Robyn's Perch

Monday, May 29, 2006


I cannot talk about my life without first talking about fear. Most of my life has been consumed by fear. I was afraid of everything.

I'm not talking about the little fears of my life, though those are a good starting point.

I was afraid of being physically hurt.

I was too afraid of crashing to learn to ride a bicycle. Later I was too afraid to drive a car for the same reason.

Even though I was good at baseball when I was a young, I was afraid of being hit by the ball.

I was even afraid that people would find out how afraid I was as a child.

I was afraid of handling money.

I was so afraid of failing that often I wouldn't even try.

I was afraid of making mistakes.

I was afraid about what people would think or say about me.

I was afraid of being rejected.

I was afraid of being alone.

Most importantly, I was afraid that people would find out who and what I was.

And this last fear was paralyzing . . . not just something that made me uneasy or embarrassed or whatever it is that other people may feel when they think they are afraid. It was total . . . abject . . . blinding . . . brain numbing . . . feel like you need to vomit . . . rip your heart out . . . capital . . . F . . . E . . . A . . . R . . . fear.

What other force can so dominate a person as to make them pretend to be someone they are not just to survive? What else can make a person wait until she is 44 years old before she can step out into the light of day and actually begin to enjoy life?

Fear is the hardest foe. It can make us constantly reexamine every possible ramification of every possible event until we make no decisions whatsoever, caught in it's awful grip, carried on by a river of a circumstances over which we exert no control, turning the paths of our lives into quagmires from which there seem to be no escape, into mazes that we wander aimlessly, endlessly.

Then one day there comes a point when in order to survive, we have to face the fear, stand up to it and spit in its eye and say, "I want to live." And do it...slowly and tentatively at first, to be sure, but soon we can learn to embrace life, to clutch it strongly to our souls, to learn to shout at the top of our minds, if not our lungs, "I AM NOT AFRAID! THIS IS MY LIFE AND IT IS WORTH AS MUCH AS ANYONE ELSE'S AND WORTH MORE THAN MOST! AND I AM GOING TO LIVE IT AS I DAMN WELL PLEASE!"

And that is a start. That is the moment of Courage . . . the time when we start to live by our own rules rather than for other people's convenience. And that point is when we become true homo sapiens . . . thinking people . . . real people . . . people with a contribution to make in weaving the fabric of the world.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Winter

As much as Americans like to proclaim this as the Land o' the Free, the home of Liberty R Us, it is simply hype for the most part.

Story time:

Robyn and Tom Vines are hitchhiking across the country in the Great Winter Freeze of 1967‑8. Not knowing that the freeze was coming, our hero and heroine (to be...I was living as a guy then) went with a friend from SF to Seattle for some fool reason. The "friend" turned out to be a car thief, stole a car in Portland and drove us all to Seattle from there.

The freeze hits a couple of weeks after T and R arrive in Seattle, so they say to each other, "Hey, we gotta split." So they go to SF, but it's snowing. "Ewwww!" they say and keep on hitching southward.

Snow in Pasadena.

Snow in Long Beach.

Snow in San Diego. They spend a day trying to hitch a ride in El Cajon...finally get a lift to what they were told would be a better place at the next exit, but the road is really a big loop and after driving 2 or 3 miles, they are a half‑mile from where they started. They spend another half day before escaping the black hole of El Cajon.

Snow in Arizona. The national guard is airlifting food to the Indian Reservations.

Snow in New Mexico. Cattle are freezing to death.

We arrive in El Paso on New Year's Eve. The guy we got a ride from buys us a big bottle of bourbon to celebrate with. We buy some bananas and Wonder Bread to nourish ourselves (cheap, with all the necessary vitamins and minerals). The cops think we are sitting a little too close to the boarder (we are leaning against the fence as we eat) and run us out of town, but say no hitchhiking, so they put us on a freight train bound for Corpus Christi. Cold night, so we drink the Bourbon. Memories of being held by the collar while leaning out the door of the car and puking while the train is moving 80 mph. Oh, so cold. We build a small a wooden railway car...oh, there is no such thing as a "small" fire in a railway car. Memories of pissing on the fire to put it out. Train turns out to be going to Tyler, not Corpus Christi.

Snow in Tyler.

Ice in Houston.

We head for the Big Hurt, but fall asleep and the moron giving us the ride takes us all the way to Mobile, runs out of gas, and demands that we pay for some. We tell him where he can stick it, then have to walk miles to the other side of Mobile Bay.

A cop near Pensacola stops us and demands to see our papers. We say, "Papers? This is America! We don' need no steenkin' papers!" Cop is unmoved. We show our stinkin' papers.

Panama City is our next goal, but again we fall asleep and wake up the next day in the middle of the Everglades while our ride tries to sell us as migrant laborers. We split fast.

We end up in Miami, living in a whore house across the street from where they make "Hava Tampa Jewels" cigars, working in a car wash in Coral Gables.

Coldest winter on record in Miami.

We make enough money to get camping gear and head for Mexico.

Somewhere in Louisiana, we get out of a car at a bus station and think we will sit down there and rest before walking over this big ass bridge. Louisiana cop takes offense. Asks to see our papers. To which we reply, "Papers? This is America! We don' need no steenkin' papers!" Cop is unswerved. I show my papers. Tom shows his US passport. Cop asks Tom for some other kind of ID. Tom, being the smartass that he is, says, "I don't need no other kind of ID." Cop is unswerved. We are taken to the stationhouse, arrested for vagrancy. We sit there for two hours while the cop checks the surrounding states for wants and warrants. Sherrif arrives. Asks what the hell we are in there for. We try to tell him about the "steenkin' papers" but it dissolves into a rendition of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant." Sherrif asks the cop if we have been booked yet. We are asked to remove everything from our pockets, where they discover that between the two of us we have over $700. So much for the vagrancy charge. We are released after the wants and warrants search comes up empty.

From there is was on to Mexico. I'll complete the story some other time.

Ah! Freedom!

Gotta love it.