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.”