Sunday, September 25, 2011

About a boy...Oh well, whatever...Nevermind.

This post is also not about metal.

It's now been over twenty years since Nevermind was released, and understandably enough, a vast number of music magazines, blogs, and whatever falls in between have been running stories in the tune of Cobain. Some have done generic cut-and-paste writeups (heroin, Aberdeen, Pearl Jam, flannel, naked baby - check!) and others, like my homie Lars, have done really heartfelt, interesting pieces ( I've got an idea for a more in-depth piece that'll most likely surface on Invisible Oranges in the coming months, but for now, this is just my little tribute to the band that sold the world on raw power, angst, and unhappy endings.

Nirvana are one of my favorite bands. For awhile, they were my favorite, favorite band, one that I obsessed over to the degree of loving madness that only a fifteen-year-old girl with a lot on her mind can conjure. I had every t-shirt, every poster, every album, every bootleg, bought money orders at the post office so that I could order bootleg live DVDs off Ebay, absolutely devoured his Journals when the book was released, drew pictures of his wounded angel's face, wrote song lyrics and Kurt quotes on index cards and papered my walls with them...there is no love like a teenage girl's. Now that I'm a few years past teenage dreams, the love remains, but has matured a bit (I think), at least to the point where I can appreciate them as a purely musical entity as well as a cultural phenomenon, and can finally really relate to a thing or two that had Kurt hurting.
They still have a hold over me, though at this point I've locked away most of my considerable collection of Nirvana memorabilia in some heart-shaped box in my parents' basement. I will always love Nirvana, and that love has bled into some of the other bands from their era - Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Green River, Mudhoney. Grunge isn't dead, baby - it's just gone into hiding.

My best guy friend Jesse is still stuck in the nineties (despite our mutual January 1988 birthdays) and was the original impetus for my discovery of and appreciation for that little band from Aberdeen. Of course I'd heard Nirvana songs on the radio, but they never grabbed me really. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was cool, but generally I just thought of them as "Mom music," because they always came on after "Enter Sandman" or "Back in Black" on the classic rock station she kept the dial on. When I got to high school and befriended Jesse, an adorable, loudmouthed kid with blue hair and the nicest smile I'd ever seen, his Nirvana shirts and burned CDs began to interest me a bit. Fittingly enough, given Kurt's perpetually heartbroken existence and penchant for penning aching, unsettling love songs, the initial adoration I developed for "the band" in reality was about a boy.

Our fledgling romance lasted about two months, and when he decided to call things off, I was devastated beyond belief. Kurt was there for me, though, and I'd spend hours listening to every shred of Nirvana I could hunt down, alone in my room of course, nursing my first broken heart. Nine years later, the relationship Jesse and I have is quite a lot stronger than those first few weeks of adolescent awkwardness, hand-holding, rounding bases and nightly phone calls could have predicted. Puppy love settled and evolved, life happened, we grew up, fell in love with other people and with each other and with other people again, and now we have ended up solidifying into comfortably best friends. We've discovered that, to each of us, the other is the kind of person you love far too deeply to ever risk dating but will always be around, and we still listen to Nirvana together.

Apart from that romantic interlude, though, my love affair with Nirvana runs a bit deeper than that story might intimate. The music is what really got me. Kurt's lyrics, those inscrutable, mangled poems that didn't make any sense really, but made all the sense in the world when picked apart and filtered through however I was feeling that day. Every album has its tone, its hallmarks, its messages, and I loved - and love! - them all. Nevermind has always been my favorite, though, as much as I secretly wanted to be more into the scratchy demos and outtakes on Outcesticide or primal screams of Bleach. That album got me through some trying times and provided a soundtrack for some terribly happy ones, and has held up through it all. I damn near wore out every CD of theirs I had, and treasured every bootleg or live version I could find. When my parents were being horrible (or reasonable, in retrospect) I'd cry along to Nirvana Unplugged, or fume to Bleach. My best girl friend at the time, Ashley, was another Nirvana freak, and we'd geek out over rare demos and swoon over Kurt and trade Nirvana shirts for most of sophomore year, until my newly forming obsession with death metal really began to take hold.

Twenty years after a trio of misfits let loose all their anger and alienation and creativity and hurt into a big wide world, nine years after a couple of young misfits a countrylength away soaked it all in, and one day since the anniversary of the date it all went down, I am sprawled out in my New York apartment, with a sleepy roommate and sleepy black cat curled up on the couch across from me and an Irishman wailing to the ancients from my laptop speakers, thinking about another Irishman with dark eyes and my heart in his grasp, wearing a Zoroaster shirt and nursing suspension wounds, a long, long way from the pines and light years away from fifteen...and I still love Nirvana.

Some things never change. The people and songs and places and flavors and books you loved when you were young, when you were just discovering who you were and starting to dream of what you could be - those things stick with you forever. Who you are when you're sixteen is a skeletal version of who you could be when you're 64.

Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be...

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