Friday, March 07, 2008

But What Do YOU Want to See Before You Die?

I'm finding this Althouse post and its comments sort of mesmerizing. As a general rule, I enjoy glancing through books like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Obviously, I'll never see all those places, but I never would've heard of some of them, either, if not for the book.

Althouse links to an article about the publishing trend toward these types of books, and mentions the oft-forgotten second half of the title: "Before You Die". The half I tend to ignore when I'm flipping through the pages.

In the comments, the discussion turns to the many ways it's possible to fully experience life without visiting your travel agent, book in hand. Several commenters get spiritual in a sort of "eastern" way, basically saying that life is an internal journey, not necessarily a global one. That people who sit still and reflect will learn more than those who jetset without stopping. They're not suggesting that travel is bad, but that blindly following a book's checklist without thought is not exactly the path to enlightenment.

In the middle of the comments, Althouse chimes in with a suggestion:
Maybe everyone should a list of 1000 things that you've found worth seeing within 20 miles of your home. And it's not a list for other people to do and check off. It's an exercise to teach yourself that you are completely in the fascinating world wherever you happen to be. (Excluding some disastrous places.)

Regular commenter Pogo starts listing right away with a couple of powerful (in the emotional way, not, like, the political way) people and places within a block or two of his house. Another regular commenter, Beth, who lives in New Orleans, relates this idea to her post-Katrina experience, watching well-loved institutions immediately or gradually disappear from her life. Both offer a pretty meaningful lesson in appreciation and not taking things for granted.

Obviously, this is about something bigger than food. But food has to be a part of it. For one thing, my list of 1,000 places to see about my home would certainly involve the inside of a lot of restaurants. Not necessarily the Petit Louises (what is the plural of Louis?) either. My list would say things like "See the deck of Carroll's Creek Cafe from a table with a bowl of cream of crab soup in front of you. Preferably on a Wednesday night so you can watch the races. Do this in May or June of 1996."

Beyond my own personal experiences, these days, you can't separate food from travel. It's everywhere you look. Between Bourdain and Zimmern and Samantha Brown and, well, everybody else on the Travel Channel, food and travel are increasingly tied together in the public mind - not just the minds of foodies who have been searching for the most "authentic" of whatever for a handful of years. It can't be long before we see a book called "1,000 Things to Eat Before You Die".

And these are those forces that drive me crazy - the ones that have led to "the insidious rise of cosmo-cuisine", to steal the Abdelnour title. I won't go off on my rant again, though. I've already said enough on that subject.

Finally, because this post is feeling a little heavy (and long) to's the "Stuff White People Like" take on it. It's funny. Because it's true.

1 comment:

John said...

I always avoid those types of books, because I get all ADHD'd trying to figure out how I actually could see all 1000 places, and then all depressed knowing that I never will.


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