An Ode to Inky Fingers

For somebody who claims to hate reading ink-on-paper news publications (as opposed to reading the same publications online), I spent a lot of time yesterday and this morning getting my fingers inky.

I still haven’t gotten used to the new morning routine. By habit, I check, then — because I like to save the best for last. But now the second page contains the same old content, as the Rocky has gone under. I felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone when I pulled up Vincent Carroll’s first column for the competition.

That is great news, by the way: the Post has picked up not only Carroll but Lynn Bartels, the capitol reporter, and Mike Littwin, the writer of political humor and humorous politics (and sometimes politics quite serious). With Carroll on the editorial board, perhaps the Post’s editorial page will improve. Though I sincerely miss the Rocky’s editorial page, and I doubt the Post will ever come close.

(It’s hard for me to complain too much, though, as the March 4 Post featured a letter of mine arguing that, despite State Senator David Schultheis’s “repulsive and shameful” comments about HIV testing for pregnant women, “politicians need to stop manipulating our health decisions, whatever their motive.” The letter follows up on my first and second post on the matter.)

The upshot is that the Post seems to be making a genuine effort to reach out to Rocky readers and improve its publication.

Of course, there is also the Denver Daily News, where, upon checking, I immediately found a story of great interest to me (about contraception). So perhaps I’ll have to start checking out that publication more regularly.

Back to the inky fingers. Last night my wife and I stopped by the local King Soopers to pick up some milk. We noticed that the store had some copies left of the final Rocky. (Perhaps the Denver Newspaper Agency released extra copies.) So we flipped through the paper — every page of it — in profound sadness. It was a history lesson in fifteen minutes, as the paper reviewed its major stories over its many years.

About half way through the paper, the neighborhood suffered a blackout. For a few moments, the store went completely dark. (I was happy to have a mini flashlight in my pocket, which I’ve started carrying around all the time.) The store has emergency power, so the lights (at least some of them) quickly came back on. For the Rocky, it is lights out, for good.


I had also fallen behind my reading of Westword, Colorado’s most important “alternative” weekly. I finally read Joel Warner’s fabulous article on Colorado’s medical marijuana industry.

I read Patricia Calhoun’s new story about that rights-violating bastard Steve Horner and his enabling bureaucrats.

I also read four papers’ worth of Jason Sheehan, the food critic, finishing the final one this morning. Listen, I don’t give a crap about fancy restaurants. If I eat at a restaurant, a rare occurrence, I almost always to go a local chain food shop. I never, ever read food criticism. It seems so silly to me, to write about food, of all things, especially considering everything that’s going on in the world.

But I love Jason Sheehan. I even imagine myself sitting in the restaurants he describes, and almost wishing I were there (I mean, for the ones earning good reviews). Sheehan loves food. He adores it. He lives for it. He always finds an interesting back story. And it is inspiring to read a talented writer with a sincere passion for his work.

I figured out just this morning that, to read all of Sheehan, one must turn to not one, not two, but three pages of Westword. He writes, “Cafe,” “Bite Me,” and “Second Helping.”

I don’t even know what the hell grits are, and I don’t even know whether I’ve ever eaten them. Some sort of corn dish, I gather. But grits are religion to Sheehan:

Once cooked and plated, grits become recalcitrant. They refuse to absorb sauce, refuse to even mix well — becoming clotty and stained rather than blended, ugly and foul and (if any food can be) ill-tempered. Grits are tough. They have very specific ideas about their proper employment on the plate and will brook no f***ing around.

(Sorry about the asterisks, but I’ve sworn off extreme swearing for this page, and I’m going to stick to the policy even when it seems unnecessary.)

Considering some of Sheehan’s descriptions — “the dried cherries were another smart addition, cutting the richness of the bacon and the weight of the white corn with a little zing of tart and sweet,” “fresh thyme and garlic, an unexpected dart of spice that hits you right on the back of the tongue” — it occurred to me that Sheehan is not a food critic, after all. He is still a chef, except now his ingredients are words.

* * *

My beloved Rocky Mountain News (and it’s easy to forget my criticisms of it over the years in a time like this) is dead. Print journalism in Colorado will never be the same. But, new and old, personal and corporate, online and ink-stained, journalism continues. Anyone who has taken a peek at our region or our world knows that good journalism is more important than ever.