January 10, 2016. In the darkness of the cold morning, I patiently wait for the bus to take me to school. Headphones eternally prepared around my neck, I put them on and ready for the eternally comforting sounds of the song “Rock and Roll Suicide” to enter my brain.
I do the exact same thing. There are differences. I am in high school, not college. A CD player is in my pocket, not an Iphone. My hair is short, spiked and red, and my face is plastered in bright blue, pink and white makeup.
But the music is the same. David Bowie’s guitar and vocals melt into my eardrums, letting me know that if nothing else in my life is going right, the music will always be there to comfort and soothe me.
January 10, 2016. 5:30 a.m. Waking up, I notice a text from my sister at 1:36 a.m. It just says “Kaaaat.” Groggily wondering what she wanted, I routinely check my Facebook. All I see are posts about David Bowie’s death from cancer at age 69. I go completely numb.
2002. I’m 14 years old. The year prior, I had started to fall in love with “good music” – The Beatles, The Who and Queen in particular. It’s a Saturday, and I’m on a mission to spend all my allowance money on things my younger sister Kelly and I need for what we call our Chill Room. As budding musicians, we decided to combine our bedrooms, using the Chill Room as a makeshift recording studio and shrine to our musical influences.
We walk into an art gallery and poster store. While browsing, I come across something that would change my life – a poster of Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” album cover. I had heard of Bowie’s music casually, but seeing his brightly made-up face intrigued me. His style was so different from anything I’d come across before. I know immediately that I will be a fan.
I buy the poster, and the “Best of Bowie” DVD set at the FYE in the mall and eagerly go home to watch it. The DVD set quickly becomes worn out. The visual style of the videos and performances hold as much importance to me as his music. His androgynous, beautiful look influences my personal style, and his music inspires me to continue learning guitar.
January 10, 2016. That text. “Kaaaat.” Hating having to talk with Kelly about the deaths of celebrities we love, I text back, “I wondered why you texted me at such a weird time at night. Then I checked Facebook.”
2002. I skip school a lot. Suffering from depression, sometimes I stay home because of it. Many times I stay home to help take care of my mom, who suffered a major stroke the year prior.
Other times, I take “pop culture days” off from school. Usually, it’s because a classic film I’ve never seen will be showing on TCM, and to me, watching it was more important to my future than going to school that day.
This day is a pop culture day, and a day to explore Longview. I skip school and decide to see how long it will take to ride my bike from my house to Hastings Entertainment store. It took me about 45 minutes. I found treasures waiting for me: The Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders rom Mars live concert DVD, and the Bowie CD “Hunky Dory.”
Unbeknownst to me, Kelly also is missing school with eye pain after leaving her contacts in too long. Nearing my house, a police car stops me on the street. Kelly had called 911 to take her to the hospital, and the police had shown up instead of an ambulance to take her. My mom and Kelly hadn’t known where I was, only that I was not at school.
Worried about Kelly, I frantically take my bike to my house and get in the police car. Upset that Kelly is in pain, I give her the CD and DVD I bought as a gift. After going to the hospital, we go home and watch the DVD. I get worn out quickly too.
Throughout the years, I listen to all of his albums, with “ The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” becoming my favorite because of my love of concept albums. My favorite look of his is the character The Thin White Duke, with his tri-colored hair and fancy suits. I am ecstatic when one of my favorite directors, Wes Anderson, uses Bowie’s music for his film “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” with songs interpreted in Portuguese by musician Seu Jorge. Perfection in my mind is achieved when he portrays one of my other favorite people, physicist Nikola Tesla, in the film “The Prestige.”
January 10, 2016. Today will always stick in my mind as the day one of my favorite musicians left this world after being in it for half of my life. His pop culture presence will stick with me forever, and keep me company on the days when I need it the most.