I just arrived in Portland, having spent my third and final night in Seattle. Here in the Rose City, as in the rest of the Northwest, the skyline is obscured in a smoky haze from the B.C. wildfires. I had to remind myself that normally on a clear summer day one can see an exquisite panorama of mountain ranges from the streets of Seattle. But the aerial fog yielded some interesting visuals of its own, particularly at dusk as the sun began to set.
Last night my friend & host Brandon took me to the Diamond Knot Brewery in Mukilteo, WA, a tiny town along the Puget Sound about an hour North of Seattle. The waterfront atmosphere was absolutely resplendent, we were surrounded by seagulls and tides and distant ferries and jubilant families grateful that the uncommonly hot day was finally over.
I have to publicly thank Brandon for putting up with me for three whole days. I arrived in a completely discombobulated state, tired and dehydrated and nearly scratching his car as I pulled into the parking space in his condo’s basement garage, but after three nights of sleeping in the same place I almost feel like a real person again. Well done, amigo!
I wasn’t in a big rush to get into Portland, so at the very last minute I decided to take a little detour. As a longtime Nirvana fan I had always been curious about the town of Aberdeen, where Kurt Cobain was born and raised. It’s only a couple hours away from Seattle and I understood it to house some kind of memorial for its late hometown hero, so I thought I’d check it out.
The drive to Aberdeen takes you through long stretches of narrow highway encompassed by ancient pine trees and occasionally a dying logger town. It very much reminded me of driving through Northern Wisconsin, only the trees here were much bigger and the roadside towns somehow even smaller. Aberdeen itself is a small, unassuming blue-collar town, a place of pickup trucks and American flags. An unlikely place for a pilgrimage, but one that I (and I’m sure many others) felt compelled to visit.
The house Cobain grew up in is listed as an Historical Landmark (according to Google, at least) so I drove there first. The shocking thing is that it really is just a house, an ordinary house in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood with no plaques, markers, or anything of the sort indicating its significance. For all I knew there might have been people living there. It actually felt awkward to walk up to it and snap a picture.
A few blocks away is the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, which is not much fancier than the house. To call it a park is almost a stretch; it’s a small plot of grass next to a bridge that crosses the the dull and murky Wishkah river. A modest guitar statue and a couple of plaques honoring Cobain sit on the grass, and the centerpiece of the park is a space underneath the bridge where spray-painted tributes to the late musician adorn the concrete.
The grass in the park is worn and rugged. Broken glass and cigarette butts abound. A couple of shopping carts can be seen sticking up out of the water like ruins of a decrepit consumerist empire. The whole scene is gritty, crude, and decidedly unpretentious. In other words, it’s the perfect tribute to Kurt Cobain’s life and personality. I can’t imagine anything more appropriate. I’m sure that in the next 10-20 years a more grandiose tribute to Cobain will be erected in downtown Seattle – some kind of 80-foot marble statue funded by a generous grant from Amazon – but even so this is the Kurt Cobain memorial you ought to see.
I won’t go as far to say it’s worth the trip, but it is if you have nothing better to do. Plus, after spending the last three days in crowded, heavily gentrified Seattle, it was nice to chill in a quaint redneck town for a change.
From one Ghost to another: stay messy, Cobain!