What kinds of lists are these? Favorite? Best of? Sort of. This is a companion piece to 40, so it's more about meaningfulness and inside jokes and covering a range of experiences and places over 40 years. Order doesn't mean much outside of the first few. Nothing is fixed in place.
(Note (2020-12-22): This is still incomplete. It took a lot longer than I expected to think of all these things. And I still haven't got all the notes and commentary done yet, which is the Heart of the thing. So, in the meantime, here are the lists without explanation.)
Constraints: one song per artist; one movie per director; one book per author.
Or, on a map: Lists of 40.
(This is the one I wanted to get done the most, but I discovered I hadn't posted quite a lot of my favorites to Flickr yet, and many were still sitting on a backup drive. So, in the meantime, check out this album until I bring things over here.)
1. Tom Waits, Long Way HomeOrphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards (2006)Listen: I could fill this entire list with Tom Waits songs. I could make a separate 40 Tom Waits songs list and still sweat about what I had to leave out. This one I like because it nicely captures some of the pressures and frictions of settling down after rambling.
2. Gill Landry, The Ballad of Lawless SoirezThe Ballad of Lawless Soirez (2007)This song, on the other hand, is just about rambling and rambling and rambling. "Sometimes I'm lost / Sometimes I'm driven / Sometimes I know not where to roam."
3. Finite Element, The Beauty of LiesThe Beauty of Lies (2003)Sunil did a nice job composing this one--I think it was the best one he wrote for Finite Element. I should rip that EP and post it here, but in the meantime, here's a version of it from when we played on WEFT sessions in 2003.
4. The Drones, Howl at the Moon? (?)Drones groupie, here--I might have attended more of their shows than anone not in the band. I remember hearing this one early on, and I know where it came from, and it captured some raw feelings in a jar, and you can feel it.
6. The Dismemberment Plan, The Ice of BostonThe Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified (1997)When I am king, this will become the kingdom's official New Year's song. Extra bonus points for the diversion into deconstructing Gladys Knight and the Pips. Bonus points for knowing a bunch of painful ridiculous things about myself I'd rather not admit to right now. "Ellen and Ben" would have been my song of choice in college, but it doesn't have the same resonance for me today.
7. The Flaming Lips, Waitin' for SupermanThe Soft Bulletin (1999)I listened to this song and this album pretty much nonstop for a year while I was living in Houston in 2008-2009.
8. Ha Ha Tonka, St. Nick on the Fourth with a FervorBuckle in the Bible Belt (2007)Missouri's Finest. This song rattled around my head for 20+ hours while I was running the Ozark Trail 100 in 2013. It was a sort of gage to measure my exhaustion--as the race dragged on, the lyrics would begin to shift and blur into nonsense in my head.
11. Morphine, Free LoveYes (1995)Free love? Don't bank on it, baby.
12. Andrew Bird, TenuousnessNoble Beast (2009)
13. Operation Ivy, Gonna Find YouEnergy (1989)
14. Seven Foot Politic, Do Ya SwingSka: The Third Wave, Vol. 3 (1997)
15. The White Stripes, Hotel YorbaWhite Blood Cells (2001)As sung by Erin D at the World Café in Normal, Illinois in the early 2000s.
16. Pixies, Where Is My Mind?Surfer Rosa (1988)
17. Townes van Zandt, Pancho and LeftyThe Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972)Heartworn Highways
18. R.E.M., So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)Reckoning (1984)Also: Feeling Gravity's Pull
19. Actionslacks, Annie OakleyNever Never Shake Baby (2002)
20. Del the Funky Homosapien, Check it OooutNo Need for Alarm (1993)I did not realize that Del was the rapper in Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz
21. Bob Dylan, Tangled up in BlueBlood on the Tracks (1975)Also: Isis; It's All Over Now; Maggie's Farm; Mobile, ...
22. Ugly Casanova, Smoke Like RibbonsSharpen Your Teeth (2002)
23. Less Than Jake, This Is Going NowhereLosers, Kings, and Things We Don't Understand (1995)
24. Ween, Waving My Dick in the WindThe Mollusk (1997)
25. Golden Earring, Radar LoveMoontan (1973)This is the sort of song that one should listen to while riding in a red Chevy Nova.
26. Bob Schneider, The Other SideSongs Sung and Played on Guitar at the Same Time (1998)
27. Mark Knopfler, Song for Sonny ListonShangri-La (2004)
28. Frank Turner, One Foot Before the OtherEngland Keep My Bones (2011)
29. The Poets of Caterwaul, DulcineaShort Fiction (2005)
30. The Beatles, Rocky RaccoonWhite Album (1968)As sung by Dayvo in the health office.
31. Les Savy Fav, I.C. TimerEmor: Rome Upside Down (2000)
32. Cake, JoleneMotorcade of Generosity (1994)
33. Weezer, Surf Wax AmericaWeezer (1994)
34. Tom Petty, Crawling Back to YouWildflowers (1994)
35. Radiohead, AirbagOK Computer (1997)Also: Fake Plastic Trees
36. Beck, DebraMidnite Vultures (1999)
37. Belle and Sebastian, Piazza, New York CatcherDear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
38. 董小姐, 宋冬野摩登天空 (海外版) (2013)
39. The Hot Club of Cowtown, It Stops with MeDev'lish Mary & Ghost Train (2000)
40. Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Irish WhiskeyKids on the Street (1996)
1. The Big LebowskiDirected by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (1998)I hated this movie the first time I saw it. What was the point? The plot? It's been my favorite since the second time I saw it. The Dude just wants his rug back.
2. Pulp Fiction Directed by Quentin Tarantino (1994)I could watch this one on repeat.
3. Jiro Dreams of SushiDirected by David Gelb (2011)A documentary about single-minded devotion. I'm glad there are people like that out in the world, although I wouldn't want to be one myself.
4. Blazing SaddlesDirected by Mel Brooks (1974)It must be a lot of fun to be Mel Brooks.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindDirected by Michel Gondry (2004)I like movies that aren't that easy to digest. This one is easy enough to understand, but you still have to sort out those feelings of oscillating back-and-forth between wanting memories to disappear and wanting to keep them forever.
6. Office SpaceDirected by Mike Judge (1999)If you watch this movie while you're in school, it's a comedy; if you watch this movie when you're in the workforce, it's a tragedy.
7. Bicycle DreamsDirected by Stephen Auerbach (2009)This documentary helped get me pumped up for Western States in 2012. I don't think it's for everyone--it's for the Seekers.
8. There Will Be BloodDirected by Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)You could turn the sound down on this movie and could still hear the persistent, malignant pulse.
9. TrainspottingDirected by Danny Boyle (1996)
10. Steve Jobs: The Lost InterviewDirected by Paul Sen (2012)
11. MallratsDirected by Kevin Smith (1995)
12. Monty Python and the Holy GrailDirected by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones (1975)
13. MementoDirected by Christopher Nolan (2000)
14. The Breakfast ClubDirected by John Hughes (1985)
15. Full Metal JacketDirected by Stanley Kubrick (1987)
16. The GooniesDirected by Richard Donner (1985)
17. Apocalypse NowDirected by Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
18. Into the WildDirected by Sean Penn (2007)
19. Sunset Blvd.Directed by Billy Wilder (1950)
20. SennaDirected by Asif Kapadia (2010)
21. PrimerDirected by Shane Carruth (2004)
22. Blade RunnerDirected by Ridley Scott (1982)
23. Good Will HuntingDirected by Gus Van Sant (1997)
24. Ferris Bueller's Day OffDirected by ()
25. Groundhog DayDirected by Harold Ramis (1993)
26. The Wolf of Wall StreetDirected by Martin Scorsese (2013)
27. Airplane!Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker (1980)
28. Back to the FutureDirected by Robert Zemeckis (1985)
29. Say AnythingDirected by Cameron Crowe (1989)
30. Being John MalkovichDirected by Spike Jonze (1999)
31. SwingersDirected by Doug Liman (1996)
32. Wayne's WorldDirected by Penelope Spheeris (1992)
33. ChinatownDirected by Roman Polanski (1974)
34. Roma Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (2018)
35. Tommy BoyDirected by Peter Segal (1995)
36. Requiem for a DreamDirected by Darren Aronofsky (2000)
37. A Christmas StoryDirected by Bob Clark (1983)
38. Beerfest Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (2006)
39. Kuch Kuch Hota HaiDirected by Karan Johar (1998)Guilty pleasure. Sorry not sorry.
40. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes BackDirected by Irvin Kershner (1980)
1. Cat's CradleKurt Vonnegut (1963)I still remember the feeling of reading this book for the first time, of flipping what turned out to be the last page and not believing it could be the last page, of wondering if someone ripped out the last pages because surely it didn't end like that. If you see me writing short sentences like jabs, that's the Vonnegut talking.
2. Desert SolitaireEdward Abbey (1968)Mike R sent me a copy of this book while I was out in Mojave in 2005, and it was the best-timed… anything I've ever received. I have bought so many copies of this book and have given them all away.
3. Born Standing Up: A Comic's LifeSteve Martin (2008)This sounds like ironic praise, but funnyman Steve Martin was very serious about his work. Favorite memoir.
4. National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our UniverseRoy Gallant and Margaret Sedeen (1980)This book opened a lot of doors in my head. I wore out the first copy I had when I was in grade school.
5. Voyager Tales: Personal Views of the Grand TourDavid Swift (1997)This is a beautiful idea: interviews with people involved with the Voyager program, from the program managers and technical leads all the way to do the secretaries and janitors of JPL.
6. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never SeenChristopher McDougall (2009)Picked this one up because I heard it was written by someone who was dealing with a running injury, then it went to my head and I got into endurance running.
7. Into the WildJon Krakauer (1996)This book saved my life. Good for Krakauer for admiring McCandless' ideals without unnecessarily making him a hero.
8. Spoon River AnthologyEdgar Lee Masters (1915)Live, from the cemetery in the backyard, it's Edgar Lee Masters airing the dirty laundry of the dead people in your hometown to help cure you of the thought that small towns are morally incorruptible by nature.
9. The Waste LandsStephen King (1991)
10. Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar ModuleTom Kelly (2001)
11. The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck (1939)
12. Life on the MississippiMark Twain (1883)
13. Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of IllusionRichard Lingenfelter (1987)
14. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72Hunter S. Thompson (1973)
15. A Place for Me in the WorldMission Hill School (2012)
16. A Confederacy of DuncesJohn Kennedy Toole (1980)
17. How We Are HungryDave Eggers (2005)
18. Infinite JestDavid Foster Wallace (1996)
19. DuneFrank Herbert (1965)
20. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early DaysJessica Livingston (2001)
21. White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century IndiaWilliam Dalrymple (2002)
22. The Desert YearJoseph Wood Krutch (1952)
23. Catch-22Joseph Heller (1961)
24. Orbital MechanicsJohn Prussing and Bruce Conway (1993)
25. The Brothers KaramazovFyodor Dostoyevsky (1879)
27. The Burning Plain and Other StoriesJuan Rulfo (1950)
28. A Canticle for LeibowitzWalter Miller (1959)
29. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian TrailBill Bryson (1998)
30. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious CharacterRichard Feynman (1985)
31. The Third PolicemanFlann O'Brien (1967)
32. The Ground Beneath Her FeetSalman Rushdie (1999)
33. Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to FactoryPeter Hessler (2009)
34. Cooked: A Natural History of TransformationMichael Pollan (2013)
35. Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in SpaceflightDavid Mindell (2008)
36. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have FailedJames Scott (1998)
37. One Hundred Years of SolitudeGabriel García Márquez (1967)
38. Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String QuarterbackGeorge Plimpton (1966)
39. Sometimes a Great NotionKen Kesey (1964)
40. Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of LanguageDouglas Hofstadter (1997)
1. Saturday pizza nightSt. David, ILEveryone should have a regular ceremony. This was ours growing up.
2. Halfway House CafeSanta Clarita, CAI love diners. The worse, the better. I went here so many times during the two years I was traveling to Sylmar for work--breakfast and coffee or beer on a Sunday morning. This one is out in the dust on the Sierra Highway, halfway between Los Angeles and Mojave. Discerning movie aficionados might recognize it as the the location of the dance scene in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
3. Courier CaféUrbana, ILWhenever I go back to U of I, I try to stop in here and get something to eat. Off-campus, low-key.
4. Paul Bunyan pancakes in the morningIngersoll Scout Reservation, ILI've ate hundreds but made thousands of them.
5. 金海餐廳 (Fortune No. 1)Monterey Park, CAThis was where we went on so many Saturday mornings when we lived in Burbank. Tianjin people. Super straightforward. Cash only. You don't really need the menu, you're going to get the 煎饼馃子 and 油条 and 豆腐脑.
6. Sushi KomasaLos Angeles, CAWorth the wait in line to sit there at the counter and watch the dishes being made.
7. La Roma PizzaAbingdon, ILHow did pizza this good land in Abingdon? This was a Special Treat while working at camp, except for times when it was closed when they went back to the old country.
8. Porto's Bakery & CaféBurbank, CAHuge line, always. Ridiculously inexpensive. So many pastries behind the glass waiting for you to select them.
9. Mother's RestaurantNew Orleans, LA
10. A cart selling golgappasAmbala, Haryana, India
11. Kusum Roll'sKolkata, West Bengal, India
12. Food Truck FridayTower Grove Park, St. Louis, MO
13. (donkey burger)Baoding, Hebei, China
14. Perkins Restaurant & BakeryPeoria, IL
15. Owl CafePlatteville, WI
16. Way Station Coffee ShopSanta Clarita, CA
17. Steve's Pizza PalacePlatteville, WI
18. Taqueria RossySan José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico
19. Avanti's Italian RestaurantPeoria, IL
20. Lady M Cake BoutiqueBeverly Hills, CA
21. 煎饼馃子 (jiānbingguǒzi), from a stall in 南鑼鼓巷 (nánluógǔxiàng)Beijing, China
22. CobblestonesLowell, MA
23. Mercat de la BoqueriaBarcelona, Spain
24. Cate Zone Chinese CaféUniversity City, MO
25. Four Sisters Owl DinerLowell, MA
26. (Chilaquiles)Houston, TX
27. Las Guacamayas Sucursal ChamizalSan José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico
28. iNDOSt. Louis, MO
29. Billy Goat TavernChicago, IL
30. Place Broglie Strasbourg, France
31. Mercato di TestaccioRome, Italy
32. Osteria del CastelloVerbania, Italy
33. Tomato Joe's PizzaSanta Clarita, CA
34. The HibachiKailua, HI
35. ToloacheNew York, NY
36. Charlie Vergo's RendezvousMemphis, TN
37. Mercado Buenos AiresGranada Hills, CA
38. Tony Packo'sToledo, OH
39. Malibu SeafoodMalibu, CA
40. Pita InnSkokie, IL
1. Murphy's PubChampaign, ILWhenever I pass near U of I, this place sucks me back in like a gravity well. Frankly, it did that while we were at school as well.
2. Charlesville Vineyard & WinerySte. Genevieve, MOWe have it Too Good to have places that make beer like this around us in Missouri, and to know the owners, and to know the people who go there.
3. Brew'd Awakening CoffehausLowell, MAJust a short walk over the canal from where I was living to go and drink and sit and scheme. Bascially every weekend morning, and many weekend mornings during Unemployed Fun Time.
4. Chaumette Vineyards & WinerySte. Genevieve, MOI'm not even bumping this up the list because I met my wife there.
5. IBC Root BeerIngersoll Scout Reservation, ILA tradition out at Horseshoe Bend since the Dawn of Time.
6. Rose & Crown British RestaurantSanta Clarita, CAWhen I was going out to Sylmar for work every two weeks for two years, I stayed at the same hotel in Santa Clarita, and at least once a week would haul myself across The 5 to sit here with British beers and talk with the owner and family and read requirement specs at the bar.
7. Hannam's Dairy DreamCanton, ILThis place is a fixture in memory--somewhere along the lines of a definition of what it means to be summer.
8. Planet Porter, Boulder Beer CompanyBoulder, COThis is the best beer in the universe… except that they stopped making it in 2013, argh. Tastes like dirt, in a good way.
9. Anheuser-Busch BrewerySt. Louis, MO
10. Molly's Pub and Restaurant ShebeenNew York, NY
11. Green Tea GardenCalifornia City, CA
12. The Worthen HouseLowell, MA
13. Buckhart TavernBuckhart, IL
14. Espresso Royale Urbana, IL
15. Richard's on MainPeoria, IL
16. ?Cadaques, Spain
17. Spotted Cow, New Glarus Brewing CompanyNew Glarus, WISpotted Cow
18. Dan's CafeWashington, DC
19. Elysian BarSeattle, WA
20. White Horse InnChampaign, IL
21. Gritty McDuff's Brew PubFreeport, ME
22. (tea shop, Church St.)Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
23. The Coffee GalleryAltadena, CA
24. Harry's TinajaAlpine, TX
25. Spoetzl BreweryShiner, TX
26. Southern Sun Pub & BreweryBoulder, CO
27. ?Cadaques, Spain
28. Earthbound BrewingSt. Louis, MO
29. Tulsa Bike BarTulsa, OK
30. Cherry Street Restaurant & BarGalesburg, IL
31. Azienda Agricola Savignola PaolinaGreve in Chianti, Florence, Italy
32. Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and BierhallSt. Louis, MO
33. Portsmouth BreweryPortsmouth, NH
34. The Poop DeckHermosa Beach, CA
35. La Cosecha Coffee RoastersMaplewood, MO
36. Lake Agnes Tea HouseLake Louise, Alberta, Canada
37. Outpost TavernWebster, TX
38. Starbucks Reserve RoasterySeattle, WA
39. Crazy Harry's BarWinnetka, CA
40. The People's RepublikCambridge, MA
1. Corkscrew PeakDeath Valley National Park, CACorkscrew Peak is my spirit animal. I've been up there four times, a different way each time. It's not that hard to get to from the highway. Much of it is a slog across broken rock wash, but if you love to look at the big dry ugly, this is for you.
2. Guadalupe PeakGuadalupe Mountains National Park, TXEasily among the best advice I've ever received is from a park ranger in January 2005 who suggested that I hike to the top in the dark and watch the sun rise.
3. Panamint CityDeath Valley National Park, CATo get here, you've really got to want to get here. The drive up the open part of Surprise Canyon Road is hard. The walk up what used to be the rest of Surprise Canyon Road, before it got washed out and the old mining town abandoned is hard. But it's such a cool place. Among my life's accomplishments: fixing the burro damage to the plumbing at the Panamint Hilton.
4. Beaver BendIngersoll Scout Reservation, ILA 90-degree bend in the Cedar Creek. Accessible by foot or, if you're lucky and there was enough but not too much rain in the spring, with a kayak and a dozen campers.
5. Asirgarh FortBurhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, IndiaThis is my favorite place that I visited in India. Well off the path in Madhya Pradesh--a huge fort up in the hills. A little spooky.
6. Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumWashington, DCSo many beautiful flying machines--it never gets old.
7. Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute (826 Boston)Roxbury, MATutoring at 826 Boston kept me sane for three years. Long live the 826 centers.
8. Elephant TuskBig Bend National Park, TXThis was fairly hard to get to the bottom of, then really hard to get to the top of, and then even harder to get off of and back to camp before the sun ran out. To the top of the tusk.
9. Hurricane shelterCollege Station, TXWhen Hurricane Ike ran into Houston in 2008, I was going to just stay put in the apartment like an idiot. But I got lucky that I knew a college classmate in College Station and I ran away up there for a week or week-and-a-half. A million thanks for that. Almost makes you wish for more hurricanes.
10. Ajanta CavesAjanta, Maharashtra, India
11. Little Bighorn National Battlefield MonumentCrow Agency, MT
12. Rock GardenChandigarh, India
13. HampiHampi, Karnataka, India
14. Boott MillsLowell, MA
15. Sylmar Recreation CenterSylmar, CA
16. Half DomeYosemite National Park, CA
17. Gingee FortGingee, Tamil Nadu, India
18. Mission Evaluation Room (MER)Building 45, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
19. Petrified ForestTheodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
20. Kolob ArchZion National Park, UT
21. Kumbhalgarh FortKumbhalgarh, Rajasthan, India
22. Dickson Mounds State MuseumLewistown, IL
23. Foyer de l'Étudiant Catholique F.E.C.Strasbourg, France
24. Lost Palms OasisJoshua Tree National Park, CA
25. Odeen #1Santa Clarita Woodlands Park, CA
26. Captain Jack's Stronghold Lava Beds National Monument, CA
27. Architectural ArtifactsChicago, IL
28. HulunbuirHulunbuir, Inner Mongolia, China
29. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical GardensSan Marino, CA
30. Yelapa BeachYelapa, Jalisco, Mexico
31. Stax Museum of American Soul MusicMemphis, TN
32. Vellore Institute of TechnologyVellore, Tamil Nadu, India
33. St. Peter's BasilicaVatican City
34. Bernadotte BridgeBernadotte, IL
35. Bodie State Historic ParkBodie, CA
36. Ziyuan buildingShanghai, China
37. 親不孝通り (Oyafukodori, the Street of Wayward Children)Fukuoka, Japan
38. Le BréventChamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
39. Motilal Nehru National Institute of TechnologyAllahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
40. Hermosa BeachHermosa Beach, CA