My One Robin Williams Story

Depression, manic depression, and alcoholism run in the same families, some of which are also graced with literary genius.

The relationship between that last one and the other three is hard to understand and probably easy to misinterpret, and Robin Williams’ death yesterday is going to add to the long discourse about that. Genius doesn’t make all that suffering worth it. Nor does it make someone “a good person.” I’ve always suspected that there’s a lot more randomness than causality in the relationship between “goodness” and “genius,” and the random interaction with notable people you get from living in a place like New York verifies that.


All I got is one Robin Williams story. My friend is a bike nut – one of these guys who shows up to a party in November in a wet suit, having biked there from Queens. He used to work at a bike shop on the Upper West Side. Robin Williams, who was a cyclist and bike collector, used to come in the store. I find that lots of cyclists are people with extra cha-cha-cha in the central nervous system, and Williams  fits that profile.

One day, a young bike messenger came in, upset because he’d had his bike stolen while on a delivery. His company had an account, and a policy of subtracting repairs from their messengers’ weekly paychecks, so this kid was naturally upset that his paycheck was going to vanish that week. On top of that, policy or no policy, the store still needs a $100 deposit for a whole new bike, and the kid has to front that out of his own pocket.

Robin Williams overhears the whole transaction. After the kid leaves he pays for the bike, explicitly forbidding the store from telling the messenger who paid for it. Mmm.




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