Mr. Bowie – A New Career in a New Town

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You will be missed, you wonderful Alien, you.

Said you took a big trip/ They said you moved away/ Happened oh, so quietly/ They say

– “Everyone Say’s ‘HI'”- D.Bowie

I was probably about 6 or so when I first saw him. He was costumed in this dark material, sitting rakishly upon a windowsill. Playing with his balls.

It was not until almost 10 years later, when I heard this amazingly haunting voice call out to me over the radio about Major Tom, that I finally pieced together this mystery man and how he would forever effect the rest of my life.

I was 15 years old, and looking for a sound that I could identify with. Something that I could embrace as my own, as a soundtrack to keep me going through the rough years of being a teenager and already knowing EVERYTHING. At this stage of our story, I have already figured out that that half remembered scene of a man sitting in the windowsill was Mr. David Bowie, and I had worn down my VHS copy of The Labyrinth. (Actually I’m watching my Blu-ray copy at this very moment while writing this – because it it awesome, and because it’s a little too soon for me to process watching The Man Who Fell To Earth.) So now I needed more- I needed to reach beyond the Goblin City.

My very first David Bowie album was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Let me just say that this album and I have been through a lot together. First off, middle school is its own level of hell (and an entirely different post topic.) Secondly, my dad was dying from cancer. We knew it was terminal, and we knew it was only a matter of time. And I felt completely helpless.

So I took a lot of walks, with Ziggy as my only companion. From “Five Years” to “ Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (and back again), I walked while Bowie medicated me. His music provided 15 year-old me the solace and strength to “climb to the top of the mountain” (and considering how hilly my neighborhood was, I occasionally needed the encouragement). Joking aside, though, I needed that album – I needed to cling onto something that I could rely on and know even better than myself at times.

And from then on, my collection grew. The staples were added, along with the rare and the B-sides. Flea markets were scoured for records. Posters went up all over the walls, causing some visitors to remark at their unease of being stared at by so many Bowie Eyes. (Same silly excuse my husband gives me when I suggest hanging the Giant Half Bowie Face poster anywhere that he might come face-to-face with it.)

(As another quick aside- I could not decide how to title this post, so I just hit Shuffle on my massive collection – “A New Career in a New Town” was the first to pop up, and it seemed pretty appropriate.)

I am glad that I face today’s loss having no regrets, as I was able to see not one, but two of his tours (Earthling and Reality.) David Bowie’s presence in my life has been an overwhelmingly positive one, and will continue to be a source of happiness and solace as needed.

My sadness goes out to another 15 year-old girl who has lost her dad to cancer. I hope that she is able to find her own musical solace that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

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An Introspective Moment About an Elephant

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Saying goodbye to objects from our past is a difficult and emotional event we all experience. It can be a small object with a closet of sentimentality attached, or a large item that carries only a handbag of memories. Either way, we grow attached to them, and to let them go can feel like burying a part of our past. Some people are never able to let go, and each room becomes a shrine to these attachments, no matter how insignificant.

Today I decided to let something go from my past; from my way, way back past. Growing up, we had a canary yellow ceramic elephant planter. And while I am sure at some point in its life prior to my memories, it had served the intended purpose of holding a plant; this is not how I learned to love it.

You see, my mom possessed the experience of teaching both first and third grades, and so when I came around, she already had a pretty good handle on entertaining young children. (Admittedly, she had to wait a few years for me to catch up to that age, but she did a bang-up job winging it until then.) Anyway, as a precocious young lady of 4, it was in the household’s interest that I be given some direction on a rainy day, lest I create a book tower from everyone’s books in the living room or attempt to disassemble the furniture. Enter the Yellow Elephant.

My mom’s solution was to write down a bunch of different activities (which I got to add to as well) on little slips of paper. These slips would then go into the Yellow Elephant’s back. On a rainy day, the Yellow Elephant would come out, and the papers mixed about. I would then reach my little hand into the hole and pull out my activity for the day. (Looking back on it now, I am pretty sure that mom would make a tactical decisions as to which papers were available to choose from each time.) If memory serves me right, I could draw again if I did not want to do that particular choice, but I could only draw once more. Then I could choose between the two. That was the deal.

As I got a little older and started going to school on a daily basis, the Yellow Elephant took on a new role, one of Weekend Coordinator. If there was a day where there was nothing previously planned (birthday party, out-of-town trip, visitors, etc.) an adventure would get pulled from inside. Sometimes it was the park, or the pool; later, when we lived in D.C. it was often going to a museum or a monument. And because it was the Yellow Elephant suggesting the adventure, I was less likely to be stubborn about the whole thing.

Eventually, I stopped drawing slips of paper out of its back, and the Yellow Elephant was repurposed once again. After I moved out, it came with me, and I used it for various things (mostly to hold my kitchen utensils.) Every time I moved, the Yellow Elephant was carefully packed away, and just as carefully unpacked in its new home. Every time, that was, until this most recent move.

Last May, I packed up my house in Alabama, and moved up to North Carolina to be with my fiancé. Eventually, we bought a house and started the process of shifting all the boxes from my storage unit to their new home. Every day I would pull some of the boxes stacked in the garage and start unpacking, tasked with the difficult job of finding everything a new home. I finally made my way to the box labeled “Yellow Elephant”, and excitedly opened it up, knowing exactly where I would put it.

Except my Yellow Elephant was not there. In its place were broken shards of ceramics; yellow on one side and white on the other.

This was last September.

Almost a year later, I have finally been able to face the contents of that box again. I laid out the pieces that I could find (some of the smaller pieces had been lost in the shredded paper and packing material) and I started to glue them back together. At this point, I don’t see myself keeping the final product. I know that even though it holds its shape again, it can never be the same. But I felt I owed it to my memories to at least try putting it back together, before I said goodbye.

The Yellow Elephant

The Yellow Elephant

I know that even though the object that gave me all those good memories is no longer what it was, I can still carry on the spirit of what that object meant to me.

Who knows what my children will draw paper slips from on a rainy day….

Perhaps an Orange Hippo.