You guys may or may not have read my spider story from the other day. I like stories like that because they're quirky but in a stretchy kind of way, there's a lesson to be learned. Today, it seemed that some rain or wind had killed the web. Or maybe the spider itself decided to rebuild. But there, on my car door, the web was being restrung, with the familiar web pattern in its infancy. That spider is something else.
I've been busy helping the wife build a new bed for the boy after the Great Bedbug Invasion of 2014, getting ready for the coming school year, and I'm about to hop on a plane and visit with my best friends of the past couple decades, as one of them is getting married in Boston and I'm going with the other to Cooperstown along the way. It will be my first time at the Hall of Fame Museum and I plan to ask the docent where the Barry Bonds exhibit is. I'm an ass.
Anyway, the busy times had prevented me from writing about things as they happened, but that doesn't mean I didn't pay attention. Let me catch some of you up if you were busy as well.
On Monday, I think the entire planet (at least the parts that had television and access to movies) was shocked to hear that Robin Williams had passed away due to apparent suicide. I think my immediate reaction was some parts "oh crap" and some parts wanting to cry. I knew about Robin Williams' issues with substance abuse and depression but I never figured that a man who was so universally loved, even when his movies didn't make as much money anymore, would ever feel so alone that he would have to take that route. But this is a wake-up call that depression is serious business and that folks should seek help. I'm not a psychologist, though I guess that's part of the job description as a high school teacher, but I hope folks will realize that there is always help out there and that they are never truly alone.
The reason why Robin Williams' death hit us all so hard is because he was so ubiquitous and such a positive presence in our lives for such a long time. I was too young for the first run, but I recall watching Mork & Mindy reruns as a kid on Nick at Nite. I think I saw something like 90% of the episodes, and I really wish Netflix would stream them now. But the episode where Mork had to out-skate the bully, or the episode where Mork defeated the Klansmen by turning them into all different ethnicities, all those were silly and quirky and slightly cliche but still resonated with me. It was partly because Robin was so delightfully funny as Mork, and I think he genuinely had fun doing the show and trying to express those textbook sitcom lessons to us as a spinoff alien from Happy Days. Something as simple as wearing a business suit backwards in the pilot episode was hilarious, and it was all in the delivery.
I watched many of his movies over the years, and there's a reason I chose the Genie from Aladdin as the featured image. Robin Williams as the Genie made that movie what it was, and it would have been a blast to see what they DIDN'T include in the final cut from all his recordings. I loved Mrs. Doubtfire, and they even filmed the restaurant scene in my hometown. I was thrilled when he won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting and I really should watch it again. Shortly after the Oscar win, he filmed Patch Adams at LeConte Hall at the University of California, when I was a freshman, and I got to meet him in person for the first time. He spent something like half an hour signing Mrs. Doubtfire cutouts, posing for pictures, and just shooting the breeze. I met him again when I taught science at my old high school, when he came by as a guest of one of my fellow teachers and just ran through, took a couple pictures, gave a quick statement, hugged a few teachers, and ran back out. Just a purely spontaneous OMG WTF LOL moment that brightened the day.
So yeah, I'll miss Robin Williams. I think anyone who ever experienced joy in life would feel the same way, even if ultimately Robin didn't feel that same joy.
The second thing that happened this week was the #Ferguson thing down in Missouri. You simply can't avoid that story, and you shouldn't. After a while, even the networks couldn't ignore the story either, at least until the cops forced the camera crews to shut down the feeds.
As a teacher at an urban Chicago school that services mostly African-Americans, this has a particularly powerful resonating effect on me. It is further relevant to me as most of my neighbors in my Hyde Park neighborhood are black, my son's best friend is black, and the friend that I will be going to Cooperstown with is black. I'm surrounded by African-Americans all the time and I find it appalling and scary that this started essentially because of racial profiling, and I thought we had grown way past that. Perhaps I am the one who is naive. I wave at my neighbors, my son's friend is cool, my best friend of the past OMG 18 years now is highly intelligent and his father is a respected doctor in New York. Of course I notice their skin color (I'm a scientist, I'm supposed to be observant) but that shouldn't be a deciding factor in anything. Yet, somehow, it still is.
Today I had to tell the students in community meeting that they need to be careful in their surroundings and make good choices because people will still judge them by who they look like rather than who they are. I hope someday that won't be necessary, but if something like this can happen in Missouri, it can certainly also happen in Chicago. And that's in addition to all the stupid violence going on in Chicago neighborhoods.
We need to do better. Stay informed with this story and let's see how we can help enact change to ensure this doesn't happen again.