My JFK Moment

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April 5th, 1994

The day that Kurt Cobain died. The day that lives in infamy.

For me.

I've finally found something positive about this date, the birth of my dog Bella in 2009.I added some pictures of her to my blog to celebrate her third birthday. But, the original significance of that date is what follows, and what continues to haunt me.


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I suppose every generation has their own moment where time stops—that first event that freezes a particular moment in time. That event where someone can recall exactly where they were, who they with and what they were doing at the exact moment in time when that event occurred, or, at least when that event became known to them.

For my grandparents, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor. For my parents, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For me, the first of these events anyway, was the death of Kurt Cobain, which occurred sometime during the day of April 5th, 1994.

While, in the grand scheme of things this event was not as traumatic as the Challenger Explosion (which I was far too young to really understand) or as culturally significant as the Attacks on 911, it was a defining moment in my adolescence. It served as my first brush with mortality of someone who was young and was a major influence in my life and the world.

The date was April 8th, 1994. I was a birthday party with my friends from school at the home of a local state senator (who’s child I went to school with). I was in eighth grade: thirteen years old. To that point, the day had been a maelstrom of junior high hijinks: Spin the Bottle, freeze tag, flirtations and alcohol free libations. I remember one girl, Jennifer, frequently tackling me. I liked having a girl on top of me. I’d never experienced that before.

I was sitting on a porch outside, next to a fire place, which may or may not have been lit. It was an early spring day in Oregon City, Oregon, with air that was struggling to warm itself against a blanket of overcast oppression. I was wearing a red flannel shirt, ripped blue jeans and tennis shoes. I looked every bit the part of the grunger I was striving to be. The lady of the house handed me the telephone. This, of course, was before the prevalence of cell phones so to reach someone in absentia, one would still use a home phone.

“Hello.”

“Hey, Justin. Are you havin’ fun?” It was my mother. Her voice sounded a little odd.

“Oh, well, yeah. You know,” my typically morose junior high response.

“I’m sorry to damper the mood. I have some bad news for you.” Instantly, my mind ran the gambit of possible things that could qualify as bad news. I assumed death was a factor. Did one of my siblings die? A grandparent? An aunt or uncle? The dog? These would have all been terrible things, but, the words that came out of her mouth next, I was unprepared for. They threw me into a spiral of confusion, grief, melancholia and shock that took me months—perhaps even years—to get completely over. “Kurt Cobain died.”

Now, certainly, anyone who is or was familiar with Kurt Cobain, the lead vocalist and sloppy guitarist of the 90’s grunge band Nirvana, would know his death was not a complete shock. He was well known for his consumption of copious amounts of drugs—mostly heroin—and had even spent a few days in a coma in Rome from an overdose the previous month. But, still, you don’t expect a 27 year old man, the reluctant spokesperson for a generation of morose, flannel clad teens, the Father of Grunge, to ever really die. Rock stars were immortal beings. I swallowed hard. “What happened?” I asked.

“He committed suicide. He shot himself,” I sensed a small, barely concealed amount of joy in her voice, though I also knew she was trying to be sensitive to my feelings. My mother did not like me listening to Nirvana. She classified them correctly as loud, vulgar, liberal rock stars. She didn’t like that he was supportive gay rights, that he was a junky, that he frequently said words like “fuck”, “shit” and “piss”. She didn’t like his negative perceived negative influence on me. She didn’t like that he was one of the reasons that I really picked up the guitar and started writing crappy songs and depressing poems.

But, she also loved me. She knew I made good choices and had good moral character. She remembered how she grew up listening to the Beatles and how her mom, an Elvis fan, loathed the “Long Hairs from Liverpool.” She could relate and understand my desire to enjoy something uniquely my generation’s own and uniquely obnoxious to adults. Perhaps she was hopeful that his influence on me and my fascination with him would fade with his death.

She was wrong.

I hung up the phone and began to think. How could someone who was rich and famous and had a new baby at home, had everything that I wanted in life, be miserable enough to kill themselves? Where was the hope for happiness if he couldn’t be happy? This man, who was not really my peer, but seemed to understand me on so many levels was now lying in an empty shell in a morgue some one hundred and eighty miles north. I spent the rest of the party in a haze of melancholy as I shared the news with my friends.

I’d had my JFK Moment.

All rights reserved. Copyright Justin W. Price, April 5th, 2012.

This was originally published on Hubpages under the name "PDXKARAOKEGUY" on the above date. He owns the copyright. If you are viewing this elsewhere, then you are reading stolen content. Please notify the author and the thief immediately and vacate the page.

Thanks for Reading.


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Comments 36 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for sharing, Meow. you seem to have quite an impressive list of moments! Thanks for reading and commenting.


meow48 profile image

meow48 4 years ago from usa

hummn. i remember jfk's funeral, i was five. i remember martin luther king was murdered and when bobby kennedy was assassinated, i would soon be ten. i even remember when george Wallace got shot...I was thirteen. I remember when Saigon fell, when the Berlin wall fell, and when the twin towers fell. I enjoyed this hub. It is a great tribute to one who was talented yet tormented.

thankyou for sharing this,and for allowing the reader to "remember" those moments that changed history.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks so much, Barb. I appreciate your perspective very much. I actually don't believe the suicide theory behind Kurt Cobain's death, but I can certainly understand that suicide would have a much different impact then a murder on how someone processes or views a death.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

@PDXKaraokeGuy...You've done a very nice job of relating your moment under a sensitive title.

I've had too many JFK moments, including JFK's horrible assassination when I was 17, half-way through my senior year in high school. The only thing perhaps more horrible the weekend of JFK's death was seeing his accused murderer murdered on national TV as he was being transferred to a more secure location.

Although I grew up in the turbulent '60s, I was a straight arrow, so not a true fan of rockers and stars who drugged themselves; however, we the people don't really know "things", do we? I couldn't believe the rumors of JFK and other women -- because I didn't want to, probably, and I still don't. His murder affected me profoundly, having happened just when my own life in the world's most free country was beginning.

Elvis and Marilyn and Michael were all connected to drugs -- self-inflicted mistakes.

I had much the same reaction to K.C.'s death as your mother.

But murder is different -- a non-choice; JFK, John Lennon (who did everything to promote world peace), 9-11. It's a shock that prompts many questions about man's freedom everywhere, and it's a parasite we carry always in this earthly life.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks a lot Credence. I remember where I was for 911, Cobain (obviously) and Michael Jackson. I was born four months before Lennon died,and my mom is a huge beatles fan, so, I'm sure she remebers where she was... but i don't :-)


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Since, I have been around for a while there has been many such moments, when I knew where I was and what I was doing when the event occured. From the JFK assassination to 9/11, all forever seared in my conscious mind.

I wasn't too familiar with Kurt Cobain, but I did have a freeze frame at the death of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and even Michael Jackson.

Great article, PDX, thanks


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

DrTruthman, thanks so much for commenting and for sharing your story! I always enjoy hearing other folks' perspective!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Ardie for saying so, please check out my older hubs, and maybe you'll retract that statement :-)


Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

Yes, I remember well although much older than you, I think the older I get all of the celebrities who have been part of our world leave an impact. Regardless of how big or small that impact is, it does gets us right in the heart when they are taken from us. Kurt Cobain was more of my kids idle than mine but I liked his music being the old rocker I am and it was sad to see him go as it has been for all our stars. I am reminded as I read your article of the song by one of my favorite groups, "The Righteous Brothers" and their song about "If there's a Rock and Roll Heaven?" What a concept hey? Great article, I vote UP all across. Lee


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

You'd like to think so?! Of course you know so because we all know you only turn out the highest quality writing. I've never seen you publish something that was just so-so :)


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks my friend. Those were all big moments as well, though, at the time he died, I wasn't a fan of 2pac, though I am now. It has a bigger impact on me now then it did at the time. Thanks for reading!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Denise. Maybe send your friend this way or to some of my other Cobain hubs. I'd be interested in his thoughts! Thanks for stopping by!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Stessily, Thanks for commenting. I believe he was murdered. The coroners report said he was dead before the bullet entered his brain. Check out "Love and Death, The Murder of Kurt Cobain." I've added ti as a product listing.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Ms Dora. Excellent point. While I (like many others) ma not convinced that his death was suicide, he had many reasons to kill himself... a consuming addiction, chronic stomach problems, marriage issues, etc. His is a cautionary tale, to be sure.


KeithJK profile image

KeithJK 4 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

Tupac, 9-11, and MJ for me. A great narration of that troubling day. I know a LOT of people that keep him alive in their hearts to this day. Great job!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

hey Justin, great article/memoir. I have a friend who followed him and watches any bio about him when it comes up. I never followed him-I was into the folk music stuff back then...

Well written and interesting. Thanks for sharing.


stessily 4 years ago

PDX, You've crafted a poignant tribute which does justice to Kurt, who, with the true spirit of an artist, would rather be hated for what he was than loved for what he wasn't. I remember the news of his death wending its way through the drumlins of the upper Midwest, and I still feel the shock waves; I had forgotten that he turned a gun on himself; instead, I soften it with the distorted untruth of a drug overdose.

You've set the mood beautifully: "air that was struggling to warm itself against a blanket of overcast oppression."

It's so loving of your mother to call to give you the news. Nevertheless, it had to have been a painful call for her, knowing that you had to know, knowing the impact that those three simple words would have on you.

This is a eulogy which comes from your heart and speaks to the artist in everyone. Artists live in a different world.

Fantastic and moving, PDX.

Kind regards, Stessily


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

It is the intangibles like purpose, significance and inner peace that are hard to acquire. They mean more than material things, especially to deep thinkers. Suicide committed by someone who seemingly has everything is a reminder of this fact. Cobain's death, though shocking and still haunting will not be in vain, if it helps us straighten our priorities, after we have grieved.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks so much, Vellur!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Yoga... I think that that happens

About a year before he died, Michael Hutchense was recording at my friends studio in portland. I had a chance to meet him, but didn't. By all accounts, he was a super nice, down to earth guy.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Oh, thanks so much Ardie! I'd like to think so!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Alastar. My dad tells me about that day a lot. He was twelve and started crying.

I have his journals. They are pretty fascinating. They really get you into his psyche.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Interesting and insightful. Great hub and voted up.


YogaKat profile image

YogaKat 4 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

Hi PDX, It seems reading the comments here that the longer you've been around the more JFK's you've had. Although I was only one year at my Mom's jfk moment - she recalls it well. I've had John Lennon, Princess Diana, Michael of NXS, Kurt Cobain, 9/11, and Michael Jackson moments. I'd have to say 9/11 stands out more than all the rest.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

PDX, you are a true blue fan - I read your other Hubs about Kurt Cobain and you do him such justice with your tributes and stories.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

You've written your 'JFK moment' very well Justin. Have you ever seen Kurt's notebooks? More than interesting they are. I was a little boy in kindergarten when the PA announced JFKs assassination. You could feel a wave of energy in the air that stopped you in your tracks, even a wee one's tracks. Voted up of course.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks, Flash. I get very sad about Michael Jackson every once in awhile. It's tragic how many people can't be happy in their own skin.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

James, thanks so much for sharing your story. I think most things are better when David Gates is singing to you. I love his voice.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

I don't remember the weather, but I do remember being stunned and numb. I'd never known anyone who died before, and his death was the first real celebrity death I paid attention to.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Jen. I appreciate your commentary.

As to the bottom of the hub, it's all you can do. It's a never ending battle, but, oddly enough, I think my hub is being backlinked because my income and views have gone up since the theft... i just want credit.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Aurelio, and , it's very sad indeed. But, sadly, lots of people who aren't rich or famous face similar demons and similar ends


flashmakeit profile image

flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

I had a JFK moment when Michael Jackson died. It is a hurting feeling when someone you admire dies. That is so sad that Kurt Cobain was so unhappy with his talented life.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 4 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Hey, KaraokiGuy, even though this was meant as maybe a somewhat serious hub, I also found it amusing, espec between you and your mother, At 67 I've had many JFK moments (JFK was one of the first) I also remember Elvis' death and Marilyn's (I still think about Marilyn.) Although I "cared" that Kurt Cobain died it did not become a JFK moment. I also like his philosophy at the top. This isn't really a JFK moment but it's something I remember quite often. It's the sixties. I constantly carried a transistor radio (still have the same one and it works!) and listened to music while doing my farm chores. I remember this being a sunny day, I'm raking, and my favorite artist at that time was Bread and David Gates, singing.


LABrashear profile image

LABrashear 4 years ago from My Perfect Place, USA

It was my freshman year in college. I remember all the girls on my dorm floor being so upset. I remember it was a really sunny day but several people were crying. Very sad.


jenubouka 4 years ago

Ah, yes I do remember the day, time, place, smell, sounds when hearing he had died. For the youth in the 90s this was our JFK moment and we always reflect back on that day on its anniversary. Why? Kurt taught us it was okay to be different, it was okay to be depressed, it was okay to go against the grain, and as a teenage, it was so important to be able to release anger and fear.

To the bottom of your article, you rock, that made me smile, and god I hope that fricken site would shut the F*** down already.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

As mom's everywhere do, she put your concerns above hers at that moment. He was a talented and influential performer who unfortunately could not overcome his demons. Voting this Up and Interesting.

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