Before I begin, let me say – in light of your litigious ambitions – everything herein is opinion, hearsay and speculation. Nothing is based on truth, merely supposition; even actual quotes from your own timeline. I acknowledge that you may or may not have written them, meant them, understood them or even known how Twitter worked when you made the words appear.
These are nothing but the recollections of an alcoholic drug addict. Should your massive legal team ever manifest itself into reality, I hereby notify them not to contact me, nor to take me at my words below. These paragons of justice you have engaged have no business following up on what are essentially the ranting nonsenses of a drug fiend. In pure science, scant evidence exists to prove that I, nor even you, nor them, actually exist as individual, independent life forms (as opposed to varied manifestations of a still-to-be-named singular matter).
I also immediately absolve you of any blame for the use of words such as, but not limited to: “dickhead” “ageist” and “junkie” amongst others in reference to my person. I have seen photographic evidence and read Tweets to suggest that you may be partial to alcohol from time to time, and this must be considered in certain cases, as a mitigating factor in the mistaken use of words.
If anyone who knows you at all, should read read this, and recognise some spark of truth – that is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
I don’t know you very well. I believe I met you once, at least a decade ago, in a Greenside restaurant, at which time you hurled a Champagne cork at a friend of mine. Then it mystified me. Since, I have come to understand that you do like to publicly toss around remnants of the good life – I think you feel it suggests that you are in some way successful, and so, justified in behaving as badly as you like to get attention. I suppose, contextually, the word “toss” becomes you, sir.
My imagination tells me that you are a man for whom gesture, posture and artifice – it seems – are most important, and who are we to stand in your way of going about your business?
It struck me that night, as indeed the above mentioned cork almost struck my mother, how very small you are physically, for such a bullish approach as yours. I am no giant – so perhaps there’s a lesson in reflection there.
Nonetheless, drunk as I was on that occasion, your smallness left an enduring impression. How curious that, like the heart, smallness can be worn on a sleeve – designer or otherwise. As I say, I was drunk and therefore probably not a reliable witness to my own perception.
At one time, I had confused myself into believing that you were a decent voice in a respectable newspaper, that you were a writer of some significance in terms of talent. Of course, as you so often point out, I was in thrall to a chorus of chemicals then, a veritable hubristic maelstrom. Entangled in the misconception that illusion danced together – that men in collars and with brushed hair and expensive shoes were good and important and right. How wrong I was. And, indeed, may still be – who knows?
As somebody with legal training – you’ll appreciate a point on definitions, David: you have often referred to me as a “Junkie” – just so you don’t embarrass yourself any further – a junkie, according to real drug takers, is someone primarily addicted to heroin. I was never big on the opiates, nor needles, unless transmitting ink to the middle layers of the dermis. I am colourful, David, I’ll give you that.
No – to be clear – I focused more on the abuse of stimulants, primarily cocaine, occasionally crystal meth (which I don’t recommend for those who enjoy their sleep) and, for belly laughs: LSD, Psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA and just every now and then, Ketamine – all of which require a healthy imagination to get the full benefit.
In your defence, I believe I did once take heroin entirely by a mistake that could have been fatal. Ironic, we have both almost died from being shot up in one way or another. I’m not sure if you were actually shot, though, it may have just been a dream.
The experts revealed that my primary addiction was to alcohol. Judging by your Twitter feed, and your photos, I put it to you that we may have more in common than you think.
Although, I would never be quite so loud about my choice of poison as you seem to be on social media – I preferred good local sparkling wine over champagne; a decent single malt over Johnny Walker Blue; shiraz over cab sav and always, always cognac over brandy as preludes to my drug binges.
I descended, towards the end of my wild days, to drinking rum and coke. A fitting metaphor for you and the friends you keep these days – Rum and Coke thinkers. Dan Roodt, Jani Allan and Steve Hofmeyr – what a lovely gang of nation-builders – a bigot, a former right wing groupie and the poster boy for local hate-pop. How soundly you must rest of an evening. I believe they are your friends, judging by the digital snugness of you all, but that is just my own cyberpunk theory.
You have, I wildly hypothesise, associated gleefully with these bottom-dwelling crack pots and fallen, bloated men of no real importance… like that lovely Mr Gordin, is it? What a gem he is, my goodness, a real keeper. I barely recognised him in the pictures; it has been such a long time since I have watched “Deliverance”. I think he was in that, but am happy to be wrong. Perhaps it was a flashback, one can never be too sure.
Anyway, this part is about me, let’s continue, shall we?
I came to my senses eventually, got my demons to stop screaming and to speak more coherently. I know they are not gone entirely, but for now, remain in order. A wise man knows that dragons cannot be completely exorcised, but rather function as a useful sign post back to god, whatever form she may take. Rehab is an excellent process, and, though expensive, well worth the effort. I’m sure you would approve, I know you profess an enduring love for expensive things.
I also recommend rehab most highly for anyone who feels they may be losing their grip. A man, who for example, insists that he will tell a Presbyterian’s Rabbi about bad behaviour – what on earth do you think he might be on?
In any event, I did learn during my walk down around the underbelly of my own hells that many, many people of great social standing and proper influence in business are “junkies”. But I don’t suppose you know that, as we have discovered that you don’t spend much time with really powerful people.
The simple truth of the matter is, David, that people dressed like you have done far more damage to the world than people dressed like me, and they always will. There we go. One fact in a sea of speculation.
Anyway, rehab was nine years ago this June, so let’s not dwell, save to say that the wonderful people of RiverView Manor helped me to achieve all-new levels of clarity, and so I came back to Johannesburg with fresh eyes and a spring in my step.
I am happy to report that being sober allowed me to achieve important things – such as providing primary care for my daughter – which is no mean feat with a history like mine. I am a good father now, and not shy to piss in a cup when asked, to be psychometrically assessed, to be forensically evaluated. I know who I am, David – and when one knows that, one becomes quite difficult to fuck with.
Oh yes, I do swear, another concession – it’s something the old boys club use as some kind of “get out of jail” card when cornered – “he has a filthy mouth.” Yes, I do. By choice. I have discovered more important things to judge than single words – like which people intend good and which bad.
An aside – I did, when I travelled to your native country ( to play at the Royal Albert Hall, not sure if you know it – a really lovely hall, and named after my penis piercing, funny I noticed a terrible number of drug addicts had done awfully well there ) let the authorities know that you, one of their most successful exports to the colonies (by your own biography) were safe after your home-invasion ordeal, and they denied knowing who you were. I imagine it must be M15, taking measures to ensure plausible deniability. One can’t be too careful with a national treasure.
Perhaps imagining yourself a bigger fish in our flawed little pond is more comforting than knowing you are a Schrödinger’s fish at home?
Let’s talk about my new-found clarity a little more.
I had no idea, on the night we first met, that you were not, at that time, nor are you currently, much of a writer at all – to my clearly varicose brain . You, dude, are an opinion, not an author. Writing is a truly rare skill. Great writing is almost a unicorn. Twitter is far more your speed than, let’s say, entire paragraphs?
It took me some time to see through your flimsy tissue of populist rants and see the main conceit that has remained your theme: a poor knock off of PJ O’Rourke: the photos, the huffing, the bombastic posturing. I finally got it, what you had been trying to do – dazzle us with a wealthy and garrulous import. Someone who must be right, as he is from the “big overseas” (Zef ninja – oh dear, you should hear him swear…)
All of these things, paradoxically, are fleetingly attractive in an intellectual Republican like O’Rourke. One is not only drawn to his humour, but almost forgives him his political posture as a genuinely engaging talent informs it.
In a frustrated, misanthropic, unemployable former darling of racist society cloistered in a fractional ownership vineyard housing scheme, less so. I’m sure if such a man existed, you would agree.
I imagine (all the people – oops, drugs again) that when you were finally let go into the cold, it was like we had awoken from a deadly daydream. Every week, we let you spout smug and entrenched old school outrage at the idea of democratic change. In the words of Truman Capote “That’s not writing, it’s typing.”
We allowed you to continue to fuel the idea that black people break everything; that they don’t think and they don’t care. (I summarise, and do so confidently, as fiction requires little or no stickle.) None of us did anything. In fact, some people cheered you on. ( I should point out here that a recent survey of corruption in the EU resulted in the scale of it being described as “breathtaking” and equal to around 50% of the total budget of the entire system annually – I wonder how many black people it took to arrange that?)
Well, thank god someone finally said “enough”. You told us as you left the building that you’d be back, that there would be hell to pay, that you were going to get the cavalry… but in the words of John Cale – “Nobody called, and nobody came…”
You went off into the night, expensive shirttails flapping in the wind, spitting and vowing that you would be legally avenged. I imagine we all felt relief as your muttering faded – as one does when someone else finally removes road kill from the middle of the road. See how I included “middle of the road” there?
Anyhow, we all moved on, my good friend Darrel Bristow-Bovey included. I should mention here that he too acknowledged his flaws – and exiled himself to the fringes of his profession for a long time, and returned having remembered his true nature – a good man, and an even better writer – writing an award-winning novel along the way, that’s pudding for you. None of us is perfect, David, but when life knocks, decent people know to answer.
So you went off, I believe, and got shot in a robbery. I’m sorry about that, shouldn’t happen to anyone, but it did, and you’re alive. I’ve had bad things happen to me too, really shit things I wouldn’t wish on even you. None of us is guaranteed safety, anywhere, ever. People are maimed, betrayed, robbed, embezzled and raped everyday. We cannot stop it, and so we try and be kind to each other when it does.
We could have said that you had got drunk and hung out with armed robbers, and brought the ordeal upon yourself by inviting them back to yours to look at etchings, but we didn’t. We gave you sympathy and left you to heal.
I know you think people who show kindness equally to all people are “libtards” – well, that’s okay, we would expect nothing less than labels from a Bull–ard. Famous libtards include Mr Mandela and Bishop Tutu, amongst others. Bull-ards include a New Jersey waitress, a fading, grizzled Neil Diamond drag act and a typist with a mean streak.
Then I speculate fantastically that you were depressed and you thought about killing yourself – but you didn’t. That’s good. Nobody should get to a place where they don’t want to wake up ever again. You must have been in a terrible place, doing irrational things, like telling everyone what rubbish blogs are, and then writing some yourself – dear me – the sheer pandemonium of it all.
Well, at least you had alcohol, I’ve heard – ironically – on the grapevine. Unlike me, you can drink regularly and all sorts of drinks too, without ever having a problem, so that must have helped – oh – you had cigars as well, I’m told there are pictures – those expensive ones full of nice, non-addictive nicotine – you know, the kind they give to rabbits in experiments. Everyone knows that alcohol and nicotine are not drugs – how could they be? You can buy them at the shops.
Let’s cut forward – to a few months ago. I imagine, like Voldemort, you grew tired of the shadows, but needed to feed on the rats and mice of your profession and rebuild your strength, and observe successful people. How did they do it? Where can one get the kind of fame they seem to have with no real merit? There must be a way? Aaah, you thought… Outrageous, controversial and without taste… a tungsten light switched on inside your skull…
You hatched a plan, goes the theory, to stage a massive comeback. The fading voice of privileged white outrage returns, using the hip medium of digital water-cooler talk. I suppose you became intoxicated at the vision of one hundred and forty character assassins filling the world with trumpets and palm fronds as you re-entered the city, astride the awesome silicone ass of techno-gossip.
Well, apparently, it went about as well as Simon Mann’s plan to make splodges of wonga.
Your desperate attempt at a digital coup, using a rape survivor as a punching bag, was clumsy, thoughtless and embarrassed us all beyond dignified silence. Even in the limited elbowroom of Twitter, some of us felt compelled to throw a punch – falling for the same trap you are so sadly flailing about in now.
The difference is, David, the rest of us go back to happy lives. Like the last man at the bar, you don’t seem so sure.
You chose Michelle Solomon as your victim. You rubbished her rape and all who came to her defence. You rallied your friends, and even invented some to beef up your rationale. As people uncovered the mechanics of your little plan, you howled and screeched like a laboratory-bound primate as the forceps closed in. You cried out when criticised, you squealed when I offered you a chance to go on air and talk as men. This is my recollection, feel free to disagree.
First, you accepted. Two major talk show hosts declined, citing your particular “heat-seeking” behavior as the reason. Then you mentioned you’d be out of town. I replied that I could wait for your return. You then backed away, saying that your argument was with Michelle. I told you that my argument was with you. Indeed, Michelle Solomon may be an irritating personality. I wouldn’t know – I don’t know her personally, but that is not the point, is it?
What I do know is that I object to any man bullying someone who has already suffered. The way you handle yourself as a man in public offends me, and that is what I wanted to discuss on the radio. Finally, running out of room to manoeuvre, and realising that, in the language of some my more street-level friends, “shit just got real”, you blurted the now famous line “Can’t talk on air, matter is now sub-judice.”
Just so you know, one drive-time host agreed, and before I could send details, you choked. Tell the truth, Bullard, it gets easier as you go.
You have recently, I believe, tried to retake the challenge. I wouldn’t know, as I don’t get your tweets. I put it to you that you know that, and have only tried to accept the challenge with the knowledge that I have blocked you on Twitter. That I have blocked you is a second cold fact.
David, I believe you have not benefited, as many of us have, from a spell out in the cold. If you don’t have the substance to go and be a big shot in the country you seem to think is run so much better than ours, at least enjoy the sun, the clean air and the space you have here while minding your manners, and be kind to the locals – as you are aware, we can be savage.
All the best to you and your wife. Take care in the vineyards; they are built on a great deal of suffering and exploitation – of the locals.
so, here we are. Madiba is planted. some might say deep within us. a frail gargantuan sleeping in the foundations of qunu, his legend recharging with the renewed energy of death. his smoke now mingling with the rarified air of his council in the sky. the sun shines, the nation comforts itself after a period of keen loss and most importantly, reflection on its dented humanity. we celebrated with dancing, tears and prayer. we queued, we were drenched in rain and our own bad planning. we stood together without quarrel in awe of our father’s passing. we remembered his actions, ingested his example and, for a moment, forgot our own small niggles. there were tears, there was some anxiousness – there was an agreement that we shall all try again, and harder this time, with feeling. but not blood. you said there would be blood. “they” would rise up and cut our throats. you said we should huddle in laagers, crying to a khaki god as dark tides came in and raped the children. you terrible liars, shaped by fear, fuelled by hate. no one is capable of the bible-built nonsensical hell you have conjured for yourselves but you. you are the source of your own worst fears, you and the terrible, maniacal horror film-maker you have decided god to be. you say people you have hated will hate you back. they don’t, and then you try your best to provoke them – no wonder jesus wept. he was paying attention. conservative refers to intelligence, not policy. you, who whisper about the undercurrent, coming to get us as we sleep in borrowed beds, on stolen land. you refuse to see the grace, patience and tolerance handed to you as a gift. when “they” booed the boss, where was your applause? when “they” shared Him with us, where was the smile? the thank you? “wow, we were cunts” and “you” didn’t march “us” into the sea?”. there is nothing as evil as you, nothing as small-minded, selfish and malicious. you are the reason our Constitution is as carefully worded as it is – you are the little, weak sledgehammer against our maybe clumsy nation-building. and yet you remain voiced and sheltered, because “we”, the people, agree that there is no “them” – not even you, and that even you should be treated the way we wish to be, because as one, we are better than the sum of our parts.
shame on you. with all my heart, i hope that your silence since nobody came to kill you is some kind of understanding, not just a pause, while you concoct a new stupidity to spew when you feel able to vomit publicly again.
john, the dick joke guy.
Woke up and faced West. Red eyed I wandered, cow-like into a mirror. Faced myself under faint neon wash. Then I knew. I must find it. The god-monster at the end of the world. Sometime after cereal, the bitch would be mine.
Shaving, I was afraid. Foam, blood and hair in the basin. Hold on, I mouthed, just hold on. The terrors passed as steam came, chasing the shadows forming under my nose.
There were eggs. Unblinking, they stared me down as I looked on. Toasty soldiers tasted of butter. Fat salt, really. I walked on by. I liked the brown bittersweet in the mug, and it liked me, mom, so we kissed. Outside, people were going everywhere. I wanted to go with them, they just drove on by. In the rich car, words were leaping out of vents in the dashboard. That’s not your real accent, fella, which is the flaw in radio. I see through you.
I came across two roads. One man sold blow-up hammers, another trafficking the blind to the motorized. See what I did there. It was red, but Jesus built my hotrod. And I was gone.
There were meetings along the way. Rooms crowded for thought, deadlines and new meetings, lists, also awkward jokes. Words hit walls like brains in hip film, slid down them all the same. Everyone in the office danced, I liked how safe it felt for two minutes, but the battery flickered just under the veneer – this world is in a condom all the time, even when it pisses.
“You need to be crazy to work here…” thought of taking a wank in the corner. But round here, it’s the dead man’s hand, is prescription spunk. Didn’t. Muttered to the water machine: You know how hard it is for me to shake the disease? It was real.
I am no George Michael, see. Then I see not my boss, he’s a strange animal, soft and feared – once a tiger cub maybe, a celestial baby dragon, but too long in the circus and he has come undone. Now threatening his lings with bared gums. What a sad little film he has written himself into and can’t act his way out of.
If I were such a thing as a king, he would be first against the wall. A small mercy, not a real killing. And then I see Nike on a billboard and I wonder if a model killer makes a model prisoner? Bullet in the chamber indeed – aimed at the whoosh now that he has no girls in range.
I am feeling the psychoactive noise of the coffee like a gentle, electric balaclava and standing fleetingly enfeebles me.
The blackout will not come if I think furiously, just like at the bottom of the sea, on the way to the sharks’ church, when the terrors come amongst the bubbles of those below me.
There is breakfast, a late fade, and a lady at the next table berates a child. She is angry at the child, but not really – she is yelling at a mirror.
He was in love with someone, someone she shouldn’t have fallen in love with. Then the child came and she’s been mean ever since. Her face is cracked, it may be erosion from tears. and she’s fat, which doesn’t help.
I saw a girl sitting alone and built a story for her. I’m not for everyone, and soon I brought the curtain down on this idea. After the whores and all those bathrooms and the ink that just missed my veins, my insides are not apparent. Sure.
Forty sneaks up, just behind thirty, and then it grabs your neck and presses down.
Forty is a pirouette in the seesaw’s middle. The last pivot, the marker of how short half is… …the strong half.
Perhaps I’m just another motherfucker in a motorcade.
Settled the debt, melted out and into the sun.
We had been to visit the small township that clings to the crag above the monied guts of Hout Bay. Afrika is a tour guide who walks conscious tourists through this matrix of elemental and exposed souls. Reconfigured billboards are cold comfort compared to the promises they make on their faded skins. This notwithstanding, the life that flows through the maze-like veins of the place is bright as oxygenated blood. Children run. People smile. Every now and then, Afrika begs forgiveness as he “boils” — history rises in his throat. After a pause, he contains himself and continues, a gentleman to the end of the tour.
We are in the living room of a home cobbled together from the detritus of respectable people. There is dignity between these tenuous walls, the faith here mocks any in the gilded pigsties of pious men.
The Zimbabwean tenant patiently waits in the next available space as our guide expounds on the influx of foreigners. We hear that the previous owner painted it white, inspired by George Bush. Afrika rails against the ignorance of his fellows embracing the evil of America’s former number one.
Around a twisted corner, while Henry embraces Gerry, I am pulled into a room of dark strangers, offered a swig from a bottle and the company of Malawians determined to survive in these intestines.
Gerry is wild-eyed and shakes, whatever part of his mind not gnawed at by HIV is in thrall to ARVs — he is hanging by his fingernails onto this life. Someone asks me if I want to take his sister, I decline politely, blushing at the closeness of the cheerful and round-faced girl. There are no bones about these people.
“We have Malawis, Zimbabwes, Nigerians — even the Chinese are coming here more and more.” Our incredulity prompts a detour. Minutes away, we are in a counterfeit supermarket. The silent storekeepers stand grimly, their beds tucked under counters of stacked vinyl shoes.
We swap promises and split. Afrika waves in the rain.
Coffee, heater and a phone call. The skin on the milk the thickness by which worlds are apart round here. We have a meeting with the Commandant. We will meet him at his home in the “coloured area”. Our driver, a former operative, mumbles that we are in a “bad place”. Truth is a brazen whore sometimes.
We are met by a softly-spoken older man, the fierce resolve in photographs of his arrest now refracted under the scar tissue of enforced solitude. He points to one of the paintings that plaster his walls — “I like this — it shows a black person as I have never seen in a painting — see, he is writing in a journal — he is not a labourer, he is not dancing — he is reflective”, it’s the artist’s new luminosity that grabs him, not the subject. Things they are a-changing.
Out his kitchen-sink window, a magnificent view. Waves burst themselves on the rocks at the mountain’s base, white spray rises up in outrage across the bay.
“Do you see that tiny cove across there? My last wife’s ashes are scattered there. I couldn’t look out of this window for quite some time … but I’ve started again recently.” Denis has earned the wisdom to know that we need to withstand the view, unsure if we’ll ever gain the ground. There is a heartbreaking loneliness to his warmth.
An engineer, he was their bombmaker. This was a dark business for humanitarians, but fuses grew short then. Few people could ever rebuke Madiba, young boxer or old god, but the Jew had it in him and the guts to stand firm.
“We expected to be hanged. That was the only possible outcome. When the judge pronounced sentence, my mother was nearby, but didn’t hear clearly. She asked, ‘What did he say?’ — I smiled and said, ‘life — life is wonderful!’ ”
I mumbled that he was pretty much the only man who could make that joke … later and coffee has melted into dinner. Denis asks for a slice of my pizza, and a question falls from my mouth: “After everything, are you happy with the result?”
Henry leans in. Denis chews thoughtfully on twenty two years of pain … there are pip squeaks aplenty who leak opinions on this topic, few who have given a hand or heart to forge it.
Finally,”Yes,” we breath out,”we could have done more … but we have come an awfully long way”.
The first time I see Henry, he’s tired. He’s carrying a camera case and looks punished. He’s just spent a day in the townships outside Cape Town. His bag is heavy, and he doesn’t want help. This is a theme I’ll get familiar with over the next week.
Once a son of the LA Punk scene, he’s matured into a cool uncle of culture consciousness, a perceptive sentinel. His weapon: disarming honesty – filtered through the library behind his relentless gaze. He’s quick to tell you what’s cooking in the fearsome engine between his ears.
There is a military air about him, which suits his plan to document the world. Step by step. A light traveller and voracious reader, he shows me the WalMart earplugs that save his hearing from passive overload on long-haul flights. There’s a four-dollar stopwatch that tells him where he is in the show.
He assures me that his simple backstage rider is not all necessary, “I need a knife and some string, man — that’s it.” He doesn’t want complications; there isn’t time — after answering every email himself, signing every shirt, book, CD and chest shoved in his face after the gigs, he needs a bed — simple. There are no fancy dinners, no schmoozing — just recharging. He is mechanical and soulful — and reminds me of Wall-E, a self-aware and furious optimist searching for signs of life in a desolate species.
“It’s all manual for me, I don’t just pitch up and get a crowd — I’ve got to grind through the interviews, phoners, TV spots, the mailers — I have three to answer on my laptop in the room right now.” You’d think he looks forward to a break, but time off is poison, reads his mantra — it breeds laziness.
We eat veggie burgers and shoot the breeze: Bill Hicks and George Carlin. We share a view on Nickelback and Lady Gaga. He sums up eloquently: “They are extremely not good.” His energy level lifts as he talks about the book he clutches — an expose of Blackwater, the private security company that bills the US people billions to ensure that hell remains firmly on earth. Henry picks his battles. He knows when to bank the effort and when to burn it.
By the end of the next day, we’ve put him through too much press, only a couple of the journos knew anything about him — one cocksure Cape breakfast radio jock has no idea what he’s got himself into. Having badly underestimated Henry at first, we watch the hapless guy squirm as he searches for some substance of his own, as Henry’s shines through … it’s no good, he flops around like a doomed fish on deck. Henry walks resolutely to the car and thanks me for putting him in the ring with “intellectually tepid” people. It’s a joke through gritted teeth.
He reminds me that he is an angry man, but not with anyone specific, I breathe out.
Later we wander through the Greenpoint flea market, finding meaning amongst curios. We step over muddy puddles and talk about big stuff.
“Imagine you worked your whole life and all you had to show for it was a pile of money. What an awful, hollow place to be.” Amen, Captain America.
He’s hard on himself because the alternative is a “spreading ass and a shopping mall … ” if he’s afraid of anything, it’s becoming a hypnotised suburban blob like everyone else.
Henry is a voice of reason in an age of unprecedented oppression, a lone gunman against corrupt logic and lousy ethics. He’s out there taking fire because we can’t be bothered to leave the couch and our carbohydrates and take an interest.
We don’t want to know that our fashionable takkies are made by brutalised children, it will put us off our fried chicken nuggets. Cafe society can’t be evil, because it is civilised. We can’t be perpetuating the issues we decry over lattes, can we?
Henry is the guy that’s dedicated himself to documenting the events we’ve swept under the rug. Our inactivity is what fuels him on. Is “critical mass” the weight at which we become most judgmental?
Now we’re pre-show. Backstage, the American accelerates, pacing back and forth, playing music and isolating himself layer by layer. He’s loading a three-hour marathon into his head, checking his sights and arming himself with pages and pages of carefully chosen words. It strikes me how iconic his tattoos are to so many people.
A great performer constantly asks something of the witness, a “ping” so they can reorientate themselves in each new moment. What is a hostage-taker without demands? Henry doesn’t disappoint. He moves quickly through his stories, cramming in as much as he can, flying off on tangents. It’s like watching the last show on earth and he doesn’t want you to miss a thing.
He’s a compelling distillation of anger, intelligence and wit. A graffito spraying lucid questions on the walls of authority. There is no sarcasm or irony. It’s wall-to-wall substance from the time he strolls out on stage in black pants, T-shirt with blue sneakers, plugs his mic into the cable, plants his feet and says “hello”.
The script is self-portraiture. Spartan simplicity. Nothing extraneous. The humour is surgical satire. He’s pulling photos from the album of his life and I don’t feel driven to kick a puppy, as I usually am when my neighbours show me their snaps from Easter in Plett.
On the way to catch our respective flights home, he tells me he left the stopwatch on stage in JHB. I tell him we’ve already sent it to meet him in LA. He insists that I take postage money from him — I resist and he makes a humble request that I humour him. He leaves us 21 grams lighter.
A week later and the vapour trail has gone cold, life moves on. I get an email from someone who saw the show: “After seeing Henry, I feel like I’ve wasted so much time doing nothing …”
See Henry Rollins at least once in your life.
Sulking, A White Ape
Reflects On His Hollow Skin
And Talking Colon
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