#455 Digging a giant hole in your mashed potatoes so you can fill it up with gravy

Get your mash on long.

Get your mash on strong.

How great is it that a bunch of rock-hard brown things yanked from the dirt can turn into a creamy smooth-n-salty canvas of deliciousness right in the middle of our plates? I’m talking salty lumps, I’m talking tasty bumps, I’m talking mashed potatoes, people.

Mashed potatoes are one of the few foods who achieve that rare 10 out of 10 on sculptability:

Lakes and ponds. The classic. Nobody’s bending burgers into teapots or folding pancakes into salad plates, but we’ve got no problems curving sloppy potatoes into gravy swimming pools in no time flat.

Broken dams. Need some gravy on that turkey? No problem — just slice a gully in the side of Lake Gravy and watch the salty brown goodness lay a flash flood on that bird.

Retaining walls. Sorry? What’s that? Unruly cranberry sauce is threatening to contaminate your casserole? No problem! Just smear some mashed potato paste across your plate like mortar and keep all the flavors where they belong.

• Buried volcano. When you got the gravy pond sitting pretty on your plate it’s sometimes fun letting it soak in and then quickly flipping the entire structure onto itself, completely submerging the gravy under a thin sheen of potato. Now you’ve got a starchy chest full of treasure.

And because mashed potatoes offer so much potential it’s not uncommon to see other creations like green-bean porcupines or lumpy Pyramids of Giza in the middle of a mashed potato plate. There is really no limit to the possibilities so just remember to dig for the moment, sculpt for the memories, and build for your life.


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#456 When your friend returns the book they borrowed and they actually read it

Man, I’m a master of the Ghost Loan.

This is where I borrow someone’s favorite book and them promptly leave it on my shelf for months without touching it. Sure, I see it, I look at it, I think about it, I want to read it, but I just… don’t. And then I keep it for a while, thinking I’ll eventually get to it, but eventually I just admit defeat and return it unread, unfinished, unsatisfied.

It’s always a sad moment because that’s when your friend looks up at you with wide, eager eyes and asks “So what did you think of my favorite book in the whole universe, the one I kindly lent you for months on end, depriving myself and other readers of its powerful words so you could enjoy them?”

That is true pain.

Of course, that’s why it’s great returning a friend’s book after you actually read the thing. And hey, special props if you even liked it. Now you get to give it back with some extra dents, extra creases and share your thoughts with your pal.

Books are such personal pleasures of secret silent moments between you and the pages. They lift you up, drag you down, and stir emotions and memories deep in your bones. When you return a friend’s favorite book it’s like you just got to share all those secret silent moments with them too.


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#458 The rare moment when you’re on a beach by yourself

Enjoy the silence.

Maybe you’re an early bird who goes jogging on the cool sand as the sun rises. Ocean waves quietly lap to shore together with twisted messes of dark seaweed and chipped seashells as faint orange sunbeams peek over the horizon…

Or maybe you’re a sand stroller going for a quick walk around the bend as your family takes a final dip before heading home. Your feet sink into the hot sand as you find yourself alone with wet tree branches, quiet circling gulls, and a bright pink sunset lighting up the sky…

Or maybe you just discover a quiet patch of secret sandy paradise where nobody can find you. It’s the hidden beach through the cottage forest, the rocky island where you rest your canoe, or the cliffside of a hilly highway where you pull over and hike down the empty shore…

Yes, those rare moments when you’re the only person on the beach make you feel like you’re standing alone in front of the universe. Stare up and let your mind drift into the distant neverending sky, fall deep into the thin horizon, and focus down at the tiny grains of sand millions of years old covering your feet …

Maybe stegosauruses and dodo birds and cavemen and cowboys all stood at this same spot staring out the same way at the same wavy water. And maybe future races will stand at these same places and feel the same spine-tingling sense of


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#459 Plain old forks

Once upon a time we didn’t have forks.

Yes, our ancient ancestors were forced to scoop saber-tooth tiger brains out with twigs, hold woolly mammoth meat over the fire with spears, and eat prehistoric pies with a spoon.

According to our egghead pals at Wikipedia, although the Ancient Greeks used forks as a serving utensil it took until the 10th century for them to become popular in Western Europe. Before then, Westerners only had spoons and knives. Most people chowed down with their hands, some shared a group spoon, and rich folks dined holding two knives, making them look like Raphael from ninja turtles.

Forks became a huge hit in Italy first, which was perfect because before then properly swirled spaghetti was just part of an imagined future, sitting in dreamy thought bubbles above sleeping children. Back then guests were expected to bring their own fancy fork in a box called a cadena if they were coming over for dinner. As you can imagine, it was important to spot the BYOF fine print on dinner party invites from the king’s castle.

Now, these days forks are everywhere: plastic-wrapped in airplanes, dented and stained in dining halls, and shined up in fancy restaurants. Most of us even have a drawer full of forks in our homes, turning a rich man’s prized possession a few hundred years ago into something the kids leave under the basement couch after eating dinner and playing video games.

And I think we all know how important forks still are to our twenty-first century society.

People, let’s all hold hands here today and celebrate the power of the fork. Whether we’re holding a tough piece of steak in place, slicing the tip off a piece of pie, or criss-crossing the top of some peanut butter cookies, let’s not forget how far the noble fork has come to help us all completely stuff our faces.


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#460 The Super Jump

Close your eyes and let your brain slip back …

You’re a tiny tot holding big hands walking down a sandy beach. As the sun sets over the glittery water the salty ocean breeze hits your hair and your feet squish into cool sand as somebody suddenly yells out “1-2-3 Wheeeeeeeeee!”

Your eyeballs pop, your chest lifts, your hands are squeezed tightly, and up you go…


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#461 When you get in the car and notice someone filled up the tank for you

Nothing’s worse than popping into first and noticing you’re flirting with the big E.

Suddenly you’re late for work, the date’s on hold, and your party’s stalled in the parking lot. Yes, jumping in a car and noticing it’s out of gas ranks pretty high on 1000 Annoying Things, that non-existent netherlist we’ve mentioned before that also features #989 Realizing later in the day you missed a spot shaving, #988 When the person calls you back instead of listening to the voicemail you just left, and #987 When the cashier needs to replace the receipt tape in the middle of your transaction.

Yes, that’s why getting in the car with a superfull tank is such a great feeling. Your car partner left a little surprise in the driveway and now you’re as far as possible from making an annoying pump run. Plus, isn’t it always hilarious when that little orange arm nudges itself up even higher than Full on the gas gauge, too? That’s when it’s winking at you saying “Okay, I was lying about the size of the tank. But now I seriously can’t take another drop.”

When it’s stuffed and you’re smiling it’s time to fly down the streets, baby. You’re rocking the full tank, you’re rocking the highway, and you’re rocking along feeling


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#462 Pain

It’s there for a reason.

Whether you’re shredding your legs on a raspberry bush, scalding your hand in hot water, or taking an arrow to the chest in the forest, I got bad news for you, brother: that’s gonna hurt. Yes, when our bodies take blows those powerful jolts make us cry salty tears, run for the hills, or crashland in hospital beds with limbs hanging everywhere.

But that pain really is there for three big reasons:

1. Stop! … Bandaid time. The first thing pain does is make you stop doing that painful thing you’re doing. Your brain focuses every neuron on getting you out of Danger Bay and returning you to Safety Beach. Stop! You’re lawnmowing your foot. Stop! You’re leaning on an oven burner. Stop! You’re dancing in much too baggy pants.

2. Long Live the Cast. Pain reminds us to take care of injured body parts so they can heal. We lean on crutches so our ankles can untwist, plaster broken arms so bones can set, and bandage cuts to prevent infections. Throbbing migraines send us to dark rooms and bum knees get us limping because that’s what we need, sister. Pain’s just whispering advice to send us down the road to good health.

3. Fool me twice, shame on me. Pain’s whole plan is to get us to stop doing painful things long term. Think of pain as cranky granny shaking it’s finger when you sheepishly come schlepping up the front walk battered and bruised. “No more running through raspberry bushes, mister,” she starts. “No more checking hot water with your fingers. And stop playing medieval battle games in the forest.”

Now, if all that wasn’t enough, our egghead pals over at Wikipedia even report that people who don’t feel pain actually live shorter lives. Maybe that’s because pain’s just there to do a job for us. It motivates us to flee hurtin’ scenes, protects our body while it heals, and teaches us to avoid painful places in the future.

Pain’s our invisible Life Coach, sewn into our bones, twisted in our DNA, and helping us all keep strong as we keep motoring on.


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#463 The sound of the cork popping

Last year my friend Baxter popped a champagne cork off his head.

Yes, he bent over the bottle, gritted his teeth and twisted, and managed to shoot that cork like a speeding bullet right smack off his forehead. He stared up with his mouth forming a giant O of shock as bubbles foamed up and dripped on the carpet and a painful dark red bruise slowly formed right between his eyebrows.

Still sounded cool, though.


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#464 When characters in a movie visit a place you know in real life

What a trip.

It’s always a big moment when the flickering screen features one of these special scenes:

1. The Hometown Spotlight. This is when the characters come visit the city you live in. Nope, don’t matter if it’s terrorists fleeing the country, teen lovers filling gas on a road trip, or Batman batflying around the world to kidnap someone from a glass building. All that matters is that you get a little connection with the flick and feel proud your local spot is on display. (Note: Hometown Spotlight may not apply in New York, L.A., or London.)

2. The Local Understudy. Here’s when you spot your hometown in the movie, but it’s playing the part of another city. Sure, they tried to fool you with the yellow New York taxi cabs or a couple skyline shots, but you spotted your city hall and a local newspaper box in the background. If you’re watching the flick in your basement, The Local Understudy sometimes features someone pulling out their cell phone and spending twenty long minutes confirming all the shoot locations.

3. The Suitcase Connection. Here’s when you and the characters share a travel spot. Maybe their budding romance takes them to your Honeymoon hotspot, their college classes take place on your old campus, or their raging, out-of-control Spring Break parties reminds you of your entirely appropriate and tasteful Spring Break parties.

No matter what, when characters in movies visit places you know they suddenly break through the screen and form a tiny little bond with you. Now in addition to the story, you’re suddenly wiretapping into secret memories and moments in your rusty brain. Nostalgia bombs go off as you see your old college gym and remember the heartbreak of getting cut from the junior team… smiles curl when Buddy the Elf gets a job where you once held hands with a young love on a chilly night … and hearts twist over forgotten trips as you relive old moments with friends from your past…


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