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60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For


The following risky activities, decadent foods, and otherwise foolhardy indulgences
are detrimental to your health. You will, however, not perish in vain.

1. Danger dogs.
The Tijuana delicacy -- a hot dog wrapped in
bacon, fried, and topped with mayo -- has
made its way to San Diego and Los Angeles,
sold from carts outside stadiums, clubs, and
wherever hungry drunks congregate. See
also:

2. Jersey breakfast dogs.


An East Coast derivative with scrambled
eggs and melted cheese.

3. Surfing Teahupoo, Tahiti.


Unbelievable swells that roll over a shallow
coral reef. Catch a wave and you're flying;
bail and you're bleeding.

4. Giving a buddy a kidney.


You only need one. Hopefully.

5. Black Cat espresso from Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea.


A triple. Note the exceedingly heavy body, with chocolate, caramel, and dried-fruit notes. Also
note that you're vibrating. That means it's working. intelligentsiacoffee.com.

6. Lyle Sankey's "Vision Quest" Bull Riding Adventure Experience, Branson, Missouri.
The Web site says it well: "We work hard to match the livestock with your abilities, but we can't
make you an athlete, change your mental or physical condition, or help you lose weight in a
three or four day session. Come into this realizing that Rodeo is NOT tee ball." Of course, if the
bull really pisses you off, you can seek revenge on his kind at the...

7. Bullfighting school at the California Academy of Tauromaquia.

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One of the only (legal) bullfighting schools in the country. Someone's getting wounded in this
battle. Hopefully, it's the bull. (Visit their Website for more information.)

8. Butter.

9. Drugs.

10. Cream puffs.


The best are available at the Wisconsin State Fair for two weeks every August.

11. Blowhole diving.


Jump in and get sucked by the current through tunnels forged over thousands of years of
erosion. Timing is everything. It should feel like being flushed down a toilet, not like smashing
your face on rock. Hone your skills at the "easy one" in Laguna Beach. (Ask a local.)

12. Punching Barry Bonds in the face.

13. A Little Downhill.

Hard: Corbet's Couloir, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


Congratulate yourself for nailing that 15-foot mandatory air at the top, but try not
to slam your skull into the soaring rock wall if you fail to wrench an immediate,
impossibly sharp left turn.

Harder: Silverton Mountain, Colorado.


The owners of this one-lift wonder hurl bombs to avoid avalanches, but that's the
extent of the pampering: no signs marking the claustrophobic glades and chutes
as narrow as coffins. Avalanche beacons and shovels required -- for real.

Downright nuts: Helicopter skiing the Chugach Range, Alaska.


Staring down the descents would terrify you -- if they didn't fall away in concave
pitches so steep you can't see them. Riders who wipe out tend to cartwheel a long
way because they're mostly falling in space, reconnecting with snow every 40 feet
or so.

-- Rob Story

14. Chopped Liver

I was not raised by daring Jews. Nor were they brainy and accomplished. This
Junior of Zion was saddled with no family legacy of piety, wisdom, or Talmudic
scholarship. My people were chosen for bubkes, peasants in both countries, Old
and New.

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I’ll tell you what we had: We had chopped liver. Hankering to defy death? Try
schmaltz, hard-boiled eggs, organ meat, and onions, all ground to a coarse pâté,
thumbed up from the bowl on thick heels of seeded rye. Add salt. Then we’ll speak
of risky feats and cardiologic derring-do.

Its earthy serf-feed roots are blatant -- no one ever kvetched, "What am I,
beluga?" -- and yet chopped liver lives on as a great delicacy savored wherever
Jews gather to fress like chozzerim -- which is, quite frankly, how Jews love to
eat. The last platter I devoured -- airy, creamy, nothing that my thick-fingered
Bubbe would have recognized -- was floating on a bed of lettuce in a poyer-free
deli in Beverly Hills. It certainly wasn’t bad -- gehakteh leber simply can’t be bad
-- but it wasn’t Gram’s.

Bad for you? Hell is yonder, full of hungry, heart-healthy bastards; heaven’s
hither, beaming from that laminated menu in your hands. Quick! Before that white-
smocked cossack comes to pump up the blood-pressure cuff.

-- Scott Raab

15. Smoking Cubans (In Cuba).

Until night, it's Guilt City, Havana. Especially from the top of the Parque Central
hotel, rising high and new out of the nearruins, with its rooftop pool and bar and
rich Germans browning in the last of the sun that's been cooking the poor
streetbounds since morning. After dark, it's easier to forget what surrounds you,
because you can't see the poverty; only the hotels stand out, like stars against the
night, foreign currency having trumped the day's electricity rations. In the
distance: the historic Hotel Nacional, where you wandered this afternoon on the
lazy hunt for cigars. Not Cohibas -- every fat-fuck turista down here smokes
Cohibas -- but a box of Sancho Panzas, cheap and creamy and drawing enough
heady smoke to begin choking out the last strains of ill feeling. The rum assists --
in mojitos, drunk through straws stuck in a pile of wet sugar at the bottom -- as
do the cheeseburgers, grind-house bloody, because there are no surgeons general
to mind your store in Cuba. Nobody cares if you die down here. And at last, just
now, spitting out the end of your night's fourth cigar, ordering another rummy
drink, your belly full and warm with still-kicking meat, you don't care, either.

-- Chris Jones

16. A night on the town with Kiefer Sutherland.

17. Deep-fried Twinkies.

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18. The schmaltz at Sammy's Roumanian, New York.


One tablespoon of pure rendered chicken fat contains nearly 13 grams of fat, 11 grams of
cholesterol, and 115 calories. Delicious on steak or drizzled over bread.

19. The Ramos ginfizz.


In a cocktail shaker, dissolve 1 tbsp sugar in 1 tbsp water. Add:

• 1 1/2 ounce Tanqueray gin


• 1/2 ounce lemon juice
• 1/2 ounce lime juice
• 1 ounce heavy cream
• white of 1 fresh egg
• 3 drops -- not dashes -- of orange flower water

Fill with cracked ice and shake lustily for a long, long time, and then strain into a tall glass. Add
1 oz chilled seltzer, stir briefly, and then smile.

20. Paragliding Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming.


Dangerously close to that wall we call the Grand Tetons. Especially if you lack knowledge of
tricky thermal currents.

21. Smashing the cameras of paparazzi mercilessly hounding Angie, Scarlett, or Halle.

22. Oysters Mosca at Mosca's in Avondale, Louisiana.


A baked casserole brimming with two dozen oysters in garlic and butter with a breaded topping.
A night ender.

23. Mountain biking in Moab, Utah.


Possible dehydration, heatstroke, and disorientation. Probably the most inspiring panorama
you'll ever see.

24. The Fat Darrell at the R. U. Grill & Pizza in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Considering his namesake sandwich is made up of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, and french
fries, it's a wonder that Darrell is still with us (and trim).

25. Testing your cold-weather driving skills in Arjeplog, Sweden.


Where auto engineers converge to drive at high speeds on frozen lakes. They seek automotive
innovation; you seek 75-mile-per-hour doughnuts. Beginners should first try the Porsche
Camp4 Colorado Winter Driving School -- ice slaloms in a 911 Carrera.

26. Combo No. 4 at the Varsity in Athens, Georgia.


For $6.90, you get a tray of Americana and grease: a chili cheese dog, a chili cheeseburger,
french fries or onion rings, and a medium drink. Upgrade to the Frosted Orange for 30 cents
more.

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27. The dark-chocolate-and-peanut-butter gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato in


New York.
laboratorio-delgelato.com.

28. The fugu (poisonous blowfish) tasting menu at Morimoto in New York and
Philadelphia.

29. Playing tackle football past the age of 25.

30. Narco Diving.

The Bahamian island of Andros is a sheer-walled skyscraper, lapped by the six-


thousand-foot-deep Tongue of the Ocean, where a diver can kick out a few yards
and fall right off the continental shelf. While the abyss is free to all, Small Hope
Bay Lodge offers a guided dive called Over the Edge of the Wall, down to 185 feet.
It's not for the impulse-control challenged; at that depth you will be thoroughly
narced, as in nitrogen narcosis, the dreaded Rapture of the Deep.

Why one gas should produce euphoria and another mere unconsciousness is not
easily explained. But at about a hundred feet, a strange sea change begins to
come over your brain, thanks to the increased partial pressure of nitrogen at
depth. The muted colors of dangling sponges and the melancholy shapes of
massive plate corals leap out at you, laughing. All at once, you're in on the cosmic
joke. Truly, you are tiny, so freaking tiny, yet oceanic in your newfound wisdom.
All is one -- and then some! Cap'n of the Good Skull Lollipop, you soar in space as
you slowly fall, blessing basses and wrasses and intoxicating gases. At last you
touch down on a little sandy ledge, a catwalk worthy of the north face of the Eiger,
overlooking blue-black inner space. You may ask yourself, referencing the Talking
Heads, How did I get here? And you may experience the profound confusion of an
honest philosopher, which some people do not enjoy. But Jerko -- it's just scuba
diving. You're only high, frying your synapses on pressurized dope. Confusion and
death await those who linger too long.

So don't. Head for the surface and you'll come down as you go up, into the
brilliant Bahamian light, no longer such a smarty-pants, perhaps, but still on
vacation.

-- Bucky McMahon

31. Getting a Road Job.

Sometime before you die, and potentially right before, you must enjoy a blow job
while driving a car in excess of eighty miles per hour. Everything about a blow job

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is better at high speed: the power, the thrill, the feeling you're about to lose
control and leave a memorable obituary. A few caveats: The interior design of
automobiles has changed since my road-job days, and it seems like it would be
impractical in these newfangled models with their obstructive cupholders. It won't
work in a Prius, for example, which is a damn shame, because imagine the self-
satisfaction of zero-population-growth sex with low carbon emissions. It would
probably work in a Hummer. Other considerations: It works best in the Great
Plains, where the highways are long and straight; it's safer, and more fun, in
broad daylight, particularly if you slow down as you pass a truck; and most
important, drinking and driving and dunking don't mix. I can't recall exactly how
you talk a woman into going down on you in a speeding car, though. I think it's
mostly hand gestures.

-- Larry Doyle

32. Carousing with the Mob.

It happened one night in a bar near the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg,
Russia. I was researching a novel and found myself deep in conversation with a
number of ballet dancers. Don't laugh. Dancers drink. Dancers smoke. Dancers
believe in the short life.

Two in the morning. We had all been overserved. It was time for one last song. I
closed my eyes and belted it out. The bartender grabbed me by the shoulder.
"Shut up," he said. I've heard the complaints before. "Shut the fuck up," he said.
"Look."

I turned and saw a number of impeccably dressed men walking into the bar. They
were packing guns. One of them stopped and stared at me. It was as if all the
oxygen was gone from the air. They cased the bar and abruptly left. I started
singing again. The bartender grabbed my arm. Seconds later the real mob --
without their well-dressed bodyguards -- walked in: fat and unshaven and scruffy.
Each had a bouquet of beautiful women on his arm.

"Leave," my ballet friends whispered. "Leave now -- and quietly."

I walked across the room. I picked out the meanest fucker of them all and
hunkered down beside him. He looked as if he'd just strangled Vladimir Putin's
mistress. There are times in life when we must throw out the anchor, even when
it's unattached to a rope. "You want to hear an Irish song?" I asked him. He
stared at me, his mouth quivering. I was suddenly quite sober. He took me by the
collar. I could feel my heart beating in my cheap white shirt. He said nothing but

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slowly broke into a grin.

The drunk man often navigates by the stars beyond the ceiling. Still to this day I
cannot remember what song it was I sang, but I do recall that fifteen minutes
later I was party to the spectacular sight of three great Kirov ballerinas dancing on
the long wooden table of the Shamrock Irish Bar on Dekabristov Street,
performing ballet moves with three very large Russian mafiosi, shots of vodka
thrown back and forth, and the dancers outlasting them, and outcharming them,
with ease.

As they left the bar -- it was five in the morning -- the Mafia leader put his arm
around me and said that he would help me if ever I was in trouble. "What do you
do?" I asked, trying hard to be naive. He turned and looked me straight in the
eye. "I am . . ." he said, stumbling toward the door, "...I am a Russian baby-
sitter."

-- Colum McCann

33. Drinking Alone.

I know that everything I'm about to say has already been said better by George
Thorogood. And listen, I aced health class back at Sedgwick Middle School, and so
I know that drinking alone means you're an alcoholic. I know too that being an
alcoholic is bad, that alcoholism turns you toothless and yellow and moaning in
the dark.

Until I was thirty, my biggest fear was that I'd end up drinking alone. Like every
day. Like full-time. But now I'm thirty-five. I've got a nearly regular job. I'm
married, and I've got a daughter. This means I'm almost never alone. And that's
great. That's the best thing that's ever happened to an idiot like me. And yet...and
yet...I miss drinking alone. I miss walking into a bar early and without intent. I
miss sitting there talking to no one. I miss ordering a Harvey Wallbanger only
because I've never had a Harvey Wallbanger and because I might never summon
the courage to order a Harvey Wallbanger in the company of others.

The more I think about it, my mistake was worrying too much about drinking
alone. I should've drunk alone more often. All the stupid things I've done...and no
one to see me do them. All the stupid things I've said...and no one to hear me say
them. Yeah, the drinking alone might end you early, but sometimes it sounds like
heaven.

-- Benjamin Alsup

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34. Refried doughnuts.


When and where can one sample the unholy union of Krispy Kreme and hot bacon fat? In your
kitchen, whenever you make one.

35. Duck-fat potatoes.


• 1 pound small red new potatoes (about 16), with strip peeled around center
• 4 tablespoons duck fat ($3 for 7 ounces; specialty supermarket or dartagnan.com)

Over low heat, melt duck fat in deep skillet with tightly fitting lid. Raise temperature to get hot.
Run potatoes under water, letting excess drain through colander. Transfer to skillet (water and
hot fat create splatter but also cooking steam; potatoes must be in one layer with enough room
to roll around) and quickly cover. Shake pan slightly to coat potatoes and cook until deep golden
and tender, about 18 minutes. Season abundantly with coarse salt and ground black pepper and
serve.

36. Bodysurfing the Wedge, Newport Beach, California.


When the Army Corps of Engineers installed a jetty on the north side of Newport Harbor, it
created a massive freak wave that peaks only a few times a year (primarily summer). A blessing
or a curse, depending on your skill level.

37. Speaking truth to power.


Thomas Becket. William Wallace. You.

38. The Carpetbagger steak topped with blue cheese, a fried oyster, hollandaise, and
caramelized onions at Jacques-Imo's in New Orleans, washed down with:

39. A "three-bagger" of Sazeracs at Tujague's.


Three strong rye-whiskey cocktails in a row at a bar with the perfect seedy charm.

40. Attending a Glasgow Rangers versus Glasgow Celtic soccer match.


Preferably in the Scottish Cup final. Imagine: Red Sox versus Yankees, if the ALCS involved
sectarian hatred, hooligan rioting, and the occasional death threat.

41. Fried dill pickles at Cock of the Walk in Natchez, Mississippi.

42. Secondhand smoking.


The smoker has the best stories, tells the best jokes, and laughs the hearty, hacking laugh of
someone wise beyond his dwindling years. If black lung by proxy is the price we must pay for
staying close to this dying breed, so be it.

43. A Home Firearm.

My entire life is a series of hedged bets. As the fifty-four-year-old dad of a seven-


year-old, I take no uncalculated risks. I don't let the gas-gauge needle fall below
the quarter-tank mark. I set the ADT alarm every night. You could not pay me to

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travel outside the northern half of the Western Hemisphere. Everywhere lurks
doom; I acknowledge its inevitability by avoiding all danger at every turn. When I
can, I avoid turns.

I spent a long time living dangerously. I was the guy they sent into the pharmacy
with the forged quaalude prescription. The guy who sold weed by the pound to the
outlaw bikers. The guy who ate ham-and-cheese sandwiches on Yom Kippur. Now
I'm the guy who insists that his wife clean the dryer vent twice a year so the lint
doesn't catch fire.

Still, a few feet from where I now sit typing on the third floor of our home in a
Garden State suburb of leafy calm sits my shotgun. The safety's on, but it is
loaded. I don't hunt. And though my penis would win no bar bets, the shotgun
doesn't make me feel larger. It is what it is: the most fearsome, effective, legal
home-protection device around. Is it a danger to me and mine as well? Many
studies say so, but I haven't seen a study yet that helps me get to sleep at night.

Call me crazy. Call me an ugly American. But don't expect me to call 911 if you
break into my house -- not till I've blown your head and neck clean off your
shoulders.

-- Scott Raab

44-48. The Five Most Decadent Burgers in the United States of America:

The cheeseburger at Shady Glen Dairy Stores in Manchester, Connecticut.


Four carefully arranged pieces of cheese extending far beyond the border of the
patty melt directly on the grill, creating a chewy crust that is as difficult to
describe as it is to digest. $4.95.

The original DB burger at DB Bistro Moderne in New York.


A sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffles. $32.

Denny's Beer Barrel Belly Buster at Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield,
Pennsylvania.
The world's biggest burger: 11 pounds of beef, 22 slices of cheese, three whole
tomatoes, and a jar's worth of pickles. No one person has ever finished it. $49.95.

The Krispy Kreme burger at the Gateway Grizzlies ballpark concession


stand in St. Louis.
A bacon cheeseburger with glazed doughnuts in place of a bun. A thousand-plus

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calories. Minor league gimmick; major league angina. $4.50.

The deep-fried hamburger at Dyer's Burgers in Memphis.


Instead of a grill, Dyer's uses a cast-iron skillet filled with grease. Old grease.
They've been using the same batch since they opened -- in 1912. $3.

Click the print button up there and take this with you the next time you're in Sin City.

49-59. The 18-Hour Vegas Vacation.

For each activity, multiply the time spent by 100 and subtract the total from your
life expectancy. Repeat twice annually until death.

• Sunning (sans sunscreen) to a robust burn while marinating in premium


tequila after dozing off at the pool: 1 Hour

• Chain-smoking unfiltered Kamel Reds to intimidate fellow poker players: 2


1/2 Hours

• Agonizing over minor scoring fluctuations in a meaningless NBA game: 2


1/2 Hours

• Devouring hare stuffed with duck confit and foie-gras-and-blood sauce


at Guy Savoy, not to mention the 12 other courses: 4 Hours

• Watching Cirque du Soleil's Love, at the Mirage. (No life sacrificed, just
dignity): 1 1/2 Hours

• Impersonating Nick Nolte with a bottle of Grey Goose at Tryst at the Wynn:
1 Hour

• Wandering downtown in search of the Four Queens, one of only two Vegas
casinos that still offer single-deck, 3-2 payoff, dealer-hits-soft-17 blackjack: 1/2
Hour

• Talking shit to strangers with unplaceable accents at the table while


alternating caffeinated and alcoholic drinks in ten-minute intervals: 3 1/4
Hours

• Threatening to exact bloody revenge on the firstborn child of a stingy


dealer: 1/2 Hour

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• Touching Brandie when it "feels rights" at Crazy Horse Too: 1 Hour (Ten
Songs)

• "Date" with suspiciously underdressed woman sitting alone at the hotel


bar: 1 Hour (Okay, 15 Minutes)

60. Directing.

A year ago, my twelve-year-old daughter, Chloe, was acting in my film RV. After a
long day, I said, "You know, Chloe, you're painfully opinionated and you boss
everyone around. You should be a director."

"No offense, Dad, but I'll stick to being a movie star," she said. "Directing looks
too stressful."

On the first movie I directed, The Addams Family, I ended up fainting when, after
a sleepless night, I thought I could maintain some sense of awareness the next
day by drinking nine straight espressos. When the head of Paramount Studios said
that it was unreleasable, I spent the night weeping on Sweetie's (the wife's) lap.
During Men in Black II, I was raced to the hospital with what I thought was a
heart attack. After spending the night in the emergency room next to a woman
whining, "I need quinine," I was given an echocardiogram and told that I was
simply suffering from stress and that I should get into a program of meditation. (I
didn't tell the doctor that I was meditating when the chest pain started.) On Wild
Wild West, I broke my hand in five places when I punched Will Smith's arm.

So why direct? It's the closest a guy like me will ever come to being a general. I
have a thought, and suddenly manly men are building gigantic sets. Plus, being
forced to make thousands of decisions a week on topics that you didn't know you
were ever going to need to have an opinion about (Lara Flynn Boyle's girdle comes
to mind) is exhilarating. I also get to send back cappuccinos because the foam
looks too much like a latte and work with people smarter than me, who make me
look good. If every couple of years I have a psychological breakdown, well, at
least I've got a thick head of foam on my cappuccino.

-- Barry Sonnenfeld

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