Tom Robbins is best read by accident. Maybe accident is the wrong word – chance or fate maybe. But Tom Robbins is best read when found. Come across. Stumbled upon. Sat on or adventured by. It is the book that you give to your friend knowing that it will never come home again. It will hitch hike around the globe a few times first. And then, when you least expect it it will find you. Torn, worn and hungry for attention.
I have read “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” a few times. The first time was in a bus, full of my church friends bound for the mountainous beauty of Colorado. (sing his praise!) It wasn’t my first time around the block with Mr. Robbins, and certainly wouldn’t be my last, but indeed would be one of my most pleasurable. I sat there on one of those bench seats that old vans had, reading about a girl named Sissy who had enormous thumbs, amazing sex and the most diverse group of friends since the Muppets. The bible verses and rousing choruses of “in His Name” did nothing to detract or distract me from my true path. Greater freedom of movement. I must have been fifteen or sixteen, but I knew that I wanted to be the kind of writer that Tom Robbins was. Is. I will never forget the first line of that book.
“Amoebae leave no fossils.”
So here I am back in Prague, Zizkov to be exact. Zizkov is a neighborhood of decaying buildings, expats, Czech punks, old ladies peeking through lace curtains, up and comings, dens of gypsies rummaging for answers in the trash bins outside of the bar, dogs, babies, Kafka’s resting place and beer soaked night life. It is contagious. Its the kind of place Tom Waits would sing about, the kind of place Brittney Spears would be scared to ask to be Hit One More Time.
My room above the bar, once occupied by a friend named Big Rock, has no heat. It has one working light. And two candles. At night I can hear the drunk Americans and Germans leaving the bar, calling to each other in a drunken whisper otherwise known as shouting. I can’t get mad or complain because I am pretty sure that I have been guilty of the same offense. I can hear the 9 tram down the street. I hear the lady across the street hacking up a lung and the sound of the dogs leaving the building for their nightly walk. The music of Zizkov breaks my heart. I am home.
Of the scattered souvenirs left by Big Rock, I am most glad to have found a well tattered and cover-less copy of “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”. It was as if the universe was saying to me “Hey Alicia. In case you had any second thoughts, you are home. You belong here. Read me again if you don’t believe me.” So, as you are supposed to do when the universe opens up its big, gaped tooth mouth, I listened. I began to read “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” again. And again while sitting aboard a moving vehicle. I read that first line again on the 5 tram headed to the Flora Mall and smiled bigger than I have in months. I felt my soul fill up with happy and my spirit lighten.
I spent two months in Mexico searching for a hint of magic. That’s all we are really looking for. When you strip away the Ikea furniture, Gap baby clothes, soy latte’s, presidential campaigns, weddings, funerals, marathons, designer water and talk shows all that you have left, if you are lucky, is a life that is fueled by magic. Just as diesel trucks are run on doughnut grease. It’s weird, but it works. In Mexico all I found was a plague of crickets, frustration, beautiful sunsets, skin melting heat, one sand castle and some cute little kids. But no magic.
I suppose that my choices, my life style is viewed by some as immature and as some sort of avoidance of responsibility. It is unconventional by US standards, but that is as far as I will let anyone get away with. To assume that I am immature is to assume that maturity is something that i am striving for. I am not. I am happy to be almost 35 years old and still have a nice set of crayons and color books that house their waxy secretions. I am glad to live a life that is changing every day, a life that is lemonaide and strange accents. A life that is full of surprises and mistakes. A life full of magic.
There is a quote in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” that fits me right now. Page 14, midway down.
“…(Yes, they grew even as millions of young Americans under social pressure and upon the instruction of their elders, struggled to cease growing; which is to say, struggled to “grow up”, an excruciatingly difficult goal since it runs contrary to the most central laws of nature – the laws of change and renewal – yet a goal miraculously attained by everyone in our culture except for a few misfits.)”
I wanna be a misfit.
GREATER FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT.