Things to Do Before the World Ends

By David Jacobson


January 1, 2003, 12:00 AM

You don’t want to think about the coming apocalypse. But it’s coming. You don’t want to think about Saddam and North Korea’s nukes and random sprays of bullets and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s latest album, BareNaked (one word). But if you don’t, you’ll never get around to doing any of this. Take what’s yours while you can.

1. Watch the Mad Max trilogy.

2. Watch The Omega Man.

3. Do not watch Waterworld, even ironically, even if you’re stoned, even if you think it’d be fun to see Kevin Costner’s gill slits.

4. Buy a painting by a dead artist whose name you recognize.

5. Cheer loudly at Wimbledon.

6. Have a third helping.

7. Tip the guy on the graveyard shift at the Gas ‘n’ Go.

8. Tip a toll-booth operator.

9. Trek in Nepal. Tip a yak.

10. Do something beneath you. (Remember: Hendrix opened for the Monkees.)

11. Build a triplex tree house with a picnic-hauling winch.

12. Stand up for an unpopular point of view.

13. Have a tempestuous affair with a top editor of the Harvard Business Review.

14. Learn the ancient game of go. Play in the World Ing Cup, a quadrennial event with $1 million in prizes. (American Go Association,

15. Find a chunky, pale boy with allergies and show him that throwing and catching a real football–especially in the rain, especially diving flat-out for a grab–is actually more fun than playing Madden NFL 2002 on PlayStation 2.

16. Buy something nauseatingly extravagant. Try Leonardi Reserva Oro 100- year-old balsamic vinegar.

17. Drink a shot at the Hitching Post in Bluefield, West Virginia, the bar where legend has it Hank Williams drank the night he died.

18. Raise your fists in anger and scream: You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!

19. Talk to strangers.

20. Play the Augusta National of minigolf courses, Hawaiian Rumble Golf of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Don’t let the course’s 40-foot volcano, which erupts every 20 minutes, get to you.

21. Visit the original McDonald’s, in Des Plaines, Illinois. Ask for a Quarter Pounder.

22. Read Revelation.

23. Write Revelation-based screenplay. The angle: The beast of 666 is misunderstood.

24. Pitch Revelation as a big summer action flick to Bruckheimer’s production company.

25. Read Zabibah and the King, the romance novel by up-and-coming writer Saddam Hussein.

26. Drink a case of Vernors Ginger Soda, invented by a Detroit pharmacist who left his 19-ingredient mix in an oak cask while he went off to fight in the Civil War, then found it improved with aging. 800-696-5891.

27. Forgive someone. (Without adding, sotto voce, “But you’re still an asshole.”)

28. Eat an animal that normally would be found in your backyard.

29. Join the nude, drum- banging, flute-playing sunset watchers in northern Santa Cruz County, California.

30. Take in some bluegrass at the Baggot Inn in New York.

31. Listen to “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

32. Feel fine.

33. Search the Sonoran Desert of Arizona for Bufo alvarius, the psychedelic toad.

34. Hop off your boat and have sex right there amid the animatronic Pirates of the Caribbean.

35. Even better, have it with another person.

36. Sucker punch a Wall Street analyst, and, as he lies gagging at your feet, lean down and whisper, “That’s for your ‘aggressive buy’ on“.

37. Bungee jump the original way, in a formal dinner jacket, off the Golden Gate Bridge.

38. Make passionate love to the stirring sounds of the CNN theme song.

39. Perform a bit of slapstick that makes a child laugh uncontrollably, even if it means pulling a groin muscle.

40. Go kiteboarding. See

41. Make a meal flavored with the beer spice invented by two Purdue University students.

42. Buy your friend an official Kiss Kasket, signed by Gene Simmons.

43. Buy yourself a coffin with a great work of art on it.

44. Buy the film rights to Silence of the Lambs IV and refuse to allow anyone to make another Hannibal Lecter movie.

45. Track down and pulp every last copy of The Nanny Diaries.

46. Build a house of cards.

47. Start an absurd Internet rumor and watch it grow into a social phenomenon. Suggestion: Dick Cheney has several body doubles. (One is a former porn star.)

48. Save a total stranger’s life with CPR and act like it was just nice to get in a little workout.

49. Walk across a burning desert wearing a loincloth and sandals.

50. Learn to ask in perfect Sicilian dialect, “Excuse me, don of dons, that beautiful woman who smiles at me, she is neither your sister, nor your mistress?”

51. Charter a fishing boat with your friends.

52. Reminisce later by saying: “You head out the south channel, past Rocky Neck, Ten Pound Island. You throw a wave at the lighthouse keeper’s kid on Thacher Island. The birds show up–black backs, herring gulls, big dumb ducks. The sun hits ya, head north, open up to 12, steamin’ now. The guys are busy, you’re in charge. Ya know what? You’re a goddamn swordboat captain! Is there anything better in the world?”

53. Eat some fugu.

54. Trademark your own name the way Billy Joel(tm) did. Don’t enforce it; just use the ™ on checks.

55. Date a woman taller than you.

56. Memorize a powerful, beautiful poem that speaks to you.

57. Make sure it features neither Nantucket nor a birch sapling.

58. Memorize vast tracts of Shakespeare–so you can calm your mind if trapped in an elevator, solitary confinement, or the reception area of Us magazine.

59. Waste your last precious hours by visiting

60. In the most pretentious restaurant you can afford, when they pour you that little bit of wine to swirl, sniff, and taste, pretend that the suction of your inhalation has gotten the glass stuck to your face.

61. Win the popular vote, lose the electoral vote, grow a beard.

62. Learn all 37 inflections of the word dude.

63. Teach your nephews something that will get them in a bit of trouble at school but will make them heroes to their classmates.

64. For example, how to say “Your ass is huge” in Esperanto.

65. Drive slowly up the coast of California on Route 1 from L. A. in a convertible with Lucinda Williams’s Sweet Old World on CD, a fully adequate credit card, and the woman you love.

66. When you get to San Francisco, call the baby-sitter. Say you’ll be away a bit longer. Continue on to Vancouver.

67. Refuse to take no for an answer.

68. Unless this raises the possibility of a restraining order.

69. Choose laughing gas over novocaine. Hell, choose it over those new painless laser drills.

70. Ask the casino for the house odds on Pascal’s Wager.

71. Try entomophagy (eating insects). Recommended cookbooks: Butterflies in My Stomach and Entertaining with Insects.

72. Just once, experience general anesthesia so you’ll know what those irreversibly closing freight-elevator doors of death will feel like.

73. Teach a kid raised on Velcro to tie his own shoes.

74. Visit the demolition derby in Whitefish, Montana.

75. Shave using the reflection from an absolutely still, snow-fed mountain lake above 12,000 feet at dawn.

76. Bench-press the equivalent of Charlize Theron.

77. Or at least Gwyneth Paltrow.

78. On consecutive days, eat at Steve’s Soul Food on Grand River in Detroit and at Greens, a Zen Buddhist vegetarian restaurant on San Francisco Bay. See which hits the spot.

79. Chew with your mouth open.

80. Go swimming right after lunch.

81. Stare at a solar eclipse.


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