Robert Pimm

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The Russians: Vladivostok

Josef had long dark curly hair and a roguish smile.  He stood aside from the tiller.  ‘Fancy a go?’ he said.  We were speaking Russian.

‘I’ve never sailed a yacht before,’ I said.  The sea off Russki Island stretched endlessly around us.

‘Go for it,’ Josef said.  ‘Keep your eye on a point on the horizon, and head for that.’

I seized the tiller and, under the watchful gaze of Josef, his business partner Pavel and their girlfriends Olga and Galina, began to chart a path through the waves.

Olga and Galina on the yacht

I’d met  Josef and Pavel months earlier, on Daydream Island in Australia.  They were young, confident and had plenty of money.  They were there to buy a yacht, they said, and (more…)

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The Americans: Avenue of the Heroes

In 1979 I hitch-hiked for seven weeks around the United States.

What did I learn about the US of 1979, and what does that tell us about America today?  What about me?  How have I changed, and should I seek to reconnect with that carefree 21 year-old?

Find out on my page The Americans, where I have gathered together several episodes of my US odyssey.  Enjoy the ride.

The changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, July 1979

Here is my account of a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. on 6 July 1979.

Avenue of the Heroes

I walked towards the bridge.

Two metal statues flanked the road: huge, muscular, nude, bearded men on huge, muscular horses, each accompanied by a naked woman.

The women were both on foot.

One of the men clutched a child.  Looking at pictures now, I am reminded of the statue of a Soviet soldier unveiled at Treptow, in Berlin, in 1949.

Also sculpted in metal on a titanic scale, the Soviet hero holds a child in one hand and an improbably large sword in the other.

The children which the men in Berlin and Washington are holding look eerily similar.   (more…)

The Americans: leaving New York

In 1979 I hitch-hiked for seven weeks around the United States.  What became of the carefree, relaxed young 21 year-old of these pages?  Can I reconnect with those qualities, forty years later?

What about America itself?  Was it better then, or worse?

Perhaps the US needs to reconnect, too.

You can read more episodes from this journey on my page, The Americans.

Here is how I set off from New York on my first day of travelling, on 3 July 1979.  Pictures below!

Leaving New York

On Tuesday morning, Harold and Dorothy drove me from their house in Ardsley to the Major Deegan Expressway, heading south for Washington, D.C.  The road stretched out ahead.  First target was to reach the New Jersey Turnpike.

How was I not terrified?

Dorothy Berkowitz seeing me off on the Major Deegan Expressway 

Aged 21, my primary emotion was excitement.

Looking back, I think: “how can I reclaim that boldness, that clarity of purpose, that focus on the present, that carefree calm?”

Things I was not worried about:

– my career.  It had not yet started.  I had nothing to screw up;

– money.  I had all my cash, for seven weeks in the US, in traveller’s cheques on my person;

– other people.  During my trip, I wrote several letters and postcards home.  I tried to make one phone call, reversing the charges because I had no coins, to Harold in Ardsley – I can’t remember why.  On the line, I heard him telling the operator he refused to accept it;

– information about the rest of the world.  The Internet did not exist.  I do not remember buying a newspaper.  I had a tiny transistor radio (thanks, Harold) but mostly listened to music;

– death, injury or other cataclysm.  Sure, hitch-hiking posed risks.  But what would life be like if it consisted mainly of avoiding risk?

Things I was worried about:

– how quickly will I catch a ride?

If living in the moment had been invented, I would have been doing it. (more…)

The Americans: prologue.

In 1979 I hitch-hiked for seven weeks around the United States.  What became of the carefree, thoroughly relaxed young 21 year-old of these pages?  Can I rediscover those qualities?  And what about America itself?  Was it better then, or just different?  Read on.

You can read more about this journey on my page, The Americans.

The prologue begins with me leaving Durango, Colorado, as the sun sets in mid-July.

Prologue

The first thing I saw were his big butcher’s arms: broad and sheened with sweat.  Next I saw tattoos; a square jaw, thick with stubble, set in a sullen half-smile, half-sneer; and a six-pack of Schlitz, wedged between his thighs on the driver’s seat.

Schlitz – the beer that made Milwaukee famous.  What made Milwaukee famous made a loser out of me.

Was it dangerous to enter the cab of the old Ford pick-up?  Standing by the roadside outside Durango in the evening heat, I had the usual split second to decide.  I sensed contradictory feelings: fear; an urge to keep moving; and thirst.

‘Where are you heading?’ I asked.

‘Cortez.’

The next town.

‘OK.’  I got in.  The cab smelled of camphor.

My 1979 diary and Rand McNally Interstate Road Atlas.  The flag was originally stuck to my red rucksack as a hitch-hiking aid

It was July ’79.  Jimmy Carter was President.  Donald Trump was a 33-year-old real estate developer in (more…)

The Americans: Valley of the Rogue

In 1979 I hitch-hiked for seven weeks around the United States.  What became of the carefree, relaxed young 21 year-old of these pages?  Can I rediscover those qualities?  And what about America itself?  Was it better then, or worse?

You can read more about this journey on my page, The Americans.

This is what happened on the night of 27 July.  To TC and Miguel: if you’re out there, get in touch.

Valley of the Rogue

TC was too young.  Miguel was older, but didn’t like being asked to show his ID.  So when their ancient Chevy had wheezed into the gas station in Crescent City, we pooled six grimy dollars and I went to buy the beer.

Scan 29_2

California coast near Monterey, 1979 – photo Robert Pimm

In California at 20 you can have sex, smoke dope, and die for your country, or someone else’s; but you can’t get a drink without a friend.  The two Mexicans and me, Oregon-bound, were old friends for the night.

So how did I end up with TC and Miguel in Crescent City?

In summer 1979 even the most laidback, doped-out, rock-lobotomised New Yorkers said (more…)

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