“I haven’t had good sea urchin in ages,” you think. “And I’m really, really in the mood for good sea urchin.” Any kind of sea urchin will do—fried, flambéed, you don’t care. Your sea-urchin craving happens only once every few months or so, and your wife thinks it has something to do with your mother, whom you once described as “prickly.” This is not surprising, because your wife hates your mother. At any rate, you have no idea where to find good sea urchin. Or bad sea urchin, for that matter. You’d ask your assistant for a recommendation, but she’s too busy faxing merger documents to the wrong tax attorneys. You’re not even sure she knows what a sea urchin is.
The day’s mail sits unopened in a pile on the edge of your desk and you reach under a stack of FedEx envelopes for this week’s issue of New York Magazine. It’s the annual “Best of New York” issue. You’ve never considered “best” an objective qualifier, and you suspect that magazines that publish “best of” issues are engaging in some sort of institutional solipsism—things are “the best” because the magazine thinks they’re “the best,” but you decide to go with it. They’ve obviously spent months researching this stuff, and what difference does it make how New York Magazine differentiates between one knitting circle and another? (Is the instructor wittier? The knitting better? Do the amateur knitters—the knitting poseurs—go elsewhere?) You note that the Best Place to Buy Flat-Screen TVs is the place you bought your 36 inch three months ago, and you feel a little smug. You didn’t get your massive, superamped entertainment center from any old store; you got it from the best store.
You continue to flip through the magazine, see the Exhale yoga center, and remember how flummoxed you were when you were feeling even more stressed out than you feel right now and were looking for a yoga center that didn’t creep you out, and you resolve to try this one. You also notice that New York’s food critics have singled out your favorite restaurant as having the Best Quesadilla. You applaud your own good taste. Your stomach growls. You ask your assistant to call your wife and ask her for the name of that place you had that sea urchin dish that time. “You know. That place,” you say— clarifying for her benefit. “I’m not going to have time,” your assistant protests. “I’m leaving today at 4:30.” You look at your watch. It’s 2:15.
You wonder if New York will receive protest letters from readers who disagree with their picks. “Dear Editor,” you imagine your self writing, “In your ‘Best of New York’ issue, you stated that Asiate had the ‘best’ potted duck in New York. I feel that you have misrepresented the facts. Had you been more thorough in your investigation, you would have discovered that the best potted duck in New York is in fact found on West 78th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam in the kitchen of my dear aunt Geraldine.”
Your mental composition is interrupted as Best Poker Weekend catches your eye. You wince as you think of the $600 you lost to Jack’s annoying younger brother two weeks ago and vow revenge. You ask your assistant to call the Borgata in Atlantic City and inquire about registration for the next tournament, but she’s busy responding to an urgent and confidential e-mail from the only surviving son of a dead Nigerian dictator, who is apparently willing to enter a lucrative business partner ship with her if she’s willing to accept the transfer of $18 million into her personal bank account.
You wonder if New York has a Best Incompetent Assistant-Replacement Agency category. A few pages later, you notice a recommendation for Best Men’s Facial. You’re fairly comfortable with your metrosexuality and freely admit that this may be the best category so far. You absent-mindedly rub your face, irrationally assuming that you can determine whether you need a facial by doing that. Yes, you conclude, it appears that you need a facial. You recognize the Best Place to Spend a Mint on a Puppy as the place where your wife bought her chihuahua’s “couture” dog collar. The dog—which you hate—has a habit of running between your kitchen and living room, yapping ferociously and punctuating turns with a sharp little ARF! Yap, yap, yap, yap, ARF! Yap, yap, yap, yap, ARF! Sometimes it slips on the rug and goes crashing into the wall. Yap, yap, yap, yap, yap, ARF— whack! You feel a tiny bit of glee every time it happens. You wonder if the Best Place to Spend a Mint on a Puppy is interested in buying a slightly used chihuahua. You write down the name of the Best Craft Studio, because the yapping, couture-collared piece of evil in question recently decapitated your 4-year old’s beloved doll, Claire, mistaking her for some sort of threatening domestic predator. You also make a note to call the Best Environmentally Friendly Exterminator, since the only thing the dog appears to have no interest in chasing, biting, or even mildly annoying is the bug population in the basement.
You continue flipping through the magazine. Best Vintage Lamps. The perfect gift for Aunt Geraldine, you think. Best Same Day Dry Cleaner. That would have come in handy yesterday when your assistant spilled her venti latte over your Hermès tie. Best . . . Sea Urchin. You smile. Mmm . . . sea urchin.