Monday, January 11, 2016

Time Takes a Cigarette ...

All images, this post: Wikipedia

Just before 6:00 a.m., I got up with the alarm - which has been a challenge for me over the past couple of months. Got cuted up and dressed, fed the resident beasties, wrapped myself up warm. Took Penelope the Publishing Pup for a walk, where it was cold and dark and still so quiet.

Got in the car and got out onto the road.

And heard that David Bowie has died.

I won't go all schmoopy and pretend to be profound. I'm forty-seven now, not thirteen, and it is harder to respond to news like this as I did when John Lennon was murdered.


Bowie means a lot to me. He always has. Seeing him live was the second real concert I ever went to (my first was The Clash; all the rest had a lot to live up to); I caught his towel, along with my friend MM. When my mother WASHED the towel the next morning, I reacted as any good teenaged Bowie fan would have, circa 1984: "Muh-THURRRRRR!" Like, ohmigawd, she'd never understand. I cut that towel in half, gave the proper piece to the other catcher, and still have my piece to this day. It is an indifferent towel; light, creamy beige, with a poorly-rendered flower border. Yet, once, it held the sweat of a superstar.

I was never quite able to throw that towel away. I found uses for it. It cushioned a television set from scratching my grandmother's cedar chest for some years. It was wig-stuffing. Nowadays, it is just folded, put away. Artifact of an icon.

I remember the summer I stayed at my Aunt L's house, when my parents were somewhere, my brother was somewhere - even Aunt L's kids were somewhere. I spent time alone in that house, which I thought was the coolest house in the world (so much more mod than where I grew up), and listened to Space Oddity.

It was So Important, once upon a time, that "Five Years" made me weep, over and over.

Diamond Dogs - it freaked me out, the way only a real STORY album can, the way albums used to be conceived and built, as experiences - and I was so susceptible to experience. Album cover art, in those times, was a gateway drug to what music lay inside; a beautiful (visually readable) size, rendering something more than mere product.

Ziggy Stardust - the studio album, the live one. I knew every moment from the latter; his banter, the sounds of the crowd, the asides of laughter and the grind of the guitars.

That time First Love and I were going to name our son Jareth, if we had one. (Like y'all didn't know I was a dork.)

When I gave my brother a copy of "Hours", the gift in its turn received one of the best thank you's I have ever been given for a present I gave: "I hope you got this for me because you've heard it."

Bowie was even more powerful than The Clash in my old-lady cred of the "I saw all the cool concerts" variety.

And yet, this morning, the tipping point arrived, when a guy at work (not excessively young, even), responded to my mentioning it with, "Who is that?" and was not kidding.

A guy who out-earned Michael Jackson in his day, a guy who existed in the earliest, highest stratosphere, who helped to invent the very concept of "rock god" ... "Who is that?"


Of course, I must get his final album, Blackstar, soon; from all reports, it is a fitting epitaph for the terpsichorean muse. For tonight ... Hours it is. Or Scary Monsters ... or Space Oddity ... or Aladdin Sane ...

If you took a couple of David Bowies and stuck one of the David Bowies on top of the other David Bowie, then attached another David Bowie to the end of each of the arms of the upper of the first two David Bowies and wrapped the whole business up in a dirty beach robe you would then have something which didn’t exactly look like John Watson, but which those who knew him would find hauntingly familiar.
--Douglas Adams, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish


Donnaeve said...

Yeah...what a gut punch, no?

I didn't know he had cancer, and if I was supposed to know because it had been reported 18 months ago, or however long I'd heard he was fighting it, then I missed that somehow. On the other hand, if it wasn't public knowledge - no wonder we're all caught off guard.

My husband and I were in the kitchen when it was announced, and I was like WHAT? WHAT???? As if I hadn't heard clearly - but I had.

DLM said...

He kept it private, which has a dignity to it. I have a mother whose greatest interest in conversation is to discuss the almost unbearably intimate details of other people's health - her family, her friends, people at church, people she meets and draws into these discussions. It is a lifelong fascination to her as a frustrated nursing student (she was not able to finish training), and it is sometimes extremely bitter to watch - when she does it to my stepfather, in front of him; when she used to do it to my dad, who would far prefer to have not shared nor dwelt on it.

There is a grace in sharing a personal struggle, and yet there are times I wonder how much of some celebrities' obstacles are being used by press agents to create angles and leverage money in one way or another. We've corporatized medicine and suffering to such a degree I've known of cancer patients who fear the "tyranny of hope" - the pink ribbon, the culture of "fight" when, for some people there is no "fight."

David Bowie lived every minute, and never let anyone suffer to think otherwise.

That's a class act. I'll miss the hell out of him.

I may even forgive him for getting braces and straightening out his glorious bite.