As I checked CNN.com at work this morning, like I do every day, I was not expecting to see your picture. Immediately my heart capsized, and I felt a strong rush of hollowness. You died last night.
A little over three years ago, I had decided to write you a letter. It was a five-page thank you note, really. However, I never did get to send it because no matter how hard I tried, I could not locate a mailing address for you. I kept it these years in the hopes that someday I might get the chance to get it to you somehow. But now that can never happen. Now it is too late. The world just lost another one of the good guys.
The following is the letter I wrote. I hope you would have appreciated its sincerity...
Dear Mr. Carlin,
My name is Ryan, and I'm twenty-five. Having been raised in a christian environment, I grew up believing everything people told me. I never knew to question anything and I certainly didn't think much for myself.
I remember being over at a friend's house one day when I was about ten or so. He had put in this comedy cassette that belonged to his dad, which turned out to be What Am I Doing in New Jersey?. This was the very first time I ever heard your material, and I remember it well. We would laugh each time you'd say "damn" or "shit", and memorize our favorite lines to say when our parents weren't around.
Skipping ahead to my teen years...
I found myself buying that old cassette I remembered so well. I gradually picked up more albums and became a fan. My high school life was abysmal enough with all the shit I was trying to process in my head. I was in a very bad place for a long time, and each day I found myself questioning the point of life. Yet, I always had your tapes to help me laugh whenever I needed to... and trust me, I needed to.
To make a long story short, you helped me through many difficult times. You taught me many things in the process, like how to laugh at life and to not take everything so seriously. You made me want to be an intellectual. You made me want to be funny. You made me question the world and everything we bullshit ourselves into believing. Most of all, you taught me to think for myself. I like to think that you freed my mind. And for this, I'm writing to say thank you.
As I said before, I'm twenty-five now. Life is much better for me. I'm confident in my many opinions and outlooks (which I never had any of before). I've become an intellectual, an observer, a thinker, and a dreamer. I owe this all to you, as I cringe to think how I would have been had I not had you in my life in some form. People have told me that they think I'm the funniest person they know, perhaps due to my sophisticated approach to comedy, as well as the random goofiness I love to amuse myself with, both of which I learned from you. I even had the opportunity a couple years ago to catch you in Vegas! I had moved down there for a couple months trying to find a decent job. Then I heard you were going to be at MGM soon and knew I had to go. At that time, I was almost broke but bought my ticket anyway. I never thought twice about the money and would have paid twice that in an instant. I ended up sitting center-stage, pretty close, for the first night you were there. I showed up early and even happened to be the first one in line that night. Needless to say, the show was amazing, and to this day I've never laughed so hard, or for so long, in my life. And though I'm near Seattle right now, I plan on flying down to Vegas to catch you again sometime. I'd love to buy you a drink or something and thank you in person, but that's not likely to happen so I'm trying not to bullshit myself too much.
To sum this up,
[Holy shit... five pages!]
...you're the reason I've turned out to be who I am now. I can't honestly say I have any idols, but I do have certain people I respect and admire immensely. You are at the top of that list for many reasons, and you've inspired me more than anyone ever has. Often I'll be contemplating some random event and I'll catch myself thinking in classic Carlin style... that's when I know I'm on the right track. I also share your outlook on people when you say you love individuals but despise groups. I'm the same way. And this world could really use more individuals like you.
So... thank you so much for taking the time to read this, Mr. Carlin. And from one individual to another, thank you for everything. I'll never forget it!
--- Ryan Bollman
P.S. I've always enjoyed the fact that you played Rufus in the Bill & Ted movies I love. They've always been favorites... and I'm not just kissing your ass.
(I have to mention that I had the opportunity to see you perform for a second time here in Seattle last year. I believe I may have laughed even harder.)
Farewell, George. You will be sorely missed, especially by me. Although I never had the opportunity to meet you, I still always felt I knew you somehow. You taught me so much, and I thought of you as somewhat of a mentor; like I was some kind of distant apprentice. It won't be the same without you, but we will find our way. You may now be gone, but your material and your spirit will shine on for many generations to come. Rest well.