Nirvana Tour: Aberdeen Deserved a BIG Part Two


As an aside, if you want to do the Nirvana tour, I’m really hoping I’ve been putting enough information up here that you can get around — maybe I’ll synthesise it sometime into a reduced PDF and just stick it up for free download, let’s see if I ever have time. As an extended coda to the aside, public transportation note! So, Seattle to Tacoma, you’ve multiple options. I took the Amtrak but there’s also some kinda light railway I never had time to check out that’ll get you all the way into Central Tacoma — get yourself to the King Street Station in Seattle. Cost isn’t exorbitant, the Amtrak was $11 U.S. dollars. Tacoma to Olympia, even easier, there’s a wealth of buses from Commerce Street (603, 605, etc.) and it’s a flat $3 fare — just make sure you have exact change, they’re insistent on it. Olympia’s bus station is the last stop and its central to everywhere you would wish to go bar the college.


I may have mentioned, but I went up to the information desk at the Olympia bus station and merrily announced “good afternoon, I’m trying to get the bus over to Aberdeen, was hoping you could tell me what I need to do and where?” The lady simply burst out laughing in my face; turns out it was 50% how cute she thought my accent was and 50% the fact I was asking for Aberdeen. You’ll get that a lot; mention Aberdeen and people don’t pay it many compliments; my raving post yesterday probably told you as much. The bus for Aberdeen is easy enough, the 40. I’ve included a deeply unexciting photo of the bus times from Olympia at the top of the page. It’s a gentle ride and, to be honest, peering out at McCleary, or at Satsop, it makes Aberdeen look like the most lively place in the area. All I recall from the bus ride – acknowledging that’s just an impression not a full reality and assessment of a locale – is the odd hair salon, childcare services, a garage or petrol station.

Greys Harbor Community Hospital_1

Greys Harbor Community Hospital_2

The view from the hospital is very fine indeed – as usual, impossible to capture in a lens what the eye can take in from up there. It emphasised, in a way that my scrawling over Google Maps had not, how unified Aberdeen/Hoquiam are and the size of the town being looked at. I admit I’d considered spending the night tucked in the emergency waiting room at the hospital to gain some small sense of the Cobain experience in his late teens but frankly it sounded like a horrible way to pass a night, I can’t even get any sleep worth a damn on a plane let alone in the brightly-lit confines of a hospital surrounded by random strangers, during the night hours when the drug/drink/domestic casualities reach their peak craziness, with doors whipping open, staff jogging through, calls going out for people to report/attend/visit…Regardless of whether it was for a few nights here and there or a few weeks at a time, this isn’t a life I’d want. It’s poverty.

Aaron Assistant Manager

I had a perfect night’s sleep at the Guesthouse Inn & Suites on East Heron Street – I crashed so deep I didn’t even notice the trains announcing themselves on the track running past. Part of the benefit of the place is to get there from the bus, so easy, with the station at your back, walk down the main street to the right, take the first left, go past the Jack in the Box and over the steel bridge at the end of the road and its on your right. Room was neat too – spacious, I could actually sit and write comfortably at the writing desk. Bed did my sore back a world of good…Though next morning Mitch greeted me in the carpark with the line “find any needles in yer bed?” Before explaining some incident that had been in the papers in which a kid was put to bed only to be jabbed by a discarded needle ( Ow…Nasty. Anyways, frankly, given my past life in an Events division and my experience of hotels, a story like that doesn’t worry me too much one way or another – hotels are full of bad moments, inevitable with an endless population of transient people, regardless of where it is or how many stars it like to parade. I slept well. It also granted me a view back to the Burger King where Aaron Burckhard was manager – remember a lot changes in an American town, even one as merrily slow moving as Aberdeen. There’s another venue up the road that people mistake for one of Krist’s early places of employment, it ain’t.


The whole town is scattered with locations of more or less significance to the Nirvana story, names known (or I admit that Mitch usually reminded me of) from the bibliography. For example, the photo above is Judy’s, mentioned in Come as You Are as the location Cobain and co. got old records and so forth from – it’s still there but it’s entitled Judy’s Flea Market and it’s unclear if its still a going concern or simply waiting for someone to take a risk and clear out the mountainous stacks of books from the interior…

Welfare Check

This piece of scrapland meanwhile has no great claim to memorialisation except it served as the address Kurt Cobain had used for a welfare cheque. Taking a photo of it has a certain purposelessness but let’s be real, is there ever a point to the millions of MBs of photos now flooding the world bar shared amusement and personal memorialisation of whatever possesses momentary significance or serves a storyline? Most photos say nothing unless one has a connection to what is being recorded. For me, it simply serves as a reminder of how thoroughly Cobain’s life and movements are woven into the landscape of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Library

Moving up the scale of references, this is the Aberdeen Library – same building, same location, internal refurbishment – in which Cobain passed time during his semi-derelict days. I admit I’ve never speculated on whether it played any role in the creation of his music, whether any of that dreadfully disjointed time yielded a song, a lyric, a note of later audibility…To me it represents another piece of his itinerant years as well as a gap in knowability, something that cannot be recovered unless someone knows something I don’t (which happens so often I wouldn’t be surprised…)


This is the YMCA where Cobain occasionally received casual work – the building is unaltered though the logo is gone from the exterior, I just wish I could find the photo at short-notice where the building is sitting in the background behind the band. Now we’re talking proximity, opposite is the sports-ground where Cobain would act as coach for local little league teams, the Schillinger residence is across on the side at right angles to the YMCA while Judy’s sits opposite and at the other right angle to the YMCA.

Cobain Graffitti Locale

Now we’re into the realms of Cobain’s brief period of teenage delinquency; the building above was tagged along one side with “AiNtGoTnOwHaTcHaMaCaLlIt” as Cobain confessed in a statement written later that evening at the police station, the alleyway in which is cohorts hid in the bins is just alongside and brilliantly, just to emphasise what an amusingly dim-witted act it was, if you walk through the carpark under the building you’ll see the Police Station on the other side. Alas, our ‘hero’ was not always a genius it must be said. Again, thanks to Mitch for linking up these anecdotes for me so flawlessly and giving me a chuckle at Cobain’s expense.

Cobain Graffitti

This was the venue for the cheerily provocative “Homo Sex Rules” incident and then the following…

Mugshot_Drunk n Disorderly

Was the building where Cobain was arrested for drunk and disorderly having been found on the roof in a bit of a state. This is where the mugshot image that has been circulating periodically comes from. Oh, and that YMCA building also got tagged at one point too – and Heavier Than Heaven said something about an arrest for underage consumption of alcohol in Seattle. I admit to feeling bad at this point, for all the high points of Aberdeen – the museum, the glorious view from the hospital, the comfy motel, the Cobain park and memorial – I’ve realised I’m a significant way through this second post and I’m recording Cobain’s burgeoning succession of petty misdemeanours. They’re kinda tedious in a way, part of the legend of a man who grew to be something but spent quite some time engaged in acts of such desultory insignificance – I feel bad now criticising the feeble nature of the graffiti decorating the ‘Cobain bridge’ given he himself failed to indulge his finer artistic abilities when set loose on the streets of Aberdeen.

Looking back at the photo of the Burger King where Aaron Burckhard was manager for a while I realise it’d be equally possible to tour Aberdeen on the basis of fast food joints, supermarkets, corner stores and other day-to-day interactions of the Cobain life. It similarly reminds me, however, of the point I made the other day about medieval veneration of the relics of saints; its strange transplanting pilgrimage from the imaginary landscape of medieval shrines, springs, castles and churches to the modern terrain of clapboard houses, anonymous box buildings, blank walls and quietly sleeping grasses. In a further time-travel though, I’m sure more than a few pilgrims, having taken the long treks across the country or continent may have paused and thought “this doesn’t look like anything” before remembering the deeper faiths, desires and venerations that had led them so far.

Weatherwax Building, Aberdeen High School Remains

A final note of amusement and also one putting perspective on Cobain’s less desirable exploits; this sculpture was built from the remains of the Weatherwax Building of Aberdeen High School. The building was burned to the ground by two kids who were so worried about bad report cards that they broke in and tried to burn them only to end up with an out-of-control blaze and the desutrction of the entire building – way to go kids! Brilliantly dim and worth a ‘laugh or you’ll cry’ chuckle! ( The fact the town took the time to make something memorable and impressive from the remains is another great positive of Aberdeen – it’s a really wicked piece of work and very much worth a look.
( To my point, I actually end up feeling pretty good about the world when I see something like this; not just because of the making of something beautiful from a bad moment in time. What actually fills me with confidence is knowing that civilisation’s young are both smarter than ever and as capable of dim-wittedness as ever; there’s no need to be afraid of ‘the youth of today’ when they’re so similar to the youth of yesterday.


10 thoughts on “Nirvana Tour: Aberdeen Deserved a BIG Part Two”

  1. Hey ya Rafael! Well, what I’d say is that this is REAL LIFE. The problem with the way a lot of places tend to commemorate things is that we turn real things into ‘preserved in amber’ tourist attractions – or plastic Disneyland monuments. It’s unreal. I’ve had an amazing time in the Pacific North-West because it’s been so real – buildings change, businesses move on, fresh bands move in while long-time artists perserve…It’s been amazing. If you want things in glass cases, go to the EMP in Seattle (more on that in a later post), if you want to soak up the reality of how close everywhere Cobain hung out at and lived at in Aberdeen/Hoquiam was – what a small world he lived in for so long – go see! You’ll never regret it.

    On the other hand, yes, it’ll be great when the music exhibition opens in the Aberdeen museum – it’s a shame there’s no formally organised walking tours…But what I’d say is, if you go, there are people who can show you around and that personal touch will make a difference.

    You can make your experience whatever you wish – you want to live some part of Cobain’s experience? Sure, go sleep in the emergency waiting room at the hospital, taxi from 171 LakesideBlvd to the Marco Polo Motel, walk around the buildings and streets, enjoy a drink inside what was the Vogue or the off-Ramp…Embrace real life not curated artificiality.

  2. Marco Polo hotel room 226 sleep in the same bed as Cobain . Can hardly get that experience with Lennon under 30 bux

  3. The city didn’t find the budget for weatherwax. it was all donations from the Weatherwax family, which is what the old high school was named for decades ago. if someone wants to donate $100k for kurt, they’d be just as hogwild to do it, i’m sure. city didn’t donate anything but time — just like they did for the cobain park.

  4. Yes, Kurt and my son Eric got arrested for being on the roof of that building–it really scared the night phone person when she heard people on the roof. She thought someone was going to try to get in and rob the place, although they had no intention of doing that. Eric was underage, so he had to take alchohol classes. Kurt was over 18 and had warrants for doing graffitti (he was a very good artist), and so he had to spend a week or two in jail. He said the only time he got to see outside was when he was asked to carry a television upstairs to an office. He didn’t like being in jail at all, needless to say.

    1. Wow, Mrs Schillinger, I’m genuinely honoured you would take a look at my inane ramblings! And really intrigued to read this too – I’d not heard that full description before. Thank YOU!!

  5. Hey Nick,
    just wanted to thank you for writing these posts. I’ve been wanting to do a similar trip as yours for
    almost 20 years now. I think it’s time to make it happen. Thanks!

    1. Its all owed to Eric Williams of Indianapolis – I was considering my holiday plans, I really needed a break and wanted to go write…He popped up saying he’d enjoyed the Dark Slivers book and asking whether I’d ever been up to State of Washington and done the tour before kindly telling me of his experiences there.

      It made me think that there’d never be a better time, that I’ve a lifetime to repay the money I blew and that I’d never regret it…And I totally don’t. It was wonderful and the North-West is the friendliest place I’ve ever been. I totally recommend it and you should soooooo do it!

      I just realised I’d always wanted to so it had to happen sometime…And Eric popped up like a message from the Heavens to say “Nick, time to go…”

  6. Thanks for hours of reading in your excellent blog. It’s one of the best things I ever read on the internet. And: I demand a book too. Greetings from Germany!

    1. Hey ya Markus – thank you very much sir! If it took hours to read imagine what its taking to write! 🙂

      Naturally, just say hi if you want a book – postage to Germany is pretty decent – £4.20 I think? The email address is in the About tab or at top of page. Hope my ramblings would amuse.

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