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.