I'm in a tour bus, hurtling down the highway to Gainesville, Florida. For the next seven weeks, this rolling box will be my home.
I have been on the road on and off since late last year, with a little more than three months to go before the shows stop and real life resumes. This is my preferred mode. I am the dog in a car with its head hanging out the window. With a show only hours away, I am relieved that I only lost four appearances to Hurricane Matthew, which I will now make up in January.
This abrupt change in schedule afforded me four days back home. I'm going to the grocery store and settling into the routine. I experienced some of the most interesting bouts of jet lag. I took a nap that lasted eight hours and then was awake for the next 24.
I left for Florida hours before the second presidential debate. On the flight from Houston to Fort Lauderdale, I sat next to a 20-year-old American male. As we watched the telecatastrophe on our small screens, he asked me who the man with the white hair was. I told him that was President Bill Clinton. He asked me how many terms he'd served.
Hours later. Backstage at the venue, a moldy theater so old it very well could have hosted Houdini. We have television on the bus, and I have been watching pundits take a one-hour debate and spin it into a web of intrigue that will last who knows how many days. Every nuance of the debate was discussed by panels of professionals, because an hour of useless viewing deserves nothing less. Everything from Trump's body language to Clinton's gaze was thoughtfully regarded with the utmost scrutiny and a whole lot of words.
It's like judging a painting by how much paint was used. I don't have a television, and this is why.
Ironically, it's Trump who is coming out of this somewhat intact. There is nothing about the "locker-room talk" that surprises anyone. What anyone thinks about the man hasn't changed but only solidified. Those who don't like him dislike him slightly more, if they can be bothered, and those who dig him are standing by their man like beaten spouses.
The ones who are the most dipped in puke are the Republicans, who are either jumping ship or using Trump's real-time decomposition to get traction for their own futures. Take Mike Pence, for instance. A few hours ago, I watched him kinda-sorta defend his running mate for a few sentences and then deflect his sentiments away from Trump to himself, informing his audience, in case they didn't know, as to the depth of his Christian faith. Pence really thinks he's presidential material and is laying the groundwork for 2020. He's now riding the big waves of media, using the corpse of the Trump campaign as his board.
Of all the people in this gutter crawl who have kept it real, it's Trump.
Now, thanks to We the People, all working together, everyone is stuck with another month of political sucker punching. We're the suckers. It was the electorate that allowed this to happen. If you harbor a dislike for either candidate, that's your business, but this multicamera media monstrosity happened on your watch. If you think things went too far or sunk too low, you cannot assign blame without putting some of it on yourself.
I can't wait for the third debate to be done. The one I watched last night was wretched. The moment the winner is announced, it won't be euphoric; it will be momentarily merciful — a new misery to replace the old.
It's always interesting being back in Florida. In a way, it's like Alaska. It takes a special person to call this state home. It is almost ceaselessly hot. You either fight it with air conditioning and denial, or you just succumb. Driving by the outdoor bars on the way from the airport to the hotel, I saw people standing around with large drinks, just enduring the heat and humidity. It's one thing to come here for a vacation; it's another to stand your ground and live here full-time. Florida audiences are usually great, but there is a wild-card factor. They keep me on my toes.
A day later. I am now in the parking lot behind the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Another day, another dose of news TV. They're still on Trump and his body language, the details of Billy Bush. The most interesting thing about watching all this is how the pundits are able to keep a straight face as they spew the bilge. I wish I wasn't as insulted by all this as I am, but perhaps that means I have not given up on our political process altogether. At least, some of this still strikes me as real.
Speaking of real, I have been lucky in my life to have an audience as sharp as the ones who show up to see me. Truly, they are a great bunch. This tour that I am on is about them. I spend all day getting ready for the stage.
The show is the only reason I am here. The audience is my constituency. They are real, and they keep me real.
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An hour ago, I was coming out of the venue toward the bus, and a young man came over to talk to me. He wanted to thank me for something I'd said online somewhere about marriage equality. He told me his brother is gay, and things are tough between him and his parents, especially the mother. We talked about that for a few minutes. My politics are out here.
More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
White America Couldn't Handle What Black America Deals With Every Day
Bowie's Blackstar Is on the Level of Low and Heroes
No Matter Who Wins, America Is Only Going to Get Angrier