Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Evening With Henry Rollins


How it is that Henry Rollins doesn't have some type of a talk show on a cable news network is beyond me. Of course I don't mean your typical, run of the mill talk show. No scripts or teleprompters, no furniture, no faux-bookcase backdrop or Pier One tchotchke littered about. Just Henry Rollins standing in front of a black back drop or maybe a brick wall with blood stains and graffiti on it. Then just turn him loose.

That is exactly what we got last night at the Crest Theater in Sacramento. Almost three non-stop hours of Henry just, as he says, "tearing his guts out" on stage.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't expecting a tirade against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In fact, if there was a bet to be placed on those topics being the content for the evening, I would have laid my last dollar down on that square. Alas, I would've lost that bet.

While Henry made quick jabs at Bush here and there, they were nothing more than that. Instead, he was all over the map.

After quickly coming up the stairs stage left and greeting the full house (1100 people) he decided to sink his teeth into Wal Mart first. He admitted to shopping there but gave the excuse that when it's 4am in Norman, OK and you need to buy 90 gallons of water and other miscellaneous items and you're driving a large tour bus, you really have no other choice besides the 24 hr Wal Mart. He professed his addiction to social observation and recommended Wal Mart as a top notch environment for doing some viewing and research. He launched into a hilarious reenactment of how, upon entering Wal Mart, all time seems to stand still . You're now on "Wal Mart" time. The absence of natural light, the long vertigo inducing aisles, the heaping pallets of product everywhere all pitch in together like a casino to make you forget about the outside world. He pretended to be a Wal Mart shopper, slowly trudging along, out of breath, straining to reach the 90 serving Stouffer's lasagna tray and heaving it into the cart, almost crushing the 3 kids in the cart below. My sides were already sore.

From there he tip toed into an area of how we see ourselves in comparison with people on TV and advertisements and how it fosters self loathing. Nothing entirely new here except for the way he delivered the message. He pointed out that all of us are attractive to others, it's just a matter of discovering what it is that makes you unique and taking pride in that aspect of your individuality. He maintained that whether you want to believe it or not, someone earlier that day had seen you walk by and thought to themself "Man, I was born to hit that." He relayed a funny story about a gay Pakistani cab driver, named 'Ijaz', that had apparently grown really fond of Rollins during a cab ride from JFK to his hotel. They had a pleasant exchange during the cab ride that Rollins said culminated with Ijaz asking Henry to move to Pakistan with him where they would live together forever... he'd even buy the plane ticket for Henry. "Like that was the deal clincher" Rollins quipped. Ijaz even asked Henry for his phone number which he admitted to handing over because "He was sincere and totally real." Sadly, he said that Ijaz never called him. The crowd roared with laughter.

The show wove on and into areas of Rollins travel practices. He stated that he hates having a day off and often rides his manager to fill open slots on his schedule. He relayed a story where he had a block of 11 days off this past February and thought it would be a good idea to ride the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Vladivostok. A 6,000 mile trip in -40 degree weather is Henry's idea of a good time. To be more precise, he considered it a trip that would make him stronger. That seems to be Rollin's mantra... that which doesn't kill me, will make me stronger. He likened his current daily routine as that of the forming of a Katana sword. Thrust the shapeless steel into the fiery coals, pull it out, slap it on the anvil and hammer it into shape. Then repeat the process until you get the desired result. Would you really expect anything less from Henry?

He closed out the show talking about his 6 tours with the USO. He rattled off the list of all the countries he's been to with the USO and it reads like the top 20 list of most dangerous places in the world. A very admirable feat and the crowd let him know. He said all those tours paled in comparison to recent tours he has done stateside at various military hospitals. While he said that it is tough to go from room to room and see all the shattered lives and young men and women, he said it is nothing compared to how tough it must be for the soldiers and their family. He is happy to do it.

After he closed out the show and walked off stage, a huge smile had broken across my face as I applauded. I was actually relieved to not have heard a 2 1/2 hour rant against Bush and Co. Even though that was one of the main reasons I went. I realized that, for once, we can take a quick breather because the tides are finally turning against this regime. And that is a good thing.

Bravo Henry. Bravo.