for all its at-times egregious flaws, the steroids and misogyny and whatnot — is a tremendously entertaining form of television. When you watch a really well orchestrated match –Â to me at least –Â it’s an adrenaline rush on par with a great NBA Finals game. And somehow, wrestling is one of the only things I liked as a kid that I still really enjoy now, along with Spider-man, Batman and blue cars
Don’t get it twisted, though: I’m fully aware that wrestling is totally ridiculous. Though it has its share of self-reverential nonsense –Â Triple-H, in particular, takes himself way too seriously for a guy who literally slept his way to the top –Â it often can’t help but make an unabashed mockery of itself, usually by design.
When my friend TerryÃ‚Â and I relaunched SportsAngle five years ago, it served primarily as a place for me to talk about actual sports; several years later, I’ve found I have continually less patience for that.
As such, the site has become more and more a repository for obscure jerseys, high school basketball, Halloween mixtapes and whatever other random nonsense I’m into. And I couldn’t be happier about having that creative outlet, unencumbered by page views, editors or common sense. (Unless you count my wife, who has no qualms about telling me when something simply doesn’t work. And I love her for it.)
Last December, having been a dog owner for all of three days, I was letting our seven-pound puppy drag me around the neighborhood for about the 12th time that afternoon. I was completely exhausted, and I already had serious doubts I had what it took to make it work.
We ran into a congenial middle-aged man named Pat, in town from Ohio to visit his daughter. He calmed GG down, raved about what a handsome dog she was and we talked a little sports.
Something about Pat’s easy demeanor told me I’d found a sympathetic ear. Before we parted ways, I told him GG was my first dog, explained how difficult this first week had been and asked whether things would get better.
Pat looked me straight in the eye and smiled warmly. “You’ll have to put in some work,” he said. “But I can tell she’s a good dog, and you’re going to be just fine.”
Grasping for straws, I believed him. And it turns out he was absolutely right, everything worked out pretty great.
But it did take a lot of work, and things would get worse before they’d get better.
Back when I was a student at Duke, I’d frequently congregate with my two best friends for what we called “sessions.” I’d turn on my black light, we’d listen to Tool and have the particular brand ofÃ‚Â deep conservationsÃ‚Â you tend to have in a dorm room late at night.
Along with our standard agenda — girls, grades, graduation, the existence of God — we often explored how things might have been different had we gone to a big-time football school instead of one devoted to basketball.
Halloween is without question my favorite holiday, but it becomes a little harder every year to psyche myself up for it. My job gets a whole lot more demanding in October, so by the time we get late into the month, I’m pretty worn down and often under the weather. Besides, there’s bills to pay, dogs to walk, you know the drill.
When Hurricane Sandy wiped out Halloween last year, I couldn’t really complain about it, as weÃ‚Â got off pretty lucky compared to much of Central and South Jersey. No trees or anything fell on our home, and our only injuries consisted of minor burns suffered by my wife on Halloween night, when she was attempting to make me hot chocolate in a pitch-dark kitchen.
That said, for someone who views Halloween the way most people do Christmas, there was no escaping that there was a pretty big void for me last year. By the time our lights flickered back on, it was a few days into November. I hadn’t nearly gotten my fill of my favorite holiday, but time waits for no ghoul.
One tradition that fell by the wayside was my annual Halloween mixtape, which I was in the process of making, but didn’t have time or electricity to complete it. But it’s a new year, with crisp and clear weather in New Jersey, so I’m thrilled to present this year’s version for download.