In between gigs, in between boyfriends, in between cities, in between days, I just like to write.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The day Grunge ran out of gas (R.I.P. Kurt Cobain)

Seattle, 1995 -- Grunge had by this time become ubiquitous. Over the din of clanking silverware, surely Soundgarden was playing. I was having breakfast with my boyfriend of a few weeks, months, who can remember? I was oblivious to everything. We placed our order, and he asked, “If I bought a newspaper, you wanna, like, share it and read it?” Nah, not really. I want to have breakfast with my boyfriend, you dorkhead, I thought. Giving him a faint nod of disapproval, we finished eating and strolled down the street and eventually parted ways. He still lived north of Fremont, but I had just moved to Capitol Hill on the other side of Lake Union. That evening I had to work at my waitressing job, somewhere halfway between the two.
I was still living amidst various unpacked boxes, not quite feeling at home in my new digs. The phone rang. “Is Courtney there?” No. Wrong number. Dorkhead. Feeling underwhelmed by my relationship, and generally annoyed at the Universe, I thought I would try to reboot by renting a video and relaxing before my shift started at 5pm. Luckily, my new apartment was right off of Broadway, not far from Hollywood Video. I combed the aisles quickly and came up to the counter with my video, signed up for a new membership, and asked for a VCR* (guess I left my old one with my former roommates, or maybe I never had one, who can remember?).  *VCRs were used before DVDs, kids.

Back at home with my freshly-laminated Hollywood Video Membership Card, probably some Thai take-out and “Broadcast News”, I began to hook up the VCR, like I had done several times before, to my little television. Fitting for this most unsatisfying, albeit sunny Sunday in Seattle in 1995, for some reason, this was just not working. No matter what I tried, what channel I set the television to, what hole I stuck the cable in, all I could see on the screen was snow. After about 20 minutes of trying to hook up this VCR in vain, my head was throbbing and my temper was fuming, which is how I always feel when getting frustrated with technology. Then I discovered that the metal connector was only superficially attached to the cable - two separate pieces, which should have been one.

Relieved to have discovered the cause of my frustration, I grabbed my keys in one hand, the injured cable in the other, with the VCR slung under one arm, and marched back down to Hollywood Video to rectify the problem. Without using any words, I plopped the VCR down on the counter, took the two parts of the broken cable, one in each hand, holding my fists together and, with a percussive grunt, pulled them apart, demonstrating to the Hollywood Video customer service representative exactly what my source of woe was. 

Sympathizing with my plight, she said to me, with that sort of upward lilt and vocal fry that would begin to define the next generation, for she was before her time, “Okay, no problem! We can totally just give you a different VCR. I just need to see your Membership Card.”

I had left my freshly-laminated Hollywood Video Membership Card at home.

Before my fuming could recommence, she intervened by saying, “Oh, that’s no problem. Just give me your phone number.”

“325-4224,” I spat.

She typed in the numbers with a velocity that only a child of the computing age could execute. And with this same swiftness, her gaze fluctuated between my eyes and her computer screen, discreetly glancing from left to right, before affixing itself on my confounded stare. She whispered: “Do you know you have Kurt Cobain’s old phone number?”

Suddenly, everything made sense. The wrong number. The melancholy. The dark cloud cast upon this otherwise rare, sunny day in Seattle in 1995. Whether I was cursed or blessed by the ghost of Nirvana’s troubled frontman, I knew I had been touched by greatness. I still had enough time to go home and watch half of “Broadcast News” before driving to work. Then, for the first time in my life, and the last time since, just about 50 yards before reaching my destination, I ran out of gas.