Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Henry...and me...

I can tell you that this will not be a daily thing. However, I do have a few stories saved and typed up (for the most part), that I can just dump in. This blog has been planned for a little while now, so it'll be fairly active over the next two weeks or so, and then I will try to go to a more regular, possibly every other day, schedule. With that out of the way, I bring you:

Henry Rollins and Me...
(I think he's doing fine)

My history with Henry Rollins extends back about 15 years. It was 1995, I was 19 and had just broken things off with my girlfriend at the time, I went into a Strawberries record store to drown my sorrows in some used CD’s. I came out with 2 CD’s that day which would, each in their own way change my life a bit, Tool’s “Undertow” and Henry Rollins spoken word “The Boxed Life”. There was something about the album art depicting a skeleton pointing towards a marquee that drew me to it. I listened to both non-stop for approximately 3-4 weeks, finding new things in each album every time I listened to it. Interestingly enough, Henry Rollins has a spoken word part on the Tool album, so technically both albums included Henry. I found something that clicked with me in the spoken word, and unlike my search for Dio, I was able to do something about it. I proceeded to over the next 9 years amass quite the collection of Henry’s spoken word albums, books, and videos/DVDs and begin one of the longest relationships of my life. (Wow, this already sounds creepy)

*Brief Interlude Start*

I don't want to post a huge bio. Go here for a more detailed account, but for those who don’t know, Henry Rollins is 5’7, built like a brick shithouse, and most importantly, an “aging alternative icon”. Beginning his career as the lead singer in the seminal punk band Black Flag in the early 80’s. When he had off nights, he would go to other venues and perform spoken word performances. When he left Black Flag, he continued to speak and formed his own band The Rollins Band. He then became “The Liar Guy”, acted in movies, TV shows, and guested on William Shatner albums. He has been consistently on the road 85% of the time since 1985. When they once called James Brown the hardest working man in show business, they hadn’t looked at Henry’s schedule from 1981 through today. I will give some recommendations at the bottom if you want to learn more about the man.

*Brief Interlude End*

For as much as I loved Henry’s spoken word, I had never seen him live until 2004.

However, I had run into him three times in odd places.

I have always subscribed to the idea that if you ever meet a celebrity at a concert, signing, event, or even in the "real world", you should treat them as if they are just like you, a normal person. I still believe that this is true, but, as you will see below. When you keep running into the same "icon" and you try exceptionally hard to be calm, cool, and collected. You can really confuse and freak them out. I may be giving myself too much credit for freaking him out, but I'll let you be the judge.

TIME #1:
Walking down the street in Havard Square in 1997. I said, “Hi Henry. How you doing?” to which he stopped briefly, as if expecting more. We stood there staring at each other for an interminable 20-30 seconds. It took all of my effort to not blurt something fanboy-ish out, this was someone whose words had given me strength during difficult times. Someone I respected greatly was standing no more than 5 feet away from me. But, no, I wanted to treat him, like a normal person...A NORMAL PERSON. It was probably the longest 30 seconds of my life. Seeing that I had nothing else to say, he shrugged and, before continuing on his way, replied “Fine.”

Coming out of the now closed Tower Records in Boston in 2004. I almost ran into him. He had a stack of CD's he had just purchased and was probably heading back to his tour bus to get ready for the spoken word performance that night. I was shocked to run into him again. I could have said anything to him. I could have commented on his choice of music. I could have told him about the effect he had on me. However, I stood firm in my belief and once again I said, “Hi Henry. How you doing?” I swear to you that this time there was a slight hint of confusion in his eyes. I could tell that he was going through his memory banks and trying to figure out if he knew me from somewhere. Again, we stood there for about 20-30 seconds of agonizing silence. And again, he broke the silence with a shrug, "Fine."

My girlfriend (now wife) and two of my roommates had traveled down to Providence to see him perform at Lupo's. We parked in a lot near a hotel and the club, not knowing that we would be boxed in for 2 hours after the show due to Yanni performing nearby. We waited out the time in the hotel bar and had a bite to eat. My roommate and I went to check on the status of the car, when in walks Henry. It must have seemed like we were waiting for him, because we were staring ou of the glass doors when he came in, and we were obviously not Yanni fans. I saw him sigh and brace for the onslaught of fandom that was going to wash over him. Again, I could have told him it was a great show, thanked him for it, and that I appreciated everything he has done. I could have kept my fandom quick, short, and simple. I was old enough to do that, but fearing that I couldn't, I said, well I think by now you should know what I said. "Hi Henry. How you doing?" This time the look on his face was shock. This time however, we did not have the awkward silence of the previous times. My roommate broke the silence, and asked Henry if he wanted to have a burger with us. Now, I know he didn't remember our first two chance meetings, but I found it fairly ironic, that he was looking directly at me when he answered, "No thanks, I'm fine."

I wanted to end the blog on that, but I feel I need to footnote this slightly with a note for Henry. You helped me get through some tough times. Your statement, "When life gives you lemons, say I like lemons, what else you got." made me realize that even when life deals you a bad hand, make the most of it. Thank you for helping me shape my personality, before I began listening to you, I was shy and introverted. I would like to say in closing. Henry, if you are searching for yourself on the googles, and you somehow, happen across this blog, I hope you're still doing fine.

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