Column #03


Column #03

Depending on how many consecutive days you get off around Christmas, you might be given the opportunity to make that dive into personal weirdness that a large amount of time that is otherwise spoken for is laid at your feet.

I look forward to this time of the year for the chance to see how far out into the existential wilderness I can wander. Christmas cards are depressing, so I usually shred them immediately as I wonder why if you’re going to go through all the trouble to send one, why you would have all your staff sit down and hastily write their name on dozens or maybe hundreds of cards when the end result looks like a Christmas themed petition signed by angry people who are protesting the signing of Christmas cards. I’m not trying to be cynical but I’ve never understood how anyone could enjoy sending or receiving Christmas cards. The ones I don’t shred I put to good use. I print out images I find online and glue them into the cards and leave them all over Heidi’s office, so she can enjoy them when she returns in the new year. Often, it’s terrified zebras with their legs stuck in the jaws of crocodiles. I’ve been doing this for years. In January of every year, without a word, Heidi shreds them all.

I saw on the news that a massive portion of Americans will be hitting the highways of America to migrate to other places to argue with their flat earther uncles and drink too much. I don’t have that kind of thing happening. There is no house to go to, no party to attend. Years ago, well intentioned people came forth with their invitations and after enough polite passes, they just stopped.

A few days before Christmas, the landline is unplugged and the cell phone is turned off. The email isn’t checked, and a 21st century untethering is achieved.

I allow myself as much repetitive behavior as I want. I observe myself as if I’m the lab rat and the one conducting the study. Eat the same thing in the morning, check. Listen to the same record every evening, done. Sleep goes from the usual five to six hours, to shorter bursts of unconsciousness throughout the day and night. Depression levels rise perhaps due to the broken sleep cycle but I can’t help it, I find this manner of spending time to be too interesting to take better care of myself. A few days in, things can get surreal. I liken it to being Dave towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

At night, I go to coffee shops, listen to music and write in my journal. I see the same people in these places all the time. They usually have headphones on and are watching what looks like a film or a television show on their device. I wonder what their motivation is for doing what they’re doing where they’re doing it. They might be wondering the exact same thing about me. After spending hours in my office and in the gym, I have to get out and break up the stillness. I’m amongst people but I have music on, so it looks like the scene of a film that’s happening all around me. It’s like a multi-hour scuba dive, or being a mannequin at a party.

The office is my constant and the often tedious work I sign myself up for at this time of the year takes up several hours of the day. This time around, it’s transcribing thousands of words out of notebooks in an effort to build a manuscript that can be brutalized for months and maybe turned into a book. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. No matter how many hours I put in, it still requires more.

I watch fake news on the internet from all the failing news outlets, like I’m from another planet, as if I reside at some great altitude, my vantage point giving me unimpeachable perspective. Nothing can be kept from me. Alone in my house, I am the knower of things, the invisible American squinting into the future. The Republican’s furious and pathetic attempt to discredit Mueller and his investigation only indicates that the man is onto something. They can’t really think they’re fooling anyone, can they? Ha! Alone in my kitchen eating hummus, I am onto them. Orrin Hatch, who just claimed that comrade Trump is one of the best presidents he’s ever served under, in a single sentence, traded in any and all credibility he ever had. These politicians, who I guess see themselves having no choice but to throw in their lot with Trump will never get the stench off of them. It doesn’t matter how passionately the petulant Fox News entertainers whahhhh into camera lenses, it is what it is and as their demographic reaches their physiological limits, Fox and their ilk are the ever drying and shrinking scab that will at some point fall off. Time and the future are not on their side.

If there is an afterlife, is this how the day goes? Is this what retirement is like? If that’s the case, then I won’t be able to handle retirement. I don’t mind a few days of drift and introspective wallow but thankfully it will soon be time to get a shave and stand upright.

Meanwhile, all around me, Christmas, a force of such epic power, all the liberal attacks waged against it could not put the slightest dent in its gleaming chassis. I drove by the Grove two days ago and the line of cars to get in stopped traffic. This is America at one of its most terrifying times, when millions in acquisition mode, see it as their genetic imperative to get the best deals. I think it’s part of what happens when you take millions of people who spend most of their time working themselves to the bone as we Americans are wont to do, and give them some down time. Like sailors on shore leave, for some, it’s a little too much. We are well conditioned and doomed to serve the few. Soon enough, boredom and situational angst will set in. The coffee places and movie theaters will fill as people hit their saturation point on free time and wait to get back to work, where from the confines of their cars stuck in perpetual traffic jams and the cubicles they eventually hurl themselves into, can look forward to the next holiday season.

Column #02


Column #02

One of the upsides of comrade Trump’s appearance at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson was that at least millions of people in America now know that it exists. How many in the state or from outside of it pay a visit remains to be seen. For a lot of people, Mississippi is too far a destination and might not make their bucket list. That’s a shame. It’s a beautiful state. It’s part of America but for many, so removed in so many ways, some might wonder if they have all those normal things other states have. I think that one of the reasons you don’t hear more about Mississippi is that they don’t have a team in the National Football League. Mississippi is America’s North Korea. Oh, don’t get your knickers all twisted up, I’m only kidding.

The fact that Mississippi, with the highest percentage of African Americans than any other state can acknowledge the past enough to even have this museum is a sign of progress. Multiple attempts to get this project going failed. This wasn’t a matter of months, it was years. This is understandable. Some state politicians no doubt wouldn’t want to deliver the news to their constituents that tens of millions of tax payer dollars were going to be used to create a place that puts a bright light on Mississippi’s brutal history. However, they got it done. I think Mississippi should be commended for having the strength to do this.

It would be too easy to only disparage Mississippi for the unspeakably horrific events that mar its back pages. It would be too easy, to write the state off as lost in the mists of time, and only ask, in relation to the museum, “What took you so long?” I think it’s important to acknowledge how slow the pace of change can be and when something positive happens in America, at any time, it should be commended. Personally, as hard a visit as I know it’s going to be, I will go to the museum as soon as I can.

Again, bravo to Mississippi for facing its past. Some of the most painful and revolting chapters of American history happened in Mississippi. Every time you go back to the case of Emmet Till, a fourteen year old African American boy who was murdered in August of 1955, it loses none of its horror. Till was accused of whistling at a white woman named Carolyn Bryant when he was in a grocery store she worked at in Money, Mississippi. A few days later, on August 28th, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half brother J.W. Milam abducted Till, killed him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River. The next month, on September 23rd, at trial, the all white jury deliberated less than two hours. Bryant and Milam were acquitted of all charges. Even after confessing in a paid interview with Look Magazine the following year, no further charges were brought against the two men.

A part of the interview, reportedly the words of JW Milam, is indicative of the times:

“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers—in their place—I know how to work ‘em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government. They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’. I’m likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we’ve got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. ‘Chicago boy,’ I said, ‘I’m tired of ‘em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I’m going to make an example of you—just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.’”

Both Bryant and Milam died in 2004. In 2007, in an interview with Tim Tyson, Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who made the accusation in 1955, broke her silence and admitted that what she had said at the time wasn’t true. It is impossible, even all these years later, for this not to hurt and give rise to new anger. Two of the doors from Bryant’s grocery store, that young Emmett Till entered in 1955, are in the museum. I don’t want to see them but I know I should. Also in the museum, is the .30‐06 Enfield rifle that Byron De La Beckwith shot and killed Medgar Evers with in June of 1963 in Jackson. I don’t want to see this either.

Medgar Evers is as great as an American as you can name. I learned a lot about him from Maryanne Vollers’ excellent book Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron De La Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South. Why was Medgar Evers killed? He helped African Americans register to vote. Shooting Medgar Evers in the back as he got out of his car, in his own driveway, was De La Beckwith’s version of making America great again. De La Beckwith was finally found guilty in his third trial, in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison for a crime he bragged about for decades. He died in 2001.

Some of the finest men and women in American history can be found in the struggle for Civil Rights. Try to imagine the level of fear of Civil Rights activists working for CORE, (Congress of Racial Equality) James Chaney age 21, Andrew Goodman age 20 and Michael Schwerner age 24, when they knew they were going to die in Neshoba County, Mississippi in June of 1964. They were shot and killed by members of the KKK. Days later their bodies were exhumed from a makeshift grave.

In full knowledge of what the consequences could be, a young Civil Rights activist named John Lewis, now a member of Congress, representing the great state of Georgia, along with hundreds of others, made that legendary walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7th, 1965, now known as Bloody Sunday. Lewis got his skull fractured.

For the opening day ceremonies of the Civil Rights Museum, comrade Trump was there. John Lewis and Bennie Thompson, representative of Mississippi’s 2nd District congressional district were not. In a statement, Mr. Lewis said:

“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the queen of droll, said of Lewis and Bennie Thompson, representative of Mississippi’s 2nd District congressional district’s no show:

“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the president in honoring the incredible sacrifice Civil Rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history. The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”

Oh, okay. Please excuse Mr. Lewis and Mr. Thompson for not wanting to be in attendance and get pulled into a photo op with Trump. For Congressman Lewis to have come so far, and endured what he has, to be locked into history standing next to this president would be a life fail. He got his head caved in for that museum.

In defense of Putin’s best boy, what should Trump have done? If he didn’t pay a visit to the museum, he would have been slammed for that as well. At least he went. Who knows, maybe he might have learned something. Maybe one day, he’ll refer to Evers and Till as “fabulous people who are doing great work.”

During his short speech at the museum, Trump said:

“The civil rights museum records the oppression inflicted on the African-American community — the fight to end slavery, to end Jim Crow, to gain the right to vote — so that others might live in freedom.”

Corny coming from a man whose administration seems to be on board with any move by any state making it increasingly more difficult to vote. This is territory Mr. Lewis knows quite well. Some of his friends died for it.

The president going to the museum and Representative Lewis not isn’t the issue. It’s that Mississippi took some of the worst moments in the country’s history, that happened to have transpired in their state, and put them on display. This is cultural courage. This is how you get somewhere. There was no way this was easy for Mississippi. No doubt there are some who wish this museum didn’t exist, who would burn it to the ground if they could.

Wouldn’t it be great if Trump’s visit to the museum inspired him, moved him so profoundly, that it compelled him to tell his minority support group about the place at future rallies? Would that blow their minds or what? Ironically, the museum was almost made for Trump and people like him. Something can be right in front of you but that doesn’t mean you’ll see it.

Column #01


Column #01
An Americano In Europa

I’m in my second week at the Le Royal Hotel in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Whenever I’ll be on location and living in a hotel, I always make note of the path through the lobby to the elevator, familiarize myself with the buttons once inside and upon exiting on my floor, the dimensions and lighting of the area around the elevator’s doors. I figure out where my room is and as I walk towards it, I think to myself that all this will become very familiar over the next few weeks but it will be an earned familiarity. I will be living in a hotel. Most of my fellow guests are staying for a day or two but I’ll be here for weeks. I’m like a local in a tourist town. Within a few days, I have developed a rapport with the restaurant staff, who have figured out that their hotel has been invaded by a bunch of weirdo actors.

At this point, I’ve done this many times all over the world. I have a routine. At the first possible chance, I walk around the neighborhood to see where the coffee and grocery opportunities are. This time around, my neighborhood is very nice but not all that interesting. My new local coffee place, called Coffee Fellows, serves a good Americano, an order that always sounds strange when I say it, but is only open until 2000 hrs. and isn’t really a work oriented joint, with its small tables and casual lighting. Still, I go in there and try to get that corner table that’s not so close to all the other people who pack the place. The grocery store is quite good not far from the hotel. I walk on the streets near the hotel to neutralize jet lag and immerse myself in my surroundings. This is my new home for a while. Bowie’s A New Career In A New Town plays in my head.

Last week was a blur of activity, waged in the mists of jet lag. We’re shooting in an old building that has no heat, so all the rooms have plug in heaters. Between set ups, I put on a coat that’s like a sleeping bag with sleeves and wait it out. The scenes which held all my large dialogue parts were done last week. I’m amazed I pulled it off. Take after take, I was hitting it and not dropping any lines. I have six more shoot days and if I had to, could do the rest of my dialogue in one day. Most of the remaining shots I’ll be involved with will probably end up being painful. Swinging at men, and causing a commotion always leaves me dented.

Many years ago, I learned something a lot of American alternative music combatants with a grain of ambition and survivalist instinct know very well: you will be in Europe a lot. People who were in broke ass bands in the last century are some of the most well traveled people I’ve ever met. Many of them were here so much, they picked up German and French, some moved here. In many ways, my old outfit, the Rollins Band, was an American band with European sensibilities. We were here all the time. We would spend weeks just playing shows in Germany. There were so many great things about this. I can’t speak for anyone else in the band but I learned a lot being around Europeans. The differences between America and anywhere else are too many to list but perhaps the most profound differences between America and the continent of Europe are age and experience.

In the last century, Europe was shaken to its core by the second World War. A war that was bravely taken on by American forces but that didn’t do a fraction of the damage to American infrastructure. Survivors all over Europe literally had to sweep the rubble of what was their town to the side and start again. I think this impacted the collective psyche of the continent. Even those who weren’t alive for the six years Europe was torn to pieces and the years afterwards, when millions of PTS stricken people had to figure out a way forward, have an imprinted ghost memory of what can be lost, how bad it can get and what’s important. You can see it in everything from the construction of buildings to how people regard each other. This is at least one of the reasons why British PM Theresa May reacted so quickly and sharply to comrade Trump’s recent clumsy and dangerously stupid tweeting of Britain First propaganda. She gets it. Trump obviously does not.

As a young American traveling from place to place, I soaked this up more than I realized. There was without a doubt, a romance of being a “band in exile” even if it was all in my head. When I was in Europe, looking out the window of whatever transport was taking us to the next show, it would occur to me that this was real, this is what we were doing with our lives. It was a monumentally impactful thought that influences a lot of what I do and how I do it to this day, including where I’m writing this from and why I’m here. I’m not on vacation. This is my life out here and I am of the opinion that not only am I in the right place but that I am incredibly lucky.

Of course there are pains in the ass no matter where you go but the level of overall civility in Europe is noticeable. I must say, I prefer the harder elbow-to-the-ribs American version, and believe that Americans are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever been around but there is a lot to be said for European sophistication. It definitely raises the level of the game. I truly enjoy how familiar “merci” and “d’accord” have become to me over the last several days.

Walking the streets around the hotel on my nights off, it’s been hitting me how hard Europe has informed my life. I think I’ve come here almost every year since 1981. I can’t help it, whenever I’m here working in a film, I feel like I’m Peter Falk in Wings Of Desire.






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