Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash Vol. XXXVIII: Fly fishing with Oprah and why she must be stopped, an open letter to open-letter writers, and how to ask a question

Matt Labash Columnist
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I just saw a picture of Oprah and her life partner Gayle with what appeared to be fly rods in their hands. I’m totally confused. Do you have any idea what this is about?  — Donna B. McNulty

Good God in Heaven, is nothing sacred? I saw the same picture on Field & Stream’s Fly Talk blog. And not since they made us watch a slide show of partial-birth abortions at my Operation Rescue Father’s Day picnic have I been so disturbed by an image:

It seems that the winsome twosome was filming A Very Special Oprah in Yosemite National Park. As part of their camping-themed show, they went lumbering through the Merced River to scare fish half out of their wits with guides, camera crews, and the ever-present mouth-breathing gaggle of Oprah cultists in tow. As my fishing buddy, The Cool Refresher, put it to me when he saw the same atrocity: “Forget solitude. When Oprah airs this, it will be worse for us fly fishermen than A River Runs Through It. Our streams will be invaded by thousands of bored housewives. Prepare to take up bowling!”

If I were a different kind of person, I might write an open letter to Oprah Winfrey. Except that I detest open letters. They are show-offy, self-important, and tend to operate under the often errant assumption that the famous person they are addressed to actually reads. I will therefore, as a quick aside, write an open letter to all open-letter writers:

Dear Open-Letter Writers,

Please close your letters. A personalized e-mail would be a lot more effective.

Thanks in advance,

I will instead share a few thoughts on Oprah. In the unlikely event that she reads this, it will undoubtedly dislodge my own Fly Fishing With Darth Vader as “Book of the Decade” in Oprah’s Book Club. But being a truth-teller is who I am. Letting the chips fall is what I do.

As an avid fly fisherman, my protest isn’t primarily that I’m against Oprah enjoying herself on the water, though I am, since I regard her as a war criminal, and war criminals should not be entitled to such pleasures. While she might not be Pol Pot or Slobodan Milosevic, failing to have slaughtered millions of innocents, Oprah has waged a quarter-century war on good taste. The Butcher of Belgrade, for all his faults, is not responsible for unleashing Rachel Ray, Dr. Phil, and Dr. Oz on an unsuspecting, easily-led public. Oprah is.

The reason I love to fly fish, aside from the act itself, is to escape life’s aggravations and inanities, both of which are perfectly represented in the figure of the Oprah-watcher. They will believe, for instance,  that if former veejay Jenny McCarthy says — in one of the quack-science segments that have become Oprah’s stock-in-trade —  that you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids because it causes autism, then it must be so. In fact, if Oprah told most of her viewers to jump off a bridge, the question wouldn’t be should they, but rather, could they first build the bridge for Oprah, and then name it the Oprah Memorial Bridge, before plunging to their deaths as Oprahfied human sacrifices.

The last thing we need, with declining fish populations and already over-pressured streams, is tens of thousands of more galoots following Oprah’s lead, so that they can get all kitted up in their crisp new Lady Orvis-wear, tromping through our best water with the tags still on, and spoiling the fishing for the rest of us. God only knows what they’ll do when they get there. In all likelihood, they’ll start overturning submerged rocks, looking not for the browns or rainbows they spooked, but to see if Oprah left some of her Favorite Things for them as she does on her show during her annual materialism orgy.  (Cranberry Creations by Nantucket Clipper!  Josh Groban’s Noel CD!  A Pure Simplicity Pumpkin Purifying Mask!)

Recently, a reputable news organization reported that Oprah is “inviting hundreds of lucky fans to be buried with her in a massive tomb” called the Oprahmidion, “where they will bask in her wisdom for eternity” after they are “embalmed and have their bodies purified and wrapped in cloth by Dr. Oz himself.” Here’s hoping that instead of despoiling our fishing spots, her followers start lining up now to get a good seat.

What is your process in choosing featured questions?  – Me Llamo

It’s complicated:

1. First, I try to answer questions that will educate and inspire the hopeful, idealistic youth of today to become the hopeless, disillusioned youth of tomorrow. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, youth. Put it out in front of you where I can see it, so that I can extinguish your flame of curiosity and optimism, thus preparing you for the hard road ahead.

2. I try not to answer bilingual questions. Such as yours. What is that name? Me llamo? What do you think – I just fell off the gringo truck? Then you don’t know me, or that mi nombre es Mateo. I know your purported name means “I call myself” in Spanish. But listen, Senor Llamo, if you want to ask questions in this column, then you’re going to have to do it in our native tongue. Here, English isn’t our first language, it’s our only language. And if you don’t like it, you can go back to some place where everybody speaks Spanish –  like Arizona.

3. I try not to answer questions that I’ve already answered. I do make exceptions, however, if a reader either rewards me with sexual favors or makes deposits in my Pay Pal account. Because I’m answering you even though I’ve answered a question very similar to this before, it is safe for other readers to assume that you have given me one or the other. I will not say which. A relationship is built on trust.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” was published this spring by Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.