Henry Rollins: How, and at What Cost, Do People Live in Yuma?

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[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on our sister blog West Coast Sound every Thursday.]

By Henry Rollins

Since the first time I saw photos of desert-dwelling people in National Geographic as a boy, I have been fascinated by people who choose to live in hot-as- or cold-as-hell locations. Watching Lawrence of Arabia at some point in my youth only made me more interested. All that sand - it didn't look real. Same thing when watching footage of people in the middle of some subzero oblivion: It seemed like an adventure tinged with death.


Jack London's short story To Build a Fire depicts an unnamed man who dies of exposure to the cold, his demise witnessed only by a dog, who eventually leaves the body and heads back to camp. It made a great impact on me. Still, it wasn't as interesting to me as hot environments. It could very well be that I thought Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif looked so badass.

Growing up in the stewpot summers of Washington, D.C., was not at all inspiring. It was something you survived. The public summer camps I went to as a kid were great for watching my peers send arcing jets of white bread/bologna/mayonnaise/milk vomit through the air and then face-planting in the grass.

As I grew older, summer nights took on quite a bit of poignancy. The temperature would cool and the humid night air was imbued with the scent of trees. It would provide endless amounts of solitary reverie as I walked the streets for hours.

I don't think I saw real desert until I took a Greyhound bus across America with Ian MacKaye, from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco in the mid-1970s. I thought it was beautiful and deadly. I wanted to walk out into it to see what would happen. Being a city person, I am a semi-civilized creature, as weakened and desensitized by convenience and comfort as anyone else. Existing in extreme climates, even just for short periods, has held great interest for me for many years.

This interest also has made me think quite a bit about the audacity of humans - our general chutzpah, which sends us into merciless climates to call home. We are the only species I know of that willfully does this. We build on flood plains and cry when our houses sail away. We occupy the coastline and are shocked when the Earth zigs instead of zags, sending millions of gallons of water where it has never been before (although most of the time, it has), and call it a disaster. We chalk it up to God's anger about the whole gay thing.

All other creatures caught up in the chaos do what they have been doing for millions of years - they either survive or die. They don't sue, they don't complain. They either hack, or pack. That seems kinda stoic and ruggedly bitchin' to me, though not nearly as much as hiding from ducks in order to kill them, of course. No offense to any moron reading this.



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25 comments
bluetrashchik
bluetrashchik

Henry, you're being a little harsh on Yuma. Come on, you're a tough guy, you rode through Siberia, remember? I'm just going to believe that you're saying all of this because you have to exaggerate for the upcoming show to make it sound worse than it really is. Gotta get those views! It hasn't even made it to 116 degrees yet this year, ya big baby!! I'm from the southeast and handle it just fine. Better than living in a swampy mosquito-ridden place any day! Man, for the first time I'm disagreeing with you about something. Hate I missed you.

angeli8surrenders
angeli8surrenders

Dear Henry, Thank you for such an insightful and hilarious article. Born in Yuma, your view of the leather-as-skin adaptation of the inhabitants is correct. Living in Arizona is pretty much a technological affront to God saying, "Fuck you, we'll live here anyways. Amen. :)" Humor is funny only when it touches a truth & an emotion. You did both. Great job, sir. Looking forward to reading your thoughts next week.

Jimmy Green
Jimmy Green

For three. At the most. Months out if the year.

Kaayla Taylor
Kaayla Taylor

What a cry baby. There are few places on the planet that have perfect weather all the time. For most of the year, Yuma is pretty nice.

Lance Martin
Lance Martin

Can't believe I just wasted 5.5 minutes of my life reading Rollins' drivel. Go with yer gut next time, Henry--don't publish this BS. Make up your mind whether to be observational or self-reflective. Wanting to do both here results in the worst kind of cultural commentary. Read some Twain to remind yourself how to do it.

Paula Jean Neff
Paula Jean Neff

Yuma was a great place to grow up. Its so silly that this is someone from Phoenix (where I was born & also lived) that is talking smack about Yuma lol. They are not that different, weather wise. Hell is Hell. Didn't even bother reading the blog lol.

Christopher Young
Christopher Young

AZ in general, they all get leather skin after awhile. smart are snowbirds! In the migration theory this is where you didn't want to end up!

Joe Rollins
Joe Rollins

Amber Nicole Beau McGranahan question answered.

Susan Sharp
Susan Sharp

Hahah Nes Simeona here's another one for you

catmeyer
catmeyer

Oh, P.S. Hank, I have been here since '09, my skin in quite lovel. It's tan, freckled and there are a few laugh lines for a 43 year old. Sturdy, sure but we are proud transfers out here (most of us) and we stay because we sincerely love it. I went back to Ohio (sing it Ms. Crissie Hyde) and all I wanted to do was come home to my desert. It's home and it's perfection. Sunsets, sunrises....great food and amazing people. I can't live anywhere else.

catmeyer
catmeyer

My hero....my Neo Geuardo/El Camino was in MY town, probably at the gun range down off 95-NEAR MY DAMN HOUSE-and I didn't know it. I am reading my signed copy of "A Grim Detail" and kept thinking that he needs to come to Yuma, eat at Chili Pepper and go see the prison and learn about how amazing it is here. COME BACK HANK....COME BACK! Arrrrghhhhhhhh

Jukes
Jukes

I certainly hope that while Henry was enjoying the sights and smells of the Salton Sea he noted that the National Wildlife Refuge on the southern end is named after Sonny Bono.  It's a nice cultural touch, I think. 

Sondra Speakes
Sondra Speakes

Well at least he called us "friendly" & "sturdy" :-D

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