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My Friend Kenneth
By Michael Woyan
Page 1 sex Page 2 drugs Page 3 sin Page 4 lust Page 5 envy Page 6 fortune Page 7 evil Page 8 pirate Page 9 thief

There are certain and special people which change our lives indelibly, and if we're lucky, sometimes we're made aware of their catalyst-like natures immediately. Their presence makes our life's resolution a touch more vivid, our life's volume a decibel or two higher. They have a unique force of personality that can profoundly influence our perception of the world's possibilities for us without encroaching on the personal space necessary for transformation. They often inspire personal change in those around them without correcting us in our notion that it was our idea all along. My friend Kenneth is one of those people.
I had a vintage apartment in the Old Town neighborhood on Chicago's near north side. Actually, it was a condo owned by a sad, but usually affable man named Steve. I was new to Chicago, in my twenties and trying to find my way in the world. I had little in the way of furniture and possessions, but I was happy with the expansive space, superb location and the cheap rent it offered so I set up shop there, one floor above an odd and eclectic tavern called The Old Town Ale House. The first couple of years that I lived there, Steve did too, sometimes with a third roommate, sometimes without. Shuttered with wooden shades, the apartment in the early years was dark, dusty and spare reflecting Steve's spirits, which were severely dampened by a failed marriage to an unsound woman and a legal career with limited prospects. Ultimately he married well, moved to the suburbs and never in thirteen years raised my rent. Eventually the space, like my life, brightened.
I found myself subject to the tyranny of commerce, better known in America as the act of chasing the buck, attempting to make my mark in the mortgage business. This is best done without imagination, by soliciting Realtors for business, usually receiving calls on the pager at the most invasive of hours, acutely aware of the irrational natures people exhibit languishing in that gray twilight that exists on Maslow's lowest level of food and shelter in his Hierarchy Of Needs. Also made illuminatingly clear to me were the linear concerns of the referring real estate agents and the status of their all-important commissions. I learned quickly that people making a lot of money in this country often consider themselves an expert on a variety of subjects on the sole basis that they make a lot of money.
Old Town was a special place in the late eighties and early nineties with a demographically diverse population of yuppies, artists, teachers, musicians, actors, writers and wait servers (often one and the same) all cohabitating among an intellectually vibrant nightlife.
I was told that Bill Murray and Harold Ramis lived together for a time in my apartment in the 1970's. You see, Second City, the famous improvisational theater troupe where such comedic talents as John and Jim Belushi, Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, Gilda Radner, Gavin McCloud, Chris Farley, Shelly Long, and Dan Ackroyd were developed, was located around the corner from where I lived. One block south was a comedy club called Zanies, which brought in some of the best stand up comedy acts in the world. Not far away the Steppenwolf Theater Company was gaining world renown for its Tony Award-winning production of, among others "The Grapes of Wrath," which boasted such highly regarded thespians as John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, John Mahoney, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, and Amy Morton. I used to show up an hour before curtain for the half-price tickets to most shows and saw some of the best theater in the world for fifteen dollars. Possessing a 4 a.m. late liquor license, most everyone came to the Old Town Ale House for a drink or ten at one time or another.

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Written by Michael Woyan

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