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Henry Rollins: The Column! Hands Are Groping Me, Breasts Are Pushed Into Me

[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 Saturday KCRW broadcast.]

Time becomes fluid and is then smashed, compressed, elongated by miles and then slammed into a wall and rearranged. It is force-fed periodic sleep, border crossings, long nights onstage, visits to the gym and a never-ending series of small rooms to spend time in before and after the shows and told to keep going. Some of the venues I have been in and out of for literally decades, and the familiarity I feel in them is a hard-earned currency that, while worthless in the real world, is a valuable asset out here. I crossed the line of 10 shows a few shows ago and now I am officially on tour and there is no separation between me, the audience, the road -- it's all on all at once and it never closes. That's the number I have in my head. You have to do 10 to know you're doing it, and then from there you go deeper and deeper.

Onstage I try to fill the entire room with the stories, the moment, to make it as immediate as possible. North Korea, Haiti, Sudan, India, Cuba, Vietnam, Tibet, Bhutan, we go all over. It takes all I have, and when I am walking off of the stage, I feel myself start to sag. Two and a half hours have just passed by like a minute. I get to the small backstage room and drain a couple of bottles of water and catch my breath. I don't bring water out onstage. I think it's rude to drink in front of an audience. I don't want to move, I don't want to do anything for a few minutes except just sit there and let some of the electricity leave my body. After a few minutes of that, it's time to go. A shower, if the facility has one, and then out to the bus to meet with all the people who are waiting. They bring all kinds of things for me to sign. They show me photographs of myself from decades ago, which I have never seen. Others who have no interest in me whatsoever bring photographs that they took from the Internet and printed copies of and want them all signed, several of each, telling me the extras are for their friends who couldn't make it. I wonder if people like that really have friends; sometimes I ask them that, and they usually look at the ground. The photos will go on sale somewhere almost immediately. I tell them they won't get much for them. They smile at the ground and walk away with their dubious postinteraction merchandise.

The drunken man who yells Thin Lizzy lyrics at me as others wait patiently for him to finish. The girl who is shaking badly tells me she is so nervous that she can't speak. I ask her name, she tells me, and I try to calm her down. The group of young people who all want me to sign them so they can go to the tattoo place down the street, which is staying open late for them so they can get my autograph put permanently into their skin. I gently try to talk them out of it, but they are dead-set. I shake every hand, say yes to every request for a photograph. Breasts are pushed into me, hands grope me, offers are written on small bits of paper and put in my pockets, and at some point, I am standing alone, listening to the sound of the bus. I walk on and hope there is some food available because my hunger is now at the point where everything is going diagonal. I throw something in the microwave and wait. There is a knock on the door of the bus. Some people have been looking for me and only now have figured out where I am. I can smell the food heating up. I go outside and try not to act like I am hurrying to get back on the bus. It's not their fault they couldn't find the bus. Their intentions are good -- I can't turn it into something else. There is no downtime. There is only time and reasoning, being if you don't want people knocking on the door of your bus well after the show is over, then don't do shows, don't do interviews, don't do press -- don't do any of it if you can't handle what comes.

Several minutes later, I eat and evaluate the incredible emptiness I feel postshow. The people at my shows are going to be done with me before I am done with them, and it's going to be extremely hard to leave all this, because I don't know how to handle a life that isn't going at bullet-train speed, which relentlessly distorts and explodes time. Turn on the computer and see all the letters that have come in since I went onstage. A girl sends me naked photos of herself. She tells me she is a virgin and wants to change that but wants it to be the right guy and can I help her to figure out all the things she is feeling. I throw away the photos immediately. I write her back and ask her to please never send content like that to anyone anywhere ever. I tell her that the adult world is extremely complex and usually you make some mistakes along the way. I ask her to be careful with herself and her future. The bus pulls away and we lose the venue's Internet signal. We head through the European darkness toward the next stop. I sit, exhausted and unable to sleep.

I write this to you because at this moment, this is the entire world and everything I know.


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