Here We Are Now [Pt 1]

29 03 2007

By Jill Ettinger

Seattle is one of those towns I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.  Like all good things worth waiting for, it finally came around on the old organic-sales-call-o-meter this month. As I stepped off the jetway yesterday evening, one of the first things I noticed was a recycling bin. Not a poorly marked can, but a clearly labeled, obvious, squat receptacle with designations for both paper and plastic! The next thing I noticed was quietude. Calmness. This definitely isn’t Newark-Liberty International. And not surprisingly, there is a lot here that reminds me of Hilo, Hawaii. Hilo is on the east side of the Big Island, extremely lush and tropical. But it rains. A lot. There is a big part of me that really resonates with this climate. The quiet, green and damp invites introspection and reflection, something I value. Though my career and passions often put me in extroverted situations, I find my internal dialogues are not just the process of working through this existence-experience, but some paradoxically humble friendship. And some of us, I suppose, just have a lot more thinking to do than others.

For all the beauty and grace Seattle seems to emanate in the thirty or so hours I’ve been here, it’s not what drew me to this city all these years. Credit for that, as cliché as it might be, goes to Kurt Cobain. I remember the first time I heard Nirvana, Jenny, my baby sister was obsessed: “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS RECORD.” So I did. I didn’t get it. (That’s because I was so overdosed on the Grateful Dead that technically, I could only hear things in the key of “Sugaree.” I was tone-Dead.) But I wanted to. There was something I knew I needed to understand. Jenny is five years younger than me, and she got the music right away. It took me months before I could hear something in Nirvana that eventually became MUCH stronger than anything I resonated with by Bob Weir or Jerry Garcia.

Nevermind dropped when I was just twenty-one, an incredibly trying age (I say now maturely in my mid-thirties). At least it was for me. I’ve had a challenging time yielding to what it means to be “grown up” and it seems, so have many others in my generation. Twenty-one came with responsibility and indignation. Like the “freedom” to drink legally, one becomes astutely aware of the meaning of the word consequence. The counter culture in the early ‘90’s was a drastic departure from that of our parents generation in the‘60’s, when Dead Heads first emerged. Not only did we have a bitter taste in our mouth from the corporate slime drenching this country, but we now also had no place to retreat to in order to ponder this egregious climate. At least half of us were products of broken up homes, shuffling from one parent to another. Two homes in which to search for answers and identity will most definitely take someone twice as long to find it.

What had drawn me to the Dead was the same thing that eventually repelled me – the community, the escape, the defiance. The music was mildly entertaining, though while there were a few great songs (“Deal”), most of them are just ok.  Though I surely never thought this back then, touring with the Dead was, well, like joining a cult. There was SO much dogma and worship. (“Jerry! Jerry!”) There was a uniform. (What do they call those poncho like pullover tie-die shirt things again?) Everyone ate the same food. (Beer and acid.) And absolutely everyone believed that this music would change the world, not because the world needed it, but because they wanted it tie-died and twirling. Deadheads are some of the most conniving, stubborn, rude and snobby people I’ve ever met. The whole peace and love thing got caught up in the movement very much in the same way my dog’s fur ends up over at my friends houses – definitely doesn’t belong there and is incredibly hard to get rid of. I had barely gotten into the “scene” and was already looking for an out. It was a lazy, motley crew of horny, wasted, poor-rich kids. The band sang other people’s songs. My dad liked them. I needed Nirvana very much in the truest sense of the word. Its Tibetan translation is the end of suffering, as in, freedom from ignorance. Like most of my friends, I was spinning wheels hoping to get some traction.

To be continued…




2 responses

30 03 2007

i remember bringing nevermind to you. i also had pearl jam 10 and metallica’s black album. you were staying in a very “hipped” out apartment in squirrel hill. you fed me vegetarian food and pot.

2 04 2007

I think I remember that apartment, too. Piggy was in the bathroom. And I was a snotty asshole. But the Spanish rice was good and sold well, as did the pepperpot soup!

I finally understand the dead phenom through your confession… the music was kinda average all along. I was always too lonely and clueless to play along.

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