I woke today a little groggy from a long, winter weekend with snow, friends and fun. I was tired, but the good kind of tired. My husband came back from his morning run with a pallor in his face and the question, "Did you hear about Bowie?" The question took me aback. I had just finished a shower and hadn't been online since the evening before. So, to his question, I said, "No."
It was shocking. Not only because I wasn't expecting to hear that. Not only because many of my musical friends were currently working with Bowie on a project. Not only because my musical partner Tim was in the middle of cross promoting Bowie's latest album, Blackstar, which he played on. I was stunned because, in a way, I never thought he'd die. How could he be gone?
I was in a fog to say the least. I made it through breakfast and definitely felt myself missing a lot of cute precociousness by Riley as I was adrift in the news and the not knowing and yet somehow knowing all at once (especially considering I'd watched the video for Lazarus just last week and just had a feeling about it). I got my daughter to day care and started driving to work listening to KCRW. Then "Life on Mars" began, and I started weeping. It came out of nowhere. I mean, I loved his music. I was a fan and consider him among my biggest musical inspirations, but I'd never even spoken with him. Why was I crying?
I began to remember all the ties to David Bowie I'd had over my life. My college boyfriend Amiel is truly responsible for steeping my ears in deep Bowie. I had known his cool 80s songs and always thought of him as a sophisticated pop star, but I didn't know much of the back catalog before Ami played it for me. Together we sought out the opening party for Bowie's one man painting exhibit in London back in 1995. I remember thinking as the doors of the navy Mercedes opened and one lone polished men's shoe emerged that this was someone "bigger than." I remember thinking how he and Iman were so beautiful, that they had some kind of golden halo around them as they entered the gallery. It was just otherworldly. And for the record, I'm pretty judgmental of the looks of celebrities when I see them for real. We were two of the many fans who'd gathered to simply look at him. We returned to the gallery a week later to actually see the show. I was impressed by the images I found there.
Next, I was newly fired from my out of college public relations job and looking to get into film in NYC. I was walking home in Morningside Heights in 1996/7 when I saw a film crew outside the then-abandoned psych hospital at 103rd and Central Park West. I was living around the corner from it and always wanted to get into that building. I walked up to a PA and asked if they needed additional PAs for the shoot. They did. I registered with the production team and was told to show up at 5 a.m. the next day. I woke much earlier than I had in ages and arrived on set. It was there that I realized I'd talked my way onto the "Little Wonder" video shoot for David Bowie. I wasn't part of the close crew and spent a good deal of time "abandoning post" in some decrepid stairwell that only the ghost might have been hanging out in to explore the old halls and peeling paint. I did remember one "close encounter" where Bowie was leaving set for the day. I was standing along side the parted crowd as he glided by. It was so strange. He literally seemed like he slid past me as if flying very low to the ground.
Then, I remember once when I was over in a writing session with Moby when he shared his favorite Bowie story with me. (If you don't know this, Moby is a huge Bowie fan. Just listen to Stars, which he admits freely is a big tribute to "Heroes.") As he said, he had Bowie over for coffee and at one point, they had an acoustic guitar there. Bowie played "Heroes," which is Mo's fave Bowie song, and it was a momentus life event for him. I could sense in his retelling that it was such a special moment for him. I felt lucky that he shared that story with me.
I've sung Bowie's music here and there over the years. I performed "Cracked Actor" at a David Bowie Tribute Night at The Living Room years ago. I've borrowed heavily from his psychedelic glam stylings in songs and costume. I've also admired his artistry not only in music, but in the diverse array of output (acting, painting, design). I always wanted to be a full artist who embraces and aspires to fill my life with beauty, grace, emotional sensitivity, drama, intellect, history and love. I was never good at specialization and find it kind of missing the point. But to be open to and embrace all life can offer as well as push the boundaries of what can BE, seems to be the best any human or artist should do. Bowie did that.
So, as if Mondays aren't tough enough to return to, we woke to hearing Bowie was gone. I'm sure I'll have some memory flubbs where I have a thought about him and begin to wonder what he would do... and then remember that he won't do because he's gone. It's sad. I feel like someone hit the pause button and I'm spinning a bit. This too will pass, but it's a big one... Sympathies go out to his family and closest friends. The world grieves.