A dog barked, a toddler spoke, the lake lapped and the wind chimes came, the breeze through the trees made a sound like dried corn husks. The light is different, we had the heat on in the car this morning and now the porch lamp on, the bees take what’s left from the garden. No one’s watching the fire I built, it burns down to a bed of coals I mourn for, a bit miffed no one’s acknowledged my efforts — they’ve all gone inside for bedtime rituals and wind-downs, and mom suggested we should go back to Ireland for Christmas this year, was selling it in her mom way on the phone but I said no, we need a Christmas at home, and going back would be like trying to relive something, it has that monkey paw quality of trying to wish back the past that always comes with a price.
They’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Nirvana breakthrough album Nevermind next week (it came out September 24, 1991) and soliciting stories they’ll read on the radio from listeners, but all I’ve got is three single men in college sitting on the floor around a board game doing bad things to our heads, smoking cigarettes, going down the canals of the record and coming up the other side, trying to decide what to put on next when it’s through but stymied to find something worthy, like that mistake the Rolling Stones made when they let James Brown open for them one time, and never again.
It was really only that record for me that was so special with Nirvana, like the best records it was fixed in a time and location with a band that was coming into their own, who would only be judged or measured for how their music stood up to that album (which sucks, it’s impossible to remake or repeat something like that, no fun trying to sound the way you used to).
In September of ’98 we drove from France to Morocco and rented a place in the old souk in Marrakesh down some narrow alleyways where you really had to memorize when to turn, like a labyrinth, and our first night Laurent and I went looking for hash and found a few teenagers who could help, and we spoke French and Laurent said I was from Seattle — they clamored Chantez, chantez, s’il vous-plait!, but I didn’t understand — and Laurent giggled and said Zay want you to sing — they wanted to hear Nirvana, because they couldn’t in Morocco I guess, and I sang what I could from “Come As You Are,” they closed their eyes and grinned, and I wore an Arabic-looking robe I got from J. Peterman, and grew my first beard.
Laurent and my mom drank tea and smoked on the rooftop as the sun set and turned everything pink, but I got sick from the orange juice and couldn’t get out of bed, pinned down delirious with rust colored urine that had my blood in it, and on the drive back up the Spanish coast I sat in the back of the car with Laurent, the chameleons John insisted we take back to France but died, the lanterns and scarves and all the other crap we bought in the souk, robes I still have out in the garage: John and I both on anti-diarrhea medicine, stopping at a Chinese restaurant in Spain that didn’t help.
By the time I got to Seattle it was ’96 and the grunge scene had obviously changed, Pearl Jam playing arenas, I never did see Nirvana. Like the best neighborhoods, it was the same with the music: developers cash in and capitalize on anything the artists have the guts and nerve to discover themselves, and then it all gets ruined and looks or sounds the same as everything else.
But what about you? In the spirit of our local radio station KEXP, I wanted to elicit stories about your experience either with Nirvana, 90s music, or the topic of nostalgia itself. This is also a good excuse for me to recognize my favorite readers and writers (some of whom have books for sale!), to feature your stories and other voices on my blog.
I hope you’ll participate, and see below for suggestions:
- 100 – 1,500 words
- How Nirvana (or another 90s band) impacted you, through a sense memory or story
- What you think made Nirvana special, or Kurt Cobain
- What makes you nostalgic and why (on any topic, doesn’t have to be music)
- Include videos you’d like to share (or photos!)
- Bonus for use of the word zeitgeist
- Submit through my About contact form or email at pinklightsabre AT gmail DOT com
- No judging, only sharing
- No deadline, come as you are
I’ll feature submissions over the coming days and let you know before yours is published. And if you like, I’ll make a custom Dropbox playlist for you as a thanks for participating.
Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don’t be late.
First known recording of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: