Eulogy for John Kane

John Kane died of cancer last Wednesday. Without going into too much detail, John was one of those who did much to make Austin weird in the first place.

John was my roommate at Nueces College House in the summer of 1967. We had both been in the military and had both had become very anti-military. If I remember correctly, John was from a military family and had once gone to West Point, before he had his epiphany. Throughout the late 60’s-early 70’s, he was consistently in the antiwar ranks – whenever he wasn’t wandering through Mexico.

A few years later, I ran into him in the little village of San Juan del Pacifico in the mountains of southern Oaxaca. We were both looking for the famed local mushrooms. Having acquired such, we adjourned to the “hippie beach” of Zipolite near Puerto Angel where we were miraculously not robbed or arrested. Then he drifted away into the Mexican interior for further research.

In a 1980’s incarnation, he was as a journalist/ documentary filmmaker who went to Nicaragua to support the Sandinista revolution. He lived there a couple of years, made films on the advances of feminism under Sandinista rule, met and married the fiery Argentinean revolutionary, Viviana Fernandez. Later, he returned to South Texas with Viviana and tried to continue his documentary film career. This didn’t exactly flourish and then daughter Tania came along. John became a devoted Dad. For the first time in his life, he tried to carve out a career in the straight world in
order to make a home for his family. But starting a career at 50 with no resumé is tough. For awhile, he did well as an electronics technician. Then those jobs were outsourced. In his late-fifties, he tried to break into teaching, substituting for a couple of years. But he was too out there, the kids too mean and the school district too skeptical. Finally, he started driving a cab. He told me he was making more money that way than any other job he ever had, but he was working hundred hour weeks and wasn’t feeling good.

John called me a month ago complaining about his back hurting. I asked what he had done about it. The answer was, essentially, nothing. He never had health insurance and didn’t go to doctors. I advised aspirin, but he said he tried to avoid such stuff. About 10 days ago I called him back to ask if he was feeling better. He said yes, but that he was working and would have to call me back. He didn’t.

They finally dragged him out of his cab and to the hospital on Saturday the 9th. He was already very terminal and died the following Wednesday. His ashes will flow down the Pedernales from a little piece of property he bought a few years back. And Tania, named after Che’s lover, is blossoming into a beautiful and intelligent young woman.

David Hamilton

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1 Response to Eulogy for John Kane

  1. Mariann says:

    Thanks, David — JOhn was indeed one of those who made Austin weird, and special. He was a pioneering videographer here and in Mexico and points south when video equipment was still enormous, heavy, persnikety and outlets few. It’s because of people like John and his peers that Austin has the kind of public access television facilities and resources that we do: excellent, and belonging to the people rather than the company.

    In a weird sidelight, my former mumble Mike Kleinman bought a van from Kane when he was first starting his business, a van that had been all over Mexico and Texas and lord knows where even then. Mike drove the whey out of it. Once, on the way back from Kerrville, heat from the engine — which was right up there in the cab, between the front seats — was escaping somehow into the passenger area. We tried to stop it with copious applications of duct tape. By the time we got back to Austin, the whole inside looked like the Silver Surfer had thrown up in there!

    When the van appeared to be on its very last legs, Mike sold it to our wonderful recovering alcoholic electrician, Richard Douglas. Somehow, Richard coaxed another 10 or 12 years outta the thing. Sadly, he fell over dead one day last summer, leaving a devoted wife, step-daughter, granddaughters, cats, and all the folks whose houses and businesses he wired, bereft of his devoted hippie craftsmanship.

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