Wow. Who knew that wandering around the RNC would inspire this? THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the Dude for setting this all up. Jim has been one of my dearest friends since I was 16. 30 years bro. I was just a pimple faced (later to be referred to as Pizzaface! We’ll discuss my self esteem issues some other time) kid working at Ed & Bill’s Liquor and Cheese. One night, after work, Jeff Pilarski asked if I was doing anything. I had no plans so he said to follow him over to Conkey Street to meet a buddy of his that he knew I would like. He told me to “Just be cool. Not everyone gets invited over.” He made it seem like this was a big privledge to not be taken lightly. In a broad picture my life changed that night. From there, I was introduced to an entirely different way of looking at things. Being the Music Director at high school radio station WBSD, we had that as a starting point for a friendship. Jim and I could talk music for hours. I had access to all the new releases and he had THE killer stereo of all time. It was the perfect common ground. Having led a sheltered, small town life, I had a number of prejudices that were just there. I don’t know how they got there but they did. Jim and his friends opened my mind. They were very accepting of everyone. You just needed to “be cool.” Let me explain.
At that time, The Dude worked at a great restaurant in Kansasville Wisconsin. Auctioneer’s Inn was legendary. THE best food around and, in Burlington, where the queers went. I thought I had never met a gay person before and why would I want to. I would later find out that I knew a few but they certainly couldn’t be out in 1978 Burlington. Before long, I went from being a carry out boy at a liquor store to a being waiter at a restaurant that employed a number of homosexuals and was owned by a lesbian. I came to love and call many there my friends. Unfortunately, living in Burlington, this caused a few problems. My girlfriend at the time repeatedly had to defend our relationship. One spring day in 1980, as we were walking down the hall at Burlington High School , we overheard a girl saying something about why Debbie would be going out with that fag Kevin. She must have been very frustrated because this normally sweet girl shoved the too loud talker against the locker and I watched as her head bounce on the metal door. Her feet slid out from under her and she had a seat on the floor. Deb simply turned, took my hand again and we walked away never looking back. We never spoke of it. Not a word. I think she took a lot crap that I ever knew about and it ultimately got to be too much for her. That’s really too bad. Small town, midwest, 1979-80, what can you do? Debbie will always have a special place in my heart.
My mother asked me if there was something that I wanted to “tell her”. She heard rumors in town. I can only imagine what my brother, being a high profile police officer, heard. In the end, I think I helped open a few eyes myself. Jeff Waldecker, the gay manager of Auctioneer’s, came to my parents house with his limousine to take my nephews and I for a ride on Jayson’s birthday. Jeffery did the full shot, opening our doors and playing the part to perfection. After he dropped us off and left, my mom said that she would have never known that he was gay and he was too handsome to like men. With that and a giggle, another mind was opened. And no mom, I’m not gay.
All of this and a lifetime more happened because one night after work, Jeff Pilarski thought I was cool enough to be invited to 424 Conkey Street to hear a killer stereo and meet his buddy Jim.
For all of that and this and everything else you have done for me, I thank you so much.