Everyone has one – a friend that can only be described as goofy, out to lunch, around the bend, wacky – you get the picture.
My friend’s name is Kevin.
We met more than 25 years ago, while I was tending bar at a neighborhood pizza place in suburban Chicago. Kevin was one of the regulars, coming in often to have a few beers and laughs with the other regulars. The food was great, the music was – what can I say, 80’s - and the friends were many.
Most of the people we knew back then hung out at that bar or at Kevin’s apartment, which was located in a complex made up of several two-story buildings a few miles away. His apartment was on the ground floor nearest to the main entrance. Using the main doors to gain access to the building would have been the polite thing to do, but nearly everyone who had occasion to be there knew Kevin and simply walked in through his sliding glass patio doors.
Entering Kevin’s apartment for the first time was enough to render the most open-minded person speechless. It appeared as though a child was abandoned there at a very young age and somehow managed to survive into adulthood without supervision of any kind.
The living room, crowded with far too much furniture, was the largest room in the apartment. In addition to sofas, chairs and occasional tables, which I later learned Kevin retrieved piece by piece from the dumpster as previous tenants moved out of the building, he had two big televisions that were always on – cartoons on one and sports on the other. The sound, however, was never turned up, allowing us to hear only the constant blaring of tunes from the radio, or from his favorite records which I hope by now have found their way to a groove-yard somewhere.
Kevin never bothered with frames, bulletin boards or even some cheap corkboard to protect his walls. Instead, he tacked and taped everything that ever interested or amused him to the wall he was standing closest to at the time of the find.
He also kept an artificial Christmas tree on top of one of the TVs all year, simply adding decorative pieces as each new holiday approached – red hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day and so on. By the end of the year the tree became so burdened with decorations that it usually fell over onto Dog.
Dog was a huge ceramic Bassett hound that sat near the balcony doors next to his old stuffed pal, Scooby Doo. Everyone talked to Dog, petted Dog and treated Dog like a living, breathing animal. He was after all, Kevin’s dog.
Every sofa and stick of furniture in Kevin’s apartment was covered with something, whether it was clothing, newspapers, empty beer cans, overflowing ashtrays or the variety of novelty toys and gadgets he kept around to amuse - or annoy - his guests.
Cobwebs completed the décor, connecting nearly everything in the room.
The dining area featured a table, six chairs and the sports corner. The table was covered with unopened mail and hundreds of unrolled editions of a newspaper from his hometown in another state. Most of them were brittle and yellowed with age. Although I’m sure he never read any of the papers, Kevin’s parents continued to supply him with a subscription year after year.
The sports corner featured several boxes filled with thousands of golf balls. These boxes were buried beneath golf clubs, snow and water skis, baseballs, bats, mitts, footballs and basketballs. Strewn over that whole pile was a variety of team uniforms, jackets and caps. Hence the reason we called the sports corner.
Kevin’s kitchen was another story. Counter tops were littered with dirty dishes, old pizza boxes, empty cans of food and beer, and again more full ashtrays. No one who knew better ever ate a meal at Kevin’s unless they personally witnessed the preparation or delivery of the food. Everything in his refrigerator was suspect, including the growing ice formation affectionately known as “the tumor.” I defrosted his refrigerator once, and when the tumor melted, I found a new bottle of catsup, three cans of beer, a bottle of wine and the leftover carcass of a turkey – Thanksgiving year unknown.
Spaghetti was Kevin’s specialty so there were always a dozen or so noodles stuck to the ceiling, evidence of his scientific method of testing whether or not the pasta was done.
Kevin’s apartment also featured two bedrooms. I never saw the spare bedroom since it was stuffed with the unknown that it was impossible to get the door open. I often wondered how he would get his things out of there if he ever moved.
The master bedroom was as big a mess as the rest of the apartment. I cleaned his bedroom once when he was out of state for a week-long convention. It took me two days, during which time I uncovered hundreds of socks and neckties, about $50 in pennies and change, another TV and written evidence that Kevin’s real first name is William. I never knew that.
Although Kevin was every sane mother’s nightmare, everyone who knew him loved him. His apartment was for years the social gathering spot with people coming and going all day, every day. The mail carrier entered the building through his apartment, often stopping to use the facilities, have a drink and a chat before making the rest of his rounds. The UPS and pizza delivery people did the same.
During the summer months, dozens of people could be found lounging in “the ashtray,” what we called Kevin’s outside patio. Neighbors never complained because Kevin was a friend to all. Complex management never complained because they, too, came over to visit on a regular basis. To my knowledge, the police only showed up once about the noise. After extending his apologies, Kevin invited them to return at the end of their shifts – and they did.
Once unemployed and carefree, Kevin often encouraged my working now ex-husband to take days off during the week to play golf, hang around the pool – whatever Kevin felt like doing on a particular day. This scenario became tiresome very quickly, so I wrote a resume for Kevin from information I found around his apartment and mailed it to every employer that placed an ad in the newspaper looking for someone with his skills and experience. He finally got an interview, and the job. Until a few years ago, Kevin never knew and never questioned how or why he was called to work for this company – a company that he now owns.
Although Kevin is still a bachelor, he is now a homeowner, has a real dog and a live-in lady friend. His hair has turned gray, he’s added a few pounds around the middle and doctor’s orders have forced him to curb his drinking and stop smoking. But he hasn’t changed too much over the years and even though he will turn 59 this week, he is still a child at heart.