[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 try to get myself up and moving as early as possible. Optimum is to be on the treadmill while it is still dark outside. As I plod away on my elliptical machine, I listen to music coming through two speakers, at high volume, that are aimed right at my face. I hope that this will wake me up. I cannot overstate to you how much of a morning person I am not. My incentive is that if I get to work early, I can get it all done early and be back in my own world.
In the evenings, I usually am pent up from a long day at the office. By the time the sun is setting, I want to get out and into the world. As it grows dark, I can feel setting in the melancholy that often accompanies the evening. I need noise, movement and light to stay on track and attempt to outrun my mind. I thought adulthood and middle age would greet me with a degree of calm. It didn't happen.
Over the years, I have set up a coffee route. I go to different coffee places in L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. Starbucks is a usual stop. They are plentiful and, at this point, I have developed a Pavlovian attraction to the amber lighting and interior design.
In an attempt to cover my man-without-much-happening-in-the-evenings-ness, I go to different locations, trying never to frequent one too often. I do this in hopes that the friendly people behind the counter conclude, “Hey, it's that '80s rock guy again, so cool that he comes in here now and then…,” rather than, “Damn, that guy is here all the time, what a fucking psycho.” There is a difference, you see. You see it, don't you? Of course you do.
So, when I am off the road and living in our fair city, I am in some coffee place for at least an hour a few nights a week. I look forward to it all through the day.
There is an indescribable optimism I feel when I walk into these places. That initial blast of warmth and coffee-filled air makes me think that anything is possible.
This is akin to the feeling I get when I walk into an office supply store. When I see all those pens and paper, all the opportunities to organize and facilitate achievement, I can almost convince myself that, if I buy a notebook, I will somehow be able to come up with enough ideas to cover all the pages in record time, maybe before I even get out of the parking lot!
With the endless fluorescent lights above, all my thoughts become REALLY LOUD and I think I will, by sheer proximity to all the items, be transformed into a virtual Bulgakov with Lautréamonticidal tendencies!
Please don't mistake this for naiveté or deeply embedded delusion — I am far too old and mean for any of that. It's desperation, pure and simple.
When I enter the coffee place, I have the expectation of some, well, coffee and, optimistically, a cavalcade of cranial chaos, an unrelenting stream of information that is so damn powerful and important that I will be unable to stop the blur that is my left hand as it goes manically from left to right and descends down the page.
This is when life truly hums. It vibrates through my system and I am unstoppable. I cannot attain this velocity sitting in my office. I just can't. I have been writing in crowded, busy places for so long, I have co-joined environment and thought to where this is how I get it done. Being back at the office or at the house feels like motionless suspension in comparison. Like Congress.
I must say, I would rather be around caffeinated people than inebriated ones. I like seeing all those laptops open, all those devices being stared at with such concentration, all those people engaging in conversation that is not dulled by the effects of a depressant like alcohol. The bioelectricity and mechanical accoutrements is a turn-on. Seeing people engage in this way makes me think that we are going to be OK. I could be wrong about all of this in actual fact, but this is how it looks to me.
I have it in my mind that in the coffee place, there is an implied level of intellect amongst my co-caffeiniacs that would preclude violent behavior. And perhaps all those brains whirring at once will rub off on me. Valued reader, I need all the help I can get.
One of the odd enjoyments in life is to be alone in a room full of people. To have them there as unknowing human filler in your wide shot. This is where your personal listening system comes in handy. I don't use just any earbuds. I rock Shure SE535s. They are my ear bros. When the music is roaring down left and right canals, their mouths move but I am not obligated to hear what they are talking about. The music is always good, as the visual is always trippy.
This constitutes a good night out for me. I am perhaps what you would consider a lightweight.
I collect nights spent in cafes all over the world like charms on a bracelet. Saigon, Casablanca, Cairo and other destinations all have cool coffee hangouts after dark.
I listen to a lot of music in my room. However, without distraction, I am distracted, so out I go. Music for the simple joy of listening is one of life's high points, but music as the propellant for work is tapping into the mainline.
I have noticed on my coffee acquisition ops around here that I keep seeing the same people. It makes me wonder if they have these routes as well. Perhaps we silently scoff and regard each other as the losers with nowhere else to go. All I know is, as soon as you give someone the slight nod of recognition and they nod back, you are one of those people — a regular.