Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ronald Edward Keller, 1975-2005

I'll never forget you, Ron.  I love you.OK this is a really hard entry to write. I never in a million years could have conceived that I'd be writing this at a time like this, cux it's fucking unfathomable. But I feel like I'm ready, cux I've been writing everyone telling them. And I think I've processed the information and come to terms with it as best I can. (This might end up a long entry; it might not. If you don't read it all, I understand. Writing it is probably more for me anyway. If you don't read it all, there's no need to tell me "I didn't read it all....." If you do read it all, though, let me know, I guess. And thanks.)

Most of you who know me or who have been reading this blog for a while have probably heard me talk about my old friend from college, Ron Keller (aka Ron Odyssey). I'm sure I've yapped peoples' ears off with stories about him--how we roomed together, all the adventures we had, how much fun we had, how cool and creative he was, etc. etc. etc. You've probably also heard me talk about how much I wanted to find him--how long I've been searching, googling him all the time and never finding anything. I found other people from that time: David, Tavares... But no Ron. Well, Monday I googled his name YET AGAIN, the full name, Ronald Edward Keller, and I came up with 2 results. The first of course was one of myne own blog entries. The second was this:

In Loving Memory of
Ronald Edward Keller

Ronald Edward Keller Born 3/4/1975 Died 2/10/2005. You were a brother, son, nephew, cousin and my friend. You were my bratty younger brother as I was the eldest. But most of all you were my friend. I miss you so much Ronnie. It is exactly 1 month ago today that you left us all. Last Friday you'd have been 30 years old. I wrote you a letter to read you for your memorial and I just couldn't get past the first line,......"Dear Ronnie,".........without falling apart. So your other sister read it. I had everyone crying after it was read. I wrote you a poem ..................

God looked around his garden and found an empty place.
He then looked down upon this earth and saw your tired face.
He put his arms around you and lifted you to rest.
God's garden must be beautiful, he always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering, he knew you were in pain.
He knew that you would never get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough and the hills were hard to climb.
So he closed your weary eyelids and whispered, "peace be thine. "
It broke our hearts to lose you, but you didn't go alone.
For part of us went with you the day God called you home.

It is so hard to imagine how you must've felt to cause you to run out in front of that truck on I-4. Many things run through my mind when I think of it. I am beginning to remember the happiness of having you in my life and how truly special you are to me. I will never be able to visit your grave as Mom has your ashes in a box kept at her job. I know you are better off than down here with us but it does not remove the pain in my heart of missing you soooooooo much. You were very important to me. Maybe I didn't tell you enough just how much I loved you. Until we meet again, goodbye my dear brother and friend.

Love, your Big Sister Katie

OK. Since there are a zillion Ron Kellers out there (google him--see why I never found him?), I thought at first that this probably wasn't him. After all, he was so young I would never have thought... But then the birthdate matched, the geographic area (Interstate 4 runs through Orlando) matched, and the sister's name and diminutive for Ron matched. Then I checked the obits for Orlando around that time and he was there, with a Melbourne funeral home listed. My friend called the home and basically it was all confirmed. It's definitely the Ron Keller I always knew.

At first I was utterly stunned. It was like it was too much to process immediately. It had to sink in and become real. And the friends who knew him who I emailed, all outside of New York, were stunned as well. Of course then shock gave way to profound grief. I was able to kind of hold it together until I got out of the subway going home. I figured that it was raining so hard that no one would really notice if I started crying. So I started. But then when I got into my apartment I started really crying.

I've had this theory for some time that grown men can't really just cut loose and bawl, cux of the way a predominance of male hormones shapes the brain (you hear things about men with hormone disorders who tear up easily and women who take androgens who can't cry); but after yesterday I'd have to revise my theory. I haven't cried like that since I was a child, if even then. And I haven't cried like that since yesterday either. I guess it was cathartic. I'd like to cry like that now, if it could get some of the residual ache out, but I doubt it would. Basically that's just something I have to get through.

So yesterday was really, really hard. I called my friend Tavares and we talked about Ron and Tallahassee. And of course I'd been emailing David all day yesterday. We were probably the people at college who knew him the best, I would have to assume. And I emailed pretty much everyone, I guess cux I just wanted to say what happened, to watch myself put it into words on screen. That, and I kept reading the memorial his sister read. I must've read it 100 times, looking for something--a clue to why, exactly what must've been going on in his mind or life. Maybe I shouldn't have read it so many times; I mean, I can read those kinds of things about strangers and get choked up, just cux of the depth and sincerity of feeling in them. Honestly, I could probably cry at the one I put up today. But I felt like reading it helped me accept what had happened, or at least make it real to me. Anyway, today I'm still quite sad; definitely in mourning for my old friend, but I'm better than yesterday. Today's more of a dull ache; it doesn't have the piquancy or shading of yesterday (I remember flitting from sorrow to anger at circumstance, etc.). Memories of Ron keep coming up everywhere, and I still can't believe I'll never see him again. Everything makes me think of him, from the cologne I have on today (Catalyst, which I specifically bought because he had a bottle in college and I used to wear it, and it reminds me of him. And it's a nice winter scent.) to Madonna songs to random words.

I guess I should say a little about Ron. I met Ron in 1993, I think, the first time I attended a meeting of the Florida State University's chapter of the LGBSU, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Students Union (now there's a T in the name for transgender). I remember thinking he was kind of cute--later he told me he thought the same--but I found him a little hard to get to know at first. (We never dated or anything like that, by the way.) If I remember correctly (it was so long ago), I think I got to know him better after meeting his friend David. I remember really getting to know them both maybe the next year, when I'd hang out at their apartment all the time. I really got to be good friends with them. Basically we did what most college kids did--go out and hang out a LOT with Mary Jane. (I had the nickname Iron Lung.) At the end of that year Ron and I had become really close. In fact, I decided to spend the summer at his house with his family in Melbourne, FL. I remember the day we left to drive down there--his landlord wouldn't give him his deposit back cux she claimed things were dirty--Ron cleaned everything again and B9ITCHED at her for over an hour, at which point she caved, like everyone always did, before his indefatigable powers of biatchiness. (We once had to give him a sedative on a drive down to Tampa one time to kept the biatchiness under control.) It started out fun--we went to the mall (I think we shoplifted some shirts--how ironic that those same shirts were later stolen from me!), went to Publix where he'd worked, he introduced me to his friend Tristan, we hung out at the beach once... We also picked up a copy of Madonna's Sex book in French, which is how I remember that the word for pussy is chatte. It started out well, but I couldn't acclimate. He and his stepfather argued like crazy, and his mom was often irritable (One time he referred to Salt Lake City as 'that Mormon town' and she tore into him for not being politically correct when he demands political correctness from everyone else. He didn't mean anything, though--Mary Jane had just baked us some brownies!). After a week or so I decided I couldn't deal with it and went home. I think from there I may have gone back to Tallahassee, which actually turned out to be a huge disaster, but that's not part of the story.

Forgive me if I'm fucking up the timeline--I'd have to sit down and really think about it and write it out to try to get it right. Anyway, the next year was crazy. Fall came, and Ron moved into an apartment called B15, at a different complex. B15 was incomparable. I'm going to have to hire a hypnotherapist to regress me to the time so I can vividly remember it and write a memoir about it. I would say that it, and the following semesters, was probably the best time of my life. I can't convey all of B15 (I should title an album that), so I'll try to give an overview. If Mary Jane held influence over Ron and us before, she and her friends dominated now. Ron actually started to go a little overboard with his partying, having parties constantly and seldom spending more than a couple nights sober. He started to do some really outré things--he entered, er, 'costume' contests at the local club a lot, but never won the prize. This was probably due to the unusual amateur music mixes he created for the shows and the fact that he was usually too spaced out to perform well. One time, after one of his performances, we were driving home. I liked to subtly tease him about his ideas at the time. (Actually, I'd say that some of us made fun of him behind his back--we were all insecure kids, though, and Ron wasn't the only target of ridicule, not by any rate. He didn't make fun of people all that much, though. To his credit.) He was bitching, as was his wont, that the show's host cut his music off (he wasn't doing a good job); I suggested that he put on his own show in the school's auditorium. He loved the idea--can you picture him? I'll describe him. His hair was bleached white and his entire body was painted silver, à la Madonna's Fever video. Anyway, he rented out Moore Auditorium twice and put on his own show. The second time my sister even appeared as a dancer in it. It was quite interesting. And there once existed a videotape of the second(?) show. Mark Baratelli and I worked the camera, before singing The Christmas Song onstage at the end of the show. That has to be saved for the memoir, however.

I think I spent Christmas Day with Ron that year. We must've had dinner with some friends of his; I think we brought yams. I remember how peaceful Tallahassee was on Christmas Day. It's bliss, really. I had a great time. We almost went to church, even though I'm sure I was a dead-again atheist by then.

Jesus, I can't remember what else he did that semester. It was so crazy. The next semester I think he was living with a very buttoned-up girl named Megan in the same apartment complex, I think. I remember Megan--quiet, bourgeois, all her furniture was from the Bombay Company and she kept a pack of menthol cigarettes in her drawer cux she smoked 'occasionally.' Shit. I think I fucked up the timeline, but if you weren't there, then you wouldn't notice.

Summer came and I lived at Stephen Guarino's house while he was in Atlanta, fighting Olympic traffic. Just for background, this is when I went all low-carb and lived at the gym and got really thin, to the point where I'd have the following conversation often: THEM: You've lost weight. (concerned look) ME: (oblivious) I know, isn't it GREAT?!?! THEM: You mean you want to look like that? Anyway, during this time Ron left to go do some thing where you sell Bibles and make gazillions of dollars. I remember he tried to convince me to go with him but I wisely demurred. At the end of the summer I was very excited to see him. He came back and told me of the experience. The first thing you need to know is that it gave Ron with a huge vocabulary and understanding of motivational self-help selling type stuff. But that was interesting. It really fit his personality--he was always up, always full of energy and very expansive. His mood was generally infectious and people loved to be around him. Either they loved it or they just didn't really like him, for whatever reason. He could get clingy sometimes, and did like to control situations, and was way too neat & clean (1. I once drew a picture of him and called it Vacuumer's High 2. Once we had people over and someone looked at the kitchen floor and ended a sentence with 'and this floor looks filthy if you're tripping.' Ron immediately got down to scrubbing the floor), but overall it was his endless optimism and positivity that you noticed. Anyway, he described the experience: The company dropped the whole crowd of sellers off in a small town in Kansas and said 'Find rooms and start selling.' They all had to go to this church and basically ask people to take them in. Ron ended up with some old woman who had an organ in her house. He quickly got disillusioned with selling the Bibles, as they didn't really move, and basically just played with the organ all day. He learned how to play When the Saints Come Marching In with both hands. But prolly no pedals.

OK so now he's back in Tallahassee. And this semester we were roommates! YAY! We had a great 2-bedroom apartment (which by New York standards would have been HUGE! Cavernous, even!) I think in the same complex as B15, and we lived right under Mark Baehre and Stephen Guarino, which was totally cool. They had a dog named Bean. We also both got jobs at the Subway sandwich place on Tennessee St. The really busy one. Uck, it started out horrible. But it got better. My biggest memory of Subway per se is how I'd chew the cookie dough and spit it out without swallowing. Wow, an eating disorder! I've always been so ahead of the curb. Yeah, I was still low-carb: my favorite meal was salsa, tofu meat and black beans mixed together. Anyway, I really, really bonded with Ron this semester, even though he proved a horrible 'sandwich artist,' and wasn't aware of it at all, I must say. Maybe we got closer cux we weren't partying all the time, I dunno. But it stands out in my mind as a really great time. I wrote a song about it years later called The Best Days of Our Lives. They really were. (Dammit, I'm getting sad again. Gotta type on, though.)

Um, pause for a little background: I had always wanted to be a pop star and all that wazzle, which is how I ended up here in NYC making my weird sounds and whatnot, and I think it was at B15 that I "came out" to Ron (and only Ron) that that's what I really wanted to do, and then he kind of realized that he wanted the same thing. (I should add here that Ron and that whole time period were essential into making me the person and artist I became. You might not hear me on WFMU and the like today if it weren't for my experience with Ron et al. at FSU.) Unlike me, however, he trumpeted it to the whole world, where I seriously kept it on the DL. See, neither of us could sing worth a lick, but we wanted what we wanted and saw no reason to not chase after it. What happened when Ron told the world? Well, naturally he found himself surrounded by a coterie of people who believed him enthusiastically, despite his lack of actual singing and dancing talent. Not that he had NO ability, but he wasn't *Really Good*. We in the inner sanctum mocked it a little, but I think we all secretly envied his moxie. And frankly, I thought he could pull it off. I really thought his name would be in lights one day. Maybe I would've taken a different approach to image if I were he, but whatever.

OK. Back to that semester. We bonded over our dreams of the music biz and what not, and Ron wrote songs and books and all those things, never finishing any of it. In fact, he started a lot of projects without finishing them--like buying scanners and not learning how to use them, etc. In retrospect, and even at the time, it looked a lot like hypomania, but Ron was so synonymous with the concept back then that it frankly could've been his other name. I think that a lot of what he started he thought I would finish--I got the feeling he wanted me to almost be his assistant in his music career, doing most of the grunt work while he was 'the star'. I wasn't going having it. It caused a little resentment, but I never said anything outright. Anyway, so here he is writing songs, etc. And of course we talk about plans for after graduation: and he mentions New York. He'd been once, but I suspect that part of the reason he wanted to go off to NYC was that it's where Madonna started. He was obsessed with Madonna. Obsessed. I'll have to come back to that later. So he would say things like: Let's go off to New York! We could live in our cars! We could dance at the Gaiety! Now, I think I'd already made my decision on the New York vs. L.A. thing, leaning toward New York, but I guess Ron convinced me. It felt safer to go somewhere when a friend had the same idea. (I'll tell ya, though--in winter I wish I'd gone to L.A. Someone buy me a car and I'll move right now!) So in a way Ron was part of how I ended up here in the Big City.

OK, about his Madonna fixation: he was really obsessed. He worshipped that woman. And he admired everything she ever did. He had every record--all the remixes, everything. Posters, everything. And when Evita came out, he played the soundtrack NON-STOP. I remember telling him how it sucked cux I liked the Patti LuPone version, but what the hell did I know?! Maybe I'll go get the Madonna version just as a tribute to Ron Odyssey. ---Oh shit. I didn't mention Odyssey, did I? Hmmmm. Better cover that--I think you get the idea that he loved Madonna and in his way wanted to be her. As for the Odyssey, looking at the timeline of some of his stuff, I'd have to say he came up with it in B15. YES, that's right! He did. It was his stage name. And it had a symbol that looked like a hurricane. Here, let me illustrate. here's a postcard Ron sent D at some point back in those days. Look for the symbol on the bottom right:

I think at first it had 4 prongs, but he later switched it to 3, because 4 "looked too much like a swastika." He actually did a lot of concepting with the Odyssey (yeah, I coined ODDyssey later; then again, everyone probably thought of that at some point) thing--he wrote songs, he drew pix, designed album covers. The songs never got past a chorus, usually. My favorites were: I've been feeling for so long, what you're learning in good time and You take me to the state of clouds, everytime I'm with you. I'm dancing in the state of clouds and I know peace with you. Maybe they sound silly, but if you could hear him sing them and really imagine them built up, especially with all that 4-to-the-floor simplistic rave stuff we all listened to at the time, you'd see they could've been really cool. I mean, there was a song we all liked back then that just repeated the phrase 'I'm losing control' with different processing. To say nothing of that Josh Wink laughing song. Here's another Odyssey blip from those days, from a paper he photocopied:

You see he mentions Odyssey there. And yes, 'Maverick Shepp'--that's me. Yeah, for a while in college I had everyone calling me Maverick. It was pretty cool. And YES, that's me in the picture there with him! (Duh, I'm the one on the right.) With my long hair and all. Sexay!!! That was taken at the FSU Law Library by Joe Kikta if I remember correctly. Ron is standing that way cux he broke his hand after punching David and hitting a bone. They had some major, major fights. But they always made up and everything was fine. I remember driving him to the hospital to have the cast taken off. (I drove Ron a lot of places, usually playing the Pocahontas soundtrack on my li'l boombox. Hey, it was my thing.) The Odyssey thing actually grew pretty grandiose, and like many young star wannabees, Ron built it up huge, before actually putting the work of learning a craft in. He had a theme park designed (well, a picture of what it might look like on a map); he was writing a book; it's hard to describe. Funny, in an email, David reminds me: "You used to yell at him about the need to actually DO something to get famous rather than just design CD covers and make cool symbols. At least it got him jumpstarted with the whole music thing."

Part of the Ron Odyssey brand was that Ron was determined to become a DJ. He bought turntables and started spinning in the apartment. He practiced and soon was spinning at the local club, Brothers, and eventually he set up a booth in the University Center and spun on Wednesdays. It was really cool--that was one thing about Ron, he usually got what he wanted. If he said he was putting on a show in Moore Auditorium, he did it. If he said he would spin in the University Center, he did. There was an interesting thing about his spinning, though--he wasn't good at it, in the commonly understood sense. He never, when I knew him, learned the most basic skill of DJ'ing: matching the beats. And he also mixed in songs that were totally different, at different tempos with different rhythmic feel. I remember once at Brothers he mixed in some rave song with Like A Virgin, the original version. You can't match those beats. But you know, it never fazed him. Actually, here's a piece of a journal entry he wrote at that time, where he talks about being a DJ:

I like reading this entry cux he was really happy in it. It also, later, illustrates some of his idea about Odyssey. (It also illustrates a psychological state that some of us found a little worrisome back then. More about that later.) It might make a nice recording, actually. I wish he'd left behind a whole song that I could record. Anyway, I remember what he's describing in the first part of the entry--we went to a local music store and looked at the synthesizers. He was going to buy one--I think it was $2500. He was partly inspired by what I told him about a synthesizer that my sister's boyfriend had at the time, one that had a shitload of capability.

I don't remember where the hellz I was in the story. God, I almost feel like I don't want to finish telling this story, cux then I just end up where he's gone again. Anyway... So we bonded that semester and we made plans, plans that I thought probably wouldn't happen, but it's always nice to make them, and it's always nice to imagine that you're going to have a friend by your side in life. Over the course of the semester David moved in with us, but he was going through a major problem with something I won't mention here. But let's just say we were scared for him and never really knew for sure until the end of the semester that he was in way over his head. His father had died that summer, I think, and he was still dealing with that. Oh, I remember we were Roman courtesans (male) that Hallooween. He came up with the idea and I wanted to copy it; he said no, but he could be a good Roman courtesan and I an evil one. We did that, and bought fabric and made the costumes by hand. I still have the photo around here somewhere. It shows me, Mark Baratelli and Stephen Guarino in a bathtub, with Mark as something resembling that guy from Rocky Horror, Stephen as a trailer trash girl and me with my fake tan, black vinyl Roman skirt-thing and 'price' in denarii that I was wearing. If I can find the picture, I'll scan and upload it. At the end of that semester I graduated.

I stayed living with Ron, despite my parents constantly harping at me to come home and look for a job. I didn't want to break the lease. But then my hours got cut back at Subway and I couldn't find another job, and as much as I desperately wanted to stay in Tallahassee, I simply couldn't afford to and had to go. And the parentals wouldn't send any money. So I took the easy way out and weaseled out when Ron was at Mardi Gras. I basically moved my stuff out and drove home. I imagine he was furious. I told no one where I'd gone, except Mark B. I told him that if Ron asked, to tell him I'd gone to New York after all. Mark emailed me some time later and said that he ran into Ron and told him that. He said something like 'I'm gong to go to New York and kill him!' In reality I went home and was depressed. Luckily my brother in Atlanta let me stay with him, so off I went there. And I stayed there for 2 years before finally making it up here.

I can remember my first few months in New York: I honestly expected to run into Ron Odyssey at some point. I'd see someone who I thought looked like him and I'd hide, peeking at them with a mixture of hope and trepidation and excitement. I must've thought I spotted him dozens of times, but it was never him. And honestly, I was always disappointed when it wasn't. I can't remember when I'd switched from evading his wrath to seeking him out. I think I'd always been trying to find out what he was doing while still trying to preserve some distance until I was sure that things had cooled down. I guess when I put up this blog I accepted the fact that anyone could find me. After all, a huge, huge part of setting up this blog and everything else was just this response to 9/11 (I was in NYC, yo), where I thought that I should leave something behind in case I met an untimely demise. I've actually been concerned about leaving things behind since high school, when someone who was a really good friend in middle school but had grown distant died. I had nothing left to remember her by. It strikes me how similar that was to this current experience.

Oh, I should say at this point how I have the relics of Ron Odyssey that I do: I hated leaving him that way, sneaking out on the rent like that. I always wanted to explain to him that I wasn't trying to dick him over, but that I had no choice in the matter. I should have tried harder to contact him sooner. Anyway, when I left I raided some of his papers in his room, just his Odyssey artwork and stuff like that. Some things I took--the journal entries are originals, I think; they could always be reprinted. Others, like his drawings and stuff, I photocopied and put the originals back. I wanted to have something from that time, just in case I never saw Ron again, which I thought was possible but unlikely. I have most of his introduction to his book (a great li'l piece--I used to tell him he should be a motivational speaker), an album cover, that drawing with me in it, something about a theme park and 2 journal entries. I can say that I've cherished them over the years, because they remind me of how great that time was--how full of potential and happiness we all were, and how great a friend Ron was. I would take them out when I was feeling really down, like when I lived in a shithole in the East Village or when I wanted to return back to Atlanta and give up all this craziness. They always fascinated me and made me laugh, cux they made me think of those great times.

Anyway, after I got over the heartache of leaving college, I was occupied with my life in Atlanta and then New York, but I still thought of the people from that time often. At some point I just started googling everyone I could: Mark Baratelli, Tavares, David, and of course Ron. I didn't have to google Stephen Guarino, because he found me one day in A Different Light, back when it was still open. And Mark Baehre and lots of other people from FSU were already here. I think it was around the time of friendster and this blog, though, that I really seriously was hoping to find all of them. Friendster did help me find Tavares, and David found me through my blog. (Oh, I should add--I had music online before my blog, but it was under a pseudonym, so they couldn't find me then.) But no Ron Odyssey. And his real name was too common to search with any expectation of accuracy. I always wondered what had happened to him, and I started posting stuff to the blog and what not hoping to find him. But to no avail. When David and I started emailing each other regularly, Ron came up constantly--the search for Ron, in every email. We postulated all kinds of things--Was he in prison? (a couple people he knew from the time are) Was he famous in Japan? Did he change his name like he talked about? Is he actively trying to avoid us? We couldn't understand why he seemingly never reached out to find any of us. I was easy to find. And once you found me on friendster, you found Tavares, etc... So it's not like it was terribly difficult. Still, we assumed that one day we would indeed find the one and only Ron Odyssey.

And I really did. I really assumed that I would. I didn't know why I hadn't found him yet, but I was sure that once he finally found me he would contact me and hopefully move up here. I'd finally gotten over my hesitation to acknowledging his genius, and I've told people countless times over the past few years that I wish he'd move up here and we could do some kind of art project or something. He had a particular genius that I thought was unparalleled. And to some extent untapped or uncontrolled. It was something that I felt like he hadn't discovered how to use.

....Which brings us to now, me finding that memorial from google and letting other people know. And talking about what happened with old friends and new. It came as a shock to all of us, and we've been talking about it a lot, trying to piece together what must have been going on. All we have to go on is this memorial, as we don't know anyone who knew Ron near the end. It raises a lot of questions. Firstly, the lines

He then looked down upon this earth and saw your tired face... He knew that you were suffering, he knew you were in pain. He knew that you would never get well on earth again. He saw the road was getting rough and the hills were hard to climb.

We don't know what to make of that. It implies that he was ill. We don't know what he might have had, though. Because Ron was adopted, we never really knew about congenital conditions to watch out for. We could speculate on what it was, but that's not helpful. Then there's the line about running in front of a truck on Interstate 4--that clearly implies that Ron took his own life. That part really shocked me, because it was completely out of character for the Ron Keller that I knew at Florida State. His optimism and positivity was bulletproof; I never saw him down. I can't imagine that he would have done something like that rashly. I have to assume that if that is the case, then Ron must have been up against impossible circumstances, and he must have weighed his options very carefully to come to that decision. It does seem in character for him to have chosen such a decisive and final method, but I don't want to get into a lot of speculation.

I feel like I should cover the question of Ron's psychological state, briefly. Some of us back in college were a little worried about him, because we saw all the grandiose things he made and the whole Odyssey phenomenon and some things he did. There were people who thought he might have had a tenuous connection with reality. I saw his behavior as relatively harmless. Maybe a little overidealistic (who isn't when they're young?), maybe naive, possibly hypomanic, but nothing that a few years of maturing wouldn't take care of. Furthermore, I saw that he had an endless passion for life, an impossibly bright outlook, and a steely resolve. I thought he had in some ways the playful mindset of a child who hasn't been disillusioned yet. I thought he would get past drawing theme parks and CD covers and start doing other things--I didn't think it was a 'disconnection with reality' as much as something that growing up a little would take care of. And I also wondered whether such impossible confidence in oneself is necessary to succeed. Nonetheless, I could also see peoples' point sometimes--sometimes his ideas did seem a little too grandiose or expansive; he sometimes didn't take into account obstacles and acted rashly. I'd hate to think that his behavior back then may have been predictive of anything. That's something we just don't know. Another thing that we don't know, which disturbs me, is whether Ron may have been taking Accutane at the time--in college, he had looked into taking it, but never got around to it.

I feel like I've already written volumes about Ron and what happened in emails and what not. (I've been writing this entry since last night; I had to stop and go to bed and continue today. This morning the sun finally came out; I'll take that as a good omen.) I feel like I've covered everything there is to say, even though that's simply not possible. (Maybe I'm just tired--I haven't slept well in the past few days.) But I want to mention as much as I can here, cux I don't want to keep revisiting this all the time--that would be macabre. Although I'm sure I'll be mentioning Ron and telling stories about him for years; hopefully joyfully, untinged by the sadness that wells up when I mention him now. One thing I know I should say: I last saw Ron in early 1997; that's 8 years of history for him that I know nothing about. A helluva lot can happen in 8 years. Ron probably was going through things that I can't even imagine. I have to remind myself of this--as a member of the human race, naturally my those thoughts well up in my mind: Did I play some role, however small, in the spiral that led to this? Could I have done something to help him? At this point I have to answer no to both questions, and add that they come off as narcissistic, even if everyone has thoughts like that. Eight years of history that I know nothing about--it affected Ron in ways that I'll never know.

And I'm realizing today that perhaps it was a blessing that I lost touch with Ron or that he never tried to contact us to our knowledge. Because if he had been sick, very sick with little or no hope, that would have torn me up. I wouldn't want to see him in a bad condition or watch him deteriorate. That's if it were physical or mental. Perhaps it would have been more hurtful for us to know what he was going through. Maybe he didn't want us to know. Maybe he wanted us to remember him as we knew him: young, creative, iconoclastic, full of optimism and promise, an incredible individual who was always there to help you and lift your mood. That's how I'll always remember Ron. I think that's how all of us from college will remember him.

David sent me some pictures of Ron that he found. Thank goodness he was able to find them, as I can't find any of my own (I can't believe I have none!). I like this one a lot. This is the Ron Keller/Ron Odyssey that I remember and celebrate. This looks like it was either taken at the FSU University Center or at that club, the Late Night Library. I feel like his personality shows through--the joy in his smile; the adamant self-expression in his clothes; his convention-be-damned attitude in his pose. It gives you some idea of who Ron Keller was to us. Beneath this picture is one of Ron with D. Look at how young Ron looks, and again, how happy. This is how I'll remember Ronald Edward Keller. I hope I can find a way to commemorate him.

OK, I am going to bring this entry to a close soon. Just writing this makes me feel a little better, a little closer to that place where I can remember Ron fondly and celebrate his life without feeling too much sorrow at his loss. And you know what? It's a total cliché, but I think that Ron would not want people to mourn him. The Ron I knew would want people to go on with their lives, because he's in a better place now. I guess he'd call it his Domus O. in the sky. And maybe some good will come out of this tragedy: it's already reconnected many people from Florida State. And if anyone's still reading, here are some lessons that I took from what happened: Be kind to your friends; respect them and tell them the things you need to say now. Don't worry about what other people will think; friendship is more important. And if you've lost touch with someone, whether from a broken lease or whatever, try to make contact sooner rather than later. In the long run, something like that doesn't matter as much as you may think, if it's a real friend you have. Lastly, make as much as you can that can be left behind when you're gone--it doesn't matter what it is--pictures, video, audio, written word... Just try to leave something behind.

Again, I haven't said everything about Ron Keller. I left some stuff out cux it would be impolitic to mention, and other stuff because it didn't come up. I think there are probably hundreds of stories I could tell about Ron. But here we are at the end of an entry, indeed, the end of an era. It's so real to me now that I'll never be able to go back to that golden time in college, those few years when life was beautiful and exciting and anything could happen; when we were all still inventing ourselves and had all the time in the world to laugh, talk, just be together... Ron used to say that he couldn't wait to start living after college (this is starting to remind me of The Hours), because we were as happy as could be, having the time of our lives on just a few thousand dollars of financial aid a year. He was sure that life could only get better. Ron deserved a better hand than life dealt him, but I can take at least some comfort in the fact that, for that precious little time that I knew him, I am certain that Ron was happy, and believe me, he probably experienced enough pleasure to last several lifetimes. I'm gonna miss ya, Ron.

If you've gotten this far and want to email me, you can do so here. Or you can leave a comment. Or I guess you could join my yahoo group and leave a message there. There's certainly a lot to talk about when it comes to Ron Keller.

To conclude, I'm going to come back, in a way, to where I started, at the Web memorial. I put up my own memorial for Ron on the site yesterday. I'm not sure if it shows up in the listing yet, but here's what I wrote:

In Loving Memory of
Ronald Edward Keller

Ron, I was stunned and shocked to hear what happened. And I'm filled with grief. I wish I'd known what was going on with you--why it had to end this way. I hope one day I'll understand. I hated the way we ended things in college, but I always considered you one of my closest, dearest friends. And I was always sure that a day would come when you'd be back in my life and all the bad feelings would be just water under the bridge. I've been searching for you for years, actually, but I guess either you didn't want to be found or somehow I never got through. What were you going through? I wish I could have been there to help you, if that was possible. I wish you would have contacted me or one of the other people we hung out with. Without you, it feels like there's a big hole in my life; it feels like someone just took a bit of hope away from me. You were an inspiration to me--I hope you knew that. I wish I could have told you that in so many words--that I respected and admired you. But we were all kids back then. Still, I hope you didn't die thinking that I and the others didn't love you, because we did. We do. Even now I still talk about you; of course now every time I tell one of those crazy stories from the past, there'll be a tinge of sorrow there. You deserved a hell of a lot better than you got from life, Ron. You really did. At least now there's no more suffering. I miss you like crazy, man. I already missed you, but now that I know I'll never get another chance to see you again, I miss you all the more. I love you, Ron. I hope you knew how much we all loved you.
And I'm glad you're at peace.
I'll never forget you, Ron Keller.

With love,

Ed Shepp

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