by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 8/2014

robin-williamsIn September 1978, at one of the most depressing and lonely times in my life, a new actor burst onto the scene in a hilarious show called “Mork and Mindy.”

Robin Williams weekly comedic insanity was a gift to a very sad and lonely boy — he helped me find my joy again. Every Thursday night, I knew I’d be laughing.

Back in those pre-VCR, pre-DVR days, I used my cassette recorder and audio-taped episodes of Mork & Mindy every week. I wore out those old tapes listening to them again and again. The show always lifted my spirits.

Tonight, I am deeply, profoundly saddened by the loss of one of the greatest comedic talents of EVER. To learn that authorities believe his death was a suicide is all the more tragic.

Post Mork, Robin Williams proved himself a brilliant actor in both comedy and drama.

His generosity was legendary. Comic Relief. Entertaining the troops overseas (on his own dime). Being a mentor to many up-and-coming talents. He was such a good friend to the family of Christopher Reeve (they were at Julliard together). He seemed to be always present, always in the moment, always THERE for anyone who needed him.

And from all reports, he REALLY was that nice a guy, that kind, that generous. He wasn’t a phony. He was an exuberant force of nature who made the world happier.

He was very open about his addictions and encouraged people to get help for them as he battled his own.

He brought laughter to the world. There will NEVER be another like him.

His legacy will live forever.

I have heard the expression, “The day the music died,” before, but today the laughter died.

I am truly speechless and heartbroken by the loss of a man I never met, who helped ME find my laughter, my joy during a dark time.

If anything good can come from his passing, I hope at least there will more of an awareness of how devastating depression can be. I hope that the stigma of depression will go away — because depression is terrible, and depression kills.

I have no idea what happens after you die — and “rest in peace” seems hollow. The world — already a troubled place, is much sadder and darker tonight — one if its most brilliant shining lights is gone. Robin, thank you for being there for me, and for countless others; I wish you could have found your peace.


The day after Robin Williams committed suicide, Kat Kinsman wrote a phenomenal article about Robin Williams but more specifically the horrors of depression that MUST be read. It is a POWERFUL and profoundly moving article.  I encourage you to read it.  PLEASE read it:

Going public with depression, By Kat Kinsman, CNN

 

DISCLAIMER: Any of the movie or television images used in this post were obtained from a web image search, so proper credit may not or may not have been able to be determined. If credit was able to be determined it is noted here. Regardless of whether proper credit can be determined, any of the movie or television images used in this post remain the property of their original copyright holders and are used here for commentary / illustrative / entertainment purposes only, under what is believed to be fair use guidelines, and absolutely no copyright infringement is intended.

SlowNewsDayFullby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 7/2014

Because you demanded it! In response to your literally thousands of cards and letters, and because jocularity is always a good thing, it’s time again for Slow News Day, Random Thoughts, Summer Edition!

We begin with a summer tradition we can all do without: Back to School sales. The first “Back to School” sale was announced right after July 4.

Seriously.

I believe I speak on behalf of EVERYONE reading this when I say, “Dear retailers, STOP THAT. NOW.”

Speaking of July 4, I have two lovely Independence Day stories to share. First, at the annual family cookout, what moved us all to tears was the sight of my nephew reading the Declaration of Independence to all his friends. To see them do that, to see the awe in his friend’s eyes and their wiping away tears, and to be part of the incredible conversation we had afterward about the life and times and mindset of the founding fathers, well, it made me so proud. I especially appreciated how one of my nephew’s friends passionately argued the document from King George’s point of view. As always, an amazing July 3rd discussion and debate of the fundamentals of the Declaration and the Federalist papers.

The next day, Independence Day, completely on a whim, I hitchhiked to Philadelphia, to the Hall of Justice, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. The annual reading would be taking place, of course, from the Truman Balcony as it was done for the first time all those years ago by Miles Standish. As luck would have it, as the one thousandth ticket holder of the day, I was given the honor of reading this historic document to the crowd. Naturally, I thought I would read from a copy; imagine my surprise when the concierge handed me the ORIGINAL document to read! I know he was unhappy with me spilling some of my Diet Coke on it, but hey, I did not see the “No Food or Drink” sign. Anyway, I stepped onto the dais and greeted the crowd of a quarter million, and boldly proclaimed the text of the document, adding my own, “And to boldly go where no one has gone before!” at the end. I couldn’t believe the applause, but then I realized the audience was clapping for Weird Al Yankavick, who would be performing in “1776″ there later in the day. Weird Al — what a crazy — added his own signature to the Declaration with a huge red sharpie magic marker before we put the precious document back in its protective Saran Wrap covering. Then, we enjoyed a traditional Independence Day brunch of kippers, sardines, salt potatoes, spam, and raspberry Jell-O with Weird Al, the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, Katy Perry, and Kevin Spacey. That night, the fireworks over the capital of the state, Ottawa, were stunning! What a great day!

Note: The fact that this is a humor/parody column should factor HEAVILY into your evaluation of the veracity of those last two stories.

The name on this can seems more suited to a stage name for a “specific genre” of “movie.” Admit it, you thought it and you should be ashamed of yourself

The name on this can seems more suited to a stage name for a “specific genre” of “movie.” Admit it, you thought it and you should be ashamed of yourself

I’d mentioned spilling a Diet Coke on the Declaration of Independence – now, most people know I have a great fondness for Coca-Cola products; that carbonated concoction of chemicals has served as my morning coffee for decades. So here’s my question: Why am I being asked to share a Coke with people I don’t know? Have you seen this new 2014 ad campaign? Every bottle and can says to share your Coke with someone. “Share a coke with Alyssa. Share a Coke with Amanda. Share a Coke with Justin.” Every bottle, every can, a different name. Who are these people? Why can’t they buy their OWN Coca-Cola? What if they have a cold? What if I have a cold? I shouldn’t be sharing my germs. If I know someone with that name, am I obligated to share the Coke with them? If I don’t know them, should I seek them out? And then there’s my wife, digging through the recycling bin, holding up the empties and demanding, “Who’s this TIFFANY that you’re sharing your Coca-Cola with?” And finally, the other day, no lie, I got, “Share a Coke with Asia.” Question One: The band named “Asia,”, or the continent? Question Two: If it’s the continent, a 20 ounce soda certainly cannot be shared with EVERYONE in Asia. And WHERE do we share it? Asia? Here? Somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic?

Is it possible I am over-thinking this? Could it be the caffeine? Yeah, probably.

Speaking of energy, music is at its best in the summer, and lately I have become quite the fan of Country music. When I was a kid, all country songs were very somber and always about a divorced or dumped cowboy, and he and his dog drank a beer while they drove the pickup truck to visit his daddy in jail. Today’s Country music is much more upbeat, and EVERY song features happy, attractive couples who work the farm or job all day, and every night they light a bonfire, decorate the barn and drink beer and cherry wine in Dixie cups as they party on the tailgate or tractor, where the girls in the cut-off jeans and pony-tails dance in the headlights before the couples drive the truck to the lake to swim naked, or go have sex in the haystack or cornrow. Think I’m kidding? Take a listen. That’s 99% of every Country song playing on the radio these days. Seriously.

Speaking of fun, when I was a kid, I often read comic books. Here in 2014, I’ve read in the news that this summer, comic book character Archie Andrews will be killed off in the an upcoming issue of the comic, saving a friend from an assassin’s bullet. While Archie goes out in a heroic manner befitting his character, I have to ask an important, thought-provoking, very relevant question that I am sure absolutely everyone reading this is wondering about this epic, poignant ending to an utterly beloved and cherished American icon of over 70 years:

Does ANYONE actually still read Archie comic books?

No, seriously? People still read ARCHIE?

Wow. Just, wow.

Still speaking of summer, I think I am suffering from summer Facebook envy. Everyone seems to be having more fun than me this summer. You’re all taking month-long vacations in the stratosphere, you’re out on the street, the girls are in their summer clothes, you’re going down to the river, all the while *I* seem to be suffering summertime blues.

Wow – I just got FIVE Springsteen song references in. That was pretty impressive, huh?

Well, that’s all for this time. Hope I gave you a laugh or made you smile. Happy summer to all!

Share a Coke

Share a Coke – Oh, I don’t even know half of these people!

Lilacsby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 7/2014

A fair warning friends, this one isn’t summer fluff.

Every now and then, I look up a name from the past – sometimes it’s to see how someone is doing – perhaps connect with them on Facebook – or just see who’s working where, who’s living there, who got married, or find out “the rest of the story” of people from my past.

This week, I was very saddened to learn that my cousin Kevin Holland from Maryland passed away back in 2008. He was FORTY.

Through my entire life, I probably spent a total of 15 days with him – and I have not thought about him in many years, nor seen him in over twenty, but his death saddened me.

I met Kevin back in 1981 when his grandmother (Florence) visited my Nana (Anne) in Dorchester. The next year it was our turn, and my family and Nana had a wonderful week with the extended Maryland family in Ocean City.

Years later, in 1989-1991, every May, Nana and I flew down to New Carrolton so she could visit with her sister. I really enjoyed those trips with Nana, and my southern cousins always made me feel so welcome.

Each visit, I had wonderful talks with all my Maryland family – the older adults had grown up with my dad, so we shared many tall tales – and all their kids were my age so we hung together.

I’d had a very obvious crush on cousin Nancie when I first met her, and she liked to tease me about it as we got older. And for friends, you couldn’t ask for better than Kevin – we were about the same age, and each time I visited, he made sure to include me for a night out with his friends to a club or party – he was a genuinely “great” guy and I wish we had not lost touch.

Such very, very brief visits but good memories — Kevin talking about sneaking his girlfriend into the house at night. Listening to the tunes while we washed his car in the driveway. Playing quarters with his friends. Playing horseshoes. Cookouts. Incredible clubs and parties. Going to the arcade in Ocean City. Chatting with his friends and family.

We packed a lot into those all too brief vacations, but by 1991 Nana knew it would be her last trip; she was getting on in years, and both she and Florence passed away in 1993.

Now, grandmothers get older and pass away. People grow older, people get sick and die. The longer we live; it seems we go to more and more funerals. But a 40 year old cousin – who’d already lost a sister in her twenties to diabetes– it just ripped me apart.

And I think of a man my sister dated, a married dad with a family – dead from cancer, not yet 45.

I think of my beautiful friend Niki, who lost her brother Michael after years of illness – he was 25.

I read about a young girl in Sharon, about 20, killed when she was hit by a car.

I think about Sam Berns, another rock star of a human being, who made an astounding difference in 17 short years – gone.

The list goes on, and on. Every one of us knows someone who died far too young. Someone who died with SO much potential left. So much promise.

GONE.

We have the funerals and the memorials and then life MUST go on, because we cannot survive if we live in perpetual mourning. I understand that.

But the more I hear about young people dying – and there are so many, it just hurts. A lot.

Yes, we celebrate their lives, we honor their memory, and we try to live life a little more fully — At least for a little while, until we get busy with work, school, bills, the house, the kids… and soon we have forgotten – again– the lesson of how very precious life is.

That is, until the next young person passes away.

Today, I think of Kevin – a friend from the past, and Mike, and Sam, and so many other young lives, people who have left us long before their time.

And I realize how selfish we can all be sometimes. We get so involved with the day to day “stuff” we deal with that so much of life passes by in a blink. And suddenly we’re saying, I wish I had returned that phone call/email. I wish I’d spent more time with them. I wish I cherished them. I wish, I wish, I wish…

Because life can change in an instant, and we keep forgetting that.

Recently, someone I care about was in a car accident – it could have been FAR worse. Life could have changed, or ended in a heartbeat – but it didn’t. They’re alive and well.

There are no words to convey my gratitude for that miracle, but that – and my learning of Kevin’s passing, got me melancholy and thinking a lot….

We need to LIVE more.

Yeah, yeah, you’re all sick of reading it on Facebook and little motivational posters but the reason you see it so often is because it is TRUE.

Live for today.

We need to see the miracle that is the people who love us, the special people around us, and the good friends. The community. The things that make us happy.

In one of the Star Trek movies, Captain Picard said, “What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

I think that’s good advice. Live well my friends. Cherish what you have. Cherish the people around you, the ones who mean the most to you. Enjoy what and who you have NOW.

It’s a lesson so many – myself included – need to embrace more.

It can all be gone in a heartbeat. So cherish the NOW.

End of speech. Thanks for listening.

I’ll be funnier next time.

Free event — The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attelboro invites you to be part of a unique “revival” in July. Not a mass, not a ceremony, but a joyous revival celebration. We celebrate Jesus at Christmas and Easter, but you’re invited to make Him a part of your SUMMER celebration as well! To be held over four evenings in July (July 14,15,16,17), from 7:15pm-8:30pm, at the beautiful outdoor chapel/pavilion. Guest speakers and singers will share, though words, songs, and testimony, the remarkable grace and love of Jesus in their lives. The program is called, “Jesus: Who? When? Where?” and is open to ALL FAITHS and ALL DENOMINATIONS and ALL PEOPLE – not matter what you believe – ALL are welcome to participate in one (or all!) of the evenings. Come to La Salette, even for one hour, and be inspired, and perhaps find your hope and grace again. Monday: Knowing Christ. Tuesday: Living for Christ. Wednesday: Receiving Christ (Eucharist Included). Thursday: Praising Christ (In Song and Testimony). While La Salette is well known for its spectacular display of over 350,000 Christmas lights, La Salette is much more, and there is always something going on there. The event is free but if you bring a few cans of non-perishable food items for the needy, that would be very appreciated. For more information call 508-222-5410 or http://lasalette-shrine.org