A Funny Thing Happened To Me On My Way To Quit Writing


If there’s a universal truth among every person it is that they want to matter; to their loved ones and to themselves. For creative types, the ones who paint, sculpt, play, conduct or write like me, we want to express ourselves in the most real way we know, our art.

I’ve been writing almost every day of my life since I was eight-years-old. I’ve written four books, published two, and worked as a journalist on and off for over twenty years. I turned forty-five less than 2 months ago but I almost quit writing earlier this year because I thought I didn’t matter.
Writing online is a full contact, brutally damaging intellectual activity. After a decade doing so, I’ve noticed that not being able to look people in the face when you critique them makes it easier to be ridiculously cruel and ultimately very dishonest.

At the beginning of the summer, the first week of June, I did something to salvage my love affair with writing.

I became a stand-up comedian.


It’s the best artistic decision I’ve ever made because now, I can see people in the face when they tell me I suck.

I’ve always liked comedy. I listened to comedy albums of many famous comedians growing up. Once my parents got cable television in the early 1980s, I watched any comedy special that aired. I grew to admire people who could stand before an audience and make them laugh, just like the musicians I also idolized. I thought comedy and music were the greatest forms of artistic expression because the audience feedback is immediate and very organic.

Writing is different, especially on the internet. You spend hours, sometimes days writing something, and finally after crucial, gut-wrenching edits, you hit send. The reaction is also fast, but I’ve learned it’s not always true.

Many studies have been done about online bullying or “trolling” and while an argument can be made that it’s more sociological than psychological, I’ve come to my own conclusion that understanding why people behave the way they do over the computer is a lost cause. Some people just want to watch the world burn and take others into the fire.

Twenty-two years ago, at the age of 23, I took to a comedy club stage for the first time. Over a span of about 15 months I did dozens of open mikes, five to fifteen minute comedy sets, then didn’t pursue it further. I thought I was just a writer.

Earlier this year, to both break through writer’s block and find out why I had become so disillusioned, I talked with several comedian friends I know through the internet. Surprisingly, they all encouraged me to give stand up another try because of the material I shared over the Twitter and Book Of Face (Facebook). After this advice from friends, I penciled jokes, one-liners, asides and funny stories about my life with a blended family of a wife and 3 daughters into a notebook, practiced in front a mirror and my dog then booked a set at a local comedy club.

What happened next not only changed my perspective on people, it saved my love of writing.


Onstage in a comedy club, there’s a weird sense of equality. Everyone’s there to have fun. If you’re funny, you’re funny. If you can make people laugh, you can make them listen and eventually think. After five minutes of telling a room full of strangers how unpredictable and dysfunctional my life is, I was transformed. I didn’t “kill” but I didn’t bomb either. I did get immediate feedback and it was more honest than anything I’d ever received from writing online. People came up to me with smiles on their faces and told me what they liked and disliked. They were encouraging and even thought I’d been doing comedy for a while.

Since that night in early June, I’ve performed more than 30 times. One recent set happened in a pizza pub turned comedy club for a night in front of about 50 people, mostly college students, twenty years younger than me, you know, my college sophomore daughter’s age. I made a room full of diverse jaded millennials laugh consistently for over 10 minutes. The best part was sharing the stage with several comedians who have been doing comedy as long as I’ve been writing. The democracy in their constructive criticism made me appreciate my writing.

I’ve even found two to three “regular” places to show up and do comedy each week. I’ve even been paid a handful of times.

The lost hope I’d felt from faceless review was now buoyed by the in your grill honesty of heartfelt evaluation.

I’m not saying everyone who blogs or tweets or tosses up a status that gets more than 5 likes should find a hot mike to justify their online existence but for me, using another creative venue to expand myself artistically helped. Now instead of avoiding the comments, I can just use them in my next set and become slightly more annoying by adding “comedian” to my media that are social bios.

Plus, I feel I matter, at least to myself, a little more.

Thanks a lot, that’s my time. My name’s Lance. I’m here all week.

Here’s a song about a comedian, one who did everything he could to be different and find himself, Andy Kaufman; immortalized by R.E.M.’s Man On The Moon.



I have a deep, dark secret and I think it’s time I reveal it.

I’m a idealist.

I know you read this space, follow me on the Twitter or the Book Of Face and you swear I’m a dark-hearted skeptical cynic that thinks everything sucks and so do most people. It’s the skin suit I wear over a heart that believes in a lot of things, but mostly the world can be a much better place if we just paid attention.

With the media that are social seemingly controlling our lives in at least how we communicate you’d think we’d figure out different avenues to drive down to make our streets safer and the people on them smarter and more caring.

But, no. Because the one day of the year when we can make a difference, the majority of us do nothing.

You know what, screw that. I’m being too nice, too co-dependent. I’m kicking all kinds of butt when it comes to trying to improve myself and the town, country, and world in which I live. It’s the rest of YOU who don’t give a crap and it’s time you got called out.

Yesterday, I dropped my youngest daughter off at her elementary school early for her fifth grade chorus class. She wants to be a famous singer when she grows up and this is her start. I indulge her dreams, you know, like idealistic BOSS. Anyway, I told her goodbye and I love you then looked through my car windshield and saw the orange and black sign proclaiming “Voting Station Here.”

I’m a voter, a proud one. In 1988, when I turned 18-years-old, I got my state of Alabama driver’s license (I was starting my freshman year at the University of Alabama, Roll Tide) and the little old lady behind the counter said “do you want to register to vote and get your voter ID card too, hon?” I yes ma’am’d her, checked “independent” because I wanted to be an objective journalist someday, then voted two months later like civic duty was my right.

Wait, it is.

And here lies the major rub. As I sat in my car and decided if it was worth the five extra minutes to go inside my kid’s school and check off some boxes on a ballot, I wondered aloud, “is the rest of the country going to do this too?”

I knew the answer but it would take several hours to confirm.

Most of you suck.

In 2014, only sixteen percent of the entire country voted. Yesterday, that number was around seventeen percent. There are over 325 million registered voters in the United States of America. My awful math retention tells me a boatload of the country blew it, again.

I don’t care what your political views are, save them for the yahoo news comment section or your drunk Uncle’s Book Of Face page. Sure, I’m a huge lefty and I used to co-run a liberal website. The ballot I filled out yesterday had less than 5 items on it and none of them were people, just a couple of minor laws and referendums. But I voted. That’s the point.

In Kentucky, less than 19 percent of their population participated and as a result their new Governor is likely going to take away their health care.

This is why so much of America can’t have nice things and quite frankly, doesn’t deserve them.

I’m bad at a lot, but one thing I feel like I have going for me, on point most of the time, is my compassion and how that compassion translates into well-meaning idealism.

So, what’s your problem? In less than 365 days, we do it again, but this time it’s for President and Congress. You have one job that really matters day, my fellow Americans. Put on your Nikes and Just Do It.

Just once in my lifetime, I’d like for election day voter turnout to be over 75 percent. I’d also like to be six inches taller with abs.

I know Taylor Swift is easier but listen to Radiohead. They’re better for you and they have something to say, about voting.

New York New York


A year ago, this week, I stood on the rooftop of a first responders’ communication site on Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan looking out to where the Twin Towers fell and emotionally broke down. I was working, surrounded by four other middle-aged men, who were in a similar state of emotional turmoil. I don’t know why they were tearful and it’s taken me twelve months to figure out why it hit me so hard.

I’m not a New Yorker but I always wanted to be one. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia where very little happened and most of the towns closed down after 10 o’clock at night. Spider-man was my childhood hero. I imagined being Peter Parker, his “real” identity, working for a newspaper in New York City during the day while web slinging at night.

My dad’s favorite sports figures were Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees and Joe Namath of the New York Jets. They became mine as well. I eventually graduated from the same college, the University of Alabama, as Broadway Joe then adopted his Jets as my “other football team”. I could never pull off a fur coat on my high school football team’s sidelines, though.

I thought I’d end up a comic book writer, or a great American novelist or a stand up comedian, riding the subways in the Big Apple. I’ve been there as a tourist a dozen times, worked there through my real day job a dozen more, and even turning 45-years-old yesterday, I still hold out the possibility that once my three daughters leave the house, I can convince my wife to move into a brownstone in Brooklyn or a small house in Queens or get real crazy and rent an apartment in Manhattan and be poor New Yorkers forever.

When the planes hit the buildings, I was 842 miles away, working in Lawrenceville, Georgia as a project manager for a small design build firm. I turned 31-years-old the day before, was married to someone else different than I am today and wasn’t a parent, yet. I was entertaining thoughts of ending my difficult marriage and running away to pursue dreams I’d thought I’d already let slip away. The only direct impact of that terrible day was that it scared me, not just of terrorism but of being something other than a settled family man with non-creative pursuits. I became more guarded and eventually afraid to make positive changes to my life.

The anniversary makes me sad because of how it changed all of us as Americans. It created a monster called Fear. Those towers falling and the emotional chaos that followed impregnated the worst instincts in mankind and born from it was this Godzilla creature of doom that drives personal politics, interpersonal communication, and how each of thinks our neighbor is supposed to be.

By January 2006, I was a divorced father of a toddler. By November 2008 I was a married man with three girls. By early 2010, I was beginning to pursue those lost goals of a decade earlier. In the past five years I’ve published two books and started doing stand up comedy. In between all of those years, I’ve tried to fight the Fear monster. I went into therapy, treated my mental illness, and dedicated myself to being outspoken about things I considered important.

The day after my birthday, September 10th, will always be hard to get through. In remembering the innocent lives taken and the brave ones that tried to save them, we passive-aggressively tie patriotism into fear-mongering because that monster is so massively destructive.

New York, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania of Let’s Roll heroes deserve our reverence. But somewhere, I hope my fellow Americans can harness the self-awareness to look Fear in the face and fight back. Because we’re just not going to be as great as we want until that happens. If one guy can find positive change in his own life, surely millions more can too.

I know why I lost it on that rooftop and it wasn’t just because almost three thousand people died. It was because what it meant to be an American perished too. And now we’re all running from that Fear creature, hiding in shelters of misery hoping it just goes away.

I love you New York.

One day, I hope America learns to love itself, all of itself, too.

Here’s Ryan Adams.

You Oughta Know; Why The 20th Anniversary Of Jagged Little Pill Matters



One of music’s many powers is provoking decades-old memories from even the most forgetful people, like me. Most of the time I can’t remember my daughters’ names or what I had for breakfast, but a lyric, a guitar riff or even feedback as a song changes from soft to hard can take me back twenty years and recall almost every moment.

Alanis Morissette’s breathy, staccato vocal in the opening line, “I want you to know, that I’m happy for you, I wish nothing but the best for you both” bounced off my car dashboard. I knew it was a loaded line, probably a lie, and what was about to happen next was going to be memorable. As the power chord rolled and the unforgettable piece of naughty poetry occurred, “an older version of me, is she perverted like me, would she go down on you in a theatre” I knew I was listening to my generation’s “Go Your Own Way”, but much angrier, and it was fantastic. Kurt Cobain had been dead just over a year but there seemed to be an torch-bearer, literally and figuratively, to his honesty and rawness.

Twenty years ago today, June 13, 1995, Jagged Little Pill, the American debut album of Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette on Madonna’s fledgling record label, Maverick, was released. Sales were slow at first and it would take over three months for the first single, You Oughta Know, to rule the music world. Morissette’s Canadian invasion of the U.S. pop charts was unique. It would fully usher in an era of dominant popular female artists like Sheryl Crow, Sarah MacLachlan, Jewel, Liz Phair, and many others that would have their own festival tour, Lilith Fair, and break the ridiculous radio taboo of “too many women on the air”. Jagged Little Pill screamed its way into people’s hearts and minds and showed that female entertainers could not only sell millions of records but also fill stadiums.

Just after my July 4th weekend of 1995, I quit my radio job for a local Atlanta radio station, ending seven years in the field. The band I was managing part-time broke up shortly thereafter. While on my way home from one of their bar gigs, I turned on then Atlanta powerhouse radio station 99x, which played alternative and other new forms of music. Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know punched me in the gut and it felt brilliant. She was pissed off and wasn’t relying on flowery metaphors to convey her frustration. It was a well-crafted pop rock song. A waft of stale beer settled under my nose as I arrived home. I called a radio DJ friend of mine to ask him what he knew of this Alanis Morissette person. He reminded me of her appearances on the Canadian comedy show You Can’t Do That On Television, which we both saw as teenagers. I was a few months shy of turning 25 in July, 1995, but I was buoyed by a lack of cynicism over a new artist.

You Oughta Know became one of those touchstone songs. People of both sexes identified with it and the speculation over who it was about flourished for years. After many coy interviews, Full House actor Dave Coulier aka Uncle Joey, denied being “Mr. Duplicity” in 2014. Morissette has kept her secret even better than Carly Simon did with her subject of You’re So Vain. Former boyfriends including ex-New Jersey Devils hockey player Mike Peluso, Friends actor Matt Leblanc (who appear in a Canadian video of Alanis’ in 1991) and Leslie Howe, the producer of Alanis’ first two Canadian albums in the early 1990s are also likely culprits. Mostly people just plug into the rage and brutal honesty of being rejected or mistreated or forgotten by a former lover.

Jagged Little Pill was more than one amazing song. It was a 2-year chart phenomenon. Seven cuts from the record were released as singles including mega hits, You Learn, Hand In My Pocket, Head Over Feet, Ironic, and my personal favorite from the album, All I Really Want. Ironic became famous for not being Ironic. Many stand up comedians performed bits over how the lyrical content was simply a collection of bummers rather the definition of Ironic. Jagged Little Pill’s plug into the culture made it a global success, topping charts in ten countries. It was number one in Morissette’s native Canada for almost 6 months. It hit the top spot in the U.S. for 12 non-consecutive weeks. In 2010, its sales topped 33 million copies worldwide. Billboard ranked the album as the number one Best Selling Pop album for the 1990s decade.

Jagged Little Pill ages well. As the father of a teenage daughter, I recognize the sentiments of the album in her life. But how the record was so well-written and produced by Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette speaks to its power. You Oughta Know still gets the same reaction from me and many others when it comes on the radio.

Twenty years is a long time for anything. But the memories of what Alanis Morissette was able to accomplish with raw emotion are impressive. She oughta know how much people love that record.

Tell me why you like Jagged Little Pill and your favorite track in the comments.

Scar Tissue ; A Year Of Hurting Myself With Crossfit


Vanity is a snarling, relentless beast that feeds on weakness and insecurity. It attacked thirteen months ago, during a rush out of the house to take my kids to school, I posted a picture of my oldest daughter on her last day of high school. In the background, a reflection of bloated and shirtless me circulated around social media and the comments, while funny, were devastating. I was overweight, to go along with middle-aged.

The weird thing is, I knew it and had begun to try to improve my looks and health. Two weeks earlier my wife had given me a groupon for Crossfit. Since my savings obsessed bride believes the world can only be made better through groupons, I had to use it.

For the past year and one month I’ve been part of what many people think is an exercise cult. Gyms are boxes, sweaty people are athletes, and workouts are WODs. The axiom is, the first rule of Crossfit club is you have to talk about Crossfit club. But I kept it to myself for months.

I’m a little over a week into a self-imposed one month rest period. My knees are garbage, the right one has a bruised ligament, and my back isn’t much better. I did these things to myself through bad form and working through injuries. Despite what your Facebook friends may tell you, Crossfit doesn’t kill people, people do. You know, like guns? Except you don’t really die from counting box jumps and deadlifts while easily bought pistols will end your day in a hurry.

Instead of defending Crossfit and posting after pictures which will underwhelm you since I dieted like a college fraternity pledge through the process, I’ll just say, I’ve never felt better. I’m twenty pounds lighter, with four pounds of muscle added back. At 5’8″ and around 178lbs, my BMI says I won’t die tomorrow, maybe. I’ve improved my mile run times by over fifty seconds and I’m lifting weight unseen since my high school football days. I’m in shape. Maybe I’m not underwear model shape, because I’m almost 45-years-old, I have a wife,  three daughters, and a day job. but I’m doing things physically I never imagined, like participating in a Crossfit competition.


I did spend a year hurting myself, mostly because I didn’t listen to my body telling me what my age is, how tired I always am, and the limits it arbitrarily places on me. So, I rest for the next month.

You can find blog posts all over the internet about Crossfit being the worst thing in the world and the best. It’s neither, for me. But it is the best workout I’ve done next to boxing. My wife and kids nixed me getting hit in the face years ago.

I’ve made some pretty good friend friends over the past year. They’re fairly normal people. Okay, they hang out with me and they do Crossfit, maybe not that normal. I don’t know anybody with abs and there was no evidence of folks oiling up or experiencing organ failure. My box, gym, whatever, is family friendly, easy to get to, and everyone knows my name without me having to be an alcoholic.

I’m weaning myself off ibuprofen, getting back into blogging, finishing my books (the sequel to The Ballad Of Helene Troy is in editing), preparing to make my open mic comedy debut at the end of the month and learning how to pay attention to my body. When I return to Crossfit in a few weeks, I’ll be smarter. If anything, my scar tissue is mental.

The Songs That Made Me – Midlife Mixtape Blog Hop


For someone who is good at reading maps, has a keen sense of direction, and likes to stay on the move, I sure do get lost a lot in my own head. Perhaps, this is why I’ve been writing a bunch but posting less because I need a new compass and pay attention to certain signs. Music is like a neon billboard telling me, “over here, dummy!” My current pop culture addiction is the reality show The Amazing Race, where teams of two travel around the world and eventually win a million dollars. It’s all about teamwork, people skills, and the extreme sport of surviving airports. When my fellow music freak friend Nancy of  Midlife Mixtape asked me to link a post of about ten “songs that made me the person I am” it was like getting an Amazing Race ticket and then I needed to pay attention to my map and partner;  my writing. I’ve revealed a lot about myself over the past 5 years of this blog (My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog turns half a decade next week), through music. Each post is usually a song title and a Tube Of You video accompanies. Selecting only 10 songs was difficult. I didn’t list any songs by my favorite band, The Clash. Despite my love and admiration for female artists, there are no selections from Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco. Liz Phair or Lucinda Williams. Narrowing down only 1 Nirvana, 1 Radiohead, and 1 Verve choice was like picking my favorite daughter. So I chose ones that didn’t ask for money from me, today. This is linked to my friend Nancy’s blog. You will find some pretty kick ass, super smart, audiophiles over there. I implore you to read them all and them slink into a corner ashamed you don’t have our tastes in music. Here are the songs that made me….so far. Billy Joel – My Life and Elton John – Take Me To The Pilot. When I was very young, Billy Joel and Elton John were my classical music. I was born in 1970, so the first 10 years of my life saw the peaks of Billy and Elton’s careers. I lumped these two together because these days, they are joined at their old failing hips in concerts and general consensus thinking. The songs I picked are angry, frustrated pieces of rebellion and acknowledgement that adulthood is grabbing them. As a kid, these guys were like cool Uncles to me. Billy Joel was my first concert in 1982, and My Life was his best song of the night. https://youtu.be/h3JFEfdK_Ls https://youtu.be/Fi0xN499IXE So Far Away – Carole King. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, the Tapestry album by Carole King is one of the best records ever made. In 1971, a woman writing and producing her own tunes was about as rebellious and controversial as you could get. So Far Away is that song, I, a young kid growing up in suburban Atlanta, Georgia would play to express my alienation of my surroundings and want to leave. It’s singer-songwriter perfection. https://youtu.be/1GAaWz4X4nU Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan. Uncle Bob wrote music’s greatest composition and everyone else is playing for second. If you’re a writer and you don’t worship this tune, then you’re not a writer. Dylan made rock and roll literate, pop culture matter, and set the template for what artists should be doing with their talent. “How does it feel, to be without a home, like a complete unknown?” If you can’t relate to that, I can’t help you. It’s six minutes that changed my life the first time I heard it as a little kid and it’s six minutes that changes my life every time I listen to it, now. And all those words, those beautiful damn words. https://youtu.be/syNLBJ_Lq9E “Ever Fallen In Love With Someone (You Shouldn’t’ve Fallen In Love With)?” The first few relationships I had were unrequited. I was always “the friend”, the one the girl came to bitch about their boyfriend, the guy she treated like a brother or whatever. What punk legends The Buzzcocks did in less than 3 minutes was enter my heart and mind, take out every word I’d ever thought or written down and then chainsaw truth. The opening lines of this song are “You spurn my natural emotions, you make me feel I’m dirt, and I’m hurt and if I start a commotion I run the risk of losing you and that’s worse”. They were dropping the mic a long time before Chris Rock was taking a comedy stage. Don’t tell me punk rock can’t be brilliantly deep. https://youtu.be/51OB2YoC4sg Blank Generation – Richard Hell and the Voidoids. This should have been the rock anthem of all rock anthems but instead it’s an underrated piece of punk history and the ringtone on my phone. Richard Hell was way ahead of his time. As much as I love Kurt Cobain and the other grunge rock superstars of the early 1990s, Hell said it all first, 15 years earlier. This song got me through college and keeps me young today. I’m just now saving up money so I can do this – “I was sayin let me out of here before I was even born.” I may safety-pin my shirt together today just to keep myself on track. https://youtu.be/TP3x-VdOb44 High And Dry – Radiohead. Look, they’re my second favorite band after The Clash so every song by Radiohead made me the man I am, today. I picked High and Dry because it makes me happy and sad at the same time. I use it to remember those I’ve lost. I use it to appreciate those I have with me. Mostly, I just use it to hear my innermost thoughts conveyed by Thom Yorke’s gorgeous wail. https://youtu.be/BciOfJsqh7M One – U2. Before they started molesting my iphone, U2 did a lot of things right. I almost listed I Will Follow but One is like a religious hymn to me. It has the single greatest lyric I’ve ever heard, “Have you come here for forgiveness, have you come to raise the dead, have you come here to play Jesus, to the lepers in your head?” I’m a Christian and mentally ill. This song means a lot to me. https://youtu.be/ftjEcrrf7r0 Strange Currencies – R.E.M. Growing up in Georgia, any R.E.M. song is eligible. Currencies didn’t come along until the neighborhood band from down the road from my house had become international rock stars. But the lyrics, it’s overall feel and message, and the way R.E.M. spoke to the freak in all of us, makes this song special. “You know with love come strange currencies,” is too incredible to ever expound upon. https://youtu.be/XMazs2N1CQ0 You Know You’re Right – Nirvana. This song wasn’t released until 8 years after Kurt died. But it crystallizes all of the things that made me relate to him and love his band. I listen to it almost every day and use it in many different ways. If anything, it helped me “get over” the 1990s and my youth and grow up a little bit. It also strengthens my resolve when people tell me I’m wrong and I know otherwise. https://youtu.be/qv96yJYhk3M Lucky Man – The Verve. Bittersweet Symphony is the ultimate Verve tune and the album Urban Hymns stays in my car and in my heart every day. But Lucky Man is the song that encapsulates my adulthood and the second life I received when I got remarried expanded my family to 3 daughters. I’m not the most positive person by nature but Lucky Man keeps me grounded and the lyrics are really everything I look forward to each and every day. https://youtu.be/MH6TJU0qWoY Here’s the other great posts.

The Songs That Made Us:



The Flying Chalupa

Elizabeth McGuire

Elleroy Was Here

Midlife Mixtape

Up Popped a Fox

When Did I Get Like This?

I Miss You When I Blink

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Butterfly Confessions

Good Day, Regular People

Dumb – Lessons Learned From Montage Of Heck



These days, intense emotional reactions followed by brutally honest self-analysis seem to be the only way people know how to tell the truth and in return, you believe in anything they say. Ninety minutes or so into the new documentary about the last famous person I ever related to or cared about, Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, home movie footage shows “the voice of a generation” hold his infant daughter as she’s getting a haircut. At first it seems to be this sweet moment but when the definitely tired, possibly drug-addled, and likely disconnected Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain nods off and his baby begins to cry you realize all is lost.

Four times during the look into the driving force of one of my favorite bands, I turned it off and wept. The visceral way I watched Montage Of Heck speaks to not only the impact of Kurt’s art but also the nasty truths behind his life and death by suicide in April, 1994.

No one was ever there for him and he just gave up.

The top search term for this blog is “Kurt Cobain Sychophant”. There’s no need for me to sell you on the greatness of him as an artist or the deep way I felt related to him as a mentally ill person, and fellow “small, moody, and weird reject”. What Montage Of Heck does is slay every myth about Kurt Cobain and painfully reveal that despite years of red flags and cries for help, Kurt died alone and it seemed to be his destiny from a very early age.

The first half of the film shows his childhood. A lot of time is devoted to his diaries, journals, notebooks, drawings, and personal voice recordings beginning during his pre-teen and teen years.

I took away some stuff, a lot of it I already knew, but given new context, from the documentary.

1) Kurt needed therapy as early as age 9. His parents divorced in the mid 1970s. He acted out as a result, bouncing between equally clueless and selfish mother and father as they embarked on new lives with new spouses and new children. He had almost no family structure between the ages of 11 and 19.

2) Bullying and humiliation drove every single artistic thing he ever did. The next time someone tells you ridicule and boys being boys is just a part of life, show them Montage Of Heck. From his first sexual experience to his first bout of drugs and alcohol to his failures in school, it all stemmed from his inability to deal with peer pressure and relating to kids his own age.

3) His slacker image and anti-fame reputation were lies. Even though he had trouble keeping a job pre-Nirvana, when his girlfriend Tracy would go to work, he’d strum guitars for hours while watching television and write or draw in his notebooks all day. This was part of his “10,000 hours” of practice. Also, he was more ambitious than given credit because he knew the names and addresses of almost every independent record label in existence during the late 1980s before convincing Sub Pop to release Nirvana’s first album in 1989.

4) Drugs were in his life early and he used them for different reasons than “rock star lifestyle”. He did heroin for the first time in the mid 1980s, years before he was famous and or married Courtney Love. He wrote about drugs as early as 1984. A still mysterious stomach ailment led to him using opiates. Like a cancer patient using pot for pain, he used narcotics to stave off serious abdominal pain well before he ever released a record.

5) Courtney Love didn’t kill him any more than Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles. Giving Courtney credit for anything about Kurt’s death is feeding the teeming narcissist what she wants, attention. The two of them were quite screwed up before they met. While Kurt’s drug use escalated after their marriage, it was tied more into his mental illness and his failure to deal with his life than anything to do with his choice of spouse. Kurt was alone, no one helped him, not once.

For die-hards like me, there wasn’t a lot of new information, but filmmaker Brett Morgen animated Kurt’s journals and audio recordings to present everything in a clear, creative but very disturbing fashion. Montage of Heck is brilliantly made. It’s worth the two hours of time but it’s a chore to watch if you care anything about Kurt and or Nirvana. It took days for me to just get a hold of my own emotions.

As a father, the scenes of Kurt with then baby Francis are hard to watch. If anything, Montage of Heck humanizes him even more and gets rid a lot of the rock star bull crap that never belonged with his legacy. I think the biggest lesson I learned from Montage of Heck was that Kurt Cobain ended up the way he should have, because of his lack of family cohesiveness and his own failures. That lesson is hard to accept, but it gets me beyond fandom and makes me realize that adulthood, maturity, or whatever this is I’m going through at forty-something years old is okay after all. Kurt Cobain decided it wasn’t and his being gone is just dumb.