Trippin' on a Hole

When I was in college, at the apex of the grunge/alternative music movement, I grew to like Stone Temple Pilots. They were (and still are) my favorite of the 90s bands. While at work one day (I was a waitress at an Applebees), the bartender, my friend Jeff, mentioned how he'd gone to the STP show the night before at UMass. I was terribly envious that Jeff had been to see them live. Jeff didn't realize I was a fan, and if he'd known, he said he would have brought me. Jeff went onto describe the opening number, STP's cover of "Dancing Days" and how Scott Weiland sang it sitting on a couch wearing an afro wig. It was well known that Scott Weiland was a heroin addict and was most likely losing that battle. This was early 1997. Neither Jeff nor I thought Scott Weiland would live to see another tour cycle, and that neither of us would see him perform live again.

We were only half right.

June 26, 1997, while driving home from our apartment, after a night of drinking, Jeff died. It was his own fault. It doesn't make it hurt any less, especially since we all knew he probably shouldn't have been driving. Especially since he refused the offer to stay at our place. Jeff had battled his own drug demons, and his return to Massachusetts was his attempt at a fresh start. He knew if he stayed at school in Miami, he'd wind up dead. His death occurred two months to the day after he'd been to that concert, and we'd talked about the most-likely imminent death of Scott Weiland.

That summer was hard on all of us. People changed. Grief does that to people. It can bring them together or tear them apart. We all missed Jeff. A week or so after it had all happened, I'd driven home to my parents' house. On the way back, just as I hit the NY-Mass state line, heading into the Berkshires, "Dancing Days" came on the radio. Even back in 1997, the STP version was not widely played.

Multiple times over the next two years while driving between NY and Massachusetts, I heard that song as I hit the border. I cannot for the life of me explain why, other than Jeff was with me. When I'd hear the song, I'd touch the guardian angel hanging from my rearview mirror, knowing Jeff was there. Cursing him for his stupidity. Laughing at the cruel twist that Scott Weiland was still here while Jeff was not.

I got to see STP in concert twice before Scott Weiland was kicked out of the band for good because of his drug use.

Then, the event that Jeff and I'd predicted in 1997 happened. Scott Weiland died of a drug overdose.

Today would have been Scott Weiland's 50th birthday. My Facebook feed is full of things about him, celebrating his life while mourning his death. I didn't know Scott Weiland, but I did enjoy his music. Instead of missing him today, I'm missing my friend who's been gone for over twenty years. Almost half my life.


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