I don't know how to handle this loss.
I awoke in the middle of the night with the TV left on CNN. The screen was the only light in the room, casting strobe effects about the walls. I could only sit and stare at it, gazing but not believing.
"David Bowie dies at age 69."
Ozone or whatever crackled ever so slightly around the screen from the device having been left on for so long. Other than that there was silence. Save for the screams in my head, shrieking one word.
I don't even know where to start this post. By now you should know that I'm quite a big fan of David Bowie, so today's news comes as a roundhouse blow to my gut. What do I do? How do I even begin this digital wake for one of my artistic heroes?
Deep breath in. Here goes...
My introduction to Bowie came from Duran Duran. I thought Duran was doing something marvelous, something never seen before, but in fact they were borrowing liberally from Bowie's book. That is by no means detrimental to my favorite band. For Bowie sampled and copied as well to create his "pudding" as I heard him call it on NPR today, that amalgamation of so many different influences that once mixed together, becomes something new and unique. Bowie was a genius that way and without him there never would have been a Duran Duran and without them...well, I just don't want to consider that kind of a universe. Things are bad enough as they are right now.
Sorry. I'm all over the place. No coherent thoughts...and that kills me because he deserves only the highest tribute. But maybe in a way I am paying fitting homage with this random, rambling, stream of consciousness post. He collaborated often with William Burroughs, composing songs through the cut-up method. At the "David Bowie Is" exhibit last year, I even saw Bowie's 1990s computer with a cut-up generator/program.
Really not keeping this together. The morning has gone by and I've for all intents and purposes been in a numb state of shock. Then "Heroes" came on the radio while I was in the car. I had to pull over for a period of unrestrained weeping.
What is it? What? It's a question that grates on me. "Why do you like this [band, writer, artist, et. al.]?" Like I owe anyone a justification or there needs to be a reason. In this case, however, I believe the question has allowed me to isolate just what it is that makes Bowie so great in my eyes. As day now gives way to night, I think I'm close to an answer.
Ever been around a little kid who tells you he or she wants to be an astronaut? Then the next day they tell you they want to be a fireman. By the third day they're on to marine biology. Most adults roll their eyes and get a laugh out of it. "Oh those unfocused kids. They'll grow out of it. Eventually they'll see that you absolutely must pick one thing and stick with it. Society...and the bills you must pay...demand it."
I think Bowie was that kid. Was he a fireman? An astronaut? A marine biologist?
Like the kid, he was all of those things at different times. The difference being, he would not allow society to break his spirit or instill him with such fear that he would not pursue all things no matter how disparate. Was he a man? A woman? Something else? Was he Ziggy? Aladdin Sane? The Thin White Duke?
I mean, he was all of them.
That was his brilliance. He was fearless. In a society that nearly has conniption fits when it cannot safely categorize you, Bowie refused to be categorized. He was going to be whatever he wanted and what he wanted was going to constantly change. It might be lipstick and eyeliner. It might be alien skin. It could also be an elegant, stylish, suit and tie. Bowie himself could never figure out how to be categorized so no one else knew what we were going to get.
"I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human."
As I said, that drove many people nuts...while it fascinated and enthralled many others, myself certainly inveigled over time. I believe that schism is what allowed David Bowie to play the role of the "outsider" so supremely. He didn't feel that he quite fit in any one niche because he was truly so many niches at once. If you can't fit in any one place, then where do you belong? Nowhere. And everywhere at once. Truly "alien" in every sense of the word.
It's no surprise then how at home Bowie always seemed to be in the science fiction milieu. Whether it was Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, or The Man Who Fell to Earth, he came across as more of a genuine alien than anything ILM ever churned out. This sense of displacement, of rejecting the common consensus of reality and eventually paying the consequences as the outsider...that really resonates with me.
"Don't hold your breath
But the pretty things are going to hell."
Obviously it does with millions of other people as well. I think that happened for many reasons. Yes, the songs were exquisitely composed and David Bowie was an artist who left as much of a visual impression as sonic, but there's something else. I think that we envy the outsider...even as we dread his station. We want the freedom to be whatever we want. We wish we could change whatever that is to suit ourselves at any particular time, shrugging off old skins, adopting new personas, and reinventing ourselves as we wish.
That is why I love David Bowie. Not simply for the amazing songs and striking, indelible visuals permanently affixed to my pupils, but for the kinship I feel with him. I certainly do not mean that I'm on the same artistic level as he was. Not by the longest shot. I do, however, strongly identify with his desire to be so many things at once, to let the creative spirit take me wherever it wants to go for it surely won't be boring like the rest of the world is.
"I can't tell you where I'm going. But I promise you it won't be boring."
"It's an odd feeling, like something else is guiding you, although forcing your hand is more like it."
He was my friend.
I'm aware of just how utterly outlandish that sounds. I never even met the man. He was utterly unaware of my existence. Despite that fact, I still felt as though I knew him. I so strongly identified with his thousands of different interests and inspirations (including his more than a passing fascination with UFOs), that I harbored these crazy visions of the two of us sitting in a bookshop together, exchanging wry and witty observations about the world. At least his would be, I know. Not so sure about my own.
But now he is gone...and there is a black hole on Earth where a star once shone.
Tonight though, I know that the Starman is back among the stars. He is free of the confines of this petty planet. He has returned to Mars to ride the Spiders amid the pyramids and crumbling monuments and ruins of times past.
Me? I'm still here on Earth with everyone else. But I'll be leaving, too. At least for the moment.
Because crying uncontrollably in full view of my blog readers cannot be all that becoming.
"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"
Death...you may not be proud. For "we can be heroes, just for one day."
Like ESE on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets