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Entry date: 10-8-2022 - Happy Birthday Aunt Julie - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Today is my Aunt Julie’s birthday and she is one of my favorite people in the world. I don’t get to see her or spend nearly as much time as I would like, but that’s the way of the world for us adults, I suppose. It’s on me, though, because I’m sure she would be happy to hang out if I could make the time.

Aunt Julie is my mom’s older sister. She always seemed to me to be the level-headed member of that particular group of people. My uncles, on my mom’s side, were not exactly predictable or reliable, and my mom, well, is my mom. If I needed some good advice, I often went to Aunt Julie.

I suppose some may argue that she was not always level-headed. She did up and move to Jerome in the 70s when she left my uncle Harry. I know that was hard on Ben, but that is really his story to tell. I always enjoyed getting to go up and visit her, though, and we did it every so often. I remember one time when we got up there to say hi and they weren’t there, but she and Bo, her boyfriend, had left the house open so we could stay if we wanted.

She worked at the Candy Kitchen up there and I think that is where she learned the restaurant business. It was a cool spot to eat it in Jerome in those days and I especially liked the way they made a hamburger. It had a very cool vibe.

Eventually she came back to Phoenix, though, and worked for great Aunt Lois at Easy Street before my mom and her bought it and had it for years. I liked working with Aunt Julie because we could just talk about things, and she was able to give me a perspective that my mom often could not. Now I understand how it can be hard for a parent to be able to be as objective about things, but as a teenager, I usually just thought Aunt Julie was cooler than my mom.

She was the first person to put eye liner on me when I was about 15. Ben and I were going to Tommy’s and I wanted to wear some eye liner, so she added some blue under my eyes. I quickly switched to black, but I loved that she was always game for whatever Ben and I were getting into as far as style went.

Aunt Julie was always very supportive of us expressing ourselves however we wanted to do so. It was nice to feel like an adult in my life was not judging me for wanting to figure out who I was. My mom was cool about these things, too, but I would usually bounce things off Aunt Julie first. Even when she was not happy with a decision I was making, she would still do her best to try and see it from my side. I have always appreciated that she could tell me she disagreed with me in a respectful and constructively critical way.

As my Easy Street career got going more and more, I spent a lot of time working side by side with Aunt Julie and we were a good team. I think it was easier for us to work together than my mom and I. We had a schedule for a while where I worked every day, and they would come in every other day. This was good for all of us, but I definitely enjoyed the days with Aunt Julie a bit more. We didn’t have that small tension that my mom and I often had.

My mom and my aunt are and were best friends, I think. They were as close as could be and there was even a contingent of Easy Street customers that thought they were lesbian lovers. They thought that was pretty funny, I think.

Aunt Julie has a great sense of humor, and we laughed a lot. She would also give me great books to read, too, and kept me busy on my many bus rides to the restaurant because of all the books. I particularly loved the Anne Tyler books she shared with me and the Mark Helprin ones, too. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t know the joys of those stories.

Joyce Carol Oates was another author she turned me on to and I really dug her book, Because It is Bitter and Because It is My Heart. I should go back and re-read some of those books. Maybe I will.

Music was something we often bonded over, too. We went to see the Fine Young Cannibals at Gammage in those days and shared a love of World Party. We would have music playing when we prepped, and she was always open to listening to things I suggested. If she didn’t like it, she would at least give it a while before she would say to turn it off.

The four of us, my mom, Aunt Julie, Ben and I, would go on a lot of adventures. We would go up to Sedona or the Grand Canyon or just out to eat. When Ben got married in New Orleans in 1997, we all had a wonderful time.

On the night after Ben’s wedding, we were all out having fun in the French Quarter and we ended up going to a vampire bar that opened at midnight. You had to go down two or three flights of stairs to get to the first bar and then the dance floor underneath. They were playing great music and I remember us all having a ton of fun.

That night went on for a few of us and I walked Aunt Julie back to the hotel before rejoining my ex-wife and Uncle Joe at the last bar we were at. It was pouring down rain on our short walk and we were having the best time.

I’m thankful for an Aunt such as she. She’s a wonderful great aunt to the kids, too, and continues to be someone I get some of the best energy from in my life. I think this year is 73 or so, but she’s still going strong.

Happy birthday, Aunt Julie. I love you.

See you tomorrow.

The Dungeon in New Orleans. We went there in 1997. Fun place.

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