In Pursuit of a Free Spirit

Curt was a friend of mine for about 12 years.  But this is not in itself a reason to write a book about someone, so  I’d like to say a few words about  why I was moved to write At the World’s Edge.

Curt was a person who did many different things, he was a beat, he wrote poetry and published it, he painted and exhibited his paintings in the Vancouver Art Gallery, he started a bookstore, which became MacLeod’s Books and still exists today, he built boats, he salvaged logs, he was a fisherman, a photographer and high tech entrepreneur.  So his life gives us a unique window into Vancouver’s changing economic history.  This in itself is interesting but there is more.

Curt was something very unique; a free spirit, a latter-day Odysseus. Like Odysseus, he had many adventures, struggles, triumphs and disasters.   At one point, Odysseus even visited the land of the shades, the underworld. I think there’s a period of Curt’s life which can be seen this way too.  But like Odysseus, he didn’t stay.  He nosed about and moved on.  Curt thought you could be one thing one day, and quite something else the next.  Of course, this meant he was always learning.  He taught himself how to build boats, how to find fish, how to use computers, how to make a high precision measuring instrument.  He was never afraid of a steep learning curve.  For Curt, climbing that curve was the essence of being human.  That was when you were most truly alive.  He took risks and was often at the brink, which is partly why I called the book At the World’s Edge.

Curt was a catalyst who liked to start things, and often left the finishing to others.  This is probably why he didn’t usually profit from his ideas.  He acquired a wealth of experience, but not a great deal of money.

In our society, we like to measure people in terms of the money.  It’s a simple scale, and easy to see who’s on top and who’s on the bottom.  Curt’s life is an invitation to look at people in a more complicated, multi-dimensional way.  Actually, it’s not so easy to see who’s up, who’s down, who’s winning, who’s losing.

Throwing away a simple scale is a bit disconcerting, disorienting.  But you know, when you do that, life becomes a lot more fun.  That’s one of the things I remember about Curt.  It was always fun to have him to dinner.  You never knew exactly what might happen, what you might say, or where a conversation might lead.  It made for an exhilarating evening.

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