I know, because I’ve been given a Clue, that it’s around that time of these 30 or so days that I start to feel emotional about reality. Mine, of course, and our shared reality. Neither of which is always kind or sufficiently explained to us. It’s one of those nights where you start crying and stop, you shiver and you strain, and you keep thinking about things that hurt as though they were a flame you’re inextricably drawn to burn yourself on.
David Bowie was not necessarily someone who was important to me. He wasn’t important to me in the way Johnny Rzeznik was. Or Matthew Good was. Or Liz Phair. I didn’t buy his albums. My parents were never into Ziggy Stardust. I saw Labyrinth mostly to be indoctrinated into the allure of the codpiece, but preferred what I grew up watching: the Tangerine Dream seriousness of Legend. I loved the Flight of the Conchords’ 1-step removed imitation of the icon. Like everyone, I was caught off-guard by the news last night and was convinced for at least an hour that it was a horrible hoax. And like everyone, now I’m left to absorb the fact that we’ve lost a real icon, a real human being. I’m startled to find that perhaps he was more important to me than I ever realized.
I wasn’t sure I thought I’d check my Itunes, just to see. But I needn’t have wondered, because of course, there’s some Bowie in there. That was one part of his power. Omnipresence. Not looming, not lurking, just living on the periphery of your experience, waiting for half an invitation to come and thrill you before escaping again for further adventure. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to this song ever…Cat People, but it’s there waiting for me, like a audiomantic revelation. And I’ve been putting out fire / With gasoline!
Friends are sharing videos. I’ve been reading reminiscences from celebrities and reactions from everyone. Why does it feel like someone made a mistake? Like we still need David Bowie? Like none of us had ever added it all up and told the powers that keep the books out there that we needed more time to find the mustardseed? That we’d have genuflected at the font if we knew what it meant to do without him.
Maybe I never felt like I had to give my heart to David Bowie because he was bigger than any of my petty concerns. He was in the atmosphere. He was elemental in my mind, factual, permanent. His coolness equally so. I know now how much I took his presence, his talent, his history that built the pop culture I am so passionate about today, his out and out weirdness for granted. I feel like I could have been an excellent fan of his – I still could be – but I could have felt that connection with his music when I felt like I was nothing and no one and adrift on the rainiest South Atlantic oceans. I could have learned more about who he was before this instead of relying on collective memory, collective belief. I could have taken his umbrella from the storm and stood under it with other oddballs and off-brands and self-made creatures. I suppose I found other umbrellas, but it was the same storm and we were all weathering it together.
He shared my aunt’s birthday. He passed on my grandmother’s. A Capricorn with a sliver of the Devil in his eye.
That is the lesson in all of this. You have your window. Whatever it is. However long that you’ve been allotted. For all of it. For your passions, your hates, your learning, your feasting, your rock star idolatry. And as situated and stone-bound as you may feel, fate can swirl you up and away you go, onto your new, juicy adventure and all of this, grand and horrific and sublime and stupid as it is, goes away. So, yeah, I made the chocolate mug cake, and yeah, I’m writing this other dude back even though he has a kid and says Lol, and yeah, I feel loss for time spent blinking at popcorn ceilings and cringing in doorways. I feel regret. I want to know about the David Bowies of the world. I want to share my umbrella.