Nirvana in a Burger Joint: A Tale Of Corporate Fast Food Hell

After picking Billy up in Los Angeles things went on just as they always do. We bounced around California a while. He hated California. Something to do with a spot of police brutality back in the early seventies, where he was off his head on acid, and pissing out of a car. A normal person would open a window. Billy opened a door, freed his dick and let a stream of drunken piss fly out towards the chasing car full of angry Californian supertroopers, whoopin’ and a yellin’ and screaming into the wind. B_____ was at the wheel, apparently, and couldn’t drive for shit. Or so Billy says, though I think a man with a headful of military violence, acid and bourbon, needing to piss, and deciding to aim it at the trailing cops, and not only that, doing it with the door open, might make any poor boy swerve. I am told by the traumatized survivors of the incident, that B_____ lost control momentarily as Billy opened the door, and Billy flew out of the door along with his urine stream.

Of course they thought he was dead but was too drunk to die – he fell loosey-goosey, came to a tumbling halt, and was roughly arrested, kicked around, and denied medical care for the huge gash on his forehead that was flapping loose and over his eye. All good redneck fun and games. He was bailed out, driven to hospital by the same friend who put up bail. Billy never forgave the state of California. I am not sure it forgave him either.

He was philosophically opposed to California in all it’s ways and forms. He disliked the driving, hated the weather, found the people false and touristy unfairly even in their own backyards. He disliked the music, or so he insisted, but adored the Doors and Gun Club, which are both pure distilled California on audio tape. He can’t stand surfers and their affectations or the fact they enjoy physical exercise that involves beaches and sunshine, water and happiness, and don’t even get him started on joggers or health food eaters.

In his uptight, self righteous drunkard’s Christianity (calling me up last night begging for my help as he couldn’t hit himself with the heroin he had gotten hold of, because he only had a fine little U50 – disgustingly preloaded a while back and left to fester in his glasses case, a health hazard no doubt, blooming in fungus..- rather than those thicker fatter easier U100s, then telling me how I was going to H-EEE Double Hockeysticks for some ill-defined biblical crime against humanity. I told him to get some hot water on his arm, tie off rather than showboat it with his ropey veins, and pull himself together. He preferred to scream at me as he drank and let the blood coagulate in the barrel ruining the drugs. Poser) he hated California’s dedication to social justice and acceptance of people being are as they are. He hated California for the fact it would protect me better than he ever could. He was relentlessly homophobic, occasionally telling me how unnatural I was and how the Bible told him I was gonna burn for the most loving and gentle and kind relationships I had ever had in my life. He hated palm trees and Joshua trees, sunshine and kittens. He hated San Francisco, and liberal cities, and raged against their kindnesses and harmony. Above all else and detested Californian driving and judged the character of the people within the state upon it. Admittedly it is all a little bit freer out here. Some of us prefer freedom. Some of us need our freedom – he was mainly content to sit in jails of his own making.

We wound through California, not stopping for redwoods, nor for elk fields, not for Big Sur, though I cried begging to walk around the Beat’s playground. Instead we paused a while in the Sacramento of Oregon – Medford. A brutally grey place full of cars for sale and skinny white meth-heads. Pushing up through Eugene thanks to lack of camping, and out to the coast, where we headed helter/skelter over the Oregon/Washington border.

Out past Dismal Nitch. Out past Long Beach. Out past the bridge – way out past the bridge that separated the dull and boring Oregon, from the friendlier, more intelligent, prettier, greener wetter lands of lush western Washington, finally pulling into a little town on the coastal 101 – Aberdeen. Home of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I put From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, on the CD player and let Kurt scream his discontent in metal strings and disaffection growl from the ether into the little logging town fallen into the disrepair and despair little towns fall into when the work and the factories shut up business. Past here the settlements are sparser and smaller and poorer, and have sweet names like Mooclips, alongside a steady parade of pawn shops and tiny outrageously expensive grocery stores that haven’t seen a real vegetable in years.

The town that allegedly treated Cobain as a dirty junkie leper when he was there, that tortured him in high school, the town in which he suffered under the bridge, with a leaking tarp, taming mice as pets, selling a bit of weed to fund his dreams while the ceiling dripped pacific north west constant rain, is fast to promote him as it’s favored son. He is promoted as a home town hero while all the other Kurts in all the small towns in America – all these Kurts who nod out in Dairy Queen in front of the tomato sauce dispensers, tipping over forwards or backwards on their feet, eyes flickering back in the perfect quiet escape of the small town junk fiend, all these other Kurts pumping gas and being spat on by the cops and the teachers, all these other space-headed screamers and refusers to comply or knuckle-down to mundane soul destroying reality-ers, are not similarly lauded, they remain in the underclass state of being rejected and vilified and accused of causing opiate crisis and putting burdens onto society, but then again I guess they didn’t write Smells Like Teen Spirit and send slacker pilgrims with all their mcd’s money heading to little Aberdeen to say hello to the ghost of their antihero. Generation X love a successful loser. Even yer granny likes Kurt and that nice tall boy who played bass, the the one who ended up being in the infinitely boring and sell out foo fighters, exchanging his drum kit for a geetar. I guess Nirvana can really sell those burgers, baby.

As we pulled past the Welcome To Aberdeen sign, I started to cry. I wasn’t crying for Kurt, or for my lost youth, I wasn’t crying because we were out of Oregon and I was relieved: I as crying because we had made it further from my husband than I had made it before, both emotionally, physically, and in possibility. We stopped at McDonalds for disgusting greasy road food and cheap strong coffee. McD’s coffee is the cheapest best bean brew on the road, it is always available, always under a buck, and gets the job done, caffeine in, window open, it has fueled many miles of the road.

I sat there wondering if Kurt sat in the same place, and what he would make of the shameless rip off sell out of the Nirvana theme padding the fast food joint, his wasted face and fine pale hands displaying his addiction and vulnerability and the band, all bug eye sunglasses and shredded clothes, staring at cameras as if they can’t quite believe that they had made the rarified heights of success of the wall of Aberdeen maccyd’s.

I could not quite accept it, however hard I tried to not be a spoilsport: Kurt, with his infamously bad stomach, running on smack and grunge-cool, being paraded around maccy-d’s left me feeling queasy. Nirvana is hardly wholesome family friendly stuff to play round the ball pit. I wondered if they were going to start playing Lithium full blast, and if they did was I allowed to raise a fist in quiet solidarity screaming “I’m not gonna crack” as spotty teens serve grey patties and corn syrup coke to lumbering sweating lumberjacks. Kurt, Junk hero. Slacker Success King. He of the mothball sweaters and the chorus guitar pedals, he of the lake placid blue mustang and the slight sheen of sweat and smack blooming on his skin in pop artistic photographs as he screamed his soul out into the vast corporate depths of the burger corporation, held hostage by the almighty dollar and corporate advertising machine. Kurt of my youth, who came along for the ride with me in Bleach and through radio friendly success, past acoustic sets and separately reaching our own drug plateaus while his voice rang through my headphones, and he remained blissfully unaware I even existed, a one way relationship of symbiotic artist/fan exchange of comfort for money. It’s ok my will is good, shouts Kurt through the PA system. I’ll have a macro-spirit-of-rebellion, a bundle of Macrocorpsmack fresh from the fields of Afghanistan with their pure white poppies, and some sold-out-from-beyond-the-grave Macgrunge, served sweating and three days old on a sugary sesame seed sponge bun of no memories, and vanilla and hopeless addiction shake from a machine that smells as if it has been steeped in thirty year old bleach. The transfat will kill ya slower than any gun that any lost boy ever had ….or had not (Kurt didn’t commit suicide, not in my world, I’m probably in denial still…and leave Courtney alone, a woman who never bowed to popular opinion it was all too easy to fry her, poor Courtney), but these fast food merchants of destruction are still peddling nutritional death legally from the fryers and soda machines of America while making bank from their real estate supremacy. The burgers are just a side gig…a bit like sullying the memory of Cobain and his hatred of corporate America, The Man, and the system that he was talented enough to buck.

We had been on the road for days, not stopping, sleeping in rest areas, only to arrive in Aberdeen for a little junky pilgrimage, to find that the epicenter of everything was Mc D’s. Many bags have been purchased in Mc’d’s parking lots, at their vinyl tables, and shot up in their bathrooms. Nirvana doesn’t exist in Mc D’s in their burgers and fries and ridiculously calorific milkshakes (fine as part of a calorie controlled diet, people’s calorie needs may vary, its not their fault if people choose to supersize it. Freedom man, freedom in sugar fat and salt hit of good old fashioned New World food addictions). Nirvana is found in McD’s stalls, with their blue lighting so you cannot find a vein, and the doors that show everyone in the bathroom everything you are doing in the stall, huge gaps under over and either side of the doors; nirvana is found in the locked single disabled stall nodding out in private, shining a light on skin, holding the little flashlight in mouth trying to defeat the blue light high-blockers of corporate America with their approved addictions, their use of junkie heroes, baiting the adoring masses who bought Nevermind, but never listened to Bleach to take their photos, holding their burgers under a photo of Kurt while talking about how much they love Smells Like Teen Spirit. It’s all junk, baby.

My last purchase of junk was in a Mc D’s not far from there, ten kosher euphoric dilaudid, pristine and ready for the mainline, only one person removed from the granny-seller’s pill box, no fentanyl fake pressed research chemical plague, at $5 each, pushed into my hand by a withered and pock marked meth addicted prostitute who was my friend. Her skin so infected and scabby, people pushed her away from them. No one of consequence hugged her and every trucker in town fucked her, sometimes paying, sometimes not. They didn’t see her worth, her goodness, her kindness. They saw a woman who could freak out impressively, and would allow anything to happen to her if the price was right. I saw her once beating some chick bloody with her own telephone because she stole her dope. The rage and loss of control was intimidating, and I tried my best not to trigger it. These onlookers and users saw a woman who could chase out a drunken man, his pigtails flying in the air as she kicked his ass out of a shooting gallery, U100 tucked behind her ear, her sunken breasts falling out of her loose shirt, and hands clawing at his balls.

I loved her. She was human. She was real. She had compassion. Her last cigarette when you were high and jones-ing for a smoke – yours, if you were her friend. Need something to eat? First person to offer to go to the grocery store and shoplift lunch for everyone – that woman could fit more frozen burritos into her pants than should be humanly possible, pay for a single chocolate bar, all nonchalant-like, and walk out, staggering like John Wayne, with a roast for supper tucked under her coat too. Need a drink? M had got you. It was a simple exchange of kindnesses. If she was hanging for a smoke, or needed a buck or two, or shaking in bed unable to hit it and needed a kind soul to play nurse and get her well, without baulking at her pustules, abscesses and ulcers, her infections and her scars, and hug her until she stopped twitching and crying, she expected you to be there for her. She made an excellent friend, and a very bad enemy. We would hold hands, and she would talk about hitting Jack in the Box to pick up some work, a trucker here or there who didn’t care about her chlamydia or herpes, who she would risk her neck to provide her body to, jumping into their semi cab, and hoping to get out of it again safe and with the cash. Kurt would not have sneered at her, not even in his ultimate state of success, he would have given her a few bucks and a smile, I truly believe that. The town didn’t love or support this woman, or others like her, but man, sell a few records, and they forgive the addiction, even one as disconcerting as M____’s.

I was sad to see there was no Cobain wrapper on my filet, nor tripping smiley faced logo on the fries. I sucked up my sprite like a patriotic member of society, not questioning, not wondering, not fighting the way things are and always will be, not letting the smiling round flushed faces around me see I was sick to the stomach of the corporate rape and pillage of a culture they look down upon, and songs they only love because they make money for the big men at Geffen, people who have never heard of sub pop nor heard of Vaseline or Hole, and if they did, wouldn’t value them because they don’t push mega mac-units and keep the men who matter in diamond platinum rolexes. There is no love for the music, just passes given out, keys to the town that would have killed him slowly, rejected him, mocked beautiful kind quiet pro feminist Kurt, if he had not pushed through and instead was stuck with that dripping ceiling selling a bit of grass to girls like me, and trying not to drown in the Aberdeen rain.

We wouldn’t stay in Aberdeen, at least not yet, we instead left the McD’s and their strange partnership with Nirvana, and hit the road north to a small campground just to the north east, behind a trailer park and motel. It was cheap, had running water, a dump for waste, electric hoop ups and plenty of trees for shade.

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