The List Itself


A new line item for the list — and this time, it’s the first item about cutting something out:

* Try to stay offline on the weekends.

There’ve been a lot of articles recently about how computer use fragments your thinking or disinvolves you from the world around you or prevents you from effectively sleeping or… I’ve been thinking about them more and more. I do fall into the “let me just surf the web” trap when it comes to trying to find something to do, and I do that more often than I’d like.

Ten years go, before the Web got as big as it is now, I did a lot more. I wrote a hell of a lot more. It was harder to do research – and I would never want to give up the access to information that I have now — but there weren’t as many web pages to goof off on, and I had more brainspace to focus on what it was I was writing.

But today my thinking is a lot more fragmented, and my writing voice is noticeably more…mundane. I don’t take the time to find the right words any more — mainly because it’s too easy to just write something half-assed and then go surf some.

So I’m thinking that I need to get into a “web-free weekend” habit. Unless I am researching something for myself, I will simply not log on to the web on the weekends. Check email, sure; but the New York Times online and Metafilter and IMDB and Facebook and Ravelry and all the other time sinks I’ve been playing on? No more. Save that for the weekdays. Take back some of that time to go see movies rather than read about them, to knit rather than hit up Ravelry, to see friends in real life rather than on Facebook.

I think I just found the Master’s Program for me.

It’s tough for an older student to go back to school; it’s got to be a serious commitment. And — it’s one I have neither time nor money for. Plus, I hadn’t quite made up my mind what I would get a Master’s in.

However – I think I’ve found something that could cover all bases quite nicely. Columbia University has a really incredibly intensive crash course in the publishing industry — which lasts only six weeks, and only costs $5,000.

And…most importantly, it’s something I could see myself doing. Maybe not this year or next, but…very soon.

Another new list item —

* Compete in one of Matt Timm’s food takedowns again – and win.

I first heard of Matt Timms’ takedowns a couple years ago, when I first moved to Brooklyn — I got a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, because I’m just plain addicted to their annual cherry blossom festival, and as such started attending a lot more events; including their annual fall Chili Pepper Festival. Along with the other events on the chili pepper program was a chili cookoff — overseen by a tall lanky guy with wild hair, featuring five people dishing out little Dixie cups of their creations to all comers so we could vote.

I was charmed enough to stick around for when they announced the winners to see what they won — they got a little certificate and bragging rights, basically. The winner had also been in other such cookoffs Matt Timms ran, I learned — Timms wasn’t part of the garden staff, he was someone who just threw chili cookoffs for fun, mainly at Brooklyn bars.

This was pretty intriguing, and I signed up for the mailing list.

And then I learned they were expanding the kinds of cookoffs. First I heard of a cookie bakeoff…then a fondue cookoff…and then, a year ago, I heard about a bacon cookoff.

Something made me sign up to be in it, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to actually make. I wanted something that was fairly unique — something involving candied bacon in some way — but every time I came up with an idea (bacon peanut brittle, bacon candy popcorn) I would go online and learn someone else already had done it. So in the end, I just took a cookie recipe I’ve made before to great success, involving apples, nuts, and a caramel topping, and swapped the nuts out for candied bacon bits and called it a day.

When I showed up, I set up between two other competitors — on my left was a guy who’d made a Sloppy Joe kind of thing involving lots of bacon mixed in with the ground beef, and a sort of cream sauce drizzled on top of each sandwich which had been spiked with bacon salt. To my right was a guy who had cured his own bacon, and told me how he built the smoker in his back yard in Park Slope and smoked it for three days.

I just nodded, impressed, and thought to myself, “well, I’m CLEARLY not going to win.”

But it was wildly fun. The turnout was one of the hugest ones they’d ever had, with about 400 people showing up, including many members of the media. A reporter from Good Morning America was even there with a camera crew, and stopped by my stand for a few seconds to get a shot of herself thrusting one of my cookies at the camera and chirping, “Caramel Apple Bacon Cookies, folks!” while I just smiled knowingly.

They let the media folks hit us up first before letting in the crowds of taste-testers. And then it was a total blur of people shuffling by and picking up a cookie each. Some took a bite right away and nodded thoughtfully, some saved it to eat after the pile of other things already on their plates. In addition to my cookies and the other guys’ meat things, there were bacon truffles, bacon tamales, bacon tacos, bacon cake, bacon lettuce Thai spring rolls…one taster even told me about bacon bourbon ice cream, saying that that ice cream and my cookie would make a killer ice cream sandwich.

In the end, as I guessed, I did not win. But the ice cream won the popular vote (and a local blogger got the recipe for her coverage of the event, so I can make that sandwich).

The Takedowns are becoming a huge thing, now — the winners now get a bit more swag, and — blessedly — also get some help procuring the amount of food they need for their creations. I wanted to try the grits takedown they had recently, but life and time got in the way.

But I think I need to head back and try another time.

New addition to the list!

* I want to learn how to ride a horse.

Okay, I admit that this is fueled firstly by the horse-mad phase I went through when I was eleven, and secondly by watching Lord Of The Rings again. But there’s bound to be a way I can learn that.

I’ll probably be adding to this list a lot, but for the time being, here’s what we’ve got. 

Some of the items in here are really clearly beyond the reach of most humans even in the best of circumstances — but I am listing them anyway.  Better for me to add something to the list and try for it anyway, even though I know it’s impossible, than to decide to leave the “impossible dreams” off and then convince myself that something is “impossible” and never end up trying it.

* Learn the bodhran.

I already know piano – sort of – but the piano is not the most portable of instruments.  However, I also found myself getting into Phil Collins’ music a lot when I was growing up, and there was a lot of crossover between piano and drums — I played air drums about as much as I played piano.  Granted, a drum kit isn’t all that portable either — but the Irish bodhran, a hand-held drum, is.  I have one, and right now pretty much all I do is whack it to play along with things like Solsbury Hill or In The Air Tonight.  I should probably learn a bit more.

* See the damn Perseids.

In 2009 I tried driving out to Jones Beach in the pre-dawn to watch the Perseid meteor shower — but the car broke down rather disastrously, and I missed it, arriving at the beach about a half-hour after dawn broke, long enough for me to watch the sunrise and feel whiningly sorry for myself.  The good thing about the Perseids, though, is that they happen annually — and I really doubt I’d have bad enough luck to have two cars break down on me two years in a row.

* Round up friends for a fancy-dress outdoor tea party in Prospect Park, complete with croquet.

I spoke with one of my friends today, and told him about this goal.  He looked a little puzzled, and my only explanation was “imagnining what you’d look like in seersucker just is…entertaining.”

* Write a story for some part of the Doctor Who franchise — radio, print, graphic novel, or even television.

The relaunch of Doctor Who has really claimed 50% of my television viewing — to the point that I’ve imagined a couple scenarios.  …Then when a friend of mine said that one of his high school friends actually wrote some radio scripts for Big Finish Productions in the 90’s, I realized — I have a connection.  I really need to build on this.

* Turn all my play t-shirts into a quilt.

For ten years, I was a theatrical stage manager.  For a couple of those years, it seemed every production I worked on presented all the members of the cast and crew with commemorative t-shirts as opening-night gifts.  But that was about eight years and two dress sizes ago, and I can’t wear them any more; and the designs are a little too esoteric for anyone unconnected with the show to udnerstand, so I really need to do something with them myself rather than donating them.

* Go on a self-guided inn-to-inn walking tour.

This is a European travel idea I’ve gotten hooked on the idea of; it’s a travel package where you’re booked for one night each at a series of hotels.  You spend your first night at one, and then in the morning your hosts give you a map and take your luggage.  Then, while you follow the map to walk to your second hotel, your hosts drive your luggage there to meet you.  You spend the night at the second hotel, pack up again and walk to your third…and so on.

Okay, it’s the lazy way to hike.  But I don’t know diddly about camping, and there are some wonderful packages out there, with itineraries carrying you through the French Alps and through rural Japan and the like.

* Pay off my debt.

About ten years ago – in the year following 9/11 — I had to live off my credit card because of a dearth of work.  I’ve been trying to pay that down ever since.  Being able to spend that much money on me again would make a huge impact.

* Kayak the full length of the Hudson River.

There are a couple of free kayak clubs here in New York, and I discovered one last year — and became very quickly hooked.  You wander up to where they’ve set up, and borrow one of their boats for a half hour — sticking to the one bay or cove they’ve set up in — for completely free.  By this year, I learned that the group considered me to be good at it — good enough to make me think a more ambitious trip is in order.

Kayaking the whole Mississippi would be a little ambitious — but the Hudson, now, that’s more like it.

* Wake up next to David Tennant.

…Don’t judge me.

* Read all 1001 of the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.”

You’ve seen this book out there — that list of the “1001 books”.  Here’s the secret I learned, though — if you went through high school in the United States, you’ve gotten a head start on this list.  Because you’ve probably read about five of those books already, just because they were assigned to you during Junior year English.

Another secret — some of those “books” are more like “pamphlets.”  Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal?  It’s only five pages long, and that counts as a “book.”  Honestly, this is so doable, I feel like telling everyone that they should just do this already.

* Camp in Yosemite.

I spent only two days visiting Yosemite about nine years ago — and it was nowhere near enough time.  But – the main valley floor also was a little too crowded, which is part of what drove me away.

So I want to go back again — only instead of spending two days and retreating to the youth hostel offsite the way I did last time, I want to stay right there, in some out-of-the-way corner, venturing into the Valley when I want but then retreating back to a tent I’ve pitched in a place only I know about.

* Camp at Floyd Bennett Field.

Of course, I have to have some practice camping first.  And this affords the perfect chance — a campground right here, where I live, in Brooklyn.  I could jsut make it an overnight, I could get there quickly, I could be close enough to civilization to be able to run out and get the cereal/milk/hot dog buns/whatever else I forgot.  The one and only time I camped before this was with my family when I was fourteen, and it was somewhat of a clusterfuck that I probably shouldn’t repeat.  This would be a good way to practice.

Plus — seriously, camping in Brooklyn.  You’ve gotta try it.

* Dress as Columbia for Halloween.

It’s been years since I saw a Rocky Horror Picture Show floor show — but to this day, I remember all of Columbia’s solo in “Time Warp”.  A couple years ago, my mother started giving my brother and I back some of the “stuff” we’ve left with her as Christmas Presents, as part of a hint to help her get it out of her house — and one of the things she gave me back was the pair of tap shoes I got for part of my theater training in college.  I was wondering what I’d do with them — then remembered that Columbia has a tap solo in “Time Warp” as well…and there you go.

* Round up friends for a trip to Shady Glen.

Shady glen is a diner near my Connecticut hometown, and I am convinced it makes the best cheeseburgers known to man.  I have for years been trying to explain to my friends in New York what these burgers are like.  But you can’t describe them — you have to taste them. 

This is for them.  They have to know.  I owe it to them.

* Sell some photos I’ve taken.

Photography is a hobby I’ve let slip — then hanging around with my friend Colin, who’s a fine photographer himself, inspired me to kick it back up again.  I’d love to get good enough that I can sell at least one thing as a stock photo.

* Get an essay published.

Actually, part of starting this blog is an effort to generate ideas for me to write essays about.

* Own a home.

* Own a car.

Both are kind of long-shots here in New York.  But — some friends do own cars, and I’ve been sort of a “parking babysitter” a few times — enough to appreciate what having a car would be like.

* Go Zorbing.

The first time I ever saw someone use a Zorb, it was when I saw Peter Gabriel’s last concert; he brought one onstage and sang the whole of his song “Growing Up” while rolling around on stage inside what looked, to me, like this enormous human hamster ball.  The second he started, my friends who’d come with me and I all turned to each other, and we all said, “I want one!”   

* Find the guy I had a crush on when I was twelve and catch up on how life has treated him.

Phil.  Phil and I were in the same Sunday school group when we were twelve, at our church, St. Margaret’s, back in Connecticut.  And we got pretty friendly in class, to the point that everyone teased us about being secretly in love.  We would furiously deny it — but I think that was partly because we were just so heartbreakingly innocent that we simply didn’t know that they were all absolutely right.  After that class session ended, Phil’s family started going to a different church — and I only saw him a couple times after that.  I think, though, if he’d stayed around, he would have ended up being my first boyfriend.

I’ve tried now and again to track him down, without much luck.  I really want to know whether life is treating him well.

* Learn to play pool.

Just because.

* Visit China.

My birthday falls in late February, usually around the same time as both Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year; so I usually fall back on one or the other as a theme for my celebrating.  My 39th birthday was the day before Mardi Gras, so I celebrated there — so I think it’s only fitting to take myself to China for one of my other birthdays.

* Be a live nude model for an art class.

…You know how I was talking about the kid I knew in Sunday School?  That was Sunday School at a Catholic church.  And if you grew up Catholic, there’s something a little delicious about transgressing things.  This seems a safe way to do just that.

* Own a cottage in Woodstock.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve listened to Van Morrison’s album Tupelo Honey too much, but the idea of having a retreat in Woodstock — which I’ve loved every time I’ve visited — just sounds so amazingly peaceful. 

* Rent a cottage on Cape Cod for either a week or a long weekend.

* Drag friends to the Boom Box Parade.

* Drag friends out to a u-pick stand.

* Throw a clambake.

A few of these are things that involve friends – they’re all things I’ve loved on my own that I want to share with others.

* Drive the length of Route 66.

* Drive the length of East Coast Route 1.

* Other Road Trips.

Two of the best vacations I’ve ever had were road trips – first one driving nearly-cross-country, from New York to Las Vegas, on a quest for kitsch that was an absolute BLAST; there is something really grand and epic and life-affirming about a road trip, even when you’ve hit that point that you’re totally lost in the middle of nowhere in Kansas and you’re having a meltdown in the lobby of a chicken restaurant because you don’t want to drive any more, god-dammit and it takes two waitresses and a trucker to calm you down.  (Um. Okay, maybe I said too much.)  The thing is, for every one of those lows, you also have a high where you’ve hit the interstate in Utah where the speed limit is 80, and you’ve dug out the mix tape with “Baba O’Reilly” on it and you can just FLOOR IT.

It’s a huge way to have an awfully big pioneering adventure and I need more of that.

* Spend a week on an English longboat.

These are those little floating houseboats that used to travel the canals in England, the ones that are like fairytale gypsy caravans only on water.  And that really sums it up — they’re like fairytale gypsy caravans, only on water.  That’s why I wanna go.

* Another trip to Chicago.

I’ve been once; I love New York City, but Chicago was a great place to visit; nearly all the architecture was right out of the Arts-and-Crafts/Prairie School period I love best.  Definitely worth another trip back.

…There’s going to be a lot more on this list over the course of my life, I’m sure, but this is a good place to start.