As If There Hasn't Been A Lot of Press...
I had a nice talk last week with Denis Cuff, a writer for the Contra Costa Times here in the East Bay. Denis had written a front page piece about me last year, as I was getting prepared in the gym for my 4th trip to tame White Mountain. Last year's article was a touch anticlimactic, as my October attempt ended in altitude sickness and light snowfall. Denis hung in there with me through that last failure, documenting in a short follow up piece my Schwarzeneggar - esque "I'll be back" quote. I'm not sure he expected to do a follow up, and I felt bad when listening to his message last week that I hadn't e - mailed him immediately upon my return to civilized society to inform him of my triumph.
So when I received his message early last week, I made haste to call back, hopefully catch him before he tired of playing phone tag and moved on. I was pleased to catch him at his desk last Thursday afternoon, as he was just wrapping up a really nice piece on an acquisition of the East Bay Regional Park District which will expand a favorite open space considerably.
We talked of my White Mountain trip, the feelings I had when reaching the summit against huge odds, and what would be the next challenge for me. Almost an hour later we said "goodbye", and he was off to the business of trying to explain me to an eager readership.
Today Denis's article was all over the front page of most of the East Bay newspapers. I hadn't a clue until my wife called with some exuberance, clearly proud to have read the piece. I hurried downstairs at work to buy the Times, and returned to my desk to find e - mails from literally all over the world, congratulating me on the summit and offering their support. Wow. Maybe newspapers don't sell as they once did, but the reach of media in this e - world in which we dwell is rather impressive. Within an hour, Wells Fargo team members had checked in from San Francisco, Portland, Des Moines and Minneapolis / Sioux Falls. Soon I had them from Italy and England. All in response to this piece in the CC Times, as it's known with affection here in my home town. Denis was the third of three fine Bay Area news writers (Mike Cassidy of the San Jose Mercury News and pal Tom Stienstra of the SF Chronicle being the other two) to report the story, and each presented a slightly different and quite unique picture of me out there above 12,000 feet. For me,the result has been phenominal. I've recieved e - mails from parents of disabled, wheelchair bound kids looking for ways to get them outdoors. From adults in chairs who'd wanted advice on the kinds of equipment and / or training in which I engage in order to prepare for trails, summits and other dreams. From everyday folks who maybe have minor aches and pains but let me know how silly they felt letting small pains keep them from enjoying a trail or walk. From people who just think the story is cool, and from well wishers everywhere. And Denis's piece seems to have generated the biggest response. I did virtually nothing most of the day as e - mails flooded me at the office as well as home.
And I'm not complaining! Perceptions of a disabled person's abilities are usually wrong. It seems all three articles did a lot to quell the misconceptions. Denis's must have hit a soft spot, though. I got almost no weightlifting done tonight - most of Livermore, it must've been, were coming by to congratulate me, some even holding copies of today's Times for me to autograph...!
This story struck a nerve with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Maybe it'll just fade away and the glow I feel will subside. But I've got a feeling life for me is about to change in a big way. I sure hope so. Nothing would please me more than to make a career of encouraging people of all abilities to work out, get some exercise and get fit. Maybe the story itself will provide the impetus for some kid in a chair to decide to flip off his overcautious doctors and pursue a dream. Then I'll feel I've helped accomplish something.
So Mike, Tom and Denis, you've awakened a sedentary readership significantly with your telling of my tale. As I pray Kilimanjaro is in my future, may there be a Pulitzer in yours!