December 23, 2002
An Anecdotal Top Ten for a Transitional Year.
- My Journey into the Heart of the American South, 4th of July Weekend. The solemn glory of Gettysburg, fireworks over the treetops of Virginia, the lovely Blue Ridge Parkway, minor league baseball and bar brawls in Tennessee, boiled peanuts — all just tame warm-ups for East Dublin, Georgia's annual Redneck Games: "Lee Surrendered, I Didn't," fried crocodile on a stick, thanking God I was driving American, and if anybody asked my last name is Smith.
- Best Concert. The Magnetic Fields' two-night stay at Alice Tully Hall: their wonderful 69 Love Songs in its entirety, everything I hoped it would be. Other fine concerts: Jason Loewenstein at Bennington (if you could have seen only one free show surrounded by stoned rural rich kids in a Vermont student center with dollar drafts, then this was the one!); Jason Loewenstein brings the rock at The Knitting Factory; Belle and Sebastian at The Hammerstein Ballroom (and if it wasn't for my friend Christine I'd never leave the house).
- Backhand Passing Shot, East Brunswick, sometime in October. Playing doubles, down 4-5, Ad-In, opponents serving to me for the set. I make a decent return, we're going back and forth, but after a few volleys I get caught leaning a little to my right and face a nice dropshot to my backhand side. I reverse course, dive back to my left, and catching the ball about two inches off the ground just push it down the line past the lunging net player who could do nothing but turn and watch as the ball landed perfectly on the back-left corner. It's hard to describe a tennis shot, but trust me, had you been there you would have rushed the court and demanded I have sex with you right there.
- The Sunday after Thanksgiving at Mohegan Sun. I'd like to claim that this day sticks out because due to the stunning casino or even the lovely seafood brunch I had beforehand in Mystic, but to be honest I could have been gambling in the boiler room of a condemned rendering plant and it would still make the list. Long story short: walked into the casino and put $20 on the roulette table, turned that double sawbuck into over $700 in profit (with the help of a lovely group of tourists who thought it might be fun to give poker a shot), not including the filet mignon dinner. Yes, I tipped large.
- Apartment D1 of Jersey City's Brunswick Towers, Overlooking the Pulaski Skyway. Because I am lucky, Ithe first apartment I looked at was perfect: large, furnished rooms, "roommates" who actually lived in New Hampshire, a fascinating view of an industrial wasteland, heated pool, exercise room, front-desk concierge, indoor parking, etc. It made me finally realize that there's more to life than mere material possessions — a place to keep those possessions is also important.
- The Few Bright Lights of the Idiot Box. My significant other and I almost never watch the ol' "boob tube" — we'd much rather read contemporary poetry and discuss the important issues of the day — but we do pull the black-and-white out of the closet when these three shows are on: "Insomniac with Dave Attell," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." The best guy in the world to hang out with, the worst, and a wad of meat.
- The Best Blogs of the Year. Of course, Girls Are Pretty, hosted by The Pretty Girl. It'll likely implode by mid-February or lay dormant when the PG overdoses on something, but for many brief shining moments it is Camelot. The consistently excellent NJGuido.com has taught us all a little lesson on why it's important to party like a rockstar. And also of note was my discovery of Mike Whybark's creepily delightful Ken Goldstein Project; at last, a blog that speaks to me! In a related note, my own little online effort allowed me to meet lots of fine and interesting folks, including a few who I even enjoy a drink or a game of cards with now and again.
- Jersey Pride Labor Day with Jahna D'Lish. Sure, the weather sucked and if you watched closely you could actually see boardwalk businesses going bankrupt, but that didn't stop me and the sassiest dame on both coasts from kicking it old-school, winning piles of prizes at Seaside then chowing down on the Tropicana buffet. Having her watch me make quad aces was a nice bonus.
- Best Magazine of the Year. In a fairly weak year for print, The Atlantic Monthly was easily the most consistently excellent magazine I readthis year, most notably William Langewiesche's illuminating, unsentimental three-part "Unbuilding the World Trade Center," (excerpts 1, 2 & 3) now available in book form.
- The Rise of the Swamp Dragons. Thanks in large part to Jason Kidd , my two decades of futile support for the New Jersey "Whoop-De-Damn-Do" Nets were rewarded with months of stylish excellence culminating in a trip to the Finals. One win against the Lakers would have been nice, though.
Honorable Mention (tie): A lovely wedding between two lovely people...in Canada! And that time I didn't get hit by that bus.
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