2019: What I wrote & things I loved

2019 was a good year for me, and I got to hit publish on some stuff I’m proud of. I’ve previously excluded stories I wrote at work but I’m changing that this year because 1) I feel like I worked on some stories that were both good reporting AND good writing, and 2) well uh I gotta pad this word count.

Here’s 2016, 2017 and 2018’s posts (and for the record, I still love Melodrama, Svein Tuft, and The Anthropocene Reviewed as much as ever). Here’s 2019’s highlights:

The rabbit hole of the Pony Express’ history was much deeper than I expected and I had a ton of fun researching and writing this.

Jason and everyone at Absolute Art are pioneers of Richmond’s tattoo scene, and their story is one of homecomings and chances taken. Jason also races bikes!

This might be the most raw thing I’ve ever published. It was also the first thing I wrote that Medium picked up for further distribution. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or not, but I do know This Modern Love is a goddamn masterpiece.

I could’ve sat around and listened to John talk about being a photographer for 80’s glam metal bands all day. This story could have been 10,000 words of just his tangents and stories— all of which were enthusiastically told.

In college I dreamed about writing this type of story: in-depth data broken down into digestible bits, filled in with quotes from someone who’s been through it. Going in, I knew VCU Athletics was a machine, but to hear and see how it operated was cool.

And lastly and most predictably, I wrote about cycling this year. I had a whale of a time racing cyclocross and riding off-road, and even landed on a few podiums before the season was over.

And here’s what I enjoyed in 2019:

- Maurice Sendak

In high school I caught the MySpace wave and rode that bad boy until it came crashing down. MySpace Music introduced me to more new, obscure bands than my 14-year-old brain could have imagined, which was one of the reasons I was so sad to see MySpace flop.

During the migration to Facebook circa 2009, I was drifting away from post-hardcore and emo mostly because my friends stopped listening to it and I had no one to go to shows with.

It became uncool. I would queue up They’re Only Chasing Safety on my blue iPod Mini while on the bus into school as a freshman, and by my senior year I was trying to hide the fact I owned not one but two Chiodos t-shirts.

But now that a decade or so’s passed, I again shamelessly love screaming music, probably due to having a lot more self-esteem than I did as a high schooler.

2019 was when I fell back in love with bands like Dance Gavin Dance, and I had a blast discovering all the stuff I’d missed while away, like Bulletproof Love, which has one of the catchiest opening riffs I’ve ever heard.

Everything the Dunk does gets me so good. His slapstick goofiness is a front for more fleshed out ideas like the above look at Super Mario 64 or his analysis of Whiplash and La La Land.

A good YA novel is also among the things I’m no longer ashamed to love. Mary H.K. Choi wrote a book where “high-key nothing happens” (her words, not mine) but the plot points are important and uncomfortable, the characters have depth and are relatable (particularly to millennials), and it all made Emergency Contact one of the better books I read this year.

This story is so deeply sourced and well-reported that the writing itself stands out over its contents, that include but are not limited to: the Chinese secret police, startup funding lunacy, unkept promises on Kickstarter and a desire to shake the cycling industry to its core.

Spencer Hall’s long been one of my inspirations, and he gave Every Day Should Be Saturday the eulogy it deserved.

Crossing the Australian outback by bike is the exact type of Big Dumb Thing™ that I want to do more of, and the photos that accompany this story are breathtaking.

Julian Alaphilippe walked in, pointed at the biggest guy sitting at the bar and said, “YOU!”

He wound up losing the fight but not before single-handedly bringing back a magic to Le Tour that’s been missing.

A Burglar’s Guide To The City is like the Farmer’s Almanac for anyone who’s a sucker for any story including a heist, myself included. It’s also a rare case of nonfiction writing that just jumps off the page and never feels drab or stale.

Every hit’s a homer with Pantspants. I’m not sure anything made me laugh as consistently hard as his comics last year.

Pretty much all of what Brad Leone’s in is appointment viewing but my god this was a cut above. Matty Matheson’s descent from apprehensive excitement into existential dread while wading in an Oklahoma river is a damn journey.

Writer, cyclist, often at the same time.