The world is filled with snarky assholes. I've been one myself on several occasions. And sarcasm. There's so much sarcasm around these days that sometimes it's hard to believe anybody is capable of being sincere anymore.
Huell Howser was not a snarky asshole. And as far as I could tell, Huell Howser didn't have a sarcastic bone in his body. How else could he get that excited about apple cider or a quilt or an old wooden floor? What else could explain how he could, without irony, beckon his faithful cameraman Louie to get a shot of some small detail the rest of us wouldn't notice with the same enthusiasm most people save for the discovery of a one hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk?
Huell Howser was our friend. The friend who makes us laugh, many times unintentionally. The friend who always seems to be more awake and in a much better mood than the rest of us. The friend who pushes us to do things we don't think we'll like which we then end up enjoying very much. The friend who always knows how to cheer us up.
Sometimes we worried about him, like the time he went to the kitty litter factory and enthusiastically asked each of the tough guys working there if they owned a cat. Sometimes we braced ourselves for the possibility that his upbeat energy might rub someone the wrong way and we'd have to watch that person be mean to him. But they never were mean to him. What kind of monster could be?
I loved to see the world through Huell's eyes. I sincerely think that colors were brighter to him, that the air was sweeter to him, that flavors were tastier to him. I cared about what he cared about. I liked the people he liked. I marveled at what he marveled at. For the countless half hours I spent with him, his interests were my interests. I was so happy to see him each time and I was always a bit sad when our visits would end. But I always knew he'd be back again to show me something else I never in my life thought I'd invest thirty minutes enjoying.
In the end, it was always his reaction to it all that mattered the most. It was his joy, his pure unadulterated giddiness at everything he came in contact with that made me love him. And the lesson I always learned was that I couldn't ever lose that part of myself, that childlike side that could thrill at all it saw and all it discovered. Huell saved me from becoming too cynical, too jaded and too old. He reminded me to appreciate things, no matter how small, and made me want to treat every stranger I met like a friend I simply didn't yet know.
The world needs more Huell Howsers, and while we pray more show up, we'll always miss and never forget the Huell Howser we were all so very, very lucky to have had, for however much too short of a time he was here.