Sunday, January 24, 2016

Losing a Hero (Part I) - R.I.P. David Bowie

It has been exactly two weeks since the world saw the passing of David Bowie. I am tempted to write from the heart about this event and how it has affected me, but I have other pressing deadlines. Suffice it to say, I have been grieving. Some of you have not, but may be grieving for other recent losses (all to the evil cancer) such as Lemmy Kilmeister or Alan Rickman, or your own personal loved ones or heroes. 2016 is shaping up to be a painful year, so far, but I am holding out hope that great lessons will be learned and great hurts will be healed.

In the meantime, I have been listening to the entire Bowie discography in chronological order, with a few albums on repeat before moving on. I spent the first week crying, unable to sleep, unable to focus on anything but Bowie. My appetite was so diminished, I lost ten pounds or more. Random song lyrics would pop into my head, triggered by almost anything, and waves of grief would rip through my body.

Below, you will find the first thing I wrote, two hours after I received the news of his passing. It was the middle of a Sunday night (officially Monday morning of Jan. 11th). It hasn't been revised or anything...If you are a Bowie fan, you may feel the grief and shock in this piece, but if not, the lyrics may not capture my jagged emotions. I would love to know what you felt or thought.


Loving the Alien (Part I)

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)
~ Blackstar, 2015

January 10th, 2016 was the day that David Bowie died.
Close to midnight, I started getting messages on my phone that I didn’t check. They turned out to be from friends, who realized and shared the grief I would be in, once I heard the news: David Bowie was dead.

I know something is very wrong
~ I Can’t Give Everything Away, 2015

Saturday into Sunday….I slept. I dreamt of living in a sky blue apartment with my husband, James. An old friend of ours showed up, with David Bowie. Our friend disappeared, and James and I spent the entire day with David Bowie, just hanging out, having conversations about life and music.

It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see
If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to
~ Dollar Days, 2015

The day before was Friday, January 8th. For years, I have celebrated January 8th as a sort of musical matsuri, since it is the birthday of both Elvis Presley and David Bowie, i.e. the gods of rock’n’roll. I had spent that evening after work sitting at Starbucks, writing and listening to Blackstar on repeat. Blackstar is the 26th and newest studio album release by David Bowie. It had been released that day, January 8th, 2016. I hadn’t even received the actual CD or record that I’d ordered, yet.

Saying more and feeling less
Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That’s the message that I sent
~ I Can’t Give Everything Away, 2015

When I was little, I was very impressed by Bowie’s musical performance on Saturday Night Live. It was The Man Who Sold the World, with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias on backing vocals. They wore giant, avante garde jumpsuits and seemed to be acting the part of aliens from outer space. I was hooked. It introduced and turned me onto experimental music, avante garde performance art, glam rock, androgyny, and Bowie, himself. He was so interesting. And different. And alien.

He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
~ Blackstar, 2015

New Year’s Day 2016 was spent with James and a friend, watching Bowie videos, both new and old. I watched the video for Blackstar (the title track) again, later, three times in a row.
My first year of middle school, I began playing with makeup. I had always been a tomboy, and wearing makeup was less a move towards femininity than an artistic statement. I looked to it as a form of self-expression, and just needed to play around with who it was I was expressing. I remember replicating Bowie’s Aladdin Sane red and blue streak down my face. David Bowie continued to be an inspiration for my punk glam teenage makeup choices.

And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
~ Loving the Alien, 1984

In 2004, I was lucky enough to have been invited to see him live in concert at The Paramount in Seattle. James tried to tell me I shouldn’t go, if he couldn’t go, especially since it was just days before his own birthday. But, my birthday is three days after James’s, and there was no way I was going to turn down the invitation. He didn’t speak to me for a few days over it, but I was elated. In addition to my favorite hits, Heroes, Ashes to Ashes, and Ziggy Stardust, Bowie played my two favorite lesser-known songs, Life On Mars and Five Years! I couldn’t have asked for a better set list.
Three months later in April, the tour returned to Seattle, this time at the larger Key Arena. I bought tickets for James and myself. Floor seats were pretty damn good. The set list was close to the previous show I had seen, but without those two beloved songs of mine. It was like that performance was just for me and I was meant to be there. And then, I could share it with my husband.

We could steal time, just for one day
We can be heroes, for ever and everything
What d’you say?
~ Heroes, 1977

Nine years earlier, in 1995, James and I prepared to fly back to my hometown in Maryland for our wedding, at the end of October. It was announced that David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails were on tour, and would be playing near us while we were away. We nearly cancelled the wedding.

And I want to believe
In the madness that calls ‘Now’
And I want to believe
That a light’s shining through
~ Cygnet Committee, 1969

I was reading in the bathtub earlier tonight, which is one of my favorite things to do. At 1AM, I put down the book and picked up my phone. I had several messages from friends expressing their condolences to me. I was baffled, but concerned. It didn’t take long to see the news. David Bowie, who had just turned 69 days before, died peacefully in his home surrounded by loved ones after a long battle with cancer.

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
~ Lazarus

I cried so hard, sitting in the bathtub, that one of my cats began to paw at the shower curtain in concern. An hour later, I was still sitting there, crying, water drained. James came in and asked what I was doing. I found it difficult to say the words.
“I knew it!” he cried. “I fucking knew it! I had that feeling.” Which just made me cry harder.
“I’d just had that dream…” I reminded him. Of us, hanging out with Bowie, in a sky blue apartment.
“I’m sorry,” he said to me.
I got out of the tub and sat down to write this. I listen to Blackstar, the entire album full of lyrics that have new meaning in light of his sickness, his knowing, his passing. I cry, over and over again.

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?
~ Lazarus
______________________ ~ fin ~ _____________________

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