January, 2011 Archives

That’s Amore

Comments Off on That’s Amore
January 30th, 2011

There are so many important things to argue about in a marriage; the remote control, how large is too large for a flat screen TV, who fed the dogs last and who can outwait the other when it comes to the largest pile of laundry known to the civilized world. The one thing that should […]

There are so many important things to argue about in a marriage; the remote control, how large is too large for a flat screen TV, who fed the dogs last and who can outwait the other when it comes to the largest pile of laundry known to the civilized world.

The one thing that should never, ever be disputed is pizza. I think it’s the world’s most perfect food. To horribly mangle a Benjamin Franklin quote, “Pizza is proof that God exists and that he loves us.”

I have one of those proverbial “friends” —  only this one actually exists — who for years has sublimated his own pizza needs for the good of the family. His kids are picky eaters so their topping choices are rigid and his wife only likes one thing so he sucks it up and eats what they want.

Then recently a person in the medical profession — who also shall remain nameless — said her husband likes to debate everything and therefore she just eats whatever he likes on his pies even though, gasp, he likes anchovies.

 It’s not often that I find myself dispensing marital advice, but in this instance my words are important, relevant and should be taken as gospel. Order separate pizzas.

If you’re one of the millions afflicted by pizza compromise, unburden yourself and do exactly that; get two or even three small pizzas as opposed to one large one. For me, there’s nothing worse than biting into a pepperoni. My wife is allergic to mushrooms. My daughter is a vegetarian. If you don’t do something, family chaos is just some tomato sauce and dough away.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcYogiBerra.jpgLook, I don’t work for Hungry Howie’s, Pizza Hut, Little Seizures or Domino’s, (although by linking to them maybe they’ll give me free food). Nor do I have any stake in cool local places like Pizzapapalis, Shield’s or Alibi. But I do have a stake in familial harmony and have even been known to visit two or more pizzerias just to make myself and my family happy.

I haven’t always taken my own advice. One of the worst arguments I’ve been in with my wife was when we were on our honeymoon in Italy. The restaurant outside of Naples was famous for their perfect pizzas, wheeled out on carts to your table on the vine covered veranda. These days we would say they sat us underneath a pergola but that word hadn’t been invented yet, I don’t think. I wanted to order their famous pizza the way large local families ordered it, by the meter squared.

“We’re not ordering a meter of pizza,” Marci said.

“But they say it’s amazing and how many times will we have the opportunity to say we ordered a meter of pizza?” I countered.

“We’re not ordering a meter of pizza,” Marci said.

“Look, we don’t have to eat it all; it’ll be fun,” I pressed.

“We’re camping out; we don’t have a fridge; we’re driving a tiny rental car; we’re not ordering a meter of pizza,” Marci said.

We settled on a quarter meter of pizza after much sulking and angered glances. The next afternoon I threw away the many leftover slices.

You can argue that it costs more money and takes more time to follow my sage wisdom and you’d be right. But we’re talking pizza here, not surf and turf or filet mignon. The price is negligible when measured against the greater evil… pepperoni pathos.

The freedom you’ll experience may astound you. Eating exactly what you want could be the most liberating experience you ever felt, apart from learning in college you never have to take another math class again.

And, of course, more pizza lying around means more leftover slices to microwave into oblivion for the next couple of days. Unless you’re driving a rented Fiat along the scenic Mediterranean coast and your new bride thinks you’re a dope for wanting to order nine feet of pizza.

 

Alma Matters

Comments Off on Alma Matters
January 26th, 2011

College buddies hoisting a glass to a fallen comrade. The four of us hadn’t been in the same room since before cell phones, the internet, wine coolers and Vanilla Ice. They looked exactly the same to me. We spent years together as roommates, band mates and even radio deejays. Sure, an outsider might have noticed […]

College buddies hoisting a glass to a fallen comrade. The four of us hadn’t been in the same room since before cell phones, the internet, wine coolers and Vanilla Ice. They looked exactly the same to me.

We spent years together as roommates, band mates and even radio deejays.

Sure, an outsider might have noticed less hair, (especially on the guy who wouldn’t remove his cap), or more weight. But it didn’t matter. Our dorm mate, band mate and of late, our cancer mate wasn’t there to crack his goofy grin and say something that made us laugh or roll our eyes.

It would be too easy to rave about how he was failed and felled by the system. Charlie confided that he ran out of health insurance early on during his leukemia and that he wasn’t able to go further with his treatments because he couldn’t afford any more time off of work. It would normally be my nature to rail against those who think our current insurance industry is fine the way it is. But Charlie’s frat brother said it best when he wrote, “the leukemia remains the bad guy in all of this.” That’s hard for me to take. I want to blame other factors. I don’t want to think the disease I once harbored was that deadly.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcAlmaBuddies.jpg
So we had a great lunch and talked about “remember when.” But we also talked about the future. No, Charlie won’t join us as we enjoy more lunches or see the Tigers, at least in physical form he won’t. But there’s a part of him that will always be there, even if you won’t acquiesce and give me “his spirit will be with us.”

We’re told that our boy was the first from our class of 1985 to pass away. After 26 years that’s pretty remarkable. Alma isn’t a huge college but why couldn’t it have been someone else, someone none of us knew?

Reunions shouldn’t happen just because someone died or due to a calendar observance. And I take comfort knowing we had this lunch planned before the news of Charlie’s death hit us. That seems to be my takeaway from all this. Even if a random series of events — or the campus residential living director — places you in the midst of unknown people a quarter century ago, it’s your job to find the connections, nurture them and don’t ignore them when a social network brings them back into your life.

I was riding the glow from our gathering and hoping everyone felt the same way I did when the following message popped up:  “I hope we can get together more than once every 25 years. I will get in touch with you to set up a golf game (it’s already in my calendar).”

I stink at golf. What I do on the links shouldn’t even be classified as golf. But neither rain, nor snow, (nor a former disease that I’m tired of naming) will keep me from making huge divots and even larger stroke counts as I mess around with my new old friends.

Charlie would be proud, if he can stop laughing at us long enough.

Day 100

Comments Off on Day 100
January 22nd, 2011

Let me check the time; okay, it’s a-quarter-to-everything. At this point on the clock there’s a huge evening-out process which sounds like a night on the town but is really just the process of making myself even-Steven, even-Rodney. They tried to kill me with chemotherapy, then just at the last second they resurrected me with […]

Let me check the time; okay, it’s a-quarter-to-everything.

At this point on the clock there’s a huge evening-out process which sounds like a night on the town but is really just the process of making myself even-Steven, even-Rodney. They tried to kill me with chemotherapy, then just at the last second they resurrected me with my brother’s stem cells. Yin and yang.

That was 100 days ago.

I made it through the most critical time, post-transplant. 100 days seems to be the milestone or guidepost by which they determine success or failure. Most of the bad stuff happens during the first 100 days.

It felt like 100 years.

When I look back at last week I don’t think I’ve progressed so much. When I look back at last month I know I have. My cool Aunt Roberta says I need to gauge my journey now in months. It feels so much better than clocking myself by days like I did back in the summer and fall. I just wanted to get out of the hospital, “home, where I wanted to go” like Coldplay sings.

I contracted diseases in the hospital that I’ll spend my life trying to forget. I’ve caught bugs here at home that little babies get, except with me they linger for weeks. I watch the clock when it’s the calendar that begs my attention. I grieve for seemingly silly things that I somehow relate to. I’m sad for Steve Jobs whose cancer may have returned. But I’m also affected by more personal matters like my college trombone buddy Charlie whose cancer is back. His has the same name as mine used to have, Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I call it A “cute” leukemia, but it seems trite to make fun of it right now.

I still give myself shots in the belly and consume 20 pills of different shapes every day. But I am also exercising now like the “old people” by walking in the mall before it opens. I get irrationally mad at bad drivers these days, maybe because life seems too fragile to jeopardize it doing dumb things behind the wheel. Then an angry man flipped me off on I-75 and I realized life was too short to get upset at people doing dumb things behind the wheel.

These 100 days have been liberating and weird as all hell. At the same time I work hard to move past my sickness then I pop pills that make me remember my predicament. A very small bit of a scary rejection disease invaded my body and the doctors were pleased. Apparently you want a little bit of it, but no, uh-uh, not too much of it.

The dichotomy in this is gut changing.

So I take on different themes for myself. One that’s worked better than most is Embrace Life. Oh it sounds noble and like a philosophy anyone could get behind but usually its working definition is “order more pizza” or “sure, ice cream with whipped topping counts as embracing life, dammit.”

The bitter January only has about a week left then the hallelujah days of February begin melting Michigan, slowly, almost imperceptibly.

My next 100 days will be spent re-creating my own reality, looking and laughing along with the coincidences that raise their heads like our February groundhog friend. I’ll also spend them observing myself and wondering what I’ve become and what I am becoming.

I’m not totally me yet. But I think I have a feel for who he is.

Click Chris Martin to hear Coldplay sing “Clocks.
http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcColdplay.jpg.png

 

Tiger Mom Meets Dolphin Dad

Comments Off on Tiger Mom Meets Dolphin Dad
January 17th, 2011

I know I’m coming late to the game, but this Tiger Mother thing has really been bothering me. For those of you who aren’t as immersed in the daily throws of media and pop culture, writer and professor Amy Chua recently penned an article for the Wall Street Journal headlined Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. […]

I know I’m coming late to the game, but this Tiger Mother thing has really been bothering me. For those of you who aren’t as immersed in the daily throws of media and pop culture, writer and professor Amy Chua recently penned an article for the Wall Street Journal headlined Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. It’s an excerpt from her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Any article that starts out, basically, “I’m better than you” immediately gets my dander up. Want to see her list of the things she never let her daughters do? Check this out, they are not allowed to:

• attend a sleepover

• have a play date

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

It gets worse: she says it’s okay to call her children “garbage.” She also said Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty — lost some weight.” If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was joking or just trying to get a rise out of us. But she’s been all over the TV and radio saying she’s learned a lot over the years, has changed her tune in some respects and has even married a Western man, Jed.

I think part of my disgust with her is that I’ve seen these traits in my daughter’s Asian friends. Obviously not all of the ones above are prevalent but the lack of sleepovers, the extreme emphasis on grades and the lack of “frivolous” extracurriculars have made my wife and I wonder if there’s any fun or warmth or spontaneity in their homes.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcBodyPainting.jpgThank goodness Chua’s been answered by a flurry of criticism as well as alternatives like Erika Christakis of Harvard who advocates the Dolphin Mother approach. She says threats, shame and physical punishment have no place in a kind and loving home.

Christakis played with her children, Chua berated them. The choice is simple.

Ever since our daughters were infants, we talked with them like they understood what was going on. People would give me second and third looks as I strolled the grocery aisles conversing animatedly with them in the shopping cart about what type of cereal to buy or rhetorically asking them if they thought Sunny D was better or worse than High-C. They and their wide open, knowing eyes simply loved being engaged — our little babies, not the passersby.

All my pants, for the first several years of my daughter’s lives, had holes in the knees from me messing around on the floor with the girls. I don’t think we ever had a lousy, boring day and I was amazingly grateful that my wife and I shared a single photography job for the first three years of parenthood out in New Hampshire. It gave both of us plenty of time with the girls while the other was out scrounging a living.

How does that impact our relationships today? Just now, late on a Saturday night, I type this after finishing a movie with Skye and her buddy Jon who came downstairs to watch a 30-year-old Close Encounters Of The Third Kind instead of something newer, and separate from the stodgy grownup. Marci just came home from helping chaperon a party because Taylor wanted her there and now Skye and Jon have been hanging out in the kitchen with Marci for the past half hour.

Take that Chinese mom! I’ll bet your daughters are doing anything they can to escape your Gulag of a home on any given Saturday night.

Now that gets us to the dicey question of friendship vs. parenting. Everyone always says you can’t be a friend to your children; you have to be a parent. Right, got it. We’re parents first for sure; we have rules, responsibilities and regulations. But we are also really close and, gasp, even friends with our daughters. Uh oh, how could we do such a thing? How outrageous. How non Tiger of us.

And that’s where our victory lies. Anyone who knows our teens says they’re sweet, compassionate, fun — and according to Jon, they actually talk to their parents. Yes, there may be some drawbacks to being so close with your kids. If you feel like berating them, you should probably think twice. And when your eldest reads a blog posting right over your shoulder, you’ll have to put up with her grammatical suggestions.

Anything else you want me to write here, honey?

We love our daughters fiercely. And I have no doubt in her own misguided way Amy Chua loves her daughters too. But actions scream louder than mere words. Telling a kid they can’t be in a school play or have a play date is wrong. Calling them a fatty or garbage is mean and even diabolical.

We may not be raising our daughters the best way possible but …

Wait, yes we are.