Here We Are Now [Pt II]

30 03 2007

by Jill Ettinger

In high school, I had a tenable relationship with punk rock. I even shaved my head.  I may (may!) have bitten a few people. But that’s what the teenage years are for. It’s cathartic. Life is absolutely absurd and once the id starts to wrestle with itself, pure insanity is usually the indicator that all is going well. In my experience, it’s much easier to recover from the ego-freakdown at a younger age, and any child of mine that doesn’t bug out to the extreme will get locked in a room with Fugazi blasting until he or she does. (They’ll thank me for it later!)

So when I found myself all wrapped up in patchouli and pad thai just a few short years after combat boots and Exploited records ad nauseaum, I knew something was off. Though the manic behavior of tenth grade no longer controlled my life, there were parts of me still drawn to the music from back then. So I kept listening to the Nirvana record. And then, something clicked. Though high school was much closer than it seemed, I was light years from it. Couldn’t even look at it yet. But I could revel in its haunt. Grunge was a flashback to a time without identity. Like the Dead-grip I was surrounded by, identity was scaring me. It is after all, just a commitment. A choice. And at that age, saying I was anything firmly one way or the other seemed to defy what being twenty-one was all about. At the same time I was discovering the Seattle sound, I was a bicycle messenger. For the first time in my life, I was working out a lot of things through my body rather than inside of it. Grunge was a perfect soundtrack. There was intensity, melody, wisdom and disdain.

Life is emotional. Complex. It rains. It rages. The dripping melancholy sounds coming out of the NW nearly fifteen years ago, echoed the diaspora of our American landscape as in, it is almost-a-country. We had landed, killed all the Indians, tore down the forests and drifted off, built cities and retreated to them without ever really identifying ourselves as a collective or a culture. We forgot about it and the American “culture” we’re pigeonholed in has become a trite and blasé one. It has no character.  It needs to be locked in a room with punk rock records.

There’s a quote that’s usually attributed to Nelson Mandela about what frightens us most being our light not our darkness. We cower in our ability to shine. There is much to gain with expressing ourselves to the fullest without fear of being accepted or understood. Sometimes that can only happen though if we go to the deepest darkest and even crankiest places first. You never know what beautiful and meaningful things might be hiding there. Introspection forces the dumpster diving into our raw core.

Grunge music was the prophetic psychogenic reaction to our lack of identity. The tragedy of Kurt Cobain’s death was as critical a sound off as the first time his wailing guitar screeched across MTV. It showed us that the process is sometimes loud and painful, but like anything else, it cycles through itself into something hopefully more rewarding. Though there were other incredible talents to emerge from the Seattle scene, Cobain and Nirvana were the extremely hard to scratch itch of a culture disconnected from its own skin.

It’ll be thirteen years next week since Cobain died. A lot has happened since then. But in Seattle tonight, it’s still raining.




One response

2 04 2007

maybe she needs to come back and be free again.

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