I ran into the ghost of Chris Cornell at a Savers secondhand store, of all places, in Albuquerque last weekend.
I remember being kind of awestruck by how close this man’s appearance was to the real Cornell, who killed himself in May 2017. For those of you not aware of whom Cornell was, he was the lead singer of the ’90s grunge band Soundgarden, whose biggest hit was “Black Hole Sun.”
Cornell is more than a Wikipedia rundown to me. His music was the soundtrack to my entire adolescence and stood as the high-water mark of how great a band and singer could be.
Besides blowing my mind with the almost-perfect album “Superunkown,” Cornell personified what it meant to be a star, seemingly humble and wise beyond his years during interviews. Although I never had the honor of meeting him, I felt a deep connection to him and his music.
So now here I am, in the aisle of used shoes at Savers, projecting all of this emotion and expectation on a stranger because he looks like someone I never met. I did my best to keep my space and not be weird, but then I ended up in line behind this man at the checkout counter.
Next thing you know, the checker begins commenting on how much this man looks like someone he knows. The checker pauses and I know what he is thinking, so I hold back for a second.
But then the checker prods the man more: “You look like…”
The pause seemed infinite, and I found the words coming out of my mouth almost involuntarily. “Chris Cornell,” I said in a warped slow-motion manner. The checker’s head nodded with a smile as he said, “Thank you, man, that’s it — you look like Chris Cornell!”
The stranger was kind and smiled at us both, acknowledging the similarity and hopefully the compliment. After all, we just compared him to a rock god.
Then I remembered a few years back when I was waiting tables and a group of children told me I looked like Seth Rogen. You know, that goofy guy from the movies “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”?
I said to myself, “Great. I look like the dumb sidekick from every early-2000s comedy.”
I gave the table great service, but could hear this comparison in my head for years to come. I thought about this after the whole thing went down at Savers.
Of course, we compared this man to someone we admired, but what if that comparison made him feel uncomfortable? So, I would like to apologize to this man for marginalizing him. I know how it feels, and no matter how good the intention is, I don’t know you.
It was an eerie reconnection I haven’t felt since the real Cornell’s death, and although you are your own person, it was nice to catch a glimpse of an old hero, even if it was only that, a glimpse.
Go in peace and forgive this old fan for projecting on you a piece of his youth. Next time I’ll just snap a sneaky picture with my phone.