Tuesday, April 27, 2021

good to the last drop

Jay Keller

the legendary


Jay Keller was raised on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania where he went to a one room school house.

He moved to California in the 1970s and has been one of my mom’s closest friends for 45 years. 

Jay was the first gay person I knew. He was also the most fun adult I knew.

He once had a massive bale of hay delivered to my mom's front door so that it blocked the whole doorway and she couldn’t get out. 

Her and her friends later bought him an actual sheep as a gift and left it with him at his going away party.

I knew he was sick when I was little, but I didn’t know that it was because he had AIDS until I was 12 or so.

He was horribly sick in the early 90s, before the miracle drugs. He was rail thin. My mom told me that weed oh Holy Ganja saved his life through that time, it was the only thing that could get him to eat.


He continued on to teach 5th and 6th grade geography for decades in Hermosa Beach.

He was known to leave other teachers provocative notes 'from the janitor'. 

He’d take his classes on "field trips" to get Indian food for them to try new foods. He gave out “Goodie Two Shoes Detentions” and made every kid memorize the poem part of Thriller for Halloween. 

“Darkness falls across the land..”


I’d hang out at his house sometimes after school, times when my mom was in a bind and needed someone to take me. He never made it seem like he was doing her a favor. He genuinely seemed to want to hang out and talk and make me laugh. 

I’ll always remember a time we had to cancel a much anticipated Disneyland day because my sister had to go to the hospital. 

Someone dropped me off at Jay’s house for the night and I was bumming hard. 

He put a wig on and made me wear one too. We walked to get dinner at El Pollo Inka, I'd never had Peruvian food and I remember feeling so excited by the whole meal experience - the hot tea to start, then Peruvian soda and the best chicken i’d ever tasted. Then we watched Who Wants to be a Millionaire on his very exciting big screen tv until I fell asleep and someone came to pick me up. 

It's proven to be far more memorable than a trip to Disneyland. 

15 years later he took me to my first drag show in Palm Springs.

we smoked weed together on occasion, always with the long lighter from the kitchen, and always before dinner; we'd stand together blowing the smoke out the back window. 

sometimes there'd be a small group of French travelers he had met in town joining us for dinner.

He still called me Julia Harriet Webb, ever since my 3rd grade project on Harriet Tubman. 

Mail was always addressed to Julia Harriet Webb


I wish everyone could have known him.

I love you Jay Keller, I'm so happy I got time with you, we're gonna miss you so much.

You made everything more fun.