Some weeks later, I made the drive. Got to bleak-looking Midtown Kingston, ate at a diner, and headed to the venue. I wore my black jacket and my dessert boots—as bad-ass as this English major and textbook editor gets.
I’m waiting in my seat when just before the opening act a woman in a teal corduroy hat with funky hair comes sidling into the row. She sits in the seat next to me. She has on a rad jacket, skirt, and tall boots, and completely on impulse—I swear I’m not normally so quick to judge, and I don’t usually use the b word—I thought, This chick is either a total bitch or the coolest thing on earth.
Turns out Theresa is the latter, and we’ve been together 4 years now.
Theresa’s side of the story adds a mystical twist. After a breakup, she’d been going to an epic number of shows in recent years at places like the Bowery Ballroom and Union Hall, so she considered herself a master concertgoer. She picked her UPAC seat when many were available, and picked with savvy, figuring that if she chose one of an available pair, she’d likely end up next to a single man. She picked F15, which had only one spot next to it.
She had recently told a friend she was ready to date again, and wanted to date a writer. She jokes now that she conjured me with witchcraft. I can’t say she didn’t.
That’s the fun part of the story.
The shitty part is grappling with the unknowns around Cornell’s death, initially watching video from Detroit, hearing Cornell speak the lyrics of “In My Time of Dying” during “Slaves and Bulldozers,” wondering if his action was premeditated.
At the UPAC show, Chris arrived on stage peddling a sweet low-rider bicycle that a fan had made him. He introduced proudly, with open affection, the song he’d written for his wife by telling its backstory, how he’d proposed to her. When Theresa and I saw Cornell two years later (at the Beacon after all), he brought his kids on stage and introduced them. As fans, we felt like part of his family, we felt let in. Maybe even loved.
All too recently, when Prince died, I’d had to grapple with grief for the loss of someone I’ve never met, someone I’d idolized and followed for decades. I wasn’t ready to grieve again. But I needed to know what happened. Past addictions, out on tour again. Had he relapsed?
I subscribe to the Soundgarden.com newsletter. When I saw the tour announced earlier this year I was surprised. Would he find it fulfilling to go back on the road and pound out angry anthems? One song from Euphoria Morning, Cornell explained at UPAC, contained 26 different chords. He said when he left Soundgarden, he was sick of riff rock. He wanted something more complex. Never a man to under-do a thing, perhaps. I’d tried playing these songs on guitar. Much harder to memorize than the power chords of Badmotorfinger.