Friday, August 15, 2014

roof with a view

I am up on the roof today.

When there are no renters in the upper unit of my place, I come up here now and then to enjoy the view.  Now that the flamboyant tree has been put to the axe and the ficus has been sheared, we can actually see water from up here.

But I did not come up here for the view.  I needed a place to sit and organize my thoughts.  The garden would usually work, but the breeze on these hot, humid days is better on the third floor.

And, somehow, I feel a bit lifted up from our little burg.  I love living in small towns.  But with every benefit there comes a cost.  And in small towns, smallness is almost free on the open market.

There is no need to bore you with the details, but every decade or so, the black dog comes for a visit.  And this was the day.

Actually, it has been building for a couple of days.  I can always feel the symptoms.  Sleep is elusive.  I stay in bed until noon.  Meeting people slips from a pleasure to a chore.

I have been mulling over some thoughts for an essay on the deaths of Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams.  In a way, I will miss her more.  She was one of those screen presences whose work will survive -- even when her role was nothing more than supportive.  Seeing her twice on Broadway in terrible vehicles was still a treat.

But she is one of those celebrities who I had thought died years ago.  Fame is fleeting.

Robin Williams is in an entirely different category.  Whenever a celebrated person commits suicide, people are baffled.  One of the most common responses is: "How could he do that?  He had everything."  Of course, most people who say that have been sucked into the cult that wealth and success buy happiness.  And we know that is not true. 

I was still in law school when I first saw Robin Williams on television.  I believe it was the summer of 1978.  My classmates Bill and Doug were watching late night television.  One of the summer midnight specials.  This one was from San Francisco where a young new comedian was about to take America by storm.

The three of us knew we were seeing something new.  For some reason his impression of Superman on speed struck us as hilarious.  I still remember what I said: "This guy is nuts."  Over the years, I discovered I was correct, but in darker ways than I had thought. Williams was one of those celebrities who almost wore "tragic ending" on his forehead.

Watching him on stage was like watching a mental patient who was barely managing to keep his fingertips wrapped around the throat of reality.  No tight-rope walker made audiences hold their breaths hoping that the unexpected would not happen.

It usually didn't.  Usually, he left an audience behind still wondering if they had actually experienced what they thought they had.  It may be why some of his best acting roles cast him either as a therapist or as a mad man.

I recently lost a talented friend to the vagaries of alcohol and depression. All of us around him could only stand helpless while he took one tragic step after another. It was like watching someone standing on a frozen lake while the ice broke up around them.

My blogger pal Shannon Casey just posted a very touching essay on the topic of depression: The Thin Line.  She recounts a series of famous people who have been toppled by depression.  One of her commenters added that some gentle people who suffer depression may commit suicide because "they are too gentle for this world."

Both of them are correct.  But there are other people who suffer depression, and their condition drives them to face their demons with violence.  We have seen a series of bouts worked out throughout the world where someone suffering from mental illness decides to commit suicide by killing others and letting the police kill him.

All of that has very little to do with me and my reverie on the roof, however.  Even though some of my family members have used knives and baseball bats to work out their own mental problems.

But I am not one.  For starters this mood is not clinical depression.  I am simply indulging in the type of childish revenge musings that pull small towns apart.  And rather than continue the cycle, I have decided to stay up here until the mood passes.  Staying away from company is always a good idea when my mind treads these corridors.

Well, to be honest, it already passed a couple of hours ago.  To celebrate, I walked over to La Oficina to enjoy some of Juliana's spinach pasta.  It was good to be in the company of people again.

At least, for now.  This may be the sign I was waiting for that it is time to move on to something new.

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