What Bowie album did I fall in love with first? Well, I was born in 1982, so I had every opportunity to fall in love with Let’s Dance, but that wasn’t it. And I didn’t work backwards either, David Bowie wasn’t something forced on me; my father is probably impartial and my mother is tolerant at best. My ear turned towards David Bowie in the 1990s; he was part of my time, too. Earthling was released in 1997. That’s crazy. I was 15. Prodigy’s The Fat of the Land was released the same year. At 15 years old, this was the stuff I could get into. Grunge was fading fast and boy bands were on the rise. It seemed I had to decide quickly as to which song I wanted to dance.
My musical taste changed a lot in the next five years, as I’m sure it does for most 15 to 20 year olds. Techno to ska and punk then to a long stint of classic rock and 80s new wave before I got into to the Strokes and other indie rock bands in the early 2000s. During my impulsive CD purchasing phase in the late 1990s, I grabbed all the greatest hits albums of “old” rock bands thus obtaining musical and pop culture knowledge that would only help later in life during meaningless games of pub trivia where I consistently lose to the Quizz Moppers, a team full of cheaters by the way. One of the CDs I purchased at this time was ChangesBowie, which is basically a greatest hits album that was released in 1990. That was one of the biggest mistakes in music I’d make.
Oh, but it’s that guy that had the Earthling CD. It’s his older stuff. I’m cool now, right? Not so fast. The purchase was a mistake in that I gave in to yet another “best of” album. Of course I loved it. I couldn’t listen to the first track, Space Oddity, enough while mowing the neighbor’s lawn and collecting $10 each week so I could buy some other Greatest Hits album (Billy Joel, Talking Heads, The Byrds, The Cure, Elton John, Squeeze, Hall & Oates, The Cars, or the Smiths, maybe). But that’s who David Bowie became to me, a guy who had one of my favorite “best of” albums and also a techno album in the 1990s. And someone respected as a musical genius that I was lucky enough to see live in 1997 at the State Theater (now the Fillmore) in Detroit, Michigan.
Also, he was someone who was Jareth, the Goblin King? Wait, what? That was David Bowie (that’s me asking this question in the 1990s when my brother reminded me of one of our favorite childhood movies, The Labyrinth)? I thought “king” was just a generic term and they were trying to be weird by having a woman play the role, like a reverse Peter Pan or something. But that was David Bowie (again, me about a decade after the last time I had seen the movie)? I always felt confused by that character; like I wouldn’t mind succumbing to her. Him? She seemed nice. Like, all he wanted to do was love that girl so he could love that baby. That’s a lot of love. And there were a lot of Muppets. So I was okay with all of it. I mean, I knew he was the bad guy. Girl? But with a voice like that, she didn’t seem so threatening. I mean, come on Jennifer, what’s the worst that could happen if you just give the Goblin King the baby and live in Muppet land forever (I’d just advise getting a piece of real estate far away from the Eternal Bog of Stench)? He looked the same but seemed much nicer and human than the possessed version of Sigourney Weaver from Ghostbusters. It turns out that David Bowie is probably the reason why I’m a feminist and a big fan of equal rights for all the people of this world and also why I don’t give a shit about what activities go on among consenting adults.
Okay, maybe not so much the hair but those high cheek bones, right? Plus, coming from an Italian American family where no one is thin, as a child all skinny people might have looked the same to me.
But this isn’t about equality right now (which it probably should be, since that’s the far more important issue). This is about his music. A few years after I saw him live, I listened to Heathen then Reality. Then I went for his older albums, Space Oddity, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs. After that I really didn’t return to him much since he had nothing new and no one recommended anything else of his to me. Then my brother, bless him, asked me if I had ever listened to Low. I hadn’t. This was maybe mid-2000s, when I was into Muse, The White Stripes, Interpol, Spoon, The Walkmen, Man Man and stuff like that (also mostly because of my brother). Low. Was. The. Best. I’m sure most people will want to fight me on this but that album is unbelievable. It proves to me, musically, the capability of David Bowie. I am always amazed by bands like R.E.M. (yes, I just did that), that could evolve and stay a year or three ahead of their time (for most of their career). But David Bowie was light-years ahead. When I listened to Low (1977) approximately thirty years after it was released, I wouldn’t have known it was older than I was if someone hadn’t told me. It was brilliant in the 1970s, I’m sure, in the 2000s, and still now in 2016. For someone to make music that can easily blend in with the times forty years after it was released is remarkable. David Bowie wins forever. A lot of people claim that the Beatles were the pioneers of music, the Lewis and Clark sort of- where they’d go many would follow- and I can’t ever really argue with that, but David Bowie was the Pythagoras of music, the one who knew that music wasn’t flat and wanted to prove to the rest of the world that it just isn’t so.
Just a disclaimer: it should be known that all the dates and facts in this post, including album release dates and my birth year, were googled for reference. I didn’t know any specific dates or who the first person was, arguably, to say the world is round until I searched the internet for answers. You can reference Google for anything now; it’s pretty amazing. Like, you could find out the name of the only original actor/actress from the Brady Bunch who did not appear on the Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Because there’s no way anyone knows that it was Eve Plumb without googling it, Carl from Quizz Moppers. Stay off your phone during pub trivia, asshole.
I used to think I was normal.
I get up in the morning, hating the sound of the alarm clock. I wonder how it went off so soon and why my dreams can’t feel longer. I get in the shower and try to interpret why my right foot was just a giant toe in my dream the night before. I rinse shampoo from my hair while I geographically plan out where I’d buy property in a handful of places around the world and how I would spend my time if I ever won the lottery. I wonder if I’ll be ready to poop before I have to leave for work and worry if the urge will strike in the middle of my commute. I wonder if it’s the day that a boss retires or gets injured or dies (I don’t wish the latter two, only wonder).
The rest of the morning is an absolute rush to make up for too much time spent daydreaming in the shower. No words are spoken. No television, no radio. Perhaps just the sound of running water from a sink or the shower behind thoughts of how terrible it is that I have to be somewhere and I’m forced to leave my loved ones.
My commute is quiet; just some low key music or news podcast or the sound of the road and breeze through the windows.
Then I arrive at work. Everyone is already settled in. They’re talking and asking questions. It’s loud. I just saw them fifteen hours ago. I showed up; I’m still there. Nothing’s changed. I am not on a plane to Rome to meet with a real estate agent to talk about buying an old farmhouse near Assisi; I did not win the lottery.
Sure, I can wake up early like the rest of them. But I want to let it happen naturally. And after it does, I want to quietly sit outside with a cup of coffee and watch tree branches gently sway in the soft, warm summer breeze while I imagine myself fulfilling my dreams.
Just let me be alone with my own thoughts for a little longer.
In my mind I beg for them to hush. We’ve got so many more hours to get through. There will be plenty of time for them to pollute the air with their mouth noise after lunch.
The sounds of all the how-are-yous and good-mornings over the years have made me realize I’m not normal. I’m not as advanced as they are. Their bodies and voices awake together when the alarm buzzes. They’ve shed their childhood dreams long ago and achieve daily goals of smiley faces and morning greetings. All while I grumpily think about what might be as I watch wasted water, time, and ideas circle the drain.
I used to have a blog but I haven’t posted anything in two and a half years. For most of that time I felt that I had let it go too long and if I returned it’d be like contacting an acquaintance from long ago only to ask for a favor. When I originally started this blog back in January of 2012, I had this idea that I could write a new flash fiction piece everyday about a person with a not-so-super power. I’d put them in everyday situations where the use of their specialty would be comical and write short stories about them in different styles. I was motivated for a couple weeks and posted a few to the blog. But a post everyday became overwhelming.
I then started posting other flash fiction pieces that had nothing to do with mundane super powers that may have been based on different writing prompts from various people or websites. But for some reason that didn’t last long.
Towards the end of my first attempt at this blog, I prayed to the writing gods to harness the power of travel writing and posted a few pieces about a backpacking trip I’d taken with my wife through Europe. Then I ran out of money and couldn’t travel anymore which meant I couldn’t write about traveling.
The blog faded. But I still thought about it a lot. I lacked ideas. I lacked motivation. In the meantime I worked on some manuscripts: a couple children’s picture books and a piece that blends elements of memoir and fiction. And I complained a lot. I complained about everything. From my current crappy job to my crappy job before that, from shoelaces and shirt buttons to terrible television shows. I once tortured my wife with a thirty minute rant after I saw a promo for a show called Dog with a Blog. Seriously, that exists. It might be on the Disney Channel. It might be a decent program for kids. I don’t know, I’ve never seen it. But the fact that it exists, the fact that a human being walked into a meeting, any meeting, and said, “Dog with a Blog,” makes my heart hurt. It makes my athletes foot flare up and itch for days. It makes the disc between my C2 and C3 vertebrae herniate and push on surrounding nerve endings causing me the most intense #10 frowny face pain. It makes me feel the same when I heard that Taco Bell’s Cap’n Crunch Delights is a thing.
The show might be good. Don’t judge a book by its cover, I guess. Maybe it’s up there with Breaking Bad and The Wire. Maybe the show uses the same technique that is featured at the end of Doogie Howser, MD episodes. Maybe the animal writer is loosely based on the Sex and the City character, Carrie Bradshaw, and the show features the same obnoxious narration during scene transitions like, “And while Scruffles was chewing on his bone, Rosie had a bone to pick with Fluffikins,” or, “And while Tippy was licking his wounds, Rumper was actually licking his wounds,” or “while in the dog house, Blooper wondered how long Trickles would keep him in the dog house.” I’ll never know if the show is like that, though, because I will judge that show based on its title.
But I thought, if Disney could make a show on a simple premise of rhyming words and give a dog a blog, why the hell did I stop writing blog posts? I went through all the excuses. I don’t have time. Having a two year old daughter, a full time job, and being married to someone with a full time job does not leave a lot of spare time. But who says you have to post something everyday? Most things I write are not to my satisfaction upon review a short time after writing them. If you don’t write consistently, how do you expect to get better? I’m not inspired and my dream-crushing job sucks the creativity and imagination out of me. Why let a job determine who you are as an individual? But I felt all these issues weren’t getting to my underlying problem that led to not writing.
Then I came across something written by a brave and talented writer, Viga Boland, who runs a writer’s group and literary magazine called Memiorabilia. In one of the issues of the magazine, she writes about the “Inner Critic” as being an obstacle for writing. She suggests writing a letter to one’s Inner Critic and basically telling it to piss off. So I did. I wrote offensively. It was brutal and derogatory. I’d probably be committed if anyone got their hands on it. I’m not even sure how my Inner Critic has “a dimple-dick for a best friend,” but he is an absolute jerk for thinking that my time would be better spent “watching Dog with a Blog while eating Taco Bell’s Cap’n Crunch Delights” instead of writing.
I felt much better after writing to my Inner Critic. And in time I thought, maybe a show about a dog that wears eyeglasses and writes a blog isn’t such a terrible idea. Perhaps at the very least it’s better than whatever I’ll post on this grand and vast internet.
But if that dog can do it, even in a fictional sense, then so can I.