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San Diego Reader ?/?/??

Eddie, I Hardly Knew You
by Rob Jensen

In 1988 I was a UCSD student and doing the accounts for a Chevron station on Dowdy Drive, just off Miramar Road. It was here that I met Eddie Vedder.

My first impression was normal for meeting a co-worker for the first time; he seemed like a nice guy. He was of slightly smaller frame and had short, wavy hair. He had a friendly smile. He was funny and outgoing. Girls in the office thought he was cute. And they liked his short hair.

Eddie worked the graveyard shift and would get off work around 10 a.m. I saw Eddie in the morning, near the end of his shift, just as my workday was beginning. Since we were roughly the same age and the only two young guys who worked there, we talked often. He was a great storyteller. I'm not sure, though, if the stories he told were entirely true.

But he did seem sincere. He told me about how, as a kid, he starred in commercials, such as for Big Wheels. Another time, he described a Hollywood party he attended where, after downing quite a few drinks, he ran into the actors who played "Greg" and "Peter" on The Brady Bunch. Proudly, he described how he initiated conversation with the two actors by asking them, "So where's Bobby? Fucking Cindy?"

He told me about his adventures as a roadie at the Bacchanal. How he had set up for the Sugarcubes, then the next day took them to see the sights of San Diego. I was more into Van Halen myself.

He also told me about the band he was in, which I now assume was Bad Radio. He played all originals, at obscure clubs which I had never heard of. But then, my band was playing college parties. I wasn't interested in playing songs people had never heard before. Each of us was probably sure the other was completely wasting his time in music. I was convinced I could get more girls by singing songs they were familiar with.

Eddie gave me his phone number, even invited me to come over to his house and listen to some four-tracks he had recorded and possibly to jam. I thought, 'How can we 'jam' when you don't play any songs that I know? Sounds pretty lame!' I felt that my band was more of a success than his, playing big parties, while his wallowed in obscurity at small clubs.

What really surprised me was that he seemed so happy to be doing what he was doing. Once I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said he wanted to do music, to be a professional musician, and to go "all the way." A sarcastic "Good luck" went through my mind.

My temporary accounting job at Chevron ended. The drudgeries of school once again lay before me. I said goodbye to everyone at the office. Somehow I don't remember saying farewell to Eddie. I soon forgot about him.

A few years later, I saw him interviewed on MTV and didn't recognize him, although the name rang a bell. A couple of weeks after that, hearing the name repeatedly on MTV and reading somewhere that this hot new band's singer hailed from San Diego, I finally did make the connection.

But who was this quiet, frowning person in the magazines and on TV? The Eddie I vaguely remembered was a funny, outgoing, smiling guy. This person was angry, hushed, distant, wearing a constant expression of grave concern. He sang in agony, in grungy clothes, arms folded acoss his chest. In interviews he expressed deep disappointment with his success and with life in general, often barely able to complete a sentence without struggling to find the words.

Since then, I've come to realize I probably didn't know him as well as I thought.

I won't be going to the Pearl Jam concert. Their newer stuff just isn't my type of music. Or maybe I'm just jealous.