“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” ― Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker
‘Oh what a night’ to quote the Jersey Boys-
Writer and raconteur Tom Robbins did not disappoint when he read from his not-an autobiography “Tibetan Peach Pie”, answered questions and gave advice last Thursday. The reading started just after six, and when we arrived a few minute early the bookstore was already brimming with Diesel staff and regulars milling and filling the chairs that flanked and filled the courtyard. From this vantage point we had a view not only of the author, but of the Santa Monica mountains turning golden-sandy-pink in the lazily setting june light.
I love Malibu. It lacks all of Brentwood’s pretension….The full house that gathered at the Country Mart Thursday night was a friendly, relaxed, mixture of older and younger, local and those who had traveled from other post codes, as well as the odd celebrity out of rehab sitting off to the side and under dark glasses. What we all had in common-a sense of awe and shared a passion for the uniquely beautiful sentences Robbins constructs from nothing more than his full tilt imagination.
The zen, literary, trickster now in his 83rd year is still very much his own man although he readily admitted to being tired. “I’ve been on tour since May 24th”, he explained as he stood tall, bantering playfully, candidly and sagely about everything from being visited by the FBI to his first experience with LSD. It was this experience that opened his eyes and his mind and launched him out of the south and into the larger world.
With an accent that he feared made “lil abner sound erudite”, he moved to New York City, and said wasn’t sure that he would have become the writer he is if he’d gone to San Fran and landed in the Haight in the height of the psychedelic scene instead. There though he met, and hung out with Alan Ginsberg and other ‘beats’, he found inspiration not in the Village scene but in front of the wild mind paint splattered canvases of Jackson Pollock and others of that era.
I think many in the packed house were also surprised but not shocked to learn he last took LSD about 8 years ago at the age of 75. He called it “a refresher course”, and added that he didn’t understand those who took the drug repeatedly or used it as a party drug. And said his experiences with the drug “were part of my spiritual path”. He also politely refused the offer put forth by a pixy-ish looking audience member who may or may not have been under the influence to “get [him] some “great shit”. Along with attention, this drew a few reproving glances and snickers from the audience. To me it only added to the counter-culture, mystical, sideshow, southern, storytelling, spell that Tom Robbins and his imagination (which he likened to a thermostat permanently set on high) cast a week ago at Diesel, my favorite independent bookstore in Malibu.
Tom’s advice for young writers: and in my opinion for all writers:
- Write every day. Even if it is just for 20 minutes in your journal.
- Waiting around for inspiration to strike is for amateurs.
- Don’t worry about getting published, worry about getting better.