There are things I just love about living in Philadelphia (my neighborhood, for one). There are things about Philadelphia that I can't stand, things that leave me confused and frightened (the Mummers. Especially this New Year's Day, which I celebrated with the sight of a grown man in a skirt and face-paint peeing on the sidewalk about 100 yards from my front door).

Then there are the things I love, even though I knew that by all logic they should frighten and confuse me. Like Wing Bowl, our city's annual orgy of sexism, deep-fried foods and wretched excess.

There is no Wing Bowl where you live. There certainly wasn't a Wing Bowl where I grew up. And if there were once other Wing Bowls dotting this great nation, I can only guess that they've been driven underground by the combined forces of political correctness and the fat-gram police.

What, you ask, is Wing Bowl? It's a yearly contest, sponsored by WIP, Philadelphia's big, dumb, loud sports-radio talk station ("Yo, Ange, first-time, long-time. I got two comments and a question, and I'm gonna hang up and let youse discuss.") that gives me a full-body cringe every time I inadvertantly come across it on my A.M. dial and have to suffer through a few inadvertant seconds of some angry white guy second-guessing the Eagles' offense.

But Wing Bowl....ah, Wing Bowl. Once a year, WIP gathers its iron men of culinary achievement (we're defining achievement by consumption, not creation, here). These are men with nom de feedbag like Gaseous Maximus, Lord of the Wings and Ali Blobba. They qualified for Wing Bowl with stunts like eating an entire sheep's head in half an hour. Yes, you read that right.

And at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. on a cold Friday morning in January, they gather in Philadelphia's First Union Center, where they're escorted into the arena by lightly-clad lady Wingettes. They take their places on a stage and, as the JumboTron rolls and the clocks tick down and the judges keep careful watch, they eat. And eat and eat and eat. The winner's the guy who downs the most wings in the allotted thirty minutes, and he gets the crown and...something. It may be a trip to Hawaii. That, of course, is not the point. (Sometimes, I'm convinced that the point is waiting for someone to heave. I was there last year, and some guy barfed all over the table in the middle of the second five-minute period. The JumboTron showed it over and over -- even, once, backward. It was quite something. You really haven't lived until you've seen a guy vomit seventy-some wings live on stage).

So who'd turn out that early in the morning to watch grown men make vomitous pigs of themselves? Thousands of people. The event airs live on the same website that hosts the Inquirer and the Daily News, and is covered on all the TV stations. In case you're curious, this year's winner was three-time champ El Wingador, who downed 143 wings in 30 minutes to take the crown at Wing Bowl X. Only in Philadelphia, kids. Only in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, I finally caught an episode of this season's Temptation Island last night. I was a big fan of Season One, and then for some reason, didn't start watching this season, and boy, am I sorry now. They're all cheating! Cheaters, every one! And once again, I can't tell them apart, except for the blond girl and the really dopy-looking guy with two pierced ears who enjoyed the company of one of the Temptresses in a tent on the beach and then said something to the effect of "There's not a man in America who wouldn't want to be me." Um, yeah. Except for the "being you" part.

My favorite part was when host Mark Wahlberg, all serious-looking, told the guys he was going to show them footage of their ladies at a moment "when they didn't know they were being filmed." "Please let them be on the toilet, please let them be on the toilet," I chanted. But noooo. Instead, we got three of the four ladies engaged in various acts of illicit nook-nook with the Fox-provided Man Hos. My question -- they really didn't know the nookie-cam was there? You're on a show called "Temptation Island," where they point is to get couples to engage in ratings-boosting booty, and you really don't believe they'd have a camera on over the bed? Please. Wouldn't it be funnier if the characters broke the fourth wall and acknowledged the camera with a big, cheesy thumbs-up and possibly a "Hi, Mom?" (Also, I just looked up the couples' bios on the website, in a doublessly futile attempt to be able to tell them apart next week, and by my count three of the ten of them are bartenders, or bartender-slash-something else, and one of them's a waiter. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to work in restaurants!)

Finally, for everyone who's asked, yes, I am still working on a book here (in between cogitating about wing-eating and nookie-for-ratings). IN HER SHOES is almost done, and is scheduled to hit stories in May 2003. Chapters will be posted on the website soon. Patience, my pets!

Oh, and last thing, I swear -- I wrote something for tomorrow's Philadelphia Inquirer. Link to come!