[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.]
For many years I tried to make New Year's resolutions. I made lists and shot for great heights: I would show altruism and exert moral strength, patience and all those other great attributes.
For a few weeks I was able to hang in there, be disciplined and do good, as the resolutions dictated. Then, invariably, real life crept in. I would do things like forget to sit up straight, and I went back to the way I was in the previous year.
The only thing I have done consistently for decades is to listen to music damn near every day. I am sure there have been days when I didn't listen to music, but I can't remember any of them at this moment — they must not have been all that great.
We city dwellers, we residents of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, are for the most part urbanized to some extent. We know deadlines, start times and traffic. We pay rent, we pay the mortgage, and we look ahead to guard our very bright futures. These forces shape our conduct to some degree. To get by, we have to keep a fair fraction of our lives in check, lest we lose the plot through poor planning. Freedom gives you all you need to fail on a monumental scale.
Speaking for myself, and not to put my country in a bad light, but since I was 23 I have thought of America not so much as a nation but as a situation you survive, fail or prevail in.
Never once have I thought that Social Security would be something that would ever be available to me. No “safety net” created by the people for the people would ever be anything I could rely on. Please don't think that I am against these New Deal institutions. I am very much for them. I just reckon I am on my own in the wide-open America and have to be prepared for whatever comes.
Americans often disagree on any number of things, which is healthy in a free society. I think the larger ideas — like the mind-boggling brilliance of the Constitution, our three equal branches of government, this ingenious system of checks and balances that strives for fairness and equality — cause us to stand microscopically in the shadow of these giant ideas. I enjoy the disagreements. I think they define the way forward and keep things evolving.
As a young person, I wanted everyone to agree with me. As a man hurtling toward 51 years of age, I am not as nearly stuck on that idea. To each their own (and please don't hurt anyone) works for me most of the time.
Adulthood has led me to the conclusion that I am the totality of my likes, dislikes, insecurities, failures and triumphs. Basically, all my bullshit is that which I am. I am also aware that time seems to be going ever faster. It's not, of course, but damn, months feel like weeks more often than not.
The one thing in my life that has never failed me is my ability to enjoy music. As the years pass, my interest in music has gone beyond obsession to, simply, how I process my existence.
Just my opinion, but artistic expression is humanity at its best. Science, technology, modern medicine are of course fantastic — but when I put on a Coltrane album and can actually hear him push the air from his lungs into his horn to create that sound, the total and perfect humanity of that … I am unable to find the right words to express how much it moves me and what a miracle I find it to be.
I have thought this many times: Besides the basic necessities, with music I am good to go for as long as I've got left. Music makes life for me possible. My appreciation of it is the one thing in my life that I have gotten perfectly right. Music is my winning lottery number.
Over the brief “holiday” period, I have done something that I rarely do: I have taken my eyes off the clock for a few days and allowed myself to stay up as late as I want and sleep until I finally wake up. I was interested to see what I was like with a fraction of the obligation I normally function under.
The result has not been some dark, introspective stare-down with the abyss. Well, there was some of that — quite a bit, actually — but the thing that I really did a lot of, you guessed it, was listen to a mountain of music. Hell, it's 0341 hours and Dinosaur Jr.'s first album is raging loud in here. I will be jammin' for at least another two hours or so.
It's been a sonic avalanche at my joint: Ashtray Navigations, Black Sabbath, J Mascis, Iggy, Hototogisu, Zaïmph, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Lair of the Minotaur, VUM, the Evens, Le Butcherettes, Led Zeppelin, Wolf Eyes, Stare Case, Czech Nymphs, Bridget Hayden, Stooges, Velvet Underground, Ramones, Electric Wizard, Melt-Banana, Tracy + the Plastics, Comets on Fire, Sun Ra, Roscoe Mitchell, True Widow, Dead Moon, Pierced Arrows, Les Rallizes Denudes, the Fall, Boris, Henry & Hazel Slaughter — you get the point.
So, if I have any 2012 resolutions, I guess it will be to maintain a constant, unquenchable thirst for listening to music. And, of course, to vote in November. Rockin'!