Monday, March 1, 2010

Henry Rollins - Airport Hell

Henry Rollins rules. Over everyone. At least when he's opening his mouth and spewing some of the most razor-sharp commentary on popular culture you'll ever hear. I ain't much a fan of his music; he's way too heavy-handed, and there isn't much fun to be had with his tunes. Even Weight, his band's most critically-lauded album from 1994, was a bit harsh. But put him in front of an audience without a band, and just tell him to GO!, and he will deliver. He'll make you think, but beyond that, damn, will he make you laugh.

I'm at the airport right now, and although I don't travel as much as the peripatetic Rollins, I totally get his skewering of the whole airport scene. When people go to the airport, their IQ does plummet 40 points. Any sane, rational human being gets this, and some prepare accordingly. But others are just too stupid to understand the simplest of concepts.

For example, the metal detector. "What does a metal detector detect? Me-tal," he imbecilically points out, along with the rest of his amused audience. But who doesn't get it? The old man with a janitor's keychain and a month's supply of laundry quarters in his pockets who has to run through the metal detector three times. Apparently, the rules don't apply to him. Or how about showing your ID and boarding pass? How simple is this? Have it in hand. Answer the security questions quickly. Drop off your bags. And move along to the gate. Total time elapsed should take no more than one minute. Two, tops. But some dig in their pockets, trying to find these most essential of objects. And of course, this happens after standing impatiently in line, doing nothing. But the worst part? "Where are these people standing?" Rollins seethes. "In front of ME!" Naturellement.

Rollins continues with the sarcasm, longing for the day when there is a "sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up" light in the plane, and fantasizing about slamming through people who sag on the side of the moving walkway, hurtling them into the air and sending carry-on bags flying, scattering papers and undergarments everywhere. But until then, he still has to deal with the idiots who fail to grasp the simplest of concepts.

Sure, there's simple yelling and spleen-venting that goes nowhere. But Hank has a very worthy point. These people who stand in front of him, acting stupid and wasting time, are slowly killing him. What little life we have on this planet, he reasons, is far too valuable to spend in line, an unwitting victim of the inanities of others. This from a guy who had to dodge bullets in gang shootings back in his heyday with Black Flag. But he also saw one of these shootings result in the death of one of his best friends, right in front of him. Rollins knows whereof he speaks.

Really, any of Hank's spoken-word stuff is brilliant. The older he gets, the more incisive he gets, the more expressive his dead-on impressions of old fragile women or teenage skater punks. One of his most daring of monologues, from the album Big Ugly Mouth, is a cryptically-titled "Touch and Go," wherein he extols the virtues of beating off. As a twenty-something dude. To fellow twenty-something dudes and their girlfriends. Yipes. It takes major balls to talk about that onstage for nearly ten minutes at a time in your life when merely admitting that you beat off is just asking to be ridiculed. The Boxed Life is even more brilliant; though I haven't heard it for years, it was a staple during my stint as a college radio DJ. But the most hilarious stuff I've yet heard accompanies "Airport Hell" on Think Tank. He debunks homophobia (while convincingly explaining why he's not gay despite continual rumors), relives the stupidest thing he ever did onstage ("I just kicked my own ass!"), explains how he'd persuade nations like Iraq not to fuck with us (starting with executions during televised sports events like the Super Bowl), wants to rename El Nino "the First Four Black Sabbath Albums," and wrings tears in a parable about a teenager with terminal cancer who, as his last wish, wanted to just spend some time with Rollins himself. Honestly, the whole double-album should be required listening for...well, at the very least, for anyone reading this blog. If nothing else, a few more people would pull their heads out of their asses and act a bit smarter at the airport.

1 comment:

Gleemonex said...

LOVE the Rollins. LOVE.

His show on IFC is/was awesome, btw.