Curtis Christy

Profile Updated: June 30, 2009
Curtis Christy
Residing In: Martinez, CA USA
Occupation: civil servant
Children: The youngest one is two years old. Yes, I know. My two older sons are 18 and 21. I have two daughters More…who came with my wife, both in elementary school, ages 9 and 11. I have had several other step-children and an adopted daughter (from India).

Here's an anecdote: Colin, my oldest biological son, now 21 and a junior in college in the San Francisco Bay Area, went to High School in the most politically liberal city in America ... Berkeley. Problem: He became a Republican at about age 10. It's lonely being a Republican in Berkeley High. Not P.C. at all. Plus he was the president of the Christian Club. Did I mention that Berkeley High has the most most athiest students per capita of any high school in America? the most two-Mom homes [to put things in perspective]? where abortion is an accepted means of birth control? So the kid had his work cut out for him. True to the rest of the persona, he started aligning himself with the NRA. Bought some Air-soft guns. Bought a shotgun and started going to the range and hunting. Now, if we had lived in rural Idaho or somewhere, no problem, right? But Berkeley? So he takes a photography course as an elective. Great teacher--half-Asian, like Colin [who was also president of the HAPA club]--and things started out very well. Then he got a fateful assignment: "Do a 3-picture autobiographical photo essay ... so the photos tell the story of who YOU are as a person right now." Colin took the assignment seriously. He turned it in on time, three black an white photos, mounted tastefully, etc. Then it was his turn to unveil the project to the rest of the class and the teacher. He goes to the front, takes off the cover, and there is an audible gasp. His 8x10 glossy photos show (1) his Bible on an American flag, (2) a picture of himself cloaked in darkness but with his ever-present black Oakland Raiders hat clearly visible above the shadow where his eyes are hidden, and (3) his black backpack with three Air-soft pistols lying on it. The teacher said, "Excuse me," to the class and left the room. A few minutes later, Colin was escorted by campus security to the Principal's office. His mother and I were both called. I was dating a lawyer, so after calling the ACLU [ironically, since Colin HATES them], I took "my lawyer" to the school. My talk to the school went something like this: "What? Isn't this Berkely, the epicenter of the FREE SPEECH MOVEMENT? What the hell HAPPENED to your guys? It was an ASSIGNMENT! He didn't bring GUNS to school, he brought a photo of three TOY guns! SUSPEND HIM? Are you insane? I want you to meet my lawyer!" Etc., etc. Needless to say, he got off with an explanation about why they had to take the steps that their policy dictated. Columbine and all that.

Okay, another anecdote, different son: My (now) middle boy, Robert, wanted to take a trip to China. His Mom's family is Chinese, so that's understandable. He heard that the school band was going to go there on an exchange with a Chinese high school. So he took up the oboe. He hated playing it. But he played it all the way to the Great Wall, and finished out the year in the band. ["One time at Band Camp ....]

One more ... about the 22 month old, Kevin: My wife, Alma, got me a harmonica on which I can still play the one song I ever knew on it [Ol' Suzanna]. I decided to teach Kevin how to blow into the instrument, but found that he could only hum through his nose while trying to mimic the sounds I made. So I tried blowing on his face which he soon picked up, and before you know it, he was blowing into the harmonica. A few days later--after a few accidental intakes produced sounds--and he was blowing both in and out. He liked it and played lots of in and out notes, standing up, kind of gyrating to his own inner beat. He watches the Wiggles and dances better than I do by imitating them ... "Put your fingers in the air and twist your feet," and so on. So then he was ready for his concert. When Alma and I and Kevin's sisters, Grace and Allyssa were all assembled in the living room, Kevin picked up his harp and let loose a long out blowing, and then a short in, two outs, three ins, and started varying the length of the sounds, and the strength of the blowing, bending and moving his shoulders while his little feet remained planted firmly. Up comes his head, the harmonica moving back and forth, the sounds start making like jazz, some kind of musical sense is being made, and I'm getting it. He's PLAYING ... not a tune, of course, but a thing. His thing. It's good. He knows it's good. One last long blow, bent almost double, facing the floor ... then he just stays there, waiting. Silent. The piece is over. And we all get that the piece is over. Then he bends his knees, still bent over facing the floor, places the harmonica on the ground and back up--smiling ... and applauding ... and signalling to us that it is time for us to clap, too. We do. He repeats these performances whenever he feels like it. When his brothers come over, for friends and neighbors.

So we go to Florida to visit my folks. We have a long layover in Atlanta. People are bored and sleepy. Kevin deserves to be allowed to walk around, so we risk letting him out of the stroller. He has been saying "Hi!" to everyone who passes by, everyone walking down the airport corridor ... hundreds of people. He has this smile. People respond. So he's walking around the little area we've carved out and he sees this young Black guy sitting alone nearby, wearing dark sunglasses, with headphones on--but making no movement to whatever he was listening to. This guy has a black cap on that goes sideways. He's all dressed in black, and had not yet looked up to smile or acknowledge us in any way. He seemed unfriendly to me. But Kevin, seeing the open seat next to the young man, walks up to him and says one of the only words he knows, the old faithful "Hi!" which he has said at leaast a thousand times today. The young man takes off his earphones and with a big smile, returns "Hi!" Kevin climbs up next to him and starts jabbering the unintelligible sounds of a pre-verbal toddler, smiling in the way that makes even the Grinch smile back. He engages the young man in a kind of exchange, so that he can't resist and finally asks me questions about Kevin ... how old is he? is he always so friendly? And I say, "He plays the harmonica" ... handing the thing to Kevin. Kevin scoots off the edge and centers himself in front of his new friend and begins to play some of his own kind of jazz. Long pauses, bending way over, leaning way back, long silences with the instrument held tightly to his lips, sounds, silence, sounds, bending, twiching at the shoulders ... it's all very cool. The guy and all the people around are watching this kid like he's from Saturn or somewhere. When Kevin's done, he does his trademark signal that the number's over by placing the harmonica on the ground. He, his friend, his amazed family and everyone else starts clapping.

An hour later, we're walking down past the other gates ... no hand-holding--that would slow him down too much. Kevin is holding his harp, scuttling along, looking at everyone, pointing, saying, "Hi!" when he spots a young Marine sitting against a pole on the floor, his buff camo pack supporting his back. Kevin approaches. The Marine smiles and says hello, and Kevin gets into position, unbidden, and lets loose with another evolving rendition of his version of the song of a frisky young whale, singing for an older boy about to go off to war. Something about that image makes tears come as I write this. This boy of mine and the way he seems to know something I have long ago forgotten.

One more: I have a stepson, Scott, who served in the FIRST war in Iraq. When he was overseas I wrote a poem about it. [out of space] See "POSTSCRIPT #17" in the COMMENTS section, below.
Military Service: US Army, Belgium, Italy & Fort Campbell, KY  
Yes! Attending Reunion
Comments:

In response to a message from one of our classmates, I responded:

I just looked at the two yearbooks. What strikes me is how numbing the jolt was when the school ... and class ... was divided. I remember being at the new school and feeling so out-of-place. I knew far more people at the old school, but I know that I didn't attempt to do anything that would have ensured that the connections between us would remain. I remember that I was glad that Bob Heim was at the new school. It was comforting to have a friend there who I saw as somehow like me. But then, looking back to the previous year when we were all together, I know I didn't make much of an effort to connect then, either. All of that would be lost on me, I'm sure, except that I have watched bits of my personality play out in my sons ... making me remember those years, and making me want for them the roots that I was unable to develop. But whereas I attended 9 schools before finally graduating high school from the 10th, my sons just did the normal three: elementary, middle and high ... accompanied by the same friends and classmates all the way through. One of the yearly rituals was for Dad (me) to ask the boys the names of all the kids in their class, and for a description of each one. I wanted to know gender and ethnicity and anything that made that particular kid stand out as distinct from the rest. By the third time I asked--three weeks or so into the new year--the boys always knew all the kids' names. We did the same drill with the teachers--talking about whether the boys thought they'd learn much from this one or that one, and why or why not.

I think now, that having had to cut relationships as we moved from a small town in Central Ohio, to Luxembourg for three years--two at a tiny private school (7 kids in my 8th grade class), and one at a military base school--a few months at Amherst before we found a house in Williamsville, helped to make me reluctant to form close friendships. During all that time, I held onto a friend from elementary school (in Circleville, Ohio) as my anchor to a place called "home." But he was killed soon after college, while I was in the Army. I could never find his widow or two young sons to tell them what a great guy their Dad was. But the NEED to reconnect with his family, I'm sure, was a manifestation of the emptiness one faces when his or her roots were cut early in life, and never firmly planted again.

I'm happy to report that my sons have deep roots, and have many friends from their youth. The fact that I made it into the senior year Williamsville Olympian Annual is amazing--the result of being seated for a minute during the game of musical chairs I had as a life when I was a teen. But it was good to see myself on a page with other kids ... as if I was part of something. And--in a way--I guess being on that page, and being a kind of "charter member" of the new school does actually make me part of it. I must like the idea, or I wouldn't have done a profile and shared these reflections. Thanks for the invitation to take part. Curtis [I contine from other sections, below.]

POSTSCRIPT #9: MR. BITNER. There was a grating between the janitor's broom closet and the boys bathroom at the old school ... right in the main hall, not far from the front door to the school. Mr. Bitner used to hide in the closet ... ostensibly to catch boys smoking. Note that the grate looked out onto the row of urinals ... so that our hips and zippers were right at eye level for anyone sitting on a box, stooping over and staring in. It was at the very end of the row, with a perfect view of all who stood there doing what they were supposed to be doing .. or smoking cigarettes. Every so often, those of us who tried to get away with smoking in the lav, would be surprised by Mr. Bitner's big and tank-like frame rushing into the room, grabbing boys to haul off to the office for ... guess what?? Demerits! We had no idea how he had such good radar for smoking until one day ... There was a kid at the very end of the row of urinals, right next to the grating--which, as usual, was dark. The boy (who shall remain nameless) was doing what he was supposed to do at the urinal. [The things you learn in school if you're paying attention!] But there was another kid a few urinals down who was cupping a cigarette in his hand. Suddenly, Mr. Bitner--hunkered down, from the recesses of the closet yells, "STAY THERE, YOU!" at which moment the startled kid turns to face the sound and--you guessed it--gave Mr. Bitner what can best be called a "golden shower" [although few of us would have recognized that expression in 1968]. The big man stormed into the restroom, his face still dripping, hankerchief busily trying to keep his white shirt from staining. It was a triumph for our side. At least that's how I remember it.

POSTSCRIPT #10: When we moved to the new school, I was breifly crazy about Darlene Edmiston. So was Buddy Underwood ... another of our classmates who left early for the military [Marines, I think]. We almost came to blows over her. I wonder what happened to them?

POSTSCRIPT #11: Does anyone remember Homer Jasper? He told the most fantastic stories at the lunch table. I often wondered if those deadpan stories of his could possibly have been true. Then I became a counselor.

POSTSCRIPT #12: Whatever happened to Lisa CoCo? Another person I remember mostly from the cafeteria. She was unique. Never met another person like her.

POSTSCRIPT #14 [following the style of the great hotels]: Sharon Biondo, Karen Sete ... a year behind us, but I remember them both so vividly. Sonny Grainy and Rick Mancuso -- both had siblings our age who went to Catholic school (Jack and Debbie, respectively). We lived on the same street: Patrice Terrace, when there was nothing behind our homes but open field all the way to Transit or the Transit Lanes.

POSTSCRIPT #15: Mellow Brick Road. Remember how the Transit Lanes would cover up the lanes and make a night club for dancing? Out my window, off the roof, through the field and I was there.

POSTSCRIPT #16: Transit Town and the coffee shop at Grant City, and the other one on the other side of Main.

POSTSCRIPT #17: A poem written when my stepson, Scott, went off to the first Desert Storm:

When My Son Went Off to War
Curtis Christy February, 1991

He called from far the other side
of Mother Earth
collect, Bahrain to Berkeley.
The contrast can't be lost on me
as partners' wives go picketing
the deeds my son has gone to war to do.
I awake to hear a boy
on the first leg of his mission
into manhood.
From an Arab island
to a floating city in a boiling sea
being catapulted
rubber-banded
to a steel-hulled arsenal of death.
It teems with life
like his.
In a blackened, mine-strewn battlefield
he'll be.
He goes to wait.
And I remember how
it's not the fight that quickens boys
into the men they'll be
but patience
tried by time and fear
waiting in the sea.
My many thoughts now trouble me
as blurry middle-age awakes
in a phone call
from a boy.
I see him
standing in his short pants
in a garden
with his knees all muddy
from an hour's play.
Then suddenly
every hour starts to count.
And all the wasted ones
evoke the pain
--both his and mine--
suppressed for years,
from divorce and broken promises
and failed attempts at modeling
the role he'd have to play
some day.
A string of sleepless nights
denying
that I hadn't really done my best
where he's concerned.
Afraid I'd failed to give him
some important piece of who I was . . .
perhaps the very crucial part
that brought me through
the embarkations I had made
when sailing off
to all my many wars.
As Dad and Grandpa did before.
When we all went sailing off
to different wars.

-----

Scott came back with some medals, all in one piece. He has three kids now and by all reports is a great father and wonderful husband.

School Story:

I left the New Williamsville several months early, after a Sixties-style disagreement with my folks. [It had a lot to do with sideburns and hair length, as I recall. Remember the context of our youth.] So I ended up completing my senior year living in a house I shared with four college students, a block off OSU campus in Columbus, Ohio. Emancipated minor ... and an emaciated one, too by the time graduation rolled around. I was stoned much of the time, living on a daily diet of meatballs at the Venetian Pizza where I worked. The only thing that kept me going to school was that these four college student dopers I lived with said that if I didn't go to school every day, I couldn't live there. Of course my parents had always extolled the virtues of a high school and a college education, too, so it was easy to understand my roomates' insistance because it sounded so much like my parents'! My Dad cried when I graduated ... partly because I weighed only about 140 pounds, and partly because he couldn't believe I had actually done it.

POSTSCRIPT #1, I went on to do a lot more school. Up the ying-yang. Most of it I never used again. Lots of it interesting, though. Especially the electives. Taught some school, later. Did a terminal degree, thought I was finished, then went back for more punishment. And, yes, I am the same guy (for those who might have noticed I was gone for half our Junior year) who was traded to Clarence HS in a bad-kid exchange ... for Jim Kausner. [Some didn't notice because Jim and I looked a lot alike. At Clarence, everyone thought I was him.]

POSTSCRIPT #2: I recently re-connected with one of the guys I lived with near the OSU campus. Saw his name on a "Support Obama" website and emailed him. Found out that one of the other guys had never come out of the drug days, and had died stoned in a movie theater, after spending 30 years as a juggler, magician, and street performer on Venice Beach. One of the guys who made sure I got up and made it to high school every morning. Life, man ... it holds surprises.

POSTSCRIPT #3: I remember Williamsville. This reconnection with Williamsville has caused many memories to resurface ... and I want to reflect on some of them--for myself and for anyone who may want to kill some time. My first friend at Williamsville was Keith Oberg. Our parents knew each other. Keith introduced me to Pat Tory and I can still remember the first time visiting her house and watching The Monkees--also for the first time. We'd lived out of the country for several years, and I was just getting used to living here again. Pat and Keith were very active in everything, it seemed, and invited the new kid to several events ... including a dance. I had absolutely NO idea how to dance to rock-and-roll, but couldn't say no. At that dance I faked it ... I mean REALLY faked it, moving my feet very fast, blending in some stuff I learned in ballroom dancing class that was somewhere between the Cha-Cha and the Fox Trot. So I was wearing myself out, pretending that I was doing a dance from Europe when, in fact, it was just nervous nuttiness trying to blend in for whatever might be in store for me for the next couple of years. The weirdest thing was that at that time there was a Foreign Exchange student--I remember he was from Spain, maybe Enrico??--and someone said that he danced in a way similar to what I was doing. So either I was channeling some recently deceased Flamingo cat, or Enrico was faking it too... and as coincidence would have it .... But anyway, some of the kids thought I actually knew how to dance. On the one hand, I was relieved, but on the other hand I was sure I'd forget what I had done the last time, and feared being asked to another dance because the actual European guy might be there and challenge the validity of my phony dancing. What kind of angsty stuff filled the heads of kids in those days? Or was it just me?

POSTSCRIPT #5: Ernie Gamin. Keith introduced us. Ernie's mom was a school principal, as I remember. She was raising Ernie alone when I knew him. She did a great job. He is a stand-out kid in my memories of high school: warm, funny, accepting ... and without doubt a bona fide genius. He created a little wheeled robot that would come out into the middle of the room when he flicked on the light switch ... it was like a small rolling tray, and could have a can of Pepsi or something on it. He rigged up an alarm (before you could buy such a thing) that he kept under his pillow, that turned on a tape recording of his pretty girlfriend saying "Get up, Ernie, Time to get up" ... instead of an buzzing alarm going off. I remember him working on some early computer terminals at school, doing stuff that most of us had no clue about. What would he have become if he had not perished in that car accident? I have thought of Ernie many hundreds of times since those days.

POSTSCRIPT #6: It is sad to look at the lists of those old classsmates already contacted and those not yet found, and see that there were kids I knew--and got into trouble with (after the good influence of Keith, Pat and Ernie wore off)--who are not on either list. Some might remember that David Christie (note the spelling) and I used to pretend to be brothers. We sat one behind the other in Home Room. Skipped classes together to go places on his motorcycle. There is no one like a pretend brother to pull you into mischeif without regard for the consequences. Before Dave moved (to Texas) with his family, he and I, along with Gary Guillisano, Tibor Stotz, Dale Gruber, Charile Hall, and four others, had ammassed so many DEMERITS that we were forced to attend a "counseling" session with the school social worker each week. Having been in the counseling field, lo these many years, I now know what counseling is SUPPOSED to look like. And that special session was NOT counseling. Once the Social Worker had all of us in her office, she taught us how to seal the bottom of the door with a towel, open the window and light up a cigarette, that we all passed around. Upshot: All of us ... EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US ... got expelled withing the next few months. So much for the benefits school counseling in 1968! Tibor Stotz was in our class. He left school and joined the service, I believe. He was one of the funniest people I have ever known. We used to go to the Wherle Drive-in with him hiding in the trunk. Anyone remember Lonnie Joseph who worked at the drive-in who worked out with batteries and who could lift up the front of back of a stuck car?

POSTSCRIPT #7: I went to the Senior Prom in my Sophmore year with Linda Schmidt, and to the Senior Prom in my Junior Year with Char Harnden. I skipped my own senior prom in Columbus, Ohio, to hang out in a White Castle with some other freaks on campus ... experimenting with Window Pane or Orange Sunshine.

POSTSCRIPT #8: Do you remember the teacher at Williamsville named Mr. Shanzer or Mr. De Shanzer? I have been troubled by something he told us in class one time: That he had been in the Marines in WWII, taking islands, one-by-one from the Japanese. He admitted to us that they had lined up thousands of Japanese prisoners (adding the island victories together), and shot them, and burnt them to cinders with flame-throwers, then ground what was left into the sand with their vehicles ... back and forth over the remains of the "take no prisoners" approach. That memory came back especially hard in light of some of the disappointments I have had in human nature during the current conflict. The more things change.

POSTSCRIPT #8: What was the name of that beautiful--and erotic--teacher who had pale strawberry pink cotton candy hair and (rumor had it), who danced at a club as her moonlighting job? Some memories cling.

POSTSCRIPT #9: SEE THE BOTTOM OF THE COMMENTS SECTION FOR A MEMORY OF MR. BITNER AND HOW HE GOT HIS COMUPENCE.

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