As longtime readers know, I used to work in Hollywood as Kevin Costner's assistant. I never met Robin Williams, but in 1991 Kevin was nominated by the Directors Guild of America as best director for Dances With Wolves. It is extremely intimate affair, and I got to attend and sit with Kevin and his small, tight-knit production company.
The ceremony is held in the Beverly Hilton Ballroom, where they hold the Golden Globes, so you can probably picture it. The difference is there are no cameras. And the group is one of the most alpha-male gatherings in the world, with each nominated director presiding over his round table like a feudal lord, awaiting the judgement of his peers (Kevin won). It's intense.
So I remember my leeriness about Robin Williams being the MC that night. This was not a two drink minimum Comedy Store crowd. These guys aren't into "wacky."
And then he started. Or rather exploded. No rhythm or pace, but an avalanche of unrelenting comedic tessellations, so specific to the room, so inappropriate, and so funny it was shocking. The laughter turned to screams. I remember hitting my friend sitting beside me, hard. The jokes came quicker and denser and the screams turned shrieks: a communal tantric orgasm of laughter, us begging for it to stop and craving more.
And then, OOHH, there was a very real, still to this day crystal clear moment when I almost wet my pants sitting at Kevin Costner's table in the Beverly Hilton Ballroom wearing a formal black and gold beaded dress by Adrienne Vittadini.
My panic caused enough blood to rush to my head, creating some white noise to plug my ears. I focused on the table's centerpiece like a zombie, hoping this sensory safe zone would protect me long enough to get a hold of my bladder. Tears ran down my face and I squeezed the chair, praying for him to stop. Finally he did, and I managed to make it to the ladies' room to recover.
Cut to June of 2012, when Nora Ephron died. I never met her, but like every woman who came of age in the late 20th century, I counted on her like a girlfriend. I felt her death deeply, in a way I couldn't articulate with words. So I decided to plant some sunflowers in her honor. They were perennials, which means they should come back every year. I envisioned my stand of Nora Ephron sunflowers blooming, spreading and thriving in her honor.
That didn't happen.
Only three stalks came up. And those were meager.
But I saved some of those seeds and planted them again this year, with even poorer results. Only one came up. A failure.
But since the news of Robin Williams's death on Monday, I've been thinking alot about my single sunflower. It's spectacular. The birds and the bees love it. I love it. It's going to bear hundreds of seeds I can plant again if I can get to them before all the critters who are eying them too.
Stuff like this isn't noticeable without a garden. And sadly having a garden has become a rarity. To me it feels like a privilege, as has connecting with other gardeners, farmers, and seed savers. Because I didn't know before I moved to the country, that seeds are almost immortal. And that nature is a Ponzi scheme in reverse. And what I want you to know is that one matters.
One sunflower, one seed, provides exponentially in unimaginable ways.
And this gets us to depression.
If you are struggling, is there one seed of hope you can save, or plant, or simply imagine?
If you know someone in a dark place is there one seed you can share? A phone call, a real email, not just a "like"? Even a smile at a stranger or looking someone in the eye can make a difference.
The recipe for a successful suicide is frighteningly simple: desire to die, coupled with the means to do it. Strangely, spring and summer are the most common seasons for suicide. And it seems our culture is tipping into a full-blown epidemic of self harm. Newsweek has an excellent and disturbing article on this recent trend. And no, it's not just the Baby Boomers. Evidence indicates they are merely the tip of the ice burg.
Like many others, I suffer from depression, pain, and chronic fatigue. I can't say I've ever had suicidal thoughts. But I know what it's like to be alive and dead.
This video from the World Health Organization is the best depiction of depression I've seen. Appropriately for this blog, it's about a dog...
Yesterday, I picked a single sunflower to celebrate the life of Robin Williams and honor all those who are grieving his death including his beloved Pug Leonard, and his friend Koko the gorilla.
If his death has impacted you, I hope you're doing OK.
Be gentle with each other. And most of all, be gentle with yourself.
P.S. His wife just released a statement confirming he was suffering from early stages of Parkinson's disease.