Time, He’s Waiting in the Wings: David Bowie Returns Home

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The first time I heard the name David Bowie, it was through my older brother, Brian. He’d been begging my father to take the free company tickets he’d been offered to see Bowie on tour with the Nine Inch Nails and tried to have me join in the act to procure the tickets in question. I was eight years old at the time, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of the music, but soon I saw a picture of Bowie and realized that I’d known who he was for years: he was Jareth, the Goblin King from Labyrinth.

I’d been in a NyQuil haze when I checked my phone and saw a frantic text, and I didn’t fall back asleep for hours. Instead I thought about that Nine Inch Nails tour and that amazing Henson movie, of Ziggy Stardust and the Berlin Trilogy, of “Let’s Dance.” I told my fiancé the news and kissed our dog, Bowie, goodnight while telling him that his namesake was no longer on the Earth. As “Life On Mars?” played in my head for the next few hours, I thought about that anecdote with my brother, the fact that Bowie had existed in my subconscious even as a toddler.

For anyone who ever gave a damn about their relationship with music and culture, for anyone who ever felt like an outsider and knew something better was out there, for anyone who felt alone and different in ways the rest of us can only pretend to imagine, David Bowie was a confirmation, his songs a series of subconscious ideas that we could acknowledge and not have a name for. Bowie’s best songs were a wink and a nod to every growing teen in the world, seeds planted that would grow and shape us in the years to come, that would blossom when we finally let them.

I’ve written a lot about death privately and publicly over the last few years, and some cliches on the subject become popular simply because they are true. Our time here is short, and we should make the most of it, which is easier said than done. Bowie seemed like such an unapproachable figure to me growing up, so cool and otherworldly that he wasn’t human to me, he still isn’t. Reading a 1996 interview with him during my bout of insomnia, though, I remembered that becoming as cool and forward-thinking as Bowie means putting in the work in the short time we had. He was always learning and consuming and creating in ways the rest of us can only dream of. We should aspire to do even a fraction of what he did with his life, a life that was given to art and freedom and pushing everything to the limit.

Like a lot of people, I spent my Friday night celebrating the release of Bowie’s latest album, Blackstar, in addition to the man’s birthday. Seemingly every bar in every city dedicated Friday to celebrating the man and dancing to the beautiful music he’d given us. No one could have known how fitting that was, but if there was ever a life worth celebrating, it was his. January 11th, 2016 is a day where people are mourning when they aren’t dancing in the streets. It’s best to do both, and it’s best to feel anything at all because it’s the one thing you shouldn’t do in life is squander them. “Thank you for our good times, Brian. They will never rot.

David Bowie, to me, was the definition of a star. I don’t mean this in the Hollywood sense, but rather the celestial: I think he came from the cosmos, that he was a being of pure light guiding us in the sky who felt kind enough to grace us with his presence for just a few days past 69 years. His physical time visiting the planet Earth is gone, but that subconscious figure — the one burrowed in so many of our heads (and so many more to come)— is immortal. Listening to Blackstar over the last week or so had been harrowing and sobering before his death, and with the news that it was meant to coincide with his death only makes it more poignant. He gave himself a viking funeral in the form of a final album, not to mention the extremely on-the-nose video for “Lazarus.” After so much silence, he returned for one last gift. In the case of truly massive stars, they go supernova, exploding and shining brighter than ever, which Bowie did before returning to whichever galaxy he once called home.

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