Friday, March 23, 2012

Oh My God, I Saw Henry Rollins!

I am probably not the typical Henry Rollins fan. I am not very familiar with Black Flag, though I have great appreciation for this shirt and desperately want one. He was leading Rollins Band by the time I knew of him, and the only dating advice I recall getting as a teen was from my older brother who played "Liar" for me when I was in middle school. I still have a softness for that song, and Henry Rollins dressed as a nun in the video was ridiculously hilarious to 12-year-old me. (Honestly, it still is. Also the super hero costume. Sexy, sexy spandex!)

My brother didn't just listen to Rollins' music, he also read his books and had CDs of his spoken words. This is how I was introduced to Rollins. I'm not sure how I ended up overhearing the spoken words since my brother and I didn't hang out a lot when he was in high school and I was in middle school, and we only had one year of high school together. 

I remember Henry Rollins' words having a strong effect on my brother. I really looked up to my brother, and I figured if he admired this Henry Rollins guy, then he was definitely worth my attention, too. Out of that respect, I developed a little girlhood crush on Henry. My other celebrity crushes at the time included Scott Weiland (of Stone Temple Pilots) and  Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden), who is still sexy as hell. (Look at this video! Damn, that man can sing. Be still, my beating heart.) I think I had damn good taste back then, considering who other girls my age in the early to mid-90s were crushing on (Luke Perry, the unfortunately named Rider Strong, etc).

Anyway, back to Rollins. I remember sometime in college I found a soundbite of a spoken word he did somewhere that included his opinion of homophobia. I was both impressed and touched. I'd never heard someone speak so plainly and firmly before. It was wonderful! I've also widely spread a video clip in which he talks about his perfect woman. It always gave me hope that I'd find a man who truly wanted me for my mind and would respect me for being clever.

And now, over ten years later, I had the chance to see Henry Rollins live thanks to me incredibly amazing boyfriend who knows me well enough to get me a black rose for Valentine's Day and two tickets to see Rollins at the gorgeous Michigan Theater when he came through Ann Arbor. Best Valentine ever. I was bummed my brother missed out on the opportunity, but I understand why. He and his fiancee are expecting their son to be born any day now, and he didn't want to miss out on that happening, no matter how awesome Henry Rollins is.

My friend in California who saw Rollins live in San Francisco last year told me to wait around after the show because he does a meet and greet with the fans. (She got a hug, too.) We hung around the front of the theater for a while after the show drinking coffee, but we didn't see him, so we returned to the parking garage where we saw a swarm of people. There he was! I got more and more nervous as the line before us shrank.

This picture is terrible, but
I'm showing it to you anyway.
It goes without saying, I think, that Henry Rollins is a very cool guy. I asked him to sign both of the tickets so I could give one to my brother and told him why he wasn't there. I also mentioned that my brother lives in Kalamazoo (close enough) where Rollins did a show the previous night. He said that Kalamazoo makes him a little sad because there are so many closed shops downtown, but that he really likes Kalamazoo and hopes to return in the next year or so.

Henry: "When the economy's down, the Midwest always gets hit the hardest, and I think Kalamazoo shows that."

It's true. It was sort of rewarding to hear him speak of my hometown in words that I not only agree with but have uttered in some capacity myself over the years. Downtown Kzoo depresses me, too. Hardly any of the stores I grew up going to are there. In fact, most of them didn't even survive me growing up. Almost every time I went down there, some new one had sprung up to take the place of one recently closed. My favorite Chinese place closed while I was out in California, and a really great independent bookstore that often hosted artists for the monthly Art Hop locked its doors for the last time when I was in college. 

Henry was right, though, the people of Kalamazoo are trying like hell to revitalize their town. My favorite store Terrapin is still there, and the best pub in town Olde Peninsula, but almost everything else is new to me. There are a lot of bistros and trendy restaurants where I could probably never afford to dine. I'll bet they attract the philanthropically inclined, though, which is probably a better contribution than I can make right now. I can't imagine downtown Kzoo ever being close to Ann Arbor caliber, but I do hope it returns to the kind of place people go to to spend an afternoon or an evening.

What I think I like best about Henry Rollins isn't his intelligence, or even his sharp wit, but his insistence on satisfying his own curiosity and when he once said that anger can be productive. I was told by my parents that they always thought of me as an angry person, which I find funny because at most of my jobs I was known as "the nice one" and I don't think any of my friends would have described me as angry. (I can think of one who might say that now.) 

I never used to see myself as angry, but I have always been impatient and driven. If I see something that I don't think is right, it upsets me and I am driven to do what I can to change it. I guess I used to see anger as less a driving force and more of a useless emotion, probably because that is what I have always been told by authority figures. But now I can say, yes, I can be an angry person because I am not content to sit and do nothing when there is a wrong being committed, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is a saying, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention." I wholeheartedly believe this is true.

As for being curious, I am definitely that. I want to know everything and am constantly educating myself on some new tidbit. I collect books of every color and often get lost for hours following links in Wikipedia. What I regret most about being poor right now is that I can't travel and learn more things first hand. I want to go to China! I want to visit India! I need to see Japan again!

I am so delighted that I now have a boyfriend who loves me and buys me wonderful presents like the opportunity to see Henry Rollins. And I am also happy that he came with me to the show and we could enjoy it together. I am on such a high right now, I have no idea how I am going to fall asleep! It's a good thing I requested a closing shift at work tomorrow. Now I think I need to go read up on Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who has seen this tour will understand why.

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