Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Henry Rollins Book

I read most of Henry Rollins “Smile, You’re Traveling” while on the road this weekend. It’s a pretty quick read that offers the pretense of Rollin’s insight into some of the places he traveled to over a two year period. In theory, that should be pretty interesting as he works his ass off on the road, and because of that, enjoys some opportunities that are out of reach to the general public. For example, he hangs out with the original members of Black Sabbath as they rehearse for a reunion show. Pretty cool, no?

The book quickly spirals down into the one theme Henry Rollins has repeated over and over in his work. To save you the trouble of reading his 20+ books, here’s what is revealed in each book. “I am alone, and am unable to connect with others. I am a modern warrior silently battling the trappings of modern society that I find distasteful. Did I mention that I am alone? I don’t care and I like it.”

I think I’m going to get a book with unique perspective of other cultures from a guy that has had some pretty extreme life experiences, but instead I got this. (I paraphrase, but this is pretty close.) 12/17/99 Madagascar: The cab took me from the airport and drove by endless barren rows of concrete and tin huts. I don’t know how these people survive. I pass the armed security guards as we drive inside the gates of the hotel and I drink bad coffee all night. I’ll have to get up early tomorrow and find out if there’s a gym. 12/22/99 Madagascar: Not much has happened, so I decide to leave a day early for London. I arrive at the airport early as instructed by the tour guide, but find a horrible line. I wait around in the airport for hours with nothing to do. I want to fucking smash that horrible twerp security guard in the face when he asks me how I am doing. Instead I just grin at him and say nothing when he asks me why I got here so early. I could crush him like a paper cup, but what is the use. Tiny bugs like him will always scuttle around while I alone revel in the true strength of the post modern warrior.

(Let me give a less dramatic, but equally descriptive account of the same trip. 12/17/99 Madagascar: I flew in on the flight booked by my agent’s travel agent, and grabbed a cab back to my hotel. Although the city itself seems poverty stricken, my hotel is decent and is well guarded by security. I might work out later, because there isn’t anything to do here. 12/22/99 Madagascar: I didn’t walk around the city over the last few days because it looked pretty scary. I got bored at the hotel, so I arranged for an early departure to London. The driver told me to get to the airport early because of long lines and possible delays, but it turned out it was unnecessary. I was pretty pissed off I had to sit around the airport.)

I take my hat off to Rollins in his undeniable work ethic. The guy has made a career for himself on pure effort despite a rather flimsy set of accomplishments past Black Flag (whose great songs were written by guitarist Greg Ginn, as we all know). It’s too bad he can’t get beyond the one simple theme of isolation. “I am traveling alone. I like to travel alone. No one knows me. My phone hasn’t rung for days. I speak to no one.”…OK already! I get it. You are in a self imposed exile. I read these journals, and it seems like something meant to impress 16 year old girls. “I am a broken bird. Please, come fix me.”

Here’s the thing…These writings are positioned as literature, and meant to be taken seriously. The problem is our protagonist (Henry Rollins) is one dimensional. Henry Rollins= the primal man in modern society that has risen above our trivial stuggles. I don’t think he is actually revealing himself in these writings, do you? The caricature that he has created for himself may be safe (and somewhat profitable as it will always sell to alienated 16-22 year old boys), but is sure a lot less interesting than if he took the actual chance of vulnerability in his writing. I’d love to read a story about him mouthing off and then losing some macho weight lifting contest. Or getting totally shot down by some girl at a party…Or losing an argument with some dorky kid at a spoken word. Oh well, I’ll keep waiting. I think he’s capable of so much more…

Random Notes: It’s like I can see into the future as I gave anyone who would listen a winner with the Padres last Saturday. Dodger pitcher Jason Schmidt clearly isn’t right, and I believe he just went on the DL…Tom “The Enabler” Sheehan from the outstanding Radio Maria restaurant/bar in Champaign introduced me to Kentucky Breakfast beer from Founder’s Brewery. I think it’s a porter (or maybe a stout) that is aged for a year and a half in a bourbon barrel. It has overwhelming chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and a hint of coconut. What a monster beer. If you have to good luck of seeing it somewhere, make sure and give it a shot. You’ll love it…I got that new Kings of Leon CD. I’m not so sure about it. I think I might have an angry little rant about it, but I want to give it a few more listens first…How about the Cavs catching a break with that #2 seed? They just might win a series now!


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