Keith Remembered

Images of Keith
Tall dark clothes
Leaning on the bookshelf
Feet on Jodi’s desk
Politics Movies Justice Power
Wild unkempt
Painter Poet Scholar
Kind Complex

One of us

Story of the Santa Barbara Painting: Through conversation Keith and I had discovered that we had Santa Barbara in common. I learned that he loved the ocean and he had gone to Santa Barbara and painted a picture of the beach. I believed that the painting was an area of Santa Barbara that I had visited. I was raised in Santa Barbara and loved the beach, too. Since my husband, Eddie, was also raised in Santa Barbara he too had a love for the area and especially the beach since he was a surfer.

I wanted to buy a painting from Keith and so I asked if I could purchase the painting Santa Barbara for Eddie for his birthday. Keith told me NO since his girlfriend had it. Having it however was unclear and ambiguous- did she buy it? did he give it to her? was it just stored at her house? Several weeks later Keith told me that he and his woman were having problems. I told him to get Santa Barbara back so I can buy it and he can make some money. He came back and told me she would not return it… I continued to bug him to get the painting back for it would be in the hands of people who would love and cherish it… people who have touched the shores of the painting itself. Around a week later he brought the painting into my office. He said he had a hard time getting the painting back but that he was glad he did and it was now mine. I paid him in two installments.

The glass pipe

I do not think that most people knew that Keith was very kid friendly. Keith met Rachel, my daughter, when she was in junior high school. They had an instant connection. In high school she would come into the office to visit me and always talk with Keith. They would talk about politics, drugs, war, and Power to the People. For Rachel’s graduation from high school Keith was part of the celebration in the office. He ate cake visited and handed Rachel a gift. Several weeks later I was in Rachie’s room and found a beautiful velvet bag and opened it up. Inside was the most beautiful glass pipe (a pot pipe). I looked at Rachie and asked who gave her the pipe. She looked at me sweetly with a large beautiful smile as said Keith did…he gave it to me for my birthday. They obviously had POT as a topic of conversation. Even in college Rach would still visit with Keith about various political issues. She grieved for his passing.

Most frequently used Keith comments: Keep Whitey on the Run; Where’s the food?

Most frequent comments to Keith (Pre-Alex): Why can’t you smell like your brother; did you brush your hair today; what time do you start work?

Most frequently location in the office: Jodi’s office with his feet on her desk

My regular conversation topics: Movies- we both were avid movie watchers- foreign, documentary, drama- Keith and I however had difference where I like some movies with violence he NEVER did. I also could go anywhere in my watching…stupid comedies, pop culture …. He was not as open to stupidity as I was.

Drug, drinking, smoking: We had many conversations of the pleasures and problems with drug use. My favorite saying to Keith was “We love you—you need to stop smoking.”

Keith Eye Problems: I and the staff in CASAE were very concerned about Keith’s vision and its eventual loss. We sent him cards, gave him vodka, let him DVDs, and called him on the phone during his eye surgeries, etc. I had many conversations with him about his injury and healing. At one point he mentioned to Jodi and I that the CLA office did not do anything for him and he was very grateful for our concern. I was saddened to know that his vision was impacting his art for he was an artist.

He was one of us: It was amazing how for a “white guy” Keith comfortably fit into CASAE. We are an office of “people of color,” people who are radical, people who had an edge and people who loved Keith in our midst. He fit in with our politics, ethics and values….. he pushed for us to always keep whitey on the run! He was so much one of us that he was at all CASAE parties and ate with the staff regularly. CASAE always give him Christmas gifts, and shared their holiday candy and food with him. He was one of us.

Last thoughts: I am so happy to have seen Keith grow. In the years that I had known him he moved from a man that was wandering, sleeping with wild and edgy women, drinking, smoking and have a great time to a content, fulfilled and happy man. When Alex came into his life, his life turned around and it brought him a sense of stability and foundation. He remained to be the kind and complex man he always was but he certain had filled an emptiness within him and he also began to bathe and brush his hair regularly.

Dr. Irene Vernon
Chair, Department of Ethnic Studies
Assistant to the Dean for Diversity and Assessment
College of Liberal Arts
Colorado State University
March 30, 2008

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