Paul Allen Curry, 1949-2008

Paul Allen Curry was a friend of mine.

In the strange new world that I had imported myself into, Al represented that very authentic Irish-working-class ethic that had permeated my previous existence. It was for this reason, more than any other, that Al and I shared a lasting friendship.

I came to the United States to marry my wife. It sounds a little gooey when I write it like that, but that was really the crux of it. This brought me into a strange new environment, not only America, with seasons, directions, and road-laws all done backwards, but also the middle class in the Midwest, where forthright is a swearword and subtext is everything.

Disoriented doesn’t begin to describe it. I had come from the Australian working class, where a man’s word was his bond, actions spoke louder than words, and subtext was a luxury that no-one had time, energy, or inclination to indulge.

Not long after Misti and I were married, her friend Shelly announced her engagement to Al Curry, and not long afterwards, I had a chance to meet the guy.

Shelly knows from manners and graces, and much of what I know about getting by in the middle class, I learned from Shelly (the rest of it I learned from my wife).

You can imagine my utter amazement, then, when I met Al. Al had learned the right language and the respectful way of doing social niceties, but he left no-one, ever, in any possible doubt, about what he thought; be it about them or about what they thought.

We hit it off immediately. I could have the conversations with Al that I had previously had with my bothers back home, where the shouting and emphatic language of ardent debate eventually gave way to rollicking laughter and the clatter-and-hiss of making more coffee and opening more beer.

For the first time since landing in America, I had found the flavour of home.

Al and I spent many a night exchanging yarns a devouring good whiskey while our wives nattered and did… whatever it is the womenfolk do when the guys are in thick and furious debate.

Of Al Curry, I would have to say that he was as true to himself as any mortal person could be. He was what he was, you could like it or lump it, but he wasn’t going to give a damn either way. He took responsibility for all of his own actions, and demanded that everyone else, from president to beggar, should do the same.

Al was a story-teller. His yarns about raising hell as a irreverent farm boy, and the various incidents and accidents that form the fabric of his life were a delight to hear. Al and I spent a lot of time exchanging yarns, but as a storyteller, he made me look like a rank amateur, though he never made me feel that way.

Al was a curmudgeon. He didn’t see the point in being nice for the sake of it, if he liked you, well and good, if he didn’t, that was perfectly obvious as well. He didn’t much care for the company of kids, he saw no point in liking people just because they are small, and he made no secret of that; though our Jack was well enough behaved that he didn’t mind him, and his grandchildren were the apple of his eye.

Al was forthright. He left no doubt in anyone’s mind what he thought about any issue. Unlike many opinionated people, Al could back his words with sound reason, and while I may not always have agreed with him, I could always see why he believed what he did.

Al was spiritual. You had to know him well to know that side of him at all, but the things that mattered to Al, mattered very deeply indeed. Being raised a Baptist cured him of any liking for religion. This did not stop him believing in God, but he had a real hard time believing in any church.

Al was, most of all, a writer. Shelly tells me he wrote every day. Writing is not something he did, a writer is what he was. Al had a CD published, he was an accomplished musician and a damned good songwriter, he also had a manuscript kicking around called “the free lunch chronicles” which was an aptly named collection of autobiographical yarns, the sort of stories that will get you a free lunch on a regular basis. The yarns are, of course, embellished just a little, but they make an entertaining read, and the core information is factual.

My most memorable experience of Al’s writing was in e-mail. Every now and then we’d be treated to an acerbic, irreverent, opinionated article about one level of government malfeasance or another. Al’s way with words and imagery was a delight to read, and well worth a re-read. His language was often strong, and his commentary was over-the-top, but it was so beautifully crafted you had to admire it.

Al died in the wee small hours of March 18, 2008, the day after St Patrick’s day, the day Al often referred to as the festival of amateur drunks and once-a-year Irish. This didn’t stop him getting plastered, flirting with the girls, and yammering in Gaelic to any who would listen.

Four of us sang “Danny Boy” to close his funeral, and that first sense of familiarity, the one friend I had in this country who could fill the place of a brother, was laid to rest.

I liked Al a lot.

I miss him.


Its not just republicans!!

Open letter to the Michigan Legislature

The Michigan Legislature has before it House Bill Number 5912, a bill that would require home-schooled children to be registered with their school district.

My first question is why?

The United States of America is built on the principle of freedom, and Michigan has fought, from its very inception, to maintain as much independence as is feasible from federal government inteference.

Are we not aware of the young Governor Mason, who was deposed briefly by federal intervention for purposes of political expedience, who was re-elected in a landslide by the people of Michigan who, on the same day, voted for the constitution which serves our state so well? We, the citizens of the State of Michigan, don’t like government interference unless we can see good reason for it.

It alarms me that the state legislature now intends to have home-schooled children registered with the state, a requirement that flies in the face of our freedom and can serve no useful end.

There is no good reason to register home-schooled children with the school district. It therefore represents a needless intrusion into the privacy of Michigan's citizens.

For any tale of woe about an irresponsible family who neglects their children by failing to educate them, there are a thousand such tales of publicly educated children who enter high-school without basic literacy skills.

Registering home-educators with the state system will not, nor can it, improve either situation. While home-education will continue successfully as it always has, the already burdened state system will have the increased workload of registering its home-educators and their students to no useful end. The increase in burden may not be great, but any increase is too much for a system that is already struggling.

As a home-educator, I can assure you that government registration represents a significant barrier to home-educating families who may consider moving to Michigan. Home-educators tend to be the very type of "can-do" people that are needed in this state as we pave a brighter future for our children.

There is no evidence to suggest that home-education in Michigan is broken. Registration of home-educators serves no useful end.

Registering home-educators with the state system can only serve to burden an already under-funded system with useless information, and present one more barrier for the families who want to immigrate to our state in these difficult times.

Please reconsider your co-sponsorship of this bill that flies in the face of our freedom, intrudes on our privacy, and adds to the already substantial burden that the people of the State of Michigan bear in these difficult times.


Rodney B. Smith
Home Educator

Please feel free to hijack any part of this for your own protest letters.

Representative Brenda Clack is the major sponsor of this bill.

Rep. Brenda Clack
N0798 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514


CO-SPONSORS OF H.B. 5912 are:
(There are 24, you might want to select those who represent you.)

Joan Bauer: 517-373-0826, joanbauer@house.mi.gov
Bob Constan: 517-373-0849, bobconstan@house.mi.gov
Marc Corriveau: 517-373-3816, marccorriveau@house.mi.gov
Robert Dean: 517-373-2668, robertdean@house.mi.gov
Kate Ebli: 517-373-2617, KateEbli@house.mi.gov
Barbara Farrah: 517-373-0845, barbarafarrah@house.mi.gov
Richard Hammel: 517-373-7557, richardhammel@house.mi.gov
Ted Hammon: 517-373-3906, tedhammon@house.mi.gov
Shanelle Jackson: 517-373-1705, shanellejackson@house.mi.gov
Bert Johnson: 517-373-0144, bertjohnson@house.mi.gov
Robert Jones: 517-373-1785, robertjones@house.mi.gov
Kathleen Law: 517-373-1799, davidlaw@house.mi.gov
Richard LeBlanc: 517-373-2576, richardleblanc@house.mi.gov
Gabe Leland: 517-373-6990, gabeleland@house.mi.gov
Mark Meadows: 517-373-1786, markmeadows@house.mi.gov
Fred Miller: 517-373-0159, fredmiller@house.mi.gov
Gino Polidori: 517-373-0847, ginopolidori@house.mi.gov
Joel Sheltrown: 517-373-3817, joelsheltrown@house.mi.gov
Mike Simpson: 517-373-1775, mikesimpson@house.mi.gov
Alma Smith: 517-373-1771, almasmith@house.mi.gov
Virgil Smith: 517-373-0589, virgilsmith@house.mi.gov
Aldo Vagnozzi: 517-373-1793, aldovagnozzi@house.mi.gov
Lisa Wojno: 517-373-2275, lisawojno@house.mi.gov

All of them can also be reached at:

N0798 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514