when i was little, i fell in love with a tall, blonde, seductive man. he was rich, powerful, and had a lot of devoted friends. he was so beautiful that i would have almost thought he was a woman, if not for his deep, throaty voice and pants so tight that they revealed another package altogether. he was other worldly, and hung out with puppets. he was a Goblin King, for goodness sake. this glorious creature was also known as David Bowie.
when i look back on it now, it makes sense that the first person i ever fell in love with was a gender-ambiguous Space Oddity performing magic and shape shifting through many incarnations. “Labyrinth” was one of my top three favorite movies growing up (up in there with “The NeverEnding Story” and “The Princess Bride”). these films reenforced my preexisting belief that there were worlds that operated alongside ours, filled with magic, love, and adventure.
as i grew older, i came to appreciate David Bowie in so many ways. he seemed to embody this notion that the world and thus, our identities, are not static. his voice mesmerized my soul and i delighted in learning about his various manifestations, such as “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and “Ziggy Stardust.” as an ethnically hybrid creature who always felt more like an animal than a human, and certainly not a girl, but maybe a boy or something else entirely, Bowie’s alien personas spoke to something very deep in me. he seemed unbound to gender, to sexuality, to genre, to categorization, to media, and even to the earth itself. he sang about “Changes,” and he himself also put words into action by transforming at every turn.
and yet, there was nary a person who i felt like was so true to themselves. i don’t normally get caught up falling in love with “stars,” but as an artist, Bowie embodied something so attractive. he had this balance of being true to his own unique voice and not getting attached to his persona being any one thing. i love “David Bowie and The Story of Ziggy Stardust,” a BBC documentary that i watched in October 2014 gearing up to transform myself into Ziggy for Halloween out in L.A. Bowie killed Ziggy at the height of his success, when most people would have gotten high off the big break and sucked it dry. however, his intuition knew that he had to let it go, and trusted that he would evolve and be supported no matter who he became. turns out, evolution meant being mindful and staying with sensation of the present moment.
“Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere.”
staying too attached to Ziggy, egotistically addicted to the fame and fanfare, would have turned him into a stock character instead of the incredible artist who redefined fields of music, fashion, film, performance art, and more. when one is really practicing presence, it is impossible not to see that each moment is made of change.
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test
~ David Bowie, “Changes,” Hunky Dory, 1971 ~
i am supposed to be packing right now. i have to pick up my parents early tomorrow morning, returning from their first vacation in years. the house is a disaster (in my mom’s eyes) and i myself am leaving to travel the world in less than two days. i haven’t eaten in awhile. i don’t know how i got here. i was tackling my To Do list when all of a sudden, my world felt shattered like a fortune-telling crystal orb exploding in the atmosphere by an evil demon.
DAVID BOWIE IS DEAD.
now, people die everyday—people we love, people we don’t know, famous people, and people that aren’t even people. it is not always surprising. and even though Bowie was only 69 years old and i (like most people) was unaware he had cancer, it shouldn’t cause me to react as if i can’t function for the rest of the day. but it did. here’s why:
last night at 10:28PM, i texted my sister, Alicia:
“and finally, henna was not supposed to turn me into Ziggy Stardust…but it did.”
Alicia came down to visit this past weekend. she helped take down the Christmas tree and helped me to stop having anxiety attacks about my upcoming travels. on Saturday night, we watched David Bowie on VH1 Storytellers and the 1973 concert movie “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” by D.A. Pennebaker (documenting the last time the shocked world would see Ziggy Stardust). as we watched it, i wailed about how i could not believe i didn’t take a single picture of myself dressed up as Ziggy Stardust. i even blamed my friend who i went to visit in L.A. because he was bugging out pretty much the whole time was there. deeper down, i knew it was because i wasn’t seeing the situation clearly.
on Sunday, Alicia helped me dye my hair with henna for the first time. i didn’t know what to expect when i took off the shower cap. i certainly did not expect it to be an even more incredible Stardust Red than the spray can i had used from the Halloween store. eight hours later, Alicia was back at home and i was happily doing a little pelvic shake, free from the cap and looking quite interesting. her only response to my bright red head was, “Oh wow.”
then today, Monday, January 11th, 2016 another message appears from Alicia:
“David Bowie died. Maybe that is mystical hair.”
Alicia: I KNOW.
something about the sequence of events sent me into a state of not being able to do anything (except read articles about David Bowie’s death). it seems i was not the only one who felt Bowie being pulled away from our midst, like this guy who composed this Tweet without knowing he was sick and dying:
If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.
— Dean Podestá (@JeSuisDean) January 10, 2016
at some point in the midst of watching every Bowie video from his latest album (a carefully planned finale released two days before his death) i realized, i need to do something! (else…)
i tried to go back to doing my financial assessment or check emails or something, but all attention went back to the Bowie. so instead of fighting it, i went willingly into it. i realized i had all my make-up from L.A. and i started maniacally turning myself back into Ziggy Stardust:
if i can finish this before the sun goes down, i can take a decent photo in natural light with my new camera…and i feel like this is helping me figure out why i am so saddened by this.
but shouldn’t you really be packing or cleaning the house?
yes, and this is IMPORTANT.
i spent all this time and energy changing face. then, i couldn’t really get my camera to work right. the sun started setting and the light was all wrong. i couldn’t take a self-portrait at the right angle. i was stressing out and wasn’t sure this was going to reveal anything about why i was so caught up with all this.
so i just stopped. i gave the cat a bath and took the dog for a walk. i vacuumed the floors. i ate some leftover Chinese food. i did this all with Ziggy Stardust remnants still on my face.
every time i would catch myself in the mirror, i would stop and take in the image. it felt so authentic, even though no photo could capture it like i was seeing it with my eyes. so i would just keep going and doing what little i could to move my own life forward.
eventually, my lipstick started to fade. i would scratch my face and have gold all over my fingers. there was really nothing i could do that i felt could honor this incredible artist. so i started taking pictures with my cat, Kichu, freshly bathed by imitation Ziggy.
we can’t hold onto anything. the world is always changing; we are always changing. people are dying all the time. and yes, it is sad, especially when they have made such a contribution to the world, have inspired your artistry, or were your first childhood crush. but i think David Bowie knew better than most that this was just one more transformation, one more quick change before being something else. given his latest album, he remained a surprising and brilliant star whose light burns in our eyes even while he is no more. as his producer, Tony Visconti said,
“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way.
“His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.”
i keep thinking about how here from Ground Control “the stars look very different today.” i keep hearing Carl Sagan in my head saying, “We are made of star stuff.” (this quote comes, by the way, from “The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective.”) i wonder if we are all made of some of the same star stuff and that’s why sometimes we feel things so strongly, even when there is no rational explanation. maybe a part of whatever was in Ziggy Stardust is also a part of me, is also a part of that guy on Twitter, is also a part of us all. maybe all these external appearances that make us seem like we are different are really all that they are: appearances.
well, David Bowie, it appears you are gone from this material world. thank you for helping me believe in magic, and for helping reveal to the world that change is inevitable and exciting. thank you for teaching us about collaboration and artistry. thank you for many, many years of diverse inspiration.
i take a breath in and still feel you here. i am going to go with my star stuff theory. then there is no reason to be sad, only to rejoice that we are still here, together, as one.
For whatever lies behind the door
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil, I don’t care
For in front of that door
there is you
(from “My Death”)
But whatever lies behind the door
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil, I don’t care
For in front of that door
there is, Thank you
Bowie, RIP or keep on keeping on, whatever you want to do. that’s what you’ll do anyway, and it will be the best way.