Henry Rollins: Travel Is Magic

Henry Rollins: Travel Is Magic
Photo by Heidi May

In my adult life, one of the most gratifying things is to make plans, as simple as a grocery run or as complicated as a solo journey out into the world that will take several weeks to realize.

Daydreaming is a very worthwhile exercise. From “spacing out,” I have come up with a lot of ideas and plans that have proven to be quite fruitful. As I get older, making plans and realizing them is probably my most potent and self-inspiring motivator.

Usually, the plans that get me the most excited involve travel. Geographical displacement has led me to great discovery. I am forced to use my situational awareness, which is almost nonexistent. This has made for some unavoidable adventures.

I need to know that I am going somewhere else, or will be at some point, because I made plans to do so. This makes the day-to-day of living in one place somewhat bearable for me. Basically, when I am off the road, I feel as though I have run out of ideas, that I have lost the plot and settled for normal. (I know there is nothing wrong with that and I am not trying to put down other ways of living.) But when I am traveling, I’m convinced that I have not screwed up my life too much.

When I was young, I used to look at National Geographic magazine and see people brushing particles off of fossils in some part of the world that didn’t look anything like where I was living. I thought that was the ultimate experience. Travel, from then to now, still feels to me like achievable magic. The fact that you can get out of a plane at LAX with the dust from the decaying pyramids at Giza on your boots doesn’t seem possible, but it can be done.

The mechanical aspect of a journey, to look at your calendar with a plan in mind, confirm the possibility and start preparations, is one thing. To actually push yourself out into the territory and execute it is quite another. On paper, everything looks good. When the boots hit the trail, that’s where reality is always there to remind you of what you signed up for and how well you are or aren’t suited for it.

I am greedy for the world. I want to be out in it, all the time. As a young person on the road most of the year playing music, wearing one T-shirt while the other I had washed in a sink was tied to my backpack, made sense to me. It was somehow a truer form of existence than how I had been living before.

Several months ago, Iggy Pop’s manager mentioned to me that the man was going to do a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I have wanted to check out that venue for years — if for nothing else, to be in the same space that Jimi Hendrix had played in the late 1960s. I told the manager that if I could do it, I would make the show.

As the May 13 show date loomed closer, I started making my plans. BBC Radio 6 had seen fit to allow me to fill in for Jarvis Cocker’s celebrated spot on Sunday afternoons for the month of June. I prepared the songs and asked if I could do all the voice-over work at the BBC the day before Iggy’s show. Things went my way and I suddenly I had a two-fer.

I asked the graphic artist Edwin Pouncey, also known as Savage Pencil, if I could interview him the day after the show and he said yes. I had a three-fer!

To make the return memorable, I conspired with the press person who works with Teresa Suarez, aka Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes, to have her come in as a live guest on my radio show that will take place a few hours after I land at LAX, several hours from now. This will give me basically enough time to drop my gear, check my notes, grab my headphones and haul ass to KCRW. What I would give to be able to arrive at the station via chopper, be lowered by a rope, wave to the pilot and walk into the studio (located underneath the cafeteria at Santa Monica College) as if it’s no big deal.

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The inside of the Royal Albert Hall is amazing. Preshow I walked around, trying to take in as much of the place as I could. I am pretty sure that this will be my only time there.

By showtime, I was behind the sound board with Nick, the front-of-house tech. The band hit the stage precisely at 2100 hrs. and the place went off. Seeing Iggy with such a tremendous band in such an iconic venue was a standout experience and totally worth every mile. A day and a half later, I am still smiling.

I think the best way to end this column will be to return after my radio show in Los Angeles, to see if I pulled it off. It’s 0745 hrs. now. Back soon.

2319 hrs. Show complete. We have had guests on the show and it’s always good, but tonight was exceptional. Teresa brought in an incredible mix of music from Turkey, Mexico, Cuba, France and Argentina. Teresa’s passion for explaining where the music came from and what the songs meant to her made for a truly special show. I was in top dissociative jet-lag form and can only hope not too many were offended.

Back at this desk in a few hours for a day of responsibility, adult decisions and normality. Ugh.

Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.


More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
Let's Invade Canada

Bend Over, America — Here Comes President Trump
I Am Basically a Vinyl Cat Lady


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