But Cobain didn't just stage-dive in Chucks. "He died in the things," points out Ad Age blogger Charlie Moran. "I mean, that's disturbing." Nevertheless, Cobain's gruesome finale hasn't proved much of an obstacle to the marketing machine. "He still represents the last bit of real mainstream rebellion, and I think that's really attractive to marketers, because he straddles a line by being this really incorrigible anti-authoritarian figure who, at the same time, was commercially very successful," Moran says. As with Che Guevara, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, or Bob Marley, Cobain's narrative can be shorn of its complexity and contradictions and boiled down to an image on a T-shirt. "He's an easily identifiable figure," says Ted Royer, the executive creative director at the Droga5 ad agency. "It's easy to poster-ize him, to break him down to basic elements." Late last year a taped-together Fender Mustang that Cobain had played and demolished sold for $100,000. "When I was a teenager, the idea of Kurt Cobain having his own sneaker—that would've been like sacrilege," says Ben Gibbard, 32, of Death Cab for Cutie, a Washington State band that formed three years after Cobain's death. These days, the deal-making doesn't irk Gibbard as much. "If they were making 'Heart-Shaped Box' into 'Eight-Piece Box' for, like, Kentucky Fried Chicken, yeah, that would offend me," Gibbard says. "But if it takes a Kurt Cobain Converse to remind people to go buy Nirvana records, that's fine with me."

In other words, well, whatever, nevermind. Seattle's the city of Amazon.com and Starbucks now. Local legend maintains that Cobain was last seen alive at Linda's Tavern, a Capitol Hill jukebox-and-burgers joint, although the man in the moth-eaten cardigan might not recognize the area these days. Thanks to a building boom and the heady influx of Pacific Rim tech cash, the neighborhood that once signified the apex of the alternative is flush with yuppie condominiums. In the same way, the disaffected youth who rallied around Nirvana in the early nineties have become affected adults. Many of them now live in those yuppie condos, and if they could afford it, they wouldn't mind buying a comfortable waterside house like the one at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard. "I'm not like them," Cobain sang back in 1993, and yet we'll never know for sure. He stopped trying to pretend, while over the years we've become less and less like him.