October, 2011 Archives

Postlude

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October 27th, 2011

My mom bought me a new suit. It was like back-to-school shopping in late October. She said I needed a new one, since the last one I got was about 10 years ago. She bought that one for me too. I’m 48 and sometimes I feel like I’m 4 or 8. My wife went along […]

My mom bought me a new suit. It was like back-to-school shopping in late October. She said I needed a new one, since the last one I got was about 10 years ago. She bought that one for me too. I’m 48 and sometimes I feel like I’m 4 or 8.

My wife went along with us this time in the role of fashion and reality consultant. That’s not unusual, though, since she normally buys my underwear for me as well. Trying to make her laugh, I picked out the gaudiest, Mad Men looking outfit I could find. Two guys walked past me, complimenting my choice and I realized I was even more clueless than I realized when it came to style.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcCOOS.jpgphoto illustration by Rodney CurtisThe impetus for our suit shopping excursion is the closing ceremony for our church. A little over 50 years ago, Church Of Our Saviour in West Bloomfield began as a renegade Presbyterian affiliate. This Saturday, there’s a farewell dinner for the congregation, held appropriately enough, in a retirement community. Ever-shrinking numbers have signaled, for quite some time, that the end was near.

A bunch of amazing things happened at that church, like my first-ever book reading. My aunt and uncle, my sister, both of my brothers and I all got married there. We held my father’s memorial service in its impermanent sanctuary with the moveable chairs. I guess the parable of the portable pews should have given us a clue things wouldn’t last forever.

We’re going to miss C.O.O.S, as it’s come to be called. The flock has chosen a new place of worship; they’re merging with another church that has a vibrant outreach program. Another organization bought our church and grounds, so the shell will still be there. But my family’s still trying to decide what to do with my dad’s memorial plaque. Little decisions like that seem to hold the biggest concerns in their soulful pockets.

Abandoning a church I attended off and on since high school isn’t really a daunting task for me. The people are great but my mom’s still going to be in touch with them as they migrate to their new community. I told her, in what seemed a bit more profound than intended, that a church is more than just bricks and mortar.

So we’re toasting our dearly departed church this weekend with a loaves and fishes, (and prime rib), dinner. I’ll look around and see Wilma, who sang such a lovely aria at our wedding, Jerry who swung by the hospital when I was horribly sick, the amazing Karen — whom I met when I played King Herod — and was the first to serialize my stories in the church newsletter, and the empty chairs of the living and deceased. For it was the empty chairs that finally sunk C.O.O.S. My seat was one of the most regularly vacant ones, I’m afraid.

I’ve wandered, spiritually. Forgive me for that previous play on words, but it’s true. It’s tough to find a house of worship that incorporates Coincidence, Quantum Physics, Buddha, Mother Mary, Vishnu, Dead Ancestors and Love. The Church of Rodney isn’t going to be finding a storefront branch anytime soon.

But hey, I’ve got a new suit, thanks to Mom. After this weekend I’ll be all dressed up, with no place to go. This isn’t about me though. This one goes out to everyone who made me feel warm and welcome for so many years at Church Of Our Saviour. Even though I probably didn’t show my appreciation nearly as much as I could have, you folks embodied everything a church should stand for.

And here’s a quick note to that new church over in Farmington, where most of my mom’s friends are heading. That wandering flock of smiling, graying, well-dressed congregants you’re seeing? Look out, things just got a lot cooler at your place and yes, a little more rowdy. Their crepe breakfasts can resurrect you and their piano player can rock your roof off.

Farewell C.O.O.S.

Doxology

See you in the narthex for coffee!

As an added bonus, not found on other websites, here’s a link to a story from
my book, Spiritual Wanderer, about the church I used to call home.


Mountain Do

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October 19th, 2011

There are no mountains. That’s the first thing I notice around here at The Mountain Workshops, the absence of mountains. Hills, sure. Ridges, you bet. One could even argue there are crags, escarpments or even bluffs. But mountain may be pushing it a bit. Not that I’m one to talk. Coming from the decidedly flat […]

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

There are no mountains.

That’s the first thing I notice around here at The Mountain Workshops, the absence of mountains.

Hills, sure. Ridges, you bet. One could even argue there are crags, escarpments or even bluffs. But mountain may be pushing it a bit. Not that I’m one to talk. Coming from the decidedly flat suburbs of Detroit, our biggest “mountains” are converted garbage dumps that developers covered with dirt and ski lifts then waited for snow.

But the term Mountain Workshops adds a sense of majesty, purple and above fruited plains. That sort of thing.

Driving into Somerset, Kentucky, the lovely rolling hills almost tricked me into believing mountains were just around the corner. Instead, a Walmart caught my eye. I’ve been coming down here to the Bluegrass State for quite some time. An enormous group of journalists invade a different small town each year. Photographers, videographers, editors, writers and a tremendous support staff document the area and pull together a book, website, gallery and multimedia show. All of this is done in less than a week. Sleep tends to take a backseat for the 170 odd participants. Emphasis on odd. We’re like Burning Man without the nudity … generally speaking.

Each town we swoop into tends to not really understand what we’re doing, but they always love the results once we leave. At least that’s what they tell us. If you can imagine a week in which everything you did might show up in a book, perhaps you’d be a bit apprehensive too. There have been weeks in my past where, well, let’s just leave it at that.

A wonderful component of these workshops is the family atmosphere it breeds. I honestly can’t count how many facebook friends I’ve made here. But it rivals the number of high school and college folks on my list. I also can’t count the number of hugs I’ve received from people genuinely happy to see me back here, after that lousy leukemia kept me on the sidelines.

So the lack of actual, physical mountains at The Mountain Workshops means absolutely nothing to me. It could just as easily be held at the ocean or in an enchanted forest for all I care, as long as there’s caffeine. What matters is a sense of community – both the kind engendered when a bunch of journalists get together, and our connection to a different town each year. Community is where it’s at. Whether it’s a real brick and mortar establishment or a loosely knit compendium of interesting people, I’m so terribly thankful that I’m part of this one each fall.

Our families are understanding as we pack up and head to a place no one has ever heard of before, including us. It’s tough to explain the allure of 14-hour days, (if we’re slacking it, that is). Something, though, makes them understand our enthusiasm as we head off and our weariness as we drag our sorry butts home. Our spouses and kids and employers see the explosion of creativity that accompanies our return from our old Kentucky home.

There’s something more. We do this for free. And the students actually pay for the experience. Our time down here is about giving back. It’s easy to go about our business on a weekly or yearly basis without paying things forward or backward or sideways. Giving students an adrenaline shot in the arm always feels fantastic. Covering an entire town from border to border makes them feel special too, rightly so.

But most importantly, the powerful opiate dose we experience as we help others is unmatched by anything we’ve ever felt before. That’s where a supposed charitable act on our part gets flipped around and zooms right back at us. Doing cool things for others makes us feel unbelievably good about ourselves.

And that’s a mountain worth climbing.

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

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October 9th, 2011

This blog entry comes with a Parental Advisory Warning. (Meaning, maybe kids can explain it to their parents.) You’ll have to pardon my ignorance, but I just don’t understand those Viagra or Cialis commercials. Oh sure, they’re a lot better than some prescription drug ads that don’t explain what they cure, but still spend decades […]

This blog entry comes with a Parental Advisory Warning.

(Meaning, maybe kids can explain it to their parents.)

You’ll have to pardon my ignorance, but I just don’t understand those Viagra or Cialis commercials. Oh sure, they’re a lot better than some prescription drug ads that don’t explain what they cure, but still spend decades describing what can happen if you take them. If you experience exhaustion from watching this, please seek immediate medical help.

The newest commercials seem to have been made by the Inception movie folks. A couple goes about their normal day when somehow they bump into each other, then the whole set and landscape changes around them. They go from painting the house to a slow morph into being on a camping trip. Their house fades away and turns into a tent and suddenly they’re sitting around a campfire. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t generally get frisky after a long day of sweaty hiking, particularly when the house I was just painting melts before my very eyes.

The next one is even stranger. Slowly the couple — presumably with the male jacked up on erectile dysfunction drugs — leave their backyard and become part of a deserted boardwalk carnival. Man, if that happened to Marci and me, the very last thing I’d be thinking about is sex. I’d be looking for a portal back to reality and hoping there’d be no insane clowns hiding in the cotton candy kiosk.

I think in that commercial, though, the guy’s grilling some meat to start with, so at least we know what got him going.

During each of those crazy minute-long commercials, all the side effects are listed. I am by no means one of those people who thinks the government interferes with our lives too much. But I think maybe the FDA can lighten up a bit on the full-disclosure laws concerning drugs. Seeing a middle aged guy and his wife playing midway games all alone has absolutely nothing to do with the advisory, “if you experience a sudden decrease in cabin pressure,” or whatever.

The announcement always says, “see our ad in Golf Magazine.” Why? Are they implying golfers suffer from this problem more than the general population? Tiger Woods would beg to differ, I’m sure.

But honestly, what bothers me more than anything else, is the couple always end up lounging together in separate bathtubs. They sit there, filmed from behind, looking out over gorgeous scenery in matching clawfoot tubs inexplicably placed on top of a mountain. I like baths as much as the next guy. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out the logistics involved in having sex in two different tubs.

I’m sure there’s something I’m just not understanding. Maybe it’s okay to spend 60 seconds talking about a drug that makes your Willy Wonka bigger, but it’s not okay to cohabitate the same bath with your spouse or significant other. Would the censors allow it if it were a jacuzzi?

I shouldn’t really complain. At least Bob Dole isn’t the spokesman anymore. Talk about scary midway clowns.

As the ambiguity level goes up, the drug makers risk alienating their customers even more. Does the target audience even know it’s being targeted? Honestly, the pill could be for asthma or hay fever or motion sickness for all the sense these ads make. I’m not saying they need to show people having sex, but perhaps they could be a little less obtuse.

Sometimes advertisements simplify products too much. But, (I’ve been waiting to say this for a few paragraphs now), these commercials make it hard.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rctubs.jpgPhoto illustration by Rodney Curtis, although he apologizes for it.