[continued from last post]
The last few years of my correspondence with Ron he mentioned his concern for his health. He was diagnosed as borderline diabetic and he was pretty vigilant about following his doctor’s instructions. In later years, he strove to walk the recommended amount and the like. Even so, he found himself feeling badly to the point where he visited his physician in early 2016 and he was immediately put into the hospital for tests. His heart was the problem. It was weak enough to cause low blood pressure. This must have been the reason for getting sleepy at high altitudes, now that I look back. Ron took the hospital stay seriously enough for him to send me 1/6th of his music video collection he had transferred to DVD-R for “safe keeping.” The idea was that I was to take what I liked and pass them on to other of his friends.
February of last year passed with Ron unable to leave the hospital due to his low blood pressure. Ultimately, his doctor recommended a pacemaker to solve the issues involved. That was in February. Ron got discharged and went home but by July he was having weight gain issues and it turned out that it was water retention due to his pacemaker going into defibrillator mode. This had to be corrected and meant another hospital stay.
Ron was more than just a “record and CD” guy. He had plenty of time for all sorts of exotic, bleeding edge formats. In the 90s he was such a “Sony guy” that he bought way into the Minidisc format, with a player/recorder and as many of the pre-recorded titles in his taste range [i.e. a lot] as possible. I had originally noticed the Minidisc as it was the easiest way to get your digital audio onto a [magneto]optical disc with Blank CD-Rs costing into two digits and the burners being thousands of dollars when the Minidisc was released in 1993.
Closer inspection revealed the lossy, proprietary data compression scheme [ATRAC] whch pretty much lost me right there. Minidiscs would sound no better than MP3s that would come later. Don’t get me started on the hurtful DRM schemes that Sony baked into that thing! But Ron was using Minidiscs for quite some time as he would not take his CDs in the car. He used it like a mix tape for his new singles coming into the collection. That Ron fell for this compromised, low end solution surprised me. He was much more into high quality sound.
Ron long had reel-to-reel systems at his disposal, and in the naughties, he was sucking up formats most Americans were unaware of. Ever hear of SHM-CDs? Super-High Materials? The Japanese manufacture these cripplingly expensive discs from the finest quality, optically pure polycarbonate plastic which provide more accurate reading by your disc player? Ron had dozens of these and they weren’t cheap!
When I visited Ron, we took the time for me to hear some of The Buggles “Living In The Plastic Age” on the high-end SACD format. Ron was also very much into DSD mastered SACDs. It sounded good, I guess, but without really good headphones, I didn’t hear the difference of the cost. I’ve since bough some hybrid DSD masteredSACDs [which have a second CD layer for compatibility] and I’m sold on the superiority of DSD mastering. As SACDs ebbed in the non-Japanese marketplace, Ron adopted other high end formats like BluRay Pure Audiodiscs. These use Blu-Ray players playing back materials at high 24/96 resolutions and as it turned out, the last birthday present I ever got Ron was one of these discs for a favorite artist of his; Grace Jones! He loved Ms. Jones [like anyone should!] and this disc crammed all of the pricey CD/vinyl boxed set onto single disc with five extra tracks added for good measure! The “Warm Leatherette” disc was certainly a hit with the recipient. I was lucky in choosing this gift since it had just gotten released a few weeks before his birthday and I imagined that he had not yet found a copy to buy having been in the hospital at the time.
While Ron was in the hospital last year, he still kept up the stream of chatter that one expected from his quarter. I would ask how things were going and would get terse answers, but answers in any case. He would email on his tablet me about his status, when/if he was getting released, and if I had someone to give me guidance, I probably should have visited him a year or more ago. But I had no idea how his day-to-day status was. Ron was not in a relationship [that I knew about] and significant others are called that for a reason. When someone is having health issues, that person alone can give you real insight into what’s really happening. Sadly, in Ron’s case, this was missing from his friend’s toolkit.
As 2016 rolled over into 2017, Ron took another of his frequent trips to Japan in the Fall. This one would be his last. With 2017 underway, Ron seemed to have bested the defibrillator issues that had plagued him and for the first three or four months things seemed normal; but quiet. His blog cut back his posting to about half the normal rate in January and February. He referenced doctor’s appointments he had and I assume it was follow up of a standard variety. By March-May, his frequency of posting cut back further to three per month. I contacted Ron to ask him how things were but he was cagey about it. I later heard that the pacemaker was not helping and that he was put on a hear transplant list. I received a few emails in March, but after that nothing. Until in June when he emailed me to ask if I wanted a Mari Wilson promo single with PS. I answered “yes” and responded back to him as usual. Only there was no response.
For the next few weeks I would email Ron to no response. I tried calling his number but it just rang with no message. I began reaching out to his other friends who were on the West Coast as well as our mutual friends like Mr. Ware or chasinvictoria. We were largely in the dark. For a month, I heard nothing, and feared the worst. The notion of Ron having died in his home to no one noticing was foremost in my mind. Finally, we heard through the grapevine that he had fallen and broken some ribs. He was in some kind of rehabilitation facility, but no one could name it. There were dozens in Long Beach. Ron’s birthday passed this year with no gift from me because I could not find out where to send it.
In the meantime, I would see friends of mine who knew Ron and we would talk about what was happening and what we could do for him, but we were stymied. Without knowing where he was, we would be flying blind. A few months passed and then his friend Mark had told chasinvictoria that he had been recommended for hospice care some time in November. This was serious. The end was coming for Ron and his condition had deteriorated to the point where even if he had a donor heart, he could not survive the operation. It was my wife who suggested that maybe it would be worth the cost incurred to see Ron one last time. I had not thought of flying out to see him at any time since we had just cleared the credit card of charges but I immediately saw the wisdom in her thoughts. I proposed a joint trip between mutual friends like Elisa, Mr. Ware and chasinvictoria. My wife had seen that the best time to book the flight was in between Thanksgiving [Nov. 23] and Christmas. I was shooting for December first through the fifth.
Of the three friends of mine who knew Ron that I had contacted, chasinvictoria was the one who could also do it. He booked his flight while I was still contacting friends of Ron trying to find out where he was. I didn’t feel comfortable booking a flight and securing lodging unless I knew where he was at. The last thing I wanted was to be bunking a two hour drive [and that could be 14 miles in Los Angeles] from where he was at. Chasinvictoria booked his flight any way. I kept emailing and calling people who might know. I found out that Ron had a girlfriend that no one had known about but she would not give me either encouragement or information. Weird. This was turning into a very unpleasant fortnight of increasing anxiety. I wanted to see my friend and maybe help lift his spirits somehow. From discussing with his friends out West, it was obvious that no one was seeing him. The thought of Ron dying while basically alone was breaking my heart.
Finally, his friend Warren, who had been in The Decayes came to my rescue. He named the facility he was in and with a week in advance of the target date to visit, I booked my flight and lodging on Thanksgiving morning. By then, the price of the plane ticket had jumped up $200, but c’est la vie. I could not commit that much money without some simple bona fides, like where I might actually visit with Ron if I were in Long Beach. Getting this was like trying to ferret out state secrets of some kind. I told my work what was happening and the owner of my company offered to give me some of his flight miles to get a ticket, which was kind of him. As the day of departure approached, I was coordinating the info with chasinvictoria. Then on the day before, November 30, I got the sad news that Ron had died that morning.
Ultimately, I never got to see him one more time. He was unable to leave the rehabilitation facility due to his condition being so poor, that it was deemed dangerous to move him. If he was going to have a funeral, I might have still gone, but that wasn’t happening. Instead, I cancelled by flight and lodging and at least the airbnb host refunded part of my charges. That was helpful. I have a year to take another flight on the airline with the amount paid into the system being banked.
Knowing Ron all of these years was a bit strange. He was a guy who I had more contact with and on a more regular basis than most of my friends. But it was pen pal level contact. We only ever were in the same place four times. Needless to say, our friendship did not reach to a level of intimacy. It was conducted largely on the foundation of loving music, and on that basis alone, knowing Ron was a peerless font of passion and knowledge. While I had imagined how far his condition had slipped by the time I was planning my trip, I was also looking forward to meeting with his friends and trying to get abetter understanding of Ron from those who were around him a lot longer that I can say.
Even afterward, when talking with some of his friends, they remarked how Ron liked to hold people at arm’s length. It seemed like few of his friends really caught a glimpse of the man under the persona. And Ron had a profoundly developed persona. One of his friends spoke to me about how he knew Ron for 40 years and only met other friends and family after decades. “Compartmentalized” was the word used and I get it. Ron is gone and I am struggling to have a better sense of understanding him. Maybe with Ron is gone it’s appropriate that all that’s left is the records. In the meantime, Ron’s prodigious collection of over 30,000 pieces [many of which are undoubtedly four solid figure records] is now being sold by one of his regular area record stores: Rockaway Records. Note that their current home page has a Ron Kane tab in their slideshow! They will have a lot of work cut out for themselves in listing it all, but they also have a great obituary explaining the Ron Kane phenomenon here. Another of Ron’s friends was Gary Steel, the editor of Rip It Up [80’s New Zealand music magazine editor] who immediately posted a fond obituary here.
Ron’s friends are dealing with his loss in numerous ways, but I’m left with a riddle that I can never begin to solve. Why was he so distant on everything but music? With all of my other friends, it was a big part of what drew us together, but it was never the whole story. Eventually, even friends of mine who lived elsewhere and whom I’ve seen about as much as I did Ron can be said to have a greater sense of emotional intimacy. It was vexing that I’ll never get a chance to correct this… even as I have just seen a thoroughly amazing King Crimson concert that I so wanted to discuss with Ron, but know that it will never happen. See? That’s how Ron wanted it. For him it was all about the music.
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