On Robin

I’ve found it hard to process the death of Robin Williams since first hearing about it this afternoon, and I wanted to share a few thoughts on it here. Nothing formal and maybe not even coherent. Just what I’m feeling.

We’ve lost many celebrities that I’ve admired these past few years—Elmore Leonard, Harold Ramis, Lou Reed, just to name a few. I’m a huge fan of Warren Zevon and Hunter S. Thompson, both of whom died within my recent lifetime. But I’m taking this one harder than any of those.

And I think I’ve figured out why. One of my earliest memories as a child was watching Mork & Mindy on TV with my father. It’s one of the first TV shows I can clearly remember watching at night. (One of the others was The Muppet Show, and I took the loss of Jim Henson very hard as well.) As a young child, I didn’t watch much TV at night, most of the shows weren’t exactly aimed at kids, but you didn’t have to get all of the humor to find Mork funny. Williams energy and over-the-top response to every situation was pretty transcendent in its appeal—it spoke to kids and adults.

A couple years later, I remember seeing clips of Williams doing stand up on some TV show or other, and my father pointing out that he was Mork. I also remember seeing Popeye and having it explained to me that Popeye was also Mork. I think it might’ve been the first time I realized that actors existed outside their characters—that he wasn’t actually Mork, but a really funny guy who did other things as well. From that point on, I was a fan, even though I was probably too young at that time to be listening to much of his comedy.

No worries, though, since I eventually grew into it. Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, The Birdcage, Awakenings, Aladdin, Good Will Hunting and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen were all favorites of mine. But there are a few that really stand out. A few that really meant a lot at a key time in my life.

Club Paradise probably isn’t a movie of his that many people would list as a favorite, but I love it. I fell in love with reggae in junior high and seeing Robin Williams and Jimmy Cliff in the same movie—directed by Harold Ramis, no less—was just too cool. Yes, the best lines in it belong to Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy, but Williams’ banter with Peter O’Toole and the other resort guests was priceless.

I’ve actually blogged about The Fisher King here before, but it’s hands down one of my favorites of his. Possibly my very favorite. I think it’s funny and imaginative and wonderful, and also truly poignant. I think it helped me realize the psychological aspect that often accompanies loss. It may seem strange that I learned that from a Terry Gilliam movie, but hey, I was still relatively young and inexperienced with life when I saw it.

And finally, Dead Poets Society. A movie that I’ve seen at least two dozen times and still can’t watch without turning into a sobbing mess at the end. Man, I loved Professor Keating. He spoke to me in a way that no teacher of mine ever had. His lesson about seizing the day is something I try to keep in mind constantly. His comments about poetry and art fed my interests in high school and are a big reason why I do what I do today. Combine Keating’s lesson with some amazing, quotable, unforgettable lines and you have a phenomenal film. It’s shocking that this isn’t the one that earned Williams an Oscar, honestly.

Anyhow, what I’m getting at is that Robin Williams has been a source of entertainment for me throughout literally my entire life, and that’s one of the reasons why this one hits particularly hard. A friend of mine tweeted earlier that she felt like a piece of her childhood had died, and I understand what she means. I’d imagine that for many of us in our later thirties, it does feel like we lost a friend we’ve had since we were kids.

Rest in peace, Robin. I didn’t know you and can’t begin to imagine what you must have been going through in your life. But thank you for bringing some real joy to all of ours.

I Think About Endings

Sometimes, late at night, I let my mind wander to places I avoid during the day. To different lifetimes, full of different ways of thinking and mistakes not yet to be made. Lessons not yet to be learned. I think about beginnings…and I think about endings.

It’s easy to spot where things begin, but I’ve found it’s often difficult to recognize when they’ve ended. To pinpoint that exact moment in time when realization sets in and the colors, textures and sounds of your life come crashing down on you, leaving you with unseen bruises that keep you up at night. The mind combs its memories, looking for the conversation, the action, the lack of response that marks the end of what came before, but it blurs like paint on canvas. There were too many actions, too many conversations, too many words offered up in preparation. You can’t settle on just one.

Does that mean it isn’t over? Does that mean that the door remains cracked and unlocked, beckoning you open and reenter? Does that previous life, even now, invite you to once again step within its comfortable embrace, reminding you of how much you have put into it and promising that it’s not too late to bring what you couldn’t bring to the party before?


Because then you remember. Then you grasp on to the moment. It wasn’t a conversation. It wasn’t an unreturned kiss or smile. It wasn’t a moment of infidelity or announcement of someone new. None of those were the end. The end was when you came to her house afterwards and realized your toothbrush, the one that she had gotten for you to use when you came over, was gone.

The door is shut, so we look wistfully at its frame and the warm light that seeps through the windows around it, and we turn and move on into the night.

The Insomniac’s Struggle

I’ve realized lately that I love sleeping and being awake in equal measures. It’s the transitions that I have trouble with.

I am definitely NOT a morning person, and dragging myself out of bed each day is a real struggle. When I don’t have to be up by a certain time, I’ve been known to dawdle under the covers, not really asleep but not yet fully alert, for an hour or more. If there happens to be a book by my bedside, I may not fully emerge all morning.

However, once I’m up, I’m up. At that point, getting me to go to bed is nearly impossible. Every night, I’ll find myself looking at the clock as the minutes count down to midnight, then tick upward and upward beyond. I know full well I have things to do the next day and should be thinking about saying goodnight, but I can’t quite bring myself to it. In fact, I often find myself at the point where I’m nearly too exhausted to even crawl into bed, and I’ll admit that on more than a few occasions, I’ve passed out on the sofa or even at my computer desk chair. And if I wake up and realize that I’m not in my bed, more often than not, I won’t move there. It’s as if a part of me is still insisting that I have things I need to do before retiring and the energy with which to do them.

I’m not sure why I do this to myself. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with change. Maybe that includes changes in consciousness. Whatever the reason, I do wish I’d get better at it. It’s resulted in an ever-changing, completely unreliable sleep schedule, and my friends are getting tired of not knowing when it’s safe to call.