Henry Rollins: The Column! Henry Speaks On His Consciousness-Expanding Trip to the Library of Congress With Ian MacKaye
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Free Is Not Cool
I have just wrapped one of the better days this year. It only finished several minutes ago, as midnight draws near.
I met up with Ian MacKaye at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Seventh Street in downtown D.C. at 11 a.m. Our first stop was at the National Archives. We have a friend there who allows us to come in and view some of the rarer documents the massive building holds.
Our contact got us visitor IDs, and we went through security checks and rounds of phone calls and code-required doors before finally arriving at a very thick and heavy door that opened like a bank vault.
We step inside and sit down in the chairs provided; walking around, pulling open the drawers, or looking into any of the countless boxes is a no-go. Why? The room we are sitting in holds documents from the first 26 years of America's governmental workings. It is my second visit, and I am even more excited than I was the first time.
Our contact has prepared documents for us to look at. They come out of drawers and boxes big and small. Highlights include letters from Thomas Jefferson, the first and last pages of George Washington's inaugural speech -- written in his own hand -- and Abraham Lincoln's letter to Congress authorizing Ulysses Grant to be put in charge of the Union armies. For fun, our contact has brought in Frank Zappa's notes read at the Parents Music Resource Center hearings. Hilarious.
One of the high points for me was a draft of the Bill of Rights, as it went back and forth between the two houses of Congress. What became the Second Amendment had several more words to it, while the last words of what became the 10th Amendment -- " ... or to the people." -- were a handwritten addition. Wow! I can't tell you how awesome it was to see that. The other high point was reading the words of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln out loud with Ian. Perfection.
After two hours of amazing viewing, our contact had work to attend to, so we thanked him profusely and left, vowing to come back again. Our contact must be a glutton for punishment, as he said that would be just fine.
Our next stop was the Library of Congress, where Ian has the hookup. Apparently, the LOC heard about Ian's collection of Dischord Records and punk-rock ephemera and asked to take a look. They are now helping Ian catalog the pieces.