Prepare to be uncomfortable. Prepare to be challenged. Prepare to leave your Western constructs and ideals behind. Get a passport and go visit Kerala on Friday. You will give me one hundred reasons why you can’t, and Henry Rollins will give you one hundred twenty reasons why you can and you should. You will be a changed person when you leave your doorstep Henry promises, just as J.R.R. Tolkien promised in his tales, but there’s more at stake here in terra firma of 2018.
I wanted so much to tell you what it was like listening to Mr. Rollins give us the backstory of the photos he’s taken on his Travel Slideshow tour. I wrote a pile of pages and when I took a breath, walked away, and came back all I could see was me fan-girling all over my Dad trying to get him to understand why it was so important that he listen to this rock band, see how smart and wise they are, full of boundless passion and world interest, won’t you love them just like me, Dad?
Henry doesn’t need anyone to fan-girl all over him, and he doesn’t need me to promote or explain him or his books or his tour. Henry has, however, explicitly asked all who will listen to get a passport and travel. To get uncomfortable, to be challenged, to try to see the world without Western filters. To see the people who aren’t making headlines, the young and old, everyone in between whose clothes are clean though they sift through garbage for food, whose children are happy and playful though they play in graveyards, who sell their fresh foods at the market and have better diets than we do. Discover colors and tastes, notice the flesh, the sinews, the strength, the smiles, the customs that make us different and one. That Ismail and Awa and Hai on the street ain’t the devil but just a dude, as we all are, having a life, doing their thing, and it’s the politicians that really fuck everything up. And we have the power to make a change, not a “Democracy or else you backwater jerks” kind of change, but the kind that brings access to clean water, food, healthcare, and school without fear.
For those of you who are already doing this, you get it. This is old hat for you. For those who have a problem with anything that whiffs of globalism or liberalism, I hope you will still give travel a chance. Anyone who hasn’t seen Mr. Rollins on his speaking tours, I say see him pronto. He’s an entertaining and insightful speaker, and you will not be unmoved one way or the other.
(And now for the fan-girl part, because I hafta, and you can skip this no problem.) Through my Dad, I was able to get a VIP ticket to meet Henry after the show. About 25-30 other people were there. We lined up and got to meet him and he was no different on the floor as he was onstage. When you see him on TV, that is the real, authentic Henry, as every good punk knows, there is not one fake thing about him. My turn came and I approached him sheepishly. We shook hands. I thanked him for all that he does (What does he do? Well go look it up, he’s laid hands on more of our servicemen than our current president will probably ever do). I asked could I hug him, he said yes, and we did and some pics were taken. As I walked away I turned back and pointed and said loudly, “KEEP GOING!” He looked at me and smiled and hollered, “I WILL!” So wonderful. Do I need to meet him and hug his hard body again? No. But I will keep reading his work and seeing him live when he comes around. He inspires me, and I hope to get uncomfortable and be challenged and write about it from another part of the world before I kick the bucket.)