BY JAMES DOOLITTLE It was 16 years ago today that Kurt Cobain’s body was found. Sigh. With pinpoint accuracy, I know where I was when I first saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, because it’s intrinsically linked to one of the great obsessions of my teen years; an Italian-American princess, three years my junior, who was both a card carrying member of the International Thespian Society, in league with the JV cheerleading squad AND a total Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio doppelganger, circa The Abyss.
Ahem. A total babe.
I was laying in a hotel room outside of Pittsburgh, a collegiate freshman on winter break, whose travels had taken him to a darkened room whose only illumination came from the telly tuned to MTV. I was actually trapped under the covers, as I had turned in for the night to only find myself minutes later talking to this beauty, a girl who I had so long pined for while walking the halls of Ridley High, who had somehow coerced entry in order to – of all things – talk to me. Me, who by trapt I meant adorned in tighty whities, and still all Catholically repressed, knew in no way, shape or form could this virginal entity perchance a glance, because goddamit, I wanted her to think me worldly, and by that I meant…well, I wanted her to think me a boxer man.
And just at that moment where I knew a connection was indeed being made – along with “the other sex” history – there came those opening chords, and for the next five minutes, we both lay as if in rapture, gazing at something that looked and felt like nothing else on MTV. Me, with that half-assed attempt at skateresque hairdo I had post-high school. And her…her looking like Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, if Mary Elizabeth was all of sixteen with a Delco poof.
We only talked and stared, with befitting tones both stupid, yet contagious. With the lights out, so not dangerous.
I can remember how on the ride back East, the single seemed to suddenly be everywhere on the radio, and we tuned about the dial trying to get a second, third, fourth listen. I also remember completely blowing it with this girl not more than a month later, for reasons I still don’t quite understand. And still yet, I remember that day a little more than two years later, when Phish descended on State College to jam while my music geek brethren argumentatively mourned, how I thought about Mary Elizabeth for a fleeting moment, and the way her teen spirit smelled.