Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oh Robin, We Hardly Knew Ye . . .

All right already people!  Some entire countries (and certain Congresses that shall remain nameless) take all of August off.  A poor bikeist takes a couple of measly posts off and you'd think the world was coming to an end.  Well, based upon the non-bike-related news out there, it seems like it might just be, but let's get a grip -- The Bikeist has been recharging his batteries a bit this month, but is not going anywhere.  That's right adoring public -- you're stuck with me.

That said, it was still a pretty productive month -- with two of my most popular posts ever ("Patches" and "Tour de Zeke") (figuratively) going to press, and with The San Diego Reader even literally publishing the former:  "No Patch For You" (on a real printing press even!).

As I have alluded, world-wise, it's been a pretty crazy August -- so much high-profile volatility on constant display.  And, to only make things much worse, in the middle of all the tumult, we lost someone who practically defined joy and kindness to millions.  I knew Robin Williams' passing was huge the second I saw an article announcing his death pop into my Twitter feed.  However, I'm not sure anybody could have predicted the overwhelming world-wide out-pouring that followed.  I have never seen anything (aside from 9/11 and the O.J. chase and trial) dominate the internet, all media, and the public's consciousness the way this story did.  Of course, I wasn't alive for the assassinations of JFK and MLK, though, but neither was the internet. There were, of course a (very) few trolls out there who questioned all the attention and grief over the loss of a "mere" actor.  But, that's what trolls do, right?  They're nothing if they are not being contrarians (well, they're nothing, anyway), and what could possibly be more contrary than spitting on the corpse of someone who was so universally revered?  How could anybody question the importance of a figure so well-known and who brought sheer joy to billions?  Presidents last, at most, eight years (even though Bubba just doesn't seem to ever go away, does he?).  Great Generals and Admirals serve, nobly, for decades, but really only enter the public consciousness for a short while at the very end of their careers, when they get those third and fourth stars.  Even the greatest athletes last about 10 to 15 years.  Robin Williams has been making us laugh out loud and kept us transfixed to screens large and small since the 1970's!  A true, working actor (and Julliard trained at that), he was a constant presence in films, on tv shows, and, especially on the late-night tv talk-show circuit.  He transcended categorization and appealed to all demographics.  His humor spanned the lowest of low-brow (fart and potty jokes), to rapid-fire, cerebral references to history, current events, and popular culture woven into manic, seemingly improvised, stream-of-consciousness soliloquies that took your (and even his) breath away.  He could be the zany, sit-com alien, Mork, who appealed to children and adults alike, while still possessing the discipline and acting genius to garner multiple Academy Award nominations and an Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting.  He could (and did) connect with anybody, regardless of their background or sensibilities.  So, I guess it kind of makes sense that the world was rocked to a halt by the passing of this incredible man.  We all felt like we knew him -- his ubiquity and the profound way in which he moved us (particularly through uncontrollable laughter) forged unique sort of intimacy that goes beyond the ordinary connection we make with most (all?) other public figures.

Of course, as it turned out, we didn't really know him at all, did we?  The funniest man who ever lived was also the saddest.  There were hints, of course.  Anybody who has ever been around mania, knows that for all the up, up, up, there's an inevitable crash to balance it all out.  Those of us who followed Robin Williams' career more than casually were aware that he had battled substance abuse and periods of depression.  These folks are always at risk.  Even when they seem to have gotten a handle on their demons, they are always a drink, fix, or episode away from potential self-destruction.

Another thing that was not well-know to casual fans was that Robin absolutely loved bikes and biking (sound like anybody we know?), owning "more bikes than [he] could count" and riding at any and all opportunities.

Again, not a surprise to me as, from what I have seen and read, intense exercise regimens are one of the absolute best ways to fight addiction and/or depression.  Look at Robert Downey Jr. for a fine living example to support the research that has indicated that endurance exercise creates pleasurable dopamine-like reactions in the human brain (runner's high anyone?) akin to the affects of drug use.  Thus, when somebody says they are "addicted" to biking, they are being more literal than you might think.

As Williams himself put it: 

"My favorite thing to do is ride a bicycle. I ride road bikes. And for me, it's mobile meditation."
In other interviews he gave direct credit to biking helping him to kick cocaine.

 In one of my favorites, embedded below, from just a year ago, Jon Stewart absolutely gushes about how great Robin looks, with the actor giving full credit to biking.  Even better, he gives his own hilarious (of course) take on New York City's bikeshare program.  Imagine if he had started his own bike blog -- it might have been even bigger than this one!  (But, that's really not possible, though, is it?)

This is how I'd like to remember Robin Williams -- happy, healthy, free-spirited, and, of course, crazy about bikes --

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