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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Kurt Cobain


My first time visiting Matt and Tracy in Seattle was when we visited the place where it all happened. We knew it was dorky and creepy and generally not the kind of thing cynical, hipsters like us would normally do. But this was different. It was him. The guy who changed it all. The voice of OUR generation. Our Jim Morrison (though not so crappy). Our Robert Kennedy. The guy who was destined to be OUR Bob Dylan. His name was Kurt and we felt an unnatural connection to him.

So naturally when Matt offered, I accepted. Going online, he was able to get the address of the house where on April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain ended it all. With one last drug fix, he decided to end everything. And now I could view it all from the outside, not unlike how I viewed it initially. For some reason this felt less like a question and more a mission. Little did I know when I left Chicago, but this was what my trip to Seattle was all about. But now that it was in front of me, it was what I needed to do.

When it happened, I was a Freshman in college. I was actually arriving to my room from an early morning class, packing up my things. I was about to be picked up by my parents for the Easter weekend. I had heard some whispers as I walked through the dorm but it couldn't be true. I'm sure they were just confused or playing a mean joke. If it really happened, I'm sure MTV would have it on. So I turned on the TV and it was true. He was gone.

As we drove through the hilly and winding roads in the Seattle community near the house, I had a weird feeling in my stomach. It was not unlike the feeling I felt on that Friday morning more than 10 years ago. Not quite nerves and not quite dread. It was a culmination of all emotions yet it was emotionless.

Driving past the house, it was instantly recognizable. A flood of images came rushing back. The barrage of MTV images, such as the officers and CSI people walking out of the house. We saw a pair of goth chicks standing on the sidewalk, doing the same thing we were about to do. Not sure why I needed to go. For some strange reason I think it was to help bring closure to the situation. Not that I was aware I needed closure. Or maybe I expecting to see a zombie Kurt Cobain or his ghost or maybe actually him, dressed in a trenchcoat with a hat with a look telling me it was all a big scam to get out of the spotlight.

Next to the house is a wooded area, a very small park. There are two wooden benches that have been sullied with graffiti. The typical "deep thoughts", song lyrics, hopes, dreams, etc littered this bench. In a weird way it was beautiful. Unlike the Jim Morrison graffiti, this doesn't really ruin anything. It was the place people needed to confirm their journey was complete. In some strange way it was the symbol that held everything together.

Moving from the park to the house, it felt like being at a cemetery. To be honest though, that's what it was to us. For we were going to pay our respects to our heroes. And it carried that exact same feeling you get while standing over a tombstone. In this case, Kurt's tombstone was his house. The place he ended it all.

I could never articulate clearly enough what Kurt Cobain meant to me. For someone I had never met, it is ridiculous. And I had never had anyone close to me commit suicide. Kurt was the closest. But it's hard to express what exactly he meant to us and why we feel the way we do about him. Why Nirvana and not, say The Pixies? We all wish we were special...and we all are, and not just in some Bible way. But there are only a handful, a select few, in each generation that are truly iconic. Those special people for one reason or another are able to affect and influence millions of people. Those people who are able to change the lives of millions of people they have never even met.

The closest I ever got to Kurt was moving through the mosh pit below him as he played in Detroit. Yet I can say with certainty that he has influenced me more than just about anyone. And it's a gift, but it's also a curse. Imagine how freaked out you would be if you realized you could affect so many people. This obviously doesn't excuse what he did, but it may explain some of the reasons behind it. For even through the pain and drugs, he seemed to get it. Unfortunately, this included his burden, which he was not willing to undertake.

At the end of the day we are left with just a handful of music. But what music it is. Personally, I think "In Utero" is the far superior CD. And given some of the outtakes such as "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flowing Through the Strip", I believe the best was still to come. I truly believe Cobain would have had an incredible career not unlike Dylan, who has managed to stay relevant for 4+ decades so far. But it was not to be. Which is why we must cherish what we have instead of focusing on what could have been. Which is why 14 years later I say Thank You to Kurt Cobain, with a shot of Jack and a cigarette.

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music indie punk Seattle Nirvana Kurt Cobain

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