As David Bowie is memorialized and laid to rest this weekend, I have had time to sit back and process the meaning of his loss. I am somewhat surprised at how much I still feel his death. I never knew him personally and yet there is a connection. It's not just that he was my favorite musician. It's all the things he represents. I feel old for the first time. He was still the Goblin King at 69 years old, still Ziggy. For me, he was also New York.
I recently left New York after 10 years. Everyone comes to New York expecting a town that existed a decade earlier, if at all. And everyone who stays long enough creates their own mythos of New York. Bowie was part of that mythos. He was Chelsea, both dirty drug den and revitalized hotel district. The street worker in a dark doorway in the meatpacking district grown up to be an art connoisseur. He was quite literally the drug deal under the rusty high line and later the park built on it. He lived in the NYC that watched as Warhol was replaced by corporate crap, low rent gave way to high rises no one lives in and changed into a place where you're far more likely to find artisinal mayonnaise than art. So I mourn for him, for his family and for a city I was a part of that is no more.
NYC exists still, and will reward millions with their own rich experiences, but for me, my NYC is gone. Bowie took the last bit of it with him. That is right, and just. I was really only a part of his NYC and glad of it. Someone on twitter said something to the effect of 'If you're sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie '. I got to do one better. I got to share his town.
As I say my final goodbye to the man I'd like to touch on what I learned about him this week.
That picture at the top of the page was taken 3 days before his death. He wanted the world to see him with a smile on his face. You can tell the body is weak, but the face is radiant. This picture of a man near death, reveling in his own happy existence makes me truly joyous. And optimistic. No strings attached. Just life.
Sunday, as David Bowie died in his Chelsea apartment, a strange meteorological event occurred. First, New York was hit with record rainfall. Then, as if ordained, the skies opened up and an extremely rare double rainbow formed over Manhattan. How fitting. Every color of the visible spectrum laid bare for an adoring public, and then for good measure, doubled. As I read this my first thought was 'Somebody Up There Likes You, David'. My second thought was Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, had opened up and Lou Reed, Freddy Mercury and Klaus Nomi had come to take the Starman off to Rock 'N Roll Valhalla.
So here I am a week later and I've listened to every album twice. I'll probably do the same next January 8th, or at least sing something tasty like 'Young Americans' at a karaoke joint. I've done all my grieving. What started this week as an empty hole in my chest is no longer empty. It's full, and all that lives there now is an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Thank you David. Thank you for every song, every interview, every cameo and stupidly fun film. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for the time you didn't know we shared.
Hang on to yourself. Thanks for the Golden Years.