Sunday, 17 August 2014

We had joy, we had fun...

Dunno 'bout you, but my world seemed a little darker this week. August's summer sunshine was suddenly muted and dull, greyed somehow when we lost Robin Williams to that man-eating monster, suicide.

He was one of us, you know.  He was completely switched on.

(photo lifted off Keirin Berlin)
Robin said that cycling saved his life, and man oh man do I ever understand. He said that riding a bike is one of his medications, he called it a form of therapy, and when Jason Gay from the Wall Street Journal wanted to know why he loved riding so much, he replied "It's the closest you can get to flying."  

OMG, right?! Never mind all of the other benefits, like, oh... happiness. Literally. Serotonin. Dopamine.  Endorphins.  And don't forget the superficial things, like you know, your very own chance at sporting Superman's legs...

Even so, some people would argue that it's silly to mourn the loss of a celebrity you don't actually know. And fair enough. I had no reason to feel a personal sense of loss, and yet I definitely did. I actually cried, though even I am not entirely sure why. I don't know him at all, really. I think I saw him once when I lived on the Sunshine Coast almost twenty years ago, and even way back then, he was reputed to be exceptionally humble, generous and kind.  Maybe his death shouldn't affect me, but like Nelson Mandela, he was a true blue hero, and one of my favourite role models. And now my heart aches all over again with this year's all too familiar feeling of grief.

but change is the only constant, so this, too, shall pass...
I was feeling down and somewhat philosophical, and I noticed how easy it is to miss what's happening all around when you've got something sad or stressful on your mind. Vancouver's very own Eckhart Tolle says that the way to make the best of every situation is to be conscious and fully present in each and every moment. That, he says, is the Power of Now.  

I tried and tried to meditate, even as a youth, but there's a reason they call me babble on, and it's true inside and out.  Soon as I hop on my bike to start my heart pumping hard, though, everything changes. That voice inside fianlly quiets and I find myself fully present and completely engaged.  And smiling.  I used to think it was just me, the grinning from ear to ear every time I get on a bike bit, but extensive research has proven that it's pretty much universal.  Cycling = Happy.

It's true, too.  Hipsters find that Zen feeling on their trackbikes, racers always push past pain to that place of absolute quiet, and every bicycle commuter knows how much better it is to arrive on two wheels than any of the four or more wheeled petrochemically motivated alternatives. So no matter which bike I chose to ride this week, I tried to stay fully present and engaged, to notice the world all around, and to find that place of absolute inner quiet.  And here are a few of the things I noticed along the way:

Heading down Vine St to Kits Beach one evening, I heard music. It sounded like a crystal clear recording at first, and then I looked a little closer...

It was live. I love this town...

What else did I find?  Oh!  Down on Southwest Marine Drive you'll sometimes see the four-legged sort of rides.

And then I found a bike party!  I saw a group of lovely girls (and their lucky guy friend) headed off to party hard on two wheels... it doesn't get any better than that, really, does it?

No matter where you go in this town, you'll always find a beautiful view to capture your attention.

If you find yourself on the wrong side of the tracks, take a good look around, and you're sure to find safe crossing.

And better still,  if you keep your eyes open you might see West My Friend, a group of musicians here in BC who have chosen to do their latest Vancouver Island tour via bicycle.

There was a feature on the CBC this week called Mad Meds, about an artist named Marni Kotak, who has made an exhibition of herself as she withdraws from the pharmaceutical anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications doctors prescribed to her upon diagnosis of post-partum depression. Her interview with the CBC made mention of how doctors routinely prescribe medications to treat everything from stress to suicidal tendencies, but they never, ever give patients the tools to cure themselves.  And itn't THAT the truth? Why?! Why aren't people made aware of just how important diet, sleep and exercise actually are to a healthy mind and body?  Why don't doctors prescribe an hour and a half of sweat every day, instead of those damned stinking pills?

Sigh... sure, anti-depressants help some folks in some situations, but the very best thing anyone can do for thier mental health is to take good care of their physical well-being, and that comes down to movement. Function creates form for real. Your body was made to move, so much so that it can't possibly operate well without it. Stop moving, and you start decaying.

Robin knew it well.  Someone close to him figured that a big part of his final despair stemmed from a recent diagnosis of Parkinsons' disease and his fear that it would force him off of his bikes. I get it.  When I crashed this spring, one of the hardest adjustments I had to make was to give up my daily ride, because it is literally my happy place. Please. Join me in this two-wheeled revolution; together we really will create a better world.


  1. Ride on, and on, and on (repeat)

  2. I came across many posts about Robin Williams that I passed over. But your story drew me in. And I read every word. Thank you for posting about him, in this context.

    My legs are tired today from running in a race yesterday. And every time they're tired, I think about taking another mode of transportation. But then I knew I would be unhappy if I didn't get to work on my two wheel commuter and that's what keeps me going.

    1. Riding really does help, doesn't it?

      Thank you for reading - that's what keeps me writing... :)

  3. Yeah I agree. Robin's passing got to me also. I went out and rode my bike and did other things I like to do and thought of him alot. I first got to know the quirky fellow when I was a kid watching him as Mork. And then basically grew up seeing him here and there in movies. He was a versatile actor. I think my favorite might be Mrs Doubtfire. The last time I watched it made me cry. (I'm a sensitive guy.) I'm sure it will too again the next time I see it.

    I love how as a comic he never berated anyone or group and never relied on vulgarity to make us laugh.

    Recently I heard someone on TV say how yes famous people leave us all the time but Robin seemed like that cool uncle who we all know and is the life of the party. I agree with that.

    The bike is my remedy too.

    1. It's the best medicine...

      He was one of a kind, wasn't he, a legend in his own time, and for the very best reasons, too. He was always kind, always compassionate. It seemed like the whole world reeled a little when he died.

  4. ...I tried but I can't even read your post right now because it complicates my emotions & thoughts of robin williams even now, a week after we heard the news...

    ...I didn't know robin but had a succinct yet very meaningful exchange with him about bikes & health, a number of years ago outside a local shop & he said something so very personal to me at the time that absolutely tears my heart out in light of his passing...

    ...beyond that, we'd see each other whilst riding in opposite directions around the tiburon peninsula & always just gave each other that little gesture, the "cyclist's nod"...

    ...this man gave so much to so many people & despite the zany humor he was perhaps best known for, his charitable work & his acting in serious roles revealed him to be one of the deepest people imaginable...

    ...i'm cryin', amigo, 'cuz you won't be around to bring your special light into peoples lives...if only we could have done the same for you...

    1. I've been watching Mork and Mindy on youtube this week, - it's incredible how many coloquialisms began with that lovely man, how much he molded our collective consciousness.
      Lucky you to have known him even just a little... xo xo

    2.'s interesting in that unbeknownst to me, robin's ashes were scattered on the bay (sf bay) on tuesday & that happened to be the night I decided to watch a lotta robin williams on u-tube...

      ...all the tributes by his longtime comedian friends & then hours of his standup work, most poignantly his "weapons of self destruction" from a number of years ago...'re quite right - robin was a voice of our generation...not the only one but an influential one & we all wear a bit of his style in our beings...

      ...& yes, just that little bit of an encounter was meaningful...

  5. too bad if thinking he wouldn't be able to bike anymore was part of it. A simple trike would have taken care of that for probably years. Someone should have shown him pics of vets without arms/legs on bents of various kinds roaring down the road. Bet they can easily out woo-hoo me.

  6. Hi Ms. Babble !
    Yes keep writing!!!
    There have been some cool posts on Robin W in Classic Rendezvous. Some articles, some personal experiences.
    Yes, we well up inside and out because some of his feelings must be very close to our own. The self discovery and things we think about in all those miles alone. The wierdness that grips us half way through a long long ride like "why the hell am I doing this" to the denoument of the last few hills and the end (climax?) is within reach. The fascination at some framebuilder's technique of joining these tubes together, the camaraderie of strangers who can strike up hour long chats about nothing in particular.
    I hope that his kids come upon all the nice thoughts and well wishes that come out of the cycling community.
    It feels somehow like if folks really knew how bad he was fighting stuff, someone could have done something and he would still be here. But it's hard to say how hard the fight is inside. Maybe there could have been drugs to help, maybe he knew some of thise drugs make you numb, maybe he didn't want any substances around as he was trying to stay clean. We can hash it out till we type our fingers off. I think the best we can do is remember him well and try to stay atuned to our friends and loved ones and try to be as available as we can.

    My friend Sarah J is working with the Pull 4 Parkinson's Foundation. She wants to do a ride across the country for awareness and fundraising.

    Good Luck,


    1. Thank you! Yes, I can't help myself...
      You're right, there is no way to know, and no benefit in forever dwelling in What if. His son suggested that the best we can do moving forward is to take a page from the great man's book, so that even if we can't always make people laugh the way he did, we can all make an effort to be extra kind, and extra compassionate to the people we meet daily.

  7. Well said, Babs. Seeing the beauty through the pain is essential to being human.

    1. Thank you, and yes, that's oh so true... :)

  8. il Pirata est Mort20 August 2014 at 04:08

    A friend of mine managed a movie theatre used to film Williams' "Moscow On The Hudson". There was a local homeless man who, while scary looking to most, my friend knew to be intelligent and engaging. One day Robin asked my friend if he knew the homless guy. "Yes". Williams had met him and wanted to get him on the Saturday Night Live episode he was hosting that week. He wanted my friend to give him his contact info. Regretably he could not be located in time. But take that story and let it give you insight into the man,

    1. Thank you for sharing it!
      I keep hearing all sorts of wonderful anecdotes which serve to further illuminate what a truly marvelous, beautiful soul he was. In the end, all that remains of most of us are the memories of us carried by the people who knew us well. If only we all made an effort every day to create such valuable treasures to leave behind, the world would be a very different place today.

  9. ...finally able to get an infinitesimal grasp on robin williams change of being & felt like I could read your post without a fully clouded mind...& I enjoyed what I read, considering the situation... it therapy, call it my saving grace but there was a time when I can honestly say that riding saved my existence on this planet & yet that dark period of my life was nicely bookended by the autonomy & adventure I felt as a kid on a bike & then, as I crept slowly out of my darkness as an adult, I again felt that freedom & sense of adventure, that feeling of flying perched on two gyroscopic appendages...

    ...I once happened into the opportunity to just sit & chat with a "well known-ish" someone that people pay plenty of money to sit & listen to as he extolls simple truths & leads them on meditation retreats...
    ...I mentioned that I had always been "in motion" throughout my life & whilst others were able to sit peacefully in meditation, I found a certain peace in always moving, particularly on a bike & particularly because I approached cycling from a zen point of view...

    ...when I described my basic premise, the mindset that I utilized on the bike, he immediately said (to paraphrase) - "that is totally valid as it's own form of meditation particularly in this day & age with all the movement & hustle & bustle we're constantly surrounded's actually a great solution to apply an old technique to new set of circumstances, especially if you're finding what you need in the middle of it all..."...

    ...the conversation was enthusiastic on both our parts & needless to say, I found his response to be thoroughly encouraging simply because i'd always felt like i'd found a way to help myself, help myself (double positive, ya ???) but it was good to have it validated by someone who's life's work was based on similar concepts...

    ...seems like a lotta cyclist's have worked something similar out for themselves & it's just a shame it stopped working for robin williams...he was so "in motion" all the time that he said in his earlier days, he did coke because he felt it allowed him to slow down, to calm himself...
    ...I think it gave him an opportunity to catch up with himself & he said it became something he preferred to do in private, away from the party scene...'s just sad to think the whole process became too much for the man & that he could hide it so well, so much so, that no one could actually grasp that...I think that's what's saddest to those closest to him...
    ...he hide his pain in his work & no one knew just how much pain was hidden...

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