This weekend I visited with some old friends. The friends I visited were the first set of “gay” friends I made around the time I came out… already more than 10 years ago now.
Dave was one of the first gay guys I met in Wisconsin from AOL. He lived in Racine, which is just north of Kenosha, where I grew up. We had chatted a few times and exchanged pictures, which was pretty advanced for that particular time, and eventually agreed to meet.
I remember I was working at Best Buy at the time. Dave told me he had just had knee surgery and was limping from it, so I’d recognize him right away. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him, hobbling down the main aisle with a multi-colored jacket. At the time I didn’t know if we’d date or just be friends, but it’s funny to think that our friendship has lasted as long as it has, and I remember that moment so very clearly.
Well Dave and I didn’t date, and we became good friends very quickly. I had already been making some online friends from Chicago on AOL, and was eager to introduce Dave to them. He was a bit reluctant at first. As it turned out, Dave had only very recently come out to himself, let alone to anyone else. He had never been to a gay bar, and had never dated anyone. He hadn’t even told his parents, who I did meet. So I knew that he needed a friend to help him along that road… and I was glad he had chosen me.
As he started to relax a bit, I started to introduce him to some of the people I was meeting from AOL. Each of them was fun and interesting in their own special way…
The first guy I met was Don. I had a huge crush on Don, but he seemed to be more into the little young boys, so I knew I didn’t have a chance with him. So we became friends. Don loved to drink and dance. He was a lot of fun, but sometimes would get a bit out of control. He eventually found a boyfriend and was with him for a very long time. I lost touch with Don eventually… have no idea whatever happened to him.
Jason was fun guy, very much into sports, which was of course unsusual for a gay guy. He found himself a boyfriend rather quickly in Craig, who is still with today. Jason and Craig were at tonight’s party.
Jeff befriended Dave and I quickly and the three of us became buddies. We went shopping together, went to Great America together, and threw parties together. Jeff taught school in a far southern city in Illinois but lived in the western suburbs. Eventually he moved to the city he was teaching in, and I lost touch with him. But Jeff was there tonight, and it was as if he had never gone anywhere. It was great fun remembering old stories and laughing about the crazy things we had done. I’m so glad he’s back in our lives.
I met Scott for a date. We knew there wasn’t an attraction, but in talking to him, I discovered that he knew a lot of people that I already knew, so we figured we would remain friends. Scott was one of the main reasons I joined the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. He had auditioned and encouraged me to do the same… so I did. Eight years later, Scott has moved on from the group, but I’m still going strong. I have him to thank for that.
Gregg was another of the first guys I met. He used to plan AOL parties for all of the Chicago area guys, and that’s how I met most of everyone I’m mentioning here. He did this for a year, and then handed the reins over to me. (A Wisconsin boy planning Chicago AOL parties… who knew!) He was a sweet guy and had a great heart. He met his partner Ben at one of our outings and as far as I know is still with him today. I haven’t heard from Gregg in a while.. would be great to connect with him again.
Then there’s Dan. Dan was a force of… something. He was one of those types that drama seemed to follow wherever he went… and he fully encouraged it along. I first met Dan as a date of sorts. I knew there was nothing there, but he seemed like a fun guy, so we kept in touch. When I met him, he was living in my mom’s hometown of Antioch, Illinois. I think that’s how we started chatting in the first place. He eventually moved to Chicago and began growing everyone’s social circle. We had some incredible parties at the house he lived in with fellow friends Dr. Dave and Mike, who owned the house. Things changed, however, when Dan moved out of the house and into his own place in Boystown. He found a different circle of friends and started to withdraw from everyone else. The common statement about him was “When Dan didn’t live in Boystown he was out all the time… but now that he lives here, we never see him.” And it was true. It’s been years since I’ve talked to him… but I know he’s still around.
Dr. Dave and Mike joined the circle through Dan, and remain there today. While Dr. Dave now lives in his own lovely house in the near suburbs, he is still frequently seen at the bars shooting pool and making time with cute young boys… his specialty. Mike was at the party tonight, and it’s always good to see him again.
My former roommate Scott, who I wrote about previously, was also part of this group. He was another young newbie to the gay world, and he hit the ground running.
There were many other players in this tangled web, but these were the main ones. After ten years, I still keep in touch with many of them, but some have either moved on to other states/jobs/relationships, and others have just fallen off the face of the earth. But I’ll always have memories of what great times I had with this set of friends.
Dave is now in a great relationship with is partner, Andy. They live in the northern suburbs of Chicago in a nice condo. He’s still one of my closest friends. It’s great to be able to reconnect with someone only a few times a year and it’s like it was just last week. That’s the true test of friendship. I really cherish that.