Sunday, March 3, 2013

No. 459 – Would?

Performer: Alice In Chains
Songwriter: Jerry Cantrell
Original Release: Dirt
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: the studio version, I guess.

When I awoke the first day of me and Scott’s 1993 vacation in Seattle, I had no idea what time it was, but I could tell from the light streaming through a crack in the curtain at the hotel that it was daytime. I heard rustling and saw Scott grabbing his clothes and getting dressed. What time is it? The answer: 1 p.m.

It took me a second to take it all in. Holy crap. That meant I’d been asleep for 13 straight hours without waking up once to go to the bathroom or even flip over in bed. Obviously, having 14 hours sleep in the previous 96 took its toll, and I needed to catch up a bit. It was—and is—the longest I’ve ever slept in a row.

We were a bit behind schedule, but it was no big deal. The thing I really wanted to do that day was make a pilgrimage to Jimi Hendrix’s gravesite. Because it was (is) in Renton, which is at the bottom of Lake Washington, it would be a fairly long drive from where we were and take up a good chunk of the day.

As we drove south on I-405, we didn’t hear every single song that was on the Singles soundtrack, such as this song, but we might as well have. It was definitely the default album on KND—again, almost all local bands.

I wanted to put a flower on Hendrix’s headstone, so we stopped along the way at this funky old-style mall that was open in the center and had a series of hippie shops. One was a flower shop, and it sold white carnations. Perfect. I bought one.

I had found directions from the freeway to Greenwood Memorial Park, but after we got there, I had no idea where exactly Hendrix’s gravesite was. All I knew was from a picture I’d seen in a Rolling Stone book a long time ago, which showed Hendrix’s very modest headstone laying flat in the ground.

We stopped off at the office at the entrance, and Scott got a map, but as I recall, it wasn’t a very big cemetery. We started to walk, and I saw a young couple—a man and a woman—walking toward us. I saw another pair of guys—again, young looking—walking on a different path in the same general direction as we were, so I just said to Scott, let’s follow them. I bet they have the same idea we do.

They did, and we took note of where they stood, but we hung back to let them have their moment of reverence alone before we went over.

I’ve already railed on the new memorial that Experience Hendrix Inc., er., Hendrix’s family, since created out of hubris, er., a desire to not disturb surrounding grave sites, and if you saw Hendrix’s original gravesite—shown in Singles—you’d understand why I felt that way. It was perfect as is.

It was just like it was depicted in the Rolling Stone picture—in the open, quiet and peaceful. Hendrix’s gravesite was next to that of his grandmother and a site to be taken later by his father. The small gravestone said only “Forever in Our Hearts, James M. ‘Jimi’ Hendrix 1942-1970” and had an image of a Fender Stratocaster right side up (oops). It was very simple, and given what little I know about Hendrix, I’m pretty sure he would’ve liked it.

Maybe it got worse after 1993. Maybe Scott and I went on a good day. I don’t know. All I know is there was no need to disturb other gravesites to get to Hendrix’s. Although we surely weren’t the only ones who visited the gravesite that day, we were alone while we stood there.

The only signs that anyone else had been there that day was the small collection of items around the marker. In addition to my carnation, there were a few flower bouquets, a letter written by a fan and a tape that a local band—I’d love to think it was a preview of the coming Pearl Jam album—and that was it. There was no graffiti, no damage, just simple tributes. Again, I think he would’ve liked that.

The rest of that day and the next, we took in the sights in Seattle. We went to the top of the Space Needle and wandered through Pike’s Place Market, but they weren’t throwing fish while we were there. As I mentioned, the Mariners weren’t in town, so we couldn’t see a game, unfortunately. Scott wanted to eat fish while we were in Seattle, so we did Ivar’s, which is famous for its salmon.

On Sunday night, we went down to First Avenue to see what was what. I couldn’t imagine going to a little divey club there and seeing Nirvana, or Pearl Jam, or Alice, or Soundgarden—and not having any idea who they were. But that’s where it all happened just a few years before.

I can’t remember where we went, but I remember that on the door was a sign that said the management assumes no responsibility for injuries while moshing, stage diving or crowd surfing. A woman who obviously wasn’t up on the Seattle scene the way she should have been asked innocently, “what’s moshing?” A guy standing in front of her helpfully said, “if, all of a sudden, everyone on the floor stands up and moves back, you’ll want to get out of the way.” Scott and I smiled.

There was no need to worry. That night, it was just a guy playing some acoustic music (and sounding pretty good). The place was fairly crowded but cool and laid back, at least that night.

Now that we had properly paid homage to the rock gods of past and present, it was time to begin the rest of our trip to parts East. Next stop: Idaho on the way to Glacier National Park.

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