what have i become? my sweetest friend
everyone i know goes away in the end
you could have it all, my empire of dirt
i will let you down, i will make you hurt
if i could start again a million miles away
i would keep myself, i would find a way

So ends "hurt," Trent Reznor's most mournful composition for Nine Inch Nails. You can tell from the lower-case "i"s (which he manages to enunciate) and from the overall tone that he's in a bad way. But what you can't see is how beginning just before the quoted lyrics, the spooky, brittle tune is invigorated by a deep thrum thrum thrum thrum on a guitar led by single notes on a synthesizer. Then starting with "you could have," a louder, harsher tone on the guitar and pounding drum beat syncopate the words, at once maximizing the cynicism of the offer and the tunefulness of the heretofore whispered song. Both music and vocal back off suddenly for the next line and a half, then while his voice fades the music crescendos on "i would find a way," and signs off with white noise and feedback-a sonic equivalent of aimless ambition and half-assed plans. In defiance of expectation the song leaves a happy, jazzy, if unfocused residue on the listener's ear.

"hurt" was the last song NIN played at the America West Arena on the evening of June 4, and a fitting capstone to the day's events. Which began with the funeral of my Great Uncle Max.

Uncle Max is inextricably connected to my fondest ideas of Arizona, the Arizona that is big and open and not too hot (yes, it happens). He was a natural born gentleman. Hospitality and generosity were so ingrained in him you forgot to notice how exceptional those qualities are-there was simply no other way he would have behaved. And I think he would have liked his funeral, even though he never struck me as the sort who would give his funeral a second thought.

For the record, I have given my funeral a good deal of thought, though the only idea I've ever stuck with has something to do with winged skulls. Exactly what changes, but I think it would make a nice motif.

Once I told my siblings that I wanted to hear laughter from The Beyond. Pat asserted that would be no problem as people were already in the habit of laughing at me, and Lauren spoke fondly of the volumes of incriminating photographs she had stored that would set them off if they seemed at all bummed at my passing. But if it turned out like Uncle Max's, I would be more than satisfied and not feel the need to haunt anybody (I'm looking at you, dear brother, dear sister). Any occasion that brings together our far flung family, and culminates in conversation and food has to be on this side of good.

Even better was the gossip, which was refreshingly happy, and hot enough that Uncle Max's daughter Maryann stopped the procession from the coffin to drop hints about it. Of course, there was nothing really new about the news. The cat was already pretty much out of the bag and was just sitting around licking itself as cats will do, acting superior because it knew. Cats are a pain. But at last we had hard data to go with all the speculation we had been doing on the topic of What's up with Karolyn and that Benny guy? Everybody knew they had been canoodling to beat the band. Now that they're engaged we've got to put the newest family member (sorry Sydney, you've been displaced) in our sites, looking for sore spots to poke.

Speaking of sore spots, I'm going to skip ahead here, past all the pleasant chats and how nice everybody looked, because, forgive me, the Nails' concert was much more interesting.

Because the morning was taken up by the funeral and the afternoon by more visiting at the Jensen home, I didn't have time to assemble a look for the evening. If you're wondering why my funeral attire wouldn't do, you must be thinking of tons of black crepe and veils, and be living in a much cooler climate. Maybe my pioneer ancestors could have pulled off that ensemble, but they are all, tellingly, dead.

So as Pat and I raced home, I mentally rummaged through my drawers and closets trying to assemble an appropriate industrial/goth look. In my mind, I settled on a vintage Madonna wannabe via the wreck of the Hesperus, but when I surveyed my actual stuff I realized I didn't have the time or resources to pull it off. Besides, Pat was pounding on my bedroom door shouting HUSTLE, so I settled on what I like to call "Basic Goth Trollop," strappy black T-shirt, short black skirt, flat shoes, but really tall hair. I accessorized with a simple aluminum chain, which I was ordered to surrender at the door. Although it has the weight and threat of a heavy piece of yarn, the authorities thought I might want to use it as a weapon. Instead of handing it over, I hid it behind a bench. The plaza outside America West stadium was a mess, like the site of an Earth Day

celebration, and I thought my necklace would be safe amidst the litter. Once inside, I bought a tasteful NIN bondage bracelet so I wouldn't look so nude. Pat's outfit was inspired. Bucking convention, he was adorned in faded jeans, a kelly green T-shirt, low-key chain around the neck (which he got to keep-unfair), and a butterfly ring next to the skull ring. Sort of a Dangerous Hippie kind of look, but not filthy as hippies tend to be. And the shirt made him really conspicuous in a crowd, particularly that one.

The opening band was A Perfect Circle, whom I first saw in a primordial stage at Pat's Grunge Gone Glam show several months ago. They looked and sounded much better this time, having the benefit of more practice, a tighter line-up of musicians, an acclaimed album to support, and not performing in a barn.

Their performance clocked in at an efficient 42 minutes, then a curtain was drawn around the stage so NIN's crew could prepare it in secret. Unveiled, it was a model of stark, industrial glamour. Every bit of it was functional, and it all glittered. The band itself, looking fashionably decayed, was the visual counterpoint to the set design, and emblemized the music they played-songs about rot accompanied on impermeable electronic instruments, songs about lethargy and helplessness executed with many gigawatts of energy. I may have been born too late to see The Who wreak havoc on stage, but NIN manages to destroy at least one synthesizer per performance. But their shows are not all about violence. As in any good drama, they also plumb depths of despair, loveliness, and grace, and the final effect is cathartic. And it's the only music I've ever felt comfortable moving to.

I know for a fact that up to and probably over ninety percent of Cobra readers would never consider attending a Nine Inch Nails concert, and that anything I say or write would more likely reinforce that conviction than diminish it. Will you believe me when I say that the net effect is euphoric? So much so that when the concert goers left the arena, the street musicians who were belching out "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "The Candy Man" on their respective corners were tolerated rather than given the beatings they richly deserved, and that I hardly minded when I discovered my necklace had been swept away with the trash?

Note to self re funeral: banner reading "fresh blood through tired skin/ new sweat to drown me in/ dress up this rotten carcass just to make it look alive." Replace "Nearer My God to Thee" in hymnal with "Closer to God." Winged skulls-somewhere. Dancing.

(Written by Sharon C. McGovern)

From Vol. 19

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