html xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' xmlns:expr='http://www.google.com/2005/gml/expr'> Lounging at the Waldorf: David

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Monday, January 11, 2016

David

I
June 2004. Ray Charles had died and I was sad. I’d grown up listening to his music and played his albums constantly in college. I’d never experienced the weird emptiness that you feel when someone you admire dies. Their work has been a part of most, if not all, of your life. You miss them but you never knew them.

“They’re all going to die,” a friend said. “Debbie Harry. David Bowie.”

“Shut up! Neither of those things are going to happen!”

Well.




II
In a record store on Melrose Avenue, I saw a copy of Pin Ups. The cover has David and Twiggy in mime inspired make up. His posture is rigid, hers is soft. Their shirtless bodies make geometry. Their gazes are skillfully detached. In my mind, they were puppets come to life.

“Who's that?” I asked.

“David BOO-EE,” my mother replied.

When we got home, I promptly went to the bathroom, smeared lipstick all over my face and outlined it black grease pencil leftover from Halloween.

I was 8.




III
You walk into her room. The dresser, the bunk bed, all furniture is high gloss red.  You are both 12 and about to be best friends. On the wall beside next to her pillow, are pictures cut from magazines. All are of David Bowie. You know the hits but she has all his records and together you listen to them on a loop for the next decade.

She shows you that he signs his name, “Love On Ya, Bowie.” Her name is Ania. Lucky!

He has a song called "Warszawa." Her mom owns a restaurant called Warszawa! If we ever meet him they could, you know, talk about that. So…jealous…

In the early days of your friendship, you say, “Put on David Bowie,” when you walk into any silent room together. But eventually you just point at the stereo and say, “Day Bo’E.” You’re finishing each other’s sentences at this point. It’s not really necessary to annunciate.

You write down the lyrics on fancy paper with burned edges and exchange them as birthday cards. He becomes the soundtrack to wearing too much eye shadow, smoking cigarettes, kissing boys.



IV
I rented a VHS tape of “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” I watched it by myself because I was a moody 13-year old with bleached bangs permanently blocking one eye. I was keenly aware of SOCIETY and REALITY and regularly reminded my family that NO ONE UNDERSTOOD ME. But David Bowie. He was salvation. Everything he did SPOKE TO MY SOUL!

When the movie was over, I popped the tape out and thought, “What the fuck was that?”




IV
Age: 14. A brother and sister duo I had befriended were in my room. I didn’t have a crush on the brother…yet.  But maybe I could? Maybe this could be, like, a thing?

The girl had a boyfriend in the neighborhood. If I dated her brother, well, we could have a double wedding in her backyard. Kinda perfect.

“You need to hear this,” I told them. Cue the pain filled howls and moaning synths like a junkie’s veins perking up after a long night:

And in the death, as the last few corpses lay rotting on the slimy thoroughfare…

So begins the album “Diamond Dogs.”

I explained to them that David wrote these songs for a musical based on the George Orwell novel, “1984.” But the Widow Orwell didn’t grant permission for him to produce it. So he turned the songs into this record.

They looked nervous. So I tried explaining the whole thing because rattling on and on puts people at ease and is a great way to help folks absorb new music.

“Listen, to his voice changes in this part...he’s playing, like, three different characters...”

“Okay, now, the song ends...then there’s this other song...but then the first song comes back...so it’s like this WHOLE OTHER SONG in the middle."

“… world destruction and the government spying on you…but there’s hope and, and, and, love…”

They sat there, hands on knees, stiff and stony until DB crooned, “Something kind of hit me today. I looked at you and counted all the times we had laid.”

And the brother said, “Heh, heh. Yeah. Laid.”

You artless fart. Crush. Over.



V
I was in high school, hanging out with Girl A and Girl B.

“Rebel, Rebel,” came on the radio.

Girl A leaned into Girl B’s face and sang the lyrics, “She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl!”

I had known Girl B since 4th grade. She was a super tomboy, always had been. And I’d never known anyone to care one way or the other about it let alone mention it. But Girl A had mentioned it, causing Girl B to stared at the floor, ashamed.

Some years later, Girl B came out and a few years after that, she killed herself.

We were all good friends until the end. But I never really forgave Girl A for that moment in high school.



VI
When your city is destroyed by an earthquake, you play “Hunky Dory” again and again for two weeks straight. It’s the only thing that makes you feel grounded.



VII
The Museum of Television and Radio. Me and a bunch of other nerds watch a series of screenings called "David Bowie: Sound + Vision." It’s summer, it’s NYC, and we’re sitting in the dark watching 30-year old television clips. Glorious.

It's the Dick Cavett Show, circa 1974, and it seems as though David has inhaled all the cocaine in North America. Through the interview, he sniffs uncontrollably, grits his teeth freakishly, doesn’t make eye contact, and can’t stop writing on the carpet with a cane.

Cavett looks at the floor. “What are you drawing?”

Bowie doesn't answer the question. 

Cavett says people think David is scary and later they discuss how the vibrations of an opera singers voice will crack a glass.

That's when I start freaking out in my seat. I need to tell someone but I'm alone so I hit the stranger next to me.

"These are lyrics! From the song, 'Breaking Glass!'"

I start singing but I'm whispering and the guy's looking at me like, huh?

Baby, I’ve been
breaking glass
in your room again, Listen

Don’t look at the carpet,
I drew something awful on it, See

You’re such a wonderful person
But you got problems oh-oh-oh
I’ll never touch you


Anyway, I thought I was rather clever. 


  
VIII
Security Guard: No dancing in the aisles. 
Me: Sorry.

I go back to row T. Row T. That's only 20 rows away from him.

But what the guard doesn't understand it that it's not me. It's all the cells in my body. They are the ones moving me to him.

Two minutes later.

Security Guard: Go back to your seat.
Me: Right. Yeah. You got it. 

I go back to my seat. But only until the security guard goes away. Then my body takes me back into the aisle and boogies me all the way up to the front. 

I'm laughing. I'm hugging strangers. We are the goon squad and we're coming to town. Beep! Beep! 

The security guard returns, gives me this exasperated sigh, rolls his eyes, and walks away. He knew he was never going to win agains all the cells in my body!

I keep dancing.

Beep! Beep! 




IX
And when he dies, you and Ania will send teary texts to one another from across the country. And you both will realize some of the sweetest moments of your childhood died with him. 




X
From all the kids who couldn’t kick a soccer ball or swing a bat.

From all the boys, gay or straight, who were called faggot, teased, beat up, all because of a haircut or a flashy pair of pants.

From the awkward girls who just realized the aren't the sort that get asked out.

From all the art school students putting the "pain" in "paintings."

From all the black kids who were told they were too white.

From all the white kids who were told they were too weird.

From those of us who cried while writing in their journals (me, now).

From all of us who could not yet express ourselves, you kindly did it for us.

From all the pretty things who drove their mamas and papas insane, thank you.




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