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Thirty-Four

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A man in San Francisco jumps or falls on the subway tracks. As the train approaches, the passengers all around him unite to warn the train’s conductor, who’s able to slow down and prevent disaster.

The man’s life is saved—maybe not forever, but at least for a day. And all we have for sure is today, right?

I recently saw this video of CCTV footage from the incident being passed around, showing exactly what happened. There’s no audio, but you can perceive the commotion and urgency of passengers frantically waving for the train to stop.

When I saw the headline of a related article (“Passengers Help Rescue Man In Distress”) and realized what it was about, I had a prediction of how I’d feel watching the clip. Seeing a crowd of strangers come together to rescue another stranger is triumphant and heartwarming. Once in a while, humanity gets it right!

It’s also inspiring. Seeing this scenario play out, I thought about what I would do if I was there and happened to be the first person to notice the man on the tracks. Would I raise the alarm? I’d like to think I would. I might have a brief moment of social anxiety, fear that I got it wrong, a quick glance to see if someone else would call out first. But I’d hope that would be the briefest of moments, and that I’d have the courage and foresight to act right away.

Still, watching this clip also made me feel incredibly sad, so sad that it brought me to tears. I couldn’t help but think: why couldn’t we do that for Ken? My brother died more than two years ago, and none of the many people who loved him were able to help.

In any case, today is an important day. And it’s time to write another letter, like the ones I’ve shared before.


Dear Ken,

Another year has passed. This season is frantic, with book launch coming up next week, but I went to sit in the park today and reflect on an important birthday. Yours!

This is #34, the third one I’ve observed as someone who no longer has a brother, at least one who’s physically present. There’s something odd about the passing of time when someone you love is no longer around to experience it.

I was recently in Santa Ana airport again, where I reflected about life on tour without you at some point last year. Guess what: I have a new tour coming up! And a new book as well.

Once again I wish I could share it with you, read your texts about how you convinced another person to leave an Amazon review, and invite you to an event where you’d enjoy your minor celebrity status. Afterwards we could go for drinks and talk about what’s really happening in our lives.

There are still days when you cross my mind and I think of something I’d like to tell you, and for a split second I forget that I can’t. Those moments are some of the hardest.

For the most part, I’m okay over here these days. I’m still going to therapy and taking medication. I wish you’d had a chance to try out both of these things. They don’t fix everything, or maybe even not most things, but they do provide a noticeable baseline that prevents me from sliding headlong into despair.

Speaking of despair, last year there was an election. And you wouldn’t believe what happened! You really wouldn’t. None of us did. This outcome, and the hellish administration that has set out to systematically dismantle many of the values you held dear, is probably the only time in more than two years that I’ve thought, “I’m glad Ken wasn’t around to see this.”

I guess there’s some black humor in it. If you came back to life and saw who moved into the White House, you probably wouldn’t think you were actually alive. Flying cars would have been more predictable.

Anyway, enough about despair, personal or presidential. Like I’ve said before, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you’d want us to be happy and not mope around all the time. You spent a big part of your life bringing joy to other people, always sending little gifts and checking in on us.

Well, I’m not sure I’m happy, but I’m certainly honored to call myself your brother. You remain in my heart, now and always. You remain on my mind many times throughout the day, every day. Someday I’ll be able to speak more about you in public without falling apart.

And tonight I’ll have peach cobbler, one of your favorites, and raise a toast to your name. Wish you were here, bro! Happy thirty-four.

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Image: Korney

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