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Generation X-ers are meant to be the slacker generation, yet here was the slacker-in-chief living the yuppie dream: It proved to be no refuge for Kurt Cobain, the boy who had come from blue-collar nowhere and made himself an international star and millionaire. Holed up inside the house overlooking the perfume-scented lake, he pumped his veins full of heroin, wrote his rambling suicide note, and did so much damage to his head that police could only identify his body through fingerprints.

Dental records were no use, because nothing was left of his mouth. The neighbourhood will soon be back to normal. No one would ever admit it, but there is probably some relief that there will never again be nights like the one last year when police arrested Cobain after a resident reported hearing the sounds of domestic violence.

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He and his wife insisted they were merely jamming and then play-fighting around the house. And no repeat of the March 18 episode - just days after the Rome crisis - when Love called out the emergency services after her husband locked himself in the bathroom with three pistols, a rifle and 25 rounds of ammunition.

Now the house will be quiet. And soon there will only be a trace of irony hanging over the sign, not 50 yards from the Cobain residence, that says "Madrona - drug free zone. Listening to tonight's line-up at the Crocodile Cafe, grunge's equivalent of the Liverpool Cavern, you realise that Kurt Cobain got lucky. Nirvana once performed at the Crocodile to an audience of six, and they could easily still be here. They did not invent the sound called grunge, but they got the breaks: Seattle acknowledges that Britain was first to shift the city from the furthest northwestern tip of the US to the centre of the rock universe.

The punters at the Crocodile, in their punk-hippie hybrid garb of goatees, dungarees, and clothes from Value Village this area's Oxfam all say grunge died long before Kurt Cobain.

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It died when it became big, when the fashion industry got hold of it. Now, they say, they dress the way they do because "we're poor and it rains a lot", and if they occasionally still tie a flannel shirt around their waist, well, that's because it gets cold. They give equally short shrift to the notion that Cobain was any kind of spokesman for Generation X, or that any such thing exists.

Next to her is Gary Paul, 28, who, despite a college degree is working as a postman - a textbook case of the X syndrome which has overeducated kids working in low-status, low-paid jobs, from office temps to despatch riders. All around him are people in the same position, but he is adamant that there is nothing that unites them. Kurt Cobain would find such talk gratifying. He was utterly disdainful of his own role as the "voice of a generation".

Central to his message was a rejection of what he saw as the crude, commercial motive of labelling an age group. The "Teen Spirit" satirised in Cobain's most famous song is a deodorant aimed at young girls. The fact that Nirvana made millions by appealing to a niche market, partly defined by youth, was an irony not lost on Cobain, who wrote the words and music to all Nirvana's songs, as well as singing and playing the guitar on all of them.

The opening lyric of In Utero, the band's last album, was direct: It seems funny, this contract that existed between Kurt Cobain and people like the Crocodile crowd: But one can't fully escape the other. So much of what these kids are about - even if they deny it - was reflected in his short, urgent life.

Take the definitive extract of Cobain poetry, the couplet in Teen Spirit that manages to evoke disillusion, fatalism and inertia in a stroke. His dyed red hair nearly covers his eyes, falling behind the lenses of his retro, Buddy Holly glasses. He's drinking bloody Marys tonight, and paying no attention to Flake, the band strutting furiously on stage.

You're at a crossroads, and you don't know what to do," he says. We all feel the monotony, we all feel we cannot control our circumstances. And all those feelings are there, in the music. If it's frustration you're after, there's the screaming rage of Cobain's singing, the screech of metallic guitar noise and lyrics like, "Gotta find a way, a better way.

Try "Stay Away", or the verse which explains, "I'm not like them, but I can pretend. The untrained ear might strain to hear what's new in all this. After all, punk, with its near-identical message, happened a long time ago. Nearly 20 years have passed since the Sex Pistols swore at Bill Grundy, and the Adverts - to name but one - snarled, "It's no time to be 21, To be Anyone.

Kurt Cobain saw this point himself. But punk never made the breakthrough in the US that it did in Britain. The Sex Pistols may have reshaped the pop landscape in the UK, but punk stayed marginal here. The result was a vacuum which Kurt Cobain stepped into effortlessly. But Cobain did more than resuscitate punk to rehash perennial themes of teen rebellion.

He had an instinctive feel for what made his audience's growing pains different from those of their predecessors. According to Newsweek, "grunge is what happens when children of divorce get their hands on guitars". The one hard item of demographics amid all the guff about Generation X is that, more than any other group in history, they come from broken homes. She knows that Kurt Cobain's mum and dad, a secretary and a car mechanic, split when he was Bob, Mara and friends understood what Cobain was up to when he jetted off to Hawaii to marry Courtney Love, leader of the band Hole, in They watched the ceremony not knowing that Cobain was juiced on heroin at the time , and wished him luck.

They had heard the star say he proposed to Love because she was "the best fuck in the world", and they'd seen him show the scratches on his back to prove it, but they identified with another, deeper motive. They knew well that urge to find a home, to belong to a family. She ran away after her parents' break-up, and curses Cobain for inflicting a similar, parentless future on the month-old Frances Bean he has left behind.

Having seen Cobain's attempt at domestic bliss fail, she is more pessimistic than ever. It's TV, and you're not told. The cynicism is unsparing. Bereft of the idealism of flower-power, or even the exuberant iconoclasm of punk, grunge is a movement entirely without coherent politics. She remembers taking sedatives to calm her fears of a nuclear holocaust.

Kurt Cobain: an icon of alienation

Now she gets her news from MTV. Kurt was the same way, stumbling only rarely into politics. He occasionally called on his fans to support the rights of women and gays. But he spoke just as often about his passion for guns. He kept an M and 10, rounds of ammunition in the hall cupboard, unselfconsciously parroting the right-wing line about the right of Americans to protect themselves. This is what distinguishes Nirvana and its generation most from the teen rebellions that have come before. Hippies and punks were both public movements, whether they were strumming to stop the Vietnam war or spitting about Anarchy In The UK.

Both believed in the possibility of change. But Cobain, like the plussers who listen to him, was private and self-absorbed. He knew this introspection was unattractive, once describing his public image as a "pissy, complaining, freaked-out schizophrenic who wants to kill himself all the time. In this, he was a Generation X exemplar. Typically, Cobain's suicide note, read by Courtney Love to the thousands at the Seattle service, did not complain about Aids or divorce or homelessness or any of the other things said to be preoccupying the post generation.

It talked about the chronic stomach condition which Cobain always said impelled him to use heroin, "to medicate himself". For one thing, it proved that Cobain's pain was no affectation: But it was also grimly appropriate that the boy-prince of the brat generation should die complaining of a tummy ache. Cobain reflected even this, the ugliest of Generation X's traits: Cobain was smart enough to send up the sentiment. And his grieving widow, reading his suicide note to the fans, was able to show similar contempt.

When she came to the passage in which Cobain moaned that he was a "sad, little, sensitive Pisces-Jesus man", she stopped reading and yelled at the ghost of her dead husband, "Oh, shut up! Aberdeen, Washington is not yet a shrine, but it may become one soon. Already, graffiti adorns the wall of a burnt-out restaurant: This shabby, peeling town of 16, lumbermen, loggers and fisherman, was where the frail, blue-eyed blond with a penchant for drawing and poetry grew up.

The mile road between here and Seattle is full of lorries packed with tree-trunks, stacked like cigarettes. There is timber everywhere, firs and pines scraping the sky like sharp pencils, and cut into tiles on the houses - including the neat, green one where Kurt Cobain's mother still lives. Her son was born in February , and, he said later, he was happy for seven years after that. In his farewell letter, he wrote that he had felt "hateful toward all humans in general" from age seven onwards. His parents divorced when he was eight, and he didn't speak to his father until he started making hit records.

After the divorce, the child turned inward. The teachers at Aberdeen High School remember him as withdrawn, someone the other kids would avoid. He bunked off most of the others, only to sneak back into the library. Surveying his art-room, Hunter points out Kurt's seat, close to his own. A rock station is playing on the radio, just as it would have done then. Cobain used to offer a song-by-song critique of whatever came on, usually "pretty sarcastic", says Hunter. The teacher held on to oneCobain effort which he thought showed exceptional "originality, creativity and sophistication".

I've written before about parental alienation, about the pain and suffering endured by parents whose children have been alienated from them through the other parent's tactics, usually in a high conflict divorce. Since my initial posting, more media attention has shed light on this devastating phenomenon.

The true target of this aggression is the other parent, and children are their weapons. Therefore parental alienation is a form of domestic violence. In her TEDx talk, Harman discusses how ingrained cultural stereotypes about parenting roles affect this phenomenon. Yet people are often quick to believe that a father is abusive if a mother says so, because our cultural programming dovetails with her claims. They're deadbeat dads, they're abusive, they're absentee parents. Many alienated fathers I have interviewed have told me that their once-close friends and neighbors suddenly believed horrible things about them without hearing their side of the story," Harman says.

At the same time, she points out, "It's very easy to alienate mothers when we can show that they are unmotherly. For example, if a mother leaves early to pick up her children, how would you rate her abilities as a parent compared to a father doing the same thing? So fathers can alienate very effectively if they can show that they are exemplary, which is not hard to do because we do not expect much of them in the first place, and if they can show that the mother is not motherly enough.

Our rigid parenting stereotypes are hurting children and families. While a mother can accuse her former husband of abuse and her allegations receive the weight of cultural programming, a father can use claims of mental illness to the same devastating effect: Our subterranean gender expectations lend undeserved credence to his accusations. Therefore a man who goes around telling everyone that his former wife is crazy is a man who is committing an aggressive act of domestic violence against his former wife. And a woman who falsely accuses the father of her children of abuse is doing the same.

The general public can have a hard time understanding parental alienation. According to Harman's research, some 22,, adults in the United States are experiencing it. Many people know someone who's been targeted, but they vaguely think that alienation just comes from a bitter divorce.

On some level, they believe the target parent must have done something terrible for the children to be alienated; this assumption is false and devastating for the target parent. It is "blame the victim" mentality. There's also the common misconception that "it takes two to tango" and therefore both parents caused the alienation, which is not true, any more than it is true that the victim of a bully caused the bullying.

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Parental alienation is unmitigated human aggression, and it is often one-sided. This aggression is strategic.

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As Harman notes, alienators often use cultural gender role stereotypes to accomplish their aims. Those stereotypes, because they are intrinsic and shared, will engage everyone around them. Alienating parents know that. Friends, neighbors, teachers, professionals, and therapists get caught up in the accusations of abuse or of mental illness--of bad parenting by one parent. Target parents feel shocked and bewildered at the through-the-looking-glass false world that springs up around them.