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Henry Rollins: Thinking For Myself

[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.]

See also: Henry Rollins: Pride Getting the Best of Me

In my line of work, one needs to be adaptable -- very adaptable. My pursuit of employment has taken me many places, through many job descriptions. For the next few weeks, I will be doing some historical documentary work in the Washington, D.C., area. I apologize for being so vague, but contractually, that's about all I can say. It should be interesting, with lots of sleep-deprivation opportunities.

Before all this started, I had to pick up a rental car at Dulles airport and drive about 100 miles southwest, to Crozet, Va., for a couple days to sign the first edition of my new book, Before the Chop. They are stocked at MusicToday, the merch company that warehouses all my stuff. It was decided that I would unpack, sign, repack and stack almost 4,000 books in two days. No problem. It helps to be adaptable, if your life is one protracted improv.

As I drove on I-29 deeper into Virginia, well past midnight, I opened the windows. On that night, the air was humid, cool and smelled of wet leaves. It is one of the best breaths of air you will ever draw. You could take this air, collect it in a huge bottle, let the condensation fall to the bottom and use it as ink. Everything you wrote would be perfect poetry, and no one who read it would be able to escape its power.

Nearing Manassas, I looked out into the slightly foggy darkness and thought about Union and Confederate soldiers walking over the area where my wheels were making contact. Manassas was one of the first places where the armies of the North and the South made contact, at the start of the Civil War in July 1861. I wondered if I was driving over a spot where a man had died. Almost the entire journey takes you though key locations of the war.

The I-29 south from the airport to Crozet is basically one long speed trap. Speed limits change rapidly, forcing you to keep your eyes on the speedometer as much as the road.

Driving alone at some odd hour of the early morning, thoughts tinged with depressing images of the Boston Marathon bombings, would make an introspective overthinker out of almost anyone. The speed traps made me think about the profitability of crime.

If the law wasn't routinely broken, the economy would take a hit. That is, if everyone obeyed the law to the letter -- no drugs, murder, assault or traffic violations. If all this activity ceased, you would think things would be better. Certainly, in some ways things would be, but several vital revenue streams would be adversely affected.

Fewer guns, prisons, courtrooms -- what would SWAT, ATF, ICE and other law enforcement agencies do all day? What would happen to shows like Cops, Dexter and The First 48? Would people pine for the "good old days" of nationwide mayhem? Could it be that violence is as much a part of the American identity as the Constitution, and a vital component to its economic stability?

Wouldn't it make sense that those who make their money through crime would invest in the perpetuation of bad guys for the good guys to fight? If people are being upstanding citizens of the Republic, then you have to widen the net to incarcerate them. This explains why America's prisons are full of nonviolent offenders, a perfect example of American exceptionalism.

America runs on crime, violence and inequality. If things got "better," then things could well get worse. Oh, who will save us from the gnashing jaws of peace and prosperity?! This is what happens when I drive alone for hours. I know -- get a shovel.

I spent 22 hours over two surreal days and nights in a windowless room at MusicToday, signing books. Things got strange. At one point, I just signed a book "Hendrix." I have no idea where that came from. I wrote an apology and put it on the pile.

After signing every last book, I went back to the hotel, which was full of drunken people in various states of cheap rental clothing. If they were good-looking elites, laughing off a Champagne high and exchanging witty repartee, they could be considered revelers. These people were just drunk assholes. I went to my room and turned on the television.

They had captured him. Suspect #2 had been apprehended and people were celebrating on the streets of Watertown. Beyond getting these two skells off the streets, it is a hollow victory. After applauding the police cars as they roll by, you go back home. The confused and commingled feelings of joy, anger and relief eventually cool, congealing in the late hours, leaving you with the grisly reality of what has just transpired. Multiple deaths and amputations, for what? So two idiots can make their bullshit statement as to their discontent?

I managed to get a few hours of sleep, even though the hallways were full of loud, young males pounding on each other's doors, addressing each other by their last name. "Newman! You got five minutes!" Cut the crap and just start fucking each other.

I reckoned there would be more quiet in the car on the way back to D.C., so I headed out.

For almost three solid hours, I listened to pundits on the radio, who had no new information on the Boston bombings. They stretched absolutely nothing into complete shows of speculative fluff. Experts were brought in to comment on the fact that there was nothing to comment on. It's amazing that these people get a paycheck for this.

I think we have been treated like morons by the media, whose methods, in my opinion, not only insult the casualties but almost guarantee future catastrophe. It seems that the longer you watch, the less informed you are.

Thankfully, Jefferson, MacKaye and Strummer taught me to think for myself. The good part is that music never treats me badly, which is why it's almost always anywhere I am.

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