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Entry date: 10-11-2022 - Easy Street part 2 - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

If you are going to have a small, neighborhood restaurant, you are going to need regular customers. This is one thing Easy Street had in droves. As I mentioned yesterday and in a few previous blogs, the place was a safe haven for the Phoenix gay community and that helped keep it going.

I learned a lot about accepting people for who they are inside and not because of how they look or who they fuck working at Easy Street. The years I worked the most at Easy Street were also among the years that HIV/AIDS was hitting Phoenix pretty hard. I lost people to that disease that had become part of my family.

One of our regular customers was a minister named Marty. He was about as positive a person as you could get, and mom and Aunt Julie adopted him quickly. They adopted all these guys and a few gals, too, who maybe didn’t have the same type of support from their own families. Marty became a fixture at the restaurant and at our bowling outings and family gatherings.

He was from the south somewhere. I can’t remember, exactly, and worked for a local church that was of the more open-minded persuasion. We never talked about religion, but I wish we could have done so. He had left this mortal coil before I got heavily into my religion courses at ASU. He would have been a great source of knowledge. When AIDS got him, it hurt.

He wasn’t the only one, though. My friend, Jay, had a boyfriend named Jim who I thought the world of, too. He had two different colored eyes, and we would always compare him to David Bowie although he looked a lot more like Jim Carroll, to be honest. Jim was a super compassionate soul and just a sweetheart. I remember going to visit him on a particularly bad day in the hospital and it showed me just how horrible that disease is to people.

I knew it was awful and had done all the reading and seen all the movies, but when you walk into a room and someone is a former shell of themselves struggling to breathe, none of that stuff matters. He was drowning and his own body was doing the dirty work. I had no idea how to be a good friend or console Jay through this, but we were all there to support him as much as possible.

Johnny O and Tim were part of my family, too. John was a computer programmer and Tim was a flight attendant at the time. I haven’t seen either of those guys for a long time but I’m sure our conversation would pick right up where it left off. I was friends with Tim on Facebook for a long time, but I guess we aren’t friends anymore. I wonder what I did.

That was the crew that was at all the get togethers. Johnny 0, Marty, Tim, Jay, and John. We also had Dick and George who were regulars but not a couple. They had a fun group of friends, too, that would come pretty often. A few of those guys ended up dying of AIDS, too.

I’m realizing now that Dick and George are probably pushing 80. It’s crazy to think that era was so long ago. I used to see these guys on a weekly basis and I can’t help but wonder what they are up to now. Dick was always a mystery to me. All his friends were gay, but he was married with kids. He talked about his wife a lot but I was pretty sure he was down with the boys. I was pretty naïve in a lot of ways, I suppose.

There was Marge, as well. She was a Saturday regular and would go bowling with us and such. She was an older gal who was wickedly funny. I think Ben and I helped her move two or three times. She had this beautiful guitar that both of us lusted over. I’m guessing some relative sold it at some point because I would be very surprised if Marge was still alive. She was a hoot, though. When she would fuck up during bowling, she would always hold her right thumb and stare at it as if she was blaming the thumb. HA!

We had one lady who’s name I never knew. She was a clown on the side and kind of a wild one. She kept her money in a series of plastic bags that eventually gave way to an old sucrets tin. It took her forever to pay for a sandwich, but I had to just admire the dedication. Now I realize, of course, that this was OCD right in front of me, but then, I had no idea. I always asked her to stop by in her clowning outfit, but she never did. Somewhere I have one of her cards, still.

One of my Saturday friends was a serious sports card collector. He and I would talk about sports when he would come in and for my birthday one year, he surprised me with a bunch of Walter Davis rookie cards. That was a really cool gift and I still have them. Sadly, I don’t even remember the guys name.

I met my buddy, Barry, through Easy Street, too. Barry was in Gentlemen Afterdark and is an amazing violin player. He came in one day and we just hit it off. He kept coming back for a while and we got to be friends. He even came and jammed with Hillbilly Devilspeak one day. It was awesome. I still regret showing him the Macumba video, but we all survived it. I’ll have to write about that one day.

There were so many interesting people that came through those doors. Al McCoy and Kevin Johnson from the Suns came in. KJ was tiny, but not as tiny or as friendly as Al.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. It kind of hurts. I miss that feeling of being part of a small community. The people who were part of it really cared for each other and that was amazing. It was the best part of the place and that says a lot because the food was amazing.

See you tomorrow.

Looking west at the building that used to home to Easy Street. That truck is parked in front of the place. It's a hair salon now.

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