I have a lot of feelings and a lot of things to say but they’re all jumbled up in my head and won’t really string together as a coherent sentence so bare with me for this especially excruciating piece.
I have my own hangups related to sharing information or sentiment around someone’s death. I think the self aggrandizement that happens on social media (feigned mourning for the friend of your second cousin’s dog) makes me weary of trying to emote some sincere thoughts and sentiments.
Kenny Shopsin meant so many things to so many people and I’m lucky to have been able to be a small part of his life. Trying to reflect on how I came to care for him so deeply so quickly, I think it’s because he had this innate ability to recognize the holes in your life and compensate for them.
Kenny was this person who really believed in me, and maybe other people have or do or whatever but it’s never been expressed to me so explicitly in my entire life. My brand of self deprecating humor he was into (he too would agree that I was a demon) but when it came to reflecting on my actual work and my writing and my life he didn’t let me get away with my bullshit. He’d force me to reconcile with the fact that yes by writing I was trying to achieve something and that not only was it okay it was admirable.
The literal minute I met Kenny he immediately extended all of the kindness and generosity he could (which would seem out of place and questionable from anyone else but he was so genuine). Trying to reflect on why his death has seemed so heinous and difficult for me (I guess I’ve never truly experienced true grief or pain before this) I’ve come to the realization that Kenny and I never ever did small talk. It was either conversations of lewdness and crassness (my two favorite things) or some completely unexpected deep dive and revelation into the human psyche. Kenny was like a foul mouthed oracle—he’d completely blindside me with these things that literally changed my perception on major parts of life.
The conversation I’ve thought about frequently since his passing is one we had about benign tragedies. Around the time of election of our shitass idiot president, Kenny and I were talking about the state of the world. I was mildly depressed and bewildered by what was going on in the country and he told me that in the end this wouldn’t chalk up to more than a benign tragedy for most people.
A benign tragedy was to Kenny these horrible things that happen in the world that don’t impact your life in a real way. The war in Syria is horrible and atrocious and I can sympathize but that’s the extent of it. In my life as least the way it is now, the war in Syria will always be a benign tragedy. Even deaths to Kenny were often benign tragedies—a friend of a friend passes away, you’re sad for them but you’re not emoting on the same level as they are.
Since that conversation I’ve thought about a lot of things in light of this quasi-dichotomy—benign and personal tragedies. I think it’s helped me gain perspective on my life and what really matters. This was Kenny—he understood the true meaning and motivation behind everything you did and said, even if you didn’t. He’d pull the vulnerability out of you and quietly force you to contend with parts of yourself that you were perhaps uncomfortable with (one time I brought him books to read after he told me he was out of reading material and he told me that he loved me too).
Sometimes I have a hard time remembering people properly when they’re not around but when I think of Kenny I think of him at Shopsin’s in his chair across from the kitchen or through the window in the kitchen yelling obscenities.