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. It’s hands-down my favorite month of the year, home to the best holiday. But it’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. I’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 aren’t quite as over-the-top as my window displays of yore — which featured multiple strobe lights, spotlights and other fire hazards — 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 I’ve continued is my annual Halloween Mixtape. Probably about a decade ago, I started curating my own mix to drive around with since I wasn’t particularly enamored with the CD’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 I’ve long since lost my affinity for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
When my friend Terry 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.
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.
All that was washed away on Saturday night when I walked into a formerly dilapidated ballroom, which had been transformed into a veritable Halloween theme park. Continue Reading
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.
The years Johan Santana spent with the Mets are mostly a blur at this point, but I still remember the day they got him like it was yesterday.
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.
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.)
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.