Thursday night my sister and I ate a delicious dinner at the New Yorker, and then hopped in line at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma to see Henry Rollins spoken word performance.
The last two times I have gone to see Rollins live, I have had people ask me if he would be performing as a comedian or a musician. He’s a funny guy, but you can’t really call it comedy. (When was the last time he toured as a musician anyways?) They call it “spoken word” because that is exactly what it is. A man, a microphone, and a captive audience.
Some of the things he talks about aren’t funny at all. For instance, he opened the show by discussing the Trayvon Martin case. There isn’t much humor to be found in that unless you are a complete asshole.
He talked about how things like this make him think of Abraham Lincoln and how a man with all of a years’ worth of schooling could write the most magnificent string of words (gulp) and how he agreed that America’s greatest threat is itself. Thousands of people die of heart disease, lower respiratory infections, and park themselves in front of the television all the while allowing themselves to turn into greasy balloon people.
And he wants better for us.
Beneath all the scowling and bulging neck muscles there is a man who cares deeply for his fellow man. A man who hears that a foreign country “hates our freedom” and immediately books a flight to that country. To find out for himself. What he’s found is that no matter where he goes or how messed up their government, the people there are good.
This is a man who actually answers his own fan mail. Which is no easy task when you’re getting e-mails from guilt ridden war vets asking you to talk them out of blowing their brains out, and young virgin women sending you nude photos of themselves asking if “anyone will ever be attracted” to them.
But he does it. With honesty, devotion and thought.
He tours relentlessly and has an unflinching affection and dedication to his fans, as any great icon should. (Without your fans, you’re no one.)
Henry entered the theater at 8pm sharp. When he took the stage and the lights came up, he wrapped the mic cable around his fist like he was ready to rock out furiously.
He talked rapidly for THREE full hours without even a sip of water.
30-45 minutes after his performance ended he emerged from the back door of the theater looking positively exhausted. But he STILL stood outside to talk to all of the fans waiting for autographs.
The first to greet him was a really drunk guy who told Henry that when he opened the show and said he had never been to Petaluma before, he was wrong. And would he please sign his dog tags with sharpie, so that his drunken, sweaty, palm could rub it off mere seconds later.
I managed to rattle out, that I DID write everyday (or tried to) and now I am a published author. I handed him a copy of Trashland A Go-Go. He looked at it, ready to sign it. He eyed the cover.
“Oh! This is YOU!” he said
“Congratulations,” he said, “it’s really hard to get published.”
“It is. Thank you.” I stuttered.
Henry Rollins put my book in his back pocket and continued to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. Since this is such a long tour, and such a short read, I’d like to think that on a long bus ride somewhere, he will pick it up and read it. And I hope he likes it.
Here’s about 5 minutes of his fantastic performance from that night. At about 5:50 you can watch me make my awkward hand-off. Thanks to Joel Foresti for having a copy of Trashland on hand and alerting me about the existence of this video!