I Had To Identify My Father's Dead Body
He was 56 years old and died of an overdose.
I Only Get Bad News From Home
I moved to Florida a little over four years ago after a disastrous divorce and the realization that my family was not an anchor for me to stay in small town Kentucky. They weren't really there for me when I was close by so I figured moving almost 900 miles away wouldn't make much of a difference. You know what? It hasn't.
I only get bad news from back home. Kentucky is known for the Derby but would be better known for depression, poverty, and drug addiction that gets swept under the rug once a year to showcase only good images while hiding the ugly truth. It's very similar to North Korea in that way. Also in the way it's inhabitants fail to realize that there is opportunity in the world and a whole different way of living.
I will never forget speaking to a childhood friend last year (in 2019) who was complaining about the economy being bad. It broke my heart to tell her. No, it's bad there. There are jobs and options elsewhere. It didn't matter. She didn't believe me and it wasn't worth the fight. She is still there.
We were the good kind of white trash.
One of the biggest things I remember about home is the poverty. My family was actually fairly lucky although if you had juxtaposed us into any other American state or American city we would most likely have been classified as white trash. But the good kind. The kind that has RVs and lives in a blue collar neighborhood rather than a trailer park. We could afford to go to Destin on vacation rather than Gatlinburg. Hell one time my cousin Tiff even had her sugar daddy who owned the pawn shop take her to Europe. We were bougie white trash. Trash with standards.
Other people were not so lucky. It's not uncommon for at least one member of a family to be collecting one form of government assistance or another. For some it is even a glorified right of passage. To proclaim that you got approved for disability is akin to winning the redneck lottery. It always confused me that none of the people I saw collecting disability were actually disabled. There are people with Down's Syndrome or who are missing appendages who find jobs they can perform and take pride in. Not so back home. That disability check is a fast pass to sugar babies and all the Netflix you can watch.
They only call to report bad news
My family typically calls to report bad things. My mother is the most guilty of this. She will tell me that she ran into somebody I don't even remember going to school with who claims they heard I am a stripper. Or that so and so has died. Been in a car crash. Gotten cancer. Been attacked by a flock of birds. Been electrocuted while getting their TV dinner out of a microwave. It's the equivalent of listening to the Litany of the Saint on Easter but instead of fantastical holy names it's just an ongoing enumeration or miserable fates awaiting all who reside there.
While my mother ever the quintessential Southern gossip lady . . . My grandfather once called her the mouth of the south. I still think that is a fitting title, my father was, well different.
Philip Martin "Marty" "King Ko" Kokinda was in a lot of ways too big for the world he was in. I don't say that as a doting daddy's girl. In fact the first time I remember meeting him in person was when I was almost 21. My father thought bigger, dreamed bigger, and was charismatic AF. Most of my talents and ways with communicating with people are inherited from him.
Dad was also an entrepreneur. Sometimes legal. Sometimes not so legal. In federal prison he even earned the nickname "King Ko".
Barrels of Cocaine
Dad loved drugs. Hated alcohol. Loved drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, heroine, acid, shrooms, you name it. For most of his life he preferred to sell it and had garnered quite the enterprise. Until one of his workers got arrested. As a part of a plea bargain, he told on my father.
My father, being the creative criminal, led the federal agents on a chase that included helicopters flying over the neighborhood and was eventually found hiding in a laundry basket. The agents found the equivalent of two barrels of cocaine. Dad faced federal time but being resourceful, he represented himself and on a technicality of Habeus Corpus was released. He was very proud of that and to this day there are law schools who study his case.
The Rainbow People And Jerry Garcia
King Ko was easy going. He loved to smoke weed. He loved T.I. the rapper. He loved McDonalds and Coca-Cola. And he loved some fucking Jerry Garcia. He even fitted out a van (before van life was even a thing) and followed the Grateful Dead around for an entire summer while running a taco stand. As a child I was embarrassed. As an adult I appreciate that he was going to do things his way and enjoy life.
He ended the tour season somewhere in California. Where he met a girl named Summer or Daffodil or something like that. The ended up spending some time with the rainbow people. I'm not sure why they are referred to as that. I remember Dad calling to say he had my aura analyzed by a shaman. I according to the shaman had an indigo aura which was a precursor for ushering in the Age of Aquarius.
Then Dad tells me that they are going to wait for a UFO to pick them up from a mountain. I asked him, what are you gonna do if one actually shows up. Without missing a beat he responds
If the UFO shows up, We're about to go on the ride of our lives. I'll have them stop and get you.
Sadly the UFO never arrived. Perhaps the aliens went to the wrong mountain. Or maybe Dad and the Rainbow People were at the wrong one. We will never know.
Don't Let Lack of Funding Stop You
I will never forget talking to Dad about wanting to come back down to Florida to escape Kentucky once and for all.
He said well why aren't you already on your way?
And I responded
Dad. I have $64 to my name. I can't go back to Florida
And he called my bluff.
Lack of funds have never stopped a Kokinda from doing anything. And Florida has always been good to our people.
I left the next day.
You Gotta Be Like Cortez And Burn The Ships
While I was navigating my way through rebuilding a life post divorce and post a lot of things. I talked with Dad often. King Ko was the most non-judgemental, encouraging, supportive person on Earth. For all of his legal troubles and drug addictions (ironically he hated alcohol) my father embodied unconditional love.
There were a few times where I doubted myself and I would call him to ask if he thought I should come back home. Every time he had a similar response.
You gotta be like Cortez girl and burn the ships. Cortez once he reached the Americas burned all do the ships they arrived on. Because he knew if his crew had no choice they would find a way to survive. If they knew they could go back, they would.
And so I took King Ko's advice. And I burned the ships. Going back wasn't an option.
Appalachian Heroine Epidemic
The drug problem in Appalachia is horrific. I can name over 30 people I knew from my small town who overdosed and died from heroine laced with fentanyl.
The police say they are trying to stop it. But I have my doubts. I get pulled over for a busted headlight when I'm up there and they can't manage to find the heroine dealers? Part of me thinks it's on purpose.
I've always heard the saying
The people perish where there is no hope.
That describes Appalachia right now. It described it thirty years ago. It will describe it after I'm dead.
Dad Fell Into Heroin Addiction
My father who possessed the most beautiful loving soul and mind was cursed by drug addiction. Heroine was too much for him. I would love to say this was his first overdose but this was just the first overdose that killed him.
Dad would go in cycles. He would use heroin. Use more heroin, use even more. Lose whatever job or business he had created. Get into legal trouble. Go to rehab. Come out clean. Be motivated. Get a car. Get a house. And then repeat the cycle.
Part of me blames the heroin on an ex girlfriend of his who was a stripper named Trina. Trina tried to fight me on Easter Sunday one year because she didn't know Dad had any family. She introduced Dad to heroin. I want to blame her. But he would have found it eventually on his own.
I Don't Answer Calls During The Day from Home
Because they are never good. And always upsetting. So today when I saw an 859 area code pop up on my phone. I declined it. I have a bajillion projects to finish and I had an appointment to look at the pool home of my dreams at 3:30. No time for redneck fuckery.
But then my ex husband text me. Which he hardly ever does.
Cousin stef is trying to get ahold of you. The city of Philadelphia believes they have found your fathers body and you are the next of kin.
I called the number back immediately. It was my cousin. And my ex husband was right. Only I could confirm the identity of the body. I was his only child. I talked with Stef forever. Her and my dad were thick as thieves. Sometimes because they were thieves when they needed to be. But they just truly understood one another. I am most worried for her in this entire situation.
Nothing Prepares You For Identifying The Body
I don't even know how I was able to maintain composure for the phone conversation with the medical examiners office. My mother says it's because I am more like a man. I want to solve problems rather then empathize. Maybe she's right?
I hope none of you never experience this but just in case you do. It goes something like this.
Call Medical Examiners office. They don't pick up.
Call again. Get busy signal.
Call Philadelphia police department. Who were very helpful and gave me a different number to try.
Try new number and actually get medical examiner on the phone. It was fairly simple due to travel restrictions. I had to identify myself. My fathers full name and his date of birth. His residence.
After doing so, they confirmed that my father, Philip Martin Kokinda was found non responsive in a restroom at a Greyhound Bus Station in Philadelphia. He was pronounced dead at 2:54am earlier today. Cause of death was a heroin/fentanyl overdose.
And that's when I cried. Not because he died. Dad is far more powerful in the spiritual realm than he ever was on Earth. I cried because the people who found him probably thought he was a nothing. And he wasn't. He was so beautiful and so charismatic. He was intelligent. Well spoken. He was just sick. And no matter how hard he tried he couldn't beat heroine. I tried. I tried to talk to him. I tried to tell him that me and my daughters wanted him to be healthy.
And he wanted to be healthy but no amount of rehab or intervention could make that happen.
I don't want his memory to be of where he was weak or how he was found.
I want his memory to be how he loved people, loved music, loved to party, and just that he loved.
I know somewhere in the next dimension Dad is on the ride of his life. I hope he watches out for me and Stef and our girls. And I am so thankful he is released finally from his prison on Earth . . . An addicted body.
I love you Dad.