June, 2010 Archives

Bad News / Good (Detroit) News

Comments Off on Bad News / Good (Detroit) News
June 30th, 2010

When you get blindsided, your first reaction always seems to be, “Why didn’t I see that coming?” But that’s the very definition of being blindsided. That’s why it’s not called frontvisioned. I won’t say finding out I had to go back to square one with my chemotherapy blindsided me per say. I knew it was […]

When you get blindsided, your first reaction always seems to be, “Why didn’t I see that coming?” But that’s the very definition of being blindsided. That’s why it’s not called frontvisioned. I won’t say finding out I had to go back to square one with my chemotherapy blindsided me per say. I knew it was possible; I just wanted the original “induction” chemo to have done more. What happened next did blindside me. But in a good way.

So after last night’s results told me I had to re-navigate the treacherous waters in the Tropic of Cancer, I slept lousily thinking all the worst possible thoughts of my outcome and woke with a fever, then later a migraine. My family didn’t sleep well either. Something about hearing you have to start over makes you begin to see this in a new light.

My new light is destroying leukemia. I used to think of my disease as a “cute” leukemia but now I’m done with silly games and trying to belittle it. They’ve changed the regimen and the chemistry so as to maximize destruction. Leukemia, you’re going down.

As I was forming my attack plan and the nurses were hanging the many bags onto Ivy, good buddy Chris Farina called and wanted to visit. I was golfing with Chris the morning I got my diagnosis and I often tell disbelieving people I felt that good beforehand. Everyone I’ve spoken with who’s had this disease all say they were sick when diagnosed. I was highly unusual; go figure.

Seeing Chris made me happy. We instantly became friends at the Detroit News; our families have vacationed together and he’s great to just hang out with. When I abruptly left The News for the Free Press, by simply walking down two flights of stairs I always felt like I was abandoning my friends at The News.

Chris and I spoke about how he assumed I’d look a lot worse, to which I absentmindedly rubbed my hand across my almost blank skull. We talked about both our fathers dying of cancer and how this Leukemia just became a bit more of a force to be reckoned with. But we also talked about movies, newspaper gossip and I showed him how www.detnews.com look on my iPad.

Then I got blindsided.http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRodneyFund.jpg

As he was fixing to leave he leaned to one side and whipped out a Detroit News/Media News Group envelope stuffed with something and held together with a large office paper clamp. It took a moment to comprehend what he was handing me but after two, maybe four seconds, the seismic upheavals began in my gut and erupted out of me as full-on tears. The News had taken up a collection for me too, just like the Free Press had. And they had started it way back before even knowing about each other. The Rodney Fund.

I won’t dwell on tears again. They make us feel better and cope easier. But I will say, like the Eskimo words for snow, they break down into many different categories. Today’s were along the Wonderment vein. And speaking of Native Americans, my Aunt Roberta sent along a Navajo cure word from back when she worked as a doctor on the reservation. Chaauh. I like the way it sounds.

Today a fellow Michigan Press Photographer, Doug Tesner, died of cancer. He admittedly smoked too much and lung cancer did him in. I also learned about another colleague who was just diagnosed with colon cancer. Man, it’s not a good run for us shooters. But as my Mom says, within everything we’ve experienced there’s something to be grateful about. John Kaplan, yet another photog with cancer, sent me his amazing video about his battle with the disease. You want to see hope and gratefulness, just check out his story.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcPublishersNote.jpgBut here’s my personal note to the entire Detroit News staff. First of all, thank you so much for your incredible gift. Expenses are popping up in strange, unforeseen places. My cell phone bill is through the roof but due to the kindness of colleagues, we are able to pay for things like that. Second, I know you all worry about what’s next in the journalism business. But take it from me, enjoy the right now and if you have to think about the future, do it positive ways. Don’t ask what you could do to survive, ask what you’ve really always wanted to do, (apart from telling incredible stories). And third, I guess you don’t resent me for leaving on that April morning four years ago.

Mostly though, take a look around you at some of the faces you work with every day on the third and forth floors. Realize that these people are there for you en masse when the chips are down. Even if you can’t believe it — even if you walk out on them with no warning — they will shock you with their kindness and outreach and love.

And love.

A Note From Rodney’s Publishers

Comments Off on A Note From Rodney’s Publishers
June 28th, 2010

We’ve taken over Rodney’s blog for a day or two with this important announcement. Hey all you Rodney fans, colleagues, students and friends—Rodney has been lighting up our lives for years, too, and we know that one of Rodney’s dreams is for more people to check out his book, Spiritual Wanderer. We want to help […]

We’ve taken over Rodney’s blog for a day or two with this important announcement.


http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-SpiritualWandererFront-300x453.jpg

Hey all you Rodney fans, colleagues, students and friends—Rodney has been lighting up our lives for years, too, and we know that one of Rodney’s dreams is for more people to check out his book, Spiritual Wanderer.

We want to help him realize that dream and give him and his family a nice income boost at a critical time. They face an uncertain financial future and even when he’s cured, there’s still that nagging little bit about him being unemployed.

It’s a long shot, but you can help. We’re taking an unconventional step here as publishers, but then consider our inspiration, hmmm? How can we not get a little crazy to help boost Rodney’s spirits?

We’ve decided to sign over all revenues from sales of Spiritual Wanderer to Rodney for the rest of 2010. Our publishing house, ReadTheSpirit Books, already is rare among American publishers for splitting the proceeds from book sales 50-50 with our authors. So, we’re signing over our half of each book sale to Rodney and his family. Other than the cost of simply printing and mailing the book, Rodney gets all the proceeds from every sale now and for the rest of 2010.

So, we’re hoping you can help: If you’ve been teetering on the fence about ordering Rodney’s book via Amazon—do it today. Now. Then spread the word as far as you can. Each book sold will generate a significant chunk of change for Rodney and his family. Besides, the book will only cost you $10 bucks.

We really have our eye—along with Rodney—on trying to get his book into lots of people’s hands. We’re hoping that you’ll fire up your email lists, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts—and spread the word. Legitimate and honest reviews on Amazon and elsewhere will help, too.

Buy Rodney’s book at Amazon now.

With the help of all of us, Rodney will come through this tough stuff good to go back into journalism—and he’ll head back into the profession with a book that he can boast shot way up the Amazon list while he was holed up in the hospital.

Is this a slightly crazy, unconventional idea? Sure.

But so is our friend.

—David Crumm, Editor

—John Hile, Publisher

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Comments Off on Hair Today Gone Tomorrow
June 26th, 2010

Hair on your pillowcase in the morning is one thing. Hair on your keyboard is quite another. I’m getting a buzz cut. All along, my daughters have been waiting with itchy clipper fingers to jump in and create fun and strange designs with my hair. They’re getting their opportunity this afternoon, with Marci’s supervision, to […]

Hair on your pillowcase in the morning is one thing. Hair on your keyboard is quite another. I’m getting a buzz cut.

All along, my daughters have been waiting with itchy clipper fingers to jump in and create fun and strange designs with my hair. They’re getting their opportunity this afternoon, with Marci’s supervision, to play Beauty School Dropout with my head as the victim.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcairbender.jpgWhat they deign to leave — which hopefully is just a buzzcut and not that freaky Airbender thing Taylor keeps talking about — will fall out soon enough anyway. I know this now due to some amazingly candid help from cancer buddy Jan Lovell, whom I used to work with at the Detroit News. Jan had a full beard and a thick head of hair into his sixties which he lost about a year ago, then grew back. He was laid off too. Yeah, we have some commonality.

But the craziest part of all this is I hear guys have a tougher time emotionally with the hair loss than women. How is that possible? Person after person I speak with say female cancer patients seem to have a quiet reserve and are fine with the loss whereas they typically see guys going all to pieces. Women who pride themselves on long, luxurious locks seem to handle it better than guys like me with haircuts left over from the 70s.

It just goes to reinforce one of my long-term core beliefs that women are stronger than men. My ladies are proof positive of this. They have a tremendous power within them to handle this cancer talk without getting too freaked out or worried about the future. And yet they seem to know when it’s okay to let go and be scared, (don’t you ladies?). Even my Mom, who’s been here daily because she can’t be anywhere else, openly shares her fears but also her fierce Rodney advocacy continually.

With all the crap that’s been handed our family this year, there’s also been a lot of equal and opposite reactions to that crap. In that respect, Skye’s been going around quoting Sarah Silverman, “When life hands you AIDS, you just gotta make Lemonaids.”

Sick, yes. Funny, definitely.

Half A Dozen Cupcakes

Comments Off on Half A Dozen Cupcakes
June 24th, 2010

The day didn’t start out well for me. There was an unusual amount of hair that had decided today was the day to end it all on the dry salt flats of my pillow. And the pounding headaches of the night before were telling me the poison was doing its work in the swanky penthouse […]

The day didn’t start out well for me. There was an unusual amount of hair that had decided today was the day to end it all on the dry salt flats of my pillow. And the pounding headaches of the night before were telling me the poison was doing its work in the swanky penthouse upstairs where my brain entertains dignitaries, holds court with Bono and Sting, taps out bestsellers and does things I’ll keep to myself thank you very much.

The last thing I wanted was visitors.http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcCupcake_01.jpg

Or cupcakes.

And after my Mom and my niece and my wife came by, my hospital bed shouted to me. That’s exactly when dear friend Patty Montemurri showed up at my room with six designer cupcakes. You have to understand, newsrooms and baked goods go together like Woodward and Bernstein, (or Elrick and Schaefer).

I’m sick. It’s not the Leukemia though, it’s the lack now of an immune system. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t feel like the flu or a cold but if you bring in a stray spore from New Baltimore, it can turn into pneumonia. Not to put too fine a point on it, I have no grime fighting ability; neither bleach nor Borax.

Patty and I chatted, of course. She’s too wonderful a person to blow off. We became buddies at “that newspaper that laid me off.” I heard of the nuns who have me on their prayer wall and the news that the Free Press is turning back the clock and actually adding more sections to the paper. Thank goodness no more layoffs were possible under that plan.

We oohed and aahed over the cupcakes but she kept changing the place of the secondary thing, a large envelope in the shape of, yes, a cupcake as well.

“Get that filthy thing off my bed,” I kept thinking. “Do you have any idea where that could’ve been?” sounding like parents the world over.

It was obvious the gaudy cupcake was more important than our conversation so I reluctantly pulled on some rubber gloves and had a look.

“Great, a card. How nice,” I snidely continued in my head. The last time I got cards and baked goods from the Free Press was a year ago this week as I was shown the door. But the warmth in their greeting card messages then was sweeter and more potent to my soul than the delicious parties thrown for me by two entirely different departments.<

Okay, sure I’ll play the game we all play with Hallmark. You look at the cutesy message on the front and try to figure out what the punch line will be. I didn’t do so well.

Me, the purveyor of punch lines was punched right back with a sucker blow so unseen, so un-telegraphed that now, hours later, I’m astounded at its power. It pushed a year’s worth of anger at my former corporation out into the cancer ward and down into the sewers festering with expelled chemo.

Spilling from the card, along with the extra pages added due to too many greetings, were an insane number of portraits of pursed-lipped statesman Ben Franklin. And they were rectangular. And they were green.

“It’s from everyone,” Patty said, “from those who actually laid you off to people who just care.”

Here’s where I’ll pause for a brief note to all the guys out there. If you haven’t expelled tears or feel weird crying you really need to give it a shot and soon. Yes, you’ll probably do it alone, hidden in some deep corner of thought because that’s the way real men do things. But cry, damnit. Let it out; you’ll feel the positive effect within ten seconds. (Omari, B. Todd, Seidel are you listening?).

Convulsive waves washed over me and after time stopped standing still I went in for the hug. A masked, horrified Patty recoiled due to my litany about germs but there was something cosmically antiseptic in the air right then and I wasn’t going to be denied.

Here’s where I’ll pause one last time to say a cheap, far-too-cliche thank you to everyone at 615 West Lafayette. I don’t know if you realize it or not, but that family you’re part of — that family that we’re part of — sticks with you in ways both profound and pastry.

Okay, I’m looking for a way for Benjamin Franklin to wrap this up but I can’t seem to manipulate any of his quotes to do my bidding.

I’ll avoid that pitfall and just say newspapers are not corporations; they are made from the talent and excitement of individual people. It took me too much time to remember that. Every newsroom I’ve ever worked for has shared surprising and fun moments with me. Oh and the readers too.

They’re going through some intensive search engine optimization this week at the Free Press. I can’t repay my brothers and sisters for their kindness but maybe we can all click here once or twice just as a silent, mass thank you. www.freep.com