March, 2011 Archives

Portlandia

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March 29th, 2011

I almost don’t believe this, but I was issued a hall pass. I’m using it not only to wander about freely, but to jump on a big ol’ jet airliner and fly away to Portland, Oregon. My number one mission: to figure out if the locals call it “organ” or “ore-uh-gon.” Okay, that’s not really […]

I almost don’t believe this, but I was issued a hall pass. I’m using it not only to wander about freely, but to jump on a big ol’ jet airliner and fly away to Portland, Oregon. My number one mission: to figure out if the locals call it “organ” or “ore-uh-gon.”

Okay, that’s not really my first order of business; the actual reason for our flight — over the girl’s Spring Break next week — is to investigate this crazy liberal arts college that Skye has her heart set on. I’d never heard of Reed College but apparently it’s an intense school that shuns things like ratings systems and grades. It sounds a lot like my parent’s and aunt’s and brother’s and grandparent’s college, Antioch — the maker of leftist hippy do-gooders before there were such things.

Reed College resides in Portland and my daughter seems to love everything about it. When I heard Steve Jobs went there and could only handle one semester, I was intrigued. To hear he “dropped in” instead of dropping out piqued my curiosity. He reports Reed is the reason computers have had such excellent fonts since the inception of home computing. He talks about it in his fantastic commencement speech to Stanford graduates; if you haven’t seen this, it’s really something to check out.

So Skye got a daylong meeting scheduled for herself at Reed and the rest of us, having an Oregon gap in our Pacific Coast love affair, all decided to tag along. Yes, I checked it out first with my doctors and although I’m simply forbidden to sample the microbrews Portland is known for, I did check out all the places Guy Fieri has visited on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. If I can’t drink, I’ll make up for it in eating.

(Marci usually inserts, at this point, that before the transplant I wasn’t really much of a drinker anyway and by talking about beer in a seemingly obsessive way, I come across as a big, sloppy lush.)

What I’m most amazed about, actually, is that I’m allowed to do this. I have my hand-written note from my awesome nurse-practitioner Laurie telling the TSA that yes, a human being can actually consume this many drugs and they shouldn’t worry about it while rummaging through the portable pharmacy in my carry-on.

But more than that, it feels as though this is sort of my coming out party. Last summer, last fall and winter even, I could only dream about this moment. Traveling is my cocaine. If I can feed the monkey on my back, it represents a return to the Rodney I once knew.

In order to prep for the trip, apart from walking more and looking up everything we can about the Rose City, we’ve also stumbled upon a crazy, six-episode-long mini series put out by Lorne Michaels, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein called Portlandia. Think Flight of the Conchords meets SNL.

Local firefighter and long-time blog reader Jon is staying at our place and taking care of our beasts while we’re gone. My mom has even agreed to drive us to and from the airport so with that and the great flight/hotel deal we got it looks like everything is falling into place.

My ladies need this. I need this. In a real way it pushes the anguish and constant worry back to the rear of the stove where the heat is off and the splatters slowly flake away. 

Father Figuratively II

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March 19th, 2011

If you’re a hard core person of science, I apologize for what you’re about to read. If cause and effect, stimulus – response are your deities, then I don’t have a prayer of convincing you otherwise. Regardless, you are invited to stick around. I’d like it if you would. As a child growing up in […]

If you’re a hard core person of science, I apologize for what you’re about to read. If cause and effect, stimulus – response are your deities, then I don’t have a prayer of convincing you otherwise. Regardless, you are invited to stick around. I’d like it if you would.

As a child growing up in Pleasant Ridge, Michigan, the neighborhood kids all seemed to have a deal with their parents; you could stay out and play until the streetlights came on. Back in the day, we didn’t have organized play dates. Things were far looser. You could walk out the door and apart from checking in for lunch and dinner, moms and dads didn’t monitor every move you made. It’s not that they didn’t care about us, it’s just that neighborhoods felt safer.

Streetlights signaled the end of the daily adventures. They’d come on a lot earlier in winter, much later in summer. My first story in my first book talked about a different, wholly strange dynamic surrounding streetlights. I wrote that they represented my deceased father talking to me. Well, communicating I guess, not really talking per say.

It’s been happening pretty much since my Dad died. I’ve noticed streetlights going crazy, blinking on or off whenever I’m near by. Sometimes a whole row of them blink out, well past dusk or dawn when they’d normally be called upon to perform. Most times though, it’s just a solitary one snapping off or popping on as I drive by.

Yes, you science folks from the first paragraph should be quick to point out that streetlights can turn off and on at the end of their life cycles. You would do well to direct me to the articles online, including on Wikipedia that say I am engaged in magical thinking. Believing streetlights are reacting to you even has a name, The SLI Effect. Go ahead, assure me that it’s simply coincidence or wishful thinking; I’m okay with that.

But I’m also okay seeing it as a way to connect with my dead Dad. My daughters, when we pass by one that blinks, say “Hi Grandpa Chuck.” My wife and I say, “Thanks for letting us know you’re here Dad.”

There’s no way I can convince someone otherwise, just as you won’t be able to convince me it’s not my father. So what does it matter? This video I shot, while snapping pictures of the moon during its close orbit of earth, shows the phenomenon happening to me. Watch for the light to come on just “above” the moon. I don’t offer it up as proof of the paranormal, just proof that what I’m saying actually happens.

And maybe you’ll like this final part; or maybe you’ll shake your head in sadness at my delusions. But as I am writing this, my cellphone next to me suddenly turns on and flashes the screen saver picture of my wife. A few minutes later I text her asking if she was trying to get in touch with me.

She phones me right away and said she thought about calling me a few minutes previously but didn’t dial or even pick up her phone when she realized it was late and I’d probably be in bed.

So there’s another instance of strange lights blinking weirdly around me. The more it happens, the more I smile. I’m not hurting anyone by my worldview and it helps me see a larger interconnection with everything and everybody. I concluded the story in my book by wondering why I was telling the story in the first place. I think it’s to share the mystery.

I love that we don’t know everything. I relish the bits of our lives that are completely fantastical. Knowing that quantum scientists hypothesize 11 different dimensions of reality or that astrophysicists say 90-some percent of the universe is unexplained dark energy or dark matter really gets me going. It’s just plain mystical, enigmatic, exciting and altogether fun.

The Man From Earth

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March 15th, 2011

As our local Blockbuster store goes out of business, I drive by their abandoned corner with a bit of a heavy sigh in my heart. Being a movie buff, I’ve spent countless weekend nights searching through their videos, then DVDs and eventually Blu-ray discs. I feel horrible about it closing, especially since I know I’m […]

As our local Blockbuster store goes out of business, I drive by their abandoned corner with a bit of a heavy sigh in my heart. Being a movie buff, I’ve spent countless weekend nights searching through their videos, then DVDs and eventually Blu-ray discs. I feel horrible about it closing, especially since I know I’m part of the problem.

Me and streaming videos; we’re the culprits.

It all started when our Sony TV went on the fritz and started showing programs all green-like, as if shot through an algae filter. Even though the television was five years old and way out of warranty, it was a really good one back in the day. Sony, bless their corporate hearts, has a secret program allowing dissatisfied consumers to get a brand spanking new set, even bigger than the old one, for just the price of shipping.

Don’t mind if I do.

Then one of the three competing cable providers in our area knocked on our door, as they do every couple of months. “Switch to us and save …” And as if by magic, my in-laws were looking for a good Christmas gift and settled on a Netflix subscription.

Rounding the deal out, Marci somehow agreed to a sound system to go with our new “purchases,” and bought me a Blu-ray player too.

So everything’s in place and I’m recuperating on the couch when I decide to try one of the gimmicky features of my new setup. Via the internet, I’m told, I can download and watch movies instantly. But I’m a visual guy, I’ve been a photographer since Jimmy Carter was president and have been making movies since the first Bush. I can’t stand low resolution, herky-jerky movies stopping every few minutes. This would have to be impressive.

Pow! Holy Tarantino, the movies look and sound great! When I’m waiting for the lightning quick Netflix to send me my next disc, I watch stuff instantly over the net. Bye bye Blockbuster.

This is all a very long-winded way of sharing my latest find. It’s crazy when people claim to discover new restaurants or books or movies because we’re not really adventurers traveling the Seven Seas. But in some ways I feel like I discovered the 2007 movie, The Man From Earth. It was made for very little money, has a rocking premise and all of three obscure critics reviewed it on Rotten Tomatoes.

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

Imagine a group of college professors sitting around a fireplace trying to disprove that one amongst them is a caveman who has somehow survived 14,000 years. Think of the academic arguments and emotional debate surrounding the possibility that this paleolithic man witnessed the birth of many of the world’s great religions. And, of course, there’s the heresy and bewilderment floating through the scandalized professors.

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer this is not. Even though the dude from the early 80s Greatest American Hero plays a skeptical prof., the movie is neither kitchy nor funny. But it’s infinitely intriguing.

It was directed by Richard Schenkman, whose done many projects with Jon Cryer, (and maybe more to come now that Cryer’s Two and a Half Men co-star has left this planet). Schenkman actually went to some of the illegal movie download sites and thanked the pirates for sharing his movie and getting it out there. Wild eh?

I’ve found many high quality, instantly viewable movies out there and it’s no wonder Blockbuster is closing up shop. Like what happened in the publishing and music business, among many others, the internet has fundamentally changed our entertainment habits, with the emphasis on “fun.”

Look, I realize I should be bemoaning the loss of the old days and ways. I can attest to what it’s like being the victim of progress, having gotten the boot from old school newspapers a few times now. But I just can’t muster up the strength to fight those battles any more.

If it weren’t for progress, we’d all be sitting around the fire like our aforementioned caveman, watching shadows on the wall and trying to flip over from CNN to the Food Network using a lump of coal as a remote.

Tiptoeing Around

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March 5th, 2011

When I was a young boy, I contracted some weird virus or bacterial infection that caused me, inexplicably, to walk on my tiptoes. If I wanted to go fast, I’d literally prance across the floor with my heels several inches off the carpet. It’s amazing I didn’t become a ballet dancer. About a week into […]

When I was a young boy, I contracted some weird virus or bacterial infection that caused me, inexplicably, to walk on my tiptoes. If I wanted to go fast, I’d literally prance across the floor with my heels several inches off the carpet. It’s amazing I didn’t become a ballet dancer. About a week into this bane, Mom sat next to me and forced my heels down to the floor because the doctor told her if I kept at it, my feet would freeze that way. Unlike the myth about making faces, this supposedly was true. At least that’s what she told me.

As if my childhood weren’t quirky enough, I experienced — from time to time — weird little squeezes in my chest. If I were experienced in the finer arts of hypochondria, I’d have guessed heart attacks. One time they threw me backwards in my chair and I landed on the floor. I even went so far as to tell the substitute teacher in my first grade class that sometimes I have a heart condition. But my parents never followed up on the malady; I think they knew it was nothing other than gas.

This nonchalance seemed to follow a trend. My mother never believed I was color blind. It took a former teacher, years later talking to Mom, to convince her I couldn’t tell certain shades of red from green. To her credit, I didn’t believe it either. I just thought kids were being extremely picky, particularly between blue and purple. I’d hand them a purple crayon when they asked for blue and when they called me on it I’d say, “whatever, they’re both the same.”

When I was looking for a full time job as a photographer, back when drug tests were fashionable, I had to go through a full battery of medical exams when the Saginaw News was interested in hiring me. I took this one simple exam where I had to line up little checkers in order. I asked the technician what the heck he meant by “in order.” He looked at me strangely and repeated, “You know, in order; line them up in order of their shades.”

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rc57easiest.jpgNeedless to say I had no freakin’ clue what was going on and, after taking a stab at it, made the worst possible arrangement. Instead of 1, 2, 3 … all the way to 12, (as noted on the back), the checkers went 1, 12, 2, 11, 3, 10 and so on.

The guy said he had to report my epic failure to Saginaw. I begged him not to. He said he was ethically mandated to report it. I asked if there was another term for my condition. He looked it up in his medical journal and found the term “deuteranopia.”

“Report that,’” I said.

He did, but I didn’t get the job. A decade later the editor of the paper recruited me over and over again to join his team as their photo director. He even had a head hunter call me, which rarely happens in photojournalism. Maybe I was still sore about the whole deuteranopia fiasco. But I think I was just too darn happy with my job at the time in Midland.

And while I’m getting health issues off my chest, those idiotic drug tests screwed me over one other time. I was up for a job at the Orange County Register in California and actually flew myself out there to interview. They squired me off to the local clinic where blood and urine and other fluids were checked. A week later, back in Michigan, I got a call from their clinic saying I’d failed the test and they were about to report it to the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the paper.

“Wait, wait, wait,” I begged. Honestly, I’m not on recreational drugs. They informed me there were barbiturates in my system, which were more potent than just pot.

Ohhhhh, THOSE drugs. It took another week to get my doctor to talk to their doctor about the migraine medicine he’d been trying out on me. I can’t help but feel the long delay in reporting my drug test cost me the job.

I don’t know where the rest of this entry is going. Heck, I don’t even know where or why it started. But certainly, thinking about silly little afflictions is refreshing compared to what I dealt with these past many months.

I imagine it’s sort of like Obama brokering a peace deal between Sasha and Malia. Or Jon Stewart videotaping his pets. It’s a break from the everyday.