Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For Ron(n), in Memoriam

I am celebrated on multiple continents (or at least in my own imagination, and probably not even there) for having suspected, when I first met him, under the influence of hallucinogens, that The Kiddo was the Angel of Death. I was under the influence of nothing more potent than the exhilaration of having moved recently out of my parents’ house for the first time when I first encountered Ron(n) Reinberg, and thought him to be Jesus Christ, as envisioned by Renaissance painters. He had the flowing auburn hair. He had the beard. He had the wise, kindly aspect. We resided in the same college dormitory, and were after the same girl, but soon became friends and then, ill-advisedly, roommates.

He was a person of multiple passions. He took photographs, such as the best known ones of the seminal Christopher Milk. He revealed without embarrassment that the playing of Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee reduced him to tears. He wanted to learn to play the guitar himself, and didn’t allow his lack of natural aptitude to keep him out of the dormitory stairwell at night, at least until he began going to art films with his new filmmaker girlfriend instead.

He knew how to play the angles. When summer came, and I had to cut my hair to get a job parking cars for a pittance, Ron(n) blithely continued to resemble the Renaissance Jesus and settled into a much better-paying job at the university. He had his own car, a late-model yellow Chevrolet, in which he drove a crew of us up to San Francisco to see Cream and Bloomfield’s Electric Flag at the Fillmore.

When the girl we’d both been after broke my heart, he was generous with his time and consolation. But we later came, living together in a cramped dorm room, to detest each other. We had a brief rapprochement, during which I discovered that he was paying less than I for the much nicer apartment he inhabited during our mutual senior year. Always with that knack! I heard he was going to law school, and had no doubt he’d finish at the top of his class.

We hadn’t spoken in 36 years when I heard from him again, via email. He revealed that he’d left the law fairly early on: I returned from India (1980) after nearly dying from the microbes that invaded my kidneys, I apprenticed with a lighting designer creating lights for modern dance companies. 28 years later, I’m the most sought after lighting designer in Santa Cruz, CA (small pond, but nonetheless large enough to support a handful of competent designers). I am beginning to tire of production work and am slowly transitioning into teaching so I can just sit and talk about how to do it rather than carrying 15-pound lights up 20-foot ladders myself. I find that I am now enjoying teaching in a high school. Fortunately, I have excellent self-restraint and so far they can’t bring you up on charges for what you are thinking.

Ron(n) died suddenly this past weekend. I have always believed that those who die suddenly are actually blessed; a quick death, with neither extended pain nor the humiliation of helplessness, seems much to be preferred. I anticipate thinking in not too many years, to whatever extent I’m able to think at all, that Ron(n) always did play the angles with enviable finesse.

I can’t imagine God not smiling on the person who was once the kind, gentle young man I was privileged to call my friend.

[Hear my new album Sorry We're Open here! Facebookers: Read more All In Tents and Porpoises essays and subscribe here.]

1 comment:

  1. This is a sweet tribute to your friend. If I am ever under sentence of dying and incapacitated or in pain, I will likely agree with you about the blessing of a sudden and unexpected death. But, not right now.

    I remember my grandmother railing against the slowly encroaching dark imposed by the big C. She had everything in life worth living for and was mad as hell that she might die! That longing for life is what visually sticks with me, and I try (unsuccessfully) to enjoy every moment of every day.

    Just a few years ago, I totaled my car in a single person accident taking the curve on a wet country road. The front wheel broke off, and my head hit the windshield, as the car fell over. I blacked out, but came back to consciousness moments later and lived to tell this story.

    From that experience, I don't wish for the sudden black out. The quick good-by. But, am I willing to experience the twin evils of incapacity and pain in return for that wish? Only time will tell.