Last year, I made this list in late December, celebrating The Things That Especially Spoke To Me at the end of the calendar year. This year, I made this list in late August. I think a September-August timeline could be a fun, new framework for this sort of listicle now that I’m about to start school and back on an academic calendar.
17. The dark, brilliant, funny, funny book, The Noble Hustle, by Colson Whitehead, about his experience at the World Series of Poker.
As it often did when I thought about chicken wings and entropy, my mind turned to Emerson. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Now that was one stone-cold motherfucker who was not afraid to deliver the truth: After the torments of the journey, you have been well-prepared for the agonies of the destination.
16. Chris Long’s Pee Wee Reese Moment. I’m so at odds with the NFL these days, morally—with their treatment towards head injuries, Colin Kaepernick, and domestic abuse—that I don’t really follow the league closely. But this was a nice moment. And long overdue. Go, Chris (son of Howie and awesome Patriots’ teammate last year).
15. Lorde’s sophomore album, Melodrama – the 20-year-old’s ode to awkward, sensitive teenagers/20somethings, an album that’s both somber rumination and party “banger,” as the kids say these days. Produced and co-written by the beautiful lunatic, Jack Antonoff.
14. The late, great Amy Krouse Rosenthal. (Especially her book, Textbook). She’s Demetri Martin meets Elizabeth Strout: hilarious, sharp wordsmith, equipped with quirky graphs and charts, but also a wistful essayist. Reading this was more poignant now knowing that she passed away this spring from brain cancer. What a gem.
12. The Big Sick. The best pure rom-com in YEARS. Brilliantly deadpan.
11. I Am Not Your Negro. I mean, what is there to say? It’s as heartbreaking and urgent as it as beautifully crafted.
9. Gordon Hayward reuniting with Brad Stevens in Boston. The Hayward/Stevens story is a better, more endearing, more unlikely story than any story in any sports movie: a gangly, unimposing high school freshman named Gordon grows a foot over his sophomore and junior years and blossoms into a dynamo, 6’8’’ scorer for a small-town Indiana team. His senior year he carries his small-town team to the state title game and, yup, hits a buzzer-beater to win the whole damn thing. It’s truly the Real Life Hoosiers. And still, there was only one college coach who wanted him: a young, Norman Bates look-a-like at nearby Butler University. Gordon wanted to go to Purdue, but they weren’t interested. Butler it was, then.
His sophomore year, he mythically lead fifth-seeded Butler to the NCAA championship game against Goliath Duke, and, in what has become the most replayed What-If in recent NCAA history, his potential game-winning 35-footer rimmed out at the buzzer. He left Butler that spring, got drafted in the lottery to Utah, where he spent seven seasons, his final one as an Western Conference all-star (He’s also improbably morphed into Basketball Channing Tatum).
Hayward was a free-agent this off-season and chose Boston and Brad Stevens, turning down more money to stay in Utah and more sun and the Pat Reilly infrastructure in Miami. He’s back with his old coach who was hired to be the Celtics’ head coach in 2013. His Butler coach. The only coach who recruited him when he was a scrawny 17-year-old. The coach who always kept in touch with his parents. The coach who, at 40, isn’t old enough to be his dad but feels like an older cousin figure, who mentors and picks Hayward up at the airport.
8. Aziz Ansari’s SNL monologue the day after The Donald was sworn in.
7. This story from Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield:
“So I was out walking with my teacher, Ajanh Chah, in the forest monasteries in Thailand. And we passed a field, and there was a great, big rock—a boulder—in the middle of the field.
And he said, ‘You see that boulder?’
And I said, ‘Yes.’
He said, ‘Is it heavy?’
I said, ‘Yes.’
And he smiled and said, ‘Not if you don’t pick it up.'”
6. The Impossibly Cool Harry Styles. I wrote about Harold in May, but my love for the dude has only grown. He’s Justin Timberlake with his post-boy band success and versatility (singing, acting, humor). He’s David Bowie with his wardrobe (bold, loud, noticeably unbuttoned). He’s just the coolest. He’s on my current Celebrity Man Crush Mt. Rushmore, right next to Steve Carell, Matt Damon, and Dev Patel.
5. Isaiah Thomas, THE cult hero in Boston, the lovable Little Engine That Could who played through broken teeth, broken hips, and tragedy. Isaiah’s two and a half years in Boston were remarkably like Big Papi’s first few years at Fenway: a player approaching his prime (Papi was 27; IT was 25), cast off from his first two teams, who improbably found a home and became a star in Boston. Isaiah was the last pick in the 2011 draft (Kyrie Irving was the first pick in that same draft; the world can be a funny place sometimes). Five years later, his first with the Celtics, Isaiah was a burst off the bench as their reliable sixth-man. A year later, he was, improbably, an all-star. A year after that, improbably, he was third in the league in scoring and second-team All-NBA.
The Big Papi comparison is valid but doesn’t totally paint the full Isaiah portrait. Isaiah obviously has Papi’s clutch gene and a similar meteoric rise to superstar status— but he also has Dustin Pedroia’s huge heart in a little body (Both are listed at 5’9”. Both are really 5’7’’.) When the Celtics traded Isaiah last week, it hurt but felt smart. They weren’t gonna give a max contract next summer to an aging, 5’7’’ point guard who relies so much on his cagey athleticism, which could really start declining this year after a brutal hip injury. But still, the trade stung. And has continued to sting. I really miss the little guy and his little guys.
3. Mary Oliver’s essay, “Of Power and Time,” from her new book, Upstream
(This is the only place I could find excerpts of the essay. Feel free to ignore BrainPickings’ silly commentary.)
1. Seeing this live, a wonderful reminder that I/we get by with a little/lot of help from our friends.