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39) Happy Birthday, Henry Rollins!

punk-love-b-day-henry

“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.”
― Henry Rollins

Today is the day before that revolting holiday that makes single people want to vomit a box of chocolates onto a bouquet of black roses before ingesting a lethal dose of cyanide.

With that disclaimer out of the way, in lieu of tomorrow’s twerpy twitterpated, chocolates for sex love fest, I am celebrating Henry Rollins birthdate 2.13.1961, the day the Soviet Union fired a rocket from Sputnik V to Venus. Romantic, isn’t it?

Henry was born in the year that marks the beginning of Generation X – 1961, the erection of the Berlin Wall. Henry shares the same birth year with Barack Obama, Princess Diana, and Douglas Coupland.

Henry is unique in many ways among his contemporaries. He understands America and the globe more profoundly than most Americans. He has been to damn near every major and minor city all over the U.S. and abroad thousands of times over throughout the years of his spoken word tours and intense gigs with Black Flag and Rollins Band.

He knows the streets, the crowds, the unique culture of every place he has been, spending long nights drinking black coffee and writing in dingy hotels, reflecting on everything he sees and feels and hears. A true solipsist, he is a master of himself and a friend of no one in particular. He is a productive, sober, and explosive voice of our time, kicking his ego to the curb with genuine and excruciating self-reflective truth. His razor sharp insight cuts deep into the corpse of the Gen-X zeitgeist.

Solipsist by Henry Rollins - signed at Spoken Word Tour at McDonald Theater • March 6, 2003

Solipsist by Henry Rollins – signed at Spoken Word Tour at McDonald Theater • March 6, 2003

I met Henry the first time in March of 2003 in Eugene, Oregon after a spoken word show. I have never witnessed anyone blister through a performance with the same elevated composure, perfect articulation, biting commentary, and thundering voice raking the audience into bleeding stitches for two hours without a pause or drink from the unopened water bottle on his stool. I was impressed by his intelligence and unique perspective on politics and relationships.

Five years later on another day in March of 2007, I found myself driving to Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood to attend the book signing of Punk Love. Henry had co-authored the book with an old friend, Susie J Horgan, a photography student and co-worker with Henry at Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop, who unknowingly photographed the emerging punk movement in the late 1970s in DC. This time I brought a personal letter to give to Henry.

Driving down the 101 to Laurel Canyon was like cutting through a crack in the pavement; windy and craggy, down into the bowels of the places cockroaches live and rock stars overdose on heroin. A meandering, overused road, dizzying homes of celebrities past, and suddenly, after several turns I was quickly approaching Sunset Boulevard.

I stopped at a light and viewed a man, looking older than he likely was with a creeping beard and red eyes holding a cardboard sign ‘NEED BEER.’ He posed with the sign next to his head, did a little hop and transferred the sign switching it like an old flip clock radio. He hopped again and rotated the sign in an upside down arch to read ‘FREE PIZZA BOWL,” his eyebrows twitching.

I couldn’t help but think of Vanna White turning the letters around on the Wheel of Fortune. The man grinned, showing his yellowed-teeth standing outside a small shack with a broken door hopping from side-to-side and assuring me that I didn’t need beer or a free pizza bowl.

My whole life living in Southern California, I rarely came to Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard was more like a gaunt figure in an outdated, oversized designer suit: colorful and small with bold billboards jutting out like rusty railroad spikes half jammed in the ground. I wondered what other burned out creature with yellowing teeth might want to have their way with me, stick a knife in me, stick a cock in me just because I’m walking around with this hole. I turned on Sunset Boulevard, then made a left on the side street adjacent to the Viper Room where River Phoenix overdosed on a speedball in 1993, an event I remember shedding tears over.

I pulled around the back of the bookstore where Henry’s website instructed to park in a tiny lot, where I found a space. Thank goodness I showed up an hour early.

I walked from the minuscule back parking lot around to the front. The sun was low in the sky and the orange of it saturated the streets. Long, jagged shadows haunted the sidewalk. Outside of the bookstore, magazine racks lined the small entrance of Book Soup. Everything on Sunset Boulevard seemed like a small rabbit hole into a perceived illusion of space, oddly private and strangely decadent. Inside, I was bombarded by towering vertical shelves of books – the opposite of the sprawling big-box bookstores I was used to. There was no room to walk, claustrophobic corners with no place to sit, like a cat in an undersized box.

A tall man with greenish eyelids was sitting behind a cramped counter like a morbid doll stuffed inside a child’s closet. I landed on an oversized art book at the front entrance; the largest book I’d ever seen. It was the size and thickness of the Ten Commandments, or so I speculated. I opened each page and watched it fall like an enormous leaf: a collage of handwritten journals, splattered with color and images cut and clipped in strange juxtapositions. I felt a nagging for a design project, the excitement of creating something new, washing over in smooth overlapping layers. As I was feasting on this wondrous book, just to my right, I see Henry Rollins walk through the door. I continued turning pages as his eyes looked in my direction and scanned the perimeter like a cyborg.

“Hey, Henry,” said the man behind the counter in a familiar tone.

“How’s it going,” Henry Rollins replied, disappearing into the meandering cavern of the bookstore. I was glad he was here. Like me, I suspected, he wanted to show up early and hang out browsing books, taking in the scene before the throng of strange creatures showed up.

I decided to explore, passing through the fiction aisle and up to the information desk. I wanted to know where the science and technology section was located. A girl with blonde hair and smudgy black eyes took me to the spot. I found Richard Dawkins’ books and looked through titles I hadn’t seen before. After a few minutes, I made my way to the entertainment and music books, knowing I would find Henry there. I shuffled into the little room.

Standing with his back to me, he was wearing his usual plain black t-shirt. I could see his tattoos poking out underneath, a skull and snake and the word ‘Damage.’ I stared at the Black Flag logo on the back of his neck just under his hairline. It reminded me of a barcode label. His long dark brown wavy hair from his Black Flag days was now short with flecks of grey; his face unchanged, still severe and handsome.

I walked across from where he stood to a large section of music biographies and saw The Lady Sings the Blues, the story of Billie Holiday and smiled at her solemn gaze. I found a book on the Pixies, and remembered seeing them at the Hollywood Palladium in 1991. I almost turned around to ask Henry if he happened upon a band that merged jazz and punk together, but decided against it. I didn’t want to bother him while he was immersed in books. So I just looked through mine enjoying the moment of sharing the space with him knowing that I was standing next to this amazing person who rages inside like me. I felt calm and content as two lonely birds on a rusted wire sit, lost in thought, sharing a moment of serenity between storms before flying away to another experience.

Book Soup "Punk Love" Book Signing • West Hollywood, March 2007 L to R: Henry Rollins, Lisa M. McDougald, Susie J. Horgan

Book Soup “Punk Love” Book Signing • West Hollywood, March 2007         L to R: Henry Rollins, Lisa M. McDougald, Susie J. Horgan

The bookstore began to fill up and Henry stole away and met up with a tall woman in a black dress in boots with long curly brown hair. It was Susie. She and Henry chatted while they hung Susie’s historic photographs for the presentation. Since I was there first, I stood nearby to make sure I could be up close. When most everyone filed in and we were all crowded around the back of the store, Henry and Susie introduced themselves and told us stories of how they met, the ice cream shop, and the infamous photo of Ian MacKaye’s brother, Alec that ended up becoming the icon of the American punk movement.

Susie continued her career as a photographer. Just like any movement, she and Henry were caught up in the swirl of a youth rebellion against a world that seemingly felt ineffectual. The moments they shared with us were precious moments of the spirit of youth in a collective expression of music and primal connection in a world that was indifferent to their lives, their hopes, their pain, and their future.

I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness that I couldn’t be a part of this moment in time, with all of these young and beautiful faces full of life and energy and angst creating something new in a worn out world. I was only 4-years-old when Susie snapped these photos. My own experience with hardcore punk came much later after the core of the movement had merged into New Wave. Sometime in high school in the early 1990s, that’s when I discovered Black Flag, Rollins Band, Fugazi, and Minor Threat. It was fresh to me, but the ice cream had already melted by then and Nirvana was the new youth movement.

I remember giving my letter to Henry and shaking his hand again. I asked him if he had any career advice as a writer. I was immediately embarrassed after I said it. He laughed and tweaked his face.

“Career? Career?! What I do… it’s not a career. It’s painful.”

Henry was right. Writing is painful. And I’m sure he would agree that writing, just like music is also cathartic and healing and necessary.

Whenever I am in doubt and feel terrible about anything, I retreat to Henry’s collected work. He makes the most sense, speaks to the darkness inside all of us more than any person I know. When I am depressed and angry, I know that he is also depressed and angry. Whether he realizes it or not, I have him to thank in many moments in my life because he is a stubborn rocket burning on in a futile universe.

Happy Birthday, Henry!


Copyright © 2017 Solo GenX Warriors
Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

18) A Look At Generations That Orbit Generation X

The important thing to consider when analyzing any generation is that all generations play the cards as they are laid out before them. In a Forbes Magazine article, John Tamny declares, “the generation that had to suffer the death and destruction of war wasn’t so much the “greatest” as it played the hand it was dealt. It was an awful one.”

With that thought, we must realize that any given generation alive today – Silent, Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and those born after, if given similar challenges as the Greatest Generation, would likely have played the cards in a similar way. Every generation born, is born with a given set of circumstances and skills. It is unfair to equate a generation better than a previous one accounting for the environment, technological changes and societal characteristics in which they are born.

Consider Generation X as ground zero to the following discussion.

Typically, generations are defined by actual historical events. These definitions can occur immediately or after the passage of time when historians can evaluate objectively, unattached from the events and within the isolation of their own generational bubble. Here is an in-depth look at today’s living generations, with a concentration on the lesser known generations and the author’s choice of members from each generation.

G.I. GENERATION (1901 – 1924)

The “Greatest Generation” or the G.I. Generation was tied (for the most part) to the events of World War II. History did not have to pass for their automatic admiration to take hold. Society looks upon them with unconditional praise, regardless of their parenting skills and the unsustainable economy they created after World War II. We cannot forget that members of this military-centric generation led us into the Vietnam War.  To their credit, after giving everything to the efforts of World War II during their prime, fighting against Hitler, one of the world’s most seductive and terrifying leaders in modern times; it is natural they would have a psychological immunity to any conflict that came after that tremendous victory.

The G.I.’s were honored because of World War II and any analysis beyond that fact is irrelevant and unimportant according to some. Tom Brokaw, a member of the Silent Generation, revered the G.I.’s as the “Greatest Generation” and was “incomprehensive” to the G.I. experiences putting them high above all others on the generational pedestal. Outside of their sacrifices, we cannot ignore some other legacies they left with us: weapons of mass destruction, unparalleled prosperity for a time and a strong middle-class that produced a large generation with a tendency to suck the air out of the world’s economy, the Baby Boomers.

As a female Gen Xer, I personally honor and thank those who served our country, past and present. However, naturally critical in my own generational bubble, I cannot shy away from analyzing these other less shiny legacies of the G.I.s. Their children, the baby boomers, thrived from their abundance, nurtured to assume the free entitlements established by their parents. In many ways, this is where we should have slowed down.

Noteworthy members of the G.I. Generation: Kurt Vonnegut, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, George Orwell, Walter Farley, Tallulah Bankhead, John Steinbeck, John Wayne, Vincent Price, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Rachel Carson, Peace Pilgrim, Kate Hepburn, Ray Bradbury

We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up. 
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 – (G.I. Generation)

SILENT GENERATION (1925 – 1942)

The Silent or “Lucky Few” is a smaller generation between the G.I.s and Boomers, lucky enough to take advantage of the G.I. Bill, enjoy living wages and buy affordable mortgages and cars. Many would retire just before the 1990’s bubble burst with good pensions, supplemented by social security benefits and other perks of the post–World War II prosperity. This group silently maneuvered through the revolutions of the younger baby boom and were parents of Generation X.

In many ways, the arrival of the Silent Generation places them as back-up singers on the world stage of the generations, similar to, but with a higher status than Gen-Xers. The anonymity of the Silent Generation casts a gray color: their characteristics of not wanting to “rock the boat,” is like a fish going with the flow along a steady stream without having to swim too often. That is not to say that some were derailed from their idealistic coming of age in the 1950s, and drafted during the Cuban and Berlin Missile Crisis’ just before the shock of JFK’s assassination.

Noteworthy members of the Silent Generation: All three men onboard Apollo 11 that landed the first humans on the moon in 1969, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, Shel Silverstein, Johnny Cash, Sydney Poitier, Bruce Lee, Dalai Lama, H. R. Giger, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Judy Blume

 You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension. 
― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead – (Silent Generation)

BABY BOOMERS (1943-1960)

The G.I. Generation’s children, the Baby Boomers, are nostalgic of their past, I think, because they were opposed to the military and cultural stagnation of their parents. They saw crumbling, military-driven institutions irrelevant to their idealism. Baby Boomers tend to give themselves a “pat on the back” for the cultural revolutions they set free and they should to a point.

Baby Boomer’s contributions were noble in opposing the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, civil rights and the push toward all fronts of environmental, humanitarian and other important earth-friendly pursuits. Also, important considerations of the Baby Boomers’ “great awakening” were the proliferation of drugs and pornography and the eventual sexual rot of the AIDS epidemic in the early ‘80s. To be fair, the Silent Generation was also part of this sexual exploration in the Swingers’ clubs of the day. Rick Moody’s, Ice Storm, demonstrates an eerie snapshot of this time in Generation X’s early childhood.

Noteworthy members of the Baby Boomer Generation: David Lynch, Steven Patrick Morrissey, Ian Curtis, Bono of U2, Jello Biafra, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton

The baby boomers are getting older, and will stay older for longer. And they will run right into the dementia firing range. How will a society cope? Especially a society that can’t so readily rely on those stable family relationships that traditionally provided the backbone of care?
– Terry Pratchett – (Baby Boomer)

GENERATION X / SLACKERS (1961 – 1981)

Generation X lives in the foggy aftermath of history and the emergence of virtual realities. When Generation X came along, there were no major cultural revolutions, wars or anything noteworthy to define us. This is why Generation X is such a mysterious bunch as a whole. Our elders misinterpret our divergent paths and our slow-to-conform indifference to the corporate job environment as negative and apathetic. But really, Generation X, with its mystifying pluralism has everyone’s best interest at heart, for we see the coming destruction and desperately want to put on the brakes before our pretty green and blue planet dies.

The sheer numbers of the Baby Boomers tend to overshadow any cultural relevance to Generation X, smaller in comparison and positioned to take the full brunt of the declining economy. Where the boomers dusted off their ideology and turned their focus on monetary pursuits, Generation X picked up that torch and it took us into some necessary, but dark places. However, where things are rotten and destroyed, there is growth. An attempt to understand the needs and desires of Gen-X: this survivalist, immigrant and cynical group, would find it just as necessary to question the values of the G.I. Generation beyond the victories of World War II.

As a member of Generation X, I can honestly say that if I was drafted in World War I and survived, I would be part of the DADA art movement that countered the senselessness of war and if I was part of the G. I. generation, I would enthusiastically support the cause against Hitler, and in the Silent Generation, I would be willing to march alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and if I was alive in the Vietnam era, I would oppose a war that should never have been fought and if I tested better on the ASVAB, I surely would have fought in Iraq. And yes, hindsight is 20/20.

Generation X is not a cohesive generation and we cannot be funneled into a specific set of experiences or historical moment. Our lives have been boiled down to Kurt Cobain’s suicide, latchkey kids, bad movies in the 1990s and other negative associations that denigrate us before we have the chance to define ourselves. It’s very likely that we will be similar to our Silent parents; we will make things happen along the edge of culture, moving stealthily through history.

I think Generation X, despite its envy of the Millennials, is willing to do what is necessary to act as this next dynamic generations’ wingman, provide guidance and support to move us toward a better balance. The world’s future rests on the shoulders of Generation X and how it leads the succeeding generations. This is especially true when looking at the world’s economy today.

Many of today’s corporations aren’t interested in ideas and improvements in the long view, only as it relates to short-term profit margins. Today, the job market is going downhill and Generation X, if they have not locked in those middle management “bulldog” jobs, are forced to carve a path through the thick concrete of a bleak economic landscape. The only thing we can do now is change the whole system by dropping out of it.

Our story is still in progress. We are late bloomers. The cards that have been dealt to us have restricted our ability to grow up, going from one recession to another, and we have no sense of entitlement because of our own existential depression. The desire to just survive is our entitlement.

Noteworthy members of Generation X: Henry Rollins, Ian McKaye, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk, Chuck Klosterman, David Gahan and Martin Gore, Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, River Phoenix, Brandon Lee, Jon Stewart, Laurie Halse Anderson, Alanis Morissette, Janeane Garofalo, Helen Bonham Carter, Queen Latifah, J. K. Rowling, Heath Ledger, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christina Ricci, Jack White

We’re just bodies to you. We’re just bodies and shoulders and scarred knees and big bellies and empty wallets and flasks to you. I’m not saying something cliché like you take us for granted so much as I’m saying you cannot… imagine our absence. We’re so present it’s ceased to mean. We’re environmental. Furniture of the world.
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest – (Generation X)

GENERATION Y/MILLENNIALS (1982 – 2004)

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are outpacing Generation X when it comes to competition in the current job market. This is probably due to the increase in top and bottom jobs but no middle-range  jobs, another bad timing feature of Generation X. Those Millennials born of vibrant Boomer parents were raised to believe they could do anything, even beyond landing on the moon. This exuberant and naïve bunch will certainly need the help of Generation X.

Millennials are still growing up, defining themselves and yes; they are the most prolific generation in numbers as I write this synopsis. Let’s give them a chance to make their presence known on the world stage, for it is a truly challenging one. We must give them a chance to grow up and find their place. To be continued…

Noteworthy members of Millennials: Avril Lavigne, Emma Watson, too be named…

As always, the world goes faster than we can actually interpret it, so please keep checking on this post, for I have future plans to add succeeding generations. There is lots of space to define, because our generation, Generation X, never had the chance to define itself – we were dubbed Generation X before we were eating solid foods and for that, I will allow time for the Millennials and all who come afterwards a chance to sort things out. As a last parting note, I want to thank all the generations, for we are in this together, this world, and we must understand one another and learn from our collective experiences and within our isolated bubbles, for we have much to do and must stick together in order to do it.


Copyright © 2014 Solo GenX Warriors 
Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

14) H. R. Giger – Honoring An Important Artist

I recently learned that one of my favorite contemporary artists and an important figure for Generation X died at age 74 on May 12, 2014.

H. R. Giger

HR Giger in the 1980s. Photograph: Louie Psihoyos/Corbis Courtesy of: http://www.sagactoronline.com/

H. R. Giger, a Swiss artist celebrated for his creation of the darkly beautiful aliens from Alien and its sequel Aliens. Giger was an important window into human anatomical psychology. Highly controversial and seemingly perverse by many critics, he laid open the biological functioning of sexuality in combination with surreal landscapes that reflect the darkness of the modern world. Giger won an Oscar for his work on Alien.

Alien Xenomorph Creature

Alien xenomorph developed for the film Alien by HR Giger. Courtesy of: Boingboing.net

I’ve always been deeply affected by Giger. His work depicts a shadowy garden of human sexual functions, exploring all that we are and the disturbing possibilities of a human biomechanical future. He colors the haunting quality of my own childhood growing up with my father’s guns and industrial wastelands that lurked below my pristine mountain home; a world changing at terrific speed and the sense that there was nowhere else to go but rot in place.

In Giger’s work, nature is confined, twisted, wrenched apart, trapped, manipulated and in it the soul is barely visible through filmy eyes of nymph-like femininity surrounded by creeping things hugging, grasping and penetrating every hole. Giger lays open the body to show us the pipes and fittings, juxtaposing sexual organs with mechanical chambers of guns, metal and organic mutating cells. These opposing elements become biomechanical creatures, a new species, a gallery of deformations and experiments. Giger is certainly not the first to explore this organic world. His ideas were greatly influenced by Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch artist from the 13th century dark age.

No. 341, Witches' Dance, 1977 acrylic on paper/wood, 200 x 140 cm   Courtesy of: http://homepage.eircom.net/~donpjkelly/hrgiger_gallery.htm

No. 341, Witches’ Dance, 1977 acrylic on paper/wood, 200 x 140 cm
Courtesy of: http://homepage.eircom.net/~donpjkelly/hrgiger_gallery.htm

Perhaps Giger sensed that we are standing at the gates of manipulating our own DNA, that our technology will thrust us into an unimaginable new existence. There is the feeling of inevitability, that we have no control over the transformation – the most frightening thing about his work. Freedom and choice potentially replaced by servitude and Orwellian control. Have we damaged the planet to such an extent that the only way we can survive is to change our fundamental biology? Giger explored these ideas and the filmmakers used his imagery, pushing the limits of these nightmares not to be grotesque for its own sake, but because we must think about them.

Artists like Giger, force us to the think about the uncomfortable, the icky things about ourselves, the things we must explore in a time we have the freedom to explore them. Without understanding this realm of the human condition, the horrors we could face might make artists’ work such as Giger seem as cheery as Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers in comparison.

I designate H. R. Giger as an Honorary Solo Gen X Warrior and may he rest in peace in a cemetery with a prominent tombstone.

Some people would say my paintings show a future world and maybe they do, but I paint from reality. I put several things and ideas together, and perhaps, when I have finished, it could show the future.  — H. R. Giger


Copyright © 2014 Solo GenX Warriors 
Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

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