Rhondak Tikiman Alan Keller Memorial - I WILL MISS YOU FOREVER
I’ll Miss You Longer Than Forever Memorial To TikiMan-Alan Keller who Died July 20, 2008 My friend, mentor RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist http://www.rhondakwrites.com
Alan was my mentor and friend. I’d left my good paying job and went to live with him on a series of boats that included one I paid $1 for – the TikiMaMa. I loved the man. It was an adventure. I learned how to live without 200 pairs of shoes. I learned how to live on faith. I learned to believe more in God. But a series of deaths…his best friend and then my dog Oskar the Luv Pug ( drowned while we were at the funeral of the best friend under the care of people who didn’t care )…the relationship collapsed though love never did. I think we both believed we’d end up back together. Talked about it. He’d say we’d end up as old dreadheaded artists together. c
TiKiMan – Alan Keller killed himself July 20, 2008. One of my many regrets is not having better pictures of him or his work. Others would include we weren’t on good terms when he died. However, I wanted him to leave the Keys and come to my KEY – Siesta. After 2 days of missing the Fort Myers Ferry, he decided not to come. Made other choices. In 3 weeks, he was dead by his own hand. c
When we lived together we were anchored behind the Star Fish Company in Cortez Florida. This is some of his work. A dolphin, mermaid, manatee and more. He learned to carved from Tiki Tom of Fort Myers. I call him the Godfather of Florida tiki carvers. He’s taught many people to carve, but Alan was a particularly intuitive and talented artist. It was amazing to work with him. Alan often referred to Tiki Tom as his real dad and they went on the road together carving a few times on the East Coast. These were good times Alan would always talk about with a smile and a lot of pride.
I’ll Miss You Longer Than Forever Memorial To TikiMan-Alan Keller My friend, mentor RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist http://www.rhondakwrites.com
This is a piece we did together. A “tiki table.”
I began painting signs when he left me on the boat alone with my two pugs, FiFi and Jada. At some point, I kept painting to hold a place for him to come back too. Sometimes he’d come back and help me. But we couldn’t find a way back to each other. That’s is likely a good way of putting it. However, like many artists or persons coming from a troubled family and past, he had drug dependency issues he would never deal with. As someone who didn’t do drugs, I’d often find myself way on the outside of a fun house watching things happen as if people were mired in a glass house they could not escape and did not believe they were in. And there was no way for me to get in. But is important to say, he didn’t always do drugs. Which unfortunately is how many people defined his life and death. That’s hard me because I knew him in far different and more significant ways.
This is the $1 boat. After he left me to prove a point – I couldn’ t make it without him – I painted it overnight hanging onto the side with one arm and I used the dinghy to work around it. The paint job might have cost $2. I never imagined he’d never come back. We had planned to go live in the Keys to be two dreadheaded artists together. We even bought a big red Jeep to be our Keys cruiser. While we were together, I’d just paint his work and fill in pieces to make out displays look better. Only when he left, did things change for me and painting signs became the thing that saved my life in more ways than one.
Three weeks before his death we were discussing him moving his boat from the Keys to the Sarasota Anchorage. It is a pretty place. Because I’ve been working so hard with my sign art, I’d developed an excellent distribution and sales network. I thought he’d be able to come back and be an artist. He hadn’t picked up the chainsaw since he had left me to fend for myself with a paintbrush. His decision not to come resulted in a deep and ugly worded rift between us. I felt he’d made a terrible mistake. And he did. But I’m the one that lives with how I expressed that.
This is the second sign I ever sold. I found the wood floating my the boat one day. I’d come to rush home to the pugs and we’d all meet up on the bow of the boat to watch the sunset. Things were hard. Alan’s father launched this campaign to run me off, sometimes even waiting at the boat for me. Crazy stuff that made no sense. So, everyday, the pugs and I would watch the sunset together because in that beautiful space, it kept focus on what was important.
Alan’s Life LIVE Life I’ve struggled with what to write here. I feel like if I tell you too much about him I’ll lose him more of the forever than have. But there are important things to say. Firstly, he was the most goodlooking naked man I’d ever seen. He was a fantastic and fun naked man. He was the kind of man with an ease that made a lot of men jealous. He could dance. He had this snake charmer, butt shaking man dance that was one of the profoundly erotic sights I’ve ever breathed. He loved life. Sounds like he didn’t, but he did. He believed in the good in people. He laughed a lot. He has a huge spirit. He had this amazing range of facial expressions. He loved fun. He did love his rum. His heart was big. He was whip smart. Bright. He would work on things without measuring them and dithering about. He didn’t waste time on getting things done once he’d set himself on doing them. Though, if he wasn’t into it, he was a legendary procrastinator. To heights of great comedy. He believed all things were alive. Like cars, wood, water, boats, intent. Everything was sentient. He had a temper. Once he dumped all our pots and pans over the side of the boat. We had a resident fish population under the boat and frankly, it made their life more fascinating. He had 3 sons, brothers, people who did love him most profoundly. A lot of people with their own Alan stories. Good ones. Not the stereotype people like to comfortably place on people who make a decision like he did.
This is the Tiki Bug we used to sell out of. Our best place to make money was the Sonic Burger. Load Tiki Bug with tikis, go to Sonic and people would come up and buy things or make special orders. We spent a lot of time laughing in this car. When loaded with the two pugs, it was packed. But packed with fun, adventure and a lot of NEXT.
This is the first sign Alan and I did together. It is at the Star Fish Company Restaurant in Cortez, Florida. He signed it “Tikiman.” I believe this is the only piece of work he signed with that name. It is leaning back on the Jeep CJ5 I had. 5 days after he killed himself I gave it away. I couldn’t look at it anymore. It was more love than I could handle. It never made it to the Keys and Alan never made it back from the Keys.
When I talk about Alan’s suicide, I can see people don’t clearly understand it. It is still the death that people can regard as “cowardly.” It is measured somewhere along the person who killed them self being deserving. Even in a day when people can see suicide take out portions of families, it still doesn’t count as an illness like cancer or diabetes. I am doing a walk called “Out of the Darkness” in October for the American Foundation for Suicide prevention. One of the hardest parts of dealing with Alan’s suicide is having people blame drugs or more or less state he deserved his fate. Behind the drugs was an uneven family history and years of not having medical insurance. Drugs were NOT his life. He did not have drugs as a criminal history. They weren’t even something he did daily on a routine basis. No one’s pain or illness deserves to be lightly dismissed.
This is Oskar the Luv Pug. He died 2/2006. He’d been my best buddy for 7 years. I’d rescued him from the pound. We often hung out at Tiki Bars. He loved Budweiser and buxom women in low cut shirts. He actually published some work in a Tampa paper. He was a well known pug. I know Alan would tell me they are hanging out together now with his friend that drowned the same month Oskar drowned. All these losses are so crushing it is still hard to breathe thinking of them. Thinking of this does make me smile. That would be some sexy boys hanging out together Alan, Mikey and Oskar. And they would definitely be drinking some beer. They did love a good time. Other things that made me feel better these past days was imagining he’d been murdered helped. Working helps. Painting helps. I am booked to do shows to almost May 2009. I picked up 2 new places to sell my work in the week he died. If you have to make a cold call sales call…it is good to do it when you already feel like crying. It isn’t so bad. In fact, it is easier. If you find yourself in this place, do things you’ve planned. Create. Talk. Cry. Get mad. Get help if you need it. Don’t let anyone belittle the person you lost. Hold them. Honor them. Make your life more solid. I left these huge Alan sized holes in my life as I fully expected him to walk back in, land on his feet and make his own, his way. I can make this a good thing or a bad thing…or the thing that takes the mundane and makes it amazing.
Quotations on Suicide <ul><li>“ You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.” Chuck Palahniuk </li></ul><ul><li>:Anyone desperate enough for suicide...should be desperate enough to go to creative extremes to solve problems: elope at midnight, stow away on the boat to New Zealand and start over, do what they always wanted to do but were afraid to try.” Richard Bach quotes (American Writer, author of 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull', b.1936) </li></ul>I know I’ve written a lot about how I’m dealing with this death and the past…and not a lot about Alan. Honest, I can’t yet. Right now he feels like a trusted secret. If I talk about him, I feel like I lose him. We all deal with grief differently.
In my attempt to not cry to death I am doing this walk in October to raise money and awareness. No one should ever hear how someone they loved deserved death or their death was “less” than others because it was suicide. And people who find themselves considering suicide should be able to find the help they need to save themselves and stay with those who love them. If you would like to support me in the Out of Darkness Walk in October 2008, please go to my website: http://www.rhondakwrites.com And click on my “PLEASE support..” to go to the page to make a donation. Thank you.