Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is Arthur Ashe Creepy?


I visited some friends in Richmond this past weekend.  One of them lives on Monument Avenue.  Monument Avenue is aptly named because... there are quite a few monuments on it.  Most of these are famous Confederates.  You know us Virginians, ever so proud of our Confederate past.


Stonewall Jackson, for instance.


Jefferson Davis also.


Some oceanographer dude named Maury?

However, no monument on this street captures my interest quite like the one build for Arthur Ashe, a famous tennis player and Richmond native.


Joh had warned me about the slight creepiness of this statue. Here you see Arthur Ashe, with some books in one hand and tennis racket in the other, standing before a small group of children who are reaching out to touch him. He looks like he's either going to throw the books at the children or beat them with the tennis racket. There's something malicious about the expression on his face.


I'm sure the real Arthur Ashe wasn't really a child-beating creepster. I'm sure he was a very lovely man. He also died before the debut of this sculpture, so I won't put him at fault. I'm all for honoring hometown heroes and whatnot, but ... isn't this just a really creepy statue?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Visit to Kurt Cobain's House

There was a time in my early teens when I was obsessed with grunge.  I watched the movie Singles enough times that I can still quote very large chunks of dialogue from it (particularly any of the scenes that the members of Pearl Jam appeared in).  I worshipped Eddie Vedder, grabbing any Pearl Jam related video or single or item that I could find.  I stole my brother's Alice in Chains CDs.  I read Michael Azzerad's book about Nirvana, Come As You Are, multiple times.  On a related note, I also read Poppy Z. Brite's biography on Courtney Love several times (both are actually fascinating reads that I would recommend).
I suppose it was fortunate that I got my teenage angst phase over with pretty early.  I look at that time now with some fondness, but mostly embarrassment.  While I still love Pearl Jam, my obsession with most other music of that time has died down considerably.

However, this did not deter me from the somewhat morbid desire to visit Kurt Cobain's house in Seattle.

Yes, peeps, this is the place where, on April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain took his own life. Supposedly. You might be a part of that "Courtney did it" camp or whatnot. Technically, it happened in a greenhouse on the property which has since been torn down.


We stared at the house from across the street for a few minutes, taking photos and feeling a bit awkward. I could picture the current residents of the house pulling aside the curtains and staring at us in disgust. The fact that the lights were on in the house did not help. I could only assume that they're used to people coming by every day to gawk, but I couldn't help but feel like a morbid, morbid tourist.

You don't really get a sense of Kurt Cobain looking at this house. A nice, big, but not ostentatious home in quiet residential Seattle on Lake Washington. It does not seem like the kind of house a tortured, drug-addicted, suicidal rock star would choose to live in. This is a man who used to sleep under bridges.

Right next to the house is Viretta Park, where Nirvana fans from around the world come to scribble messages on these benches.




One person saw it appropriate to leave a book.

Others saw it fitting to use the bench as a platform to spout some vitriol against Courtney Love.


Jimi Hendrix got a statue in front of a record store in Capitol Hill. Kurt Cobain gets scribbled-on benches. It seems fitting though. Nirvana's music spoke to a lot of people in a really personal way. It seems appropriate that they can personalize their own tribute to him. Despite the fact that some of the graffiti on the bench was stupid and non-sensical, there were plenty of ones that said things like "You changed me" or "Your music saved my life". Cobain never managed to overcome his depression, and we'll never know what more he might have done had he not killed himself. Hopefully through his music, he's managed to helped some others.