[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 on my way back to Los Angeles, on the second of two flights to get back from Johannesburg, South Africa. The first flight to New York City was 15 hours and 22 minutes. I think that beats Dubai to L.A. by a few minutes, making it the longest single flight I have ever been on. My seat, 51D, was especially brutal. The back pain I was in for the last seven hours was exceptional. On a happier note, Gene Simmons and his wife were ahead of me in the customs and immigration line at JFK a couple of hours ago.
Also, this morning, I think I pulled off one of the greatest fails of my life. I have been experiencing less-than-consistent coffee over the last week in Africa and was looking forward to an upgrade. And so I got a cup of coffee on my way back to the gate, took the smallest sip and, damn, did it taste good. My mood elevated and I had an almost Proustian opening of the mind — I was taken back to the streets of my old neighborhood in Washington, D.C. I walked into the men's room and, as I was putting my cup of coffee on the flat surface above the urinal, my left foot started sliding out from under me. Here's what happened next:
I am now making a slow, Matrix-like clockwise turn. I feel myself going down and try to secure the cup, but drop it. My backpack, which is on my right shoulder, slides off as I watch my coffee drop in agonizing, De Palma slow motion into the urinal and explode. My left hand, now free of coffee, manages to grab the upper edge of the urinal divider, and my backpack strap lands in the crook of my right elbow with the backpack hanging about an inch off the ground. My coffee empties down the drain, triggering the flush cycle. Not a single drop hit the floor. Total time, about two seconds. There is some Caddyshack Ty Webb perfection in there somewhere.
Many hours later: back in my office in Los Angeles. That was a long day and night of travel. I am tired but feeling pretty good. I get a momentary energy surge when I get off the road — perhaps that whole “long march to the sea” thing.
When I get back from the leg of a tour, I always go to the office first. I have done this ever since I had an office. Immediately, back up the hard drives and get a sit rep (situation report) from Heidi, the woman who runs my life. Today was a briefing of all the hoops I will be jumping through with press and studio obligations, meetings that start tomorrow morning and go until the day I leave again, about a week from now.
Whenever I get off the road, there are always some songs that I can't wait to play, even though I have had the songs available for all the weeks I have been out. Today, it's been “Ed's Babe” by The Fall, “Messin' With the Kid” by the Saints, “Candy Says” by the Velvet Underground and Bowie's version of “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.”
This evening, when I walk in the door of my utilitarian hovel, I will hear “Siegfried's Death and Funeral March” from Wagner's Götterdämmerung playing in my head. I don't know why but that's what always hits me when I drop my backpack on the floor.
Now, back at the house the laundry is done, and I am keeping myself hydrated in an effort to get on the current time zone. The transition from Australia to South Africa was very difficult, with press and shows, and then to go from that to L.A. is another hard one to deal with. A good part of my year is spent in these transitions, and it's very easy for things to go down the memory hole in a prolonged state of blurriness. It must lead some people to think that I am perpetually stoned.
I am 88 shows into the year since January, and at this point the only thing I want to do is be onstage every night. I wish I were heading back to the airport to go to Australia to start the leg of the tour I just completed all over again.
Touring is hard. But being away from it is for me, much harder.
The only thing I have going for me is the music. I think if I didn't have music playing at high volume at this moment, the immense hollowness I feel between tours would be extremely hard to endure. At this moment, the new album by High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis, is shaking the walls at lower-your-IQ levels. There are no bad albums by this band.
I honestly don't know how I would get through life without music. I like it more than anything else. I would be the lab rat in the experiment who keeps pushing the pedal for music instead of food and eventually starves to death. To stave off the crushing re-entry depression that is coming on as I write this, I will listen to music and start packing for the next leg of the tour — a month in Canada, where this tour will become very real at 100 shows.
Until then, I medicate with music and chew time.