Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Where were you?

Kurt Cobain's death

A Friday, in spring, 1994. Mid-afternoon, I walked into a room where MTV was replaying Nirvana Unplugged and someone lounging on the sofa relays the news. Later, in a hallway, a "classic rock" fan roughly my age is mocking the death by playing the four chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" over and over again on an acoustic guitar. I buy some liquor for some younger friends (even though I'm not 21 myself). I'm not so much touched by the death itself as by how ironically everyone is taking the news. I write a song that ends "when you can't sing anymore, all they remember is your name."

UPS Strike

Middle of the night, the summer of 1997, my two roommates and I sit up past midnight to watch Teamsters president Ron Carey come out on live TV and announce the settlement which forces UPS to create thousands of full-time jobs and make them available to their part-time workforce. "For decades, since Reagan crushed the PATCO strike, working people have been taking it on the chin," he says before announcing the details. For weeks afterwards whenever I'm wearing anything with union insignia on it, random people, waitresses in diners and folks in line at the post office and so forth, comment on the strike, about how someone has finally stood up against the forces of corporate America and won.

The Battle of Seattle

I was only even vaguely aware that it was happening, so when I woke up on December 1, 1999, I wasn't even looking for news about the protests or the WTO. It was a nice surprise when H read the paper to me. THEY SHUT IT DOWN. That day I spent driving off to a dying deindustrializing town for a boring union meeting with a bunch of old white guys who worked, or used to work, in machine-tool shops. And I have never seen anyone quite as thrilled about the sudden resurgence of anarchism in America as those guys.

September 12, 2001

Like pretty much any American who wasn't in New York or DC or Pennsylvania, my experiences on September 11 were pretty banal. The next night I saw Lucinda Williams play; she opened the show with a moment of silence, followed by "Masters of War," a harshest of musical curses upon all warmakers.

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