I am not sure when I first heard this song. It was sometime in the fall or winter of 92. I was watching MTV in the living room of my parent’s house on Sandalwood Street. We lived in a cul-de-sac of the San Fernando Valley overlooking the far west end of Los Angeles. I was in 11th grade. I was searching for my identity. I had been an athlete. I was a good student, not more than just above average. I had stayed away from drugs and drinking. I had injured my knee, wrestling. I remember praying and pining over a few girls. I was searching.
I remember that day I saw this video for the first time. It was gloomy and rainy. It is probably time and distance that jumbles the past together in ne single memory filled with emotions and hope. We were being devastated by storms. My bet friend Jon and I had taken pool floats and slide down a hillside near my home in the days before I saw this video for the first time.
Rain, rain, rain. Right before I saw this video for the first time I helped decorate the door of my first period class. I think it was geometry. I was bad at geometry but good at art. I was teamed with Adam. Adam and I set to our task and decorated the door with ease. I think we won the decorating contest. We at least won a prize. I was excited by this I had been a part of a winning team.
Adam died in these storms. He was caught in the floodwaters as they raced down the hillsides and out to the ocean. A few weeks later another student was killed as he and his friends were being chased. They were being chased by someone from the house they had just T.P.’d or egged. This student was crushed under the van they were driving as they took a turn to quickly.
Then there was the rebellion of 1992. April 29th, 1992. So many people were killed. I was jumped by a few people I had actually played football with. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was a white kid and represented the atrocities being perpetrated upon the African-American’s of Los Angeles. No hard feelings, it was bigger than me.
Rain, rain, rain. My mind was swirling with emotion. They girl I liked had rejected me. They life I had known had left me. My place in this world hurt and I was lost…searching for answers. I though, “Fuck you, God! I will worship you and be good when I am older. Fuck you for all of this shit in life.” I saw this video for the first time…I was freed.
I watched this video of angry youth demanding to be heard on their terms. I was floored, “We can demand to be heard?” I sat there my life never to be the same. Exhausted from the inner turmoil that had just exited my body. I did not even like the band so much. The song was not all that special. It was the moment.
The song reached out to me like the gospel to Paul. It opened my eyes and forced me to think on my own. It awakened in me the idea of a future that did not contain uniformity and held allowance for the hurt and anger I held deep within. I sat there in the living room unable to move. The Spirit moved over me.
In hindsight I can see the Spirit of God witnessing to me. God proclaimed this is the day you will walk. God called me and I heard. I answered many years later. They say your sense of smell is the most acute sense when dealing with memories. I agree. I can still smell the perfume of my first girl friend. It reminds me of rain. I can still smell my grandmothers cooking. I can still smell the nasty scent of my aunt Karen’s cigarettes. But I still do not know what teen spirit smells like. I bet is smells like…A mulatto…An albino…A mosquito…My libido. Yea.