If you are reading this, then I guess I had the balls to publish it. It isn’t something I am going to make a big deal about or anything, it is just a lot more personal than I usually get in this type of forum and I tend to be rather reserved about these types of things. Ever since I heard about the death of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, I have honestly been in a funk. It is not that I had some deep connection to him personally or what he represented as a person, but more of what the music he helped create meant to me growing up and the person who introduced me to it.
Back in grade school, we moved from close to town to way out in the country, which was basically like moving from a cave to a deserted island. The biggest change for me was school. I went from being around a very preppy group of kids (that I never really fit in with) to a very country group of kids and though I had always grew up on the farm, I could REALLY not relate to many of them at all. From the get go, I was looked at as an outsider and I ended up moving more toward the fringe kids in the grade. Falling in with the smokers and metal heads didn’t seem like a good fit for me (there was absolutely no one to talk Star Wars and Transformers with) but they were at least more accepting than the jocks and the red necks. Somehow, one of those friends that I made was Keith Lake. Keith was a good looking kid...well, kid was not really appropriate since he looked at least two years older than the rest of us and had been shaving since fifth grade. Dark hair, big smile…laugh that was contagious and more than a bit of a trouble-maker. We got seated next to each other in science class, which he had a lot of trouble with. What started out as him wanting to look off my papers, to us working on a project together, and ultimately lunch room table friends; which in the day was a big deal. Keith always had some epic story to tell and exuded confidence. Even when he was answering a science question about what state most water could be found with a quick, “Kentucky!” he was in charge and owned everything he said and did. We had an odd friendship that didn’t really seem to make sense, but it worked. He looked out for me and I helped him with homework. It wasn’t anything that we sat down and worked out, just some sort of unsaid thing between us that went from grade school and on into high school where even though we didn’t have classes together, we always sat together at lunch.
In many ways, I idolized him really and there are still to this day certain things that immediately make me think about him. Acid washed jeans, denim jackets, Mets hats, ADIDAS shoes, and the Beastie Boys are all things that remind me of Keith. Nazis do too, but more on that in a bit. Yeah, he introduced me to the Beastie Boys. Before Keith, I had no clue who they were or what they sounded like. Remember, I lived in the middle of nowhere and had no access to MTV. If it didn’t play on the radio, I had no clue about it and if it weren’t classic rock or country, it was nowhere to be found on the radio dial. I remember him giving me a homemade copy of his Licensed to Ill cassette tape and I was hooked. I eventually wore it out, but I soaked up every song. He was a walking advertisement for the Beastie Boys and I think in a lot of ways they gave him an identity that he could relate to. He never fit in with anyone in particular at school either and even went by his middle name which was Keith. Whenever he was pressed for what his first name was, he would always reply that it was, “Adam” though it was actually Lerman. In hindsight, I am pretty sure it was from Adam Yauch, though I never actually ever asked him. His other fascination was with Hitler and Nazis, which always perplexed me. He wasn’t overly racist or anything, just had an odd respect for the power that Hitler had. Once again, I think it was more to do with identity and setting himself apart from the crowd in his own (misguided) way. Even with that, it is the Beastie Boys that stands out in my mind whenever I think about Keith.
Over the years, I lost track of Keith, but never with the music had he introduced me to. It is far too easy to get caught up our lives with college and family, but when the first high school reunion came around, he was the one person I wanted to see most. He wasn’t there and it was several years before I got any clue of where he was. He had gone straight to work after high school and delivered ice for a while. He had a kid, but I am not sure if he ever got married. He had trouble with drugs and had at least one failed attempt at suicide. Keith, who had actually changed his name to Adam from what I understood, had had a lot of hard times thrown at him and I really wish I had gotten the chance to talk to him. Just to let him know how much he meant to me growing up and how much he had expanded the world of music for me. I will never have the chance.
Keith died on November 13th, 2008 in an automobile accident. At the time, it exploded all over Facebook between friends and past classmates and I am sure that Keith would never have guessed what an impact he had on people. He touched so many lives and I, for one, was introduced to so much because of him. For a man who looked so long and hard for an identity, I doubt he would have believed that everyone would remember him for what he meant to them because he was “Keith” and not someone else. In this same way, I think that the death of Adam Yauch has touched more lives than he would believe. He was an inspiration to so many and never compromised himself. The good that I can see coming from both of their passings is that Keith will finally get to meet Adam, who he idolized so much. They will smile and laugh and talk about the good times and how people are silly for missing either of them. Looking forward to Keith telling me about that meeting someday.
The point to all this? My funk. Adam Yauch’s passing reminds me how important it is to let the people who mean the most to you, just how much you care. We all thought Adam was getting better and that we would have plenty of time to let him know how we feel. In the same way, I thought I would get to catch up with Keith someday to give him a hug and talk about how times we had. We are only here on this Earth for a heartbeat and for some, even less than that. Take the time to make every moment count and to let the people you care about know how much you care. I may seem silly or cliché, but it matters…take it from me…it matters.