The ineluctable joys of making Top 10 lists

Once, long ago, in the faraway land of Cincinnati, site of the biggest Oktoberfest anywhere in the world outside of Munich, Germany, I lived a very different life, populated by very different people than the friends I have here in Seattle.

People were less fluid there.

Less able to take the ball on the short hop.

Everything seemed more serious there, too. When the city finally got an alternative newspaper, even it was serious. Not that that's such a bad thing; The Stranger wears thin after you get the joke.

Still, I'd much rather live here, in the bosom of what an L.A. friend calls Dripping Lotus Land, than back in the square box of other folks' expectations in Ohio.

The great thing about Seattle is that you can leave for three or four years, then come back and pick up almost the exact same life, with even some of the same people, and it's as if you were never gone.

"You were in Idaho? Hawaii? Bremerton? I thought I hadn't seen you at the Two Bells for awhile."

Hey, they have been talking about building a monorail here since Grant was president. Leave and come back and you'll be just in time for another vote on the damn thing.

The viaduct? Should that sucker still be up?

Leave and come back and you'll be just in time for the latest study highlighting the danger of Alaskan Way.

There are those days, though, when I miss the earnest discussions we'd have back in the Big Boonie on the Ohio River, the Queen City of the Midwest, even though a more homophobic place would be hard to find outside the Bible Belt.

My friends back there - writers and journalists, sure, but even the cops and pot dealers - were list makers.

The 10 best fiction writers, living. The 10 best fiction writers, dead. The top 10 NBA forwards. The top 10 local celebrities. I think Nick Clooney and Jerry Springer made my list one day; Nick was the anchor at a competing television station's news operation, and Gerry Springer was our mayor - that's the truth.

Nostalgic, if not for Cincinnati, at least for those listing days, I've decided to share some of my favorite current obsessions.

My favorite Seattle municipal golf course is Jefferson Park over in Beacon Hill.

Jackson Park is more interesting to play, and West Seattle has better views, but Jefferson makes you concentrate. The fairways are narrow. Trees are everywhere. It is challenging but fair.

My favorite Seattle movie theater is the Varsity, over on The Ave in the University District.

They keep showing great films from all over the world, along with a few interesting turkeys. And at the Varsity, concession folks never come into the theater itself and explain, before the film, what you are going to see, which happens at the Northwest Film Forum and at the Grand Illusion.

And you never get stuck behind one of those aren't-we-grand film discussions - that could be titled "Pomposity in Sandals" if it were a painting - that you often run up on at the Northwest Film Forum.

My favorite restaurant in Lower Queen Anne is Phuket, the little Thai place in the heart of what the Chamber - some real tryers - keep calling Uptown, on Queen Anne Avenue North.

There isn't an ounce of pretension in the place, the food is a lot like (slightly milder sometimes) what you get in the sidewalk restaurants that line Bangkok's streets, and the help is always friendly and glad to see you.

My favorite coffee place in Lower Queen Anne is Zingaro's. It is locally owned, the coffee is the same stuff they serve at the Lighthouse, and you aren't deluged with the cellphone conversations of over-made-up trendsters, a real problem at the place the Chamber must have named.

Oh yeah, my favorite living fiction writer is James Salter, a man so talented he wrote a compelling novel about mountain climbing, called "Solo Faces," that I read like a comic book, even though I ain't no kind of climber at all. He also wrote a love story, set in France, called "A Sport and a Pastime," that is almost unbearably beautiful.

The best player in the NBA is Allen Iverson, who despite being my size, 6-foot and 160 pounds, can do everything on the court and hates to lose. It is scary to think what Iverson would be like on the court if he had the 6 or 7 extra inches of height Michael Jordan carried around during his heyday.

Local celebrities, I've known a few, but I knew Jerry Springer, and Greg, you ain't no Jerry.

And Jean honey, you ain't no Nick, and I'd bet you ain't hiding no nephew like George Clooney either.

Once, for four years, I was a wine steward in Sun Valley, but these days I am drinking low-budget. And nothing red in a glass gives the value that Hyatt's merlots and cabernets pump out for less than $9 a bottle. The best Washington red wine for the price, ever.

This stuff - listmaking, not the wine, I hope - is downright addictive. But I'll stop right here and leave you to make lists of your own.

Favorite local columnist, Denn-... stop it now, you're making me blush.

You can write freelance columnist Dennis Wilken at

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