Hey, I'm Robb!
Genoa City, Wisconsin
Follow me if you will to a time not long in the past. Nearly four decades ago, a mere blink in the scale of time, a young boy about twelve years old sits in a tree-fort with his sister and nephew and some of the younger kids from the neighborhood. I didn't know it then, but I was continuing a tradition as old as mankind himself, storytelling. I learned how much I loved telling a story, to see the younger kids captivated by my voice and engaged in the story. I would create adventures putting the children in as warriors fighting off great beasts and saving the kingdom. I only did that a few times, but looking back at it now, I realize it started me on a path. Follow me now as I start high school, walking the hallways with a sea of strange faces. Responding to my mother's encouragement, I decide to try out for a school play. I sit quietly by myself afraid to come forward until everyone else has auditioned. I get up to leave, but the director sees me and asks me if I wanted to audition. I stop. I don't turn around until he asks me my name. I don't remember how, but somehow I found the courage to step up onto the stage. I had done some acting before in grade school, so once I started reading the lines, I was transformed. I was able to read well enough to land a small part. My confidence started to grow in theatre. I was a different person when I performed, I lived for the applause. Time advances, a new decade starts with a tragic car accident. The theatre director dies before my senior year. I and a few my friends drive a few hundred miles for the funeral of our beloved teacher. I convince my parents to let me drive my old pickup truck on a road trip that summer several hundred miles to the town where the funeral would be. I stood alone quietly looking at his body lying there in the coffin. The other students finally step away, but I couldn't move. He was more to me then a teacher. He was the first person to see anything in me. Quiet tears started to drip down my face and after one of my friends noticed me and asked if I was alright, I finally pulled them back and tried to hide the fact I was crying, after all men don't cry right? Follow me some more, as I decide to join the army. My father was in the army and I wanted to serve my country, still today I strongly believe that everyone should serve at least a short term in the military. After the army, I moved back to my hometown and got my first apartment. I was barely of legal drinking age, of course the legal drinking age must have been eighteen in the state where I was stationed in the army because I certainly remember going to taverns then. I had some good times in that first apartment. I managed the building too as part of my job. The front had an ice cream shop I was helping the owner convert into pizza restaurant and I did minor repairs to my apartment and one other on the second floor of the building. Two young Columbian women only a few years older than I, came one day to look at the apartment above mine. I showed them around of course and one of them seemed more interested in me, than the apartment. I remember her asking me what I liked to drink, I told her I liked Jack Daniels. The next day the two of them came back carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels. I ended up spending a lot of time with those two I would later get a roommate who dated one of them and I the other and I thought I was in love even after I she told me she was married. I couldn't understand. She still wanted to see me and claimed she loved me too. I later found out she wasn't married to him, but was just living with him. I wanted her all to myself. Every logical muscle in my body twitched. I knew I should turn around, but I continued to approach the apartment door. She had told me not to come. She had warned me that he had a gun. No one answered. I knew they were home, so I knocked again and after a while I left never seeing her again. I moved on. My military haircut was starting to grow out now, as I hitch-hike along a quiet country road, a large pack on my back. After a long quiet peaceful walk, a car eventually drives by and pulls over to give me a ride. I smile and thank the driver, as I get in on the passenger side pushing aside the many beer cans that seem to cover the floor and sit next to the case of beer on the seat beside him. I look and see a young boy in the back seat, as I talk to the man who drives with one hand and drinks a beer with the other, I learn he is a bounty hunter seeking a fugitive, I soon take over driving. I step out of a different car along a highway in the California desert. I walk a short distance into the desert away from the highway and roll out my sleeping bag. The stars are so bright and the air so clear, I drift off to sleep dreaming of a new adventure and hoping no scorpions or other bugs crawl into the sleeping bag with me. The next morning after walking several miles, I get another ride into the city of Los Angeles. With dreams of becoming an actor I find a job flipping pizzas and stay with my Uncle's family for a couple months before moving on again. With no idea of how to pursue my dream of acting, I soon find a new dream, I start to write. With pen and paper I begin writing what will one day be my first novel. I continue to hitch through to northern California where I get a job as a construction laborer, then decide to get a bus ticket back home. The bus stops for a short time in Reno Nevada and the lure of the casino is too much. I gamble playing blackjack all night long and actually winning a modest amount. The next morning I cash in the remainder of my bus ticket and move in with a woman who worked at the casino. I become a friend to the woman's two beautiful daughters, as I tell them stories and continue to write my novel. Many times I would walk the girls across to the small neighborhood store, the younger I carried on my shoulders. Actually I remember carrying them both, they weren't that heavy and I was a strong man. I wasn't involved with their mother, we were just friends and one day she got engaged. The fiancé moved in as well as her older daughter, there wasn't enough room in the small apartment; it was time to move on yet again. I didn't want to. I really loved those two girls as if they were my own sisters. I had a bug in me and still do today. I can't seem to stay anywhere for long. I used to call it "white line fever" I left early one morning without saying goodbye. I soon came to regret it and tried calling them to explain, but I was told they didn't want to talk to me. Time moves on, as it always does, In my hometown I manage a rooming house nicknamed the barn for obvious reasons. I run with a partying crowd, don't get me wrong, I'm no teatotaler I like my alcohol, but many times when I go to these parties I'd bring Dr-pepper, I'd almost always end up being the referee. I thought I killed a guy once. It was winter and he was starting fights, so I picked him up and carried him out. I was going to find a snowbank to throw him in, but the concrete porch was very slippery. I slipped on the ice and slammed his head on the frozen concrete knocking him cold. We finally revived him. I remember a beautiful young woman I was in love with then, She'd sneak in my window because her friend's father lived there and she didn't want him to know we were seeing each other. She moved on. Her parents didn't approve, or her mother anyway, her father didn't know. The partying life wasn't for me, it was too much, too often, so I moved on, but I drove this time.
I’m in Wisconsin now more than two decades after the time I told stories in the fort as a boy. Much has happened to shape my perspective; much more than I can write here. I’ve heard said that you can’t run away from yourself, because wherever you go, there you are. I never thought of it as running away, but I saw it more as searching, exploring. There is so much out there to see, by this time, I’ve been in or through every state in the lower forty eight of the U.S.A. I’ve always found Wisconsin the most welcoming state. It has its region of rural, but it’s never far from a city if you want something a little faster paced, and the people are also the most welcoming. I’ve bartended here, drove taxi, worked in restaurants and warehouses. My first year here some roommates brought home a kitten that we named Felix. He still had the scars on the back of his neck from where his mother carried him around. The first night with us he jumped up in my bed and curled up under the covers with me, he’s been mine ever since. He was a very loving kitty. He cried when my roommates were moving out, he must have sensed what was going on. He’s traveled with me, as I’ve continued exploring, or running, depending on your perspective and has been more places than most humans. I’ve had rough times here of course too, I lost a home I was trying to buy in 2008 after losing my job. I’ve slept in my van most of the time. I wiped more than twenty five years of dust of that novel I wrote and started to re-write it. Not having enough money at the time for a car, or really needing one in the small Lake Michigan city I was living in, I rode my bike most everywhere, even in the winter. I laugh now as I remember riding my bike home from the tavern I worked at. I’d often stop at other taverns and have a few drinks. One time I fell off my bike and slid about twenty feet on the freshly fallen snow. I’d continue writing my novel and much to my landlord’s dismay also start to paint murals on my apartment wall. I saved up enough money to buy an old truck and a camper it could barely pull. I drove to Omaha to visit a friend and finished a prequel to my first novel. I also drove down to visit my sister in Arkansas and paint her house for her and met an internet friend in St. Louis before stopping again at the grave of my high school teacher to drop off a copy of my first released novel that I put in a sealed plastic baggy and left it on his grave. I then realized, although I always thought him to be much older, he was about the same age I’m at now when he died. These are but a few of the highlights of my lifelong journey. There’s of course more, always more. Like some stories I could tell about trying to return to school at 47 years old, or using social media to find a son I hadn’t seen in more than twenty five years and inviting him over for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve released six stories at or near novel length over the past twelve years. “All too often we focus on the dust of difference in our fellow man, ignoring the mountain of commonality”. I’ve always loved this quote from one of my novels. It really summarizes much of what I’ve seen and learned in my travels. No matter where I’ve lived, or who I’ve met this seems to ring true. We are truly all the same. We may each have different backgrounds or ethnicity, different wants or desires, but deep down we are all the same. We can all learn a lot from my cat Felix who I recently had to put down and of course wrote a story about his adventure in kitty afterlife. He loved everyone. Whenever I had a visitor or any of the people I met over the twelve short years of his life, he’d be sure to rub up against their leg or jump in their lap. He didn’t care what you looked like, or where you came from, so long as you were nice to him, he’d love you with all of his tiny kitty heart. I miss you Felix. Well thank you for following me on this flashback and I hope all is well with you and yours. Stay tuned for more stories from the next fifty plus years of my journey through life.