Memory Lane: Nevermind

A co-worker walked up to my desk.

“Kurt Cobain killed himself,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “Right.” She looked uncertain.

This was a rumor that had been circulating for a couple of years at this point. That Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, who struggled so publicly with heroin addiction, fame, his wife and fellow addict Courtney Love, and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, had committed suicide.

My co-worker looked doubtful. “They’re saying they found his body. He shot himself.”

“‘They’ve’ been saying that for, like, the past two years,” I responded.

It was April 8, 2004.

++

I came late to Nirvana. Like, say, summer of 1992 late.

After my Pearl Jam revelation, I made my way through Seattle-area grunge: Screaming Trees (lead singer of which, Mark Lanegan, was clearly Vedder’s voice coach), Soundgarden, Alice and Chains, and so on.

Why yes, I was a sunny, happy post college graduate. (Not.) Why do you ask?

Although Nirvana’s single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had caught my ear, it wasn’t until I saw the video with the tattooed cheerleaders that I decided to pick up the CD. I distinctly remember hoping that it wasn’t just that one song.

To this day, Nevermind resides in my top five albums of all time.

++

I know Pearl Jam and Nirvana were lumped together in the “grunge” music category. Out of the necessity that we have for labeling and categorization. I tend toward seeing their differences, though, especially these many years later.

Pearl Jam had a dark romance to them. Nirvana were nihilists.

Pearl Jam’s music was tightly focused, driven, while Nirvana’s hovered at the near edge of chaos.

Both bands knew their music history — they truly sensed their roots. PJ were rooted in Neil Young and other ’70s-era bands, plus the Ramones; for Nirvana, it was classic rock, and punk and alternative rock forerunners (The Stooges, Pixies). While both groups seemingly struggled with their sudden fame, where Pearl Jam and especially Vedder learned to channel and use the spotlight, Cobain simply turned into a deer in the headlights. Then imploded.

Pearl Jam went from angst to activism; Nirvana, although they made an amazing third album (In Utero) (counting Bleach as their first) and an amazing MTV Unplugged episode, didn’t go farther than 1994.

++

Once upon a time, WYEP had a Friday night show that focused on very new music, a lot less Joni Mitchell and a lot more… well, at that time, Nirvana. An acquaintance of mine, Don, was the DJ.

And when, that evening on the air, Don announced Kurt Cobain’s body was found, I believed him. Don’s voice was hushed, serious, that of a fan already mourning a dead star.

I called him.

“Are you okay?” I blurted.

We talked for a while before he had to get back to DJ’ing. I told him about what my co-worker had said earlier in the day. “I didn’t believe her,” I said.

“I don’t blame you for not believing her. Cobain would be dead a hundred times over if every rumor of his death were true.” He went back to his shift.

I went to the bar.

++

I’m not proud of this, but when Don announced Cobain’s death, the first thought that went through my head was, “Now I’ll never get to see Nirvana live!”

My second thought was for his baby girl.

++

Although I never bought into the idea of Kurt Cobain as “the voice of a generation”, it’s not as if he didn’t have anything to say. He was an artist of his era trying to capture, if nothing else, his own intense experience. He was troubled, plagued by chronic pain, tortured by his fame, and, ultimately, not strong enough to take on the weight of his own world. But Nevermind — along with Ten — launched a thousand alternative rock ships.

And if I can be nothing else, I can be grateful for that.

Random Thoughts: The Head-Spinning Edition

Well, that was fun. Civil disagreement, uncivil disagreement, misunderstandings, hugs, and a lot of interesting views. Thanks.

What shall I tackle next? The End of Men? Are “men finished“? What about men and women moving between spheres? Are women the new men?

What about peanut butter? Smooth or crunchy? What about organic peanut butter?

I prefer to buy organic peanut butter because it usually has two ingredients (peanuts, salt). Organic peanut butter drives Dan batshit crazy.

As you may or may not know, organic peanut butter tends to separate, with the oil coming up to the top. Before you use it, you have to stir it and reincorporate the oil.

Dan hates doing that. I will admit, the process can be messy when opening a new jar. Oil can slop out and run down the sides; it’s oily, messy, sometimes sticky, a PITA.

But it’s not exactly the end of the world.

Usually, once mixed together and refrigerated, the peanut butter stays mixed.

So I keep buying organic PB. And Dan keeps bitching about it.

Some things never do change.

Although, I did buy this last week for a temporary reprieve:

So there.

What’s your favorite controversy this week?

And Another Thing

(This is a continuation of my replies to @mindymin from yesterday’s post. I think she makes valid arguments, and I completely understand her POV, even though I don’t share it. Also, I don’t think this is a matter of taking sides — I think it’s a matter of recognizing that workplaces can’t be one size fits all any longer. IMO, anyway.

Of course, my mother would probably point out about now that I should have become a pharmacist.)

Let’s also recognize that in the face of high unemployment numbers and a poor economy in general, the American workplace is even less likely to feel the need to change to accommodate any workers, let alone parents. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to fight for optimal working conditions for everyone, or ask for more options. If they feel they can screw you, they’re going to screw you. People are accepting lower wages, fewer benefits, higher health care insurance costs, and so on, because the thinking is: “Well, at least I’m working” or “At least I’ll be working again.”

This is a major story line on Parenthood, the NBC show, right now. A once-senior executive of a shoe company is thinking of taking a job driving a truck to deliver beverages just so 1) he is working and 2) he can appear to be providing for his family again. But at a significantly reduced wage and with a job that takes him away from his family, what is he really gaining?

Slate examined this too, what people — the long-term unemployed, specifically — are doing to get back to work. I don’t think this article was critical enough. They simply reported what strategies people adopted to get back to work. They don’t ask, “Is it [the particular strategy] worth it?” I think that should be examined also.

These are hard questions. It’s a hard economy right now. Losing my job would be devastating in economic terms. Would my family adjust? Yes, we would. I think there are things that I could do, steps I could take, to get back to work in some fashion without making the current sacrifices I am making. But until I’m up against the wall, I will keep making the sacrifices I am making (a long commute, missing my children, etc.).

Also, from yesterday’s comments, what do you think about @FunkyDung’s point about SAHDs? They are fighting on a different front for some of the same respect that SAHMs have access to: community, acceptance as primary care givers, etc.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts. More below! Weigh in! Be nice. (Like I have to tell you that…)

I Have to Come Back to This

“My strong feeling is that women have changed enormously to accommodate being mothers and working. But the world of work has not changed to accommodate the fact that now almost half the people in work are women and many, many hundreds of millions of them are mothers. … Why should I deliberately limit my family because work is too hard to combine with motherhood? How about work becoming slightly easier to combine with motherhood so that women can fulfill both the things they want to do? Which is to have wonderful children which are the great lights of most of our lives and to have a career….

“Don’t let work structures dictate the concerns of your heart.”

— Allison Pearson, author, I Don’t Know How She Does It and I Think I Love You

This is a quote I heard over the weekend on NPR’s Fresh Air. I immediately fell in love with this woman (hear the entire interview here). I have so many thoughts about it, I can’t even begin to sum them up. But I wanted to get this quote out there. What do you think?

My PCPGH Recap in Three Lists

The Great Parts

1. As a first-time presenter at PodCamp Pittsburgh, I got a ton of encouragement and support. It helped a lot that two of my sessions were panel discussions, and really, I was there more to introduce the topics than anything else. I give my panelists (Eric and Mike did the bulk of the trolls panel, and Lisa, Danielle, and Andy did the bulk of the bully panel) all of the credit. Especially Eric, as he put together the majority of the slides and did the majority of the talking.

2. People actually showed up for my solo session! I mean, only about eight people (I started with more, but I think a few realized they were early for the Troll Panel). But as I was there to talk about blogging about grief, I did not expect a huge turnout. Props to @Mr_Ski_Pgh and @Firemom (also: squeee, I finally got to meet Firemom!) for having great questions. (Adam also had a great question, but I only got his first name.) I really hope that the people who came learned something. If nothing else, maybe they learned they were not alone in whatever grief they have.

3. Also, I did not puke or cry during any of my sessions. I don’t think I visibly sweated through any of my clothing. I survived, and even had fun. (My solo session wasn’t fun, per se, but I think it had value, and I’m glad I did it.)

4. Meeting new people. I can’t list them all here (mostly because I’m afraid I will leave someone out). But if I met you for the first time at either the @alphalab Meet and Greet or at the Saturday Podcamp sessions or lunch — I’m so glad. You are lovely. Thank you for your encouragement, your hugs, letting me play on Team Nice, and/or anything else you did or said to me. You are the best. I’m not kidding.

5. Seeing people I haven’t seen in a while. Most of my interaction with people in social media is through social media, primarily Twitter (with this here blog and Facebook in the distance). Because of my “real life” (mom of three, lovin’ wife, house maven, suburb dweller, full-time employee, etc., etc.) I don’t get to get out more to be social without the media. Podcamp is my big opportunity (even though I can hear my husband rolling his eyes from here) to completely be out IRL with people I like a whole bunch. I got to have more and longer conversations with Pittsburgh tweeps (and some non-Pittsburgh tweeps who made the trip). *Group hug!*

6. I cannot say enough nice things about the organizers, the volunteers, and the people who did the sessions I managed to attend (not enough, and more on that below).

The Missteps

I didn’t introduce myself to enough people. I don’t know who is going to believe this, but I’m actually shy.

I didn’t take any pictures.

I did too many sessions, especially the way they were grouped (one after the other Saturday afternoon). I had started out wanting to do a panel on Trolling and Cyberbullying. Once my panel of five other people came together, we discovered there was so much to say about trolls and about cyberbullying, that we spilt into two sessions. And then I had the bright idea for my grief session. I should’ve held onto that for next year.

I only went for one day. I hired a babysitter for all day on Saturday, and she was worth every penny I paid her. But I should’ve bribed my husband with whatever he wanted so that I could go back on Sunday. That price, too, would have been worth it.

I went to Bar Louie too early. Should’ve followed the cool kids to Las Velas for better food and better drinks. Plus, I haven’t been there since their re-opening. Saturday was a perfect opportunity. I could’ve skipped Bar Louie all together.

Although then I would have missed @mattieflap telling some helpful co-eds that Miller Lite tastes like goat piss. That was pretty funny.

The Future

Daycare: PodCare (see #9), PodCamp Jr.
Being an organizer or volunteer.
Having ONE really good session idea, and doing it.
Okay, maybe two, but not back-to-back.

The Upshot: Go again. And get more people to come! I’ve got some Twitter peeps I know could have benefitted from PodCamp, and I’m dragging them next year. (@YouPickToo, I’m looking at you. *ahem*)

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Program

I have plenty to say about Podcamp Pittsburgh (most of it good), but I need a day to regroup, recharge, and hang out with my kids. Gosh, I missed them so much yesterday!

Oh, and clean my house. Going to get on that right now. Once I’m not out of breath from exercising. My strength and tone is improving, but my cardio is shot for some reason.

Stay tuned for more.

Repost: The Worst Day(s) of My Life

Today I am giving a talk at Podcamp Pittsburgh about Blogging Grief. This is a repost of one of my earliest posts about Gabriel, in November 2007. He was already 4+ years gone, but that doesn’t mean this was easy to write. It’s still not easy for me to read. And, fair warning, there are pictures at the end. They may be tough viewing.

On June 4, 2003, I had a pre-natal visit. I was pregnant with our first child. Everything seemed to be going fine.

Twenty-four hours later we were a long way from “fine”.

I first noticed that the baby was quieter than usual that evening, June 4. I didn’t think too much of it because I had literally just been at the midwives and had heard his heartbeat (at the time, we didn’t know he was a boy, and we didn’t have the name Gabriel picked out). But even after a vanilla milkshake from Bruster’s with a banana added that night (can’t drink those anymore; frankly it’s a wonder I can visit a Bruster’s at all), he wasn’t kicking around.

The next day, I went to work. At the time I was working part-time as a receptionist at a hair salon, and as a freelance writer. I had decaf coffee, a Pop Tart, and then some grapes. Nothing from the baby. I called the midwives, and told them my concern, that I hadn’t felt the baby moving.

It had been less than 24 hours since my appointment. They were mystified. The midwife I spoke with suggested I have a high-carbohydrate snack and see what happened. I explained I had already done that. She asked if I would like to go to the hospital so they could find the heartbeat or do a sonogram.

We really thought everything was fine at this point. I could say something dramatic like, “I already knew my baby was dead” because in retrospect I know that now. But I didn’t think he was dead. I just thought he was quiet.

(Look, I don’t want to go into a blow-by-blow of this experience. I am going to pick the strongest images and emotions from the next few days and give them to you. We’ll go from there.)

The worst words in the world that a pregnant woman can hear: “We can’t find the heartbeat.”

The worst words a pregnant woman has to say: “I lost the baby.”

The worst moment after the worst words: When DearDR rushed into the hospital room with “that look” on his face. “That look” was so lost and scared and vulnerable. It was the look, that when you see it on someone’s face after they’ve lost someone, that you want to say, “I’m so sorry” or — worse — “It’s going to be okay.” And I couldn’t say either of those things to him. I was sorry, sorry for all of us. But it certainly wasn’t going to be okay.

The worst pain: After the epidural wears off, and they won’t bolus it anymore because the next time they turn up the pain meds, it’s because you’re getting a C-section.

The worst memory: Not having much of a memory of the hours after they hook you up to a morphine drip.

The worst denial: Denial is a powerful thing, my friends. Denial says, “They are all wrong, and this baby is fine, and when I finally get this labor started, I’m going to push out a fine, strong, healthy baby. Won’t everyone be surprised? It’s going to be great!”

The worst of everything (aside from the obvious): The look on everyone else’s face. The expression of sorrow and pain on most, and the resolute expression that your father has because he’s here to comfort you, and the pity on other faces, and the fear that everyone is hiding because why is this taking so long and why don’t they just do a C-section already, and if I have to be here one more day I’m going to lose it. The force of good cheer some of your visitors bring with them mistakingly thinking this helps you be strong.

The second worse: The waiting. The pain. The drugs.

I delivered Gabriel on Sunday June 8 at 2 a.m. in the morning (that time is not exact). It was Pentecost Sunday.

To paraphrase (a lot): “The Lord said, ‘I will send my Holy Spirit to you in your hour of greatest need. And he will make you strong.'”

And the Spirit did. I would be lying if I didn’t add, I wish I hadn’t needed the Spirit quite as much. God could have kept the Spirit if I could have had my son. It was, indeed, the darkest hour in my life. I am pretty sure DearDR would second that.

Gabriel was 5 pounds 4 ounces and 21 inches long. He was a beautiful baby — he truly had the most gorgeous hands, with long, long fingers.

I wish I knew what color his eyes were. I wish I had heard him cry. I could fill pages and pages of all that I wish in relation to Gabriel. You get the idea, I’m sure. If you are a parent; if you have lost a child. You know.

Gabriel was the name that DearDR and I picked before the morphine hook-up, when the epidural was still working. We picked a girl’s name, too, but I don’t remember what it was. Gabriel means, “gift of God”. And if that sounds weird, well, I’ll explain it another day. I’m pretty wiped out right now.

You can imagine why.

Repost: Photograph

It is actually possible to grieve for someone before they die. I’m doing a Podcamp session tomorrow on Blogging Grief, so I’m reposting this today. As an illustration of how I have grieved, and how I have written about it.

My grandmother died more than a year ago. I’ve been missing her a lot longer than that.

As the nurse was helping her into bed that night, she discovered a photo in her pocket.

“Oh, look, Olympia! Your great-grand-daughters are beautiful!”

She looked at the picture, a little creased from spending the day in her pocket. Two little girls smiled out of it: a blue-eyed, dark haired beauty, and a green-eyed blondie with mischief written all over her grin.

She wondered whose children they were. Certainly not, probably not her own. She was an old lady now. Her daughter’s? She did have a daughter, she thought she recalled. Had her daughter had children? Her daughter’s daughters? Her daughter’s daughter’s daughters?

“Do you know their names?”

Oh, she thought, oh, they probably aren’t mine, she thought. Someone probably gave that photograph to me by mistake. But wouldn’t it be nice if they came to see me, too? I would hug them and give them cookies. They look so sweet. Such sweet little girls. I wish I knew who they were.

Car Conversations from the Weekend

Just in case you are under the delusion that girls are delicate little flowers (I mean, I’m sure many girl children are, but mine? Not so much):

Both these conversations took place Saturday, on our way to Target.

#1

Flora: Remember when we went to Erie?
Me: Yes.
Flora: Remember when we went to that huge amusement park?
Me (scoffing at Waldameer being referred to as “huge”): Yes.
Flora: And we went on that train ride?
(The ride was the kiddieland version of a pirate ship ride, big swoops. I couldn’t do it; my mom went on with the girls.)
Flora: That was the perfect ride for Kate. Because it was called Little Toot! Get it?
Me: Because Kate toots all the time?
(Kate, BTW, is finding this conversation hilarious, and giggling away.)
Flora, laughing: Yeah! We should call her Little Toot!
Me: What would we call Daddy? Big Toot?
Flora and Kate: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Flora: And when Michael starts tooting, we’ll call him Tiny Toot!

++

#2

Me: What are you girls going to be for Halloween?
Kate, dreamily: I’m going to be a pretty, pretty butterfly.
Flora: I’m going to be a vampire! Or a skeleton. What’s scarier, a vampire or a skeleton?
Kate: Or a ghost?
Flora: What’s scarier? A vampire, a skeleton, a ghost, or a zombie?
Me: A zombie. Zombies are the scariest (Am I wrong?)
Kate: I’m going to be a zombie!
Flora: I’m still going to be a vampire.

Back to the Dentist, Again

I’m finally doing something about my front tooth.

Today I go back to the dentist for a permanent crown. I don’t really want to go — the procedure hurts, to be quite frank, after the novacaine wears off. And, let’s face it, getting novacaine is no picnic, either. #understatement

But getting my tooth fixed? I can’t overstate how great that is, how much of a difference it makes. And as I’m going to be talking in front of a bunch of people for several hours on Saturday, it’s one less thing for me to worry about.

I’d still like to get my hands on a whiskey milkshake for dinner, though.

Tooth Before:

Tooth with Temporary Crown:

Still to come: Tooth with Permanent Crown. Wish me luck!