On Saturday night the bell on my landline went off and damn it all if it weren't the Sailor, ringing me up to hear more about Duke Ellington and his way with the piano.
"Come on over, August," he breathed gruffly and grandly into the handset, "and show me again how those first 16 bars go, because I have an idea on how to fit a harmonica over that bit, plus which I believe I can lay a fine shuffle under that storm and so we will be on our way to being a fine jazz band, after all."
I'd already had a couple of drinks of Wild Turkey by that time though and told him I didn't fancy driving through the student ghetto just to lay down some clumsy riffs on his Yamaha upright, but he disagreed.
"Go on and walk over then, Mr. March and I will mix you up a creme soda with Jameson's in the bottom of the glass."
I could not resist and so spent the next 3 hours rambling through "East Saint Louis Toodle-oo" while the rest of the boys followed along blithely. My wife called about 10 and told me I better get on home if I wanted any spaghetti. "Who could resist that," I told the Sailor as I dropped my charts onto his desk, grabbed my cane and ambled toward the door. I flashed him the peace sign and said I'd see him Tuesday for practice.
That was the last time I saw the man folks here in Dirt City called by a nautical name.
I'd known him since I was a kid, and him being 20 years my senior did stop us becoming fast friends. He was part brother and part father; we hiked, smoked, drank, jammed and regaled each other with stories of where the other had been on the Earth.
He was the only man I knew that had seen more of the planet than me. I'd been on all the continents, excepting Antarctica; his tale of seeing the Ross Ice Shelf rise up on the horizon set my brain on fire and besides that we always had a laugh about the after-midnight goings on in Singapore, the lights of the north star and the aurora way up north or how it was impossible to understand the dialect of the Peruvian seamen who landed in Guayaquil looking for a good time.
When he broke his hip late last year, my wife and I sat with him at the hospital, brought him dinner from Los Cuates on the weekends and made sure his walker was ready to go when he was. The pain was bad he told us, but nothing like the time he got burned putting out a fire on an oiler outside of Osaka.
Just last week, we spent an afternoon listening to the Rolling Stones new album, a blues thing. And I complained that Charlie Watts was about an eighth note behind Keith Richards when it counted but he said to take it easy because we were all getting old.
On Tuesday morning the bell on my cell phone went off and god damn it to hell, it was the Sailor's neighbor who was weeping on the line when I answered and then told me the news.
"Mike got up early this morning, put a note on the door, then went back to his place and shot himself."
I went home early that day. I sat at my piano and played until my hands hurt, thinking about the time the Sailor told me how Polaris was possibly the center of the universe—blinking timelessly, brightly while the rest of the sky rolled and spun chaotically around and around.
Another cyclist was hit and killed by an Albuquerque driver.
Have you tried any Instagram diets?
“Would you rather...” with The Lonely Island. (Yes. Yes, everything with The Lonely Island)
Hey! Can we play trade-sies real quick? I have a gun, you have some heroin so why not, ya know?
German Government officials decided they actually did commit genocide. HUH.
What a teacher in Colorado Springs did to prevent any of her students from committing suicide might make you cry.
I named this column Comedy Matters because I truly believe it does. It matters to the junkies and alcoholics who frequent open mics to work through their demons on stage. It matters to the headliners and road comics who travel from club to club each night for a living. It matters to writers and Hollywood execs who make millions off the laughter that rumbles in darkened theaters. It matters to cancer patients, widows and kids. Comedy strikes us over the head or starts slowly in our belly and bellows out of us warming our innards with a rush of happiness. So when a comic dies, we hurt. And today, we’re hurting because the world lost a great one.
Robin Williams started his career in San Francisco in the 70s and quickly became one the most absurd joy makers in the comedy world. His big break was when he landed the role of Mork in “Mork and Mindy” in 1978. He transformed into a prolific actor and comedian, appearing in films such as Dead Poets Society, The World According to Garp, Good Will Hunting and so many more; too many to list.
But this isn’t just about his qualifications or list of his films. He affected people in many ways. His fans loved him for his insane and wild energy. Comics loved him for how dedicated he was to comedy and how sweet he was despite his fame. He was a good man, a beloved man, who struggled with depression and an addiction to drugs and alcohol for the past forty years. On August 11, his struggled ended. Investigators believe his death may have been a suicide and to anyone who knew him or his history this would not be a surprise.
At the news of William’s death, Michael Ian Black tweeted, “We lose at least one great comic to suicide or ODs every year. Our jobs are to communicate, but we seem to not know how to ask for help.” Comedians don’t control the market on depression and substance abuse, but it seems to be a common theme amongst them. These issues manifest on stage to applause and laughter but they continue off stage and they grow and fester and strain relationships. And people die and then there’s nothing we can do.
Robin Williams brought a joy to the world that he couldn’t find internally. His family and friends are mourning. His wife and kids are shattered by his loss. And his fans will find it hard to replace this legend. Be in peace captain, we’ll miss you.
Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at The Box. More information can be found at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.
Now you can erase your memories.
Peyton Manning set the record for touchdown passes.
Today is the deadline to get Obamacare for January.
The inventor of the AK-47 died.
There was a guy John Wayne Gacy didn’t kill.
Review the year in science.
See what drugs look like under a microscope.
A man stabbed his allegedly evil stepson.
Noah Rodney climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
I remember when a guy climbed Mount Everest.
Happy birthday Eddie Vedder.
You have the right to remain silent, now take this cotton swab and swirl it around your mouth for a spell.
Michael Douglas says that you can get throat cancer from an STD. Who'd have thought?
A fire at a poultry plant in Dehui, China kills 119 and injures 50.
Three storm chasers killed in Oklahoma; among them was veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras.
After a lengthy SWAT standoff, police have arrested a father and son in connection with the murder of 8-year-old Sunni Reza.
New Mexico fire crews hope to have two fires (Pecos and Tres Lagunas) fully contained by the end of Monday.
The Levi Chavez trial breaks ground almost six years after the shooting of his wife, Tera Chavez.
Tonight, we say "NO!" to fireworks!
Man arrested for aggravated battery after biting his wife's butt.
Military suicide rate at highest level in ten years.
Is the Obama administration using leaks to bolster the President's image?
Small town murder rates are climbing.
It's not gonna happen, Jeb Bush.
Fire at the the downtown Hyatt overnight.
How prepared is the military for the eventual alien invasion?
Georgia widow wins $3 million lawsuit after husband dies during three-way.
"We're not racists, we just want to be with white people." said racist KKK member while defending the group's Adopt-A-Highway application.
Self-destruct with Gordon Ramsay.
Dead toddler comes back to life, then doesn't
The most shoplifted items are …
Trees reveal mysterious 1,200 year old radiation burst.
ATTN sinners: Introvale birth control pills recalled.
Depraved penguin sex scandalized uptight polar explorers.
Don't worry Israel, those weird lights in the sky are just the Russians testing their ICBs.
115 years together is enough for these tortoises.
Fiona Apple has a new album.
Pizza Hut getting into the gross sandwich business.
That’s the startling opener to Alex Limkin’s column “Flashes of Light,” which is all about staying alive after war.
Limkin, an Iraq War veteran, took a trip with Outward Bound. The wilderness organization leads vets through the backcountry for free. It’s part of an effort to help people cope with post-traumatic stress.
Folks can apply here.
Would we have known the name Benjamin Colton Barnes if he hadn’t killed someone else before rushing to his own death in Mount Rainier National Park on New Year’s Day? Or would he have been just another young Iraq War veteran on a suicide trajectory?
Columnist Alex Limkin, also a vet, asks this question in his column From the Foxhole.
A veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes, according to a study published in November. It also indicates military suicides have been on the rise since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Republican presidential candidates debated last night. Mitt Romney couldn't get his name right, Rick Santorum wants to profile muslims, Newt wants to be humane to immigrants, and Michelle Bachmann may or may not have leaked classified information.
Portland Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced a hold on all death row inmates.
Rush Limbaugh said Michelle Obama exhibits uppity-ism.
Race war rumors spread at Highland High School.
Florida school finds two 12-year-olds kissing and calls the cops.
Was a Illinois water utility cyber-attacked?
South Korean lawmaker fires tear gas in parliament before vote on US trade pact.
A Bronx groom kills himself by jumping into the Harlem River hours after his wedding.
Aw, Crap! I totally forgot yesterday was Max Headroom Signal Intrusion Day.
The 25 most popular passwords of 2011.
Spend some time this morning reading about the mystery of the five wounds.
A new study shows that people who watch Fox News are less informed than people who watch no news at all.
Another reason not to take vitamins.
Best mug shot of I've seen in ages.
Your one stop source for cute animal pictures is The Fluffington Post.
The tire pile you can see from spaaaaaaace.
How to deal with your multi-level marketing friends.
Sarah Silverman lands a sitcom on NBC.
Yoda is shilling ramen.
Thanks to Constance for the links.