Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever | Big Think

here’s the short history of me born in 1961 went to high school never went to one University for a semester American University in Washington DC didn’t like it knew I couldn’t afford four years of student loan didn’t want to hang out with people who were enraptured by Stroh’s beer and marijuana this wasn’t gonna be for me so I hit the streets and pursued the minimum wage jobs that I’d had all through high school and that was for me that was me in the late 70s the last straight job I had was 1981 head manager of a haagen-dazs in Georgetown in Washington DC on Wisconsin Avenue at the intersection of Wisconsin and o’the Street making three seventy five an hour four dollars an hour or something like that working 40 to 60 hours a week I had a small apartment which I shared with an old pal of mine I had a small record collection an ailing VW automobile and a little tiny life with my minimum wage job which I rear I liked and I looked at my life and realized this is probably as bad as good as it’s gonna get for me I might quit this place and go work at my friends record store because I like to being around records that I could probably run his store very well knowing what I knew about retail at that point and then I got a very lucky break because at that same time

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I was very frustrated I said well this is gonna be a very tough life it’s gonna be a life of a lot of standing on my feet a lot of work taking it from other people and having very little to show for it by Friday you know Friday evening and then Black Flag the famous band whose friends of mine they played in New York I was in Washington I took a ride up to go see him because they weren’t coming down in my town I jumped on stage and sang with him that night a song because I had to go back down to DC and go work like some awful shift they called me a few days later at the ice cream store and said you know we’re looking for a singer because the rhythm guitar player wants to I’m sorry the vocalist wants to move down to rhythm guitar you tell I’ve told the story before and we’re holding auditions you want to crack at this because we saw you on stage the other night you’re pretty wild I looked at the ice cream scoop in my hand and my chocolate bespattered apron and my future in the world of minimum wage work or I could go up to New York and audition for this crazy band who is my favorite what’s the worst that’s gonna happen to me I miss a day of work ooh there goes 21 bucks and

I get humiliated in front of my favorite band yeah humiliation and young people kind of go together I was used to it and so I I took a train up there I walked into this practice place in the East Village I’m standing there with the band with a microphone in my hand they said pick the tune and I sang every song they had you know improvising most of it two times through we did the set they said okay you have a seat we’re gonna go have a band meeting whatever that means and they came back like 10 minutes later said okay your end I said what do you mean they said you’re the singer in Black Flag I said so what do I do they go he’ll quit your job you pack your gear you meet us on the road here’s here’s the tour itinerary here’s the lyrics we’ll see you soon so fairly numb I went back down to Washington with this passel of lyrics in my hand went to my boss and said I’m not exactly quitting but here’s this thing that happened and he said it’s your shot I said yeah he said take it and that was late July 1981 about 30-some years ago and that’s what happened to me I won the lottery and I was in this band Black Flag for years made a lot of Records played a lot of shows learned a lot started writing sort of publishing company in that time and in the 80s Hollywood directors started coming to me like you’re crazy you can you act I’m like yeah I’m starving can you pay I mean I’m looking for work and never forgetting what I have to go back to $8 you know haagen-dazs so I said yes to every acting job yes to every audition worked on my little publishing company started doing poetry readings and speaking dates in the 90s want to do a voiceover yeah and so I said yes to everything worked like a crazy man realizing guys like me fais at the time so I was around a lot of great bands and rarely did they get over the wall people much more talented than Oliver be I don’t have talent I have tenacity you know I’ve discipline I have focus and I know without any illusion where I come from and what I can go back to and that’s why I said a while ago in the 80s I saw what was happening with money I was watching it shift very quickly I was watching the middle class go away and I was a 23 year old maniac but I got it and that’s when I realized you better get plan b c d e f and g otherwise you’re gonna starve to death in the America the America is not a place you live in it’s a video game that you that you survive you know I’m not only an American I’m an American esteem Erica in spite of what it wants to do to people like me and so through saying yes to everything realizing people like me have to write it three times and other people have to write it once that I have to show up early I’ll probably get lost on the way to the location and that I should probably watch shut up and learn rather than shoot my mouth off I am where I am right now which is a vastly different position than I was 30 years ago 20 years ago in ten years ago so it is basically a story of a lot of luck but taking advantage of opportunity working really damn hard knowing there was no choice for me but to work really hard and that’s it and that’s not a unique story what was unique is I got to be in my favorite band like they came to me and said hey we’re auditioning people I was like because had they not plucked me out of Washington DC a great town what would have happened to me I probably would have gone to work for my friend’s record store which would have eventually folded which it went away and then what I would have done I don’t know maybe gotten some female pregnant and been a young dad I don’t know you know the America would have happened to me and so I got a lucky break but at least I did something with it the repeating factors of my life have been application discipline focus repetition you know a gig a gig again what are you doing tomorrow 8 o’clock on stage we’re doing the night after I’ll be on stage what about 2 months from now I’ll be still on that same tour because I manage myself I know where I’m going I might finish it I might not survive it but I’m the one booking

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