When I was a kid, I spent quite a bit of time surreptitiously rifling through my uncle's record collection. He was heavily into Sly and the Family Stone, The Who and Fleetwood Mac, and my stealth missions to his turntable were always edifying -- making me feel like I was getting just a tiny taste of the music and culture I already appreciated and would soon come to love inside and out.
I stood in awe of the kind of stuff my uncle listened to.
But nothing prepared me for the first time I snuck off with his copy of George Carlin's 1974 album Toledo Window Box.
Honestly -- it was a revelation.
I'd never heard anything so clever, so brash, so sly, so acerbic -- or anyone so skillful at filtering his indignation through seemingly harmless wordplay, so absolutely goddamned funny. The only word I could come up with, even at the time, was "genius." I grew up worshipping at the altar of Carlin for years after that early indoctrination; he was everything I wanted to be, and remained that way throughout his lifetime -- right up until his death yesterday at the age of 71.
The irony that I can't find the words to describe my heartbreak, when he probably would've had no trouble doing so, isn't lost on me.
Just know this: Anyone who currently uses a public forum to comment on the general absurdity of life, and tries to be mildly entertaining doing it, owes a debt of gratitude to George Carlin -- one that can never be fully repaid.
He was one of my idols, and today the world feels like a less educated -- and infinitely less funny -- place without him.