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Musing on the loss of Bowie

Yesterday was a tough day. I work up in the morning and when I checked FaceBook I saw multiple "RIP David Bowie" posts. I couldn't believe it. It was just Friday that we were celebrating his birthday. I was shocked and just didn't want it to be true. I really hoped that I was still asleep and that if I went back to bed, my alarm would go off again and I'd get up again and check my feed to see the regular FB fodder; politics, cute animals and status updates. But not this was real and I was devistated. I wore all black (though that's not too uncommon, so it went unnoticed at work) and listened to Bowie and wept quietly to myself on the bus ride to work.

My denial seriously lasted throughout the day. I couldn't look at Facebook and see tributes without crying. I can't admit that was being this emotional to co-workers. The Admin for The President lost her son when he was in his mid 20s. The Associate Provost lost his best friend and roomate to sucisde over the holidays. I can't say "sorry guys, I can't adult today, one of my rock gods has proved to be mmortal after all." It has affected my mood however. I was angry that the world had to go on and I had to stifle my tears. I'm still finding myself to be testy and defensive and actually got called out on it today. Said I "was going through some stuff" and apologized.

The denial seems a bit misplaced as just the day before, on Sunday, I had my art date with Samuel. While I was in line to get my ticket at SAM, Sam asked me if I had got the new Bowie album and said I still needed to. As he was describing it, I almost wanted to reply that it sounded like it was like Johnny Cash's last album, how he knew it would be his last. But I didn't say it. I didn't want to accept that, myself, let alone validate that thought by saying it alloud.

Andy is out of town for work. My plan for Monday was to come home and tidy up the house listening to music and singing along loudy. When I got home, there was no change to that plan, I mean I really needed to clean. But after a Skype chat with Andy where I cried some more, I decided to keep with the plan and have a one-woman kareoke party to Bowie. It was difficult, my voice cracked a lot from holding back tears but I did it. When all that was left to do was laundry I decided to watch a film with Bowie, and not necessarily Labrynth. I had wanted to see The Hunger for years and finally got around to it it. I didn't realize his role was so small and what happens to him right off I guess you could say it was cathardic, given the circomstances. I eventually put in Labrynth but mostly just watched the musical seuences as I folded laundry, singing along more confidently than  before. When I was ready, I watched the two videos to Blackstar (and downloaded the album) and accepted his farewell to his fans. An artist to the very end. Class act.

So here it is, my personal eulugy to man I've never met, never even got to see live, but left a huge impression on me. The man whose music has served as a soundtrack to my adult life. The man whose song I walked down the isle to at my wedding ("Life on Mars," my favorite Bowie song.) This is no small loss to me. So here we go...

Like so many of my generation, my first exposure was through Labrynth, a huge favorite of mine as a child. That buldge taught me the difference between boys and girls at age 4. As I grew to s slightly older little girl I almost wore out the tape of the VHS playing "As the World Falls Down" and waltzing with an invisable Jerreth in the livingroom whenever my parents were out.

Whereas most kids discover Bowie in high school, I was a late bloomer in that regard. Much of high school was about The Doors, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, et cetra. The Velvet Underground discovery midway though my senior year pretty much changed my direction completely and it was the summer between high school and college that I picked up my first David Bowie record, a Best of. That transistional time between childhood and adulthood. i was living in Mountlake Terrace and already working at the university in Seattle. I had one foot in each of my worlds and I listened to that collection of songs on my portable CD player going back and forth. I built up from that Best Of CD to albums. My freshman and sophomore year in college were rough. I struggled to make firends. The days having a group of weirdos I could call friends in high school was behind me, and low and behold I was still awkward and was still growing a new identity within myself. Now I was just this lone weirdo, not living the on-campus to get to know people that way via the experience of college life. I was just comming and going, hoping for some friendly conversation over cigarette breaks. David Bowie, and in turn the whole genra he exposed me to of Marc Bolan, Brian Eno, Brian Ferry, etc. became my weirdo friends and my soundtrack. The message of glam rock, "the you be you, you beautiful weirdo" theme, helped me build  a bit a confidence and a bit of an identity.

In fact if it weren't for this music I wouldn't have one of my strongest friendships with one of my favorite people today if it weren't for our shared love of Bowie and the gang. I had seen Samuel on campus plenty before I ever talked to him. Who could miss him? He would walk along the quad with his headphones on and singing along to his music loudly, not giving two shits what anyone thought. I might have bummed him a cigarette a couple of times. But it was at Oni's party that we properly met and started talking about David Bowie and Marc Bolan and he boggarted the stereo for a while and we drunkenly sang together and a beautiful freindship was born.

Another memory I have, which sticks out in my memory so vividly was when I was on the Paris trip in college. One night, I was imbibing wine late into the night. My room mate was asleep. It was just me, a bottle of wine, cigarettes, a notebook and the Ziggy Stardust album on repeat as I sat at the window with my Parisian view of the latin quarter. For a while I was actually writing for the course in our course journals until I discovered I started to write the lyrics into my work. "Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don't think you knew you were in this song." When i realized what I did, since it was a class on impressionism and the rise of modern art, I rambled on for a while about self-refreencing art, breaking down the forth wall, and so on and so forth (my prof liked it I recall). When I got too drunk to really write any more I just listened and again, the song 5 years got me and I was playing it over and over untill I was in tears. The song hit me with such great existential weight. The desparation in his voice, the way Bowie sings "5 years, that's all we got" felt so real, it pained me. The anger and despair at being reminded of our own mortality was probably the impact of having spent so much time studying the work of long-dead artists. I felt the weight of mortalilty and how short our time is here. Five years, fifty years, a speck in geological time. An overwhelming sadness came over me and yet I was also at my happiest becasue I knew that I was there, alive and in fucking PARIS, I was in the moment and I was drunk and crying and so totally alive. That song, is still one of my favorites.

It wasn't long after that moment that I was bingeing on two other Bowie songs on repeat to deal with the realness of mortalitly. Right after I got back from Paris, and I mean the next day, my cat died unexpecidly. This was my childhood cat, a part of the family and my first experience with loss and, in turn, true, deep grief. I expressed my grief in listening to two songs off of Hunky Dory "The Beverly Brothers" and "Quicksand." The songs just perfectly mirrored my mood. "Don't belive in yourself, don't decieve with belief, knowledge comes with death's release" It was me kicking myself for having the time of my life in Paris, for finding myself so happy, like I had figured it all out, only to be humbled by loss of something that I loved, something that was a part of my childhood. I felt like the universe dole's out that happiness at a price, how naieve of me to not realize that. Like I had to be pulled back down to earth and reminded, for real this time, not just some drunken theoretical "ah ha" moment, that death is very fucking real and the sadness comsumed me. "I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought, and I ain't got the power any more."

Writing about these two experineces, in retrospect, as I sit listening to "Lazerus" right now I realize how delusional my denial was when I read the news on Monday morning. We're the ones who have slapped the cusred 'immortal' title on him. All the while he's been singing about mortality all along. If anything we should have been prepared for this. Becasue for between every "Let's Dance," "Rebel Rebel" and  "Heros" there is "Ashes to Ashes" and "We Are the Dead" (both other favorites of mine). Dark themes even in the most fun songs. But I guess, that too is also what I loved about Bowie.
That's part of the brilliance. Sure there's bruding and sadness but not in a woe as me it never ends kind of a way. He manages to convey an underlying sadness in the words "I'm happy, hope you're happy too." Becasue while I love just rocking out to the fun song when I really think about it, Bowie got me through grief. He helped me through lonliness. His music captured feelings I can only put into words by rambling on like this. It's like you have to look at the whole cannon, the full picture to see. "Ain't that just like me" he sings on this last album. Well played, sir, Well played.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2016 07:11 am (UTC)
Beautiful sweetie.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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