Do Be Do Be Do — Wes and Me

Wes was a lot of things, but one of the more amazing things to me was that he was almost a dead ringer for my brother. The first time I saw him as he came through the law firm delivering mail with Art, the head mail boy (sounds redundant, doesn’t it?), I thought, “Holy shit, is that KIRK?” But it was Wes. Strangely, it wasn’t just Wes; it was Wes KENNEDY. Wes Kennedy was from Loosiana and was both talented and driven. He wanted to make his living as an artist. He’d gone to school at Louisiana State in Baton Rouge, but dropped out and moved to Denver. Just like that.

We became best friends and nearly became lovers, but didn’t. Wes revealed one night after we’d been wrestling on my couch — “My girlfriend? The one I’ve been telling you about all this time? Well, her name is Ken.” I remember getting up from the sofa laughing hysterically. Wes thought he should  call a hospital, fearing his revelation had pushed me over the edge, but it hadn’t. It was just ironic and funny and sad and frustrating. You see, my REAL boyfriend, Peter, who was then teaching in Saudi Arabia, was also…gay. I decided then that all gay guys should wear signs.

Once this minor little thing was sorted out, we became very close. We were neighbor’s in Denver’s Capital Hill — he lived in an old house on Lafayette just up from Colfax, and I lived in a faux-Spanish apartment a block and a half away from him on Humboldt. One of the things we enjoyed doing together was attending life drawing sessions at Muddy Waters of the Platte, a Denver landmark, a late 70’s institution, a paradisal home-away-from-home, open all hours, coffee house, restaurant, book store, theater and much more. Every Monday night we drove across the Speer Street Viaduct (RIP) with our pads of newsprint and sometimes “real” drawing paper. We’d each put $5 into the hat in front of the stage for the model, and sit down, usually right next to each other. Wes was left handed, I am right, so we could do that. Wes smoked and I didn’t, and we drew along with a handful of others who thought three hours sitting in old theater seats on a Monday evening drawing a naked person was a good time.

Muddy’s was a philosophical, artsy-fartsy kind of place. It was a magnet for the Denver youthful wannabe (and real) avant garde. Even the graffiti on the bathroom walls carried the slightly sardonic, semi-intellectual tone that would reach the “inner circle” we, one way or another, believed ourselves to be.

1Time has shown that I am “Do, be, do, be, do.” And Wes is dead.

Photos by Kim Allen, Denver Photo Archives

24 thoughts on “Do Be Do Be Do — Wes and Me

  1. This really moved me Martha. That artsy community has such allure. Thank you for sharing this personal part of your life. Strange that Wes shared your surname.

  2. They should wear signs. I have had similar things happen and they ARE funny. And embarrassing. I always wonder how I could get the signals SO wrong. Great post! You are in mine today. Take a look if you have a moment.

  3. That sounds like my kinda place, whereas your tale reminded me of #1 daughter; she has an unerring instinct for always picking the gay guy! This was very touching, and thank you for sharing (Also, wrestling made me giggle as I used to call it that back in the day 😉 )

  4. I know this will give you the shits bigtime … but I WISH you would at least occasionally write posts like this without their being in response to some fairly idiotic prompt.

    • I don’t want to write lots of posts — I have other projects. The thing of the posts, for me, is that they are there first thing in the morning. some of the best stories I’ve written (short stories) have been in response to prompts that did not initially interest me. For myself, I’m not interested much in memoir. I know my stories. I like to have my imagination challenged and then (possibly) allow my own life and experience to color the story as with this one that I ended up liking a lot and it never would have happened without a relatively stupid (I thought initially) prompt that was initially not very interesting to me. But, the story turned out good and funny.

      Otherwise, the main aspect of my writing isn’t here. I’m writing a novel and trying to sell two others. This is supposed to be for fun. Strange fun, but that’s my only motive.

      • I don’t WANT to offend you … I suppose I’ve never considered the Daily Prompt as being for real writers – of which you are indubitably one.

      • I’m not offended at all, don’t worry about it. It’s been really good for me to take me out of what I had not even recognized as a rut. I try hard NOT to react, (I often fail) and to just give it a shot.

  5. Wow this is a crazy story. I can sense the dark comedy because of the irony and the consequences of what happened to wes. Rip wes. Rip. :/

  6. I’m sure that it’s been some time now, but I am still sorry for your loss. AIDS has taken some wonderful people far too soon and judging from the abrupt ending of this post, you still feel the loss of Wes rather acutely. May he rest in peace and may you be at peace knowing that your dear friend can never again feel pain. Keep those good memories burning bright!

    While not infallible, my “gay-dar” is usually pretty good, thanks at least in part to a long running friendship with a gay man who was like my little brother. The son of a friend of over thirty years now, our separation was due to a difference in opinion over his apparent need for dishonesty regarding important (and not so important too) matters rather than disease but the pangs of regret are still there. I miss him and hope he is well but I also know that he will probably never contact me again. While I regret his decision, I don’t regret my stance; he has hurt a lot of people over the years.

    After a doctor’s appointment with a new, young, gorgeous and gay doctor, I asked another gay friend of mine why it is that beautiful gay men are so nice to women. He said that it is because they don’t look at us that way and that they are anything but nice to other gay men. He said that it is exactly the way that straight pretty boys treat women that they aren’t interested in. My second trip to this same doctor, he apparently realized that I was appreciating him “too much” despite my lack of intent, and his attitude abruptly changed. I immediately knew what my friend meant as I saw this doctor’s attitude change to disdain. Thus, the reason so many women are fooled is that they feel free to be friendly because they have zero interest in a relationship. Since we normally only see really friendly behavior from men when they ARE interested, that can be confusing.

    That photo of LoDo is so different…I visited Denver in June, via Amtrak. I didn’t recognize the neighborhood, despite traveling to and from Denver countless times in the past, and often on the train. When you get settled in, take a trip north someday and see what I mean. You won’t believe your eyes.

    • I think it’s impossible to generalize these things. All of the gay men I have been interested in have also been interested in me — sexually. None of this is as black and white as we might wish it were. I think human sexuality has a continuum, not categories and ultimately, we love another person not a gender. Wes reached for me. My boyfriend, Peter, pursued me. I don’t know why and I never will, but these experiences and others have taught me to suspend my judgment. Those were also the 70s when experimentation and promiscuity were very common. I also learned from this not to choose pain. Peter was forthright and open about his primary sexual preference; I had the possibility of choosing. Still, it was love for both of us, one of the great loves in both of our lives. Love does not seem to be just about sex or gender preference; there is something more complex and precious involved, something more personal. It’s inexplicable, as far as I can tell.

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