Henry Rollins: The Column! Our America
[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.]
Today: I am in Oklahoma City. Outside the tour bus, the wind is blowing nonstop, hair-dryer hot. Down the road is a large shopping mall. There was a shooting at the mall and a lot of the stores closed down. Victoria's Secret is still hanging in there.
Since we last got together, I have done shows in Boise; Helena, Mont.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Denver; Santa Fe, N.M.; and, last night, Austin, Texas.
The shows have been going well and the audiences have been great. At one point, on our way to the Cheyenne show, our bus decided to die about 30 miles out of town. We were able to get a car to pick us up and get us to the venue, 17 minutes before showtime.
It was only after the show I noticed that some of the venue security guys were carrying sidearms. I asked the head guy, an ex-Marine, what was up with that and he said the venue requested their company because they were licensed to carry. I asked him if the people at the venue thought my safety was that much of a concern and he said yes.
As we were leaving to go to a hotel for the night (as our bus was now at a garage), the owner of a local record store said he would open the place up if we wanted to check it out. Moments later, we were there. Picked up great-condition copies of Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Apostrophe by Frank Zappa and a 1985 U.S. pressing of Kraftwerk's Autobahn, as well as a great-condition original pressing of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, complete with insert. A previous owner had affixed a sticker to the front with his name and Social Security number on it. Those were different times.
Sometimes you can benefit from a relatively remote location, as the stock isn't as picked over.
In Austin last night after the show, there was a sad and very American moment. I was talking to people out by the bus and a man gave me a black rubber bracelet with his brother's name and the date he was killed in Afghanistan, 07-23-12. As he was telling me about his brother, a girl overheard and said she had lost her brother in Afghanistan as well. She started to cry. They hugged each other as the rest of us stood silently. More than an hour later, when I was sitting on the bus as we were pulling out of town, I looked at the bracelet and thought about the hard, raw awfulness of what they are going through.
Almost every night, veterans come to my shows and stick around to talk to me afterward. They always stand apart from the rest and seem to exist in their own personal isolation, unable to assimilate. When they speak to me, I notice things become very quiet and intense. They carry it with them.
America is full of these men and women. This is us. This is who we are and what we've got.
At times, I feel America is something that I can actually put my arms around, more than a land mass and a Constitution, something far more containable and understandable. I don't exactly know what it is, but at these times I feel completely woven into it.
Later, the girl who lost her brother wrote me and asked if I might pass on the address of the man who lost his brother if he happens to get in touch.
The next day: The Oklahoma City show was a great time. I goodnaturedly asked the audience to keep their handguns locked throughout the show and they goodnaturedly didn't shoot me.
It is a day off, kind of. We drove all night and have stopped in Sioux Falls, S.D., to let our bus driver rest. We will head out tonight for Pierre, S.D., for tomorrow night's show. Right now we are sitting on the bus listening to the album A Tribute to Jack Johnson by Miles Davis on road manager Ward's portable turntable. Next will be the Weasels LP. We are trying to keep it eclectic in our Das Boot environment.
Earlier this morning I was torn from my sleep by an interview I had to do with a local station in Pierre. The interviewer told me more than once that his state was very Republican. I think he was trying to get some kind of reaction out of me. Perhaps he was trying to gauge my audacity levels for hope or something. We suffered for several minutes as my answers only seemed to further perplex him, until he finally ended our conversation, "Thanks for the help."
The takeaway, perhaps shared by both of us: Sometimes you start your day by getting 10 minutes wasted by some jackoff on the phone.
The local theater down the street is showing the dipshit's dipshit Dinesh D'Souza's documentary, 2016: Obama's America as well as Glenn Beck's live performance film Unelectable 2012. South Dakota, in its own way keeping it eclectic as well.
If you want to downgrade your brain, check out excerpts of Mr. Beck's show online, complete with camera whips to audience member and Texas governor Rick Perry. I just watched some of Beck's pro-gun, anti-Canadian, -solar panel and -tree planting mush and couldn't take the stupid any longer.
From Zappa to Glenn Beck is an intellectual drop much like a combat landing I endured when I flew from Kuwait City to Baghdad a few years ago.
If you have music with you at all times, you can get through flatline hours like the ones I am in right now. This is why we travel with a turntable and as the days go on, more and more albums. Winning!
Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I will be planting a tree with Laurie Gill, the mayor of Pierre. So, much to Mr. Beck's dismay, we will be making America a little greener. Until then, we will keep the jams happening here on the bus.
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