I was -- and still am to a lesser extent -- a big fan of the band Nirvana throughout my high school and college days. I even got to see the band play live at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania during their "In Utero" tour. It was the only time I travelled to Lehigh, my college's centuries-old rival, for something other than a track meet and I still recall the stage design, as well as my car breaking down on the drive home and stranding four of us in the sub-freezing Pennsylvania weather. It was a good night, nonetheless, and like many fans of the band, I shed a tear or two when news of Kurt's death was made public several months later.
I mention this because my job as a speaker for the Making It Count program took me someplace pretty interesting last week. Last Thursday I took the stage and talked with freshmen at two different high schools, located just 7 miles apart. One was in the town of Hoquiam, birthplace of Kurt Cobain, and the second was Aberdeen High School, the school that Kurt attended and place where he met former Nirvana bandmate, Chris Novoselic.
As one drives into the town of Aberdeen, the town's welcome sign carries the phrase "Come As You Are". I don't know which came first, whether it was the Nirvana song bearing that slogan or the town motto, but seeing the sign sent a small chill up my spine. Having just returned the night before from 2 days in Las Vegas and one Idaho, I hadn't really thought about where it was I was headed. I knew the town of Aberdeen sounded familiar to me for some reason, though I couldn't tell why. Seeing this sign made it all very clear.
So later that morning, when I was delivering my presentation from atop the stage in the auditorium, I couldn't help but wonder if Kurt had ever performed a school concert here. Was I perhaps standing on the same rickety stage that Kurt Cobain once used? Did the floor of the stage ever sag beneath his Doc Martens as it did my Rockports? I didn't dwell on this thought too much given the well-documented distaste for popular culture Kurt had throughout his life -- even if he would later use it to his monetary gain. Instead, I envisioned a myriad of scrawny blond-haired, scraggly, students staring back at me. Each time I turned my head and noticed a male student with blond hair, my mind's eye would superimpose Kurt's face on his and I would try and wonder whether or not he would have paid attention. Or, better yet, even thought my presentation interesting.
I highly doubt it.
And that's what made him Kurt.