A Memory of Curt for Memorial Day

I met Curt Mason through my first husband, Steve, in college.  Curt was his best friend and even though he was not in school with us, we spent considerable time hanging out and getting up to no good with Curt. Curt was the master of no good, but nonetheless he was ‘quality people’ in all the ways that really mattered. He was probably the most loyal person I have ever met and once he decided you were in his circle, he never, ever, judged you. It’s a testament to his character that during the days that Steve and I were ending our marriage and breaking each others hearts, Curt maintained his relationships with both of us. (Fortunately, with time, Steve and I have been able to put the past in the past – maybe Curt knew us better than we knew ourselves.)   It’s been just two years since he died and I think of him often and fondly.

Curt was a master storyteller and most of my memories involve Curt holding court and spinning the craziest of stories. And, generally speaking, the craziest parts were all true and the rest embellished beyond all recognition. Curt never let facts get in the way of a good story (for some reason he always referred to himself as “Curtis E” Mason and I did not learn until years later than his middle name did not actually start with the letter E…), but he also knew ultimately that the truth made the best story of all. His greatest love was rock music, and that love was felt most passionately for Thin Lizzy, but fundamentally he had a deep respect for the craft of making music itself and he would give props to any musician who laid it all on the line and had the musical chops to back it up. I happened to be reading Billy Bob Thornton’s “The Billy Bob Tapes” and encountered this passage that just screamed Curt to me:

I think…country music actually came from old men who’d sit on coke crates out in front of the store or on the screened-in porches or in the yard under the hickory nut tree, spinning yarns and just talking about people who lived there. Country music, real country music, is just different from other types of music. The songs are usually driven by stories.

When I replace ‘country’ with ‘rock’ and change the location to out by the pool at his apartment after dark with beer in hand, I am transported back in time. I’d like to think Curt would agree with me and if he were still here, would have a story or ten to tell about his experience with some country music artist or other.

Curt lived hard and it is almost certain that the years of smoking, drugs, and alcohol caught up to him when he died unexpectedly at the age of 46. At the time we met I was a wide-eyed innocent college co-ed and there was literally nothing we had in common except for our connection via Steve. He was rough around the edges and his hard life showed. I was clean cut to the core and my easy life showed. From outward appearances, he was hardly anyone I would have picked as a friend. But yet he was a friend, and a dear one to me. I think Curt’s biggest gift was that since he did not actually pick his friends based on their appearance, he was open to what anyone had to say. Whatever goofy naive observation I had to share around the poolside was accepted without question and he always had his own observations to add.

In his later years, when he was a late-night DJ (The Rocker for KKFI 90.1 FM in Kansas City), he would occasionally send me Instant-Message notes if I happened to be online when he was on the air. I don’t recall that we discussed anything deep or profound (although he did tell me he quit smoking by waking up one morning, deciding to stop and then simply never smoking again – another of the unbelievably true stories of Curt’s life). We mostly just chatted about the day-to-day stuff, and now that he’s gone I cherish those chats. I can only imagine how many other people were the recipients of these late night reach outs, and I am certain I was not the only one.

He was not in the military and did not fight for our country, but he did tell her stories. Here on Memorial Day he is the one who has come first to my own memory, so in honor of a great storyteller, I chose to share just a small piece of his story.

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