Several months before Nirvana came into my life, I found Pearl Jam’s Ten album and every single song on it spoke to me – to where I was in my life in those post-college years. I wore out the CD, playing it over and over again. I don’t know what it was, and to this day, some of the songs I have to pick and choose when I listen to them. I know if I’m fragile, they could break me.
It was a perfect album, and there are few of these, in my opinion: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors; Carol King’s Tapestry; Nirvana’s Nevermind; the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ have several; Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jakon. There are more, but Ten hit me in the gut, and I couldn’t stop. It was my drug. It allowed me to feel that someone else knew the pain I was going through. One’s early 20’s are not fun.
It was the days when MTV still showed videos, and Jeremy was on a loop. This was before I knew who they were, before I had heard anything they had done. I watched the video with my roommate, and it freaked me out. Not the message, not the story, but Vedder’s eyes – the way he looked at the camera, it was almost as though he was the devil at times. It is a brilliant video, but the first time I saw it I think I hid behind a piece of furniture.
So, I can’t remember when or how I fell in love with them, but I did, and hard. I loved all of Grunge, but it is only now that I appreciate the full range of it, the different bands, the messages they were attempting to convey. It is so tragic how many of them we have lost.
Yes, I fell hard for Vedder, the band, their sound and messages. But it was only years later, in a different place, that I would actually have the opportunity to, perhaps, run into them. Or, more specifically, him. Not that I am a crazy fan. I just wanted to be polite and thank him for how seminal his music was in my life.
We were in a different city in the Swamp and had a great deal with a hotel on the beach. Pearl Jam was scheduled to play as the headliner for a festival on the water. Before we left our home for the day, my partner said, out of the blue, “You know they are probably staying there, and if you see him, don’t waste your chance.” I couldn’t believe the words coming from his mouth, as I had never imagined I would see them, nor would I imagine he cared. I thought little of it, other than feeling touched that he would say something like that.
We got to our hotel, and as usual he had to use the rest room so I sat in my normal chair in the lobby waiting. And then I saw him. Someone who looked exactly as I imagined Eddie Vedder would, but somehow shorter than I believed. He was the right age, had the right hair, all of it. I sat there. I watched him walk down the hallway toward the elevators I knew led only to the suites. I thought about what my partner had said. Was I giving up a chance?
I remained calm as I followed him to the elevators, but it was a facade – inside I was a mess. But I joined him, as well as a pack of children and followed to the seventh floor, where he departed. I followed at an easy pace, far enough behind him to look as though I was just another guest. And then the elevator doors closed.
I opened my mouth. I said these words: “Excuse me, are you Mr. Vedder?” in the most careful, non-threatening way possible. I didn’t want him to think I was crazy.
His reply was kind, but a negative.
I responded, briefly, as I wanted him to know, in case it was really him, the following: “I’m so sorry to bother you, I just wanted to thank him. His music was seminal to my life.”
And then I left.
When I returned to the lobby, my partner wanted to know where I had been and I told him the story. Later that day, we got a free concert, as we heard the band go through their warm-up session, and it was amazing. Just before leaving, my partner told me he had seen the man I had followed behind us, accompanied by a woman and a very large man, who appeared to a normal person to be a bodyguard. But looks can be deceiving.
Just ask the man I spoke with. It may have been him or not. But I’m happy I got to get my message out. And I’m grateful I took the chance, whether it was or was not him no longer mattered. It was purged from me.
And it felt as cleansing as the waves that crashed over me later that morning.
As an aside to this piece, the history and controversy of the video for Jeremy can be found here, and is a truly fascinating read, for numerous reasons.
© Sorrow & Kindness