My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 6

On the way back to Seattle, I found out I’d missed a reading with Bruce Pavitt, co-founder of Sub Pop, at Fantagraphics Bookstore with a gallery of grunge luminaries in attendance. Tad Doyle, Mark Arm, and Charles Peterson were on hand to celebrate the release of Pavitt’s book, Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989. As a fan of the music of these bands and the photography of Peterson, I wanted to stab myself for missing this event. But I was rewarded with a pretty decent consolation prize when I woke up the next morning and found out Mudhoney was performing a “secret gig” at an ice cream shop that night. I notoriously miss stuff like this. I could not believe my luck. Actually, I kind of didn’t want to believe it–the thought of seeing Mudhoney in a tiny, up-close environment sounded way too good to be true. I mean, this was classic Seattle story in the making. The way these bands were intended to be seen—in a tiny, grimy venue, screaming in your face.

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The only way to preoccupy my hopes of seeing Mudhoney up close was to continue my self-guided tour of all things grunge. The husband and I kicked off the day with a revisit to Discovery Park, the filming location for Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” music video. This time, we took the entire trail to the beach for a better look at the landscape. I even pinpointed the patch of tall weeds that famously dwarf Eddie Vedder at the beginning of the video (It’s aaaaalllll the way at the end of the trail and then up the beach near some interesting piles of driftwood.). Because I’m a nerd. Like there’s any point in denying this. I may have even tried a burrito at Taco Time because it’s mentioned as a certain musician’s biography. Even Seattle’s fast food is better. What’s up with that?

 

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Somewhere around here, Chris Cornell head-banged and Matt Cameron drummed from a sandbank.

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Obligatory standing-in-Eddie’s-weeds photo.

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A sea lion barked at us from the water while we were down by the lighthouse. He must’ve been goin’ hungry.

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Driftwood fort on the beach. (Or Hobbit house??)

Next on the agenda was a trip to the former site of Reciprocal Recording. A strange little wedge-shaped building on the edge of a neighborhood, this windowless phenomenon was once owned by Chris Hanzsek and Jack Endino. The studio hosted a number of local bands, including Soundgarden, TAD, Green River, and Mudhoney. Superfuzz Bigmuff was recorded here, as well as Mother Love Bone’s initial 8-track demos. Reciprocal is where Nirvana recorded their demo tape with Jack Endino, which was then sent to Sub Pop. Formerly Triangle Records (and before that, Triangle Grocery), the once-yellow building is now painted brown and recently housed Chris Walla’s Hall of Justice studio.

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That’s a lot of sound to come out of such a small building.

Of course, my tour of 90s Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the OK Hotel. This building is truly the stuff of legends. Now an apartment building, the OK Hotel was once a bar and music venue that hosted everybody who was anybody in Seattle’s emerging music scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Mudhoney, TAD, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and Soundgarden all played here. It holds the distinction of being the venue where Nirvana first played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live. You also might recognize this old building as the coffee shop in Cameron Crowe’s Seattle-centric film, Singles. In 1997, the Queens of the Stone Age played their first show here; four years later, the OK Hotel would end its days as a music venue after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake damaged the building and it was bought by redevelopers. I was very happy to see the new owners took care to restore the building and maintain the integrity of Seattle’s historic downtown.

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It’s really hard to take a picture of the whole building without getting hit by a car. Standing in a busy street here under an overpass, dodging traffic.

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As seen in Singles.

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Lobby shot of the OK Hotel as seen creepin’ through the front window.

Not far away in Pioneer Square is the Central Saloon, interesting not only for its proclamation of being Seattle’s oldest bar in town (Technically, it’s not.), but also for holding Mother Love Bone’s final show. Take a peek inside its cramped quarters and you can better appreciate how the band was only on the verge of breaking out before Andy Wood’s untimely death.

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Wasn’t here during a peak drinking hour, but the interior sure looked cool.

Next, I made a point to see the former location of the infamous Gorilla Gardens in Chinatown. Now a faceless carpeting business, the white building used to house some of the wildest shows in the city. This nefarious underground club saw a ton of police intervention before it was closed down, and saw the likes of the Fastbacks, the Circle Jerks, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, the Melvins, the U-Men, Green River, and Guns ‘n Roses. If you have never heard of this short-lived, crazy-ass club, look into it, if only for the Butthole Surfers chainsaw fire escape story.

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The guy in the car wouldn’t leave until I took the picture. Congrats on your fame.

Of course, we weren’t leaving Seattle without seeing the Coryell Apartments in Belltown. Pray tell what is the significance of this U-shaped building? You tell me if this looks familiar.

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The fountain in the courtyard was added for the movie, but otherwise the apartments have barely changed since Singles was filmed here.

 

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Chris Cornell appreciating a new speaker system right before it blows out the car windows.

There were two more places of significance I wanted to see before we ended our self-guided tour. The first was the Re-bar, where Nirvana was kicked out of their own release party for “Nevermind” after starting a food fight. Re-bar used to feature one of Seattle’s Mother Love Bone’s murals, which is also featured in Singles.

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Re-bar as it stands today.

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How Re-bar looked for Singles.

Even though it doesn’t offer up much aesthetic value, I really wanted to see the Motorsports International Garage. On September 22, 1990, Nirvana played what was then their largest audience ever—15,000—and a dude named Dave Grohl was in the crowd that day. He ended up behind their drum kit three days later. Many see this high-octane show as the turning point of the band’s career.

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I couldn’t find out if this is the original building, but this is at least the address for the Motorsports International Garage where Nirvana played.

After another day filled with musical tourism, we headed over to Full Tilt Ice Cream, where I came an inch away from being permanently known as “Bass in the Face.” But that deserves its own post.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 5

Of course, no trip to the pacific northwest would be complete without at least a drive-by assessment of the great state of Oregon. Because of time restraints and nostalgia priorities, all of my knowledge of Oregon is therefore made up entirely of Goonies filming locations.

View from the highway on the way to Astoria.

Our self-guided tour of everything Goonies took us to the picturesque town of Astoria and then to Cannon Beach, home of Haystack Rock. Almost everything looks exactly as it did in the movie. It’s like Astoria has been locked in a time capsule since 1985—and this is not a complaint. I fell head-over-heels in love with the seascape and the old Victorian homes, especially the Flavel House, which stands next to one of the single largest trees I’ve ever seen.

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The historic Flavel House. Can I please live here?

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Check out the size of this epic tree! It’s actually a 115-year-old giant sequoia. According to the museum, Captain Flavel collected trees from his trips across the world.

Being from Illinois, I was right at home with the bone-chilling, Chicago-esque weather conditions during our stay. It didn’t seem like Astoria was used to getting much snow, as the hilly streets were laden with cat litter to keep cars from slip-sliding into one another. The weather made the trek to the Goonies house near the top of the hill a bit perilous. I’d brought my all-weather, come-at-me-bro North Face parka, but didn’t think my snow boots would be necessary. Wrong.

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Have fun walking up this snowy lane in skater shoes or Chucks!

Unlike most movie locations, the owners of the Goonies house actually welcome fans. They don’t give tours, but they have a cute little sign outside their house welcoming you to the “Goondocks.” So you can totally stand outside and take pictures and perform the truffle shuffle without feeling like a creeper. If you go, remember it’s a private residence, so don’t be weird and knock on their door to regale them about the time Michael Jackson used your bathroom.

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The Goonies house proudly overlooks the town of Astoria.

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Goondocks sign–how cool are these people?

One good thing about the crummy weather is it eliminated any trace of tourists. We had full run of the beaches and the adorable downtown. As luck would have it, Astoria even has an independent record store. While it’s not exactly Vintage Vinyl, the place scored points in my book by hosting some furry residents—it’s actually a record store/animal rescue. So when I found the reissue of Temple of the Dog in stock, I had to give the place business. Because I was sort of literally in a temple for dogs. Get it? Besides a huge room packed with used DVDs, CDs, and cassettes, I was really surprised they had so many new vinyl releases. (It’s coming back, y’all, whether you like it or not!) I hope this place stays in business, because animals and vinyl are two of my favorite things.

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The gorgeous Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria.

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Street 14 Coffee in an old hotel. So cute I can hardly stand it.

I have to take a moment to give props to one more independent business in Astoria, Geno’s Pizza and Burgers. There was zero expectation of finding decent pizza in Oregon, and I was immediately impressed by the fact they offered fresh basil as a topping. You know your pizza experience is about to be elevated when fresh basil is an option. But the pies! Their pies were half a foot tall! (Not the pizza pies, the dessert kind.) Be forewarned: the peanut butter pie will send you straight into a sugar coma. Perhaps best of all, Geno’s was full of locals. There was even a textbook cliché Old Man of the Sea in there with his grandson. It was almost like walking into a Jack London novel, except without the wolves. Sometimes, it’s all about the atmosphere.

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View from the bluff over Cannon Beach. You need a spyglass to see it up close, but Haystack Rock is the big rock poking out of the surf just before the horizon.

While Astoria was like walking into a Norman Rockwell snow globe, Cannon Beach has the look of a vacation destination for summer travelers. Though it’s a lot more spruced up and less-dedicated to preserving its historic buildings, the town is worth a visit for Ecola State Park, which includes the beach, forest, and look-out point over ocean. Remember when the Goonies peered through the pirate medallion to line up the rocks on the beach? That was shot on the bluff. And if you turn 180 degrees, you can see where the Fratellis’ restaurant was built for the movie. Taking a gander around, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers chose Cannon Beach for their pirate-themed adventure movie. It’s a natural wonderland, and only part of it is revealed in the film. I can’t wait to come back and explore all it has to offer. Hopefully next time I can leave the parka at home.

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Beach view of Haystack Rock from the opposite side. There’s a tiny cave inside it!

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What trip to Goonies territory would be complete without stumbling upon an old ship? Here are the remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906.

There was one more irresistible filming location I had to hit on the way back to Seattle. Racing to beat the sunset, we stopped through Tacoma, Washington and found the high school and house from 10 Things I Hate About You. Stadium High School is not only a crazy-impressive looking building, like a castle overlooking the bay, it features that iconic bowl football field where Heath Ledger evaded campus police whilst singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Julia Stiles. Visiting both movie locations in one day was a double blast of childhood nostalgia and gave me an excuse to visit places I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to check out.

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Entrance of Stadium High School, as seen in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.

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Stadium Football Field overlooking the bay. “IIII love youu baaaby…”

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Though the pole with the loudspeaker is now gone, (Maybe installed by the filmmakers) this is the place Heath slid down into the bowl.

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Kat’s (Julia Stiles) house in 10 Things.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 4

As the saying goes, it’s good to put a name with a face. Descriptions go a long way, but a description is only one person’s opinion. Thus, I decided to go to Aberdeen, Washington, and see the town where Kurt Cobain grew up for myself.

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I first passed through Aberdeen and saw the town welcome sign on the way to the Olympic National Forest; it still reads “Come As You Are,” in tribute to the town’s most famous son. For those who know Kurt’s story, the sentiment feels ironic, as the man who wrote the line never felt the same kind of acceptance growing up in this shuttered logging community.

Aberdeen has been described as a small town with not much culture to offer, though Kurt wasn’t the only artist to come from here. Dale Crover, drummer for the Melvins, was born in Aberdeen; the local band served as an inspiration for budding musicians like Kurt and Krist Novoselic. Krist moved to Aberdeen with his family in 1979, which is how Kurt eventually met him and the two ended up forming a band together.

Early Nirvana photo. Kurt, Krist, and Chad Channing circa 1988.

Early Nirvana. Kurt, Krist, and Chad Channing.

The hotel I stayed at was literally on the Wishkah River, but even in all its quasi-familiarity, Aberdeen looked a little different during my visit than it does most days. The girl at the front desk kept looking out the window like a spooked animal, prompting me to ask, “Do you guys usually get this kind of snow here?”

“No. We usually get snow once or twice a year,” she said. “And never this early.” She was worried this onset of early snow meant Aberdeen would be getting more than their fair share over the winter. For all her worries and the horror stories I heard about Washington drivers in the snow, the roads were as clear as they would be in any other small town, and the drivers were no more panicky than anyone in the Midwest. Unlike Seattle, the town of Aberdeen is relatively flat and doesn’t feature the same hair-raising hills that can make snow driving a thrill ride. The town sits in the middle of Grays Harbor, between Hoquiam and Cosmopolis, and is conjoined to the former so that it’s hard to tell where one ends and one begins. The town is split by the boat-clogged Chehalis River, which the Wishkah pours into. While city people may consider the town “small,” Aberdeen is three times the size of the town I grew up in, so I came to it with a different perspective.

Former site of the Hoquiam Eagles Lodge, where Nirvana played in 1988.

Former site of the Hoquiam Eagles Lodge, where Nirvana played in 1988.

Yes, Aberdeen is run down. Yes, it clearly has a lot of poverty. More than a few houses sit abandoned in the neighborhood where Kurt’s childhood home still sits. The closing of the lumber mills in the 1970s and 80s did this town no favors. But honestly? It’s not much worse than some of the small Midwestern towns near where I live now. Maybe it’s just a place that got too big for its britches. It still has some nice things, even a community college, and while the surrounding hills bear the scars of their pillaging, it doesn’t look like a bald-faced ghost town. Some of the trees have even grown back in the surrounding area. To me, Aberdeen looks like a town with possibilities. If you look hard enough, you can see the buds of an artist’s community starting to grow, the route many old mining towns in the West have taken on the road to salvation.

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Young Street Bridge spanning the [muddy banks of the] Wishkah River.

Statue of Kurt's Jag-Stang guitar in Riverfront Park.

Statue of Kurt’s Fender Jag-Stang guitar in Riverfront Park.

I have to admit I was mildly relieved not to find any hideous billboards dotting the highway with Kurt’s likeness. Aberdeen doesn’t advertise its ties to Cobain—you have to know what you’re looking for when you visit, which is just the way I like it. There are no signs marking homes with historical significance; only the Young Street Bridge is designated with Kurt’s memorial park, and even the bridge exists as a place where only fans know to go and leave their tributes. The bridge isn’t a major throughway, spanning a peaceful part of the Wishkah mostly crossed by locals. Riverfront Park doesn’t have any real public parking, either—the spot sits on the edge of the river, next to the bridge with a few plaques and a sculpture of Kurt’s Fender Jag-Stang guitar with lyrics from “On a Plain:” “One more special message to go and then I’m done and I can go home.” The guitar was erected only in 2011, and is much nicer to look at than the “Cement Resurrection” sculpture, which was never put on public display.

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Underneath the bridge.

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Fan graffiti beneath Young Street Bridge.

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Tributes for Kurt.

Quotes in stone.

During my visit, Kurt’s childhood home was still for sale and sitting unoccupied. There was no sign outside designating this, but anyone who follows a music publication could tell you about it from the blitz of stories on the house this past year. It’s just as modest as you might expect, and has a tiny, tidy lawn and a microscopic backyard. It looked innocent under a blanket of freshly-fallen snow, and a little sad with a couple of broken windows. Across the street sits an abandoned house mocking the $500,000 price tag.

Kurt's childhood home.

Kurt’s childhood home.

I’m glad the house sits unchanged, because I like to see things as they always have been. Inevitably, someone will buy it and probably fix it up. Maybe they’ll make a museum out of it, or better yet, a place for underprivileged kids to come and be exposed to the arts, a safe haven for budding artists who like Kurt, didn’t have a place to go when home stopped feeling like an option.

Downtown Aberdeen has a walk of fame for their local celebrities, and Kurt has a star on the sidewalk in front of the building that used to house the music store where he bought his first guitar. On this day, finding the marker was a bit more difficult, but after a bit of searching, I uncovered the star in the snow.

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The Pourhouse is the only public place in Aberdeen Nirvana (or at least, a version of the band) ever played a show. The saloon is still open, and as it turns out, serves pretty decent food. A recent renovation added a stage for bands on the side room of the building, an upgrade from the tiny space at the front window, the spot our waitress designated as the old stage where Nirvana actually performed.

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The Pourhouse. Can’t help but love it.

Former area where bands used to play in the Pour House.

Former area where bands used to play in the Pourhouse.

Maybe it was the snow, maybe it was the quiet or the lack of tourists, but I kind of liked Aberdeen. While I completely understood why anyone with an appreciation for culture wouldn’t want to live there, I have a soft spot run-down, gritty cityscapes and the history they leave for dead. As an artist, dirt is more interesting than the sanitized; survivors speak about perseverance and the people who abandoned them for something different. This is exactly the kind of place that would inspire a soul to want more out of life, to leave the ruins of a past glory far behind.

Kurt Cobain is not in Aberdeen, but it’s obvious this was the place that shaped him.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 3

Olympic National Park would’ve been amazing any time of the year, but it was particularly awesome during our visit because we had the entire park to ourselves. With majestic seascapes and soaring evergreens dripping with moss, it was like wandering onto the set of the Lord of the Rings. It’s possible the snow and frigid temperatures had something to do with the lack of tourists, but it hardly kept us from enjoying nature’s beauty.

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The moss doesn’t actually hurt the trees, unlike the vines in the Midwest.

If you can see past my poor camera’s exposure capabilities, you can begin to understand how disgustingly beautiful this place is. Just off the highway was a trail leading to the beach, and a small wooden bridge spanning a creek because it simply wasn’t picturesque enough without an adorable bridge leading to the rocky shore. And then, driftwood! Driftwood as far as the eye could see! Like, so much my driftwood-coveting mom would’ve surely swooned right there on the sand.

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Disgustingly scenic snowy bridge leading to the beach.

Snowy driftwood, just in case the view wasn't spectacular enough.

Snowy driftwood, just in case the view wasn’t spectacular enough.

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Perfect beach rocks are perfect.

View of the coastal pines from the beach. Believe it or not, these were the wimpier trees.

View of the coastal pines from the beach. Believe it or not, these were the wimpier trees.

The enormous growths on these spruce trees are called “burls,” as in Burl Ives, only they’re not as holly jolly. Trees form burls after an injury or if they’ve contracted a nasty virus or fungus. These growths are a reminder of how the natural world is a masterwork in the absence of human interference.

Our main objective was to make it to the Hoh Rainforest before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time to frolic on random stops along the way. Still, I couldn’t help but shriek every other mile for my husband to pull over so I could take pictures the prehistoric-looking trees and ferns under the feathery snow.

So. Freaking. Pretty.

As it turns out, I am obsessed with moss-covered things.

The thing about these towering forests is you can’t get a decent picture of them. I grew more and more frustrated with my point and shoot camera as the scenery exploded with obscene beauty. There’s no way to articulate their majesty in photos. It’s like trying to replicate the Mona Lisa with washable markers. This quote from God, a.k.a. John Steinbeck, perfectly sums up my sentiments: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Though Steinbeck may be referring to the California Sequoias, this quote is more than applicable when it comes to the woody skyscrapers of Olympic National Park. What’s more, unlike every single time I’ve ever visited Sequoia National Park, there weren’t tourists crawling all over the trees, giving it the illusion of an unspoiled fairyland.

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Hoh in the snow.

There was only one other car in the parking lot when we finally reached the Hoh Rainforest. Amongst the trees lived the most soul-enriching silence. You couldn’t hear any traffic, or people, or any signs that civilization existed. Pure magnificence. The snow only frosted the blinding greenery, not obscuring it, freezing this emerald wonderland in a ghostly glaze. The scenery looked too magical, too breathtaking, to be real. I half-expected a satyr to leap out of the ferns and start jabbering to me about a secret quest.

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This way to Pan’s Labyrinth.

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A nurse log supports the lives of mature trees in the Hoh Rainforest.

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Mossesome.

Moss monster of the Hoh Rainforest.

Moss monster of the Hoh Rainforest.

How fortunate the people of Washington are to have this amazing forest. I’ve traveled to many of America’s most beautiful places, and this ranks near the top of my favorites. I can’t wait to come back and explore it more, when my toes won’t be in danger of breaking off in the cold. There are other  similar forests in Washington and Oregon I didn’t get to visit, which will broaden my explorations on future trips. The nice thing about missing sites on your first visit is it gives you a reason to come back. Washington gave me plenty of incentives to return.

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Even the streams are mossy!

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 2

Few things can get me out of bed early after a handful of post-concert hours of sleep. You concert junkies know what I’m talking about—that feeling every ounce of energy has been vacuumed from your body, and you’re so dried out you feel like you woke up in a sarcophagus. But I had major plans that morning, so faux hangover or not, I was jet-setting out of bed to get back to Seattle for a tour of the Paramount Theatre.

The Paramount is now run by the non-profit Seattle Theatre Group, which holds free tours for the Paramount, the Moore, and the Neptune theaters on different designated Saturdays each month. The tour of the Moore was the Saturday morning of our flight home, meaning we wouldn’t be able to see it. Thankfully, the Paramount’s tour was that Saturday, as it was highest on my list of must-see venues. Not only did the Paramount serve as the site for some notable concerts, it’s one of the most opulent, breathtaking theaters in the city.

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The Paramount Theatre in Seattle

Opened by Paramount Pictures in 1928, the theater was originally a movie palace that showed silent pictures. It was designed by Cornelius W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, the same architects who designed the glorious Chicago Theatre; created in the same Neo-Baroque French-revival style with several contractual similarities, the Paramount is truly the Chicago’s kid brother. Hailing from Illinois myself, I had a special appreciation for their resemblances. The first time I visited the Chicago Theatre was in 2011, when I saw Eddie Vedder with Glen Hansard. The theater was so beautiful, I told my husband I wanted to die there so I could haunt it for eternity. (Shooting for the macabre moon.)

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The grand staircase in the lobby was also featured in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You.”

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The Black Crowes’ gear was being prepared for that night’s show during our tour.

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The super cool Knabe Ampico grand player piano looks like a ghost is playing the keys–no human required!

The Paramount has a long and bumpy history, full of ups and downs like most grand movie palaces. By the early nineties, the theater had deteriorated into a sorry state. This is significant because it’s not only when Nirvana played their famous Halloween show at the venue, but also around the same time the theater was saved by Microsoft vice president Ida Cole. When Nirvana played the Paramount, it was literally a grunge palace. Though the tour guides didn’t really seem to like to talk about the rock shows at the theater, it was when Ida Cole was attending a Violent Femmes concert with her son she was moved to step in and rescue the theater from bankruptcy and possibly demolition.

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Still image from Nirvana: Live at the Paramount.

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The Paramount marquee as it is today.

Interesting factoid about this Nirvana show: it was supposed to be held at the Moore, but it was moved to hold a larger audience. The Paramount has 2,807 seats, while the Moore has 1,419. This show occurred one month after Nevermind’s release, during the tempest storm of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” taking over the MTV airwaves. This was literally the eye of the hurricane, before the album hit number one, before the band became jaded with media attention. That November, Nevermind was certified Gold and Platinum. Also worth noting is this show was the only Nirvana concert filmed in 16mm, so if you haven’t yet checked out the DVD, you seriously need to check your priorities.

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Still image from Nirvana: Live at the Paramount.

Because the stage was being prepared for the Black Crowes show that night, our tour guides told us even though they usually take groups on the stage, we would have to respect the crew and stay out of their way. We were guided just about every other place, from the balcony to the backstage and dressing rooms, to under the stage where they keep their Wurlitzer organ. For a  theater junkie like me, it was utter paradise. We hung around talking to the tour guides so long, the crew was done setting up the stage and was now in the underground preparing for the show, giving us the stink eye. The guides pointed us up the steps for the quickest exit, and the next thing I knew, I was looking out at the theater from the stage. I totally lost it at that moment. Overcome by the view, the history, the gravity of what had happened there, the idea it could’ve been bulldozed, and probably my lack of sleep, I just burst into tears. The fact it was set up for a concert made the view all the more visceral.

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One of two pictures I was able to take from the stage before I was shooed off.

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The Paramount from the stage.

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Parting glance.

I tried to hide the fact I’d totally melted into a weepy freak by the time I got back to the lobby. Whether it was from my over-emotive state, or from our clear appreciation of the tour, we must’ve left an impression on a couple of our tour guides. One of them took my husband and I aside and asked if we’d like to join a private tour of the Moore Theatre. Let me think about that for a second. Um, hell yes!

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The Moore Theatre circa 1909.

 Built in 1907, the Moore is Seattle’s oldest continuously-operated theater. Though smaller than the Paramount, the Moore is grand in its own unique way. It’s impossible to keep from gawking at the ceiling—the thing yawns up into the heavens. A seat at the top of the second balcony perches you next to Saint Peter.

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Check out the stained glass in those little windows around the chandelier orb.

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If you can’t find St. Peter, you can chat up your pick of muses.

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No, seriously, there are statues of muses in between the stained glass windows!

Of course, Pearl Jam fans will recognize this theater from the “Even Flow” video, when Eddie Vedder was boosted up into the old box windows and let himself fall into the waiting arms of the crowd below. The Moore hosted a number of notable events during that time period, including Sub Pop’s LameFest on June 9th, 1989, which featured local acts Tad, Mudhoney, and Nirvana. This theater would serve as an important stepping stone in the growth of local acts. Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mad Season all played the Moore, along with countless other bands that would go on to pack larger venues.

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The window box to the left is where Eddie climbed up and free-fell into the audience.

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Still epic, twenty years later and beyond.

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View from the stage. Impossible to get perspective on a point and shoot camera.

 The last of the old seats were literally being removed from the lower level on our tour. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to finagle one into my suitcase for the plane ride home. Now the Moore is outfitted with super cushy ones, which is great for patrons, even though the old ones had a sort of old-fashioned, creaky charm. The Moore is still going through updates, so more changes and improvements will be developing in the coming years. It’s great to see the theater is being fixed up with the intention of  supporting Seattle’s art community for years to come.

After our impromptu tour of the Moore Theatre, we stopped by the Pearl Jam pop-up shop at the Showbox. By the time I got there, all of the merch was picked over, but I couldn’t complain. Being able to spend so much time in those old theaters was a way better use of my time than standing in another freezing cold line for a pack of trading cards. On the flip side, I was thrilled to be able to see the inside of the Showbox–I hit a theater trifecta!

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Only decent shot I took of the Showbox. The inside is filled with funky gold and red trumpet lights.

Still exhausted from rockin’ at the Pearl Jam concert, we called it a night to get ready for an early road trip the next day. No offense to the city, but it was time for a little escape into the snowy woods to get a taste of what the rest of Washington had to offer.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 1

I stayed up almost until midnight waiting for the email. There was no guarantee it would arrive with good news—there was a 50/50 chance I would go to bed disappointed. I watched Twitter as fan after fan announced the arrival of their Ten Club email, my nerves bent to the point of frenzy. I’d only put in for one set of tickets for a single show, but I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat because I was desperate to see Pearl Jam. Getting the tickets meant I was going to Seattle for the first time.

Finally, anxiety weighing down my eyelids, my iPhone lit up with an email notification from the Ten Club. I dove for my phone and flicked open the email. It was a congratulations—the tickets were mine.

I screamed. I flew practically into the ceiling. My tears mingled with nut house laughter.

I was going to motherfucking Seattle.

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If you’re going to do urban exploring right, you have to spend more than a measly weekend there. This was grunge Mecca. To be able to appreciate Seattle like it deserved, I was going to turn it inside-out. I’m all about discovery on my trips, hunting down historical locations to expose a fuller picture of what really happened. I don’t mind ratting around in back alleys and on abandoned roads to find a place where one little event helped shape history. That’s where the real color is, after all. So I did a little research, made some lists, and prepared to immerse myself. It was destined to be the ultimate grunge tour.

To keep this blog from running away into a book-length manifesto, I will have to gloss over some bits of my 10-day trip. Trust me when I say there were, in fact, too many epic moments to describe each in exact detail. Not only was there the Pearl Jam concert itself, but theater tours, coffee, a trip to Aberdeen, a number of record store raids, seeing a rainforest in the snow, more coffee, doing the truffle shuffle in front of the Goonies house, attending a secret Mudhoney show, a Singles tour, and randomly meeting a guy who used to pay Kurt Cobain to sweep floors.

Thursday, December 5th

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Perfect coffee and coffee house dog.

Ironically, the first coffee shop I ever visited in Seattle turned out to be the best one. The hubs and I started off the day in West Seattle at a little house called C&P Coffee Company. Dogs were flopped all over the floor and the coffee was rich and strong. Everything had to live up to that experience, which was kind of unfair. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if Mr. Vedder himself had walked in and plunked on the couch between us with his ukulele.

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Unbelievable rarities at Easy Street Records in West Seattle.

Immediately after, we visited Easy Street Records and picked up a couple CDs before grabbing lunch there. Yes, they sell food, and it is delicious. Namely, the Alejandro quesadilla. What’s up Seattle? How do you make such a tasty quesadilla? Hola. I wanted to be sure to check out the merchandise truck over at the Key Arena since it opened a day early, so we zipped over there next.

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Accidentally stalking Pearl Jam. Oops.

Somehow, we ended up right in the middle of a train of tour buses turning into the Key Arena. It seemed we had arrived at the concert venue the same time as the band and their entourage. As the buses slipped behind the iron gates to their private parking lot, we hung back to make sure Mike McCready and Co. wasn’t hopping out to say hello. They weren’t, and that’s okay, because it was about 30 degrees and I was freezing and wasn’t really keen on the idea of standing out in the cold any longer than I had to. That was the weird thing about my trip to Seattle. Apparently, it’s not normally sunny and 30 degrees with snow covering the ground; not even in the winter. It was basically like being in Chicago with mountains and the ocean flanking you on either side.

LOL Great joke, guys. But seriously, where's the Seattle poster? What? Oh.

LOL Nice one, guys. But seriously, where’s the Seattle poster? What? Oh.

The merch truck was parked in Seattle Center, and my jaw kind of dropped when I saw the line draped across the grassy park for a quarter of a mile or so. Thanks to Twitter, I’d gotten a sneak peek at Seattle’s poster, and it was ugly as sin, so I had no intention of purchasing one. All I wanted was a tour t-shirt, which I could buy at the show, so there was no point in hanging around.

This is kind of when my epic grunge tour began. The hubs and I decided to go check out Discovery Park, where Temple of the Dog’s music video for “Hunger Strike” was shot. The thing about the park is, you have to take about a mile hike to get to the beach and the lighthouse. There’s a treatment plant on the other side of the park, and you’re not supposed to park there without a special pass. Since we didn’t have enough daylight to do the whole hike, I bolted out of the idling car and snapped a few shots for the time being.

"I'm goin' hungrryyyyyyy..."

“I’m goin’ hungrryyyyyyy…”

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Alice in Chains at Gas Works Park

Then we got lost and I spotted the red steampunk pillars of Gas Works Park, and we made a two wheel turn into the place for a mostly private visit. In case you’re not familiar with it, Gas Works Park is an abandoned gasification plant that used to make gas out of coal. It sits right on the edge of Lake Union, looking out on a spectacular view of the city. Not only did Gas Works Park serve as background for several band photo shoots, it was the original location for Pearl Jam’s free live show, Drop in the Park. The show was cancelled and moved to Magnuson Park out of fear of the overwhelming amount of kids that might show up to a free Pearl Jam show. It’s a shame, because the site is breathtaking.

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Still from 10 Things I Hate About You

Gas Works Park was the setting for a couple of movie locations, however. Not only was it featured in Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles, it was in the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You. (For fans of this movie, I visited more filming locations from 10 Things later on my trip.) Can you say bonus? Even if it didn’t have all these connections, it’s just a really cool place to take pictures.

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Gas Works Park – front view between the chain links

Friday: December 6, 2013

Show day! The hubs and I grabbed lunch and an apple cinnamon roll at Pike Place Market before heading into Belltown to see a few more sites.

Not only am I musically obsessive, I am a huge fan of classic architecture; especially old theaters. It only made sense to start off our grunge tour by checking out a couple of the clubs and concert venues made famous by the likes of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Our jumping off point went by neighborhood, picking the venues we knew had good coffee within walking distance. (Because of course.)

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The Croc from the street.

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Check out these amazing door handles!

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Front entrance. Love all the little crocodile accents!

 The first club we went to was the Crocodile, formerly the Crocodile Café. It opened in the spring of 1991, right before the “Seattle scene” exploded into a phenomenon. Its first show featured The Posies and Love Battery. One of its more infamous shows was when an unknown band called Pen Cap Chew opened for Mudhoney on October 4, 1992. Imagine the surprise of the club-sized crowd when Nirvana, who were just about the biggest band in the world at that time, walked out on stage.

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage for their encore at the Crocodile Cafe in 1992

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage for their encore at the Crocodile Cafe in 1992

Next we headed over to the Moore, Seattle’s oldest continuously-operating theater. The sight of several huge shows from the early 90s, it might be best known to Pearl Jam fans as the theater where the music video for “Even Flow” was shot. I only got to see the exterior of it at this time, but luck would later land me inside in the middle of a private tour.

The Moore Theatre

The Moore Theatre

Pick-up time for Ten Club ticketholders begun at 2:30 at the Key Arena box office, so we headed over a little early to check out the merch line situation. By the time we got there, the line for the merch truck had turned absolutely preposterous. But what was worse was the fan club ticket line. I know what you’re thinking… “if you already paid for your tickets, why would there be a huge line at will call?” This is why the ensuing two hours was utter ridiculousness.

Honestly, there was no reason to show up at the designated time to pick up my will call tickets. I could’ve waited a few more hours and more than likely avoided the line entirely. But anxiety always wins, and I figured it was better to suffer the unnecessary line than find out in a few hours they’d lost my tickets or the box office had burned down or Pearl Jam had issued a restraining order against me. Because you never know, do you?

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And here you will see absolutely no one with last names beginning with the letters A-L.

So I stood in the will call line in the freezing cold for an hour to pick up tickets I’d already purchased, all the while marveling at the sheer brainlessness of the line shepherds as they failed to organize people alphabetically at the ticket windows. Each window was designated with a different chunk of the alphabet to avoid the exact state of clusterfuckery in which the line existed, but the line was funneling into the last half of the alphabet because nobody was telling people about the different lines. On top of that, some people from the Ticketmaster line had wandered into the fan club line like lost sheep and were plugging up progress. The whole thing was kind of hilarious in a pathetic, society-is-fucked kind of way.

Once I finally made it to the front and claimed my tickets, I booked it back to the car to revive the feeling in my toes. An hour before doors opened for the show, I made one last trek to the merch truck behind the Key Arena to see if I could avoid long lines inside. Lo and behold, someone had come up with the brilliant idea of forming two lines at the truck, since there were at least two cashiers inside. We met a couple of fans in line who had a good sense of humor about the line situation, which made the twenty minutes move faster. The truck had sold out of stickers, and as it happened, the only size they had left in the shirt I wanted was my exact size. I held onto my tour t-shirt like some sort of battle coup.

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On to line at the doors, which were inevitably late to open. The bizarre lines notwithstanding, I really enjoyed the Key Arena, the Seattle Center, and the surrounding area. Especially in the wintertime, when the trees are dressed up in twinkly white lights, it’s a fuzzy, happy place. The Space Needle is just a stone’s throw away and hovers over the Center like a lantern guiding you home. It’s a beautiful place, which eases the memory of the crowd of fans who gathered there in 1994 to remember Kurt Cobain after his death.

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Ticket stubs: SO PURDY.

Once doors opened, we found our seats inside. Even though I was higher up than I preferred, it was better than finding my seat was a bucket behind the stage, which I had almost expected given my high Ten Club number. My vantage point was great, looking at the stage from left center, on Mike McCready’s side. A couple of fans showed up in our section carrying an enormous banner that read “LET STONE SING,” but they couldn’t find a place to hang it that wouldn’t be obscured once everybody stood up. I took a picture of it for them and posted it on Twitter so Pearl Jam might still see it. One of the guys said, “I really don’t want to hear him sing. I’m just assisting.” I hear ya, dude. “Mankind” isn’t exactly on my song wish list, either. But I applaud the effort.

The friendly "LET STONE SING" dudes.

The friendly “LET STONE SING” dudes.

Truth be told, I was almost more excited to see Mudhoney than Pearl Jam. Almost. I mean, we were seeing a throwback show. Seattle, the forefathers of grunge—it really didn’t get much better than that. Well, unless there was a Temple of the Dog reunion, which wasn’t destined to happen thanks to Chris Cornell being on tour elsewhere. Nice timing, Chris.

Mudhoney was impossibly rocking. Their energetic, tight set was the perfect kick-off for an epic night. Mark Arm seriously knows how to command a stage, gesticulating around like some kind of punk rock Baptist minister. All those people who skipped Mudhoney should be fitted with a Cone of Shame; I’m sure Eddie kept tabs on you, so you’d better watch yourselves. What a performance you missed. As good as they were, seeing them at the Key Arena only made me want to see them again in a smaller setting. Mudhoney’s sound was made to live in darkly-lit, grimy clubs with electric bodies thrashing in appreciation. I had no clue my wish would be granted several days later.

There was about an hour between Mudhoney and Pearl Jam’s sets, so I used that time to venture to the other side of the arena to meet a couple of Twitter pals, Andee and Kate. We chatted just long enough to get hit on by some gross drunk guy. Way to spoil our brief time together, creepo. Still, it was great to finally meet a couple of gals I’d only talked to online about our shared appreciation in music.

Finally, it was time for Pearl Jam! They began with my favorite song off of their new album, “Pendulum,” which is kind of a weird choice for a show opener, as it’s a somber song about depression and suffering the dark times in life. (It’s also probably a weird song to also call your favorite, but I’m just a special kind sunbeam, OK, peaches?) From there, the show continued to build until it escalated like a volcanic eruption around the extended solo in “Betterman,” when Eddie and Mike leaned back-to-back and shredded guitars until they were nearly lying on the stage. And then, in their first encore, they pulled out a string of nostalgia, beginning with “Chloe Dancer” and sending the crowd into an absolute tailspin of bliss with “Crown of Thorns,” “Breath,” “State of Love and Trust,” and “Porch.” The timewarp sent Eddie into vintage Vedder mode, and he climbed up one of the hanging lanterns some twenty feet up in the air. Maybe it was the enormous bottle of wine he kept chugging, but Eddie seemed in good spirits this night. (Pun not intended, but I’m totally leaving it there anyway.)

Woohoo! Shitty faraway concert picture!

Woohoo! Shitty faraway concert picture!

Pearl Jam brought Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney back on stage during their second encore for “Kick Out the Jams” with special guest Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. So close to a Temple of the Dog reunion it hurt. Watching Eddie and Mark take turns frontmanning was one of the highlights of the whole show. It was a sparring match with the microphone, like they were trying to out-rock each other. There was so much awesome going down on that stage, if I’d been in the GA, I probably would’ve spontaneously combusted. Then Eddie tripped and fell on stage for about the fiftieth time that night, and Mark Arm started crawling under everyone’s legs because he’s Mark Fucking Arm. Truly rock ‘n roll madness at its finest. But Mike McCready, y’all—are we sure this guy is human? Somewhere in the middle of his solo cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption,” I swear he levitated out of his body and floated over the crowd like some force of nature. The Key Arena shook. Angels wept. All while this guy sitting behind me lay passed out from a drinking binge.

For their grand finale, the band played “Yellow Ledbetter;” it was their 37th song that night, but I would’ve stayed for plenty more. For Pearl Jam, it marked the end of their first North American tour in several years. For me, the show was a hint of what was to come in an epic Northwest adventure.

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That time I was kicked out of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame

A younger me basking in the glory of an enormous Joshua Tree banner at the Rock Hall.

Comparatively speaking, I’m a youngish U2 fan. I fell for them in 2001, at the end of my senior year in high school; by the time I entered college, a full-fledged obsession had begun. This was mostly due to the fact I saw my first U2 concert that same year, sending me into a fandom spiral of no return. The fact I got to see them that year at all is sort of a miracle.

I remember exactly where I was the moment I first heard about the show–it was night, and I was driving the country way home. I just happened to have my radio on when someone mentioned U2 was playing at the Savvis Center in St. Louis. I sped home like a storm of devils was after me and found out tickets were going on sale in a matter of days. I called up my concert-going friend and asked if she wanted to come with, and she was game. It all happened ridiculously fast, with a string of green lights that seemed to wave me in the direction of musical destiny. The show was November 28th, and it was the fourth-last date of the Elevation tour. I made it under the wire by four tour dates. 

It remains the single concert that changed everything for me. Before that, I really hadn’t dove into anything outside of boy bands, because I was sheltered and didn’t know any better. Post September 11th, U2 was the driving force that helped me grow up. Their music, and that show, opened up an entire world to me. The band exposed me to ideas, music, and culture I wouldn’t have necessarily discovered on my own (or until much later) and for that, I owe them more than I can probably ever know.

ImageFast-forward to my absolute U2 fandom initiation/mudslide. I went through their entire catalog, buying up each CD slowly to savor each one along the way. There was no record store near me, so I generally bought most from a now-defunct CD store in the mall, and from big box chain stores like Circuit City. My first U2 album was their latest, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, so I went back and began collecting them chronologically, starting with Boy. I distinctly remember when I finally picked up Pop, and had the funny feeling that I would never buy an old U2 album again. From then on, everything would be fresh off the press. It was kind of scary, as I feared the best had already come and I wouldn’t be as excited about anything that came thereafter. So I took that time to really listen to each album and give it its due, which is maybe why I hold neglected titles like Pop so dearly.

With my new musical taste came new friends; I met one of my best college friends in a drawing class. We bonded with our shared interest in music, and he introduced me to other bands I hadn’t given much attention to before then, like the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Moby. Sadly, he had never seen U2 live, so I made it my mission to show him all the live U2 DVDs eighteen billion times until he could taste a grain of what it was like to witness them in person. You might assume this was ill-informed, but awesomely enough, it wasn’t. He loved them as much as I did, so it was only fitting when a ginormous U2 exhibit came to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, we went together.

This epic journey fell on our spring break. I won’t go over all the adventurous details, but let’s just say it was full of randomness, innocence, and music, and the trip stands on a short list as one of the best times in my young life. Of course, it centered around us spending two days in Cleveland, Ohio, and drooling like bwain-hungry zombies at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

For whatever reason, we thought it would be a great idea to walk to the Rock Hall from our hotel, so I have this memory of me walking sixteen city blocks in fancy platform sandals and realizing I’d made a huge mistake somewhere around the eighth block. The great thing was, once you get to the museum, you just stand around and stare for the most part, so you’re only really required to shuffle. One of the first sad truths you learn when you enter the museum is there is no photography allowed in the exhibits. Outside and in the lobby, you can take all the pictures your little heart desires, but once you’re past those velvet ropes, the CIA will jump out of a helicopter and throw you to the ground if you so much as look in the direction of your camera. (Only slightly exaggerating.)

Rock Hall-approved photo of Zoo-TV Trabants taken from ground floor level.

So when you’re faced with the inability to take a single picture of Larry Mullen Jr.’s first drum kit, the single instrument that spawned your favorite band, what other sign of true appreciation exists than to have your friend distract security while you quickly and respectfully touch it? While I understand and encourage the Rock Hall’s mission to preserve their collection of rock ‘n roll memorabilia for future generations, I argue they really hung that carrot in not allowing anyone to take a photo without a flash.

The fact of the matter is, once you get away with touching a historic piece of rock memorabilia, it infects you like ebola and you can’t find a way to stop. It becomes a game, and you start making mental lists of all the things you want to touch, and keep tabs on where the security guards are stationed at all times, and start plotting strategies with your cohort to make your dreams become reality. Once we entered the tower, the top of the U2 exhibit and beheld the dimly-lit room full of stage costumes, I kind of lost it. Nothing became more important to me than my mission to touch Bono’s black pleather Fly costume. 

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The Fly – I touched that pant leg. Unfortunately, not while Bono was in them.

Some touches were more easily scored than others, based on the layout of the room and the number of guards stationed at each exit. Well, the U2 costume tower was more heavily guarded than any other room–with two guards at either end, and nowhere to look but right at you. Which is why it was so impressive my friend and I started a running tally of all the things we touched. Later, I made a list of my coups on a dinner napkin. But the Fly was my Holy Grail and it held out till the end, on our second visit, after we’d exhausted everyone else in the room. We had hung around for what was likely a couple of hours until the guards could stare at us no more, and I made my way for the exit and slyly held out my hand to touch the pant leg like a child brushing their hand along a sidewalk fence. Turns out, the cooler you play it, the less likely anyone is to notice it. That is, unless you’re doing something you think is completely within the rules and a security guard spots you.

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Coyly described as “Brushes with Fame,” #14 on my Rock Hall questionnaire lists my coups. It continues on the back.

There should be nothing more rock ‘n roll than being kicked out of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, am I right? The irony is, I got escorted out by security for something incredibly lame after I’d done the bad stuff undetected. After our big touching “heist,” (Wow, could that be taken horribly out of context…) my friend and I made it out of the exhibit and paused on the stairs to take pictures of the Trabant cars hanging from the ceiling. The tiny cars were used as stage lights on U2′s Zoo-TV tour, and from the top of the stairs, which led to the lobby, I could get a higher vantage point of the details. 

Contraband Trabant photo taken from the forbidden staircase. Notice the Secret Service agent is totally wearing sunglasses inside a museum.

That’s when security yelled at me to drop my camera. I wasn’t a total vigilante, mind you. I was always a good kid in school, yadda, yadda, so when someone actually yelled at me, I tended to listen while my head hung in shame. So it seemed a little much when a security guard motioned me down the stairs, and another followed me, both with their little Secret Service headsets. To clarify, I asked the guard at the bottom of the stairs what he’d caught me doing wrong. Apparently, it was okay for me to take pictures of the Trabants from the ground floor of the lobby, but not on the stairs. Even though they were the same cars and I wasn’t able to see anything else from the exhibit with that vantage point. It was one thing to be yelled at while you were touching Elvis’s guitar, but  taking a picture of a cardboard car hanging from the ceiling at a slightly higher angle equaled a security escort from the premises?

Needless to say, I was a bit thrown off by the parameters of the rules. What was more, the Secret Service stayed glued to me like I was some kind of marked criminal and wouldn’t let me browse in the gift shop. I left the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame with a confused sense of triumph. Which was more awesome, touching The Fly’s pant leg or having a story about being physically ejected from the hall of musical anarchy by its Secret Service? I’ll bet the latter is something even The Edge could never boast about.

I went back to the same exhibit a year later and was relieved (and mildly disappointed) when nobody threw me out at first sight. I half expected to see a black and white security screenshot of my face posted in the gift shop, but alas, I was not as infamous as secretly hoped. I haven’t returned since 2003 to know if the photography rules have changed, but I would imagine security would have to be tripled to keep people from taking discreet pictures with their camera phones. Hopefully, the Nirvana exhibit from the EMP Museum will come to Cleveland, and I can make a return trip to find out first-hand. (And, perhaps, report back with a new list of coups…)

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