Posted by: rocketbride | June 1, 2015

teenage angst has paid off well

We saw Montage of Heck on Friday night, a rare date night to kick off a relatively quiet weekend with all three of the kids. It’s probably just as well that the kids keep me as busy as a one-legged girl in a butt-kicking contest, because I am to this moment processing the feelings that movie dredged up.

Prelude:

It’s almost a cliché to note that the music of your youth will always sound better than anything else because it is welded to the intense emotions of adolescence. I try hard in these days of early middle age to look evenly at the 90’s and discard what hasn’t worn well, or what has been unfairly deified. For years after Kurt killed himself I struggled with popular culture raising up a few chosen songs as anthems, repeating them to the point of numbness and indifference. Over the years I’ve said the same thing to Mason: “I need a ten year break from Nirvana.” I needed to get out of the culture to find the fresh ears. I needed to put them away to enjoy them again, and radio didn’t want to let me, so I did the next best thing: I let my CDs collect dust. I ignored them.

I ignored the memories. How, in the beginning of the huge fame, I would hide in the bathroom when “Teen Spirit” would come on the radio and practice headbanging, holding onto the towel rack for support. Learning the drum part for “In Bloom” so that I could play it with my “band.” Little Spider and I half-assing through a workout video with “In Utero” in the background. Nic going to see the band on the “In Utero” tour, and my dad grimly warning my 15-year-old brother that he “better not come home with a t-shirt that said ‘Rape Me’.” The day Kurt was found, when my friends and I wandered around the mall, discussing why we thought he had done it. That afternoon I took a pen and neatly wrote “Kurt Cobain is in a Leonard Cohain afterworld” on a piece of exposed drywall near the payphones. Later that night I took my “boyfriend” out on my friend’s balcony and gently encouraged him to give me my first kiss. When Little Spider & I went to BC the summer I turned 18, we would put on “Bleach” whenever her father would leave us alone in the house, finding the indistinct guitars soothing so far away from home.

Nirvana was woven into the fabric of my youth, but it was just as intrinsic to the lives of the people around me. Mason & I met in our thirties, and we have never had a conversation about liking the band, we just knew it about each other. When I watched the trailer for Montage, I knew we would have to see it.

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VerseChorusVerse

It was devastating. I think it was worse for me now than it would have been seeing all of the footage at the time of his death. I am 11 years older than he ever got to be, and all I can think of is how much he missed. There were things his life cheated him of: feeling good in his body, a healthy childhood, a chance to grow up as an artist. And then there were the things he lost when he killed himself. I was goofing around in the pool with Maggie on Saturday afternoon and I kept thinking that he never got to see Francis as big and bossy and articulate as my daughter. Just the freedom of growing out of the anxieties of ones 20’s is huge. If I had died at 27, I never would have discovered exercise and found a physical strength to match my mental strength. He never had a chance to find an adult outlet for all the physical hyperactivity of his youth.

I don’t know what was worse: the footage of 3 year old Kurt laughing and blowing kisses at the camera, or the footage of an adult Kurt holding Francis in his lap and singing a few lines of “Mahna mahna” before nodding off. As Mason said, at least they stopped the story before the death, and we didn’t have to go through all of the gore again. Seeing Krist stare hollowly at the interviewer before answering was bad enough.

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Outro

On Saturday I dug out “Nevermind.” On Sunday I decided to stop driving everyone crazy and find another album, so out came “In Utero.” My brother is the only one of us who has “Incesticide,” so I’m streaming it through YouTube as I write this.

I don’t even regret the music he didn’t make. I regret the life he didn’t live. Delta blues enthusiasts will often lament periods when artists “got Jesus” and stopped making music, but those periods are also times when they got healthy and lived longer. He had so many personal issues that it’s a wonder he didn’t go sooner; the movie talks about his first suicide attempt when he was in highschool. Stardom didn’t kill him, genius didn’t kill him, and a conspiracy didn’t kill him. He was neglected and traumatized and abandoned as a child; the fact that we got 4 years of good music before the end is a miracle.

Today I listened to the opening chords of “Dive” and had what St. Jack refers to as a “musical madeleine“: I was instantly transported back to Christmas of 1992. It’s been over 20 years. It’s still too soon.


Frances, Courtney & film-maker Brett Morgen

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Use just once and destroy
Invasion of our piracy
Afterbirth of a nation
Starve without your skeleton key

I love you for what I am not
I do not want what I have got
A blanket acne’ed with ciggarette burns
Speak at once while taking turns

What is wrong with me [x3]

Nothing to do with what you think
If you ever think at all
Bi-polar opposites attract
All of a sudden my water broke

I love you for what I am not
I do not want what I have got
A blanket acne’ed with ciggarette burns
Second-rate third degree burns

What is wrong with me [x2]
What do I think of me?

Hate, hate your enemies
Save, save your friends
Find, find your place
Speak, speak the truth

What is wrong with me [x3]
What do I think of me ?

Use just once and destroy
Invasion of our piracy
Afterbirth of a nation
Starve without your skeleton key

What is wrong with me [x3]
What do I think of me?

– “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”

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