Kurt Cobain died 20 years ago tomorrow. I think I was in 5th grade. I pretended to hang myself from the monkey bars on the playground to impress a girl that day and got in a small amount of trouble. I definitely was a tiny weirdo with long greasy hair back then, and I felt my slight, childish alienation expressed better by GRUNGE as it stood than anything else I had come across, but you know, I was a kid or whatever.
ANYWAY. When I got to Junior High School I got into PUNK in NYC which was very exciting. Punk is all about participation, rather than consumption, which I realized even that young, so I started writing a fanzine and I printed up two t-shirts to sell at shows, along with my shitty publication. One shirt had a picture of the state of New Jersey and it said "Kiss Your Girlfriend Where It Smells, Take Her To New Jersey" (I was fourteen when I made it okay?) which I think I stole from another fanzine. The other shirt just said I KILLED KURT COBAIN which I thought was a super punk sentiment, even though I still secretly liked Nirvana.
My freshman year of high school I went to a party at my friend Andrew's house. His parents were divorced and it was one of those situations where you tell your mom that you're sleeping over at the one parent's house but then actually the other parent is out of town and you have a party there. Andrew's step-sister Kristen was a cheerleader and she invited all her friends and Andrew invited our crew (me, Bruno and Diego) and we smoked bongs in the attic and like, listened to bootleg Operation Ivy tapes Diego brought back from the flea market in Mexico City, which is what we would've been doing even if Andrew's dad was home.
Eventually we wandered down to the living room and a bunch of dudes from the football team were in there getting drunk. Imagine a room full of wasted Moose Masons but listening to Biggie instead of whatever music they had in Archie Times. I was a young Freak on a Leash back then (metaphorically speaking, though the year prior I had spent much of my time wearing a LITERAL leash) so I was wearing: my brand new from 8th Street Grinders Combat boots with the neon NKOTB laces I stole from that weird biker store on St Marks Place, some big black JNCO jeans (do you remember those?), my I KILLED KURT COBAIN shirt and my hair in four pigtails (to invoke the corners).
Some of Kristen's football friends sold us Budweiser 40s for $5 a pop, which we thought was reasonable because we'd never bought beer before, and we started to drink and kinda hang out with them a little. And it was like, this weird moment where these young freaks and older jocks were getting along okay. AND THEN, this one gigantic sports dude just got all devil eyed and pointed at me and was like, "TAKE THAT SHIRT OFF!" and I laughed because I thought he must be kidding and then all of a sudden he was across the room right in my face and we were having one of those weird Man Moments where he was butting his chest into mine and talking through his teeth and he was like "I SAID TAKE THAT FUCKING SHIRT OFF!" and I was still laughing, albeit a little more nervously, because I still just thought he was fucking with me and was gonna laugh about it too any moment because why would some jock care about my I KILLED KURT COBAIN shirt?
And then he picked me up by my collar like they do in the movies and shoved me against a wall and I was scared. Kristen was like, "oh no Travis put him down leave him alone" super feebly and it was clear that she was actually so stoked on this display of raw masculine power. Very quickly and very quietly I said to him "what's your fucking problem man? You've made your point, you're bigger and tougher okay just put me down now." because everyone was watching and I hated it.
And then in that placid voice that shitty dudes get right after they Hulk out when they are gonna instill the lesson that was supposed to accompany their display of force, he was like, "My problem? My problem is with that shirt. I love Nirvana and I love Kurt you little faggot. So take that shit off."And at that point, I busted out laughing so EARNESTLY and so intensely that he just dropped me on the floor and walked away mumbling that I was crazy. If I had any chutzpah or more of a death wish I would've leaned in and kissed him. What a perfect moment! Like three hours later he was asking me to teach him how to play "About A Girl" on Andrew's dad's acoustic guitar.