SportsAngle presents: 2013 Halloween Mixtape

When Hurricane Sandy wiped out Halloween last year, I couldn’t really complain about it, as we 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.

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Talk like a Pirate

I virtually never travel for my job, but back in 2008, I was given the opportunity to work a promotional booth at a FanFest for an MLB team. Considering how harsh New Jersey can be in late January, I optimistically requested San Diego. Like clockwork, they sent me to Pittsburgh, the equivalent of escaping Alaska for Antarctica.

On top of the single-digit temperatures, the idea of attending a FanFest for a team that hadn’t had a winning record since I was in seventh grade seemed a bit depressing. But honestly, PirateFest turned out to be a really good time, if a little weird.

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Sweet life

Not long ago, I sat on the beach in Cozumel, Mexico, with my feet buried in the sand, a pink beverage and Paul Beatty’s Slumberland in my hands, and the gentle rush of waves lapping on the beach in my ears. On one side was my wife, the other a mischievous crow intently eyeballing our plate of chips and guacamole. I felt like I had stumbled into one of those utopian Corona ads.

Then an ant crawled across the page I was reading. I flicked it away, as it dawned on me that my little slice of paradise had a slight flaw: Since our first vacation to Cozumel two years ago, a pretty substantial colony of anthills had sprung up near a grassy patch at the edge of the beach, leading to harmless but annoying ants scrambling all over the sand. Given my extreme dislike of insects, it was like arriving in heaven, but learning that Joan Rivers was your neighbor and your house has really thin walls.

Still, no amount of insects could ruin a honeymoon that stood as the light at the end of a fairly arduous tunnel.

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Rearview mirror: 2012 hit list

The middle months of 2012 presented a crisis of confidence for me: For quite a while, I found that I simply couldn’t write the way I like to. A large part of it was finding the time, as I was stretched too thin between day job demands, moving to a new home and planning a wedding. I had plenty of ideas that never came to fruition, and it took a lot of editing and re-editing for me to get comfortable with the ones that did.

This isn’t to say I didn’t write a few things I felt far more than good about. About a year and a half ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit, so I started writing some pieces for a few different publications and web sites besides this one. It was an adjustment to have someone filtering my writing, but it was also rewarding to know stuff I wrote passed muster with people other than myself. My goal is always to write something that hopefully people enjoy reading, including myself, and I think I had a few of those this year that I’d like to share.

I don’t generally do lists — with one or two exceptions — but below are five essays I felt good about last year. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll be able to expand the 2013 iteration of this list to, say, seven or eight, starting with a profile on Karl Towns I’m writing for Dime now. (As a result, don’t expect to see me around these parts much for the next couple of weeks or so.)

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Into the sunset

Ten years ago on New Year’s Eve, I stood in a hotel room in the Mirage preparing for a night of Las Vegas revelry, a process that consisted for me at age 23 of putting on a flamboyant cream and gold Jordan Brand button-down and drinking Tanqueray out of a water glass. My friends and I had a hip-hop station on the clock radio, and right before we departed for the Strip, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” came on. That was incredibly meaningful for me at that moment, because I felt I was on the verge of something I hadn’t quite figured out yet. 

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