Farewell to the Year Before 2023; Hello to the Year After 2022

I’ve never written a New Year’s blog before, and if I don’t do one now, I’ll have to wait a whole year before getting a chance to write another – and by then, who knows where my brain will be? Carpe diem, say I! Let us begin with…

My New Year’s Resolutions! In which I resolve in 2023 to…..

Not make any New Year’s Resolutions!

Seriously, though: I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution, and ne’er shall. Nothing against them, mind you. They’re fine, and probably therapeutic for lots of folks. It’s just that in my case, if I decide to change something up, I need to get busy doing it, whether it’s the 3rd of June or the 3rd of September or the 12th of Never. Waiting around for the new year only means it prolly ain’t gonna happen.

Of all the major holidays, New Year’s easily means less to me than any other. It’s just the week after Christmas anymore, as far as I’m concerned. Once Christmas makes its exit, I’d just as soon jet on through to April.

About the only thing I ever really liked about the new year, outside of college football bowl games, was diving into year-end “best of” lists: the best music, movies, books, TV shows, sports moments, restaurants, etc. But even that’s no fun anymore because I no longer have the first clue about most of these things.

I could not name a single musical recording from 2022, let alone a list of the best songs or albums of the year. The same holds true with movies. I’m not sure I saw one movie released in 2022. Can I even name one? Hmmmm….wasn’t there a 2022 remake of that old Tom Cruise “Top Gun” thing I never saw? Oh, I don’t know.

I can only name a couple of new TV series I watched in 2022: “Stranger Things” and “The Watcher,” both on Netfix.

Based on my 2022 knowledge of popular culture, my Disposable Pop Culture of the Year Award goes to “Stranger Things.” As I wrote in an earlier blog, it’s creepy-fantastic.

*****

I can’t even write with much authority about sports in 2022. Oh, I can name most of the champs: Dawgs, Rams, Jayhawks, Warriors, Astros (cheaters), Argentina. That’s about it. I used to be able to run off long lists of who made the postseason, who won the MVP awards, who made the All-America and All-Pro teams, who won the batting title, who won the scoring title, all that. But no mas.

The only sports I watch regularly these days are men’s tennis, college football, the NFL, and baseball (but only when the Cardinals are playing). I can’t name a single college basketball player – not one, and I used to live and breathe college basketball.

I can’t tell you the last time I watched a full NBA game. Probably five years ago, when we still lived in America, and I could catch the hometown Charlotte Hornets games on the local station. Hornets games are never shown over here in London.

I still watch the NFL, but I don’t pay much attention to it until the playoffs unless the Panthers are playing, and – like the Hornets – they never show Panthers games over here. I’m not sure who even made the NFL Pro Bowl this year. I have a feeling Josh Allen made it, and Patrick Mahomes, and probably Jalen Hurts. They’re all quarterbacks. I can name maybe half the starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

I still follow college football closely, but mostly only watch either my schools (App State; the U of S. Carolina) or big games involving teams with a shot at the BCS playoffs. I missed the biggest regular-season game of the 2022 season – Michigan-Ohio State – because they didn’t bother to show it on any of the London sports networks devoted to American college football.

I’ll be zeroed in on the BCS semifinals this weekend. I’m pulling for a Georgia-Michigan final, though TCU might be fun. Just not The Ohio State. Please – not them.

The one sport I still have expertise in is men’s tennis. I can probably name most of the top 30-40 players in the world off the top of my head, though not in the right order, and with many misspellings. The only reason I can do this is because I have a subscription to the Tennis TV streaming service, which I watch on my laptop.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t see much tennis at all, because they barely televise it here in the UK, even though England likes to lay claim to inventing the GD sport. None of the sports networks carry tennis because the UK sports networks are the suckingest bunch of suckity-sucky suckwads in the annals of suckery.

Based on my knowledge of the past sports year, my Athlete of the Year is Shohei Ohtani. No, the LA Angels star didn’t even win the American League MVP, not with the Yanks’ Aaron Judge knocking an AL-record 62 homers. But Ohtani was one of baseball’s best hitters AND best pitchers. That hasn’t happened since 1918 or so, when a guy named Babe Ruth did it.

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Speaking of year-end lists: This article hit my inbox this week – “The 50 Best Books of 2022.” Well, I just had to check it out, even though I was 99% sure I hadn’t read any of the books on the list.

And sure enough: I hadn’t read any of the books on the list. No surprise there. I almost never buy new books. There isn’t a single writer on the planet I love so much that I can’t wait a couple years for the cheaper paperback or used versions to come out.

I hadn’t even heard of most of the writers on the list. Two of the five I had heard of are better known for other things: filmmaker John Waters, and the late singer/songwriter/musician Leonard Cohen. The others are Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx, and Stephen King. It probably says too much about me that of the five I’ve heard of, the youngest is Stephen King, who clocks in at a youthful 75 years old.

Some of the titles on the list were catchy: Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta by James Hannaham; Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke; Phasers On Stun! by Ryan Britt (a history of “Star Trek,” natch); and Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional by Isaac Fitzgerald.

One of the titles – Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda – is cutesy to the point of irritation.

Of all the books on the list, the one I know I will buy is Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta. Here’s the description by Esquire:

“Hannaham’s buoyant sophomore novel introduces us to the unforgettable Carlotta Mercedes, an Afro-Latinx trans woman released from a men’s prison after serving two decades. Returning home to Brooklyn, she encounters a gentrified city she doesn’t recognize, as well as a host of new stressors; life on the outside soon involves an unforgiving parole process and a family that struggles to recognize her transition. Over the course of one zany Fourth of July weekend, Carlotta descends into Brooklyn’s roiling underbelly on a quest to stand in her truth. Angry, saucy, and joyful, Carlotta is a true survivor—one whose story shines a disinfecting light on the injustices of our world.”

That, friends, is my kind of tale.

My 2022 Book of the Year, by default, is The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan. It’s probably the only 2022 book I read, and it’s pretty damn cool.

*****

It’s not surprising that 2022 came and went without me amassing much cultural knowledge. This happens when you start having a family, and the time you devote to leisurely activities is sliced and diced to near nothingness. I set aside maybe 45 minutes in the afternoon to watch sports I’ve recorded. I read books twice a day. I might look at documentaries or movies when everyone else is in bed. I occasionally binge on YouTube.

I keep up with the news, mainly because I write about the news for various websites. The Russians invaded Ukraine in 2022, which is a very Russia thing to do (it’s also a very America thing to do, but never mind). Things have not gone well for Russia, so that warms the heart.

The Queen of England passed away, but she was pushing a century old, so you could say she lived a long and full life.

Cryptocurrency tanked. Gas prices shot through the roof before tanking.

Argentina/Messi beat France/Mbappe in an epic World Cup final.

Elon Musk decided, WTF, he’ll just be the same kind of asshole in public that he probably always has been in private. Kanye West did the same thing, although let’s face it, he’s always been kind of an asshole in public.

The St. Louis Cardinals choked in the first round of the MLB playoffs. Teenager Carlos Alcaraz shot to the top of the men’s tennis rankings. Serena retired, and then Roger retired.

Our family visited, hmmm……Oxford and Watford in the UK, and Vienna, Prague and Munich in Europe. The females of the house also took short trips to Paris and Bruges while I man-caved it at home.

2022 was a pretty good year from my personal POV. The work was steady, and I made more money than I have in years. I all but abandoned writing fiction, though I took up drawing, and am currently working on a comic book for my own personal pleasure and nothing else.

The family is healthy, I’m healthy, and my friends and relations back home seem healthy and fine. If I can depend on that every year, then thanks, I’ll take it.

Happy New Year to all.

*****

Postscript: The art accompanying this blog was created by our daughters. The jazz drawing was by our oldest daughter, a tres talented youngster who can do things with pencil and pen that I can only dream about. She gave it to me as a Christmas present, knowing how much I like jazz. We’re going to have it framed.

The beer mug keychain was created by our youngest daughter, another talented youngster with keen powers of observation and a deep well of creative energy. She gave it to me as a Christmas present, knowing how much I like beer.

Those drawings land at the top of on my 2022 Best of the Best list.

Postscript 2: The photo below is of a 1965 Topps Bob Gibson baseball card and a 2022 Vance Cariaga baseball card. Another Christmas gift from our oldest daughter. She must have downloaded a photo of the Gibson card and superimposed my face and name on it. This is one of my favorite gifts ever because A) my daughter made it; B) she knows I’m a baseball card nerd; and C) she knows Bob Gibson is my favorite player ever and maybe the only idol I’ve ever had. He retired 34 years before my daughter was even born.

Love comes in all different shapes and sizes…

12 Comments

  1. My NY post was the first ever too, so here’s a high five for firsts! Funny you should mention 3 June, btw, because that’s my birthday. And I like the approach of not setting goals. Also, Stranger Things was the best indeed. I think it’s the nostalgia from the 80s vibe that gets to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were a June 3 baby? Cool! So here’s the secret sauce between those dates I picked: the third of June, the third of September, the 12th of Never. They were all from hit songs way back when.

      In the case of June 3, the lyric was, “It was the third of June, another sleepy dusty delta day.” The song was “Ode to Billie Joe,” a massive hit during the 1960s.

      I did enjoy your New Year’s blog. A tradition begins. And Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The “custom” baseball card is awesome. Every time I hear the name Bob Gibson, I immediately can see the intensity in his face as he’s about to pitch, and god bless a man who knows how to not only get people out on a regular basis, but also pitch an entire game. That card is a great gift indeed. I’m (still) following just about every sport when I can, squeezing viewing in between going to movies, watching series, etc. I loved the bowl games, and was pleasantly surprised TCU managed to defeat Michigan. Nice to see a “newbie” in the big game for a change. The Aussie Open will be in a couple of weeks, and I am sure you’re excited about that. Vance, the best to you and yours for 2023! Bruce (aka WOTC)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Bruce, thanks so much. The custom card surprised and delighted me. I keep it right there in front of me at the computer. Loved it, really such a special gift.

      Indeed, Gibby was a fierce competitor. A couple of my favorite stories about him: He had pretty bad eyesight, and wore glasses when he wasn’t playing. So he would have to squint to see the signals from the catcher. But the opposing batters thought he was giving them a mean look, staring them down, which scared them even more. And he was happy to let them believe that. When Willie Mays found out Gibson wore glasses he was aghast: “You mean you wear GLASSES? You can’t see out there while you’re throwing those fastballs? Now I never want to face you again!”

      Also, Gibby liked to work quickly, and hated visits to the mound from coaches or the catcher. One time Tim McCarver, his catcher, walked to the mound to offer some kind of advice. And Gibby shouted at him as |McCarver was walking to the mound, “Turn around McCarver. The only thing you know about pitching is that you can’t hit it.” And McCarver turned around — and they were great friends.

      The college football semifinal games were amazing. Two of the best ever, maybe the two best ever in the semis. Hopefully TCU-Georgia will be just as good.

      Thanks for the feedback and Happy New Year to you and yours as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tim Mc became a big fan favorite in Philly being Steve Carlton’s designated catcher. Tim used to talk about Bob’s attention to detail often, and it was easy to see Gibson had a big influence on McCarver. I don’t know how we could have gotten better college football semifinal games. The move to a larger post-season field for football will be very interesting. I was “around” for when March Madness was only 25 teams, and as such had a much higher chance of crowning a truly deserving champion. Increasing the field in football certainly creates the opportunity for someone to “steal” that championship, but football I feel is a different animal than basketball. At least football looks like it is settling in on a smaller number. A committee just recommended March Madness go to 90 teams. Ugh. 😭

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, McCarver was a very good player but his career was prolonged considerably because of Carlton. That’s two pretty good pitchers to catch for — Gibson and Carlton.

      Totally agree about college basketball. March Madness is fun, but you know, one bad game by a great team and one perfect game by a lesser team suddenly reduces the talent level. Being from NC, one of my favorite memories was the 1974 tournament, which featured only 25 teams (not exactly sure how that worked — I guess there were byes). NC State beat that legendary Walton/Wilkes UCLA team in double OT in the semis, then beat Marquette in the final. That was when you know the Final Four had four quality teams and not a couple of Cinderellas riding a hot streak.

      My main problem with college hoops now is that the rosters turn over by 70% every year, like a recreation league. Between the transfer portal and early NBA entry, you just get completely different lineups each year. You’re no longer pulling for the team but the jersey. I can barely watch it anymore. College football, as you say, is much more discerning about who gets in.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In the category of it’s a small world, I actually attended that Final Four in Greensboro. My mother worked for a guy named C.D. Chesley, who was a pioneer in televising and syndicating college basketball in the ACC. I’ll likely elaborate on that in a post later this year when the tourney comes around again. It is brutal trying to keep up with the transfer portal and the ability to transfer on the fly. Seinfeld had a great bit about rooting for the laundry, rooting for the clothes lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy crap. You were in the house for that? How cool. I do remember CD Chesley. He was behind a lot of the ACC basketball broadcasts back then. My father used to get tickets to a lot of those events, and might have even been at the Final Four that year as well since we lived right down the road in Charlotte. He worked in the insurance industry and one of his best friends was a bigwig at Pilot Life Insurance, which was a major sponsor of those telecasts. So they got lots of tickets.

      You should blog about that. I’d love to read it.

      Yes — I remember the Seinfeld bit. He was right!

      Liked by 1 person

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