I was a senior in high school, at the age of seventeen. This was a year of change. My ability in creating artwork took a huge leap forward this year. My ability as a writer (and amateur lyricist) started to mature and expand. I ditched my aviator glasses that I had since the eighties and modeled my new pair after the glasses John Lennon wore in the late sixties. I grew my hair out. I discovered Tori Amos' Under The Pink album and I was planning on attending my first Lollapalooza concert that summer.
My interest in baseball cards started to wane with the expansion of pack prices and the sheer amount of releases, parallels, inserts and chase cards. I was wavering on collecting. I decided music would be a better pool of my funds and tracked down every song from my favorite artists that I could get my hands on. I got the concert bug and saw Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones that year. I was all over the map, but it made complete sense to me. I was finding myself and breaking out of the mold that the Chicago suburban public school system had shaped me in.
When April 8, 1994 started, I was nowhere near Chicago. I was in Dallas, Texas visiting my grandparents with my mom. We would be hopping a plane back to Midway airport in the late morning. I picked up a magazine in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport to read on the plane. I read an article on Kurt Cobain's overdose in Rome. There was a striking black and white photo of him accompanying the picture and I decided that would be my next art project. It would be a thirty inch by forty inch ebony pencil drawing of that close up of his head. I would start it on April 11th, when I got back to school from spring break.
I had just finished up a four foot by four foot painting of John Candy, inspired by the photo on the cover of People magazine right after his death. I had gotten a lot of positive feedback from fellow students and faculty alike. My dean even wanted me to produce a copy of the John Candy photo for him, which I happily did. My work had caught his eye before. An ebony pencil portrait of John Lennon (circa Strawberry Fields Forever), a portrait of Jimi Hendrix with watercolor chalk brushed with turpentine and countless others.
We arrived back home in the early afternoon. My dad had to work, so we took a cab back from the airport. The gentleman blasted his rap music and drove like he was running from the devil at the crossroads, but we were still in one piece. We I was bored and decided to go to the CD Exchange, which was a used CD store one town over. Sadly, today, it is a nail place. I spent about a half hour in the store and purchased Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. It was a nice sunny day with a slight chill in the air and I spent my time indoors devouring my newly purchased album.
I was refreshed by the time dinner was ready at 5:30. I came down and ate with my mom in front of the television, which was something we always did. For whatever reason, the sitcoms we usually watched weren't on. The Cubs may have been on WGN. We watched the national news instead, which we never did. As I sat and ate my dinner, I heard about Kurt Cobain's body being found that morning. I sat in stunned silence and ate the rest of my dinner, processing this new information.
I had been through two busy airports, ridden in a cab and spent a good chunk of time in a music store ad this was the absolute first time I was hearing this news. After the initial shock wore off, my first thought was of a classmate. We had a running joke where we "argued" about which band was better. I always defended Queen and he always defended Nirvana. Truthfully, I always liked both. I still do. My classmate was not the most pleasant person to be around right after, but he survived. Today, he is one of the most positive people in my Facebook feed, always with a great attitude and ready to bring a smile to any face.
I've always thought of the "grunge" movement as a rocket. There was a lot of testing and preparation but it blasted off and started to get noticed when the genre caught national attention after Nirvana's second album came out in 1991. It peaked with a shotgun blast in April 1994 and the ashes that fell littered the landscape in the years that followed, thinning out with each passing day until the final flake came down in 2002, when Layne Staley's body was found that April. The wind has blown since then, picking up tiny pieces here and there and scattering them, but they are just shadows of the original.
Twenty years later, I can still remember most of what I did that day. It's funny the things that you recall. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast some days, but that day, twenty years ago, is still full of vivid detail.
That year was a lot of change. I met so many people. Some I still call friends to this day. Baseball cards and eventually baseball abandoned me that year, but I have forgiven them. April 8, 1994 was also the last day I saw my grandparents together. My grandpa died two and a half years later. It was probably the best year of my youth and I'll always have the memories, good and bad. Mostly good.
While today is a day of reflection, it is also a day to look forward. There's nothing wrong with reliving the past once in awhile, but remember that time keeps moving forward and good things are still to come.