Electric “Grunge” Rock filled the soundwaves of 1993 and 1994. We could talk about the hits by Mariah Carey, Ace of Base and Boyz II Men that filled the radio stations those years, but my friends and I were fueled by the gritty sounds of Nirvana, as well as the Doors, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Seventh grade became a year of great defiance and anger for me, and my new clan of friends. They were years of rollerblading around Hudson Ohio and stealing “chromies” off of cars. Chromies were the term we used for really shiny or novelty tire air cap covers. We used to fly around on our blades, unscrewing them off of cars, and at times getting caught by the car owners and flying off on a cement getaway.
We were into vandalism also. Kalen and I used to smash windows, and use BB guns to blow out gas meters. We would fill balloons with maple or chocolate syrup and throw them at parked cars. We would walk the train tracks to golf courses and shoot geese with our BB guns, as well as tearing up the greens with our shoes. Once, Percy and I raided a vacant high-school prep dorm room and coated the walls and carpet with fire extinguisher foam, escaping after out of where else? The fire escape!
We spent plenty of afternoons after school walking downtown to Hudson and finding underground spots to hide our misdemeanor crimes. We would go to a spot called “the ribs”, which was hidden in the forest underneath a little bridge by a creek. It was a hot spot for kids to go who drank and smoked. There would even be times when groups of seventh graders would just be walking openly on the sidewalks smoking cigarettes. We employed a method of hiding them called “cupping” where we’d keep the cigarettes cupped in our hands as if nobody would notice the trail of smoke we had in our wake.
Amidst all this pursuit of a bad boy image my friends and I grew in popularity and infamy amongst our peers at school. Younger or less arrogant kids would duck away from us, because they knew they’d be thrown against a locker if they looked at us the wrong way. Somehow our ability to be mean gained us a certain measure of respect. Something in me knew how awful it was, but I enjoyed the power trip and respect that bullying brought me. But it is undeniable that the violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just. (Prov. 21:7) I had no idea of the size of the garbage pile that I was accumulating- a garbage pile filled with consequence and regret.
This popularity even got the attention of a few girls for me, which was new. Maybe the rollerblading had burned off some of the baby fat, and the everlasting scowl that I wore on my face warranted me some attention as a “bad boy”. Nevertheless, I was looked at in a different light than the days of chubby nerdy-ness. Popular girls started to notice me. This fed my hunger for notoriety even more.
It all came to a climax at the seventh grade talent show. We had by no means practiced to the point of being professional, but our band “Joker’s Wild” had become somewhat of an in-house enigma to fellow schoolmates.
Kurt Cobain had committed suicide by blowing his head off with a shotgun on April 5th in the Spring of 1994. In his suicide note he even wrote about his wife, Courtney Love of the band “Hole”, and their daughter, Frances Bean. He wrote;
I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what i used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become. (http://kurtcobainssuicidenote.com/kurt_cobains_suicide_note.html)
So Kurt Cobain had become a rock n’ roll casualty. He had chased after the life we so desperately aimed for and it ended in terrible misery, even reflecting on the innocence of his little child and being overcome with his own self-destruction.
We paid homage to Kurt in our seventh grade talent show performance, doing a naïve but nonetheless distorted and angst-ridden version of “All Apologies”. Percy sang out the melodies as if they cut through to his very own heart, and I picked out the dirty guitar riff on my cherry red Gibson Les Paul as if it was the song of my life. We had about 5 people in our band at that point, including our good friend Jaden who had picked up the bass guitar a couple months earlier and worked his butt off to learn the parts.
Our version of All Apologies lit the young crowd of our peers up, and they cheered for an encore, which we had pre-meditated (we had put a bunch of our friends up to yelling “ENCORE, ENCORE”!). Our song of acclamation was a grunge rock version of “Day Tripper” by the Beatles, which lit the crowd up even more because of it’s upbeat vibe. The crowd cheered and we felt as if we were now legends. If girls liked us a little bit before, they liked us even more then. In so many ways, no matter how many people we had mowed down to get there, we felt as if we were at the top of the world. Percy and I were the creative force behind what we believed would be a lifetime career- to be the next huge band to change the world with music. We had no idea how naive we really were, but who does in the utopia of seventh grade?