My son was kind enough to remind me a while back that his car is a classic, if your definition of "classic" centers on that car being at least twenty-five years old. By this measure, my son is not a classic, but he's working on it. Some things are relics before they ever reach that kind of milestone. Some places become altars moments after the fact. The fact is usually something tragic. Tragedy plus street corners equals temples of sadness, never mind the time. Heroes are made out there most nights of the week. Heroes that are forgotten even as the spray paint lingers.
Twenty-two years ago, my wife and I traveled to Seattle, coincidentally just a week after the death of Kurt Cobain. This was just a few months after I had sat home, watching as his band played a sold out show just down the road at the Oakland Coliseum. I watched on MTV. I was in my thirties. I didn't go out to rock concerts on New Years Eve. But part of me wanted to be a part of rock and roll history. There was something going on out there: lightning in a bottle. In April, when the news came down that Kurt Cobain had blown his own head off, it wasn't as sad as it was inevitable. I had missed that show, but there I was a week after this sad fact in the neighborhood where he had once lived. We drove past the house, with the infrequent and ironic Seattle sun beating down on the flannel-clad mourners camped out in front. There were candles and guitars, and it looked for all the world like the west coast version of John Lennon's memorial, fourteen years later.
John was a classic. So was Kurt, by a couple years. That's why, after another twenty-two years, when the Seattle police released pictures of the shotgun that ended Cobain's life, there was an uproar. Outrage at the reappearance of this somewhat mythic relic of a bygone era. Grunge is over, but rock and roll lives on, as does the legend of Nirvana's front man. Which may be why Justin Bieber chose, last week, to show up on stage in the Emerald City in flannel and a raggedy haircut, reaffirming what he had asserted about himself six years ago: "I fell like the Kurt Cobain of my generation, but people just don't understand me."
Justin was born in 1994. He's not a classic. Not yet. Time will tell.