My friend Ken died.
I mean, shit happens, right? No use getting all emotional, you know what I mean? Sure, he was a fucking legend, one of the kindest souls to ever walk this rarified orb, but crying isn’t going to help.
I can’t stop crying this morning.
Ken and I haven’t really seen much of each other for a very long time. The last time I saw him, he was passing through Utah on his way to Mexico. The last of the old school, long haired beatnik poets. A Kerouac character made real life.
Ken was supposed to layover on his way back from Mexico, so I didn’t, it feels, take the time I had with him seriously enough. I was busy as hell, and he hung out at work with me for hours, helped me out around the shop, and was just basically hanging out. It was special, but I didn’t know it would be the last time I saw him.
When I broke my neck in 1996 and didn’t know if I’d ever walk normally again, Ken popped up. One of the first people to make the drive to see if I needed anything. I was at my lowest and he was there, sporadically, but always when I needed something only he could help with.
When I was on the mend so many months later, Ken knew what I needed, even though what I needed was stupid. I needed to prove to myself that I was still … me. He gave me a job bouncing at a somewhat seedy, somewhat violent bar called The Skyline. 18 months earlier, I’d had a 22 inch neck. When Ken hired me, my neck was only 14 inches, I was still a mess, but I needed to prove that I was still a factor. Still “a man”, and that I could handle everything I’d been able to handle before.
Ken mother henned me. I pretended not to notice. Over the next few month, I survived fights, a stabbing, a drive by shooting, and I got my neck back. As time passed and my upper body came back to life, Ken backed off, but always checked in on both my physical well being and, though we didn’t know what to call it, my mental health. Ken seemed to intuitively understand trauma, and somehow knew when to be present and what to say.
Ken was part of a very special group of friends I stumbled into when I moved to Denver. I was a little lost, totally fearless, and secure in the belief that everything would work itself out somehow. It did, but only because of these people.
This group took me in, kept an eye out for the hayseed from Utah, made sure I was okay when we fell out of touch … always there for fun or comfort. They made sure I had shelter, they made sure I ate, they kept me employed with goofy assed jobs … they took me in and treated me like family (but in a good way).
These people are the heroes in the Epic Tales of Young Dad that I tell my children. I love all of them, and I always have. They are the influences that helped build the foundation of whatever the fuck I am now.
Ken was like a worshipped uncle to everyone. A long lived old soul who somehow always seemed to have a good answer, and if he didn’t have an answer, he had a laugh. He seemed to know everyone, and when people saw him, they shouted his name in joyous recognition.
He knew something about nearly everything. His mind worked with it’s own rules, and he was able to draw connections to unlikely solutions with creativity, chaos, and care.
I don’t know.
I can’t stop crying this morning.
I miss my friends. I miss these people terribly. I don’t know how I’ve let so many years pass without telling every one of them how important there were to me, how influential they were to me, how they were the inspiration for my life of angry activism and lefty politics. I don’t know how I’ve let so many years go by with saying:
“Thank you. I love you. I miss you.”
Good night, Ken. I am so sorry I wasn’t there. You were just the best. Thank you. I love you. I miss you.