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They Say It's Your Birthday



It's true that I've devoted a lot of time on this blog to friends, family and neighbors who are no longer with us. That's probably not too uncommon, as it's a fallibility of human nature that we don't tend to overly-gush about the living. We wait until they're dead, then eulogize them. That's all well and good for those who are still around, but kinda sucks if you've already snuffed it.

Pondering over the aforementioned thoughts made me realize that it's better late than never to show an appreciation for those who've made a difference in my life, both in the past and in the present. In fact, today falling smack dab as it does between two stellar people's birthdays (Terry's yesterday, Amanda's tomorrow) has prompted me to undertake a little written appreciation of them. Two folks whom I'm fortunate enough to count as friends.

I first met Terry and Amanda while a regular at Chester Street, the local gay-friendly nightclub (back when there really was only one, not like now, where gays and straights nicely inter-mingle at several downtown establishments). Terry, a young gay (gaaaaaaaay) man working front desk at a hotel, Amanda an undergrad at the University of Illinois, we came together with other mutual friends to develop some very strong bonds over time.

Terry and I shared an affinity for pop music, hot guys, and being perpetually single. We enjoyed the kind of friendship where we both entertained and pissed each other off, and in the end, we were still there for one other. We loved going on food runs to various cities and towns. Every time we went to Schaumburg, we'd stop at Ruby Tuesday. Once we tried the rock & roll Denny's in Tuscola, and were treated to the entire wait staff dancing to The Hand Jive. We dined late at a truck stop restaurant the night before I was due to go on my first date with Ashley, with Terry attempting to calm my nerves.

Then there was the time we were having dinner at the Perkins on University Ave. I'd ordered mashed potatoes that, frankly, were awful. Terry gleefully took them. When it came time for the bill, I (quite seriously) remarked, "OK, so, you know you're paying for the mashed potatoes, right? I may have ordered them, but you're the one who ate them, so it's on you."  Dear reader, the poor souls who lost their lives to the eruption of Krakatoa experienced nothing in comparison to the wrath of Terry being told to pay for mashed potatoes.

When we weren't eating, Terry and I were either watching music videos in his small but cozy apartment, or listening to some of the latest, greatest tunes. We would sometimes do our own Top 40 countdowns of favorite songs, and read them off to one another, often agreeing, sometimes becoming a tad incredulous at each other's choices. There was some really cheap but fun music video channel that Terry got where you could call-in a request, and it would usually be played. We did that a lot, other times watching (and laughing at) episodes of The People's Court.

Amanda was the girl I probably would have wanted to marry, if I'd have been straight. It's fairly safe to say that you can often find physical attractiveness without very good intellect, or vice-versa, but rarely the two together. Add to that a sparkling, dynamic personality, and you have the trifecta that was (and is) Amanda. I've hardly met anyone else quite like her.

With Amanda, it's not so much where we want and what we did that I remember, more so what we talked about. She's a great conversationalist, and one of the few people who never leaves me feeling dirty after we've gossiped for a spell. And, believe me, we've gossiped. We've also talked about God, religion, family, work and life in general. We could probably talk gibberish and, as long as I was speaking it with Amanda, it would be okay. We've had our fun times, as well.

Every six months or so, Amanda and I would have a pretty festive Saturday night of drinks and nightclubbing. Call it a desperate attempt to hold on to our youth if you want, but they were generally fun excursions. We'd often end up at the Highdive in downtown Champaign. And, reader, if you haven't experienced the Highdive, then there's very little I could describe that would do it justice (or should that be 'injustice?').

I'll never forget the night when we'd headed-out to the Highdive, drank way too much alcohol, probably did embarrassing things on the dance floor, and then headed back to the car that was parked a few steps away over by the train tracks. There we passed-out for the night, awoken at around 5am by a train slowly clacking along the tracks as it passed through town. That was sort of a come-to-Jesus moment and, probably just coincidentally, that parking lot was closed-off at night going forward.

I've lived 37 years, and still don't understand all of the coincidences, choices and life events that enables people's paths to cross. I could live another 37 years and probably not understand them any better. What I do know is that I've been oh-so-fortunate to have had a life that includes Terry and Amanda. As we get older and our circumstances change, the intricacies of our friendships alter somewhat, but not their cores. For I truly believe that I will always know Terry, and that I will always know Amanda.

I count them both among my many blessings.

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