It’s been a long day.
This morning I woke up and learned that an old friend had passed.
Technically, she was more than just an old friend. About twenty years ago, we were in a relationship together. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment for a few years, both of us broke but happy, working at a small market radio station together.
During our time, we discovered new things and we learned more about ourselves. I think that’s what you’re supposed to do, but in the end, the more we learned about ourselves the more we understood that we weren’t meant to be with each other.
I stayed in Iowa and she moved to Minneapolis, thinking that such a move would eventually draw me into the city with her.
She was wrong.
The last time we were together was during the Hole show in Minneapolis, the same year that Cobain killed himself. By the time I drove through Albert Lea heading south, I knew that our relationship was over.
I fell in with one of her best friends back home and she quickly discovered that she wasn’t really one of her best friends for obvious reasons. She fell back into a relationship with the guitarist from a moderately successful hair metal band, the same dude that I was competing with when we had just started dating.
The fact that one of the members was in a relationship with my new girlfriend bugged me a little bit, but their music is what really what made me despise them. They had their success, the grunge movement killed it, and the guitarist suddenly died in an automobile crash a few years after the band’s moment had come and gone.
When my relationship with her former best friend ended, we reconnected. I was finally able to apologize for the way I passively aggressive broke up with her and she was finally able to tell me “Fuck you!” for doing just that.
She also took great delight in psychoanalyzing me, accurately confirming that Yes, I had issues to resolve with my father and that, Yes, I had a pattern of getting into relationships with women that I work with and that, Yes, I always had to be in a relationship with someone, which explained why I was always dating co-workers.
All true, except for the part where she described herself as “a good catch.” I’m not debating this, but I cannot admit that she was the catch for me. That’s why we didn’t stay together.
I’m grateful for the chance to make things right with her, especially now that she’s passed away.
But I’m having a hard time dealing with it, as I do with death in general, because out of all the people I’ve known in my life, she was one of the few that could be counted on to be the most optimistic about it.
We need more people like that.
Knowing this, I struggle with why she was taken.
I began to cry in the shower and the sadness followed me to work. I became worried that my wife would get angry with me for getting so emotional over an old girlfriend. She wasn’t, but you can understand how I would feel awkward about it.
Ironically, most of my grief had nothing to do with our combined experience together, but it had everything to do with losing someone who valued life so much.
After the guitar player died, one of her girl friends died at the hands of the St. Paul Minnesota police department. The murder-and that’s what it was-was quickly cleaned up as justifiable, and the incident became the only time I could hear a bit of negativity creep into her voice.
But with each bereavement, she would handle it with a new bit of appreciation of life.
When her body began to fail her in her 30’s, she arrive home from the hospital with incredible grace and poise, appreciating the little things and finding a reason to stay positive even when her body was in pain.
She had another surgery a week or so ago, and she would post her progress on her Facebook page. She admitted her pain-almost eerily, as I read it now-but then would turn her attention on such seemingly trivial things, like how mild the weather has been here in the Midwest this year, and how blessed we are to experience it.
I speak as if she was a religious person, but that’s not the right word. While she was spiritual, it probably wasn’t in the same realm as I am with traditional Anglican worship. During the time we were together, she tended to favor crystals and other New Age items as her spiritual connection, and I probably teased her about it.
I sincerely hope that it brought her peace as she passed through, because it seemed to provide her with an enormous amount of it during her conscious time on this planet.
The pain in her passing is also fueled by selfish reasons. She was my first “adult” relationship, the first one where you pair up and live together. Like I said previously, we were broke most of the time, but we seemed to get along well with no cash, staying in on the weekends with Saturday Night Live, 120 Minutes (we'd make fun of Dave Kendall), and The Simpsons (when it was good) finding space on the VHS tapes, next to her never-ending recordings of All My Children, which she'd watch every night when she got home from work after midnight.
We’d save up money and go see shows. I can recall looking back at her from the front of a stage as I passed David Yow over the top of me, smiling brightly as this sweaty, drunk man made his way back to the soundboard. She was no dummy: her smile came from watching me bask in the glory that was the Jesus Lizard and from the fact that she had secured a table in the back at a safe distance to watch the entire spectacle. There she was, smiling at me ‘n Mr. Yow while she nursed a soda and took big, dramatic puffs of her Montclair cigarette.
We traveled to Davenport, Iowa and saw Nirvana play in a basketball auditorium. We both noticed that Cobain seemed depressed from our vantage point in the bleachers. The band was incredible, and our location provided us with a unique perspective as we could see the stage, the crowd, and an unrestricted view of the backstage area all at once.
When the set ended, Cobain went backstage-by himself-and sat down in a metal folding chair directly behind his amp and cabinet. We could see him clearly, as he reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a Camel Ultra Light cigarette and lit up while the crowd roared on the other side of his stack. He was alone and spoke to no one as he smoked his cigarette with a blank stare until a guitar tech brought a freshly tuned Fender for the encore.
Kurt rose, stomped out his cigarette, let the tech place the guitar strap over his head and obediently went out back on stage for a final song.
He was dead less than six months later.
By that time, she had moved out. It seemed that the band had about the same life span as our relationship. I drove up to Minneapolis to see that aforementioned Hole show with her in First Avenue, but aside from providing some strange closure from Cobain’s death, it didn’t save our relationship.
There was another time when she let me have it, years later right around the time that we reconnected. She had gotten mad at me for writing something on Glam-Racket concerning Nirvana, more specifically the death of Kurt Cobain.
You’ll remember that she was very much into commercial metal, and I was quite harsh on her for listening to it. Most of it was garbage, but I don’t think I ever admitted to her that I actually did like that Skid Row Slave To The Grind album and that first Faster Pussycat album that she played all the time.
I also will publically admit that buying Madonna’s Sex book was a good decision, even though I criticized her for being too expensive.
The Cobain piece bothered her because I brought up the time when I first brought Nevermind home and before a note was played, she offered up some criticism of the band. The inside photo shows Cobain giving the bird and she felt that was a slight of his fans. She was into a very self-righteous phase at that time, suggesting to me that her tastes in music were more worthy than mine because the bands that I liked didn’t seem to give a shit. Meanwhile, her favorite bands seemed to do more for their fans and were, therefore, more friendly to their supporters.
Eventually, she began to like some of the bands that I did, occasionally sending me pictures of her with Kim Deal of the Pixies and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth after we had separated, kind of an early attempt at a visual “fuck you.”
Like, “Fuck you! I’m hanging out with Sonic Youth while you’re stuck in Iowa!” kind of thing.
I know that wasn’t her intent, but envy is a motherfucker.
Anyway, I pointed out in my post that she originally didn’t like Nirvana and that rubbed her the wrong way. She had completely blocked out this incident, but for my own benefit, I confirmed her reaction from another source who was there as a witness.
I considered removing the offending post for her benefit, but then I remembered that this blog is for me. I don’t try to hide my past and it would be disingenuous of me to lie about anything that comes out of these writings. I have been known to simply avoid topics-and believe me: there are things regarding this very topic that I have chosen not to address-but on that particular incident, I felt that the impact of Cobain’s death on me trumped her concerns of harshness on our combined rock and roll history.
Now the impact of her death trumps everything now. She rebounded from those words, probably mad at herself from getting all worked up over someone who had no real power on her current life.
And good thing too: I noticed how fully she lived after we parted, reconnecting with an old flame, scoring good tickets for Madonna shows, and rebuilding relationships with her family. She even expanded that family with her beloved pets, who provided her with even more reasons to live life to the fullest.
In short, she was one of those people who deserved to stay here longer, and her death brings the inevitable amount of cynicism to me in between all of these tears. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not easy imagining this life without her wisdom and positive outlook.
I didn’t think about her all that much the past few years, probably because I shut off her update feed as it was filled with daily affirmations and cute postings of pets, angels, and funny pictures. Every once in a while, I’d check her profile to see if everything was ok.
A few weeks ago, she turned 42. I sent her a birthday message with a video to Concrete Blonde’s “Happy Birthday.” It was an appropriate gesture, I thought, and I’m sure she enjoyed it as she probably remembered all the times I told the story of when I got a phone call from Johnette Napolitano.
She replied back a thank you, and I tucked her away for another season.
But something-was it her spirit?-coaxed me back to her profile today. It was filled with comments of the many people she touched-and there were many-while I read in disbelief.
I struggled to get ready for work. I sheepishly explained to my wife why I was upset, concerned for her reaction. I made my way through work without much of a word except for those who approached, seeing that I was visibly shaken. I thought about what we do here in Iowa: buy flowers. The funeral is tomorrow, but then I remembered what a drag it is clearing out all the plants and flowers after the service is over. I lamented that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the funeral and questioned my place there anyway.
Who wants to see the guy she lived with a few decades ago?
So I’m staying home, trying to find time to adequately bereave while I write about a girl.