My Friend Andy / by Joseph Beaty

It is not often in life that we meet someone so unique, that we rarely go a day without thinking about them. This is my experience with Andy Early. Hard to remember a weekend growing up where I did not spend the night at his place or him at mine. He was a fearless wordsmith. He knew exactly when to be subtle and when to be intense. Words were always Andy's weapon of choice.

When my family left Naperville for Florida many years ago, our friendship continued through these words by way of phone calls, text messages and social media. I would often receive messages containing one or two words from him. Usually, words that he knew would trigger a memory of something we found to be completely and utterly hilarious. Words that Andy knew he could share that would immediately bring us both back to an exact place in time.

Our most recent memory exchange brought me back to Pepe's Mexican restaurant in Naperville. Andy loved that place. It was a short walk from my house. We went there every time he spent the night. Fiesta Combo, Root Beer and Fried Ice Cream. He mentioned that we were about due to visit $0.11 Ref. This was our nickname for the waiter. We would often leave 11 cents on the table. Which I realize now was an awful thing to do. Haha. Andy said that he mentioned this to Ref the last time he was there and that he seemed less than thrilled about this and the fact that he was still working there 25-30 years later. I wonder if Andy left 11 cents on the table?

Donti's Cheesesteak joint was just down the way from Pepe's Mexican restaurant. They had this great old school jukebox and a great cheesesteak by the way. Andy recently reminded me of this by mentioning the fun loving Peter, Paul and Mary classic, Puff the Magic Dragon. I believe it was the most ridiculous song one could choose. We jokingly played it at least 5 times in a row almost every time we went in there. The look on the customer's faces was priceless. We laughed so hard we cried. It became the soundtrack to our Donti's Cheesesteak experience. Andy went on to mention that Pepe's and Donti's were the most consistent eateries of all time. I have to agree.

I can go on forever with memories like this. The thing that sticks the most is how good of friends we were. Andy was an excellent friend to me. I am so thankful for the time we spent growing up together in Naperville. Every sleepover and hangout was chock full of art, music, food, discussion, and fun. Love and miss you Andy. See you on the other side.