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EVERY TOWN HAS A `BEST' LIST - BUT NOT LIKE THIS

"The Best Place to Have Sex in Public."

This was a category in a survey published recently in my hometown. Seattle used to be known for its avant-garde action when it came to coffee, airplanes, computer software and grunge music. I wonder if this survey category represents the next wave of social trendiness. Maybe I should buy stock in the tour-bus business to get ahead of the wave. I can see it now: "Welcome to Pink Line Tours . . . and on your left, ladies and gentlemen, just there in the supermarket parking lot, you can see five couples. . . ."To explain: For 10 years, the Seattle Weekly has surveyed its readers on the subject of "The Best of Seattle." Best loaf of bread, best dry cleaner, best bookstore, etc. The latest edition expands coverage to the latest "best" from the World of Love and Romance. The winners: the University of Washington Arboretum and the Washington State Ferry System.

Now, I can understand about making out in a place where there are lots of bushes and trees. That's old stuff. Adam and Eve did that. But on a ferryboat? Wow!

This information is, however, welcome news. It solves a problem for me. My mother-in-law is coming to visit this month, and she wants to see sights in Seattle she has not already seen. A ride on the ferryboat ought to do it. "You check the lifeboats, Mother, and I'll search the upper deck."

The Best. That's what we want, regardless of the category. In almost every city I visit, some newspaper publishes the "Best" list. There are even magazines and books devoted to the subject. Much of what's listed is very expensive. But if you shift the scale and ask most of us for our list of "bests" on a personal, private scale, the costs are not high. What makes daily and weekly life go well comes cheap - if not free.

I'll give you 10 examples from my own "Best of Summer 1995" list.

1. Best Place to get Chicken Fried Steak in the Universe: The Shanty Cafe in Seattle on Elliot Way. It's on the dinner menu. $8.95 plus a fine tip for the waitress.

2. Best Place to Hide a Private Supply of Something I Don't Want to Share at Home, Such As Cheetos or Oreo Cookies: under the sink in the bathroom in a brown paper bag marked "extra personal toiletries." Nobody ever sorts through what's under the bathroom sink. And nobody asks what I'm doing in the bathroom with the door locked. And, of course, there is a sink in there. When I'm through eating the Cheetos and Oreo cookies, I can wash the orange and brown dust off my fingers so nobody knows what I've been doing.

3. Best Hour of the Week: 8 a.m. on Saturday, when I'm still in bed - as opposed to the same hour on Monday, when, if I'm still in bed, I'm in trouble.

4. Second Best Hour of the Week: 9 a.m. on Saturday, when I'm in the shower with a cup of coffee and the stereo blasting the Best Spiritual Music: The Rolling Stones playing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and Bob Marley playing "Don't Worry About a Thing."

5. Best Local Entertainment: 10 a.m. on Saturday, sitting on the back porch and watching my neighbors do home improvements.

6. Best Foods: waffles on Sunday morning and popcorn late any night.

7. Best Sound: the click of a door closing and the greeting "I'm home, dear" from my wife when she has been out of town, and I knew she was driving home from the airport late at night on the freeway in the rain.

8. Best Smell: a beach towel that's been hung out to dry in the summer sun.

9. Best View: when I'm lying on my back on a summer night, looking straight up at the Milky Way.

10. Best Piece of Dumb Luck: figuring out how to write 700 words for a newspaper column with nothing better to start with than the sentence, "The Best Place to Have Sex in Public."