The sun is setting over the Old Manse in Concord, the home where the Emerson family once lived, as well as the prestigious Nathaniel Hawthorne whose stories became a cornerstone of American literary society.
There is so much history to this place, this location by the Concord River that shaped our country and then the world. I think often that if there are secrets for America left to discover, we may discover them in the ghosts known to wander this town. The locals know about them. We are familiar with stories of dead Minutemen, butchered Redcoats, and the spirits of wandering writers who helped to keep this land famous for generations. It would have been an honor to continue their legacy, but I'm just a bum in what was once Ralph Waldo Emerson's, and then Hawthorne's backyard.
There is an air of mystery and beauty to Concord like none other in the country, so far as I know. You can feel the aura of Old Manse just by looking at it from Monument Road. People are invited to walk around the yard like a welcome guest during daylight hours, and one may even tour inside. The lawn is a wide-open space with a view of the river cutting off the land that rolls into Minuteman National Park where the historic shots heard 'round the world broke the covenant between British imperialists and New England colonists. Redcoats are buried somewhere in the field. There is a marker to show travelers where the defeated imperialists were laid to rest, after simple farmers killed them and forced their British friends to run away.
A trail parts from Monument Road leading by the northern boundaries of the Old Manse and over North bridge to a sloped field where the first shots for American freedom were fired by militia on April 19th in 1775. The battle took place as an act of desperate necessity, over a year before colonists in the rest of the country joined to declare sovereignty with us. I am alone with my thoughts on the old bridge only a moment. My fists clench and I feel the tension of a heavy burden. It is not just pride. Pride would be too easy. It is an obligation; to be a compassionate intellectual, a curious and creative thinker, and a philosopher patriot. Somewhere inbetween all of that, I work night shifts to buy food and sustain my ego trip. My eyes narrow. Fingers release tension by tapping on the wooden beams of our old bridge. Our own little statue of liberty, the stone Minuteman keeping silent vigil over his bridge, seems to be watching me. He does not say much. He does not seem to feel one way or the other about me standing there. Maybe he is waiting to see what I will fight for.
I catch a woman strolling down the path from the Old Manse toward my direction. She is a sweet young lady out of time in 1800s post Colonial period dress. Her smoothly brushed dark blonde hair sits under a straw bonnet complimented nicely by a fresh lilly. The shapeshifting time traveler ghost has found another way to hack reality. It is Astra Darkstar, but she says her name is Sophie Ann, then she lets me kiss her hand on the Old Bridge, and says "come as you are." The music of Nirvana is playing through her voice, like a chrono glitch out of place in time.
"Memory, memory, memory yeah."
More bugs in the system. My head is on fire. I can barely keep my construct of reality together. There are too many forces out wandering, trying to bring it down. Sophie. Sophie. God forbid Darkstar wants to be Hawthorne's wife.
"You aren't a masochist or anything, are you?" She asks.
"I'm something of a mark for my own pain." I reply with a stupid grin.
"Oh that's so cool. You're a tortured narcissist who hates neoliberals."
Yeah, that's my story. Heaven knows they will write narcissist on my grave.
"Neoliberals are God's tortured narcissists. Clearly I'm just confused."
"You should write a letter to your representative." She says, as if she is not dead and the concerns of a living Republic are hers to share.
"I want to write a letter about my concerns related to a world no longer worth saving."
"Do not say something like that, it too suddenly becomes a wish for dreadful things." Her crystal blue eyes are as certain as her tone. They weigh heavy on my soul, like another reminder that kind of nihilism is not viewed highly on this soil.
I look at her as if to argue the point, but stop short of forming a sentence beyond my mad thoughts. She must know exactly what I'm thinking, or it does not even occur to her that I might have a rebuttal at all, with the way she is looking out toward the sun now just beginning to set over Concord.
"Perhaps the world will always be worth saving, if we can still see the sun." She said softly.
"I want to crash a beamer into a tree. Anything to release the tension." I say, elbows resting on the railing of the old north bridge.
She doesn't respond to such nonsense. It is a mystery to me how my garbage even entertains her mind.
"I want to be ejected into space." I continue. "I want to be flung into a voi-"
"Shut up." She cuts me off. "You nag like a dying hag."
That was Darkstar. That was my little Sophie Ann. Time shifted. Trying to find herself across the matrix. Hoping to give me just a glimpse of purpose here at the battlefield behind the Old Manse.
"I just need something to believe in." I tell her. "Something better than suicide."
"You could always believe in the angels, if our God is too much trouble for you." She says, smiling sweetly.
Wonderland has shaped itself into another fond adventure. I invited Kurt Cobain to hang out with me at Walden. He said he would love to go. It was not something he had a chance to do, that is the impression I'm getting from him anyway. I said to him we will go. I showed him the little nooks along the trail off the main beach where people go kayaking and told him little stories, like that one about some guy on the beach I met who was excited about my Ride The Lightening shirt. Little conversations forever attributed to the memories of Walden that are only real in my mind. Kurt said he didn't really care for the thrash scene but they had some awesome songs. We talked about the falcon that I saw one time just following me around the trail for a good five minutes before it flew off to do something more exciting. Kurt laughed and said maybe it is the ghost of Henry David Thoreau flying around the pond to ward off Guns N Roses fans. Then he teased me for liking Guns N Roses. We laughed and I said sha na na na na na na na kneees in a really silly way like the lyric could not get any sillier.
Girls can be cute sometimes but no one ever looked better than Kurt Cobain in a skirt. He did not want to bring his skirt with him to Walden. He was dressed like a simple Cascadian in a denim jacket, faded jeans, broken in boots, and of course that flannel which somehow became permanently intertwined with a music scene. No one knows how some deadbeats from Washington's working class showed all the dying fashion bots in LA, Miami, and New York how to live again. It is one of those mysteries that makes the early 90s so charming. We talked about that episode of Headbanger's Ball and how it defined culture. He told me he would rather be a telemarketer than the guy who defined culture on MTV. He said there isn't enough money in the world to have your identity be the focal point for hundreds of millions. To have it stolen from him, there was a pain in that he couldn't form words for. We smoked a couple cigarettes by the location where Thoreau built his house and drank coffee out of styrofoam cups. There was another paradox in my mind to juggle. A dead end writer and the ghost of Kurt Cobain meet at Walden Pond to drink fast food coffee in non-disposable cups on what was once Thoreau's cabin. The foundation is still recognizable at a clearing between the path leading up to the main road and the pond. Kurt did this little thing like in the movie Wayne's World "we're not worthy, we're not worthy" toward a giant rock cairn people were gradually building up to honor America's transcendental champion on the site of his old house. I followed by his example, of course, not being so cool that I would not copy Kurt Cobain. Maybe that is how I got here. Maybe I am writing my story in the copied blood of Kurt Cobain. Oh how weird, how edgy, how different is my chemical pain.
Minutes pass. He takes a rock from off the ground in the bushes somewhere. Just a little simple thing like this seems to have so much meaning. So much validation in existence. He moves the rock over to the cairn, writes Kurt was here on it with a Sharpie.
"There are too many Dunkin Donuts in too many towns man." He says.
"Yeah, there are too many towns."
"It's better than Starbucks." He continues. "Well, Starbucks tea is nice."
He might be lying. He might just being saying that. We don't have a cultural coffee house like Starbucks, just Dunkin Donuts. There are Dunkins everywhere now. Maybe it is the same thing as Starbucks, an institution. I just don't want it to be.
I feel anxious. I don't know my father. Kurt Cobain doesn't want to be my father either but he told me I was pretty cool once in a vision. He laughed about me listening to his music in a Britney Spears shirt. He knows about Britney Spears in a ghost way. Ghosts are weird, they struggle with time and process reality differently, but they can react to music. He asked me, genuinely interested, if I'm gay.
"I don't know." I told him. "I'm not even a Gemini."
He laughed at me. He just kept laughing at me and we came up with this silly idea to write about our day trip to Walden. We got in a red Toyota pick up truck with a shit ignition that will make you hate yourself on a cold day when it takes a minute to start up. I hated myself anyway. I hated myself for being born in Concord on an August morning in 1985. I hated my mom for having a baby without a father. I hated the emptiness that will probably follow me everywhere, I hated my responsibility to cope with it anyway.
Kurt told me to turn on the radio. Kurt Cobain told me it is okay to listen to the radio because sometimes the Foo Fighters will come on. He told me sometimes life grabs you by the wheel and the worse thing I could do in moments like that is look for inspiration from a dead junkie. I told him he is more than a dead junkie. I told him he was our poet, our transcendental oddity. "Oh yeah?" He says. He's just looking at me through steel blue eyes cold and glued to my aura. There's a smile somewhere in there. It's not in his face but you can see it somehow as he lights a cigarette.
"You need to get out more often." He said, smiling with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
I pushed down on the little power button for the radio. Kate Wolf's Here In California comes on. I'm not real. Nothing is real. This isn't really happening. I'm listening to Kate Wolf with Kurt Cobain in a chilly car.
"This is a good song." He says, rolling down the window just a bit to let the smoke flow out.
"Do you ever miss things like that?" I ask. "Just little things, like the conflict between staying warm and rolling down the window to enjoy a cigarette."
He shakes his head. Wondering why God made me so weird, probably.
"Just shut up and try to enjoy the music." He says.
I wonder if Dee Snider's House of Hair is on. I turn the dial after Kate Wolf is finishing serenading our sad weary hearts. I know where to find House of Hair, landing on the station just as Snider is leading his way out of a rant into the next jam. Iron Maiden is about to come on. All ghost stories should end with Iron Maiden. Kurt tells me to turn it up. We turn up Iron Maiden's Run To The Hills and cruise the winding backroads of America's first revolutionary battlefields to wake the ghosts of dead Redcoats.
God authorized disturbance of the peace.
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