Friday, October 30, 2009

"You're embarrassing me in front of my fancy band."

The quote above is from one Mr. Ben Folds. He's what the kids today call a "musician," former member/leader (by virtue of his name being in the band name) of Ben Folds Five, producer of Bill Shatner, Amanda Palmer, and Weird Al Yankovic, and all-around nerd icon. At least to me, he is. Ben Folds is kind of my favorite musician ever. There are others whom I really like, and whose music I may even think is better than Ben's, but he's still my favorite. His lyrics are playful and sometimes thought-provoking, and his piano skills are incredible. Plus, he puts on an amazing live show. He's not just out there to play songs - he's there to entertain his audience, and he does it perfectly, from the stories he tells between songs to his use of audience participation. I mean, what other musician are you going to see who has the audience since in three-part harmony? I've yet to find another one. These are just some of the reasons that I love Ben Folds.

Last week Jennie and I saw Ben perform with the Columbus Symphony. I'd seen the DVD of his performance with the Western Australian Symphony, so I had an idea of what to expect, but nothing could've prepared me. It. Was. AMAZING. The orchestra provided a fullness to the songs that I didn't even realize was missing from the shows I'd been to with just Ben and his piano. Songs like "Zak and Sara," "Effington," or "Stephen's Last Night in Town" were lighter and more playful than they already were, whereas others like "The Ascent of Stan" or "Brick" seemed to carry an extra layer of pathos. Many of the songs gave me chills, and, while I'd heard a version of the song with strings before, hearing "Smoke" live with the orchestra actually made me cry. Either I'm just that lame, or it was just that good.

I'd heard other bands perform with symphony orchestras before. Most notably for me was Metallica's album, S&M, on which they performed live with the San Francisco Symphony. While the album is excellent, there is a DVD of the performance, and you can isolate the symphony from the rest of the band. Doing this reveals that, for the most part, the orchestra just sits there while Metallica plays their songs. Sure, there are flourishes of notes here or there, but they're basically accompaniment to the band. I had that in mind going in, and it was an incredible experience to hear the orchestra, as Ben described it, actually act as the band. If you have the opportunity to see a performance like this, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear Current Love

There's nothing I can say here that can even begin to describe how I feel about you. I love that we laugh at the same stupid things. I love that we like the same music, the same books, the same TV shows, and that we get the same pop culture references. I love that we think of the same things at the same times, and that I never have to explain anything to you because chances are really good that you already know what I'm talking about. I love that we grew up blocks away from each other, so we already know all of the same places and neighborhoods. I love how instantly comfortable I was with you, and how instantly comfortable you were with me. I love that I can say whatever comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous or inappropriate, and I feel no self-consciousness about anything (though maybe this is a bad thing). But mostly, I love how I feel when I'm with you, when I hold your hand, when I look at you. I love feeling like my heart might burst because it just can't hold it all in, and I love being able to see in your eyes that you feel the same way.

I love everything about you and everything about us. I wouldn't change anything. My life is the best it has ever been, and I have you to thank for that. So, thanks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At least I have my health.

As anyone who has been following this blog for any amount of time knows, I lost my job about ten months ago. Since then I have been either unemployed or underemployed, and while I'm now working a 40-hour full-time job, it's a temporary position and I don't know if it's going to amount to anything other than having paid for the Wii I bought a few weeks ago.

The first thing I did after starting to do freelance work in March was to look for health care. The coverage that was provided by my former employer was great. It covered just about everything I could want it to cover, and my prescription copays were always very low. I decided that I wanted to stick with the same insurance company that I'd been using for years. I found a website through which I could apply, filled out the application, and sent it in.

A few weeks later I heard back: my application had been rejected. The reason had something to do with some doctor's visits I had made almost a year prior, and it didn't make any sense. I wasn't seeing that doctor anymore, so why should it affect my coverage now? So I applied again. This time I tactfully and skillfully left those previous visits to the doctor whom I was no longer seeing off of my application. Was this wrong? Maybe. But I needed insurance, and since I was no longer seeing this doctor, I didn't think it would be a problem. And again, a few weeks later, I received another rejection. No mention was made of the doctor whom I was no longer seeing. This time the reason given was my height and weight. Fun fact about me: I'm 6'5". I carry a little extra weight around my midsection, but I am by no stretch of the imagination obese. I'm a big guy, and I'm built like a big guy. My weight has never been an issue before medically, so why should it be an issue now? I was convinced that, if they could see me, they would have accepted my application.

Now I was frustrated. I had seen an ad in the paper for a local insurance agent with the company that I had been applying for coverage from, so I called him. We talked for about an hour and I filled out yet another application and he sent it in for me and told me he would let me know what he heard. So I waited for about a month, maybe more, I don't remember exactly, and then I heard back. Rejected yet again. This time, it was because of a prescription that I've been taking on a daily basis for a while now. In other words, I have a pre-existing condition. I don't see a doctor for this condition. I don't have to undergo expensive medical procedures because of this condition. Once a month I go to the pharmacy and have my prescription refilled, and that is the extent of the care that this pre-existing condition requires. The cost of the prescription without insurance is a little over $100. That's just over $1,200 a year. The premium that I would've been paying to the insurance company would probably have covered most of that. And yet, they wouldn't give me insurance.

So I decided to go a different route. Referred by a friend to another website, I filled out another application and was soon contacted by a very friendly woman who helped me compare my options and choose a plan that I could afford and that would cover what I needed. My prescription copay was a little more expensive than it had been before, but I wasn't paying anywhere near the full price so I was fine with it. All was fine with the world. Until this past weekend. I went to pick up my prescription, and my copay had almost doubled from $45 to $83.30. That's just $20 less than the cost of the prescription. Monthly the insurance costs around $140, plus the now $83.30 copay for the prescription, which makes the monthly total around $223.30. It would actually be cheaper for me now to just drop the insurance and pay for the medication out-of-pocket than to continue with it.

Since this past weekend I've contacted the woman who helped me set up the insurance, and after doing some digging she informed me that the copay increase wasn't a mistake (as I thought it surely must have been). It's just a tactic of the insurance company's in an attempt to get me to sign up for a mail-order program that is supposedly cheaper than going to the pharmacy. She also mentioned that her own insurance company has been pressuring her to make the switch from pharmacy to mail-order service.

I just really don't know what to say about any of this, nor do I pretend to know everything about the current health care debate that is going on around the country. I do know, though, without question, that the current system is broken and that something needs to be done to fix it, and soon. I also know that I hope I don't get sick any time soon.