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There are a lot of things I need to do before I die.

Or at least that’s what my local bookstore is telling me. Every time I visit, I’m faced with a shelf’s worth of guides listing things to accomplish—from 100 Things To See In Your Lifetime to 101 Things To Do Before You’re Old And Boring. I appreciate the idea behind Patricia Schultz’s 1,001 Places To See Before You Die, the inspiration for this genre of books. But its offspring stresses me out.

There are lists of jazz albums I need to listen to, foods I must taste, paintings I have to see, walks I’m required to take—my own father has a book of 1,001 gardens I can’t die without visiting. How am I supposed to conquer 1,001 movies while simultaneously reading 1,001 books and traveling to 1,001 historic sites—not to mention making it to the 500 places I must see before they disappear? By the time I found a copy of 101 Places To Have Sex Before You Die, I was tempted to swear off travel books, grab a selection of the 1,001 beers I have to drink, and head to one of the 1,001 spots where I’m supposed to escape.

I am a person who had a checklist for puberty (armpit hair? breasts? boyfriend?) and occasionally write lists of things I’ve already done, just to make myself feel more accomplished. Like many people, I already spend too much time coming up with arbitrary things I “should” be doing, keeping myself so busy that it’s hard to separate one moment from the next. The last thing I need to read is a book that pits my desire for adventure against the time pressure of mortality—especially in the form of a thousand and one places I’m supposed to play golf.

So I decided to create an antidote—a list of places and experiences that you don’t need to worry about missing out on. I called upon travel-loving friends, family and, in some cases, complete strangers, to tell me about overhyped tourist sites, boring museums, stupid historical attractions and circumstances that can make even worthwhile destinations miserable.

Some entries on the list are unquestionably unappealing, like a field strewn with decomposing bodies, or fan hours at the Las Vegas porn convention. Some depend on context—Pamplona’s a very different city from the perspective of a bull. Some are just good stories, albeit ones that are more fun to read about than to experience firsthand.

As I gathered suggestions, I came across a characteristic common among frequent travelers: a reluctance to define anything as bad. “I have a soft spot for underdog places and a perverse need to find even the worse stuff a source of delight and titillation,” wrote one friend about her inability to hate on Uzbekistan or, for that matter, Detroit. She’s right, of course—the worse something is in the moment, the better the story when you get home. So for those people who look at a warehouse full of rotting human sewage and see an interesting way to spend an afternoon, I also included some places that would be impossible to visit even if you were intent on finding the bright side in everything, like the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago, or the bottom of the Kola Superdeep Borehole. It might seem pointless to say that you shouldn’t go to a place like Io, Jupiter’s least hospitable moon—but look at it this way: when someone publishes 1,001 Places In Space To See Before You Die, the pressure will be off.

No matter what type of traveler you are, I invite you to take a break from your other to-do lists and spend a moment being grateful for some of the things you’re not doing. Then, when you’re ready to hit the road, leave behind your list of 1,001 Places You Must Pee,* and give yourself a chance to come up with some experiences of your own.

Travel should be an adventure, not an assignment—and if you spend your vacations armed with too many checklists, you’re missing the point of leaving home.


Testicle Festival

Forget apple pie. Few foods are as uniquely American as the Rocky Mountain Oyster, a euphemism that refers not to a high-altitude mollusk, but to the testicles of a bull. Also known as cowboy caviar and Montana tendergroin, these balls can be boiled, sautéed or even eaten raw, but they’re usually treated more like chicken — breaded and deep-fried.

There are also few things more American than eating competitions, so it should come as no surprise that each summer offers opportunities to prove your manhood by stuffing your face with gonads. I appreciate the pun of the “Nuts About Rocky Mountain Oysters” competition that occurs annually in Loveland, Colorado. But the award for Best in Show goes to the Testicle Festival, held each year at the Rock Creek Lodge near Missoula, Montana. Started in 1982, it is America’s premier venue to chow down on balls.

When the festival first began, it drew about 300 people. But these days the crowd has grown to 15,000 and the debauchery has expanded to a weekend full of wet t-shirts, impromptu nudity, and an Indy 500-inspired race called the “Undie 500″ — all natural evolutions of an event whose tagline is “Have a Ball.” Try your hand at Bullshit Bingo, a larger-than-life — and quite literal — game of chance where every time a bull shits on the giant bingo card, someone wins $100. Or support the event’s alternate title — the Breasticle Festival — by signing up for the Biker Ball Biting Competition, where girls riding on the backs of Harleys race to snag a Rocky Mountain Oyster off a string without using their hands. There are belly shots. There’s “No Panty Wednesday.” And, of course, there are Rocky Mountain Oysters themselves, more than 50,000 pounds of them, greasy, disgusting — and USDA-approved.


The Beijing Museum of Tap Water

When you’re dealing with two languages as different as Chinese and English, it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation. Handicapped bathrooms are occasionally referred to as “Deformed Man End Places.” In Dongda, the proctology center used to be known as the Anus Hospital. But some bizarre titles are exactly what they sound like. Case in point: the Beijing Museum of Tap Water.

The history of Beijing’s tap water dates back to 1908, when the Empress Dowager Cixi supported a plan to build a water system for Beijing. The museum, however, is a recent addition — it’s the result of a 2001 edict requiring that 150 new museums open in Beijing by 2008. As any curator can attest, 150 is an awful lot of new museums to build in seven years. The result: in addition to tap water, Beijing also now has museums devoted to honeybees, red sandalwood, and goldfish.

Housed in a former pump house, the tap water museum starts with the founding of Beijing’s first water company — the Jingshi Tap Water Co. — and features artifacts like vintage water coupons and a stethoscope used to listen for water leaks. It also boasts not just 130 “real objects,” but 110 pictures, 40 models, and a miniature tap water filtration system. Step aside, Forbidden City.

The weirdest thing about museum, though, is that the substance it’s meant to commemorate — clean tap water in Beijing — doesn’t actually exist. Yes, in 2007 Beijing was the first Chinese city whose water officially passed a test for 106 contaminants. But thanks to the condition of the pipes transporting it from stations to people’s taps, it’s still unsafe to drink.


An overnight train in China on the first day of your first period.

June 16th, 1991 was Father’s Day. It was also the day I got my period for the first time, and it occurred right in the middle of a family vacation to China — a 3-week self-guided journey with my parents and my mom’s 70-year old friend Betty.

I was mortified. To make things worse, the hotel we were in didn’t have sanitary supplies, and in China at the time it was difficult to find a store opened to foreigners at all, let alone one with Western toiletries. Had we been in America, the next step would have been for us to go to a drug store together where I, too embarrassed to pick out sanitary products myself, would inspect the toothbrush display as my mother yelled questions from the next row over like “Scented or non-scented?” and “Do you want wings?” Instead, my mother convinced me to allow her to tell Betty; the two conferred in hushed tones and, when back in my room, Betty rummaged through her toiletry bag and presented me with a Depends.

Wearing an adult diaper as a twelve year-old added insult to the injury of menstruation, and our itinerary only made things worse. Presumably if we’d been sticking around at our hotel, we would have been able to find maxi-pads somewhere in the city before Betty’s supplies ran out. However, my parents, eager for an authentic, self-guided China experience, had arranged for us to get on a train to a city twenty-three hours away. No sooner had we left for the station than my body, unsatisfied with the humor of me simply menstruating on a Chinese train, broke out in hives. My mother gave me two extra strength Benadryl, I stumbled to the train platform with my parents and woke up three hours later on an upper bunk in a moving train, in a car with vomit stains on the carpet and circles at the end of each bed where people’s heads had wiped away the dirt. My parents and Betty were giggling on the bunks below me as they played bridge and drank tea they’d brewed from water and Johnny Walker Black. I needed to use the bathroom.

I slid off the top bunk and unlatched the door to our cabin to find the toilet but my mother stopped me before I could leave.

“It’s clogged,” she said. “Betty and I tried to use it and it smells so bad, we almost threw up.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Do what we did,” said my mother, which was greeted by tipsy laughter from Betty and my father. “Pee in this.”

My mother then handed me a zip-loc bag.

What bothered me about this was not so much the fact that my mother was telling me to urinate into a freezer bag, but rather, how I could do so with my father in the room. Holding the empty bag, I glared at my mother, glanced at my father, and then glared at her again until she realized what I was trying to communicate.

“Richard, go out in the hall. Catherine needs some privacy.”

With my mother and Betty playing cards in front of me, I squatted down, pulled down my pants, pushed aside my diaper, and peed into the bag, trying my best to keep my balance on my heels as the train rocked back and forth.

“I don’t want it,” my mother said when I tried to hand it to her. “Give it to your father.” I slid the door open and found him standing in the hallway watching rice paddies out the window. A childhood polyps operation gone awry left him with no sense of smell, so he took the bag when I offered it and carried it down the hall to the bathroom. He stuffed the bag down the toilet with a hanger, it burst upon the tracks, and he returned to our cabin to finish his tea.

When we arrived at our hotel in Beijing the next day, my family’s first destination was the Summer Palace. My first destination was the bathroom, a squat building a short, urine-scented walk away from the park entrance. Inside, a long row of waist-high, doorless stalls subdivided a porcelain trough pitched slightly toward one end of the room, over which women squatted on their heels, bottoms bared to the world. Some read magazines; most held tissues clamped to their noses to keep out the stench. Driven by the pressure of my bladder and the presence of my Depends, I ignored the smell and forged ahead toward the end of the room, picking the last stall so that I would be exposed to the fewest number of people possible. I glanced around to see if anyone was watching and yanked my pants to my knees, realizing only when I looked down that my stall was downstream from the other seven.

The second thing I noticed was that my period had stopped—apparently it had decided that two and a half days was sufficient for a first-time visit. This filled me with joy until I realized that, now that I had begun to ovulate, it would return once a month for the rest of my child-bearing years. When I looked up to the ceiling in a “Why, God?” moment, my eyes were stopped half-way by a third realization: despite my attempts at seclusion, the other women in the room had seen me enter. Curious about what a Caucasian twelve-year old would look like while urinating, several had walked up to where I was squatting and were standing next to my stall, giggling behind their tissues as they stared at my naked backside. I felt self-conscious enough simply being an American in China but being watched in a bathroom while wearing a diaper was as embarrassing as going bra shopping with my father. I pulled my pants up and they scattered back to their places in line as I pushed past them, ashamed. If this was what it meant to be a woman, I wanted to go home.

Post script: I returned to China in the summer of 2002 and am happy to report that train travel has remarkably improved. Unfortunately, however, my bottom is still considered a tourist attraction — when my friend and I visited a public squat toilet, we looked up to find a group of women taking photographs.



Dear 2.6 million residents of Nevada:

It’s not my fault. When I asked friends and family to suggest places not to see before you die, six people independently insisted that I include the entry state of Nevada as an entry in the book. “But what about the salt flats?” I protested. “Or Red Rock Canyon? Or the Nevada State Mining Championships, held each year in Tonopah? There are good things in Nevada! And besides, people in Nevada buy travel books!”

But these friends didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to talk about the heat, the emptiness, the atrocity that is Lake Las Vegas, the nuclear waste, the alien sightings, the fact Criss Angel calls it home. So for them, the Nevada haters, I am including this entry. Please forgive me.

A. The Vegas Strip.

There are many, many things to dislike about the Las vegas Strip, the main drag of Sin City that’s known for its casinos, clubs, and, in the case of the Bellagio Hotel, a dancing fountain show set to “Lick Be a Lady Tonight.” Complete with fake Statue of Liberty, the Strip is also an example of Americans’ willingness to accept reporductions of famous sights as adequate alternatives to the real thing. (“It’s just like the one in New York City!” I heard a woman say, pointing at a replica of the Eiffel Tower.)

Some of the Strip’s theme hotels are fun to walk around in, like the Venetian or Mandalay Bay. But most have no redeeming qualities. Consider the Luxor, a giant black pyramid guarded by an enormous sphinx. Despite having only opened in 1993, it has already managed to achieve an authentic feeling of decay, with dark hallways, faded faux-hieroglyphics, and an unstable railings that provide only the slightest protection against falling hundreds of feet onto the casino floor. The result is impressive, even for Vegas: a building that combines the dispair of an existential crisis with the ambiance of a parking garage.

B. Nuclear Fallout.

Nearly 80 percent of Nevada belongs to the federal government, which decided to take advantage of its vast deserts not for nuclear explosions. Pockmarked with craters and larger than Rhode Island, the Nevada Test Site is the most notorious of the government’s testing grounds. Between 1951 and 1992, it was home to more than one thousand nuclear detonations. While the tests’ full fallout, if you will, remains unclear, in 1997 the National Cancer Institute concluded that atmospheric tests done in the area had contaminated large parts of the country with radioactive iodine-131 in quantities big enough to produce ten thousand to seventy-five thousand cases of thyroid cancer. I consider that reason enough not to visit. But others disagree—and for them, the U.S. Department of Energy has joined forces with NTS to offer free monthly tours.

C. Nuclear Garbage Dumps.

When you do that much nuclear testing, you have to have someplace to put your garbage, for a long time, the plan was to dump it at Yucca Mountains, conveniently located within the Nevada Test Site. Designed to hold more than seventy thousand tons of nuclear waste, the mountain seemed ideal: no one lives around it, its water table is deep, and besides, it’s in a location already contaminated by nuclear waste. The federal government spent more than two decades—and billions of dollars—hollowing out the mountains in America’s largest-ever public works project. Then in 2009, the project was scrapped. No one yet knows where America’s homeless nuclear waste is going to end up (its eventual location will be another place not to visit), but in the meantime, there’s at least one good reason to abandon Yucca Mountains: in 2007, geologists realized that part of the complex was situated directly on top of a fault line.

D. Aliens.

Living in Nevada can make a person paranoid. If the government already used the state to test nuclear bombs, goes the logic, who’s to say it’s not up to other things? For example, concealing evidence of alien landings. Don’t believe me? Go to Rachel, Nevada, a tiny town—or, rather, trailer park—some sixty miles from the nearest gas station on a road whose official nickname is the Extraterrestrial Highway. Tucked next to the mysterious Area 51 (a top-secret air force base), it’s a mecca for some of America’s most fervent believers in extraterrestrial life. And Rachel encourages them—its official Web site lists its population as “Humans 98, Aliens ??” and sings on telephone poles advertise an alien-sighting hotline. These days the town’s main gathering place—and only business—is a motel called the Little A’Le’Inn, where visitors gather to swap stories of alien sightings over burgers and cups of coffee. It’s worth a visit, but be careful—if you stick around long enough you have a high chance of being invite over to someone’s house to watch home movies of UFOs.


Any bathroom at winco foods

Nothing more to say.


The Park Slope food co-op

Wednesday 28 August, 7:30pm
I sit on a folding chair in a circle of would-be members, sneaking handfuls of free whole-wheat pretzels as I wait my turn to speak. The twenty-three other people at the orientation with me are fresh-faced and earnest, dressed in shades of Lands End and L.L. Bean. When asked their reasons for joining, they mention things like community involvement, raw food diets, and fighting against capitalist systems of consumption.

“I want to join the Park Slope Food Co-op,” I say, “because, well, I guess I just want to buy good food at low prices.” I glance around nervously—should I mention the Man?—but the orientation leader smiles.

I have my photograph taken for my membership card, without which I won’t be allowed to shop. This card is linked to a computerized record of my attendance for my mandatory, monthly two-and-three-quarter hour workshifts. My ID card also shows my member number, which corresponds to a hand-written 4×6 index card holding a back-up record of my history as a Co-op member. I pay my fees, sign up for a work squad, and pick up my complimentary, reusable mesh grocery bag.
And now I am a member, eligible to buy unlimited organic produce at only 20% above cost.

Saturday 6 September, 10:34am
It is my first visit to the Co-op. I swipe my identity card at the front desk, hand-select my silken tofu, and am ready to pay—a three-step process involving: a) waiting on the checkout line (where a worker rings up your groceries, but you can’t pay); b) waiting on the cashier line (no credit or debit cards, only cash or check); c) waiting on the exit line to have both receipts checked and stamped by a “door worker.”

Not knowing that there is only one checkout line and that it starts inconspicuously next to the toilet paper, I walk directly up to the next available counter and cut a line so long that it snakes through the frozen food aisle, around the corner, and into bulk spices. These Co-op members do not respond kindly to my mistake. “You just cut the entire line,” sneers a mother of twins in Dansko clogs as she maneuvers her cart in front of mine. “Next time, look behind you.”

Thursday 26 September, 8:37pm
It is my first workshift. I have signed up to work as a cashier, taking people’s money after the checkout workers have totaled their groceries. It is an elite position, I am told, since cashiers are the only Co-op workers who actually handle cash. Two and a half hours later, I am triple counting pennies in a windowless basement room. In Co-op terms, an “elite” job is not a positive term.

Thursday 31 October, 7:22pm
It is Halloween. This month I am working at the front door, swiping membership cards. Halfway through the shift, sick of announcing to people that they are on “work alert” for missed shifts, I switch roles with my co-worker, Elga. Now I am head trick-or-treat coordinator, responsible for giving rewards to a costumed parade of pesticide-free children. Other shops, aware of the age-old fear of razor blades embedded in unwrapped treats, are handing out tootsie rolls and mini-Snickers bars. We are handing out apples.

A small, androgynous fireman/bear walks up to me and extends its jack-o-lantern bucket.

“He’s adorable,” I say to the fireman bear’s mother, just as her child picks my apple out of the bucket and puts it back on the counter.

“I want chocolate,” it says.

“We’re not giving out chocolate.”

“I want chocolate,” s/he repeats.

“We only have apples.”


“I don’t understand,” says the mother. “She’s been organic since birth.”

Thursday 31st October, 9:01 pm
I am still at the Co-op, three hours after my workshift began, in a meeting led by Roger, my squad leader. Roger ends his emails to our shift with the tagline, “Yours in cooperation” and loves holding post-work-squad chats in the childcare room, where he has just told us that we will have to reschedule our next two months’ work shifts since they fall on Thanksgiving and Christmas. He then invites us to his annual wassailing party. I suggest that we go to his party, skip our workslots, and get drunk on eggnog instead. Elga is the only one who laughs.

Friday 29 November, 3:59pm
This time I try working checkout, scanning shoppers’ purchases before they proceed to the cashier. I’m checking people out in both senses of the term, but unfortunately, it turns out that most Co-op members are either married, with child, or vegan.

My first customer is middle-aged woman with short, spiked hair and a T-shirt with a crossed-out image of George W. Bush.

“I know I had a coupon for soy crisps,” she says, pulling her wallet out of her bag and rifling through it. “I know it’s in here. I brought it in here for the soy crisps.”

At first, I don’t respond; in my experience, co-op members frequently talk to themselves.

“Where is that coupon? I know I put it in here. It’s for soy crisps. Where is it?”

“Are you sure you brought it?” I ask, keying in 94011: organic bananas.

“Oh, I brought it all right. I must have dropped it.”

I look at the contents of the woman’s cart. There are no soy crisps. I point this out to her, but she isn’t dissuaded, still poking through her wallet as the seconds tick by.

“And you know what the worst part of this is?” She glances up at me, eyes gleaming. “I’m missing my yoga class right now. Disco yoga.”

“Disco yoga?”

“Oh, yes.” She leans closer in to me, conspiratorially. “But you wouldn’t understand. You’re not a disco duck.”

Friday 26 December, 2:38pm
“I’m sorry, honey, I’ve only got eighty dollars,” says the woman at my checkout station, pushing a shopping cart overflowing with Peace Cereal, Chicken-Free Nuggets, and Saw Palmetto Extract—”For a Healthy Prostate.” The checkout line, which feeds all eleven checkout desks, starts too far away for people to see what is happening at my station. But still. I have only gotten through her cart’s top basket and already she is at $65, with multi-vitamins and grass-fed meat still to be scanned.

Sure enough, five boxes of soymilk and one free-range chicken later, she is at eighty-two dollars. But instead of admitting defeat, she begins to re-evaluate her priorities.

“Do me a favor, honey, and unscan one of those soymilks.” I press “Item Void’ on my screen, scroll through the list of products I’ve already scanned, and deduct one box of “Vita-Soy” from her receipt.

“And take off the chicken. And the bee pollen.” Item Void, scroll, delete.

“No, wait, maybe I need the soymilk. Put that one back on. Take off the kale.” Done.

“Or, wait, maybe the daikon.”

“Give up!” I want to yell. “You have over $200 worth of groceries in this cart! You are only fooling yourself!” But that is not the Co-op’s way.
Seventeen minutes pass as we scan and unscan soymilk, rearrange groceries, discuss her food priorities, talk about her recipe for protein shakes, and ignore the distant checkout line, which has again leaked past biodegradable household cleansers and into frozen foods.

Thursday 23 January, 6:22pm
To The Man Who Brought 47 Items To My “Express” Line And Then Went On Seven Separate Trips Back Into The Store For Items He “Forgot” While I Sat Passively At My Checkout Station, Killing Time By Reading The Ingredient Label On His Organic Omega-3 Mayonnaise With Flaxseed Oil: I hate you.

Thursday 20 February, 8:31pm
I have missed my work slot. As a penalty, I have to work two makeups by my next shift. If I don’t, I will have a ten-day grace period before being suspended from shopping. So will my housemate Max, who is also a Co-op member. Although we don’t share food, our address shows that we are part of the same household, and he will be found guilty by association.

Sunday 23 February, 3:37pm
I am late for my make-up shift and by the time I’ve signed the attendance log, all of the checkout workers have already been relieved. I am about to cross my name off the list and come back another time when an idea hits me: I have already signed in. The store is crowded. I could walk out without doing my work slot and no one would ever know.

I pat myself on the back for my brilliance and reward my ingenuity by shopping for my own groceries before slipping out the door. While on the line to pay, I overhear a man say that he is the squad leader, that they don’t need any more workers, and that he himself is so busy that he doesn’t know when he’ll take attendance. “Sweet,” I think to myself. An alibi.

Wednesday 26 February, 4:55pm
I am still congratulating myself on my cunning when I stop by the Co-op for bananas.

“You’re on work alert,” the front desk worker tells me.

“Oh, no, I’m not really,” I say. “I did my work slot Tuesday. They must just not have gotten into the system yet.”

The worker looks skeptical, but waves me by.

Friday 28 February, 7:25pm
I am still on work alert.

If this doesn’t get cleared up soon, I’m going to have to go to the office.

Monday 3 March, 7:02 pm
The Food Co-op’s office is on the second floor of the building, up a stairway flanked by bulletin boards of advertisements (yoga and pilates, mostly, plus lots of apartment shares with “cat lovers”), past the childcare room and the handicapped accessible ramp. Lists of workslots cover the walls, and several full-time office workers sit behind iMacs at a long, outward facing table next to a cabinet holding members’ hand-written permanent files.

It doesn’t even occur to me to tell the truth.

An office worker named Autumn listens to my story and pulls out the attendance log for my supposed makeup shift. Scanning down the names, I recognize my handwriting and point triumphantly to my name, only to notice on second glance that it has a line through it.

“That’s weird,” I say. “That’s my name, but it’s crossed out.”

“Are you sure you worked the whole shift?” asks Autumn, looking up at me. It is my last chance at honesty.

“Yup. I’m sure I did,” I say. “I worked checkout.”

“Huh, that’s funny.” Autumn is now looking at a hand-scribbled note below my name. “It says they tried to find you to take attendance, but couldn’t.”

My heart begins to beat faster.

“And then this says . . . this says, ‘Tried to page member on intercom but had no response. Can only assume that member did not work shift.’” She looks up at me again.

“That’s so funny,” I repeat, as if the whole concept of the Food Co-op were one big, hysterical joke. “I guess it’s just that when I’m working checkout, I, you know, totally space out!” I wave my hands in the air in front of my face to indicate “spaceiness.” But Autumn doesn’t see me, because she is looking back down at the note.

“It says here that they paged you six times,” she says. “You’re saying that you didn’t hear any of them?”

Six times? The intercom speakers are directly above the checkout area! Granted, most of the pages are from perky-voiced people looking for asagio cheese and/or trying to hitch rides to Cobble Hill, but still. I decide to call in my alibi. “I talked to the squad leader, though. He said it was a really crazy day!”

“Oh, you talked to the squad leader?” Autumn says, her face a ray of hope. “I can just give him a call and ask if he remembers you.”

I try to protest, but Autumn is already on the phone, leaving a message for a man I have never actually met. What’s more, she has called in Maureen, a permanent staff member who has been hardened by full-time work with evasive members. I have seen Maureen in action and have no doubt that she is personally responsible for the scathing front page article in the last week’s Co-op newsletter, The Linewaiters’ Gazette, about a member who got kicked out for lying to the administrative board. She terrifies me.

Autumn shows Maureen the handwritten note, tells her my story, and both look up at me with critical, quizzical expressions. I smile meekly.
“It can be hard to hear the speakers over the noise at checkout,” Maureen says in an unexpected act of kindness, her eyes piercing my guilty soul. “Just don’t let it happen again.”

Saturday 8 March, 11:11am
The Co-op is eight blocks from my home. Steve’s C-Town, on the other hand, is five, and sits directly across the street from my gym. Can I help it if sometimes I step inside?

What worries me is not the act itself, but how good it makes me feel. I walk slowly down the produce aisle, admiring the apples’ glossy, waxed skin shimmering in the store’s florescent lights, the same lights that shine upon Boar’s Head cold-cuts, Jell-O Pudding Snacks and junk food made with genetically modified corn. There aren’t any membership cards to swipe—Steve’s C-Town is no gated community—and my fellow shoppers’ carts burst with mini-donuts, rib-eye steaks, and sausage.

When it is time to leave, I browse through sex tips in Cosmopolitan and impulse buy Dentyne Ice from a disaffected clerk while standing in a single line to both check out and pay. The air smells of raw chicken. Ambrosia.


A hostel in lithuania with square sheets

Dear hostel managers: Is this a prank?


All John Deere all the time…

In July of 1996 I was grieving the recent death of my mother after her 18 month battle with cancer. Needing to run away for a weekend I got in the car and started driving west from Dundee, IL. At some point I decided to head towards the farm where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed. It is one of my all time favorite films and I thought it would be a nice distraction. It was, for about an hour. I then realized I was literally in the middle of the corn fields with little else to do. So I made my way back towards the expressway looking for something to do when I discovered the National Farm Toy Museum. It delivered what it promised, a warehouse sized building containing room after room of farm toys. Not actual farm equipment or farm animals but farm toys. Miniature tractors, trucks, and all sorts of equipment I was completely unfamiliar with. Being farm toys the signature green and yellow colors of John Deere seemed to permeate every square inch of the ‘museum’. Being a Chicago Bears fan being in proximity to this much green and gold (Packer colors) made me uncomfortable and a bit itchy. After spending an hour or so wandering the rooms, enjoying the air conditioning and wondering who on earth would have found the need to dedicate an entire museum to farm toys I headed to my hotel for a much needed nap. This is certainly an experience I would recommend avoiding if at all possible.


Hot Springs

Hot springs in Colorado are really cool. With their mineral water and natural warmth, they chase away the cold you often feels in the mountains. Springs are especially good after a day of skiing or snowboarding, unless the springs happen to have a rather smelly additive. I’ve been told that the sulfur is “good” for your skin. Let’s face it; it smells really bad. Here’s the kicker, people, including me, pay to spend time in the smelliest bath in Colorado. I’ll admit that the owners have expanded to make the springs more attractive to tourists, but you can smell the place from a mile away. When you leave, you smell like sulfur, even after a shower. My best advice . . . use their towels.