[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.]
I am stationed in Honolulu. It is work that brings me here. Due to some scheduling changes out of my control, my stay went from three to 10 days. I was quite “caught out there” on all fronts. The most essential things missing were the gear needed to make a new radio show for KCRW, a job I take with obsessive seriousness. The least essential was extra clothes.
I was loaned some clothes to wear and while I know that it is not for me to be picky, I do feel rather ridiculous in the T-shirts provided to me, which are definitely for a man many years my junior. When I wear stuff like this, I look like I am working undercover or that I have stolen my son's favorite threads. I am adjusting.
This same schedule change has me on hold for five days. Five days with nothing required of me. In Honolulu. At a nice hotel.
It is one ironic twist after another in these parts. When I step out of the elevator on the lobby level, the scene explodes with life. The place is packed with people. They are on vacation. They have saved money for this. They have counted down the days and told their friends where they are going and made them envious. They are getting their money's worth. Who can blame them? It is absolutely beautiful around here. Some of the sights, you can barely believe they are real. Nice weather, friendly people — what's not to like?
I feel guilty walking among them. I am getting paid to be here and I am bored to the point of depression by it all.
I am an interloper taking up space among the celebrants, a voyeur into the lives of all these happy people who walk hand in hand into air-conditioned corporate food outlets or to the welcoming, beautiful Pacific. All of it is wasted on me. I am a fraud in paradise.
Having a hotel room affords me access to television. I don't have one at home, and so many cable stars who are familiar to millions are often little known to me.
I watched part of an episode of A&E's Duck Dynasty, which documents the lives of a clutch of bearded Louisiana men and their families. They have made a fortune making duck calls for hunting.
It made me think: How would you like to be a duck, hearing what you think is another duck who wants to get together with you? Your duck heart is elated that in this cruel world, there is the chance for romance. You fly, with great expectation, toward what you think is a magic duck moment, only to be blown to pieces by some camo-clad, bearded, redneck fuck whose show is watched by more than 8 million people. I am sure they have their permits but, damn, what a way to go.
I wonder if there is a second before the duck dies, losing altitude, blood flying out of its mouth, when it remembers a huge billboard, with the men's faces and the line “The Beards Are Back,” which it flew by days before. It might think to itself, “Really?”
After watching several minutes of one of America's most popular television shows, I came to the conclusion that Al Qaeda will win in the end. It's sad, I know.
Earlier today, from my window, I saw men running with lit torches. I thought to myself that finally the insurrection had started and we were all going to get faster download speeds, solar panels and single-payer health care, but it was just some traditional entertainment.
It's an interesting place to be waiting around in. There is a strange sense of comfort I submit to in overwhelming corporate environs engineered to pleasure mass amounts of people. The weather is balmy, the pace is languid and everyone is trying to unwind. I cannot.
There is great, I mean GREAT news to report: Marnie Stern's new album, The Chronicles of Marnia, came out recently and it is so damn good, I can barely stand it. Chronicles is the guitar-shredding, semi-math-rockin' woman's fourth album. I am perhaps not the best one to judge her work, as I find all of her albums to be quite fantastic. What Marnie does, musically, lyrically, is such a breath of fresh air and a testament to the fact that contemporary music is very alive and well.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between Chronicles and her three previous efforts is the absence of drummer/cyclone Zack Hill. The man is a battering blur of physicality and finesse. He does sometimes achieve so much in a single song, none of the other players are able to get a word in edgewise.
For Chronicles, Ms. Stern employs the talents of Kid Millions of Oneida, who puts the music in a different place and gives Marnie some breathing room. Truly, Marnie Stern has staked out her own place in independent music and really is the proverbial all that.
My current location forces me to deal with the often cruel realities of the human form and the American experience. The weather is warm and humid. People, understandably, dress accordingly. (Not me. I am in long sleeves, trousers and boots. I look like an old botanist searching for rare orchids. A pith helmet would be the perfect finisher for my ensemble.) With the scant amount of clothing some people are sporting, there is often too little left to the imagination. Oh, what years of freedom and exceptionalism can do to the human frame.
The woman behind the counter at the Starbucks asked me if I went to the beach today. I told her no, that I had gone to the gym. I could see the “you're blowing it” look on her face.
Me, a low-rent James Michener with dreams of Joan Didion, slouching toward deadline. Chronicles of Marnia: Please listen now.