Every Single [X]
TAoN No. 133: Fill in your mission/project/quest of choice. Plus a note on Notes, and more.
Via DALL-E 2
A couple of weeks ago, friend and hero of TAoN Anne Kadet had a typically great feature in her Café Anne newsletter about a guy who has set out to visit every single bookstore in New York City. She writes:
“I love the idea of experiencing every example of a given thing, whether it's the guy who walked every block of Manhattan, or my NYU roommate who made it her business to sleep with one fellow from all 50 states. (She maintained a pin-cushion map over her bed to document her progress….)”
Setting aside the possibilities for a TV show based on that roommate, I think we can all agree that Every Single X projects have a special appeal. I wrote about the related idea of giving yourself an enjoyable “mission” back in TAoN No. 72. I specifically mentioned my efforts to swim in all New Orleans’ public pools — and just recently I’ve been considering an attempt to visit every public park in New Orleans, but have found the idea a little daunting.
Inspired by Anne’s comment, I floated the Every Single X idea on Substack’s new “Notes” service (more on that below). And I got some very inspiring responses! Here are a few:
“I ♥️ a completist! I want to cross every bridge in Venice (391) & see every church (200) There are 900 churches in Rome I probably got to 1/3 in 16 years.” — Gillian Longworth McGuire
“When I was in 4th grade, I read every Newbery Award-winning book! No idea why I made it my summer project, but the librarians loved it.” — Cassie Gutman [This variety of Every Single X reminds me a little of The Worthy Binge from way back in TAoN No. 59]
“The recent heat wave in NYC has made me want try every flavor at my local gelato spot--which is hard because I already have my favorites! It’s like a tiny adventure every visit now.” — Ximena Vengoechea [For more Ximena wisdom see TAoN No. 82]
“I spent 2020 trying to visit every labyrinth within 100 miles of me! It was so fun to make a roadtrip, and they're nearly always outside and tucked away. Now, when I travel, I look to see if there's a labyrinth in the area I can walk!” — Hannah Bagnall
“I’d personally love to visit every single dog run in NYC. I think there are more than 100.” — Anne Kadet [Yes, the person who jump-started me on this theme!]
“In 2013, I tried to eat in every Korean restaurant in London’s Zone 1. Here’s the blog: tumblr.com/thekimchiproject TL;DR: I didn’t quite make it, largely because lots of new ones opened!” — Antonia Mochan
“I tried to drink in every single pub of the Oxfordshire town I used to live in. Failed because they knocked some down before I got around to them...still annoyed!” — Byker Books
“My goal is to visit every subway stop in Toronto without going out of my way to do so. A decade in and I’m still not done.” — Ryan Lancaster
And finally: “I’m a huge fan of these types of goals, especially the ones about visiting ‘all the ________,’ which I refer to as travel quests. In fact, I’ve been (slowly) building a directory of quests (more than 1500 already!) over at goquesting.com and recently started writing a book about quests.” — R Scott Jones
What a great response! And obviously R Scott Jones, with the “travel quest” idea, is well ahead of me on this :) Read all the comments here.
A couple of points came through that I want to highlight. My earlier “mission” variation specifically stipulated a finite deadline, as a motivator. These Every Single X projects tend not to have a time limit — they’re often ongoing and even open-ended.
And, I think crucially, some are almost destined to “fail” (as things close, things open, the world changes). That’s okay. The project/mission/quest is its own reward. (Plus, I love Ryan Lancaster’s extra rule of not going out of the way, which kind of subverts the whole “mission” idea in a really satisfying manner: you can set any parameters you want!)
Maybe I’ll take up that New Orleans park challenge after all.
What about you? Devise your own Every Single X project, and get started!
A NOTE ON “NOTES”
Substack Notes is a new Twitter-like service for Substack users to “share links, short posts, quotes, photos, and more.” Per above, I’ve been experimenting with it. If you’re interested, go to substack.com/notes or find the “Notes” tab in the Substack app. You can also post your own notes. The stated intent is “a space where every reader … can share thoughts, ideas, and interesting quotes from the things we're reading on Substack and beyond.” I haven’t committed to making Notes a regular thing yet, but I’m giving it a try. For more see the Notes FAQ.
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IN OTHER NEWS
For my Branded column in Fast Company, I wrote about Elon Musk’s stunt products, and what the Bud Light fiasco says about the state of brand protests. (Related to the latter: “Supply & Demand” comic by Alex Hood. Thx Bobbie! )
“Braids by Jade: L.A. Street Art Through Two Lenses.” By Camilo Vergara (who correctly notes it would be amazing to hear from Jade herself, should you have any clues… .)
“Kindergarten children dropped seeds in the crack of the sidewalk to see what would happen.” Delightful project. (Related: seek out evidence of tenacity. “There is evidence of tenacity everywhere, wherever you live.”)
The Whippet reveals what “lashtabs” are, and their functions. Scroll (way) down. (Then go back and real the rest; The Whippet is great!)
How the sound of whip-cracking became a divisive issue in Reno. A podcast episode. Snap Judgment / The Wind
Bad Luck Spot. Funny street art project. (Twitter link.)
“When I’m watching people, I feel like a curious ghost.” Wow do I like that phrase! An enjoyable comic by Pepita Sándwich; Washington Post gift link.
Guy redesigns other people’s fliers. Charming.
Wirecutter’s favorite plant-ID apps are Pl@ntNet and iNaturalist.
Friend of TAoN Gary Hustwit launches Chance Operation on Substack.
TAoN favorite Anne Elizabeth Moore is touring.
OKAY THAT’S IT!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or use the comments. —> Or just click the heart symbol. That always makes my day.
And thanks for reading …
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I’m eternally in the midst of the Pulitzer Project, in which I read the Pulitzer winner in fiction for each year of my life. There have been some real clunkers, but without this project, I may never have read Lonesome Dove or John Updike’s Rabbit series, for example. It’s a fun way to mix up my normal reading habits when I’m in a lull and to get some rich historical context from stories that were written decades ago.
I live in the San Francisco area. There's a few I've done.
A. Walked all the stairs around the city. There's quite a few since the city is built on hills. Some with beautiful tile work.
B. Visited all the public rooftop or vertical wall gardens. There's a few of them scattered.
C. In the process of visiting every park within SF city limits with a friend. We are about 80% done. It involves not just showing up but hiking trails or walking the paths around them.
D. Have visited every rooftop bar. With the pandemic they've become a popular item with more opening. I'm caught up but will probably be working on this for a while.
E. Hiked every waterfall trail in all the counties of the greater SF area.