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Mike Tasos: Saying goodbye to my best friend Kenny
Mike Tasos

I make it a point to not ask for much unless I’m giving something in return. 

Today is no exception. 

I’m asking you to stick with me until you finish reading this. In return, you’ll get to know more about my best friend, Papa Kenny Cagle.

Last Sunday night, walking down Sutter Street returning from dinner while working in the seemingly socialist city of San Francisco, my olfactory was treated to the unmistakable aroma of a cigar. That city and cigar-smoke are as compatible as a bowl of granola and a bowl of crawfish etoufee. Fidel Castro would have been right at home.  

How wacky are the denizens of that city? 

Kenny
Several years ago, while on business, I was enjoying a Sunday cigar, sitting in a park, reading the San Francisco Chronicle. My fruitless search for a conservative article was interrupted by a whack on the arm.

An umbrella-wielding woman, wearing Birkenstocks and having a beard like Willie Nelson, was indignant. She demanded: “Just what do you think you are doing?” 

“Until you walloped me, I was enjoying this fine cigar, but now I might need to go to the emergency room for X-rays,” was my answer.

She grabbed the cigar out of my mouth, broke it in half and tossed it to some San Francisco birds used to smoking anything.

“Great. Now you’re littering,” was my witty response. 

I write this to drive home that San Franciscans can smoke as much pot as they want. But you’d better duck and cover if you have thoughts of firing up a heater.

My buddy Kenny always laughed at that story. It’s here in hope of hearing that distinctive laugh again.

But it’ll not happen. At least where I get to hear it.

Papa Kenny was 67 when he died suddenly in his backyard a week ago Saturday. It was probably a massive heart attack, but does the “why” really matter? Gone is gone. 

What of the phantom San Francisco cigar smoke? There was no cigar smoker. No glow of an ash. Just the aroma. 

A passerby commented: “That smells awful.”

“No,” I replied. “That’s not awful. That’s my friend.”

The scent dissipated in the damp Frisco air. I got chills. Kenny was letting me know he was OK.

Whenever we spoke of when I had gone an extra mile for Chris and Greg, Kenny’s “You a good daddy,” was meaningful since he was the ultimate good daddy. Doubt there will ever be a better one.

“Where ya’ been, you old bastid?” was Kenny’s greeting and chastisement if I didn’t let him know where my business travels had taken me, “bastid” being an ultimate term of endearment.

Then he’d say: “Do you know what that bastid did?” “Did” interchangeable with “said” or the best, “charged me?” 

My line started with: “Boudreau, you old bastid…”

He loved his new Traegar grill he christened, “The Legend.” It takes one to know one.

Apparently God needed someone to cook. He took Kenny before his head came to rest on that log. No suffering. He just went to sleep. My bet is that heaven is enjoying the gumbo, while waiting for the steaks to come off the Traegar.

Gracie, the big white Great Pyrenees Kenny adopted for daughter Caitlin, is confused. She can’t find the guy who sat with her on the deck while he read the Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post. 

I’ll take pleasure in supplying her with jerky treats. It will be an honor and homage to the love he had for her.

Never did I hear my friend get mad. He called my favorite columns, “Grizzard-esque,” playing on my affinity for Lewis. Kenny commented on every column I’ve ever written, offering encouragement, giddy at sharing an inside joke he was privy to. He wouldn’t read the column until it was delivered to his home.

Sorry, Papa Kenny, you’re guiding me as I write this one. But I’ll sure miss those Sunday-morning texts.

I also appreciate your assistance in putting that GoFund Me page together. Folks already miss you and want to help. 

Lessons learned from his passing? Tell people you love them. Hug their neck. Mend fences. Let them know how much they mean to you. Treat them like you may never see them again.

You never know.

Later this afternoon, I’ll have the honor of speaking at Kenny’s funeral. I thought I’d never get to say “goodbye.”

With this column, I just did.


Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. There’ll be an empty chair the next time the Order of the Restless Knights meet for cigars. He hopes Kenny, in his own way, fills that seat. Comments can be sent to miketasos@earthlink.net. He is also on Facebook.