To celebrate being done with my final semester in college, I decided to re-read an old favorite for this review.
I have always been a fan of Henry Rollins and his music, but when I received his book, “Black Coffee Blues,” as a gift, I was officially hooked on him for life. Rollins is known for his intellect and wit, and it really shines in this book. The book itself is even published in 1992 by Rollins’ own publishing company, 2.13.61, which happens to be his birthday.
“Black Coffee Blues” is a collection of Rollins’ journal entries, short writings and poetry from 1989-1991. Each section differs from the next one, but the common feature that each one has is brutal honesty. Rollins’ truthful, hard-edged view of the world comes through in each passage. Whether he is discussing his distaste for other musicians or observing the daily grind of a number of different people to the pain of isolation, Rollins writes each one without any apologies. Anyone who is not a fan of vulgarity or faint of heart may not be able to enjoy the bluntness that is Henry Rollins.
Two of my favorite sections of the book are “124 Worlds” and “I Know you”. I can remember hearing the audio version of “I Know you” on Youtube when I was a teenager, but never realizing it was in a book. Being an angry, bitter teenager, I related to the feeling of suffocating isolation that he was writing about.
This is a favorite section of mine from the poem:
“so you learned to be invisible
to look down
to avoid conversation
ah the weekend nights, alone
where were you
in the basement?
in the attic?
in your room?
working some job?
just to have something to do
just to have a place to put yourself
just to have a way to get away from them
a chance to get away from the ones that made you feel so strange and ill-at-ease inside yourself”
To me, this poem offered a hand to guide me through the troubled times and it has stayed with me since the first time I heard it (which was probably over 12 years ago). Everyone needs someone to identify with; someone to help get through their growing pains, and for me, that was Henry Rollins.
“124 Worlds” is a collation of various stories from different people. What I liked most about this section was that no story was the same. One entry was about how a fan wrote to Rollins about wanting to kill herself. She wanted him to select the method of how she does it, he told her “to die of old age.” Other stories talk about escaping from abuse, falling in love and other topics we, as humans, face on a regular basis.
After a long semester of reading for grades, it was nice to pick up an old favorite and simply read for pleasure. If you enjoy looking at the world from another person’s point of view, no matter how vulgar it may be, you will enjoy Rollins’ take on the world through “Black Coffee Blues.”