Today may have been the first time that I have listened to “Ziggy Stardust” in its entirety since 1993.
David Bowie and I have a pretty solid history. When I was little, I loved the song “Space Oddity.” I don’t know if it’s because I’ve always felt a little out of place in my world, as if I’m living on a different plane than the general public, or quite possibly that I’m an alien trapped in a human body. Whatever the reason, I would sing that song over and over; I have always used singing as a sort of comfort to myself, like the proverbial blankie or stuffed animal.
When I was in elementary school, MTV was born. Our dad was pirating his cable from a neighbor’s wire and we had access to this fabulous station with music and stories 24/7. I loved the really creative videos that gave me interesting visuals to go along with the musicianship. It was the first time I actually saw David Bowie in motion thanks to his new wave pop tunes “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance.” In fact, the “Let’s Dance” album is the first one our father purchased to play on his brand new contraption, the CD player. If we jumped hard enough we could make the CD skip like a record. Our father’s side of the family was blessed with innate rhythm, so we would often have dance parties in our living room, sometimes including our aunt’s five children.
In high school, I joined one of those CD clubs – you know, buy one full price and get 11 more for 1 cent? I got a best of from Bowie that included all of my favorite songs up to that point. It got heavy play. I was listening to it during my first week on Mackinac Island for my second season after I had just turned 19, when I lived above the busiest bar on the island and we had a lot of people coming and going. That is when a guy knocked on my door, started making out with me and coaxed me out of my knickers and my virginity. “Ziggy Stardust” was the song playing when it all went down – I distinctly remember the guy drunkenly saying that he loved that song. I loved that song. Unfortunately, because I had resolved to just getting my virginity out of the way and not trying to make it a movie-type romance, it was not a good experience. He was very rough. He bruised me deeply, my lips were purple and cut. I had bruises all over my ribs, ass and thighs. He was drunk and he doubted it was my first time. My first sexual partner did not care for me or about me, and I paid the price. Well, me and Ziggy. I stopped playing that song.
When I was 22, I had been living in New Mexico when I flew back to be in a friend’s wedding. It was the last time my father and I saw each other. He had cut my hair (the “Rachael”) and we were chatting about his Bowie box set that he received from a client the week before. We also talked about this new cabin Dad had purchased two months prior, and how Dad intended to fix it up and retire there, but that he didn’t think he would see retirement. I told him frankly that I didn’t think he would live to retirement either. He asked me why I said that, and I told him that I couldn’t envision him as an old man, that everything went black when I tried, like a newly washed chalkboard. Three weeks later I had to fly back to Minnesota because Dad died of a heart attack – at the cabin he wanted to retire in. He had gone up there for a weekend by himself to work on a few things and maybe do a little duck hunting. From what we could tell, he entered the cabin, set down his pack, laid down on the bed and died. He was discovered by the local sheriff when my step-mom called for a wellness check after Dad didn’t return home at his scheduled time. The Bowie box set is one of the first things my step-mom thought to give me when she was dividing up mementos between us four kids. She knew Dad and I loved our David Bowie.
I believe in a continuation of the soul when we die. Relating to that, I have a question that I suppose will never be answered, but I’ll ask it anyway. When famous people die, and are so universally mourned, does their soul visit every single person every time they are thought of? Souls must be infinite, but is their energy ever depleted by the millions of times they are tugged and pulled by our sadness? Or do they only have a connection to the people they loved in their lives?
I’ll leave you with my favorite Bowie song, which is his collaboration with Queen. I get goosebumps every time I hear it.