For the last year (and change), I’ve been pretty silent around here. It’s not for lack of having anything to say, but I’ve really just been numbed by so many things… life, the universe and everything, to steal a phrase from Douglas Adams. My mother taught me that if you couldn’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Blame my Southern upbringing for roaring silence then, for there’s not been much nice to say.
Or so I’d think. But there’s nice things to write about. There’ve been Jeep things and Jeep events. There’s been my music… refuge, voice, and savior. (Note the lower case “s” — I know the real Savior, and I’m on the right side of Him.) Of course, there’s my wife and family and nutty canines, and the new life my niece and soon-to-be-nephew will begin this weekend in Virginia. And no matter how much war, rioting, looting, plague and just plain ol’ evil is out there, there’s always something nice to say about something. And that’s something I need to remember on a daily basis.
I’ll try to do better.
And despite the nudge toward the positive, what strikes my muse tonight is a farewell.
I can’t imagine what kind of demons one has to endure or house rent-free to drive you to give up one of God’s greatest gifts — your own life — but Robin Williams obviously found them, and succumbed to them. I never met the man, and don’t know much about his life, aside from what’s been reported over the last few decades. He genuinely seemed to be a kind man, albeit with his own struggles. What I have seen is his work, across more than half my lifetime.
I can remember first seeing him, like so many others, in Mork and Mindy in the 70s, and falling in love with his quick, lunatic style. To a teenager, that was the right speed, the right topics, and just silly enough to stick. Your brain would barely get finished chewing on one gag before the next one was hitting your ears.
Oddly enough, it’s not his comedic work that ranks as my favorite parts of his film legacy.
I never saw What Dreams May Come in the theater, but somehow decided to buy it on DVD years ago. It’s not a film that a lot of folks seem to like, but for me, it really captured a torturous afterlife in which a man whose life is taken too early struggles to come to grips with his own death. It’s brilliant visually, and includes Williams’ character finding not only his family, but his dog, in the hereafter. You can’t go wrong with that, and you’ll be emptying the Kleenex box before the thing is done.
My other favorite Williams film is Bicentennial Man. I’d read the Isaac Asimov story in my teens, and was thrilled to see it come to live, but I couldn’t figure out how in the world someone like Robin Williams could possibly do justice to such a serious tale of a robot finding his humanity. But he did, and made it a wonderful film. Williams is appropriately funny, and appropriately serious, and by the end of the film — spanning nearly 200 years of human time — you’re just flat sucked into the tale. It’s wonderful, and one of my half dozen or so “go-to” films when I just wanna watch.
Another favorite — this time more comedic — was his singing of “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut when the song was nominated for an Oscar back in 2000. There’s nobody that could’ve danced the line between the humor and bawdiness of that song and film, and bring it all to life on live television. I remember thinking there was absolutely no way that could be done live. It was, and it was Robin Williams that did it. Google the interwebs to watch it. It’s worth it.
But now he’s gone, and far too early. I think I’ll miss that ear-to-ear smile of his most of all. It was a smile that just seemed to engulf you, was infectious, and never seemed to end.
Farewell Mork, Andrew, Teddy and so very many others. There’ll never be another Robin Williams, and I think the planet was a little better for having had him riding along with the rest of us.