Seven Worthy Sins






Eco-tourism!  Socially conscious vacations!  Two weeks to a healthy mind and body!

Who the f— cares?

You’re on vacation.  Vacation isn’t for self-improvement fads.  Vacation isn’t for weight loss.  Vacation isn’t for consciousness-raising.  Vacation is for fun – the best kind, the kind you might regret if it hadn’t been so damn great.  Use your other fifty weeks a year to lose weight/get in shape/make peace with Mother Earth.  The next two weeks are yours.

Vacation, real vacation, isn’t about penance or learning or fitness or inner peace or any of that other tripe.  It’s about getting unwrapped, letting your hair down, unleashing frustrations (year-to-date).  Time to party with your Id — pour that misunderstood third a drink, light his smoke, and follow him to freedom.

American culture is failing us, lately, and it began with the coining of the phrase, “guilty pleasure”.  This is a trend that needs to be reversed.  If you’re paralyzed with guilt at the idea of a trip that’s utterly free of piety, self-righteousness, and moral indignation, fear not.

I’m here to help.  Submitted below is a primer on the primal.  A guide to vice, American-style.  Let’s call ‘em the Seven Worthy Sins.


Pride: Excessive belief in one’s own abilities

This one’s the easiest: Drive the Bluegrass Parkway through rural Kentucky and Tennessee.  Even the most egalitarian among us cannot help feel a burst of pride as you observe the following:

1) The primary source of income in the most Deliverancelike parts appears to be selling yard tchotchkes to one another.

2) Dentistry is of the Dark Ages; orthodontia nonexistent.

3) Everyone over the age of twelve smokes.  (Our prize was watching the pregnant cashier at a fireworks store light a new Slim off the butt of the last one.)

4) Cars not made from parts of other cars are a substantial minority.

5) Dogs and children between one and six years old appear to be given equal priority.

Your chest will swell with pride, your lips will curve into an involuntary smile, and you will think to yourself,

“I am proud to not be one of these people”.


Envy: Desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation

A well-run day Memphis will give envy a new meaning, a new depth, and a new place in your heart.  Lemme set the scene:

Breakfast at the Arcade.  Biscuits and sausage gravy?  Country ham with grits and redeye gravy?   Sweet potato pancakes?  Check and check and check. After breakfast, go wander Tom Lee Park and muse on the river rolling by.

Lunchtime: Jim Neely’s Interstate or Leonard’s.  Pig sandwiches both times, though get cole slaw and barbecued spaghetti with the former and onion rings with the latter.  After lunch, drive by Graceland.  You don’t have to tour – just drive by His house because you can.

Dinner: King’s Palace Café.  Ribs, Voodoo Potatoes, whiskey pie, and Sweet Home Chicago being played by men older than the lyrics.  After dinner, knock back a Diver at Silky O’Sullivan’s, a couple of By-The-Yard drinks, do some dancing in the street to the blues with honey-accented cuties, and take a dimly recalled cab ride back to your lodging.

Sometime the next day, post-Tylenol, the realization will hit you:

The natives can do this all the goddamn time, and they’re not even on vacation!

And with that epiphany, you will truly know Envy.


Avarice: Desire for material wealth or gain

Five hundred and twenty stores, eighty-three places to eat, eight nightclubs, fourteen movie screens, and aquarium, and a full size amusement park.  This is not the marketing stats for a mid-major American city – this is one building.

One building big enough to house thirty-two Boeing 747’s.  One building that attracts more people annually than Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, and Graceland put together.  One building that is the World Capital Of Stuff.  The building is the Mall of America, just outside Minneapolis.

Here’s the simple challenge: Shop in each store in the place.  At ten minutes per store, it’d take you 86 hours – and that’s without buying stuff.  Take a few days and shoot for the Ultimate Challenge – exit the Mall with one item from each store.  (If you succeed, celebrate with a cigar from the store-size humidor at Legacy Cigar.)

If you’re a big fan of the theme restaurant, stop by the wedding chapel – of course they have a wedding chapel – and reflect on the birthplace of the Rainforest Café.  Don’t forget to ride the roller coaster.  It winds through the Mall, giving you a view of enough items for sale to cover all the needs of any number of small countries for several years.  Consumer Mecca.  God bless it.


Lust: Inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body

New York, Vegas, and South Beach all lay claim to the title, but the overall U.S. Grand Champion for pleasures of the body is New Orleans.

Specifically, Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street is best known as the stage set for the Girls Gone Wild videos, and while that is very much a part of the appeal of the place, it’s nowhere near the whole story.  Sure, for a set of sparkly beads you can see a different set, equally sparkling.  But before we get to the other indulgences, let me tell you the great unadvertised secret of bead-exchange: You can, pending your sexual proclivities, see just about anything you want in trade for the shiny things.  There’re no limits.  There may be no laws.  It’s not unlike stepping through the looking-glass into a strip-club-turned-prison-riot.

There is nothing prisonlike about the food.  Oysters are fresh, inexpensive, and perfect; sea air made solid.  Soft-shell crab is available in season, and if you go outside that season, you planned your vacation badly.  And when you go to Arnaud’s for turtle soup – which you must – skip the Tabasco on the table and ask for the house hot sauce.

The mind-altering substance of your choice can be had with varying degrees of difficulty, though the class of the legal ones is the Absinthe Frappe.   That’s absinthe – the legal kind, though you can find the other with a little effort – egg white, and sugar.  The effect is similar to the effect of ether as described by Hunter Thompson – you lose all control of your behavior, while remaining completely lucid, so you can watch yourself behaving badly with complete clarity.  It’s a special thing, to be able to point at someone weaving around, wearing oyster cracker crumbs, a boa, and a What-The-Hell-Am-I-Doing facial expression, and say knowingly “She’s had an Absinthe Frappe”.  Lafitte’s makes the best ones.


Sloth: The avoidance of physical or spiritual work

Wanna be a degenerate emperor?  Pull on any suit that covers your primary sexual characteristics – thongs and toplessness are OK, which is both a blessing and a curse — and head for the pools at Caesars Palace.  The immense garden set at the center of the legendary Caesars complex features fountains, aqueducts, and attendants of both genders clearly chosen via a discriminatory appearance-based hiring practice, and God bless ‘em for it.  Get a pina colada.  Get dinner.  Get someone to fan you.  Meet Caesar.  Rent a raft.  Everything is available for tips, here – you could likely hire someone to blink your eyes for you, if you put your mind to it.

The place hasn’t relied on human eye candy, either – the landscaping is unbelievable, and the building cunningly surrounds the pool in such a way to leave no view of anything but the sky.  Swim-up blackjack is missing, which is our only complaint – but then, playing that would be doing something, and all you really should be doing is lying in the sun.


Wrath: Manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury

Rent a U-Haul trailer, hitch it to an old, battered, but well-running truck, and drive it through the legendarily hideous and rude traffic of downtown Boston.  Tip: The term the locals use to describe the drivers is “Massholes”.

It’s been six years, and I’m still mad.  ‘Nuff said.


Gluttony: An inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires

Local food festivals are everywhere.  Corn, testicles, pumpkins, potatoes, garlic, crab – these are all nice, and all worth seeing, if only for the fact that local food festivals seem to breed outlandish hats at an amazing rate.

The king among them, without question, is the Maine State Lobster Festival.  Set in Rockland, Maine in early August, it looks like a normal county fair – midway games, crafts, cotton candy, corndogs, etc. – until you get to the main food tent.  You’ll see a sign:

1½ pound lobsters:

1: 8.99

2: 14.99

3: 19.99

Butter, roll, chips, lemon, and pie included

You read that right.  4 ½ pound of lobster, with trimmings, for twenty dollars.

Carry your tray to one of the long wooden tables and start cracking and picking.  Don’t bother with utensils – they weren’t designed for this kind of assault.   (Did we forget to tell you to wear disposable clothes?  Oops.)  Make small talk with your tablemates – they’re as likely to be local as not, and you might get some good ideas for working off the meal.  We were tipped, a few years back, to walking the Breakwater.  We don’t normally sanction exercise, but after this meal, walking improves the processing.  Buy a foam lobster hat on your way out, and a cardboard container of fried clams if you’re still able to eat.

It should take you around forty-five minutes to get through this overdose of succulence, at which point you may feel the need to apologize to something or someone for enjoying yourself this much.


You’re on vacation.