Life Without David Bowie

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Photograph (c) Mick Rock

It’s hard to believe that it will soon be a year since David Bowie passed from this world into the next–nearly as difficult as imagining, back on that darkest of days in January 2016, what the world would be like without him. Well, we’ve all since gotten a taste of life without Bowie over these past 11+ months, and it hasn’t been pretty. In fact, the whole of 2016 was very much like a poorly behaved child who acts out when he doesn’t get what he wants.

Oh, 2016 you’ve gotten way more than you deserved.

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Bob Masse limited edition giclee

For me, the past year was spent stuffing the recesses of my empty life with music and memorabilia; a futile search for something to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside–for the psychological spackle that would fill the huge gaping holes in my soul. I busied myself replacing original Bowie vinyl with CDs, building a humongous digital playlist to play over and over, day and night, in an effort to soothe the inner pain and immense feeling of loss. While that helped a tiny bit to take the edge off of the all-consuming grief, I continued my quest for peace by acquiring (somewhat) affordable artwork to display throughout the house, and am currently toying with dedicating a room (my home office) to all things Bowie.

I’m obsessed, much like I was several decades ago when I first discovered this incredible being who made such an impression upon me that it led to the life-altering decision to clean up my act and become a productive part of the human race. A small cog in a big machine, perhaps, but I didn’t end up killing myself, which is what my abusive habits would have surely yielded. And the ultimate prize was being smacked upside the head with the fact that it was OK to be “different.” Not only OK, it was downright cathartic. All because of one impossibly talented and other-worldly creature named David Bowie who flounced into my life on red patent leather platform boots, dressed in the finest of glam, and adorned with the most exquisite make-up palette ever. Even when he eventually eschewed the glam accoutrements, and let his inner Bowie shine brightly, he was always a vision of beauty, peace, and artistry untouched by any other.

tattoo_finishedI’ve spent hundreds of hours poring through YouTube videos, watching classic David Bowie performances, interviews, and cameos and collecting photographs from the Internet. I’ve invested in limited-edition artwork heralding Bowie’s physical beauty, in an effort to always remember him in a perfect light, frozen in time. My first-ever tattoo, inked last May, is a Ziggy caricature along with Blackstar, signifying the “beginning” to the “end.” I even brought Ziggy Stardust photographs to the nearby hair salon and asked for a Ziggy-esque shag. I’ve not yielded quite yet to the ginger color, but that may be achieved in the not-too-distant future.

Even though I continually strive to acquire Bowie-related “things,” something is obviously missing–because I still feel like shit. I felt much the same way when my husband Dan died over 4 years ago, and I should have known from experience that it never does get better, no matter what the “cure” appears to be. But, I honestly thought that with Bowie the hurt would ease up much faster because, after all, I didn’t know him personally. Or perhaps I did–more than I could ever have imagined.

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Photograph (C) Jimmy King

David Bowie laid himself open, raw and uncensored, physically and spiritually, for all to see and to share. He let us glimpse into the darkest reaches of his soul through his music, his numerous interviews, his recollections, his personal relationships, his vast collections of books and art, his collaborations, his frustrations, his passion, and his unequaled genius. We all knew him intimately, because he allowed us into his life. It was a bit of a shock when he backed away from the spotlight for nearly a decade, but we also understood, because he made us privy to how much he loved his family and wanted more time with them. The only thing he decided not to share with us was that he was dying. Why? Only David Bowie knows for sure, but I think he wanted to spare us, and him, the worry and despair that such news would bring. Instead, he decided to throw himself into everything he had the strength to tackle, and allowed us to go along blindly and naively with our own lives, without the burden of opening the news each day to see if the end had come.

So, when it came, it hit us hard. We weren’t prepared. But even if we had known, it still would not have prevented that huge, sucking hole that opened up in the universe and swallowed our Starman, catapulting him out of our lives and into a dimension that we, the living, can never fully comprehend. He may be physically gone, but his legacy lives on–through his vast music catalog, his images, both video and still, his band mates, his friends, his family, and of course, through us, his devoted fans.

And, I’ll continue to build my own personal collection of Bowie memorabilia, knowing fully that it will never make me feel completely whole again; but also understanding that if I can’t have the flesh and blood Bowie in my little corner of the universe, the tangible mementos of his brilliant life will just have to do.

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How a Starman (David Bowie) and a Hero (DanBH) Validated My Life

David-Bowie-1974Nearly four months on, and I am still trying to grasp the concept of a world without the physically comforting cosmic genius of David Bowie. But, that’s nothing new for me. It has been 3 years, 8 1/2 months since my late husband Dan passed, and I’ve not really moved on from that. Sure, I’ve changed jobs (and subsequently returned to my original company), moved residence, resumed most of my creative interests…but the grieving process seems to be stuck. It must be the stuff I’m made of.

One thing I’m usually very good at is blocking the bits of my past life that are dark, desolate, and decidedly depressing. David Bowie’s death dredged that stinking muck back up and forced me to confront it head on. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because now I’ve been able to let go of a lot of repressed anxiety born of stuffing ungodly visions deep down the memory hole. But, it was a thousand times more painful than satisfying.

Thirty-five+ years ago (a lifetime for many), the lifelong feelings of being a misfit in an un-accepting world reached a head. I found an artificial way to cope, which involved ingesting large amounts of illicit substances. The chemical cocktails made me perceive the world to be a place where I actually fit in, felt productive, and gave me a sense of purpose. Little did I know (or want to believe) that the sense of purpose would end up being a daily visceral drive to find new heights of chemically-induced bliss. The miracle in all of this is that I lived through it. That’s where Mr. Bowie comes in.

With no Internet at my disposal back then, I received music news in bits and pieces from magazines and Bowie_smile_3television (MTV was in its infancy stages). I “discovered” David Bowie late-70s and just prior to sinking to my lowest point. I remember reading a story about how he had been in a similar mess, but had the stones to walk away from it and clean up his life. Not only was he creating and delivering superior music, he was having a ball finding himself, a quest that would end up being a lifelong journey. I so admired his strength and his ability to slip seemingly effortlessly through the world; not as a knock-off wanna-be clone, but as himself. Decidedly misfit, but happy in his own skin.

I started sleeping in front of the stereo, Bowie vinyl platters piled high, listening through huge headphones, lulled to sleep by endless stories of struggle, (at times) defeat, and redemption. His poetic verses described cold, unfriendly worlds, damning events, uncaring accomplices, herculean trials–but they always had a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, and a sense of purpose in a chaotic world unsympathetic to those who refuse to walk lockstep to the boringly predictable drumbeat.

Bowie_Serious_1Eventually, I, too found the stones to walk away from certain self-destruction, and into the light of the satisfaction of knowing that yes, I’m “different,” but it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, as long as I somehow make the world a better place for others. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

I had a setback a decade later, following a divorce and entering into an abusive relationship. Bowie’s music was forbidden in the new household, lauded as “fag crap,” and only the Rolling Stones (I wonder if Mr. Sensitive knew that Mick and David had had a dalliance) and ZZ Top were allowed. Thank God I had the presence of mind to hide away and hang onto my Bowie vinyl. I remained in that nightmare of a relationship for 5 very long years (queue up Bowie’s “Five Years” here) until I met the second hero of this maudlin story, my late husband Dan. But sadly, I had lost touch with Bowie’s world. I knew he had gotten married, and was still making music, but not much more beyond that. I had been too busy trying to survive by not poking the hornet’s nest.

Dan_Christmas_1999With Dan, another of life’s misfits and a kindred spirit, came a sense of renewal. Not only had I been given a second chance, but now a third, and I was not going to muck it up. He was truly my soul mate, the one that my bad choices put me on the right path to meet. He, too, was a Bowie fan, but we both were bogged down with work and trying to stay afloat financially. We moved from FL to GA and then back to FL, all in the span of 6 years. Life was busy, and something was wrong with Dan’s health, so it became challenging and a balancing act that consumed most of our free time. David Bowie suffered a heart attack in 2004, and Dan had his in 2005. Along with Dan’s attack came the grim news that he also had a rare and incurable vasculitis disease called Churg Strauss Syndrome. The two heroes in my life were forced to make life-altering decisions at almost the same time.

I made it my quest to ensure the remainder of Dan’s life had a note of quality and dignity. He died August 21, 2012 after a courageous struggle. Part of me died with him, but I am convinced his spirit walks with me, overseeing many of my decisions and helping me through the rough spots. David Bowie started releasing music a year later (2013) after a long hiatus to be with his beloved family. The floodgates opened for him and remained open until January 10 of this year, right up to the end. He and Dan shared something very special. They refused to accept death as a possibility, and especially not an end,  and for that reason both of their spirits shine brightly among the stars, still very much a part of this life and those who loved them.

Shortly after Bowie’s death, which was incredibly and personally devastating, I started replacing my vinyl, and ripping the CDs to my computer (which has a decent speaker system). I also filled in a few of the missing pieces and put together one helluva playlist. I have been sleeping to it every night (and playing it every day while working) for the past 3 months, and that has been what keeps the decades-old demons at bay.

During those moments when I can see clearly through the haze of grief, I consider myself very lucky, indeed, to have 2 such incredibly gifted and “different” angels watching over me for whatever time I have left on this world. After that, I will make it my eternal mission to follow them both to the ends of the universe.