Monday, August 11, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

When I was growing up I spent all of my summers up in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado. One of my favorite things to do every year was drive by the old Victorian house that served as the exterior for one of my favorite TV shows, Mork and Mindy. It’s on Pine Street, just a few blocks away from the Pearl Street Mall where so much of the show took place. The opening credits even saw them driving up in the canyon above Boulder that leads to my family’s cabin. It was the first time I’d ever really seen something I knew from my life be broadcast on TV.
But Mork and Mindy ran deeper than that for me. Or at least Mork did because as a weird kid myself, I related to him. I just thought of myself as funny but the kids and girls at school called me weird. But when you think about it, everyone’s so normal early on that if you’re different at all of course you’re weird. But I never really wanted to be normal. The excitement is on the edges. Seeing things differently and making jokes about it all to me was always a much better view. So yeah, I imitated the funny people I saw on TV and to me no one was funnier than Robin Williams.
I think even early on I saw a lot of myself in him. Or at least I began to see how I didn’t have to just be one thing, I could be different things all at once. He was weird and funny but he was also sweet and vulnerable. He was smarter than you but he was sensitive and never mean. And he was a goofball and a bit of a screw up and often ruined her plans but Mindy loved him and cared about him. Even if he did have to live in the attic.
We both grew up of course. We all have to. His roles grew up too. There was Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting and One Hour Photo. But even as he took on often more serious (and usually bearded) roles there was still comedy in there. Like that scene from Good Will Hunting where he tells the story of his wife used to fart in her sleep and wake herself up. But then he’d balance it with the painting scene or the park bench scene or his admission that "I didn't know Pudge was gonna hit a homerun" at the end of talking about missing game six because he'd met his future wife. He could be hilariously funny and then just as darkly sad. Something tells me his life was a bit like that, too. 
But these are two of my favorite scenes of his.
First is the amazing “what will your verse be” scene in Dead Poet’s Society. I never went to some snooty boarding school but I’ve always loved the idea of defying convention. And I like to think the fact that I work in a creative role today is largely thanks to Mr. Keating. 

And this is the “I gotta go see about a girl” scene one from Good Will Hunting. To me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

It’s terribly sad to hear of his passing and worse still that it came at his own hands. He’ll be missed as I’m sure he would have been funny as hell as an old guy.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


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