It’s taken me a long while to be able to put my thoughts into words since David Bowie’s death in early January.
I’ve tried to describe how I feel and the best explanation I can come up with is that I feel as though a martial arts master has come at me full force, kicked me in the chest with both feet and sent me flying through walls and crashing to the ground. My chest physically aches, the world, at times, seems to be moving in slow motion, my brain goes in and out of a foggy coherence as I process the loss of David Bowie, one of, if not, the greatest influence on my life.
Yes, I’ve long lived in that delusional camp that always believed he was so magical he had to be immortal. In life, one generally only meets a handful of people (famous or not) who exude such charm, humor and genuine talent that they seem to sparkle to those around them. You rarely come across a person who is so innovative and willing to constantly try new things just to see what they come up with. He touched so many facets of art – music, theater, acting, painting, and producing.
My first memory of David Bowie is hearing the song “Changes” when I was about 8 or 9, the year I lived in upstate New York with my biological father. I have an image in my brain of sitting in the living room of this big, old, white house and the song is playing. I think the ch-ch-changes bit along with the phrase “and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds…” stuck in my young mind. What? Spitting on children? That was it. I’ve loved him ever since.
He is literally a part of me as I had his initials tattooed on my ankle (as part of a bigger tattoo) nearly 20 years ago. I was “detained” once, a long time ago, so he is also part of my permanent, legal record, a means by which I can be identified. I take him with me everywhere I go.
As Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) mentioned on Twitter, “It feels like we lost something elemental, as if an entire color is gone.” As if suddenly helium or aluminum is no longer part of the periodic table, yellow doesn’t exist anymore – lemons, bananas or the sun are void of color.
I was fortunate enough to have a couple encounters with him over the years in addition to the times I saw him perform live. Once, when he was on tour a friend and I got to meet him and take photos with him. A couple years later in Los Angeles, another friend got us VIP access for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno when David was going to be a guest. For some reason I got the idea to try and take our 8×10 photos with him into the studio. They usually made you check everything at the door and retrieve it when filming was over. I decided to stick them inside a Vogue magazine hoping they’d let me take the magazine in as something to glance at during the downtime in between takes. It actually worked. We had been placed in the front, center seats. During the commercial break, when most TV hosts and guests usually pretend there is an invisible wall between them and the audience, Jay asked David something then turned to the audience and asked if we had any questions we’d like to ask them. I quickly grabbed our photos and held them up. Jay sent a stagehand to collect them. Then it became a bit humorous. In the photos with David, my friend has her natural red hair and I had my natural medium brown, mousy hair. But sitting in front of David and Jay in the audience there was now a platinum blonde (my friend) and a nearly platinum blonde (me). They looked at the photos, looked at us and looked at each other with quizzical expressions and asked if it was really us. They were quite surprised and it made for a funny interaction. David signed our photos and then had them returned to us. I also lifted up my pant leg in an attempt to show David his initials which had recently been branded upon my ankle. He obliged by turning his leg toward me, and lifting up his own pant leg to show me the tattoo he had on the back of his calf.
Oh, and the fact that I’d called in sick to work so I could go only added to the humor when the next day 3 coworkers told me they saw me on TV the night before. Oops!
For me, watching a band I adore perform live is one of the very few things in life that truly makes me happy. I thrive on the energy and chaos of a live show. I marvel in the bumps & bruises obtained through frenetic dancing and singing. A My Chemical Romance show where my ribs still hurt nearly a week later after being in the front of the happy mob counts among my favorite memories. But seeing David Bowie perform was simply on another level. It transcended me into a euphoric state unlike any other. He always surrounded himself with amazing musicians who were so well suited to his sound & style. He was so beautifully handsome with an amazing smile and fantastic sense of humor and so immensely talented.
For one show, my friend Kim and I spent an entire cold, rainy, February day waiting in a line to see him perform a rare general admission show in Los Angeles on a tour that was mostly seated venues. I recall us being woefully under dressed for the weather while we huddled together under one umbrella for about 9 hours until they let us into the venue where it all paid off and we managed a coveted spot in the front row. The frozen toes & fingers are long forgotten. I don’t recall much of the set list, only that I was able to play with the strings coming off his purposefully frayed jeans; touch his beat up black Converse while he sang on the high stage above us. My friend Alison took this “artistic” photo of David & I because that’s all we could manage due to the height of the stage. We were close enough that when he held a long note I could actually see the texture in the roof of his mouth. It was magical & memorizing and one of my favorite nights.
To some degree I have been able to share him with my kids. When my son was about 8 I was able to take him to a few shows on the Earthling tour. At the time, he actually liked the seats that were farther away because he could better see when David launched this giant eyeball balloon into the audience where it was instantly pulled to pieces. My daughter is much younger and never had the honor to see him perform live but Labyrinth has always been one of her favorite movies and she understands how magical he was.
On January 8th, I happily downloaded Blackstar when I got into work and made my annual Happy Birthday post about David on my Facebook then gleefully plugged an ear bud into my ear to absorb the new music without any clue he was about to leave us shattered and heartbroken.
I’m blessed to have many international friends who graciously gathered up newspapers from around the world to send to me.
I’ve always been so biased in my opinion of great admiration and love for David Bowie, that I never really stopped to think about how many other people might also feel that way in varying degrees so it was mind blowing to the senses when he died to see the world react the way they did. My own life has been in flux the past couple years and the majority of my belongings currently reside in two storage units. I’m hoping soon I will be unpacking everything and perhaps, then I’ll have a Bowie fest and create a gallery of cherished items to come back and share with you.
My heart goes out to his family and friends. I thank them for sharing the public version of him with the rest of us. I’m grateful my time on this planet coincided with his.
I will always love David Bowie. He will always be my hero and one of the greatest influences and inspirations in my life that shaped who I am as a person.