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Breitbart’s Last Laugh

10:44 PM, Mar 1, 2012 • By MATT LABASH
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As we took our seats on the plane out of Chicago, Andrew was a row behind me. This I counted a blessing, thinking I could get some much-needed work-related reading done. But no such luck. Andrew asked his fellow row-mate, “Would you switch seats with him, so I can talk to him?” Andrew often seemed like he just wanted someone to talk to.

And so we did, for hours. We talked about his kids, whom he was crazy about. And we talked about one of his favorite films, Grandma’s Boy, about a slacker video game tester forced to move in with his grandmother. We talked about his sterling academic credentials (he pulled a solid 2.0 at Tulane, the New Orleans party school), and at his good fortune in finding his way in the world, even if finances were sometimes tight.

We talked about aging, as two middle-aged guys who get into the Bloody Mary cart at 11 in the morning sometimes will. I told Andrew that his good friend, Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, had a hit song called “100 Years” – about aging – that never ceases to freak me out. The protagonist of the song describes the different ages of his life – 15, 33, 45, and so on – that tick by in a blink. It doesn’t help, I told Andrew, that I was 33 when the song seemingly came out yesterday, but that I am closer to 45 now, thus illustrating Ondrasik’s point.

In a very rare spell of silence, Breitbart stewed for several minutes. Then, he wistfully replied, “Don’t worry, man. It’s something that bothers me, too. But I have it all figured out. We all need to go to work together every day from 9 am to 3 pm, whether we need to or not. In a classroom. We’ll even sit at those peninsula-shaped desks, with our pencil sharpeners and Elmer’s glue. And we’ll do it for nine months out of every year.”

“Why on earth?” I asked, puzzled.

“Because,” he said. “When we were in school, that was the last time we watched the clock, and wanted it to hurry up. The last time it took too long to get to the next thing.”

As we parted company at baggage claim, Andrew was still talking (as always) about how we needed to meet for drinks, about his next caper, about a proposed Grandma’s Boy viewing party. Neither of us knew that the time we were just speaking of was in shorter supply for him than for the rest of us. Makes me wish we were sitting at our peninsula-desks, stalling the clock.

Several years ago, when Breitbart was in the middle of one skirmish or another – I don’t even remember which one – I told him that I didn’t know whether I should encourage him, but that he made me laugh, as always. I asked him when someone finally shot him, “Can I read a poem at your memorial service? ”

“I think I should stop,” he admitted of his latest caper. “But it’s so fun and the hate mail is something to behold….And of course you can read my favorite poem, William Carlos Williams’s ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ at my wake.” Well my friend, you mercifully didn’t get shot. But here you go anyway:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

I’ve never had any idea what the hell that poem means. And I suspect that neither Breitbart, nor William Carlos Williams, had a clue either. But it doesn’t matter. As Andrew held, sometimes absurdity is worth it for its own sake. And as he once wrote to me, “I hope people see that I’m dead serious about what I’m dead serious about, and besides that, it’s all about a good laugh.”

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