There were about three hours today when I mistakenly believed Tom Robbins was going to be hosting a 3-day writing seminar in New York at the very time I am going to be there in March. Registration is open until Tuesday.
My friend Bindi, who is coming with me, sent me an email with this brief info in the subject line. I don’t think Bindi realises just how much of a Tom Robbins fan I am. Or just how my heart was set aflutter at the mere thought of being coached by my favourite author of all time.
I was 19 or 20 when I first read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and I was convinced Robbins must have been following me around. I considered myself the ultimate passenger and hitchhiked up and down the east coast of the USofA in the mid to late seventies. The people I met were an awful lot like the people in Cowgirls, right down to the Chink – who didn’t live in a cave but was a crazy dragon lady named Mrs Lew who let me waitress part time in her Chinese restaurant. My best friend and I fancied ourselves the real-life Cissy and Bonanza Jellybean – me being Cissy and she Jelly because she went horseback riding every weekend we weren’t off on a mad jaunt. One of my favourite memories is the two of us sitting on the bare metal floor in the back of an old Ford pickup truck, leaned up against each other, drinking cans of Schlitz and rereading Cowgirls. We knew right then we were having a ‘moment.’
By 1980 life had changed and I found myself married with a baby daughter. It was a strange new world, all topsy turvy – nothing the way it used to be or the way I planned it to be or even how I thought it should be. Mr Robbins saved my soul with Still Life with Woodpecker, a fairy tale about a princess, Leigh-Cheri, who falls in love with a bomber, Mickey Bernard Wrangle aka The Woodpecker. When Mickey went to jail, Leigh-Cheri locked herself in the attic (with a maidservant to bring her meals.) It was a strange analogy for post-partum depression, but it worked for me. And made me laugh.
Robbins got a bit more serious and literary with his next two outings, Jitterbug Perfume and Skinny Legs and All. I was very busy being a productive grownup, had another baby girl and Robbins’ quote, “I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred,” was a the kind of reminder I needed every so often. I also found myself aching for the freedom of Boomer Petway’s Airstream turkey from Skinny Legs. I wrote a novel. Sadly, it was nothing like a Tom Robbins’ novel.
1994 was a watershed year. I moved to New Zealand and Tom Robbins gave me Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. I’ve never quite gotten the connection between the two – I guess we weren’t always in sync. Although – it was a year of isolation and loneliness and there was more than a bit of that in there. I just didn’t relate to Gwen, the heroine, though I surely would just a few years later.
Things got a bit more interesting when the internet arrived. I joined a Tom Robbins discussion group – and four years later, ended up marrying the man of my dreams, a scalliwag bearing more than a passing resemblence, at least psychologically to that old Woodpecker. Robbins’ wedding present to us was Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. A friend got him to sign a copy. We were chuffed!
Now I’m ashamed to say that neither of us have ever sent Tom Robbins so much as post card. We had a couple of fan reunions in Maine and considered inviting him – after all we’re his biggest fans – but there was something a little too Misery about it – I really didn’t want Robbins taking me for a Kathy Bates wannabe. So we were gobsmacked when Villa Incognito came out in 2003 and one of the lead characters’ surname is Stubblefield, which happens to be my husband’s rather unusual surname. And the description was so accurate and the behaviours… Well, I’m back to thinking Tom Robbins is following us around.
And that pretty much takes us up to this morning’s email…
It turns out it is a 3-day seminar given by Tony Robbins. Tony, not Tom. Sigh, I feel so deflated, so flat. Kind of sad. Lost something I never had… Perhaps I should send Tom a postcard and just say, “thanks.”