© George Clerk / Istock. Edinburgh Newspaper Headlines, Jan. 12, 2016.
Like so many people around the world, I’m still thinking of David Bowie. I’ve been a fan since the early 1970s when the only way to listen to his music was on one of the new, hip FM radio stations transmitting between New York and Philly, or by dropping the needle onto vinyl, or live in concert. Fortunately for all of us, film captured the last Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars concert performed in 1973, when Bowie skyrocketed to fame. I was watching it on Palladia and thought to myself, “wow, this is still so good!”. Blackstar was released that day, too, January 8th, his birthday. I watched the Lazarus and Blackstar videos online. Again, Amazing! Two days later, I learned Bowie had left the planet. What is now his final offering wasn’t a coincidence to circumstance, imho; he was an artist who knew he was headed into The Light.
I imagine lots of people around the globe played their Bowie records and downloads, like I did, all day long when they heard the news. A young musician I talked to that day said he liked Bowie’s new stuff, but didn’t really know the old stuff. My recommendation was to buy Ziggy Stardust, and some smoke, slap on a pair of headphones and hit play. Listen straight through, no stopping, and maybe get an inkling of what it was like to hear it for the first time in the 1970s. I explained that, to me, David Bowie was a revolutionary, representative of the margins, grand allusionist, artist, magician, theatrics-meets-pop-meets-edge experience, fashionista, techno aficionado before it was commonplace, futurist, a groupie for the emotional charge found in isolation and alienation, motivator – maybe instigator of waving the freak flag, creator of transgender aesthetics before their own visibility came to fruition, blaster of racial divides in the music scene, master collaborator, genre bender. And that was just off the top of my head. The young musician said he’d buy a copy on vinyl (yeah!). When I thought about it some more, I recalled my moment with David Bowie and a gift of Presence he gave to me in 2003. Feels to me like now is the right time to share that gift.
April 23, 2003. Arrowhead Pond. Anaheim, California. Whizzing home from work, I glanced at the marquee next to the freeway and saw “David Bowie Tonight”. No way! I took the exit to “The Pond”, and bought a ticket at the box office. Row K, seat 10, stage right. The Reality Tour began (keep that word in mind – reality!). With an unobstructed view, I could see Bowie perfectly. I could see his eyes. This was far more intimate than the last time I saw him in 1981 at the Philadelphia Spectrum for the Serious Moonlight tour with my sister who waited in line for hours to buy tickets (that was the only way to score a ticket back then!). This time, was different. Bowie played songs from his back catalog after years of refusing to do so. The show was spectacular! We all sang along to Ziggy Stardust, the last of 3 encores. It was also the early days of cellphones. Smartphones weren’t born yet. Most of the people around me blocked visibility of their faces with their cellphones or cameras in an attempt to record every second for later viewing. I thought about taking a quick pic for a split second, but my intuition said NO! Stay Present with the Artist. This was Bowie. This was a moment to be Present, aware and connected to the artist and his performance. I wanted to see and feel everything in real time. I watched and listened to Bowie with my eyes and heart. He noticed. Yes, Bowie noticed that I was different from the rest of the folks in my crowd. My face was bare. He could see my face and I could see his, clearly. Everyone else had their cameras and cellphones in front of their faces. There wasn’t an opportunity for eye-to-eye contact with anyone except maybe me. I wasn’t missing the Reality part of this gig! And then it happened. Bowie sang the final words, “…Ziggy plaaaayed guitaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar.” Bowie looked right at me. I bowed; that deep Japanese-bow of respect, and he pointed at me and laughed and shook his head saying “no, no”. I quickly looked around me thinking he couldn’t possibly be engaging with me, could he? I looked back at Bowie. He had waited. He laughed again, pointed directly at me, nodded his head and said “yes, you” and bowed toward me. Big smile. Wow! How did that happen? I was PRESENT. Present in the moment, not trying to save the moment in a camera for later. And imho, he loved it. He waved, again, turned around and walked forever into my heart as he walked away.
My moment with David Bowie was a gift of Presence. And a confirmation for me always to Be Present and live in the Now. Breath by breath. What a great gift!
Rest in beautiful peace, David Robert Jones.