Maranie Staab

Photographer + Journalist + Videographer
     
Spoons and Country
Location: Portland, Oregon
Nationality: American
Biography: Maranie is an independent photographer, videographer and journalist currently based in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses on human rights and social justice issues, social movements, displacement and the impact(s) of conflict on individuals and... MORE
Public Story
Spoons and Country
Copyright Maranie R. Staab 2023
Updated Dec 2022
Topics Activism, Community, Crime, Documentary, Drug Abuse, Editorial, Essays, Homelessness, Incarceration, Journalism, Loss, Mental Illness, Military, Photography, Photojournalism, Portraiture, Poverty, Street
“The degree to which his loss has hit the community is hard to express. He was a street father to many—Kenny taught people how to live and how to be safe on the streets.”

In his late 50’s, Kenny—who went by “Spoons”—had a well-earned reputation on the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “Spoons was a guy with a huge heart; he was respected and well-liked by everyone. That just doesn’t happen, but Kenny didn’t have a single enemy out there.”

I first met Spoons over lunch at a Subway in Pittsburgh’s Southside. We’d crossed paths during my time doing street outreach and I wanted to learn more about his life, an existence largely consumed by substance abuse but that also included a love of music, a family and a deep affection for the street community. Spoons welcomed me into his world, a gesture that began a friendship that lasted years.

Spoons rolled with Eric—known as “Country”—a Veteran and a loyal friend. Every day the men panhandled, pooled resources, bought their fix and sought a safe place to camp. To them, it didn't matter if they had $5 or $500—all went towards that evening's fix and perhaps something to eat. Long-time friends, they were also partners in their effort to maintain a reliance on substances that for each spanned more three decades.

But both Spoons and Country defied the trope, shallow characterization of a houseless addict. “Spoons deeply loved his mother and his sister and maintained a strong relationship with both even though he had his struggles and was far away.”

Spoons was also a musician. “He was a left-handed bassist and unique in that he played a right handed instrument upside without re-stringing.”

“Kenny was a punk. He lived a punk life, pushing back against society and societal norms in the true punk fashion. And for him playing a right-handed instrument without restringing it not only showed his skill and ability but was one more way to push back on what people thought was normal.”

“His substance use was a matter of self-medicating to be able to manage his existence. He had so many struggles mentally and emotionally that without substances he would have been gone a long time ago.”

Spoon’s death in late 2022 hit hard; to many, Spoons was invincible. “I don’t think his cause of death matters as much as the degree to which it was unexpected by everyone. He was loved and will be missed.”
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