Henry Rollins: Existing in the Moment
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
I am still on the road, working on 10 Things You Don’t Know About for H2. We’re more than 140 days in, and a little more than half of those have been actual shoot days. The rest have been devoted to travel, voice-over, studio work and days off. It is a good show, and I am fortunate enough to have a great job, but let’s not oversell what this is. We are reporting stories that have already happened. We are not breaking new ground but merely rearranging very old ground in a way that our wonderful audience will hopefully find compelling.
To make 40-some minutes of content, which constitutes an episode, takes at least six long shooting days and countless hours of other work. At the end of all this, we will have made 10 episodes, which will air over a period of less than three months.
If you don’t think about it in the right way, this large amount of time spent can feel like a fool’s errand. If you are a goal-oriented person, it might feel a bit defeatist to have done so much to have achieved what might seem like so little.
Working on this show has taught me a lot more than just historical factoids. Recently, we had a day off on a Saturday, which is rare. We gathered at the executive producer’s house to watch the first episode of the show — which we’re still shooting. It was a strange faux summit. It wasn’t a wrap party but a viewing of the work we were still quite deep in the thick of. Leaving the place I felt tired.
The next day, we were all on flights to Northern California to resume work. It was such a psyche-out! I have never been to a party associated with a show or film that wasn’t wrapped.
When I was young and just getting out on the road, I was often just looking to get the tour done. In those days it wasn’t very easy to have a good time out there, and finishing a tour was a break from the underfunded rolling punchfest. After a year of that, I fully acclimated. It was like being in the film Das Boat. Instead of being miserable, I became misery.
Eventually I was able to turn things around, and it has led to a lot of happiness at the workplace. Doing 10 Things has brought this ethic to a fine point.
I now enjoy the construction aspect, and see the finished product simply as the means to opportunities for creation. This has made everything — from a long tour to a multimonth show such as the one I’m on now — the best possible environment for me.
I treat each day as its own separate piece of work, as if I am preparing an installation for an art show. Wrapping out of the job offers me a momentary pause to take in all that was accomplished, catch my breath and then start looking around for the next thing to get into.
I have been trying for years to make the most out of what I have left. Trying to be in the present and to make the hours count. Some days are better than others, of course, but more and more I am able to make time feel more dense and pass more meaningfully. Another upside is that this process elevates my mood, to where I feel pretty good when I’m working, no matter how tough it is.
Completing this show requires me to interview well over 200 people, and we haul ourselves and the gear into buildings, forests, deserts and streets all over America.
I decided that it was all fascinating and that every day was going to be great, and so far it’s working. Going at it this way, the 12-plus hours pass neither slowly nor quickly. They just go until they end, and quite often I don’t notice.
Today, we drove for hours to film a marijuana grow site on public land, one that law enforcement had recently taken down. We walked single file into pristine, deep forest for a good while and, after crossing a small brook, came upon a clearing. To create space for the growing area, trees had been cut down, and piping for irrigation was everywhere. People had been living there for months, tending to the grow, and their campsite was strewn with garbage, clothes and utensils, all of which looked ugly and out of place. To see all that trash in the middle of dense forest was a drag, but it will be cleaned up soon. Eventually, volunteers will come to clean up and, hopefully, the forest will recover.
Without some careful planning and the right people, we never would have been able to put cameras in this place. I’m glad to have the opportunity to work hard and put it all out there.
Existing in that moment for hours at a time, I feel inexhaustible and ageless. It doesn’t matter how long there is to go or what it will take to finish, because I am not looking for the finish line. As to the 400 or so minutes of the season, it feels like someone else’s thing. Making it was the best part.
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