I woke up this morning at around 3:40 a.m. and tried desperately to get back to sleep but could not. Eventually I gave in to being awake and started to read the news to wake up further.
And the news was that David Bowie was dead.
I didn’t have words.
But it’s that day.
The day is what struck me the most. This day, why this day.
When I was ten years old I remember getting up at 3 a.m. one more to help my father pack up the catering truck he drove. Sometimes I would just get up in the early hours of the morning, in the summer when there was no school, to ride along with my father. Often I would sleep in the front seat of the cab on the long days drive. The morning began with the almost two hour drive to get to where the actual catering route went.
Even though I was young I remember some of those crazy long drives, getting out of the truck at various stops and going in to meet my father’s customers, the people that he considered his co-workers, his clients. It was always an odd thing to meet the people that my father sold food to. I have odd memories from those drives.
When we drove we always listened to the radio, the music my father grew up on, the music I had grown up on. Form a young age I was exposed to the Doors, the Beatles, the Stones, Bowie, the Who. One thing my father had was a rather large collection of records, most likely a joint collection from two parents who were both very passionate about music. Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger were my first musical loves. I knew of Bowie, I recognized the music when I heard him, but unlike the Doors or the Stones I would not always be able to immediately place who it was I was listening to.
One morning on the odd ride with my father, we went into meet some of his clients at a shop. It was around six in the morning, I had just got up from a three hour nap in the cab and wanted to stretch my feet. Part shy, part curious, part unstoppable, I walked into the garage we were stopped at as my father talked to people looking around at the cars, the grease stains all over, the weird sundry that make up a garage where people come in to fix cars at six a.m. The radio was playing and I remember the announcer saying it as time for that 1969 classic Space Oddity, of which the now easily identifiable strains of Major Tom began to follow.
Regardless of how many times I may have heard that song before, that was the first time I really heard that song and I was absolutely transfixed by the song. When my father went to gather me out of the garage, as I was standing in front of radio staring up at the radio which happened to be perched under a pornographic Playboy calendar which I think may have registered and upset my father, though I didn’t really think that much of it at the time. I noticed, but cared about the music and thought the poster was just funny in that 'tittery' kind of way that nudity is funny to young children. I was raised by parents from the 60’s and as a curious and voracious reader I’d discovered more than a little pornography in the house by the time I was 10 so that I was less startled by the nudity than the music.
In the van, as we drove around more, I tried to get my father to name the song. He wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for and it took a while for me to describe what it was I had heard. This seemed so unique to me, so different from anything I had remembered here before. My father was convinced it must be David Bowie, but I wasn’t sure. I wanted to hear more David Bowie.
When we got home I went down to the basement where there was a record player, two shelves around eight feet long stacked with records. I went through album after album looking for the song I had heard. I never did find it in the collection, though I stumbled across and became briefly enchanted with a Pink Floyed Album, I eventually managed to get to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders for Mars. I most likely spent the rest of the afternoon in the basement listening to Ziggy Stardust. I distinctly recall listening to Ziggy Stardust over and over again, until life and the distractions of my unfortunate childhood sucked me back in. Later, when I was a teenager I would discover that Pink Floyd album again (the Wall) and I cared more then, but at 10 it was Ziggy Stardust that captured my attention. I talked with my father about David Bowie, and found the rest of the Bowie albums in the collection, fascinated by how this singer changed, the way he was more like a characters. I was also fascinated that he was still alive, as so many of the artist I seemed to love had died before I really had a chance to know them (Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix had all made a real impression on me as a child).
Bowie was fascinating. His music, when I would listen to it, was something that always made me think of that morning riding around in the cab of a truck with my father. It made me feel closer to my father. Bowie’s new album, Blackstar, had come out only two days ago and I remember listening to Lazarus and having a passing thought that my father would have appreciated this. As I do around this time of year, thinking about my father.
My father died on January 10th, 2000. My grandmother on the same day some 13 years later. Perhaps this is why this pain hurts so much. I don’t know who I am crying for anymore in January.