Finally! God bless Starbucks at SW Oak St/SW 4th Ave Portland (including Allison, Diana, Daniella and Mandy) for having decent WiFi service! Thank you guys – perfect service, hope the management knows you’re cool. A full day its taken me to get this uploaded. Phew. Now, let me confess to a serious error of judgment. A few months back I remember the articles about how Aberdeen, WA was considering removing the ‘Come as You Are’ sign outside of town — I thought it was just a case of local authorities drumming up interest and attention; It didn’t make sense to me, the idea of a town choosing to delete its most famous son.
It makes more sense now. I’m stunned how innocent I’ve been…A certain (small) portion of Aberdeen is genuinely embarrassed by an association with a man they see as a representative of drug culture and nihilism; regardless of the beauties of his art or the scale of his achievement, irrespective of how much inspiration and positivity was bestowed on people who came to love his music. I’d like to thank Mitch at this point for giving me a thorough and informed tour of the town — I couldn’t have been in better hands, he was there then, he’s here now, he knew Kurt and Krist personally and had a long standing friendship with Leland Cobain. If you’re ever thinking of heading to the area and you’re game to pay the man for his time and energies then I can totally recommend him to you. He’s a guardian of history, heritage and local memory.
My surprise arises from numerous sources, for example, there the statue of Kurt Cobain now located in a motor garage because the town wouldn’t accept it for the park. There is though a Cobain star on the sidewalk where he shares space with a guy who coached the U.S. soccer team for the Olympics and the inventor of the self-cleaning oven.
And the famous bridge under which Cobain spent time as a teenager, inspiration for the song Something in the Way? A gentleman called Tori Kovach, a man in his seventies who still saw the artistry and talent in the music of Kurt Cobain (albeit only loving the MTV Unplugged in New York performance) took personal responsibility for creating the memorial space and still takes the time day-by-day to clean and maintain it. Firstly, that’s a beautiful thing for a private individual to do, though he states plainly that a degree of support was provided by the town.
The ultimate expression for me though was how sad it was to see that the old shack at 1000 ½ East Second Street was demolished to leave a barren plot of waste-ground. It was on this site that the song Mrs. Butterworth from the With the Lights Out box-set was recorded and for mere pennies a place that lures many respectful and starry-eyed tourists to the furthest corner of the U.S. could have been purchased, maintained and turned into something of beauty. Instead it was torn down and left as a rutted piece of overgrown scrub.
I’m quite serious. THis is the site of 1000 1/2 East Second Street – sad isn’t it? Its hard to tell if this is just overzealous town-planning or a deliberate desire to erase Kurt Cobain from the history of Aberdeen. I mean, I was delighted to be able to stand on the exact spot where Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Aaron Burckhard recorded the song known as Mrs Butterworth (plus two other unreleased shreds) but still…Sad!
Aberdeen is a place with a few problems – perhaps this shouldn’t overshadow the good of the town but remember this was a very brief visit I made and my opinion based on a single day doesn’t add up to the totality of the place. I was still stunned though. I’ve never been to a town where a crystal-meth user got on the bus to town, body twitching and jolting, where I saw another couple as soon as I got off the bus, saw the lady from the bus again the next morning — and that’s not counting the number of alcoholics and visible homeless. The sheer quantity really did stand out; I’d already been surprised by the scale of the homeless situation in the Pacific North-West, I live in a city of ten million and still don’t quite see this many people in need – Aberdeen’s centre, given the scale of the town, seemed quite a magnet for this. Mitch showed me a photo of a doped-up guy naked on top of a Police car – hilarious but…No, hold on, I still think its hilarious. It explains Gillian G. Gaar’s mention of the guy arrested the other year in Aberdeen who kept protesting as he was carted off that he was Kurt Cobain.
On the other hand, it’s genuinely not an unpleasant place either, I’m not saying its an awful town – it isn’t! I was lucky catching it on a bright, sunny day — so hot my lengthy nose has burned — but the scenery all around is spectacular, the river and sea inlet lend that good vibe that always arises from proximity to waters, the town streets are clean and peaceful. It really did have a good vibe all day long – so quiet too, we drifted quite a distance round town, as you’ll see in subsequent posts, barely meeting a soul out among the houses. A very pleasant lady over by that Cobain address I mentioned earlier took the time to come out and tell us she still has photos of the place as it used to be – I always like it when strangers take the time to talk to me.
The town has a comfortable uniformity, mostly looking like the buildings are unchanged since the 1920s when a lot of the clapboard houses went up. On the other hand, those same features have their other side; the town streets are quiet because most of the main street is closed up shops. It did look like a town in a slump – this is not to overlook the truly wicked Star Wars shop, of course, the biggest collection of Star Wars I’ve ever seen and apparently a magnet for rich collectors. There’s a certain amount of Nirvana stuff tucked into one of the crammed corners of this place.
I was a bit surprised by the loan place, religious establishment and porn store sandwiched up next door to one another — it’s stood for me as a bit of a metaphor for that small minority who would refuse to celebrate one of the few spectacular lives to emerge locally then wonders why there’s not more ambition or spirit among its young. Oh, by the way, that’s the main street in Aberdeen I kid thee not!
There’s also that industrial edge to the place but not enough to keep the town in work and functioning smoothly – the logging activity is down to the bone so what the heck is left…?
As an example of that mood at work, the plaque by the bridge that Tori maintains, the town authorities took the time to come and demand he scrub the word ‘f*** from a Cobain quotation; yet it looks like its all on Tori to clear up the litter that people leave there. Whenever I mentioned, in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, that I was heading out to Aberdeen, people laughed, it seems to be seen as the scowling alcoholic in the corner everyone makes jokes about — but then, I’m kinda sure a more celebratory attitude and a warmer vibe to the place would really help. I’m sure someone’ll say that its about zero tolerance, about tough love, about self-reliance – frankly all three phrases are euphemisms for fighting the lazy n’ easy battles rather than having the courage or endurance to deal with the hard, complex and lengthy wars; lazy phrases that sound tough but are limp-wristed and lame in practice. It seems that the Cobain memorialisation work has been primarily a private endeavour.
To be fair, I can understand nervousness about Cobain. I was shocked that under the bridge some people are coming along cooking up heroin and leaving their needles there as a tribute to Cobain. The idea that anyone would look at the absolute decay in his productivity and creativity and decide the moral of the tale is to celebrate drugs is imbecilic in the extreme — almost awe-inspiringly stupid. There’s definite criticism to be made of the truly ignorant fans who would do this.
But that doesn’t justify attempts to tar ALL Nirvana fans with the same brush (anymore than what I write here is an attempt to get at ALL people from Aberdeen, that’d be ludicrous) – I’ve got two degrees from Cambridge University, have written and published one book, work at a homeless shelter one Saturday a month, love my family and have a desk job for a major corporation; does that make me too normal to be a true Nirvana fan? In the eyes of a certain portion of Aberdeen, fans like me who love the music, are inspired by the man, but don’t approve of all his actions, don’t exist.
It’s also a tragedy that instead of fans taking the time for true art of the kind their hero dedicated himself to, they’ve reverted to lunk-headed “I was ‘ere” graffiti that lends nothing to any legacy, not even respect. But then, some people will claim its all part of ‘anarchy’ and ‘punk values’…Strange. I look at the music of Nirvana and see energy under control, precisely deployed, practised in a dedicated manner, expressed with polish and poise…Not daubs. For perspective, I love good graffiti art – there’s so much street talent out there; I’d just like to see more of it. Again, its a fair reason to be dubious about drawing yet more people in.
The positive side is people like the guy we met just as we were leaving who had chosen to come spend a little time in contemplation there, or the Spanish family Mitch met once who flew all the way from Spain to scatter their son’s ashes into the River Wishkah simply because Cobain had meant so much to their son (he died in an auto-accident). Heck, my take on the Cobain story has always been that history doesn’t have to be written by the landed gentry, by the corporate elite, by those with money or power — you can be anyone, from anywhere, and if you put your all into it you can do something amazing whether or not anyone else knows it. Aberdeen, if it chose to formalise and live out that side of the Cobain message could be a true inspiration.
The local museum was good fun by the way — thanks to Dann for being such a pleasure to hang out with there. It’s fun being in a town so small that they can even tell which was the very first piano in town — that’s incredible to me, wonderful when the origin of an item such as that can be traced so readily to a marriage between founding families.
The old fire engines were fascinating too; the horse-drawn fire engine was still being used as late as 1944! There’ll be a music exhibit opening at the museum sometime in the near future focusing initially on the Melvins — that’ll be worth seeing. If you do go to Aberdeen do pop in and take a look at the town’s donated items and relics. I did history at uni so browsing old items tickles me. They even have a Mrs. Butterworth jar — ironic that it should become the town’s main monument to that lost song when there was once a tiny place just down the road that could have been so.
I was told a story while we were in the museum, that a family came from Germany to visit Kurt Cobain locations – parents, two kids, a respectable family. They decided, while here, that they should buy a Nirvana CD in Aberdeen so off they went to the major local supermarket and into the music section where the Nirvana section stood empty…They inquired about whether they had any Nirvana CDs in stock and were told “we don’t stock that crap.” They were stunned. The guys with me didn’t believe it so went back, got the manager, asked again, and received the precise same answer. Stunning… In fact the museum is the only place in town you can buy a Nirvana CD in Aberdeen – they had to order to a different state just to get a few copies of the Heavier than Heaven book.
I will say though, its easier to explain the more troubled aspects of Kurt Cobain having visited Aberdeen. Its understandable that the vibe of the town, the attitude of certain portions of it toward creative arts types let alone teenager trouble-makers and drug-users (which he was, no mistake) would not have been inviting or welcoming. Beyond the flippant point though he really is a local product; people want to see him as a representative of some kinda wooly drug-addled liberalism when this really is a guy who believes fervently in gun-ownership, who has no truck with ‘hippy types’ and who has a sexually puritan streak in him too. Heck, he marries his girlfriend when he gets her pregnant – the boy from the town that looks like 1950 ends up acting like he is too. Kurt Cobain is Aberdeen’s son no doubt about it. It explains a degree of his self-criticism too; not only does he come from a town that was clear it hated most of what he was, he was sharp enough to know that he exhibited a lot of the same traits as his critics. Just a shame he expressed this complexity in a dour self-destructiveness.
I’ll halt there. More Aberdeen touring tomorrow – I promise I had a GOOD TIME!!! I’m sorry it turned into a bit of a rant but… My thinking is always the same; wishing away the downsides of something just makes one look like a liar, like a child who can’t stand scary stories so still reads kids’ books at age thirty in a pretence that real life isn’t more complex than good/bad, nice/nasty.
It’d be nice to come back see the city had seized control of Kurt Cobain’s story in Aberdeen; it would give the town the chance to speak and show that there was a lot of good to it — to speak more of the creativity and hard work and positive small town values that took Cobain to the pinnacle of world fame. A proper Cobain exhibit in the museum, a Cobain walking tour making use of the excellent presenting skills and long memory of a number of local residents, a small driving tour and more information online about how to do it, a touch of care and TLC to the places of interest and reinforcement of Tori’s efforts — the authorities in Aberdeen could be true neighbours. I’m serious that something as minimal as the ‘blue plaque’ scheme that operates in London to identify properties of significance could draw attention to the town’s legacy. If the town doesn’t want to attract troubled souls, if it wants to attract a higher-class of tourist, more trade for local restaurants and motels, more chances for local work for local people, mothers and fathers bringing their kids to check out the place where their own childhood hero lived, then the town needs to pick a strategy that isn’t about telling those tourists to piss off. I didn’t see much that was about official efforts rather than local enthusiasts. Both have their place but more of the former would give the community as a whole greater control.
Similarly, it’d show people locally that regardless of their sins and flaws, the city will live out Christian values by leaving God to do the judging. It would show people that they would be supported and celebrated for the good they do, rather than excoriated and spoken of only in terms of the worst they can be — maybe it’d be a more spirited message to present to the young of a town where there are few jobs and a few problems. I’ve taken out an over-dramatic end line here, I was wrong, it was writing for impact not reality so I’d rather show it by formally saying that a line had vanished in the reediting; I would go back to Aberdeen. And at its best it was a pretty place; for a Nirvana fan it’s a must-see place once in your life.
26 thoughts on “Nirvana Tour Ducks and Dive Through Aberdeen”
I’m the barista from earlier today (Allison), and I’m so glad I looked at your blog – I was born in Tacoma and grew up in Raymond! It’s awesome to read an outside perspective on Aberdeen, I think you nailed it. And love the Nirvana history! Good luck on the rest of your travels!
Heyyyyyy! Cheers Allison – really pleased you liked. Also pleasing to hear a local tell me I hadn’t lost my mind. Tacoma I liked a lot, Olympia was lovely, Seattle is fun…Aberdeen….Errrr…I think you can tell I wrote the notes for this post in a mild state of shock. Photos of Raymond tomorrow! 🙂 Raymond seemed nicer.
They’ve all got their good and bad area’s definitely! (Aberdeen tends to be mostly bad…). Raymond is really the kind of place you just drive through – unless you have a reason to be there – I know I got out as soon as I could! But it can be very pretty if you catch it on a good day.
There seems to be a misconception that the City of Aberdeen did not help me create Kurt Cobain Landing and that they don’t help maintain it. Were it not for their help, the site might not be a reality. My partner, Denny Jackson, and I worked at making KCL an international attraction and the City pitched in when they realized we were serious about turning a small piece of City property into someplace people from all over the world could visit.
For the record, I just turned 70 at the end of July. For Christ’s sake, I’m not a geezer yet.
Good evening Tori, a definite bow of respect in your direction. You’ve done a great thing and actually I’m so pleased to hear I was wrong about you having had so little help. I’ll make amends next time I have a good connection to mellow and correct according to what you’ve added here.
And non-geezerdom acknowledged!
You know, the city is not as against Nirvana as you think. They have a councilwoman named Kathi Hoder, who has donated personal funds to help care for Kurt Cobain Landing. The city funded the grading work that helped create the landing, albeit none of that would have happened without Tori. The city funded the concrete statue of the guitar. The city funded the star, which you have a picture of. There was also other artwork honoring Kurt created by high school students on tree guards and poles. The city installed signs showing people how to get to Cobain Landing (before that, people were wandering around trying to figure out where to go). For that matter, the Aberdeen City Council voted unanimously to NAME that stretch of land under the bridge and at the park as “Kurt Cobain Landing.” Inside Aberdeen City Hall, in its renovated Finance Department, sits a giant mirror that states “Come As You Are.” It’s the first thing people see when they get into the city. The mayor’s “keys to the city” all state “Come as you are” and the mayor was the most vocal opponent to removing the Come As You Are sign. He thought it was a silly idea and told this band of committee members so. The gal who installed the statue inside the muffler shop was contacted to work on artwork at Cobain Landing. MONTHS passed and when nothing happened there, Kovach turned to another artist and the amazing creation is what you saw. (for the record, bvtw, Krist saw that muffler shop statue and hated it and said Kurt would have hated it, too. That was the big reason it never appeared in a city park). A few years back, Aberdeen hosted a “Come As You Art” art festival. The Kurt Cobain Memorial Festival hosted several concerts and festivals in town, drawing thousands of people to town in an effort to raise money for a planned youth center in town. Aberdeen provided the money to advertise for those festivals, even one that happened in nearby Hoquiam. Yes, the censorship thing happened on the granite marker — but that was done as a compromise between Kovach and a council member to just get the issue out of the media. There was actually support to keep it the way it was.
Ten years ago, I would have agreed with most of your criticisms. I came to this city 10 years ago and there was barely anything about Cobain. So much has been done — even in the business community, who a couple years ago finally put Cobain in its tourism guides given out at the Chamber. At the Aberdeen History Museum, right now, in fact, they are installing a permanent display honoring Cobain. Inside the McDonalds in Aberdeen, there are even giant photos of Kurt Cobain — if that doesn’t show general acceptance I don’t know what does. Yes, there has been a problem of ordering Nirvana CDs in Aberdeen. But that is because there is NO music store in Aberdeen. None. It’s a sign of the times. There’s a Walmart showing the latest CDs — including (wait for it) the 20th anniversary of In Utero. Why is that there? Because it’s now a “new” CD. You can’t expect Walmart to sell CDs from 20 years ago. I know Mitch. Mitch is a good guy. But I think Mitch isn’t selling you the entire picture and leaving you to believe the negative because it sells better.
Evening fella – mea culpa, as you can tell my first impressions were curious and I’m definitely happy to accept that there’s a LOT more to the tale than I was able to gather in a single visit. I hope I was able to show that I was sure there was more than one side and that my personal take from just one day in town don’t add up to a total picture. It definitely did turn into a rant!
It’s a shame, really, because I’ve given Kurt Cobain tours for free and been a journalist in this area for a decade. I’ve been there, covered it all and have had many, many articles go out on the wire and yet the myth that Aberdeen hates Kurt Cobain lives on when there is just a small minority that feels that way (maybe two out of the 12 council members, if that gives any kind of sense for you). When the co-founder of the Kurt Cobain Memorial Foundation feels confident enough to run for mayor, which he did, what more needs to be said that there’s been such a big turn around in attitude? It’s just not the message that plays well and a lot of that is the tour one takes and who’s leading it. I’m not defending the look of the town. Not at all. Just the idea that Kurt isn’t respected, when he is by many, many people. The local winery even named a wine for him “Noir-Vana” and I could go on and on.
Steven really do keep going! Frankly I’m fascinated and I do want to write a proper amended version of this post incorporating your points – more welcomed! I admit I actually love it when life shows me there’s ore than just my opinion. I like learning. Thanks for being so good about this – tell me more!
Kudos to Kathi Holder, I to have donated funds as Tori can attest, although not on Kathi’s level, and I do appreciate the fact that the city has chipped in, although I don’t feel they should have had to have been coached into it, as I Guarantee You, the park, or “Cobain’s Landing” as the city call’s it as they refuse to call it a official city park is the biggest tourist attraction in Grays Harbor County, BAR NONE ! go there any day of the week and you will meet people from all over the world ! The guitar statue at the park is pure genius as it celebrates the Music Created rather than the man so many people in Aberdeen still despise even to this day. The Memorial Committee, had a Great Idea which I backed 100% so much so that I myself put together the benefit show in Seattle at Club Motor which I believe you attended, 100% of the net proceeds ($1,500) including money from the raffle of a guitar which I donated was given to the committee. The censorship issue cracks me up, there is not a alley in town that cannot be walked through with out finding the F Bomb, if Aberdeen wants to clean up the City, fine, but clean it all up ! as for the Museum, now we are getting personal, the only reason that exhibit is going to happen is because of the effort’s of Leland Cobain & Myself, Thankfully we finally got somebody open minded like Dan Sears who is willing to give it a shot 90% of the exhibit belongs to myself, but Special Thanks go out to the Shillinger family for the loan of the couch that Kurt once slept on, and the original Metal Church / MELVINS D&R show flier on loan from Roy ! Walmart, BOY OH BOY, I will admit I have not been in there in quite a while, but still remember the response I got the last time I took some German tourist in there looking for some NIRVANA so they could have a receipt from Aberdeen WA let’s just say it was not nice, and left the tourist which the City of Aberdeen needs so badly to help build and support the economy way less than thrilled. Now I live in Bonney lake, but the local stores up here, both Fred Meyer & Wal-Mart do carry the regular commercial NIRVANA CD’S even going back to Bleach which they claim still sells pretty well, even being over 20 years old, believe it or not NIRVANA is still a relevant band even going on 20 years after Kurt’s untimely death and for the record, I have NEVER ASKED ANYBODY for even one dime for my time, and until recently never even accepted their offers of payment, and I’m not just talking a short tour close to home, I’m talking about picking people up in Seattle, taking them down through Oly, Monte, Aberdeen, Raymond and back to Seattle again all in one day, if you are up to that Steven, I will gladly give out your name as my current employment position does not allow me to do that anymore. Are you sure the council is only two out of twelve ? the house at 1000 1/2 E. Second should have been saved through eminent domain if need be, but I’m sure it could have been purchased very cheaply, Yes, it was in very bad condition, but with a very low buy in and about $70,000 in repairs could have been, given it’s location, boarder of residential/ commercial land been turned into a very Nice location for a tourist shop, T-shirts, posters, books etc. as it was a tourist destination all on it’s own yet the City made sure it was torn down, so much history lost…… as for Aberdeen, I do not hate it, but I feel things could be done much better, I do what I can to support it, regularly shopping at Staples, having purchased not one , but two full sets of four tires for my Car at Les Schwab, having my wheels powder coated at Advanced Sand Blasting & Powder Coating , getting my guitar serviced at Rosevear’s, any of which I could have done at a location much closer to where I currently live & eating Multiple meals at various restaurants throughout the Harbor along with always encouraging the people I have toured through the city to check out the local shops while we are there, what I have stated here is My personal views, we do see differently, but No hard feelings, just wanted to get out my point of view
I, too, think it is terrible that Aberdeen does not honor Kurt for his accomplishments and tars and feathers him for his human failings. I am glad that you can buy a cd at the museum (which I, too, like a lot), but we should have a store with all of Nirvana’s cds, books about Kurt, tee shirts, bumper stickers, etc. Perhaps, the Historical Seaport, recent purchaser of 28 acres of waterfront property (across the river from Walmart), will see fit to include Kurt in their plans. I will do what I can to encourage that.
Thanks Barb, I agree with you, and I have already contacted Gillian Gaar about her doing a book signing at the museum as well as selling some of her books there, Charles Cross is also going to be contacted about doing a signing and sales of his books as well, CD’s, posters, and bumper stickers are already being addressed and will be available at time of the exhibit’s opening . Thank You Very Much for your contribution to the exhibit !
A second, and perhaps a third visit would spark some more interest in the good of Aberdeen. Don Sucher, Dann Sears (whom you have had the pleasure of meeting already) and Lora Malakoff could give you a different perspective. (BTW, the guitar sculpture in KC Park, was created by Lora Malakoff and her husband Kim, so theres a back story there). Im a four year resident here now, hailing from NY. Aberdeen is more home to me than I ever really felt back east. There is a certain energy here, and I think personal perspective looking for the good, could change a lot of feelings. But Im not part of the history of this place, and I know its been pretty disillusioning to a lot of people. But seeing beyond or within, meeting many local shop owners etc. brings one to believe there is a lot of positive ideas “in bloom”. It all takes getting involved, doing, without he consent of the naysayers. Positive actions, led by self relient people usually yield positive results. Its a shame, yes, that the city does not support more ambitious projects, but that should never defer peoples aspirations of doing it anyway. And theres a lot of aspiration around here. Thanks for bringing Aberdeen into another spotlight. Negative or positive, the attention is appreciated.
I don’t think that I read anything about the Aberdeen Museum. The museum was the first to publish
a self guided tour of locations in which Cobain was associated with. We also provide print-outs of Cobain history. When we have time we even take people on personal tours. Our gift shop does have
books about Nirvana and Kurt as well as T-shirts and other memorabilia when we can get them. Believe me Cobain items are not cheap, and hard to keep in stock, however we do purchase what we can find and keep our price low so that our visitors can afford them.
I have to agree to a certain extent that older folks were concerned about highlighting Kurt’s life, the reply I received when I first suggested a display was: “We don’t want to immortalize that long-haired
drug addict.” However given time and educating older folks to the fact that drugs are synonymous with the music industry (not that it is okay). We can not hide the fact, but we don’t dwell on it either.
The main subject should definitely be that Nirvana and Kurt made music history, creating a new genre in the industry.
Today, thanks to some financial sponsors and music historian like Mitch Holmquist the museum is finally getting a chance to host a Nirvana display in conjunction with presenting a number of groups
that reign from the Grays Harbor region. Aberdeen and Grays Harbor has a rich history in the musical field, giving the museum quite a base to use as continuous rotating exhibit with Nirvana as a permanent base.
I would like to thank Nick for the great review on the Aberdeen Museum.
. “I was shocked that under the bridge some people are coming along cooking up heroin and leaving their needles there as a tribute to Cobain. The idea that anyone would look at the absolute decay in his productivity and creativity and decide the moral of the tale is to celebrate drugs is imbecilic in the extreme — almost awe-inspiringly stupid.” There is no saying how much posetive Opiates did for Kurt Cobain , He has said himself that he managed to function for the first time on them . When he was thrilled he got a new medication that actually worked it read bupronortex a opiate antagonist . One of my favourite songs on a plain is CLEARLY even if people say you should try to decypher nirvana songs it is clearly about taking smack getting so high u scratch til u bleed . People want him to quit but he loves himself better then them, Also in the history of music there are countless of books/poetry/music that have been influenced by smack in a posetiv way. There is no doubt that when he wanted to die and didnt even count out his dosage and used it all day everyday every ounce of creativity died pretty fast. Still though I wouldnt just say it was for the bad . Now this is a comedian , and im not even checking if its the correct link but I think it is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8p39Z-KQJY
I read and enjoyed your blog, thank you for investing the energy and time into it. It is very well done and I will come back to read more. Your work here is appreciated, and thank you for mentioning my friend, Tori, as his own efforts at the park should be commended and rarely are.
Heh! I felt bad for coming across as such a downer when I genuinely did enjoy my time in Aberdeen and the area – it was all so fascinating to me and the idea of Tori wrestling that park into shape…Wonderful. I’m always impressed when everyday people decide to do extraordinary things.
I read your blog & found it unfairly one-sided and demeaning. I don’t live in Aberdeen, but it’s still part of my environment (from which I can’t separate myself) so I do my part to make it the best it can be. This is a last frontier area which is going through painful rebirthing as a result of two major industry cut backs & we’re all trying our best to reinvent ourselves. Unfortunately, that takes time, patience and understanding from those quick to assume and pass judgment.
Aberdeen has a population of some 19,000 people, probably 98% of whom are not meth tweakers or drunks, yet those are the images that resonated with you! Many Aberdeen citizens recognize Kurt Cobain as a native son and remember him fondly as a sweet, talented but angst driven young man. I believe those who can’t see past his drug use and are therefore opposed to giving him recognition are in the minority. By contrast, JFK and Bill Clinton were both notorious womanizers, yet the world still holds them in esteem.
What you saw and focused on was the negative view of this area. Had you done your research ahead of time, you might have visited the beautiful waterfront Rotary Log Pavillion built by local volunteers (you no doubt passed it on your way into town) or the historic seaport which now has two tall ships that provide youth training programs and travel the seas, occasionally winding up in movies. The Westport Winery is an exceptional tour stop and boasts sculptures and other wine label themed artwork by the area’s finest artists, of which there are many.
In all fairness to those who are smarting from your lack of vision and resultant rudeness, and for the ripple around the world that your blog created, I’d like to remind readers that there’s two sides to every story. Yours needed serious editing.
On the positive side, not too many read my mutterings and ramblings – its only a blog after all.
You’re totally right, in one day I can’t absorb the whole substance of a place – I hope I didn’t claim to. I looked at a place through one lens, Nirvana/Cobain, and nought else. I maybe needed to reemphasise that line that looks like a nice little town…But then, to reemphasise, I came for one thing, I researched that one thing, I looked at that one thing – whatever else strayed into my view got captured and tragically the human eye does notice odd things often and to be fair, I really haven’t ever been somewhere where I’ve had visibly high people on my bus and around town the next morning. That isn’t the town’s ‘fault’, there’s no blame involved.
that part of town ( 2nd street ) has looked like that since i can remember and i’m old. also, why make cobain out to be such a “son”. you talk of the positive effect his music has had or something like that, what about the negative effect that idolizing him has had. it has glamorzed drug addiction and and made it seem hip to do nothing but cling to someone who did not value his life. and i’m no angel. all the ugly signs and memorials should be taken down and laid to rest. one more thing, they have memorialized the location that he got loaded at …really?
Hiya! 🙂 I did appreciate that you took the time to write so fully on here – it did make me think and though we may disagree in places I did want to show respect by considering the subject more fully:
I was just re-reading my old copy of Azerrad’s “Come As You Are” and found this blog while Googling some of the stories contained in that book. Lots of cool stuff here; great work and thanks for sharing.
My wife and I tentatively planned a side-trip out to Aberdeen back in 2017 when we were stopped over in Seattle before leaving on vacation. I remember sitting in our rental car in Seattle, looking at the map and estimating how long the roundtrip to Aberdeen would take, and I almost said “screw it, let’s just go find a craft brewery or something” because I truly hate driving. But my wife, even though she’s no more than a “fair weather fan” of Nirvana at best, urged me to reconsider, saying I’d regret not taking the opportunity.
She couldn’t have been more right. I’ve read about Aberdeen as an ever-present-but-still-sort-of-mysterious “background element” of the Nirvana story dozens of times through the years, starting back in ’93 with my first read of Azerrad’s book. But for most of my life, being from Ontario Canada, Aberdeen may as well have been Atlantis. It is the center of lots of lore important to me, but the physical place is just so remote from my home and so off the beaten path that I never dreamed I’d ever go there.
So, needless to say, rolling into town and looking around was an amazing experience. I couldn’t believe how closely the look and the vibe of the city matched the image I had painted in my mind. The trees, the colours, the size… it was all so spot-on to what I was picturing.
In the weeks following Kurt’s death I was very sad. To help me through it, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote a song called “A Way Out,” which I recorded on an old Tascam 4-track. The recording is long gone but a few years ago I was going through some old filing cabinets and happened upon the original lyric sheet I wrote for the song as a depressed 16 year-old grunge kid in the spring of ’94. I took that lyric sheet in my pocket with me to Seattle, and then to Aberdeen, and tucked it away under the Young Street bridge at the top of the sloped ground where all the graffiti is. If somebody would have told me in ’94 that sheet of paper would end up “underneath the bridge” I wouldn’t have believed it, but it felt like a fitting personal tribute and I’m glad I did it. That was 3 years ago and I’ve never told anybody about it, until now. I wonder if anybody ever found that sheet of paper before it disintegrated or blew into the river, never to be seen again.
Matt, can I just say thank you for posting this? I really appreciate you writing something personal, intelligent, and intriguing on here!
Interestingly, I had an experience similar to yours about 1 year prior to this post, in 2012. I personally had to gather address and notes to get to places from various online sources – nothing seemed available in Aberdeen to help me. In the end, it was an incredible trip and experience there, but I stood in that 1000 1/2 East 2nd street lot as well, stunned. Probably exactly 1 year before you did! Your pictures are really an incredible memory of my time there. I kept a small asphalt remnant of the driveway at 1000 1/2 East 2nd St, too. It’s a place that is just after Kurt’s harder times, when he was coming into his own, and on the cusp of following his ambitions and trusting his talent and convictions. I find that balance of past and future in this location to be fascinating, and it also saddens me greatly that it’s gone, as bad as the structure itself might have been.
I had been given a free trip to Seattle by my company for earning a designation/passing several exams over years, and I almost didn’t go. I would have to travel home just before my daughter’s 1st birthday. But, my wife urged me to go solo to celebrate my achievement, and to go drive out and see Aberdeen.
As luck would have it, my rental car came with a free GPS unit, at the time a luxury you had to pay extra for. I happily used it as my tour guide, punching in various addresses in Aberdeen – Krist’s mom’s salon where Nirvana practiced above, the bank that Kurt got arrested at for graffiti, where he slept on front porches, his childhood home, and of course the infamous bridge. I wish there was more then to help me along, but i had to inform myself and guide myself mostly.
As it turns out, when I stood on 1000 1/2 East 2nd St and glanced around, stunned it was gone and pondering how often Kurt himself wandered that area to and from home, a guy crossed a yard nearby toward me. I thought he was going to say I was trespassing, or something. Instead he asked if I was concerned about the vacant lot across the way, that he was cleaning it up but fell behind. I said no, just a Nirvana fan, here to look at a place Kurt used to live. He said “I knew him, saw him when he’d get the mail and talk to him occasionally, he was mostly quiet and very polite to me. I saw him the day he left, heading to Olympia and Seattle so he could really start his band, and I wished him luck. They did have some parties in that place.” It was a pretty incredible experience talking with someone who knew Kurt as a neighbor, not some famous musician from a rock band.
Although I was very fortunate to have a good, stable home as a child, by high school I had learned my childhood friend in my old neighborhood had died of leukemia, which he fought off a couple years I moved away. I also lost our long time dog who I’d had my whole childhood. I was pretty down, had accepted that life was short and cruel, and the concept of mortality had slammed into me when most of my friends and classmates never considered it. It angered me that some had nothing, or not much, yet others didn’t even think about how privileged of a life they live, and sometimes people just died who didn’t deserve it.
I am so thankful to Kurt for giving his art and voice as an outlet to channel this combination of sadness, frustration, anger, creativity, cynicism, social inequalities, anti-bullying, and self-determination. I feel all the better in life having crossed paths with his music and interviews. Like too many, he fell into the trappings of drug addiction and he didn’t make it out – but his accomplishments, talent, and artistry should be celebrated and proudly displayed in Aberdeen. I sincerely hope there is enough in that town to raise him up with pride, not buy into the simplistic attitude that he was just a junkie who self-destructed. That is such a disservice to the man, all that he accomplished, and all that he meant to those who still are thankful for all that Nirvana is.
Just thanks for sharing this really beautiful memory!