There’s only us there’s only this.
Forget regret or life is yours to miss.
No other road, no other way.
No day but today.
Jonathan Larson – RENT.
I bought the Rent DVD today from EzyDVD because it was on sale – I decided to watch it this evening because I wanted to relax and tune out. I also bought Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima but I think that movie would be too heavy for a weekend relaxation.
Watching the movie brought back a lot of memories – the first time I watched Rent was in Singapore in 2001. I had known Seasons of Love – one of the signature songs of the musical long before I knew about the actual show. It was apparently quite a breakthrough for Rent to be played in Singapore at that time because of the issues that the show covers – alternative lifestyles, drugs, and so forth. I can’t remember who I watched the show with – probably with some folks from the expat circle. I enjoyed it very much that I watched it again when I visited the US in June – July 2001.
I went to San Francisco, CA to meet my friend Kiere in July 2001, the catalyst for my trip was that I heard that he was diagnosed with leukemia and that he had undergone a bone-marrow transplant. I also decided to visit my friend Karl in Phoenix, AZ as well as my friend Hershel in Dallas, TX. So the second time I watched Rent was with Kiere in July 2001 at the Orpheum Theater around Union Square.
Watching the DVD and listening to the songs brought me back to my trip to see Kiere. Kiere was a good friend of mine – almost like a career mentor at one stage in time. We started chatting online in the late 90’s – he was quite concerned with my wellbeing when the economic and racial crisis hit Indonesia in 1998 that he tried to recruit me to work for his company in Bethesda, MD. Kiere was the CEO of his company at that time. The plan didn’t work because I didn’t have the necessary skills for the position, besides he was also in the process of selling his company.
Kiere moved on to San Francisco, settling in the upmarket area around Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco. This is where I met him in person after all the years of chatting and career guidance. Kiere didn’t drive, so we went around on foot or by bus – we walked through many districts in San Francisco and we took a day-tour to Monterey, CA through Carmel, CA, the town that was once mayored by Clint Eastwood.
Looking back at my friendship with Kiere, the things that he shared and confided in me were quite surreal at times. He told me that he was half-Cantonese, half-Latino, and that growing up in Puerto Rico, he actually knew the young Ricky Martin. I remember the chats that we had in San Francisco, about the bitterness that he felt when people called him names because he was different – well, his racial background was pretty unique and did not fit with the profile of the mostly exclusive residents of Sausalito.
After I returned to Singapore (I was based in Singapore then), the frequency of our contact dropped a bit, especially because he also moved on to Vancouver, Canada. Through our chats, I found out that Kiere used to be married and had a son called Sean. I also found out that Sean married a Japanese lady and gave Kiere his grandson. I vaguely remember that he was very proud of his son and grandson and how happy he was having a grandson.
The story is quite sad at the end – sometime last year (2006), I received an email from an email address that I didn’t recognise. Apparently the sender used to work for Kiere in Bethesda, MD. The sender said that Kiere passed away in September 2004, and that he had arranged for Kiere to be cremated … he was looking for anybody in Kiere’s address book who might know the contact details of his ex-wife or son. The email mentioned that Kiere had stomach cancer and that he could not have any operation due to the complication that he had.
I find it very sad that somebody who was once successful died alone, in the company of his ex-staff and friend and that none of his next-of-kin could not be found … I still miss chatting to him from time to time, especially when I have to deal with some issues at work. I wish I could find him in the chatroom or email him to ask for his advice. I wish I could give him a call on his mobile phone and ask for a quick advice – I remember asking his advice about my career move when I was still working in Jakarta. Kiere introduced me to the wonderful world music label called Putumayo before it was widely-known … he also introduced me Chitra Divakaruni’s delightful book called The Mistress of Spices. We also talked about music and movies, about places and cultures, and about opinions and experiences – in all silliness and seriousness.
Rest in peace, mi amigo!
Edward Kiere Robertson
September 1951 – September 2004