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Archive for the tag “1970s”

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!


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30) Comfort In Fearful Things

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.  – H. P. Lovecraft

I was born in 1974, the same year that Stephen King’s first book, Carrie was published and less than a year after the The Exorcist was released. It scared the crap out of my 11-year-old brother and perhaps incidentally propelled his spiritual life, transforming him into a God-fearing conservative Christian. The film broke box office records with millions of people standing in long lines. Many audience members passed out, up-chucked, and left the theater because the subject matter and raw graphics was too horrific to watch. I discovered the film on The Movie Channel, long after my brother left for college when I was 10-years-old. My parents never thought to dismantle the cable outlet…

I became my own parental control and watched anything that was dark, scary, or controversial. By the age of 10, I sampled a glut of R-rated horror films before I set eyes on The Exorcist. My earliest recollection was Blood Beach (an exquisitely dumb B film), then A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cujo, Halloween, Jaws, and Friday The Thirteenth (just in time for the coming of age of the 13th generation, AKA Gen-X). Rather than becoming desensitized from watching movies that most parents would never let their children watch today, it opened up my mind and hunger for knowledge.

Blood Beach Movie Poster

Although, I could not articulate it as a child, I was fascinated by anything that was physically unfamiliar, strange, unexplainable, and ultimately, anything that would horrify my mother or enrage my father. It wasn’t that I was rebelling from their attitudes. I was curious of why certain ideas provoked intense emotions within adults. I wanted to understand their reactions. At a very young age, I had a sense that the world was full of hidden truths behind closed doors, the back of dusty closets, underneath crawl spaces, the bottom of my mother’s purse and amongst the coins in my father’s pocket.

At night, I was afraid to run to my parents’ bedroom; it was too far away on the opposite side of the house. My dad built it that way. To get there, I had to run past a long hallway of tall closets, and my old bedroom where Mom reScary Treead her Bible every morning and night, and the bathroom, turn the corner past the fireplace, the entry way, the living room and kitchen, and finally, the dark ominous opening of my parents’ bedroom.

I learned how to be still, and breath, and conquer my fear of being alone. I grew to love the stillness of night, the rhythm of the moon, and things that moved in the darkness. My imagination was more colorful than reality and I learned to keep my eyes and ears open without fear of the vampire underneath my bed with his red glowing cape, or the Bogeyman outside my window that might pop his grizzly head up, or the wind quivering the finger-like branches of the tall twin pine trees against the full moon’s light.

I watched everything that was on television, if it peaked my interest. I grew to understand that basic fear was a human impulse resulting from a lack of knowledge in that, which is feared. Real fear was primal, the kind that connected to your gut. I learned the differences and the middle ground in between.

As a young adult, my experiences were haphazard, sometimes pushing the edge of what was good for me, but knowing when to lay low or get the hell-out-of-dodge. Most of my real fear in these situations was in direct response to mortal human encounters: relationships gone bad, deceptive adults, and unpredictable human behavior. I learned how to trust myself: my senses, my impulses, and my intuition. In this way, I have always felt unique in my experiences, generationally and spiritually.

I am less afraid of Bigfoot, Extraterrestrials, Chupacabra, UFOs, and Demon Possession, and more afraid of men with guns, blatant sexual urges, deranged agendas, entitled egos, reinforced by political alliances.

I am less afraid of ghosts, haunted places, werewolves, and vampires, and more afraid of political instability, nuclear weapons, social chaos, and natural disasters.

Born and raised in San Bernardino, California, cult capital of the nation and one of the most geologically dynamic places on earth, I was less afraid of the devil and creeping things and more afraid of large rickety building structures and mass gatherings of people. My Atheist/Agnostic father and Seventh-Day-Adventist mother provided a rich contrast of dispassionate mechanical thought vs. constrained fundamental belief for my inquisitive young mind to ponder; a perfect environment for analyzing contrasting viewpoints playing out in a post-Nixon world. It is difficult to imagine the 1970s without the horrors of the time as it metastasized into classic American Horror films on cable TV.

When I first saw The Exorcist, I had absorbed large amounts of data through television, reading National Geographic magazines and my mother’s SDA literature and the KJV Bible (I think I was halfway through reading the begets of Chronicles, because my mother insisted we read the Word of God from cover to cover – enough to make one want to barf up green soup). Even though the movie was scary, I couldn’t help but feel a hidden hand moving over the whole thing to increase Church membership and tithe. I began to doubt my mother’s religious ideas early, before I was a teenager. I wanted to believe what she did because I dearly loved her and saw that she desperately wanted to transcend all that was bad, but she couldn’t provide answers that were concrete enough for me to accept them.

The Exorcist proved how powerful religion is over the minds of those too afraid to question things they do not understand. I have no doubt that there are evil ‘things’ in this world. But those ‘things’ tend to be human generated through calculated motivations. True knowledge saturates perceived fear. It provides a clear path for humanity to evolve beyond its own planned obsolescence. I take comfort in fearful things and seeking knowledge to understand them.

SUPPLEMENTS:

The American Nightmare: A Documentary
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown Documentary
Fascinating Facts About The Exorcist
The Movie Channel Commercials – 1980s

 


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Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

20) Letter to Baby Boomers From Gen-X

Dear Baby Boomer,

We are Generation X or whatever you want to call us. We are the youth of the nation… or were. We don’t give a R.I.P. Our destiny is written on the wall, starting with civilization. We are nihilistic by nature because no one wanted us to be here…

Never mind. We seek Nirvana, a place in the world to shelve our Trapper Keepers, our tear-stained journals of rage, our misunderstood expression of anger toward a world with no future lodged in the throat of Sid Vicious, a casualty to the Boomer drug experimentation legacy. Thanks for the bump.

Oh, the 1970s… a putrefied pustule on the zit of history, like a Halloween pumpkin rotting in late December.

The 1970s

The 1970s

We don’t blame you, Boomers. You were just another generation among many, going way back. We can see far down the pike of human existence and we are uniformly disgusted with all human beings, including ourselves. So, don’t take it personally. You just happened to give us a lot of stupid, frivolous, narcissistic doo-doo that doesn’t matter a hill-of-beans to any human dead or alive… but we aren’t taking names or numbers, just sharpening our secondhand pencils for another round of philosophical debate.

Don’t worry. We have your best interest in mind, along with your children even though they were loved more than us. We slam danced in the backseat of our parent’s VW bugs, smacking our heads up against the windows and flying headfirst into the dashboard when our father hit the brakes. Honestly, we have no deep-seated anger that our own parents didn’t flash that cute little “Baby On Board” sign when they drove us around without seatbelts or car seats. We just laughed it off and stuck our stuffed Garfield plush dolls in the trunk with the butt sticking out to show we have a healthy sense of humor.

Okay, let me explain the whole “punk” thing. It’s not about talent, you silly Boomer. It’s about revolution. I know you know what that is. You don’t understand our music because it’s too painful to listen to and reflects the existential dark matter of human misery that we feel every day. Yes, that’s right. Our music feels bad and sounds bad to you because we feel worse than you could ever imagine. To us, your music sounds like the Intro to Loony Tunes.

We were left alone, watching MTV videos in the middle of the night sucking on Nerds candy, waiting for our parental units to come home, too tired to fix us dinner and so we make ourselves another crappy box of Mac & Cheese. We are born into a world of sustained horror, greed, AIDS, useless politics, and recessions that fall like dominoes every time we try to move up in the world from a cardboard box. We have never felt that anyone owes us anything and only want a better world for everyone. So, we deserve a break today.

Be nice. Give us a hug. That’s all we ask.

With love and adoration,

Generation X


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Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

09) Peace in Our Generation?

The level of public trust in the government sharply declined during the war in Vietnam and further eroded throughout the 1970s, at the time when the older end of Generation X were watching television and picking up the anxieties in the world of their parents.

Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), Monday, 23 November 1970 • Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Skepticism about government is, in many respects, part of our national DNA. But surveys in the 1950s and 1960s showed most Americans expressed at least a basic trust that their government would do the right thing most or all the time. The 1970s and the tumultuous issues of Vietnam and Watergate eroded that sentiment, and the polling numbers on it have never really recovered.
 Anthony Salvanto, CBS News • February 13, 2013


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