Losing Nirvana: Measuring Life in Kurt Cobains
I was standing in the exact same space, next to my bed, when I learned that my most valuable friendship at the time was over and that Kurt Cobain had died. Actually, only the physical space was the same. The friendship ended in the fall. Kurt died in the spring. In between, we continued to live with one another to ride out the end of our lease.
But I was standing, both times, on the same side of my bed to receive the bad news. And both times, it was my friend who delivered the news: that our friendship was over and that Kurt Cobain was dead.
Lightning is not supposed to hit the same space twice.
In my head, the end of my friendship and Kurt Cobain’s death always goes together despite the two events being many months apart. The day he died, we sank down onto the sofa together and watched hours and hours of MTV’s coverage. At some point, I popped a tape in the VCR. I still have 6 hours of MTV footage from the day that Kurt Cobain died.
He died — they think — on April 5th, but his body wasn’t found until April 8th, which is when the rest of the world learned about it. This April will mark 20 years — 20 years! — since I sat on that junky sofa and stared at Kurt Loder telling me over and over again that Kurt Cobain was dead. 20 years since my best friend told me that our friendship was dead. We’ve long passed that tipping point when we’ve been not-friends longer than we were friends. But two decades: that feels like an ocean of time.
It is always odd when your personal monumental moments get mixed up in larger world-scale events. Our wedding intersected with September 11th, the twins’ birth coincided with the Olympics. Since humans like to keep marking anniversaries, coverage of these world-scale events keep reminding you over and over again of the distance time has taken you from the personal. We’ve been married twelve years. The Olympics has rolled around yet again. It has been 20 years since I lost that friendship.
I’m sure that next month will bring a plethora of Kurt Cobain memorial articles; a re-airing of MTV’s Unplugged concert. We’ll keep thinking about him again and again; his music will start playing in all these spaces where his music hasn’t played in years. Every time I hear a Nirvana song, I’ll think of her and sitting on that sofa together, the desire to watch the coverage transcending the fact that our friendship was dead, too.
I’m thinking of getting myself the Unplugged album off iTunes next month as a 40th birthday gift to myself — it’s the only one I don’t own. I deserve it, right, for getting through 40 years? In the meantime, I can keep watching the concert off the VHS tape, or on YouTube. If you’ve never seen it, it’s probably my favourite performance of their songs: