Been a while since I hollered at y’all. But I have written a couple more pieces for The Takeout. The most recent is a handy guide to cheating at the Easter tradition of egg pocking. The second is, among other things, a definitive ranking of instant grit flavors. Go get you some.
Cara and I went down to Pueblo, Colorado, recently to eat sloppers. What’s a slopper? One of the best things to happen to a cheeseburger. Read about it here.
Had the day off today so decided to waste only the first half of it binge watching garbage on Netflix. Then I drove out to Pine Valley Ranch for a three-mile hike. Fun fact: The river in these photos is one of the ones I was standing in last fall and fly fishing.
Went for a short 2.5 mile hike at Staunton State Park. Took Dine Meadow trail to Mason Creek. Detoured up Dine Cliff climbing access, which was pretty steep and provided great views. Then back up Mason Creek. Be sure to play the video of the frozen waterfall with sound on.
I wrote the first drafts of my first three novels with pen on paper. I did it not because I’m in love with ink and notebooks, value them over all the wonders of modern technology. No, it was partly so I could focus, partly to force an extra round of self-editing. I’ve got nothing against computers. I think they’re wonderful. In fact, the most recent novel, the unpublished one, I wrote almost completely on a computer. Why? Seemed to make sense at the time. And the tone and style I was aiming for was punchier, shorter, so it felt okay.
But I might have to go back to pen and paper. For fiction at any rate. I’ve been working on a short story this week, in the morning hours before I sign on for work. The first half of it I wrote in a notebook. But I’ve typed that up and am forging ahead on the keyboard. This isn’t affecting the writing style or the tone.
But there is a matter of distraction. We all know we’re addicted to the interwebs, etc. And it mostly happens these days on our phone. You’re always looking at the thing, even on the toilet, even when you’ve got two other screens going. Even if you’re watching a commercial-free Netflix program.
And I’ve been embarrassed this week at my behavior. It’s not even that I NEED to check Twitter and Facebook every five minutes. I CAN walk away. (Sure, Ken. Sure you can.) But I noticed that every time I ended a paragraph or written thought and paused to figure out what would happen next, my hands almost automatically started the process of switching to a new tab. It didn’t even matter which tab. They just wanted to open something. My mind wanted to look at something. To keep things flowing into it. Disgusting.
I got that urge somewhat under control. Yes, it can be done. You simply have to put some effort into it. But just when I got the desktop urges under control, my hand went and grabbed the phone and opened Twitter–which is also open in one of those tabs on the desktop. Like I said. Embarrassing. And scary!
So it’s either back to the notebook. Or I sit on my hands between paragraphs.
If you, like me, are new to fly fishing, there are a few words that are crucial to your understanding of the sport. In fact, there appear to be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand of these words. And that’s simply for trout fishing in fresh-water rivers. These words don’t simply fall under the subject matter of “fishing.” No, we have words dealing with gear, hydrology, ichthyology, and with insect life both real and fake. Yes, we have a whole etymology of entomology.
I work in digital media and marketing for a living, a field that loves to invent new words, bastardize old words, verb nouns, and visit a host of other sins on the language. But most of the words are as meaningless as the field. Misunderstanding a digital marketing word won’t get you killed. Hell, it won’t even get you laughed at because if you misuse one, chances are other people in the room either didn’t know what it meant in the first place or just assume the meaning has changed in the last half hour.
But even if fly fishing seems overly complicated and ludicrous at times, the words fly fishers use actually mean something. You can find glossaries and text books and websites elsewhere, from the basic to the not-so-basic. I’ll leave it to the experts to give you the latin name of the Caddis fly, what its larval stage is called, and the approximately six million fly patterns based on it. I’m not even going to delve into the differences between the trout species.
I’m new to all of this, so I can’t very well make you an expert if I’m still an idiot bumbling around in waders with the tags still on them. So I’ll give you a few key vocabulary words defined by my own experience and designed to give you just enough knowledge to start looking elsewhere before getting yourself seriously hurt.
To some of you, this is going to sound like a borderline insane question.
Do you wash your whole body while showering?
Normal, well-adjusted people who aren’t nasty are probably wondering, “Ken, what are you talking about? Of course. You get in the shower, let the water run over you and soap up your entire body for that fresh, clean feeling. EVERYONE does that.”
Apparently, everyone does not!
According to more than a few tweet discussions I’ve seen on Twitter this year — and anecdotes from friends of friends — there are people who basically just skip their legs when showering. They reason that if their legs were covered by pants and did not sweat, then said legs are not dirty enough to require a full lathering.
And it’s not Twitter. This behavior was the subject of a segment on the Today show!
I’ll admit that I’m not the cleanest person in the world. If it’s a cold winter day and I didn’t leave the house or if I just sat in an office all day, I might skip a whole damn shower. Or try to. When Cara cottons on to this, it turns into a whole thing.
But when I do take a shower, I wash everything. Top to bottom. Including legs and feet, which, let’s be honest, are getting harder and harder to reach the older I get.
So when I found out that there are people out there who skip entire regions, I was shocked. It was like finding out that Santa Clause isn’t real or that Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” is just a cover song.
Some of these leg-skippers claim to wash their naughty bits and feet as well. But do they? DO THEY? If they’re skipping a full third of the body, can we take them at their word that they’re soaping the sacks and cracks? I’m not so sure.
Am I making too big a deal of this? Is this the wet wipe discussion all over again?
Do you wash your entire body when you shower? Or are you a filthy leg-skipper?
(This post is rated PG-13 for strong, but entirely appropriate, language).
You’re walking down a path running along a rushing mountain river when you hear a grunting up ahead. You pause. Maybe it’s a bear or a hog of some sort. Do they have hogs in the mountains? As you draw closer, you see a man wearing boots up to his chest, a hat jammed onto his head, polarized sunglasses. He’s bent over, in some sort of distress. Maybe the nine foot pole he’s grappling with has pierced his side. There’s a pair of hemostats on the ground, almost in the water. Nail clippers, too. He’s mumbling furiously.
Closer still, you make out what he’s saying. “You piece of shit. Come on you little son of a bitch.” Over and over, weaving in worse as he goes along, sounding like The Old Man from “A Christmas Story” fighting with his furnace — except you don’t need to use your imagination to figure out the words.
You’re looking at me on my first solo fly fishing excursion.
Funny how the internet works. At some point in the last week or two, someone on Twitter was discussing “ALF,” which led to someone else discussing ALF, which led to me remembering ALF, which led to me digging up this oral history of “ALF” from 2016 that I absolutely loved at the time. Because I loved ALF.
Now some of you of a certain age are likely asking, “Who is Alf?” and “Why do you keep capitalizing his name like you’re some sort of deranged PR spokesman who thinks this Alf is a client or something.”
ALF actually stands for Alien Life Form. ALF was the star of “ALF,” a hit sit-com on NBC in the mid 80s. ALF was, in fact, a puppet. That’s right, after a string of humiliating flops, including a pilot season in which NBC didn’t order anything (“Manimal!”), the network greenlit a primetime sitcom whose main character was a loud-mouthed alien who ate cats, drank beer, and was basically an insult comic. And this alien was a puppet.
And it was apparently one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite shows. Mine too! Even though I don’t remember any of it — especially the episode in which ALF, who is a puppet, gets his own puppet. From the oral history.
“We did an episode, ‘I’m Your Puppet,’ which gave ALF a puppet of his own. That was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss [The Simpsons], and their original script was very dark, almost Twilight Zone-ish. It kind of creeped people out.”
Anyway, go read this old piece. It’s hilarious and dark and gets at just how insane TV is.
The healthcare debate is entering its 25th year, and one thing that confounds me is the politician who’ll stand up on stage and promise that you’ll be able to keep the healthcare you love, or that you’ll still have freedom of choice in healthcare. I imagine this is the same sort of politician who would likely struggle at a gas pump or, if presented with the necessary ingredients for a sandwich, would take 30 minutes to complete the job. But what confounds me most is the number of people out here in the real world, who deal with actual health plans on a regular basis, who applaud the idea of keeping the insurance you love.
So some questions.
- Do you have health insurance?
- Did you choose your health insurance provider?
- Did your employer choose your health insurance provider, giving you no say in the matter?
- What would happen if you chose to opt out of your employer-provided healthcare plan?
- Did your employer offer you a range of plans? Is the top one fairly decent and, while not perfect, will cover most things with what passes for minimal hassle when dealing with health care? Does that one cost an arm and a leg? Is the bottom one a low-cost, high-deductible plan that won’t break the bank but is really only suitable for a single person who goes to the doctor once every two years?
- Has your employer dropped the ability to choose your plan and now only offers the low-cost, high deductible option?
- Could you buy a used car for the price of that deductible?
- Does adding a family member exponentially increase the cost of that plan and the deductible?
A few more questions
- Does your employer actually pay for your healthcare?
- If so, do you work for the government or some other tax-payer funded entity?
- Or do you have to contribute money every pay period to pay for your “employer-provided” health insurance?
- Has the amount you’re required to pay crept up steadily every year?
- Do you consider a set amount of money taken out of your check every pay period a tax?
- How much is your own private healthcare “tax” every month?
- Do you have to pay for a separate vision plan?
- Do you have to pay for a separate dental plan?
- Are you ever suspicious that maybe your employer isn’t paying a whole hell of a lot?
Some final questions to wrap things up
- Is your insurance plan accepted by all the doctors and medical service providers in your area?
- Does your insurance company make sure costs are reasonable and the pricing transparent and easy to understand?
- Does it make getting health services simple and efficient?
- Can you just walk into a doctor’s office, or do you have to wait until an appointment opens up?
- What are the copays like?
- Does your plan cover prescription medication?
- After meeting the deductible, is it smooth sailing from then on out?
- When it comes time to pay a medical bill, does the insurance company make it easy to understand what you’re paying for and why?
- How many phone calls on average does it take to settle a standard medical bill?
- How many phone calls, emails, and faxes(!) does it take to settle a dispute with a health service provide?
- Do you sometimes ignore the first three bills sent from a doctor’s office, hoping the insurance company will communicate that it paid its share and then you can figure it out?
- Have you ever cried while trying to figure this all out?
- Have you ever put off medical visits because the thought of dealing with your health insurance company just made you want to crawl under the bed and die?
One last question before you go
- Do you love your health insurance?