I have been living on a tour bus for about six weeks now. It suits me fine and I would be happy to remain on board through next year. Much to my regret, I will be disembarking in mid-January.
There is always something to see out of the windows. We are basically outside but enclosed. Yesterday evening, I watched two people engage in a quickly escalating argument. Three police cars showed up and minutes later, one of the people, a woman, was handcuffed and put into the back of a squad car and taken away. Soon after, the other cars left and the street was quiet again.
It is impossible for me not to draw boat and river analogies from this mode of existence. We sail down major rivers, move off into tributaries, dock for several hours and then leave again. Every single location besides the bus itself is temporary. The level of visual input is incredible. Sometimes I feel like a dog with its face stuck out the window.
I remember the first time it hit me that we were sailors of a sort. It was summer of 1984. I was sitting in the back of the gear truck with one of the road crew as we were heading overnight to a show somewhere in Florida. We had the back door rolled up and we were digging the night air and the insanity of the fact that we could fall out and very likely die. We went by some kind of construction site that was brightly lit. I said to the crew guy, “This sure enough is a bizarre sight in the middle of this shit.” He caught that I was quoting Laurence Fishburne’s character, Clean, from a scene in Apocalypse Now.
There is often a lot of activity outside the bus during the day on the shoreline/sidewalk. In the early afternoon, the vendors show up and wait for me to show my face, hoping to get me to sign things so they can sell them. They position themselves so interaction is inevitable. They always tell me that what they want me to sign won’t be sold, that they would never do that. I always try to get them to tell the truth, but they rarely admit that they will be moving the signatures for profit.
I usually sign one or two things. These vendors are part of the food chain. By traveling in America this way, we are moving through the country’s digestive tract.
At odd hours of the morning postshow, we sometimes pull in to a Walmart to provision for the miles ahead. They are usually almost empty of shoppers, and the aisles are often full of goods and people restocking the shelves. The conversations are rarely less than surreal. “You were in [insert really bad film I worked in]! No way! What are you doing here?!”
Soon enough, I am back on the bus as it rumbles through the darkness.
This way of living, in some ways, defies the norm, and the long-established value of “waking up in your own bed.” However, anything you do over and over can become routine. After a few weeks, the bus, the day-pass memberships to gyms, backstage areas, stages, postshow meals out of paper bags — it all becomes normal.
That being said, I have never felt more like I am in the right place, doing the right thing as when I am on tour and constantly on the move. No other way of life has ever made more sense to me. It is this feeling that has prevented me from ever feeling that bus life is a grind.
It’s a rough room
Being on the ground and moving from place to place during the recent election cycle has been like watching an animal in agony as it slowly dies. When it finally exhaled its last breath yesterday, it occurred to me that now we know everything. All the people who had previously lurked in shadows and back rooms were now out in the open. All was shown and now all is known. America is currently at its most transparent. The veil of civility has been shredded and maybe it’s about time. It’s a rough room, America, but at least we now know where we’re at.
You could say that the Trump presidency will be one of the greatest lessons and cautionary tales of our lifetime. The thing is, obviously, there are millions of people who didn’t see it that way. This whirlwind will be only the trailer for the epic battle that will take place in 2020.
I’m still on the road and will be for weeks. The America I am traveling through is probably more divided than ever. To be able to see so much landscape, cityscape, so many people, I feel almost invisible, like I am silently gliding through the states via their many back roads. This, to me, is as free as I can get. We set a course and we are going from one port to another. Roaring down highways in the American night, living lives we never imagined were possible when we were young.
There is no part of this way of life I don’t like. Sitting up late, alone in the front lounge, listening to the droning ring of the wheels and the engine, as we sail on what David Lee Roth once called “the Sea of Consequence.”
I think of my new president taking the global lap, meeting with leaders from all over the world and what the future holds. Remembering all the corny crap that came out of the new president’s mouth when he accepted victory, all I can do is laugh at the insanity that is to come.
In a lot of ways, many things are over. For me, out here, the road is eternal. At this point, it’s all I’ve got.
More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
White America Couldn't Handle What Black America Deals With Every Day
Bowie's Blackstar Is on the Level of Low and Heroes
No Matter Who Wins, America Is Only Going to Get Angrier