The List

Dec 1, 1998
Outside Magazine

69. Climb a Waterfall.

66. Nail a Perfect Cliff Dive

67. Be Entertaining on Demand

by Marshall Sella
The tough part about passing time in the wilderness is choosing a diversion. Passion plays, magic acts, and especially operas can turn a moonlit meadow into a scene of profound human suffering. One step into Tennessee Williams can be fatal. Exposed to the wrong entertainment, even the staunchest defender of nature will return to city life with a nihilistic glint in his eye, muttering and flicking lit Marlboros everywhere he walks.

Some travelers insist that amusing stories are a boffo way to liven things up. This is a cruel hoax. First off, campside anecdotes are almost always told by some craggy blowhard who keeps explaining why the story would be funnier "if you'd been there" or "if you knew Walt." The worst thing about telling jokes outside is that, in the long silence after the punchline, everybody can actually hear the sound of crickets.

For top-notch campsite entertainment, scary stories are the only way to go. The key is to make full use of your surroundings. This isn't the place to spin dead-of-night thrillers about indoorsy types like J. D. Salinger. Keep it local. When in Africa, for example, finish your tale by rounding on the weakest listener, then stage-whispering, "And the jackals took the rest!" On the tundra, churn out some of that explorer's-frozen-claw stuff. It practically writes itself!

You may be asking yourself, "Hey, whatever my name is, must every scary story be about getting eaten?" Oddly, it must! In the wild, you play your trump card. There's no "back-seat of the car" to hide that knife-wielding psycho, no "upstairs" where they traced the call to. You don't need monkey's paws or graveyards to scare the shit out of everybody. The fact that you're camping means you're in a place where people used to die routinely. Take advantage!

If Admiral Scott had realized this, he would've ended his journal with a filthy limerick or a harrowing walrus tale, instead of freezing solid in the Antarctic. But Scott was—can we not face it, after all this time?—a lousy entertainer. The final words he scrawled were, "For God's sake, look after our people." Is that supposed to be funny?

Marshall Sella is a longtime Outside contributor.

68. Enroll in Cooking School in Thailand
Ah, the allure of Thai cuisine. To be adept enough to whip up your own would guarantee a spot in the Renaissance Hep Cat Hall of Fame. Especially if you learn at the Royal Thai School of Culinary Arts, not just Thailand's only such academy that teaches in English, but also perched on the beach in Bang Saen. Tuition starts at $1,700 (011-66-38-748-404). But who can put a price on the expressions of your guests, expecting the usual roast chicken, when you unveil the Khao niew phlaa muck sai moo?

69. Climb a Waterfall
A frozen one, that is. Spontaneity has its place, but you should learn this the right way. The many schools approved by the American Mountain Guides Association include Washington's American Alpine Institute (360-671-1505) and New Hampshire's International Mountain Climbing School (603-356-7064).

70. Go Phenomenon Bagging
-A sundog
-The aurora borealis
-The Perseid meteor shower
-A comet, with the naked eye

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