I’m worried about an intimate friend of mine who doesn’t know I exist. We’ve met before, but there’s no reason for him to remember. I remember, though. It was brilliant.
It’s Nick Cave. I’m worried about Nick Cave.
I was thinking about him this morning during my drive to work. I was in a real crap mood. Everything just seemed so bleak and blah and I was being a total brat. I’ll put it this way: I’ve been listening to a lot of Nirvana lately. A lot of Nirvana. I need it. I’m living off it. In the morning, when I’m grumpy and groggy and stuck on a crowded, winding freeway, all I want to hear is the MTV Unplugged in New York album. I’m usually turning onto Melrose Avenue by the time Kurt Cobain starts telling the story about Lead Belly’s guitar. “I even asked David Geffen personally if he’d buy it for me.” Kurt, you little punk.
I was feeling very thankful for Kurt this morning as I drove along in my solitary angst — he was making me feel less solitary. This feeling of gratitude made me think of a different time in my life where I relied on an artist to get me through the day — it was 2012, and I was on my first Nick Cave Bender. I was unemployed, I was living with my parents, and I had just gotten my hands on a copy of Let Love In. Something shifted. I lost and found myself again and again in images of the devil crawling along my floor.
Yes, I realize I sound like an emo kid straight out of 2003 when I say that kinda shit, but I suppose that’s appropriate — I was, after all, depressed and living with my parents. Nick Cave gave me something to do. It became imperative to go out and find all of the Bad Seeds albums. I absolutely had to get my hands on all of the concert DVDs. I needed to read all the old interviews and watch all the behind the scenes footage I could possibly scrounge from the depths of the information superhighway. Nick Cave was my comfort and my company. Creepy? I dunno. Maybe? Not really. I was just lonely and bored and sad and filling out job applications seemed a lot less meaningless whilst listening to “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry.”
When Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds announced in November 2013 that they would be coming to Los Angeles the following summer for a show at The Shrine, I immediately set my alarm for 5am so that I could get pre-sale tickets the following day. Months later, they announced a second show. It sold out within minutes, but I managed to find a pair of tickets on StubHub for a sum of money I’m not proud of paying. (I am proud, though. Secretly.) A third show was added — a solo one with limited seating — and I busted out my debit card one final time. In July of 2014, I saw Nick Cave three nights in-a-row, and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever, ever done.
I did talk to him. Twice, actually. The first time was during the Q&A that followed the solo show, and the second time was in the parking lot of The Shrine after the second show. He had changed out of his sleek black sport jacket and into a blue velour zip-up sweater. He was busy taking a picture with someone, and when he finished, he turned to face me. I didn’t do or say anything weird — I just asked if he’d sign my friend’s copy of King Ink. He instinctively knew to spell her name with one “L.”
I shouldn’t have been looking at my phone this morning, but I was. I was at a stoplight and I picked up my phone and looked at my Facebook and saw that my friend had sent me an article. The headline sealed the fate of my day: “Nick Cave’s Teenage Son Arthur Dies After Cliff Fall.”
I threw my phone onto the floor of my car and unleashed a guttural, primal, “NOOOOOOO.” The light turned green.
“Never look at your fucking phone while driving, Steff,” I thought. “Never do that again.”
“I know, I know, I shouldn’t,” I answered. “At least I was at a stoplight.”
“I know. But don’t do it again. Ever.”
“I won’t,” I said to myself. “I promise.”
I meant it. I do mean it. Because life is fragile. How we manage to forget that for such long stretches of time is truly amazing.
When I arrived at the office and parked my car and turned off the engine, I picked up my phone from the floor. My cousin had also sent me the article. I read it. It pretty much repeated what the headline had already summarized. A cliff. A fucking cliff. A 15-year-old boy had died after falling off a cliff.
A few months ago, my younger brother and I saw Nick Cave in Hollywood. He was there to read excerpts of his new book. He didn’t sing anything — just talked and read. We were in the second row and I was ecstatic to just be in the same room as my hero, my caretaker, my girly obsession. The first thing he read was an excerpt about a little boy walking across a treacherous bridge. The little boy was him — this was a memory.
Nick Cave’s family was in the audience that night.
With eerily appropriate timing, my younger brother sent me a message that just said, “Nick Cave’s son 😦 “ Before I could respond, he added, “It’s even sadder thinking back on what Nick was saying at that book reading, about being a kid in Australia walking on bridges and the wives tales about the boys that had fallen off.”
I exited the car. When I got to my desk and opened up Facebook again, I saw that another one of my cousins had sent me an article about Arthur Cave.
A co-worker appeared in my doorway. He said, “Hey.” I turned to face him, and I guess my face said everything — the next words out of his mouth were, “I know. I read the sad news. Terrible.”
I sat with the sad news. I thought about Nick Cave, the dad behind the fierce suit and the sexy, bloody love songs. I thought about his wife, Susie, the stunning model who gave birth to twin boys 15 years ago. I thought about Arthur’s twin brother, Earl, and wondered how he must be feeling right now.
Nick Cave, the dad.
I only know Nick Cave’s music. I don’t know Nick Cave, the dad. I’m a superfan, not a stalker. However, being a superfan of another human being’s art is kind of a complicated thing. How do you give back to an artist whose music has helped you through so much? Is it even possible? Perhaps the most efficient and affective way to show respect is by leaving the artist alone — remaining a superfan instead of a stalker. I suppose a letter is always an option, but, unfortunately, a letter isn’t gonna solve shit. Not in this case.
I’ll just continue being a superfan. If he releases another album, I’ll get it. If he goes on tour again, I’ll see him. If he makes another movie, I’ll watch it. If he decides to retire, I’ll support his decision.
I’ll also give my parents huge hugs when I see them tonight. I suggest you all do the same. And stop looking at your phones while you’re in the car. If driving makes you feel anxious or bored or angry, you can always just put on some tunes. I have a few recommendations.
I’m so, so sorry Nick.