That’s the word I heard over and over on Monday morning as the news hit me in the face. And it was my own voice uttering it. It was 7 AM, and I had woken up early enough to have made coffee and fed the cats in time to catch the Today Show from the very start. There it was, a head shot of David Bowie filled the screen. And although the photo could have been a teaser, signaling anything, it being the morning after the Golden Globe awards, a sinking feeling in my stomach told me what it was. And sure enough my awful suspicion found confirmation in Matt Lauer’s voice. “Dead at the age of 69, after an 18 month battle with cancer.”
I must have stood there, protesting no! no! no! no! for at least 2 minutes before sinking to the recliner. I am still surprised by my numbness – akin to, but of course not the same, as when I got the phone call telling me my brother had lost the same battle over twenty years ago.
Four days later, I’m still trying to figure out why I am so deeply affected. Maybe it’s because I feel that I “discovered” him. It was, I hate to admit, 44 years ago, and there I was, a romantic Yank who had fallen in love with a a Brit, and the city in which he lived. On vacation from my teaching job back in NY, I wandered London all day while he was at work.( I know a dirty job, but someone had to do it!)
On this day, I was in our neighborhood, Finsbury Park, and passing the renowned Rainbow Theater, the site of so many rock concerts.
On this afternoon, a line of people seeking to buy tickets, snaked around the corner.(Yes, this was before the age of Ticketron and Ticketmaster.) I looked up at the marquee and wondered “Who the heck is Ziggy Stardust? (it was also before the WTF era) It wouldn’t be until the next year that his song, Space Oddity, hit the New York airwaves, and I would learn that the voice singing Ground Control to Major Tom belonged to David Bowie whom I’d already “met”, as Ziggy Stardust.
The years passed and I moved into my own apartment and probably annoyed my neighbors with the Ziggy/Bowie voice. I do recall the upstairs neighbor banging on his floor(my ceiling? It’s a matter of semantics) with a broomstick but I was probably playing the Stones.
I still have the albums, and somewhere (?) a third one, Station to Station
but since I have no turntable, the neighbors are safe.
My Mile Marker
All the news reports made a point of pointing out Bowie died just four days after releasing his latest album on his birthday And this may have added to my emptiness. I was quite aware that January 8th was his birthday because I waited for it each year.
You see, I used to have a BFF, Rosalie, back in college and my early 20s. Her birthday was January 3 , four days after mine. I can’t believe that at such a tender age aging bothered me, but I would not call or see her for those four days until she “caught up” to me.
Rosalie eventually went her way and I went mine and we lost contact and somehow David Bowie took her place as my personal mile marker. He was born nine days after I was so I took solace each year when he caught up to me. If he could stay “young” and hip, so could I. I guess I’m on my own now.