Through the Door Where Angels

Go man

Into the great beyond,

take your voice,

take your song,

to the door where angels dwell

and tell them what it’s like in hell

and tell them what it’s like to rise

and tell them any otherwise

and how you were so far from home

Go man,

as if they could give you greater wings

than the flight of your words in every note

shattering through the night

into the light

Go man

in silhouette

your final soliloquy

surrounded by the memory

take that heavy heavy heavy

and let it go

no one will ever know

no one ever did

You are a different kind of star now

across a million midnights eternally

a twinkle in the sky

looking down on this place

where you were

for a minute

trying to live

everywhere so far from home.

Supper is on the table.

And you can finally stay

in a warm bed

for more than one night

again

and fill your belly.

and sleep.

Take your voice.

Take your song,

through the door where angels dwell,

and say Hello. Go.

Through the Door Where Angels

In memory of Chris Cornell. 1964- 2017.

It Is Still Beautiful. Chris Cornell.

Grunge is the music that my generation created, whether the label of “grunge” is one that was met with approval or acceptance or not. Passionately philosophically divested in many ways from the heavy metal and “pretty” hair bands and glam bands of the heyday of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” of previous generations, the “heavy” in “Grunge” was born not only of a complete love of music, but of an emotional intensity extracted from a dissatisfied, sometimes bored, sometimes angry, raw, emotion, that infested not only the musical content itself, but the lyrics, which range from the poignantly poetic, the depressed and angry, to the sarcastic and sardonic, to the socially aware. Drawing on influences from both the punk sound and the likes of Black Sabbath, Grunge was music that was, and is, awake. Grunge said that whatever propaganda it was that the world was selling, they weren’t buying it, because it “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“People were wearing flannel here long before grunge came out. It’s cold here. It’s a cheap and effective clothing apparatus for living in the Northwest. I don’t even associate it with a fashion statement or lack thereof. Eddie Vedder did more for flannel than anybody.” ~ Tad Doyle, from Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yam

“I think it’s come to mean alternative (grunge) in a way. I saw a grunge compilation album with a picture of a flannel shirt on the cover, and only half the bands were from Seattle. Now it seems like that word embraces anything that’s popular. You can watch a Tony! Toni! Tone! video and most of the people in there are wearing their version of grunge fashion. They look like they’re from Seattle, yet it’s an R&B song. So grunge has become an easy marketing reference, a handle for people who aren’t particularly interested in listening to music or what the bands do.” ~ Chris Cornell, Interview Magazine, 1994

What I remember about the beginnings of the stirrings of grunge, as it filtered down from the Pacific Northwest, was that it was only being played on alternative radio, or college stations. I remember hearing something about “grunge” having some claim on flannel shirt wearing and thermals and thinking, “We wear those here too (when it’s cold), well, some of us.” And no one quite being tuned into the fact that what was happening was a huge shift in our culture, this was music that was counter-culture. This was music that cared so much that it couldn’t care anymore what anyone thought of it.  It was a generation rejecting a post 1980’s pretension that it couldn’t sink its teeth into as any kind of a viable reality, certainly not an affordable one, and what’s more, it didn’t want to. “Grunge” didn’t want to be labeled as anything other than music. It took the garage band to the warehouse and then on to the stadium. It wasn’t stoner-hippie music, it was “damn the man” music coming from my generation, a generation that wasn’t sure it was ready for that when only moments before we’d been tuned into Miami Vice, Magnum P.I., and Family Ties. Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and Pearl Jam’s “Ten,” broke in 1991, and so did Soundgarden’s “Badmotofinger,” and the tribute album, “Temple of the Dog.” While Nirvana and Pearl Jam stormed the airways into the mainstream with big hits there was something different about the voice of Chris Cornell, from the very beginning. This wasn’t music that was just willing to be dark, this was music that had jumped headlong into the primordial muck to mosh and try to body-surf through the ages. Balls to the wall, Grunge was the ultimate trust-fall. The song that stuck with me, that still stays with me from that time, that I’ve many a night before dinner said/sung, “Well, it’s on the table…” is Temple of the Dog’s, “Hunger Strike.” Then there was “Outshined,” with heavy lines that sound like a dirge and then it melodically takes flight, “it gives me the butterflies…” and traverses the depths again just as quickly.

The soulful anguish, the raw ache, the depth of emotion of Chris Cornell’s voice is at the beginnings of a musical revolution. If Kurt Cobain burned out, and Eddie Vedder became, to some, something of a musical statesman, if Dave Grohl became the embodiment of no-nonsense getting up and getting on with it while still having a good time, Chris Cornell became the poet laureate of grunge. To say now that some of his lyrics are haunting is obvious and redundant, his lyrics and vocals were always haunting.

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“I’m not a lyric writer to make statements. What I enjoy doing is making paintings with lyrics, creating colorful images. I think that’s more what music and entertainment should be.” ~ Chris Cornell

Is fifty-two years old, young? Is fifty-two years old, old?

Fifty-two years old is a person in my peer group, completely my generation. Chris Cornell had gotten sober. I’ve noticed lately that’s kind of a thing with my generation, if you’re of my generation and you partied as a teenager, or in your twenties, drank your way through your thirties, at some point in your forties, you run up against sobriety. In the 80’s we used to sometimes jokingly say, for one reason or another, “It was all the drugs I did in the 60’s.” even though, or because, that’s when we were born. Now, as middle-aged adults, we can say, “Well, it was the 80’s” and that passes as a cultural definition of excess. Grunge was the antidote for the 80’s, a coming of age emotional release, that for many of my generation has ultimately given way to sobriety becoming its own kind of rebellion. I think my generation fluctuates between, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and “This World Is Hard, Don’t Bullshit Me.” Does it ever turn out the way that any generation thinks that it will? I’m finding my peace through the acceptance of this world is hard, but it is still beautiful.

I’m upset about the death of Chris Cornell in a way that I can’t quite explain. I think that I’ve listened to “I am the Highway” about I don’t even know how many times now, I love that song. I’m looking at the world starkly, that’s what works for me, I’m not a puppies and kittens and rainbows kind of gal, I’m the other side of that coin, even though I am certainly a romantic. The world needs both, balance. But I’m thinking about that too, the world, and what are any of us doing here. Earlier today, I saw a news story about how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is flattered by those who think he really should run for president, how “popular” an idea that is to some, and that he, The Rock, told GQ magazine that a bid for the White House is “A real possibility.” I don’t think that’s even the least bit funny or amusing. I thought it was deep down sad that that is where the mindset of anyone in this country is at, not that former actors haven’t taken up political office before, and not that I don’t like The Rock, as an actor, and hey, he might even be great at being president if that were to happen, but it’s this idea that celebrity, that “popularity,” rules the day. It’s boneheaded. I was thinking about how, in the same interview from 1994 where Chris Cornell talked about how you could watch a Tony! Toni! Tone! video and see a grunge fashion statement, Kim Thayil said that they had taken to avoiding wearing flannel in order to try to help distance themselves from what had become cliché, because it had become popular in the mainstream. What was the very antithesis of fashion, became fashion, and then the people for whom it was a usual mode of dress, they abandoned it, I was thinking how messed up that is. I was thinking that it’s awful that not even six months into the current administration the fighting between political parties has reached epic proportions and it is beyond pathetic to the point of being ludicrous. Everyone has an opinion, including me, and I thought, that’s it, this is it, the exact moment when I ceased to engage in political discourse, the moment when I heard that The Rock was seriously considering a run at the White House. I thought of the movie “Idiocracy” and of Flint, Michigan, and Brawndo, it’s popular, it’s what plants crave. Everyone seems to be feeling instead of THINKING. Has the world always been this crazy? Has the world always been this dumb? I think, it’s important to remember to find healthy ways to keep from feeling overwhelmed and to disengage from the din.

The last thing that I read about the death of Chris Cornell was that he may have taken an extra Ativan or two. ( Rolling Stone.) Ativan is used to treat anxiety. You never know what someone else is going through. Addiction is a big demon. You think, the guy had everything. But there’s no judging that, for anyone, what is everything? I think, am of a mind, to say, stick around, fight, see what happens, to hell with ’em! But there’s no judging that for anyone either. I don’t want to descend into a discourse on battling dark times, just, there’s no judging what it’s like for any other human who isn’t feeling great or well or thinking clearly. Reports of his last show in Detroit have been that something wasn’t quite right with him. I haven’t watched the concert footage and don’t know if I will. I thought about, wondered about, how far away do those guys get from where they started? How far away does anyone get from who they began as, if they get where they think they wanted to go? It seemed to me that Chris Cornell stayed pretty true.

I made up my mind not to watch anymore news today, I don’t know if I’ll watch any tomorrow either. Am I obligated to? Am I obligated to pay attention to the mess or to be a voice for anything? I straightened up my house, did laundry, made some food. I looked at a catalog, thought about ways to decorate, about how much I like flannel shirts and don’t give a flying fig if they’re fashionable or not, ever. I thought about the irony of the fact that the renaissance of coffee-house culture was spawned at the birth of grunge, the Seattle Sound, and how that gave way to the very corporate Starbucks, something that is the antithesis of everything grunge was about. Grunge, though, outgrew the label, the terminology, and grew into itself from those roots, the bands and musicians that emerged from that era, are the creators of the musical landscape of my generation. I gathered up some cd’s, made a plate of chicken and rice and sat down to write something about it all.

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Chris Cornell’s music has seen me through many a long night writing, and, providing that I have anything to say about it, it will see me through many more seasons to come. An important artistic voice of my generation, a musician, a poet, a soulful singing prince with an intense Jesus gaze and flowing locks, an originator and innovator, of not only musical change but of a cultural shift in awareness, Chris Cornell left us with many gifts, he will be missed. The world is a hard place, but it is still beautiful.

Carry on, my friends. Get up. Go on.

Teri

The Promise Lyrics

If I had nothing to my name
But photographs of you
Rescued from the flames
That is all I would ever need
As long as I can read
What’s written on your face
The strength that shines
Behind your eyes
The hope and light
That will never die

And one promise you made
one promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
As we’ve always done

And you said
“The poison in a kiss
Is the lie upon the lips”
Truer words were never shared
When I feel
Like lies are all I hear
I pull my memories near
The one thing they can’t take

And one promise you made
one promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
As you’ve always done

The books still open
on the table
The bells still ringing
in the air
The dreams still clinging
to the pillow
The songs still singing
in a prayer

Now my soul
Is stretching through the roots
To memories of you
Back through time and space
To carry home
the faces and the names
And these photographs of you
Rescued from the flames

And one promise you made
one promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
And dare to rise once more
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
And fill the world with life
As we’ve always done

Quotes from Chris Cornell.