Thursday, June 28, 2012

20 Questions: Steve Zakur

Steve Zakur
Steve Zakur is one of those guys I'm looking forward to getting to know. I'm glad I'll have the chance--he's one of two bloggers who won the chance to fish Yellowstone during this summer's TU Blogger Tour--he, along with Marc Payne of The Perfect Drift, was selected from over 30 entrants in what's become an annual essay contest conducted with the help of the Outdoor Blogger Network and other sponsors (this year, it was Simms and the Yellowstone Park Foundation). 

Read Steve's winning essay ... I think you'll see why he was chosen as one of our tour attendees this year. 

But, beyond the fishing angle--and Steve's already at the vise, tying up attractors and wisely getting ready for the four-day adventure (and I really do believe it will be an adventure)--is the guy I've gotten to know through his writing over at Sipping Emergers in just the last month or so. Steve is damn funny. He's not afraid of a little blue language, and he knows how to put sarcasm to work in order to make a point. In short, I find his writing refreshing and lively--both assets will come in handy when it comes time to explain to the world why the National Park Service wants to rid Yellowstone Lake of trophy-size lake trout in order to save native cutthroats... beautiful, graceful... and, some would say, dumb cutthroats. 

Then I found out what Steve does for a living. In his 20 Questions answer form, under profession, it simply reads, "IBMer." 

Hmm... let's Google this dude, shall we? 

Turns out he's a high-on-the-food-chain tech guru at Big Blue, and one of the first results on the search engine reveals a video titled "Controlling Network Complexity." I, of course, watched the entire video featuring a Mr. Zakur. I understood none of it. The product of going through life with a "C" in college algebra, I suppose. 

It shows the magic of fly fishing. It's proof that, no matter where our lives take us, through this craft, we all learn the same language, and, if we're lucky, we get the chance to speak it to one another. Where else could a copy salesman (you all likely know Sean Anderson, aka, Sanders, who was one of our tour attendees last year) rub elbows with a retired executive (Mike Sepelak) and become great friends in the process? This year, it's an "IBMer" and a bunch of fish bums. Let's see how this shakes out, shall we?

On with the questions...

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Warm, sunny mornings on the porch. A good book at hand. Endless coffee. Ann’s laugh; especially the evil one. That’s a perfect moment.

What is your greatest fear? 

That the movie Doogal will have a sequel and that I’ll be forced to watch it.

Which living person do you most admire? 
I admire people who are (or at least appear to be) successful and happy with their career/life choices. Some figure it out early and pursue it with passion. Others iterate over time and find the sweet spot. Guys like Tom Rosenbauer and Bob White come to mind. I suppose Gierach is in that mold as well. I work with people like this every day.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 
Let’s just say that if I ever submit myself to therapy, we’ll have plenty to discuss. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others? 
Bigotry. Especially the subtle stuff that gets wrapped in the cloth of tradition, religion or culture.

What is your favorite journey? 
Family adventures. Boarding a plane to see something new.

Enough said. 
Which living person do you most despise? 
Oppression really pisses me off. I’ll go with Bashar al-Assad. 

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 
I say “fuck” and it’s related family of words a whole lot more than I should. That said, it’s a great word.

What is your greatest regret? 
Whenever I consider this question I begin to think of the consequences of that regret, the things that would be changed, in the same manner one considers the implications of time travel. There are a few things I’d change but then I see how that change would have taken me on a path which would have eliminated a whole bunch of great stuff. And I wouldn’t change those things for anything. So, no regrets. Well, maybe there’s one. I wish I had come to fly fishing a whole lot earlier than I did. 

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Ann. The two boys that we made together are a close second.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
Getting as far as I have professionally, though casting a No. 14 Rusty Spinner 40 feet to the far bank on Penn's Creek to hook a trout rising under an overhanging mountain laurel comes as a close second.

What is your most treasured possession? 
I used to think that I don’t have any; after all they’re just things. Recently I briefly lost a POW-MIA Bracelet I wear to remember Robert Raymond Duncan’s sacrifice for our country. Sam found it. I was very relieved. 

Where would you like to live? 
As retirement approaches this is something Ann and I talk about a lot. Right now, I’d like to split my time between the summers of Montana/Wyoming and winters in North Carolina. But that’s open to change. We’re visiting Denver this summer. I expect it’ll get high ratings as well.

A fantasy fan...
Who are your favorite writers? 
John Gierach, John McPhee, Stephen R. Donaldson, Isaac Asimov, R.A. Salvatore, Stephen Ambrose, Douglas Adams, James A. Michner. In the blog realm I enjoy Mike Sepelak, Erin Block, English Jonny and T.J. Brayshaw and, until recently, Keith Barton.

Who are your heroes? 
People who serve. When most sane people turn to flee war, crime, fire or some other catastrophe, these people run towards it. They’re incredibly brave and selfless. 

How would you like to die? 
Also a topic of conversation between Ann and I. We both agree that instantly vaporizing while walking the dog is preferable to just about anything out there.

If you were a pet, what would your name be? 
Champ. My late grandfather, a former boxer, called everyone “Champ." It was a phrase of affection and respect. For some reason it strikes me as a good dog’s name. 

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now? 
I’d like to work in conservation either directly or for some company helping to direct their conservation efforts. If Orvis wanted to offer me a job, that would be fine too. 

What’s the favorite of all the cars you’ve ever driven? 
Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Blue lights blazing. Pure Power in so many ways. 

Starring in the "Steve Zakur Story."
Which actor/actress would play you in the movie about your life, and why? 
Jeff Bridges. I like to think there’s a little of The Dude in all of us. And a little Rooster Cogburn as well. 

BONUS QUESTION: What’s the closest you’ve ever been to dying? 
Landing in San Juan back in ’97. It was a perfect day for flying; blue skies and such. I think the pilot was either a monkey or a Labrador Retriever. Three tries to get on the runway and the third was more of an elegant crash than a landing. I don’t mind flying, I just don’t like it when they hire monkeys to drive the damn things. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to homicide as well. 


  1. Ann’s laugh; especially the evil one. Perhaps the best answer ever on 20Qs. You guys are going to have a GREAT time in Yellowstone. And THANKS, Steve, for the kind nod and for putting my scribblings in such amazing company.

    We need to share a stream sometime.

    1. Yes, we do. I've been trying to find an excuse to get to Raleigh on business so that I can be in your neighborhood. Someday. Hopefully sooner vs later.

    2. A fabulous idea. I look forward to it, big time.

  2. Steve's fast becoming one of my true favorites...he's old like me.

    1. Younger than some, older than others. It's all relative.

  3. I've been reading "Sipping Emergers" for some time now. I always feel way less confident in my writing abilities because of it, so one of these days I'm going to unsubscribe. Until then, I'll enjoy and take notes. Steve is obviously one of the good guys–it comes through in his writing, and now the interview confirms it. I resent the hell out of him for getting to go to Yellowstone in July.

    1. Thanks, Kirk. I am deeply humbled by your words. I too hope to unsubscribe to your feed though you teach something new each time I read your work. I too am filled by self-loathing when I think of my trip to Yellowstone but I get over it pretty quick. :)

  4. This interview reminds me of a line from the opening remarks in The Longest Silence: "Good anglers should lead useful lives.."

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I aspire to be so useful. Thanks, Pete.

  5. Been following Steve and his writing for basically as long as I've been following bloggers. Always a fun read, and never get tired of his quick wit. Yellowstone will have no better ambassador to speak for those cutts in July.

    nice to learn a little more about one of the guys I look up to in this crazy business. Good stuff!

    1. Thx, Sanders. Do you suppose they'll give me some sort of sash to wear as an ambassador?

    2. I'd be careful to make such kinds of suggestions, Steve, even in jest. You are dealing with Chris Hunt, after all...

    3. As long as it entitles me to diplomatic privileges like first cast on the best water, last slice of pizza and extra beer, I'm game.

  6. What's with all the death shit?

    Nice interview Steven. Refreshing and lively, indeed.

    Brayshaw did 20 questions once. I think they stopped at 7.

    1. I don't make the questions, Jonny, I just answer them.

      I'd like to see Brayshaw answering the questions on behalf of English Jonny; that would be something.

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