Friday, January 15, 2016

Passenger of the Day: David Bowie

As we climbed from the runway leading to the north, departing Denver's airport, there he was, seated next to me. The Thin White Duke. Actually, he looked more to me like the Glass Spider, the David Bowie I saw in concert and came to love in the 80s. He sat silently, looking forward, unnoticed by the others on board.

Ziggy Stardust
I never cared for David Bowie when I was younger. Having grown up in Texas, he was a bit too far from center for the conservative ways I was surrounded by. I didn't understand him. He was odd, probably gay, and I didn't find his music appealing. But when I graduated and started college, my mind began to open up as I began to reach out with it to better understand my world. Bands I avoided in high school were now of great interest. Rush, Jethro Tull and Bowie were now some of my favorites. I do admit, I actually started liking David Bowie when “Let's Dance” was released in 1983. But it wasn't until college that I really appreciated his influence and his older work; Space Oddity, Changes, Suffragette City, Heroes.

And there was the actor side of Bowie. The strange alien who fell to Earth from a dying planet, the Goblin King and the dark twist on Vampires showed to me a man who had no fear in playing parts not of the mainstream. His sporadic work and interesting parts was always a thrill. I was a Bowie fan, but not a super fan. 

Bowie is "The Man Who Fell to Earth"

That's why the news of his sudden passing was such a shock. I had just come home from a trip and was on line catching up on things. I saw a friend had posted just few minutes prior about his death. I didn't believe it. He'd just released an album and celebrated a birthday, for crying out loud. He was too young to die, at 69! When his album, “The Next Day” was released in 2013, I thought it was one of his best and I couldn't wait to hear “Black Star”. I spent the next 18 minutes searching the Internet for confirmation, thinking surely this was just some cruel joke. When I saw that it was confirmed on multiple reputable news outlets, I still didn't believe it. So many of my friends were posting on social media. He had affected many, many lives around the world. Sadly, it must be true, and I struggled with how I felt about that.

Glass Spider Bowie
To have David Bowie pass away was like living in a magical house and finding out that the architect had died; the one who had created some of the most interesting spaces, the most unique lines and rich textures. In the world of music, he was one of the more inspired, most interesting and genius architects of sound. In the world of acting, he was nearly as prolific as his status as a musician.

So there I was, taking off from Denver. The news of his death was still settling in with me. I've not fully accepted the fact that he has passed away. I keep expecting to hear that it was a publicity stunt and that he's living in Berlin or South America or an island in the Pacific. Silly Bowie! I sat there and read an article about his life and times and tried to keep tears at bay. He had kept his fight with cancer a secret, and maybe knowing cancer got him and not me, six years ago, made the pain of his death more personal.

In the empty seat next to me was David Bowie; a polite British man, with those distinct eyes; his left one remaining fully dilated after being punched in a school-age quarrel over a girl. His hair fell comfortably onto his forehead. He smelled nice and looked dapper. I was listening to a compilation of my favorite Bowie songs on my MP3. He looked over and smiled. I nodded back and he disappeared in the haze of my tears. I looked out the window and could see the snow-covered ground glowing under a half-moon below. 

Bowie's dilated left pupil

Am I really living in a world without David Bowie? No. His work will long outlive me. But I will miss, terribly, his influence going forward. In his last album, in the song Black Star, he mentions someone taking his place. I don't think so, Mr. Bowie. No one could ever take your place. Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do. Welcome back to outer space.

*(No photos in this story are my property)

1 comment:

  1. One of the best pieces you have ever written Penguin. It made me cry and feel his loss. Thank you.