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Best of ourselves

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It's exhilarating to read this week's issue and revel in all the fun stuff we have to do in the Triangle--and how many people are out there doing it. Managing Editor Kirk Ross oversaw creation of this year's edition of the Best of the Triangle, which was expanded to include more than a hundred categories of readers' choices. We also intentionally went low-tech after experts around the country told us there was no easy way to keep people from stuffing online ballot boxes by pasting in an entry and leaning on the return key. So we required readers to fill them out by hand, and to include no fewer than 25 categories. If you were going to stuff the ballot box, you were going to pay in writer's cramp.

More than 500 people responded, each with their own particular parleys of fun things to do and places to go. Some people are all mall, and some are militant aesthetes. It was fascinating just to see how consistent (and inconsistent) we can be.

The fact is that we all have our own personal Best Ofs that we live every day. They're the food, friends and diversions that make us who we are. In the name of full disclosure, here are a few of mine, and what they're really all about.

Best Blog (or Best Place to Get a Shortcut Take on the News): Eschaton is an anonymous blogger whose insight and common sense offer a better understanding of the world in a few minutes than most newspapers (and anything on TV) give you in a month. ( www.atrios.blogspot.com )

Best Burgers (or Best Do-it-Yourself Food): My own. After my wife read me excerpts from Fast Food Nation, I stopped eating store-bought ground beef and started grinding it myself. (Warning: Don't read the book unless you're ready to do the same thing.) Then I started adding sausage to the burgers--usually andouille and sometimes kielbasa, better homemade than store-bought (for flavor as well as, um, health reasons).

Best Cause (or Best Place to Buy Home-Grown Garlic): SEEDS (The South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces), an inspired organization that has built a beautiful inner-city garden in Durham while teaching kids the skill, discipline and meaning of small-scale farming. They sell their crops at the Durham Farmers' Market every Saturday morning

Best Club, (or Best Place to Be Young Again): The Cave. Mouse Mock is a man on a mission to bring musicians, music lovers and cold bottles of PBR together two shows a night, seven nights a week. For that he deserves our undying gratitude.

Best Radio Show (or Best Opportunity to Learn Obscure Music History): Eight Track Flashback on WNCU-FM (90.7) with Jim Davis on Saturday afternoons from noon to 4 p.m., featuring soul and R&B from the '50s through the '70s. It's the show my friends Bruce and Tony took over for a glorious year of B sides and strange tangents (like when they played the New Orleans classic, "Morgus the Magnificent"), and though I don't think the show's quite as interesting anymore, it's still very good.

Best Seafood Store (or Best Place to Show the Kids Big, Dead Fish): The ones closest to my house--Leo's, either No. 1 with its restaurant efficiently attached or No. 2, which is conveniently down the street from the Soviet-style ABC store on Roxboro Road. They're where a bushel of fresh, cold oysters costs less than most restaurant bottles of wine. Just don't go late Friday afternoon, when the line for croakers is out the door.

Best Job (or Best Thing to Do All Day If You Can't Just Stay Home, Eat Oysters, Drink Beer, Listen to Music and Play with the Kids): This one.

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