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The 2003 Codrescu List 

It's that time, folks. The judges have spoken and their lists of the best 2003 alien experiences are in:

THE MOST SHOCKING MOMENT OF 2003

My friend Keith Veizir visits his relatives in Hungary. Searching for his family's roots, this second-generation American set bravely on the road to find his ancestors, and without speaking a word of the language was welcomed by an entire village of burly peasants bearing his last name, none of whom remembered his father but all of whom packed up to follow him to America. It was only with a great deal of shrewdness, some bribes, and a pre-dawn flight after a night of collective pork-and-cabbage and Unicum binging that Veizir was able to regain the shores of this continent. It is rumored, however, that the entire village, all their belongings piled high on an ox-cart, is pushing toward Budapest hoping to charter a plane.

THE BEST HOTEL AIRPORT TO BE STUCK AT IN A SNOWSTORM

The Sheraton near LaGuardia Airport in Queens. As the snow whirls outside the 12th floor window you can see occasional flashes of bright Chinese letters. All around the hotel is a world written entirely in Chinese bristling with energy, from bookstores selling the latest Beijing best-sellers and calligraphy pens to pungent duck joints where you can sit by the front counter and shake along with the building while the duck cook chops up one duck after another. If the snow doesn't let up and the drifts continue to pile, the feeling that you are in China continues to grow, and you can take pictures to send to your friends signed, "Wish you were here. From Beijing with love." And you're only stuck in Queens. If just being in China is not enough for you, you can take an above-the-ground subway to the temporary quarters of the Museum of Modern Art, which has relocated to Queens while they are building it a new home in Manhattan. Walk through two feet of virgin snow to the MOMA warehouse and experience the frisson of being nearly alone with the warped mind of the 20th century. But whatever you do, don't use their self-guided tour: horrid assistant professors with tinny voices destroy all your enjoyment with mincey little lectures meant to squash the still-breathing (but barely) battered corpus of 20th century art.

THE BEST DRESSED MALE OF 2003

Dave Brinks, for his signature leather vest and matching cap, originally designed by R. Selavie as a WW I poetry uniform; worn briefly during that war by Apollinaire and S. Owen, it eventually lost ground to aviator getup sported by futurists such as Marinetti. Revived by Brinks during the first Gulf War, it now has the look of a classic.

Oops! We've run out of room before we could give you The Sexiest Person of 2003, The Strangest Thing Said in 2003, The Thing That Most Wrecked Our Quality of Life in 2003 (hint: John Ashcroft), The Best Dinner of 2003 (Hint: Laura's), The Best Book of 2003 (no hint), The Best Movie, The Best Upfront Bartender of 2003 (hint: Jolie at Molly's), and many more, including our Secret List, which has the best of those alien things that tourists must never know about. Have a splendid and buoyant 2004!

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