I hadn’t seen Robin in well over a decade, but was still saddened this morning to learn of his passing beyond the veil. I didn’t really feel I knew him well enough at this point to post anything publicly on it, however I read a eulogy for him that was so beautiful, I was moved to write one of my own.
Anthony and I were talking this morning about how we all met at the same time, and just how truly pivotal and magical that time was. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. It changed everything, at least for me.
A single week spent protesting the WTO in Sacramento well over a decade ago created friendships that have endured to this day. I marvel at it, because if I had shown up at a different time, or not at all, my life would have been very different today.
I spent a week in Sacramento in 2003, and there I would meet no less than three people who I would later fall deeply in love with at varying times. I met a group of friends who have drifted in and out of my daily life, but we have remained intertwined regardless. Some of us have jobs, some of us have families, most of us are still punk in one way or another.
The sheer weight of knowing the importance of that time, and that place, it fucks me up. I spent one week in Sacramento in 2003. I hitchhiked in with Sarah, and hitched back out a week later, or maybe we left in a car with Dawn and Grant? Yeah, that was actually how it went down. As the protests drew to a close, we drove to San Francisco to hang out in The Mission and then Sarah and I hitched to Portland. I remember now. I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than it felt so very adventurous. I had just left a dead job, and a dead relationship, and the world felt new in open in a way that it had not felt since childhood.
I think about love, and how coming from a broken home, I have had to spend the majority of my adult life re-learning how to love. When I was dramatic, and drunk, and twenty-four years old I likened myself to the monkeys in the Harlow experiments; neglect and abuse had deformed my ability to attach or experience intimacy
Being a part of the anarcha punk community, flawed as it may be has taught me everything I never learned as a child about loving fiercely and unconditionally. My dear friend and sword-pen sister Magpie summed it up the best in eulogizing a different dead friend:
“We had this crazy fierce love for one another that bordered on cultish, but we had no leaders — not even informally, not to any real degree. We came and went from one another’s lives all the time. We assumed we’d see one another later a little further down the line.”
Tonight I have a piercing awareness that there are times where we are not meant to stay in each other’s lives. We drift in and out, and forge fleeting connections. Sometimes we awaken each other’s hearts just to break them. It hurts like hell, but in that breaking down, I’ve seen we grow back and rebuild, and maybe that’s the point.
I remember Robin at a decrepit punk house on the outskirts of Sacramento. He had been mass arrested on the lawn of the capitol a day or two prior. A photo of his arrest (see above photo) made it onto one of the front pages of The Sacramento Bee, that in turn had been on the front page of CNN.com. We all joked that it made him look so, so tough. I mean really, look at all those crazy militarized riot cops. All that for one skinny 23 year old vegan.
He had refused to give his name with a number of other prisoners, and the cops had eventually had to let them go with subpoenas to appear as “John Doe’s”. Robin said he would frame his upon his return to Portland. He also joked about how the police had been unable to fingerprint him, as every time they went to take his prints, he would smear them. He held out despite pain compliance holds and intimidation, and managed to walk out of jail a few days later. He made it sound almost easy. It was only later that Anthony would tell me that he had persistent nightmares of his time police custody for some time after that.
Robin and I were in and out of one another’s lives so many years ago now in that way traveling punks in a very specific era were. We would see one another from time to time in one city or another. We’d run into one another at a show, or at a protest. The last time I can clearly remember seeing him was just as innocuous as so many other final times I saw friends who are now gone.
He had just gotten off a train in Denver, and called my phone looking for a place to stay. I met him downtown somewhere, and we went to Villa Kula. We hung out for a day or so, and I caught out of the Outpost’s backyard later that week, headed out of town on a different train. He was sitting on the couch in the living room when I walked out the door.
“I’ll see you soon.” I said.
I never saw him again.
Life is fleeting, and weird, and beautiful, and so, so fragile. I’ve said it before, I’ll goddamn say it again: Every day with your loved ones is a blessing because tomorrow is never a given.
Tonight my heart is in the stars, with my dead friends dancing in heaven. Tonight my heart is on far off highways, I’m 22 years old, on a road that never ends. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other.