Read this first! A 30-second summary of me and this blog!

Hey everyone,

My name is Neil Pasricha and here’s me in 30 seconds!

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#828 Remembering what other movie that guy is from

Danny Trejo

Smack dab in the middle of the movie’s big scene, it always happens.

Clancy Brown

Everything gets tense for the big courtroom finale or championship football game, and then all of a sudden the defense attorney or opposing coach turns out to be that guy from some other movie and you just can’t stop thinking about where he’s from.

Wait, was he the prison guard in Shawshank? Or the lawyer from Miracle on 34th Street? Or, no, no, no, I got it. He’s the knife guy in From Dusk Till Dawn.

AWESOME!

JT Walsh

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#829 Smiling in your heart and thinking of good friends who are gone

big-feetI met Chris Kim in September, 2005 in Boston.

A tiny Korean guy with thin eyes hidden behind thick glasses under a well-worn and faded ball cap, he looked kind of mousy under awkwardly baggy clothes and behind a soft voice. And even though neither of us drank much, we met at a bar — me speed-sucking a gin and tonic through a needle-thin straw, him warming a well-nursed beer and occasionally taking baby sips.

When he mentioned he was from Boston, I asked about the Red Sox and he played along well enough. “Big win last night,” he offered cautiously. “Maybe still have a chance at the playoffs?” Of course, that launched me on a rant about the bullpen and whether Curt Shilling had enough steam for another big run. He nodded on, listening intently, asking genuine and serious questions, and letting our friendship take root over sports, of all things. Of course, he never watched the stuff, but was nice enough to let me talk mindlessly about it all night.

grand-canyonFull of wry smiles, awkward pauses, and mock-serious faces, Chris was a complex, fascinating, creative person who grew into a remarkably close friend during the two years I lived in the US. He got excited about little things, like caramelizing onions perfectly for an hour on low heat, getting randomly selected to fill out a survey of his radio habits, or learning a new keyboard shortcut in Microsoft Excel.

But it wasn’t the bar scene that helped our friendship bloom. It was the car scene.

hoover-damYeah, when I showed up to school on our first winter morning shivering to the bone in a flimsy nylon coat, my hair wet, my face dripping, Chris asked where I lived and if I needed a ride the next day. As I was at that moment toweling my face off with a fistful of balled up Kleenex, I took him up on it right away. (Lucky for me Chris had signed up to be a senior student in an undergrad residence way off campus, spending his free time for two years chaperoning social events, holding heads above toilets, and editing two or three resumes a night on a steady clip.)

malibuAnyway, he began picking me up every morning for the next two years, probably at least a couple hundred rides, never once accepting money for gas because, as he said, “I’m going that way anyway.” When other students heard about my taxi service, they got in on it, too. It started with a “Hey Chris, if there’s a blizzard tomorrow, can I catch a lift?”, and turned into Chris emailing three or four of us each night, giving us the Bus Schedule, as he called it, timed precisely to the minute for the next morning. And so it went — us piling into his car after he’d spent the first few minutes warming it up for us, tightly blanketed in fat mittens and his trademark big blue hat.

golden-gate-bridgeTwo years later, in Spring, 2007, Chris and I went on a three week roadtrip with our friend Ty, which I’ve mentioned before here and here. Not too long after the trip began, we started joking about how much Chris was text-messaging his friends. It was non-stop, how in touch he was constantly with people. “Jake says hi,” he’d deadpan, his back facing the Grand Canyon, surrounded by people all looking the other way. Eventually, he made a joke of it, letting us take photos of him obliviously focused on his cell phone in front of every big site we stopped at. He absolutely loved the gag and laughed wildly before and after each photo.

chicago-millennium-parkLast year I nervously started up this page, tentatively dipping my toe into cyberspace where anyone could see. Chris of course adopted his Mexican half-brother pseudonym San Carlos and peppered us with comments of support from the get-go. On #1000 Broccoflower, he wrote “My policy is to avoid all foods that look to be from outer space. Eggplant. Mushrooms. And, apparently, broccoflower.” On #885 Paying for something with exact change he wrote “I save all my pennies in my car. And then, the next time I do McDonald’s drive-through, I fling all the pennies into the server’s face. … No, actually, I put the pennies into the Ronald McDonald’s House box right underneath the window.” On #859 Playing with a baby and not having to change its diaper he wrote “I don’t mind changing my nephews diapers. It only got weird when they began to talk. Awkward!”

cn-towerI loved his sense of humor and his way about himself. I loved how he laughed, frequently, at little things, and got so excited about tiny details most people overlooked. Chris and I spoke three or four times a week over the past year, in ten or fifteen minute snippets usually, but sometimes for an hour or two. He’d tell me about the sourdough bread he was going to bake that day, the elaborate meal he had planned for friends coming for dinner, or the New York Times article he read that I should check out. I would ask him for ideas for this page — he had plenty — and occasionally go on long rants about sports.

Chris died suddenly this past week. He was 32.

No amount of the usual closing rhyming couplets or fist-to-the-sky proclamations are going to bring him back. But I know he’s in a peaceful place and would want us all to just be happy, keep plugging, and enjoy our lives as full as we can. So thank you, Chris. You’ll always inspire me.

And you’ll always be so incredibly awesome.

chris-and-his-sourdough-bread

— Update on May 21, 2018  —

Hi everyone,

It’s been some time since I originally posted this on February 16, 2009.

As you can tell from the post, Chris was a huge supporter of me and of 1000 Awesome Things. I wish he could have watched his neverending encouragement and inspiring focus on little things push this site towards Webby Awards, bestselling books, and an incredible awesome movement around the world.

Sadly Chris died just weeks before any of that started happening.

Looking back, I feel Chris’s love and energy and friendship transcend through what we’ve accomplished together. A picture of Chris is the only one of me or anybody I know in The Book of Awesome. I’ve spoken about him in my TED Talk. And I’ve had so many people chat with me at book events about a friend they had… who also took their life after battling mental illness. And what that friend meant to them. And what that friend did for them.

For me Chris will always be a big part of everything awesome.

It is so hard to lose people we love.

Neil

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#830 Salty salt

Shake it like a Polaroid picture

You’re here because of salt.

Honestly, according to our egghead pals at Wikipedia, salt’s ability to preserve food was a foundation of civilization. People figured out that they could take their food with them, and skipped town with a lunch bag to see what was over the hills. Salt affected where roads were built, cities were constructed, and kingdoms flourished.

Get this: during the Roman Empire, caravans of up to 40,000 camels would mosey 400 odd miles through the Sahara desert to bring salt to the market because it was so valuable. In the 1500s, a vast Polish empire rose because of the salt mines there — like the Dubai of 500 years ago — but then was wiped out as soon as Germans figured out how to make sea salt instead. Salt caused wars and ended them — with armies salting the Earth before they left and really messing up their gardens.

And they would walk 500 miles

Yes, salt was so valuable that it was used as currency, with even the word salary derived from the Latin word salanium which means money given to soldiers so they could buy salt.

These days, salt costs a dollar and is available everywhere salt is sold. Sure, we’ve dumped it on dusty shelves at the back of the grocery store and preached about its devastating health effects in fitness magazines, but let me just say — straight up — that nothing can take away salt’s mojo, bro.

And that’s fo’ sho’.

Because here we go:

why-you-should-eat-iodine5.The lady, she brings the iodine. Health organizations suggest sucking back 150 micrograms of iodine a day to keep fit and have fun. Unless you’re eating a lot of seaweed or fresh fish, the best way to pick this up is iodized salt. Sadly, the World Health Organization said in 2007 that over two billion people have iodine deficiency, which results in thick goiters on your neck and stunted physical and mental growth. … Not awesome.

4. Taste the rainbow. Have you ever tossed salt in a stir-fry of bland vegetables? Buddy, now you’re talking. When you add salt, the flavors all have a coming out party to celebrate. Plus, thanks to salt’s powers of preservation, you can enjoy your food long after harvest.

3. Fights ice real nice. Those of us from cold climates know ice patches on roads and sidewalks are slippery deathtraps. But good ol’ salt, always there, always ready, cracks and busts up those deathsheets without hesitation.

2. It’s dirt cheap. Nope, nobody will be getting top dollar for a bag of salt at market anymore. Nowadays a handful of warm quarters will get you a year’s supply of the stuff.

1. Never quits its day job. Even though it probably could. See, salt has a host of other uses. You gargle with it to help a sore throat and toss it in a pot of spaghetti to prevent the noodles from sticking. Big companies use salt to set dyes, keep things dry, and produce soaps and shampoos. Plus, if you’ve ever had a giant leech sucking on your neck, you know that tossing some salt in its face usually gets the job done.

Yup, life sure would be bland without salt. So people, please: if you have a moment, just sit back and remember that salt’s come a long way to be here today.

And we sure have come a long way because of it.

AWESOME!

Dinner

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

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#832 Finally having your ears pop back to normal long after a really long flight

Get ready for a bang

Do you sometimes forget your ears need a good popping?

Maybe after the jet cabin decompresses, concert wraps up, or swimming lessons finish the volume in your ear dials down a notch and your head feels all plugged up. But you just get used to it. You pick up your baggage, clear customs, jump on the subway, towel off, get changed, and life keeps on tr–BAM! THEN SUDDENLY YOUR EAR POPS, EVERYTHING IS REALLY LOUD, AND YOU’RE BACK TO NORMAL AGAIN.

AWESOME!

Photo from: here

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#833 Pouring a drink where the bubbles go right to the top but not quite over

Good start

Pouring a cold soda or pitcher of beer into a glass sure can be a stressful job.

Yes, all eyes are watching as you attempt a Hot Spotlight Pour late at night, surrounded by thirsty people, empty glasses, and focused, judging eyes.

She's gonna blow

You could get sloppy and cause a Bubbly Volcano to erupt, staring in horror as the drink owner tries to quickly suck up all the carbonated lava spilling over the edge of the glass. Most likely, you’ll end up with a sticky hands, a wet table, and some nasty stinkeye.

MY EYES

Or you could have the opposite problem and pour a Coke No Show. That’s when you cut your pour off early because you’re afraid of the Volcano. It’s understandable, but when the Coke fizz or beer head settles down and leaves only half a glass, well — that’s just embarrassing.

No, the perfect situation is when you pour a drink where the bubbles go right to the top but don’t spill over. It’s an exhilarating rush to see those bubbles just fizz up and up and up and up to the top, and then a massive wave of relief when they calm right back down just in the nick of time.

AWESOME!

Humiliating

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

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#834 Building an amazing couch cushion fort in your living room

Sturdy and strongBuilding a family room stronghold is no joke.

No, it’s a kindergarten lesson in teamwork, trust, and the art of war. Follow these six steps to construct your domestic defense:

Step 1: Clear and collect. Get the coffee table, throw rugs, and plastic toys out of the way, then begin hunting for materials. Couch cushions are your obvious first targets but pillows, sheets, and sleeping bags will be needed too. And I don’t need to tell you that if your family just got a new fridge delivered, grab that giant cardboard box, because your fort just got a den.

Pouring the foundation

Step 2: Main construction. Some people opt for the sleeping bag carpeting technique. Others move directly into building sturdy walls and laying down a roof. Wall possibilities include turning chairs and couches around, tipping coffee tables sideways, or just piling up cushions. As for the roof, carefully toss a few sheets over your castle walls and hold the corners down firmly with Trivial Pursuit boxes, barbells, or an iron.

Good, well-fortified view

Step 3: Add-ons. Now it’s time to ammo up. Your fort needs windows to spot your enemies, a secret back door getaway in case of surprise attacks, and plenty of flashlights to navigate this harsh carpet-burny terrain. Plus, don’t forget a TV with Nintendo in the barracks for those long, lonely nights.

Step 4: Hiding spaces. All forts should include several hiding spaces in case of surprise enemy break-ins. Plan a couple behind false wall cushions or underneath a pile of dirty blankets. These also serve as excellent jail cells, where you can trap your victim, give them noogies, and force them to watch you play Zelda for three hours.

Trench food

Step 5: Rations. You will need a hidden pile of snacks to get through the day. See if you can make do with a pile of Cheddar Cheese Combos, open Froot Loops boxes, and warm cans of soda. Hey, we’re at war here, people.

Type fast for quick entry

Step 6: Finishing touches. Finally, it’s time to add extra perks like a Speak & Spell doorbell, cardboard periscope, or a wide strip of bubble wrap laying outside as an Intruder Alert System.

After that, you’re pretty much done. Your family room fortress is a tall, plush tower of strength, and you can just crawl in and enjoy defending your cozy new confines.

Just imagine what the inside looks like

Yes, as long as nobody’s parents buy the pre-packaged Super Fort from the Cranium buzzkills, cushion forts sure do give kids a great burst of creative energy on rainy days. They plan and design and build and ultimately sit back and relax deep in the bowels of their secret sanctuary. For kids, it’s nearly impossible to get away from it all, so the amazing couch cushion fort serves as much more — it’s an army barracks, a bat cave, a weekend at the cottage, and a trip down South, all rolled up in a pile of stained cushions, old blankets, and big ideas in middle of the room.

AWESOME!

Together we are strong

Photos from: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

— Listen to my new podcast 3 Books with Neil Pasricha

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#835 Saliva aka spit

Does a body good

You know what’s cheap? Entertaining kids, man.

Honestly, forget the high-def TVs, lower bowl tickets to the big game, or exotic dream vacations to the other side of the rock. Ditch those in favor of an afternoon playing Tag in the backyard, pillow fighting at slumber parties, or skirting death on the playground, and now we’re talking.

Plus, it seems like a lot of kids figure out how to entertain themselves on the cheap, too. I’m not talking Solitaire on the computer, either. I mean those tiny, weird little head games or counting games or pattern games that you see little kids play. You know what I mean? These days it’s referred to as Acute Juvenile-Onset OC-ADHD, but it used to be that kids were just, you know, kind of strange.

When I was younger, I had a few of my own little games — or tics, if you prefer. I put my fingertips together every time I saw a red car, liked to spin around in circles and walk around dizzily, and was always trying to whistle with blades of grass in my mouth, just for fun.

trying-to-whistle-grassThere’s a lot more, but my favorite was this: when I was about six or seven, I used to look down at my shoes and slowly let a thin strand of spit slip slowly from my mouth, as low as it would go, as slow as it would go. And when that bottom-heavy glob of slippery spit looked like it was nearing the breaking point, I sucked real fast, yanking the Air-Chilled Mouth Dangle up in one soaring, majestic move.

It was an art, really.

Of course, back then I had no idea what I was messing with. To me, I was just playing some safe and harmless Spit Games — sometimes even a little Mouth Triathlon happened when I started blowing spit bubbles and gleeking. But the point is I didn’t yet appreciate the powers of the spit I was so mindlessly tossing around. See, it turns out that spit — or saliva, for those in the biz — deserves some serious props. Props I never considered. Check out what it’s got going on:

1. Wets your appetite. Saliva pours out of a few tiny little glands in your mouth at a rate of about 1-2 liters a day. When you’re eating, the saliva tides rise and lather your food to help work it down the dark cavern of your throat. Think of it as food lube.

turn-the-lights-on2. Get your taste on. Now, for all the powers your mighty tongue has, get this: that poor, pink sucker can’t taste a thing when it’s dry. Now, I know this feels like finding out Superman can’t fly when it’s cold out or Darth Vader is afraid of the dark, but it’s true. Dry tongue = tasteless food. So give it up to saliva for keeping everything moist and delicious in there. Way to go, Tastebud Grease.

3. Break it down. Even though over 99.5% of your saliva is just water, there’s some funny business swimming around in the other 0.5%. Yeah, I’m talking about electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes. What’s all that junk for? Dude, enzymes totally swim up into your food and start wrestling it to bits. They tear starch and fat molecules to smithereens, and give them the what’s what. Sure, the job finishes way down south, but it’s gotta start somewhere.

4. Mouth guards. Even though you only eat every so often, saliva flushes your mouth all day. Well, that’s because our slick friend is busy cleaning house. Yup, the antibacterial compounds chip away at the food stuck in your teeth and the slippery stuff coats and protects your teeth from decay. Not a bad deal.

Now, saliva tends to stay out of your way. You can barely taste it, you forget it’s there, and you don’t have to think about it to get it to work. Brother, it just happens.

It just happens.

It’s just saliva.

AWESOME!

spitting-babyPhotos from: here, here, here, and here

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