Somewhat recently, fellow resident of the Sneer House, Lisa, and I took a trip to the Midwestern United States’ Largest Flea Market, which is conveniently located just north of Cincinnati. For those of you unfamiliar with the large scale flea market, let me just describe it as an expansive building filled with booths that are full of an array of garbage that is for sale. Some of the booths actually sell quality items, and you wonder what they are doing there, but mostly it seems to be junk that fell off of the back of a truck and these people scavenged it and put low, low price tags on it — or absurdly high price tags. For those of you who ARE familiar with flea markets, you know that the “bottom” in my title means a butt.

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Nothing can beat the splendor of the preserved beauty of nature for miles, lit by a setting sun while you sip a beer you snuck in. Public parks are great in nearly every form, and National Parks are a national treasure. There are 59 of them designated right now (although there are 417 units in the National Park Service) in these United States and I recommend racing your friends to visit the most.

At a lot of these parks, you’ll end up having to hike a bit. But good news! Hiking is just walking. Grab some fashionable yet comfortable sneakers, a reusable water bottle, and get your park on. Summer is the perfect season for sweating off your booty while enjoying one of these charming spots.

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Plus, they need us! We all know how politics go, and don’t you want America to still be here in hundreds of years, in the form of natural landmasses that we had little to do with? Show your support by visiting and indicating that you appreciate their existence. Our national parks are doing a really great job lately, and we should each and every one of us let them know!

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Camping sucks. Why does anyone do it! Every year, we are all asked to go camping as though our personalities have changed to loving the outdoors suddenly. And no matter how much you are sure you hate camping and don’t want to do it, eventually you break down and say okay, in case THIS time it will be fun for the first time ever.

And it is fun — in theory. However, when you get there it is full of bugs and people want you to do things with them and also there’s no shower. The rest is fun though! The sleeping and eating and some of the seeing your friends is fun. Maybe hiking is part of camping, and that’s fun, but really hiking is its own thing, so whatever. Anyway here’s the foolproof Sneer guide to trying your best not to want to die while being forced to camp.

 

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Humans are, by nature, very social creatures. Any student of the human condition will often be found in a bar, where the people come and go and exchange greetings and subconsciously communicate via subtle body language. This will all go unnoticed by the student of the human condition, because he is throwing back up to an entire fifth of vodka in fifteen minutes while despairing and wondering where he went so terribly wrong in his life that he was forced to become a student of the human condition.

However, people do tend to prefer congregating in the presence of food and drink. Now, I have never found a satisfactory explanation as to why people have this compulsion to shovel food into their faces in order to socialize. The best I’ve been able to come up with is either that in a restaurant, there are people paid to clean up after your nasty friends (though whomever is tasked with cleaning the bathrooms is paid nowhere near enough), or there just weren’t enough “Pop-Tarts” at home.

Restaurants are a major element in our culture. They’re everywhere. From the smallest of towns to the biggest of cities, from tiny greasy spoons to fine, urbane French eateries, restaurants are a place not only where one can actually use real-life math skills when figuring tips, but a place to gather, socialize, and drink until the bartender starts reading medical textbooks on diagnosing catastrophic liver failure.

Restaurants

Generally speaking, there are three major classes of restaurant. The lowest class is of course fast food. Fast food is defined not only by the blandness and monotony of its menu (the new McBun!), but by the general homogenization it brings to our culture. You can walk into a McDonald’s in Boise, Iowa, and it will be exactly the same as being inside of any other McDonald’s on the planet (except for Pomeroy, Ohio, where you can still gleefully order and devour a McPizza).

Now, I admit that there are subtle menu variations based upon geography, and I assert that it makes no difference. I was in a McDonald’s in Montreal, and I noted that they had poutine on the menu. I freely admit that I am not French-Canadian. I am not Canadian at all. I cannot claim to be from any geographical or cultural zone that in any way, shape, or form is connected to anything French-Canadian. I am from the American South, where even the ice cream is deep-fried. And yet, I know instinctively that McPoutine is bland McDonald’s crap just like every other McFood on the McMenu. It might as well be that every McDonald’s restaurant is just a hollow shell, with the doors being portals to the Mc Dimension, which is just one large McDonald’s restaurant. Such is the acute degree of homogenization that McDonald’s brings to an area.

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Okay so here’s the deal. I am not originally from New Jersey. I was born in Florida, but moved here at age 12 or so. I have not left since then, not for longer than 2 weeks, anyway (or for 9 weeks, those two times I stayed the entire¬†summer at camp).¬†I hated it at first. I remember one of my first summer camp interactions being an argument about whether or not New Jersey was terrible. I was on the wrong side of the argument back then and I said it was indeed terrible. But I was 14 or 15, and everything WAS terrible.

Later, I learned that New Jersey is not just a wonderful place to be, but also has its own abundance of wonderful things! For example, our state insect is the highly superior honeybee, and the story is that a group of schoolchildren convinced the governor that the honeybee was the appropriate choice in 1974. Our state animal is the horse, what better option! We even have a state cryptid, my good friend, The Jersey Devil.

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Shopping for groceries is one of those annoying tasks you have to do once or twice a week, depending on your habits and needs. Maybe there are some people out there who enjoy the act. Perhaps for them, creating a list for a week, perhaps a carefully planned menu, all of that stuff, perhaps all of that is a pleasure for these people. It might fulfill an instinctual need to hunt and gather. God, who knows. What I DO know is that I am not one of those people. Grocery shopping is a boring old activity that involves many things I despise: making decisions, forethought, crowds, and being out in public.

I believe grocery store managers realize that there are all sorts of customers, and they try to make their stores as pleasant as possible to encourage repeat purchasing experiences. All of the items are arranged systematically, for ease of locating them. The workers are made to be friendly and happy. And they have installed a little sound system in most stores because someone somewhere must have done a study that says that people are more likely to shop happily if they can do so to a mild, inoffensive beat in the background.

I think it is a good idea, all of this playing music in the backgrounds of places. I do enjoy music, and even when they play songs that I would never hear on my own free time, such as, say, any song by Gwen Stefani ever (she and No Doubt in general seem to be a staple of grocery stores everywhere – it causes me to laugh in a way that is unkind), I can still say that I am glad that I am not left to shop in silence. That unwieldy sentence deserves a summary: I would rather listen to crap like Gwen Stefani’s annoying voice than eavesdrop on the often-bewildering drone of fellow shoppers punctuated by the shrill cries of their horrible infants. The songs played are often easily forgettable and mildly pleasant, or at the very least not at all distracting from the shop process. I might notice that Gwen Stefani is imploring me to “don’t speak” for the umpteen billionth time in the Pasta Aisle, but I can still select a pasta suited to my tastes.

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But this article isn’t REALLY about how much I don’t like that ridiculous singer, no matter how many snarky observations I have on hand, or outright insults if we dare speak of the Hollaback Girl Fiasco. This is about the handful of times when I have been out shopping for food items, and the speakers in the store have played a song that was so noteworthy for its soul-sucking depression, its sheer catchiness, or its just plain old out-of-placedness, that I had to stop shopping until it was over.

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