After being in all those Disney cartoons, family movies, and classic movies, playing over and over on our TV’s, in front of our eyes and our kids’ eyes and our grandkids’ eyes, Robin Williams had a tremendous and terrible responsibility, a sacred duty, NOT to commit suicide. I guess he just couldn’t handle that kind of pressure.</Update>
Once upon a time Robin Williams ruled San Francisco. I know, because I used to live there. He was everywhere! Or at least I bumped into him three times.
The first time I was pulling into Muir Woods, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. While I was turning into the parking lot, Robin was pulling out. He was driving a red BMW. This was back when yuppies drove BMWs, not hipsters in little Minis. I was driving an old VW Beetle. Which is what someone living in San Fran is supposed to drive, right? I don’t think that Robin even noticed me.
The next time was in San Fran proper. Not that far from the Haight. It was a dark night and rainy. I was walking home from a friend’s house, in no hurry to catch a bus. Up ahead I heard a familiar voice, and laughter. As I got closer I could clearly make out who was talking, but I couldn’t make out his words. I stopped in front of a big glass window. On the other side was the stage of a comedy club. And there, just a few inches away from me, was Robin Williams, doing his shtick.
I watched for a little while. And then Robin Williams noticed me! He turned around. He pointed to me! He said something to the audience, and they broke out laughing. And then everybody ignored me again.
I remember feeling angry. I’d been laughed at! I’d been used! I’d been ignored! I continued on to the bus stop. When I got on the bus, a garrulous crazy person asked me if I was OK. He was agitated and quite concerned. I got the feeling that the rest of the passengers were also a little worried about my answer and how it might possibly affect the man’s mood. I must have looked pretty bad, huh?
“I’m fine,” I said, as cheerfully as possible. The man settled down. Once again the audience turned their attentions away. I felt cold and damp and all alone in the big city, except for my friends the crazy people.
The third and final time was when I went to pick up a book that I’d ordered from Green Apple Books, out in the Avenues. This was before Amazon.com. They had new books. They had used books. All kinds of books! I spent entire weekends there, slowly working my way through the stacks. In my heart of hearts, I know that heaven is like my memories of Green Apple Books, only much much better.
I’d seen the PBS show of Joseph Campbell on Power of Myth With Bill Moyers. In it, George Lucas said he’d specifically based Star Wars on Campbell’s work. This was back when Star Wars was cool, so I had to read it all, or at least the major stuff. The first one was The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It was thick, but accessible. It was also expensive. Then I went on to Campbell’s Trilogy: The Masks of God. They were really thick, with impressive footnotes. They were painful to read. They were very expensive. And there were four of them: the green one (Primitive Mythology), the red one (Oriental Mythology), the blue one (Occidental Mythology), and the burnt umber one (Creative Mythology). I think that you’re supposed to read them in that order. But I’d started with the burnt umber, then the blue, and then I went with the red. All that was left was the green one.
When I went in to buy the green book of the trilogy, they were out. It was a popular series of books at the time! So I ordered one. Then I went home and waited. And waited. For weeks.
Finally one day I got the call. The book was in! It was only a bus ride away! It must have been summer, because it was cold. Briskly walking kept me warm yet overly moist. I arrived catty-corner from the bookstore just in time to see Robin Williams leaving green Apple Books. I saw him walk out of the store with a green book in his hand. I recognized that color of green. He was reading the very same book as me! It was a popular book at the time after all. When I finally got across both roads, he was long gone, and I never saw him up close and in person ever again.
I entered the store, and trundled back to where they kept the special order books. I announced who I was, and what I was there to pick up. And they answered back: “It hasn’t come in yet. We’ll give you a call when it does.”