Loving the Alien: Remembering David Bowie
|Heel head over, but we're strangers|
when we meet...
Bowie's death has affected me the most. I got a text at 6 a.m. last Monday from my friend Donna with the news that he was gone at age 69, succumbing to the cancer he'd been diagnosed with 18 months ago. The weekend before, his new album, Blackstar, was on repeat. I'd watched the haunting "Lazarus" video over and over, proclaiming it as one of his best songs ever not knowing this album, these songs and that video were his carefully curated goodbye to his fans and this world.
In Bowie terms, I was a "late fan." I discovered him post Ziggy Stardust, post Aladdin Sane, post Thin White Duke. As an '80s kid, my introduction was the pop-jazz punch of "Let's Dance." This Bowie was nattily dressed in linen suits, perfectly coiffed blonde hair and looking incredibly handsome. He was made for MTV, which dawned just as Bowie's space odyssey crash landed back on Earth in an era of excess and narcism that he had already decided to eschew after indulging in all the sex, drug, rock 'n roll cliches and foibles of the '70s.
|Put on your red shoes|
and dance the blues...
Bowie was an artist who had been part of the soundtrack of my life for more than 30 years. He was so larger than life, so otherworldly, that he did seem immortal. Bowie's androgyny and fluid sexuality made my coming out a liberating rather than frightening experience. He informed so much of my early poetry and writing. The Outside album – planned as the first in a series of storytelling-style albums with music and spoken interludes – is a criminally underrated masterpiece. Outside arrived in 1995, a pivotal creative year for me as my poetic voice started to grow and I embarked on the trip to London and Paris that would inspire The Venus Trilogy. "The Heart's Filthy Lesson," "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town," "Hello Spaceboy," "We Prick You" and "Strangers When We Meet" (which still brings a lump to my throat 20 years later) became part of the soundtrack of Martin Paige exploring beyond his – and my own – comfort zones in Conquering Venus.
The '90s were also when I really began to explore Bowie's entire oeuvre, realizing that I had heard so much of his work as a child in the 70s without knowing who I was listening to – "Life on Mars," "Fame," "Changes," "Golden Years," "Heroes, "Ashes to Ashes." I'd loved Bowie before I knew him. I'd also discover Bowie the actor – The Man Who Fell To Earth, Labyrinth, The Hunger and his bizarre appearance as FBI agent Philip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
|Ain't that just like me...|
From what I've read in the past week, Bowie faced his mortality with grace, humor and determination. He didn't want to leave his art unfinished. I identify with this most of all. I am not afraid to die – and I hope I have quite a few decades ahead of me – but I want to finish what I've started as a writer. I have another poetry collection and a book of connected short stories in progress, an idea for another trilogy of novels exploring some of the other characters who appeared in The Venus Trilogy and a travel memoir. That's a lot of work and I expect it to keep me busy right up until the end of my life. There's a comfort in that and also a feeling of excitement and only the slightest sense, right now, of urgency.
Thank you for everything you gave us, David Bowie – you Starman.
The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time. - DB