Tag Archives: Tom Robbins

Truth # 2 – The Devil

“A tale that begins with a beet must end with the devil,” Tom Robbins tells us in the beginning of Jitterbug Perfume (one of the best books ever written in the English language). “The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious. Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets. The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip… The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies… A tale that begins with a beet must end with the devil.”  

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The truth is, I’ve kissed a few devils, and in my experience they do seem to share some similarities with beets.  A beet appears ordinary at a glance, but beneath the surface lies something that can stain anything it touches. Beets are often served in their own cloyingly sweet cooked syrup , and true to life the more popularly palatable way to serve them diminishes their beneficial qualities. Finally, beets have their selling points: apart from their obvious intensity, they’re also good for us on some levels

 

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While I could go on comparing the natures of various devils, it seems to me that there are greater evils that lurk in our relationships with beings of all kinds: comparison and expectation.

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” we hear again and again. It’s true.  Comparison is closely related to expectation; we categorize both produce and people so that we know what we’re likely to see from them. Comparisons are useful in many ways – there’s a reason they happen – but they’re also very limiting. Expecting someone you’ve just met to behave like someone you’ve met before means that odds are good you’re not seeing them for who they really are: themselves.

My resolution for 2014 is to learn to see people as individuals instead of holding them up to others and trying to anticipate their next move. Less forest, more trees. The twin to this resolution is to decrease the amount of insight I expect others to have on any comparative basis (which is to say, pretty much all of it). This will free me up to believe in people a little bit more – to give people the benefit of the doubt – to hope for great things from them. Here’s to 2014.

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Random things from the interwebs:


Truth # 1 – There is No Time.

My mother always told me, “Life is what you make of it.” She’s right. Life is a blank canvas, waiting for you to paint, sketch, or write what you want on it; if you don’t, if you lead a passive consumer life, you’ll be about as satisfied as you are when you buy That Thing featured in all the commercials – which is to say, not very – and no one will take your complaints seriously. I used to live a life that my ex called “following the path of least resistance.” I allowed life to happen willy-nilly, and I adapted accordingly, because I had no real concept of what sort of life I wanted to create. I had time, I thought, to figure it out; I was willing to spend my twenties in a haze of passivity. That passivity ultimately ended up in motherhood, marriage, divorce, and lots of permanent scars and craters in the landscape of my life. Some of the happenings were fantastically good (My son is amazing, for instance.), but if I’d taken a more direct approach to decision-making, if I’d formulated some sort of a game plan for life, my life would definitely look much different than it does, now. It doesn’t, and that’s that – but I’d like to encourage you to take control of the time that you have, because you aren’t guaranteed a later. To quote a dear friend of mine that is not on the blogosphere:

 “your world, your life is yours to shape.  the universe hands you a hammer with which you can tap or you can bang on your life as you see fit to make it the way you want it.  but when you stop doing, when you wallow and mope and allow all the crud to bury your will, you flip that hammer around and offer the handle to whomever is out there.  and when that happens, more often than not, some bastard is going to grab hold and just whack away and dent you all to hell.  but even if you are lucky and some kind person takes possession, their well meaning taps inevitably also do damage — for they do not know what shape you really need and want your life to be.”

Even if you don’t know what you want, your best guess is better than anyone else’s- because it’s yours and this is your life. So, here’s the truth: you don’t have time to goof around with. Time is an illusion. You have this moment, right here- the present. You can spend it any way that you choose, but there’s no such thing as “buying time,” and this moment is irreplaceable.

“Hey man, d’you wanna buy a watch?”

“Hey no, man. Like, I’m not into time, man.”

– Tommy Chong (this is one of my earliest movie memories – thanks, Dad)

You’re better off making it up as you go along than allowing anyone else to do so. Even the most well-intentioned ‘other’ is going to have ulterior motives, good or not. During the above-mentioned passive haze of my 20s, I stumbled into a Barnes & Noble with one of my best girlfriends, and while I was scanning the shelves for Wayne Dyer books I saw this: pronoia The cover is attention-grabbing, so I picked it up and flipped it over. Imagine my surprise when I read this:

“I have seen the future of American literature and its name is Rob Brezsny.” – Tom Robbins

(Tom Robbins is my favorite author. His books are the Bible of my life, and I first encountered his work on the shelves of a thrift store- Jitterbug Perfume was the most satisfying novel I’d ever read, and it only cost me fifty cents.) I didn’t buy the book. I waited, but when I went back later it was gone. I scanned bookstore shelves for it constantly, over and over, everywhere I went. Finally, nearly two years later, I found the book in a different bookstore in a different city while shopping with the same friend. And I bought it then.

From the cover:

Human beings are selfish, small-minded, violence-prone savages, civilization is a blight on the earth, and the rising tide of chaos ensures that everything’s going to fall apart any day now. Right?

Wrong, says Rob Brezsny. In fact, evil is boring. Cynicism is stupid. Despair is lazy. The truth is that the universe is inherently friendly. Life is a sublime game created for our amusement and illumination, and it always gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

This book causes enlightened introspection, spontaneous optimism, and careful evaluation of your intentions – all in a flippant, artistic, playful manner. It’s the sort of book you might color in, underline, and write in the margins of. It is, in short, a guidebook to life. I still have two more entries inspired by this book, but for now, I’ll close with snippets of interest from the interwebs:

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Stay tuned for more Pronoia and an update on my word count for NaNoWriMo.


Deliriously Delicious Life

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You probably haven’t missed me, but if you have, you probably already know where I’ve been. If you don’t, here goes: I just got through a disgustingly expensive and time-consuming court ‘battle’ (that word came up repeatedly) over my son. This isn’t a blog where I talk about him, usually, but I figure I have to make some sort of excuse for disappearing. So that’s it. That’s my reason. I’ve had full custody since 2009, when I divorced his father; last year, I started homeschooling because my child was doing abysmally in school, and I rented a second home in his father’s neighborhood so he and the family could help me with the kiddo’s needs. That not only didn’t pan out, they ended up suing for full custody – and they lost, even though I ultimately went to court Pro se (meaning I represented myself).  He still has no custody, and he’s got a visitation arrangement that is actually less visitation than he had last year, but it cost both of us scads of money and it gave me several new gray hairs, and at one point the ex actually intended to use my blog about Loose Girl against me somehow (how?!). His family spammed my fundraising page and my friend’s blogs. His attorney made a huge issue in court about my anti-abuse pages I ‘liked’ on Facebook. And so on and so forth. There are lessons to be learned from this if you have the time or inclination (Marriage is generally a high-risk, low-reward thing, distance from exes is ALWAYS good, and if you have full custody, you have it for a reason so for Pete’s sake steer clear of asking the other parent to ‘help’ if you aren’t sure that their help will actually be helpful, etc.)  – but the biggest lesson is that if you have something to say, someone or several someones out there in the world will try to stop you from saying it. And when that happens, you have to make a choice. Your expression is your light; it is yourself. And you have to choose whether or not to let yourself be silenced, or whether to keep speaking out.

I choose to keep writing. I’m not ashamed of speaking out against abuse, writing about sexuality, or loving literature. The only thing in this  entire blog I’m ashamed of is that I have to confess to having married the sort of person I married in the first place – but life is a process, and I’ve moved on. Now that the mess is over for now, there’s a bit of PTSD, but everything is sweeter, everything is more open, and resuming real life is pretty awesome. So I can get back to the business of blogging, because I’m not ashamed of anything I have to say.

To quote Brian in Vanilla Sky, “It’s the sour and the sweet. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”

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The thing that buoyed me up during court is my personal philosophy: Pronoia. What is Pronoia, you ask? John Perry Barlow (yes, the guy that wrote for the Grateful Dead) defined it as “the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf.” Ages ago, I ran across a Rob Brezsny book in a Barnes & Noble while looking for a new Wayne Dyer tome. The unique cover attracted me ,and when I turned the book over, I noticed an endorsement by Tom Robbins (the best writer under the moon). The book was:

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

And it completely changed my life.

How? That’s the stuff of my next blog. Instead of delving into details, I’ll leave you with a remarkable quote from the book:

“Fairy tales tell of a magic cauldron that cracks apart when a lie is told by the people standing near it. There is one way to restore the pot to wholeness: Speak three great truths in its vicinity.” In my next entries, I will speak my truths.


Tom Robbins is a genius.

I can’t sleep. I’m haunted by the ghosts of Christmases past and the idea of a chrysanthemum seed. To commemorate the occasion, I present to you the poem Incognito, by Tom Robbins.

Meet me in Cognito, baby.
In Cognito we’ll have nothing to hide.
Let’s go incognito, honey,
And let the world believe that we’ve died.

Meet me in Cognito, baby,
Of course we’ll have to color our hair.
The best thing about life in Cognito
Is that everybody’s nobody there.

Meet me in Cognito, darling,
Sure, some may think that it’s rash,
But you’ll look chic incognito
With your fake nose and Groucho mustache.

Meet me in Cognito, baby,
We’ll soon leave our pasts behind us.
The present is always a mystery,
As the future never fails to remind us.

Once we’re alone in Cognito,
We’ll remove all of our clothes very fast,
But though we be naked as jaybirds,
At no time will we take off our masks.

Cinderella went incognito,
And it’s said that she had a ball.
It’s always midnight in Cognito
By the black clock at the end of the hall.

We’re destined to be clandestine,
Incognito is our very last hope.
I’ll meet you where the sun don’t shine,
With a fake I.D. and some dope.

So do join me in Cognito,
You know that I’ll never tell.
We’ll sneak in the back door of Heaven
And stroll unnoticed through Hell.

Incognito
Incognito
There, every day’s a surprise.
Incognito
Incognito
Where truth tells all the best lies.

(Those who travel in Cognito
-Their very lives can depend on a hunch.
They eat intuition for breakfast
And sip cold paranoia at lunch.)

If you won’t meet me in Cognito,
Baby, I’m apt to go out of my head.
But if you really can’t handle incognito
Meet me in Absentia, instead.

The One Who Is Missing is missing,
He can’t run but He certainly can hide.
His ghost car is parked in Cognito,
Do you think He might give us a ride?

You play the game incognito,
You risk paying a very stiff price.
You’ll bet the ranch on Number 13,
Though that number is not on the dice.

No news is good news in Cognito,
Addresses are damn hard to find.
The queen of spades runs the mailroom
And all the postmen are legally blind.

Just because you’re naked
Doesn’t mean you’re sexy,
Just because you’re cynical
Doesn’t mean you’re cool.
You may tell the greatest lies
And wear a brilliant disguise
But you can’t escape the eyes
Of the one who sees right through you.

In the end what will prevail
Is your passion not your tale,
For love is the Holy Grail,
Even in Cognito.

So better listen to me, sister,
And pay close attention, mister:
It’s very good to play the game,
Amuse the gods, avoid the pain,
But don’t trust fortune, don’t trust fame,
Your real self doesn’t know your name
And in that we’re all the same:
We’re all incognito.


Terry Pratchett Rocks

A few years ago, I happened into my favorite independently owned and operated local bookstore, and found an amazing gem of a book.

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I wasn’t at all familiar with Terry Pratchett, though I had a tentative love for Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is clever and entertaining, but I personally don’t find him very funny.  I was enchanted with the intelligent humor in Good Omens, which is sort of a parody of The Screwtape Letters ( incidentally,  Screwtape is my least favorite C. S. Lewis book ever). Satirizing satire is always fun, and the conclusions these two authors managed to make had me deliriously giddy with delight.

From the first chapter (Thanks, Harper Collins!):

Current theories on the creation of the Universe state that, if it was created at all and didn’t just start, as it were, unofficially, it came into being between ten and twenty thousand million years ago. By the same token the earth itself is generally supposed to be about four and a half thousand million years old.

These dates are incorrect.

Medieval Jewish scholars put the date of the Creation at 3760 B.C. Greek Orthodox theologians put Creation as far back as 5508 B.C.

These suggestions are also incorrect.

Archbishop James Usher (1580–1656) published Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti in 1654, which suggested that the Heaven and the Earth were created in 4004 B.C. One of his aides took the calculation further, and was able to announce triumphantly that the Earth was created on Sunday the 21st of October, 4004 B.C., at exactly 9:00 A.M., because God liked to get work done early in the morning while he was feeling fresh.

This too was incorrect. By almost a quarter of an hour.

The whole business with the fossilized dinosaur skeletons was a joke the paleontologists haven’t seen yet.

This proves two things:

Firstly, that God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players,* to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infi nite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

Secondly, the Earth’s a Libra.

You can see where I might get a little excited about this book off the bat. If you can’t… why are you reading my blog, anyway?

Fast forward a year or so, when I was back to full-time Tom Robbins love, and happened to start seeing a serious Terry Pratchett fan. A fan that owns every Discworld novel ever, and had them stacked up awkwardly all over his house.  At the time, I was something of a genre snob. “I don’t usually read fantasy,” I’d sneer. “It’s full of unicorn-laden glades and heaving-bosomed run-ons, and none if it is punctuated properly…”  But I made an exception for the man that co-wrote Good Omens, when my boyfriend gifted me with a copy of Going Postal.

Terry Pratchett is so wonderful that he even makes up great words, like gevaisa (“tomb of living words”). And Going Postal was seriously awesome for a plethora of other reasons, too.  So I read Wyrd Sisters and Equal Rites and a few more. And then, last night, I stayed up all night long and read Sourcery on my Fire, because it’s back-lit so I can read when I have insomnia but am too lazy to be bothered with lights. It was groovy, too. But a smart thing to do is not read Terry Pratchett novels when you have insomnia, because they make you want to stay up to see what happens next. So don’t do that unless you plan on staying up until you finish the novel.

When you do, there are plenty more of them waiting.


B is for Beer

B is for Beer is one of the only books I’ve ever pre-ordered on Amazon. I read it and kind of shrugged- it’s the only Tom Robbins novel I’ve ever read that didn’t totally send me. So here’s what was missing: a kid. I stuffed it onto a top shelf in my son’s room, waiting for him to be old enough to be curious about beer, and a couple of weeks ago I took it down in a fit of desperation when he firmly refused to hear any more of The Neverending Story (“It’s too boring!”), fully expecting him to tire of it equally fast. He didn’t. We read the first chapter and he listened raptly and had a miniature conniption when I tried to set the book down. He worked me for another six chapters the first night- and kept begging for more. Instead of being bored by Tom Robbins’ pontifications, he was fascinated.

This “Childen’s Book for Grown-ups/Grown-up Book for Children” isn’t misrepresented in the least. The stage is set for a very educational lesson about beer’s history, creation and composition when five-year-old Gracie Perkel begins an inquiry on the subject. “Have you ever wondered why your daddy likes beer so much? Have you wondered, before you fall asleep at night, why he sometimes acts kind of “funny” after he’s been drinking beer? Maybe you’ve even wondered where beer comes from, because you’re pretty sure it isn’t from a cow. Well, Gracie Perkel wondered those same things.” And so it begins. Mommy’s of little help in understanding it, so she asks her father himself, and then dear old Uncle Moe Babbano steps in to enlighten her on the subject. Finally, after a couple of minor setbacks on her quest to understand this adult favorite, the Beer Fairy comes and whisks Gracie off through “the Seam,” to visit a barley field, a brewery, a festival, and see firsthand both the good and bad results of beer, wrapping it all up neatly with a firm emphasis on drinking responsibly- and only when you become of age.

Robbins’ take on the taboo subject of beer for children follows: Children see beer commercials every time they watch a sporting event on TV. In the supermarket, they pass shelves and coolers overflowing with the stuff. Neon beer signs wink at them as they’re driven to school, to church or the mall. And, if their own parents and older siblings aren’t enjoying beer, then the parents and siblings of their friends surely are. Kids are constantly exposed to beer, it’s everywhere; yet, aside from wagging a warning finger and growling — true enough as far as it goes — “Beer is for grownups,” how many parents actually engage their youngsters on the subject? As a topic for detailed family discussion, it’s generally as taboo as sex. It’s a kind of largely unpremeditated side-stepping, and part of the reason is that most parents are themselves uninformed. Even if mommy and daddy have more than a clue about beer’s ingredients and how it’s brewed, they know nothing of its history, let alone the rich psychological, philosophical, and mythic associations bubbling beneath the surface of its wide appeal.(From Amazon.) This book would be an excellent read for any child that has a beer-drinking parent (or grandpa), especially if they read the book together. My five-year-old was fascinated until the end, and it opened the door for us to have a lot of meaningful and enlightening conversations that we might not have had for years.