Smells like dead rock star…

I caught this article remembering the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide – For Kurt Cobain, A Sleepless Nirvana (washingtonpost.com) – and it got me to thinkin’ a wee bit.

Ten years eh? It honestly seems like only a few months have gone by since I heard of Kurt Cobain’s death. I do remember where I was when I heard of it. I was at work, at my grossly underpaid job working for a business publishing behemoth in San Francisco. When a coworker told me my instant, typically flippant, reaction was to say, “too bad it couldn’t have been Eddie Vedder.” I guess a sign that I’ve grown up a lot since then might be that I no longer wish grisly suicide on Mr. Vedder. I’ve matured to the point where I can intensely dislike Pearl Jam and refrain from extending my dislike for the band into wishing ill-will upon any of the band members. Ok, maybe it’s not maturity. Maybe I’ve just become overly sappy and sentimental in my declining years.

I once wrote that Kurt’s death hit me almost as hard as my own father’s that came later that same year. Like the Post article says, lots of people heard Nirvana, read interviews with Kurt and then read about his suicide and said to themselves, “that could’ve been me.” Well, I was one of that unwashed herd. My parents divorced when I was young (just before I turned 5, as a matter of fact) and the fallout from that event left me in the midst of a lot of what is popularly referred to as “disfunction.” I hate that term, to be honest. It says way too much while simultaneously saying absolutely nothing. Before you can brand a family disfunctional you first have to properly define familial functionality. And no, don’t try. Smarter people than you have failed at this task. You can’t do it because the whole concept is bullshit.

But I digress.

I remember seeing and reading interviews that Kurt did and always being struck by how much we had in common. Realistically though there’s many points of divergence that even a younger, less wise version of myself should have seen clearly – I graduated from college, studied in Oxford for awhile, drifted through various office jobs until I landed in the dashing and exciting world of Facilities Management. When Kurt was schleping gear from show to show, living on ramen and sleeping on floors I was making an ok living, living in a comfortable home and amassing a prodigious debt that to this day gives me stomach aches. But still, I felt a kinship. We liked the same noisy bands that no one else seemed to. We both liked to play our guitars way too loudly and had an unnatural affection for cheesy chorus pedal effects. He dealt with daily stomach pain that no doctor had been able to relieve him of while I was afflicted with nagging daily arthritis pain in my ankles that most of the time made it too painful for me to walk more than a few blocks at a time.

Ultimately though the comparisons were, as the Buddhist try to tell us, odious. What was really important to me was that the first time I saw Nirvana play, a few months before Nevermind was released, I was jazzed about rock and roll again. I’d played in bands since I was 14 or 15 years old, and even had one band that got semi-successful locally when I was in college, but after I graduated every band I joined was a disappointment on some level. I either had issues with the people I was playing with or was just flat out uninspired by the music we were making. I’d even stopped buying records that I really liked. I was trying to “mature” my tastes and grow myself up and out of this obsession with playing rock and roll that I’d had since I was 12. Nirvana and Kurt Cobain kicked me in the ass and kicked me out of my complacency. I stopped writing “soundtracks for films yet to be made” that I recorded in the wee hours of the night on my little home recording studio. And I swore I’d never take drum machines seriously again.

It really doesn’t matter whether Kurt and I had a lot in common or not. To me it matters that he made music that made me realize how important music is to me. Thanks, man. I’m sorry you couldn’t stick around longer.

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