HERE WE ARE NOW For 20 years, Aberdeen all but ignored its most famous son. Now, with a host of new memorials to Kurt Cobain, the Washington town hopes to attract adoring fans. Writer Bill Donahue goes on a pilgrimage.
Bill Simpson, is a sweet older fellow who used to sell men’s slacks at the local JC Penney. He’s bald and round and when he laughs, his bifocals ride his cheeks up toward his twinkling eyes. “This is a very special day for Aberdeen,” he begins. I’m standing at the back of Moore’s Interiors, a local flooring shop. The rug samples have been rolled away, and two dozen of the town’s dignitaries are milling about, nibbling on cucumber hors d’oeuvres. We’ve gathered here for the unveiling of a new mural, titled Nirvana and Aberdeen, which stretches 68 feet along the outside wall of Moore’s Interiors and is financed by Our Aberdeen, a booster group whose recent efforts include the dedication of a healing gallery at the local hospital and Critters on the Map, a selfguided walking tour of the town’s whimsical metal sculptures. “And it’s my great pleasure to introduce ...” To the microphone steps Krist Novoselic, bassist for Nirvana, and Aberdeen’s second most famous native son. Novoselic, 49, used to perform barefoot, his pale white, size-14 feet a gleaming statement of punk freedom. Today he looks dapper in a black bowler hat, with salt-and-pepper flecks in his beard. “I am very grateful,” he says of the mural, in silky tones. “Here’s to our great future. Here’s to the future of Aberdeen.” The future of Aberdeen, a downbeat logging town an hour west of Olympia, Washington, has been a buzzy subject lately. And to understand why, you’d need to know something about its first most famous native son, Kurt Cobain. The oldest child of divorced working-class parents, Cobain lived here in a series of cracker-box homes. As a teenager, he cut class at Weatherwax High and stole stone crosses from a local cemetery. In 1987, he started his seminal band in a ramshackle garage. At the height of its success in the 1990s, Nirvana was the biggest rock band on the planet, selling some 75 million records worldwide and spawning a new musical genre, grunge. When I first heard Nirvana in 1991, it fed my veins. The music was such a pure expression of what it is to be young and angry and unsure, and when I squint a little in Aberdeen, I swear I can still see Cobain rising from the mist: wraith thin, unshaven, a The Young Street ratty mustard-colored cardigan hanging from his slenBridge, one of der frame as he screams, “Waaaa! Waaaaa!” No words, Kurt Cobain’s favorite hangouts. just the throaty, guttural sound of a confused heart
THE MAYOR OF ABERDEEN,