During my childhood in Western New York, the time line of my life was mapped out by the change of seasons. Deep in my memory are angst-ridden winters, romantic summers, liberating springs, and suffocating autumns. Since my life in Florida, I no longer have a snowfall to chart the passage of time. Life’s one long peachy romantic-and-angst-ridden summer where the temperature drops sometimes.
And today it is winter in Florida again. The grass is as green as the sky is blue. As I play back the movies of my existence, it seems as if music marked the change of seasons as vividly as the reddening leaves did. When reviewing my own highs and lows, it seems that one band in particular represented my golden July and frosty January: Hole.
Some may dismiss Courtney Love as gossip fodder and an eternal mess. Perhaps. But long after over-tweeting and TMZ have taken the romance away from celebrity, the songs will remain. And what beautiful, moving and intense songs they are. To the gay boy who needed something more profound than Madonna in 1992, Courtney Love dished it out in healthy servings.
As I welcome the Florida winter, I remember the seasons of my life and how Hole provided the soundtrack.
We all sat in the living room of Josh’s parents’ house. Wind snuck into the room through the gaps in the doorframe and windows. But as cold as my hands were, I remember looking around the room and feeling warm. These were my friends. We couldn’t wait to grow up, get famous, and fall in love.
We had only one year of high school left. We’d spent the whole afternoon in the record store buying CDs that the popular kids would never know about. These elitist alternative sounds let us in on secret exclusive to us.
We’d heard of Hole. Josh was a huge Nirvana fan and by default, we had to buy Kurt’s girlfriend’s record. As that chilly night plays back in slow motion, I can almost recall the sound of the laser hitting the CD for the first time.
The rural country living room was raped of its silence as Courtney Love proclaimed herself a teenage whore. And I was a teenage whore, too. The gale force of Hole’s music assaulted in tandem with the blustery storm outdoors. Fuzzy guitars and fuzzy snow grabbed hold of our throats and young hearts. Music meant so much to us.
I spent the rest of that winter playing Pretty On The Inside over and over and over. Within its chainsaw wails, screeches, Joni Mitchell references, and bloody poetry, I found a piece of myself.
So where the fuck were you when my lights went out?
LIVE THROUGH THIS – SPRING 1994
I was obsessed with Ryan. He was the first boy I fell in love with. I was in college and he was in high school. Every day when he got home from school, we’d talk on the phone for an hour. He was straight and I wasn’t. I was a self-imposed victim of romantic anorexia. That young hunger…
Sometimes I’d put Ryan on hold just to be mean. I’d sit there and organize my books while Ryan sat and waited for someone he had no feelings for. And sometimes in the background, Ryan would be playing Hole’s new album. Yeah, they really want you, they really want you, yes they do.
Ryan was crushed the day he found out his idol Kurt Cobain shot himself. I was the one that delivered the news to Ryan with smug satisfaction. If I couldn’t have Ryan, I felt a tingle of satisfaction knowing that Ryan couldn’t have his idol either.
And those were some of the most mentally chaotic days of my life. Falling in love with a boy before I could say it out loud. Feeling crazed but confined. And in those late spring months, where Ryan finished high school and I ended my first semester of college, Hole’s Live Through This was omnipresent. I don’t miss feeling shattered but I long for that kind of longing.
Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to…
Palm trees to my left and the Gulf of Mexico on the right. I nearly got killed by a semi but it didn’t matter. The fresh ink burned on my chest and my foot felt drawn to the floor. This speed felt fucking amazing.
I’d left western New York for good a year earlier. New job, new friends, new songs, new loves. I was high on pain pills that afternoon while I got the “Super J” engraved on my chest. In this giddy elation of loving my new life, the burn was triumphant. I was speeding from St. Pete to Sarasota to party with friends and soak in the glorious August heat.
New CDs littered my passenger car seat. I’m a one-man show, and more often than not, my co-pilots are colored silver and made of oil.
It took me a couple years to buy the new Hole album because the moment had to be just right. As the tropical wind made love to my face, I knew today was the right day to buy Celebrity Skin and that it would have to enter the car stereo at the exact right moment.
And as I gunned toward the Skyway Bridge with fresh ink on my chest and my bare feet covered in sand, I slid the disc into the player.
Oh make me over … I’m all I wanna be.
And fuck yes, I was. Yes, I was.
Me and Summer were lost near Portland. It didn’t matter. The angular roads and strange tiny towns were cool to explore.
This was my first time on the West Coast. For years, I considered moving to Portland. Like most other people with the same dream, I’d never been there and I had no idea what to expect.
It was a bit heartbreaking to sit in a cafe in Portland and overhear the same stupid conversations I heard everywhere else. It was a bummer to play a show there and have people talk through my set just like they did on the East Coast. There was a lot of dance at the clubs but little warmth and few conversational strangers. Summer and I bonded on this tour, but I didn’t bond with Portland. And that was the trip where I realized that that Utopia and the Emerald City only exist in fairy tales.
But Summer and I still tackled those mountains and evergreen roads with fury and vengeance. The soundtrack to this particular journey was the new solo album by Courtney Love. I felt kinship with Love’s ragged and torn voice. I felt particularly warmed by the albums pristine homogenized production coupled with Courtney’s raw and unedited vocal takes. What made for a critics’ whipping post also made for mine and Summer’s best musical friend that trip.
Because in Courtney Love’s solo album, we found the sincerity that we had hoped to find in Portland, but didn’t.
Our show in San Francisco the following day suffered from our fractured vocal chords – destroyed while singing along.
Oh, God, give me one more song so I can prove to you that I’m so much better than him.
And so I never became famous. I never fell in love, either. There’s certainly a sense of defeat in carrying along unrealized dreams. But truly those dreams were never lost. They just morphed from the seeds of hopeful youth into the unexciting truths of adulthood. Where there is no love, there’s also no obsession, uncertainty, longing, and a lack of fulfillment. And where there’s no fame, there’s no unsuccessful follow-up album, hateful message boards, and lack of privacy. Things are alright.
I heard that same weathered acceptance in Hole’s new album, Nobody’s Daughter. Age flipped Courtney’s voice. Gone was the howl and in its place was a knowing nicotine-stained chanteuse.
It was a cold Florida winter in 2010. I saw reflections of myself in the new Hole songs. Weathered, aged, still emoting but slower and sweet bitter.
Gone was the romance that coexisted with the early Hole albums. Nobody’s Daughter played in the background as I drove to a great blow job from a guy whose boyfriend was out of town. Nobody’s son either.
Sweet as honey. Pure as first love. Just come home.
A year later and no new music from Courtney Love. I wonder what season she will find me in next.