I try to avoid jumping on “bandwagons” since having no arms, it would be unsafe, but seriously, today, I want to write about something that “everyone” who was touched by David Bowie is posting…their feelings about the loss of such a profoundly complicated human being. In fact, let’s remember he “was” human. Those who didn’t appreciate him might add; weird human! That he was. That is what I want to focus on.
I was not a fan at first. I never bought any of his albums until they morphed into compact discs. My first collection of albums in my teens were mostly comprised of Jazz and Barry Manilow. I was both a music nerd and snob. When a band or artist would venture into what one may call “weird”, I didn’t. David Bowie, who if you hadn’t heard, passed away on January 10th and he was yet another victim of the evil monster, cancer. He is being remembered by millions of his fans, admirers, and the media today and those who loved him and his music are feeling the pain of loss today. Those who thought he was “too weird” have their opinion too. Seems ironic to me, personally, because I thought he was a bit too “flamboyant” in the 70’s for my taste and in 2016, he seems shockingly normal! I must point out that what I believe threatened our sensibilities, was what so many people have drawn inspiration from in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (the new politically correct term is “questioning”…here we go again) or LGBTQ, community today. It’s uncertain whether Bowie was gay but likely bisexual or to be blunt, he pushed sexual boundaries and didn’t seem to be too concerned about what people thought. For me, that underlines a courage that changed the truth of our society worldwide. I am also aware that he was a prolific musician, composer, producer, artist and writer and even dabbled in acting.
“My” point of reference happened in 1978. I had graduated from high school in small town Saskatchewan, Canada and had grown up in a conservative, Christian family and I was just a tad sheltered. Our exposure to “diversity” was limited to the handful of Chinese folks who, sorry for the stereotype, owned corner stores and restaurants, and as for black people…none. Ironically, we were definitely a community of immigrants; Ukranian, German, Polish, in other words, Eastern European who had come from their countries in the early 1900’s for free farmland. My point is, we where mostly a white and traditional Christian community. When I moved to Calgary to go to Mount Royal College, now Mount Royal University, I was about to have my mind expanded. I was enrolled in the Radio & Television Broadcasting course and it attracted an eclectic group of people. One of them was a guy named Mike. His last name escapes me, but doesn’t matter here. He was a white dude from Leeds, England and his family had moved to Calgary a year earlier. To a sheltered 18 year old armless guy who had stuck pretty close to “Center”, Mike was the coolest guy I’d ever met. Most important to me, he liked “me”! He also had a circle of friends who were equally “far from normal”, and I credit this little group for changing my life! By the way, this story is practically a “book” so let me get to my point of this blog.
Mike was like an encyclopedia of British music. I remembe hanging out with him, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes three or four, but always small groups. We would sit in Mike’s basement where he had a mind-blowing stereo and hundreds, maybe thousands, of albums. They weren’t all “British” and they weren’t all “weird” but most of them I had never heard of. It was difficult for me at first, mostly because he didn’t have any Manilow, but I honestly didn’t like the music…at first. Today, I had a serious DejaVu trip. I vividly remembering hearing an entire David Bowie album for the first time and Mike interpreting the music. He knew all the words but most important, he interpreted the “meanings” for him, which led to lengthy conversations between us about alternative music and alternative lifestyles and for the first time in my life, my brain connected to things that would form the foundation for the person I know, and thus, all of you know, as Alvin Law.
One conversation we had that today, is crystal clear, was about “Ziggy Stardust”, an alter ego created by David Bowie. Please do your own research about this topic because I want to be reasonably brief here, but Mike and I talked a lot about what Ziggy Stardust was. It was the first time I ever talked about the subject of homosexuality. We never talked about it at home. It wasn’t “forbidden”, it just never came up. So when Mike and I got into this subject, I felt very uncomfortable but Mike had a way about him. He wasn’t gay but he had lots of friends in Leeds who were. Remember, for Mike, this was the mid 70’s, around the same time as Britain met David Bowie. Also remember, there was no internet, so the world was far from “connected”. Hearing Mike’s stories, asking him really honest questions, and not feeling guilty for the discussion was a conscious altering of my being. Mike explained, for example, that gay people weren’t weird, or subversive. He described them as “fiercely authentic”; I remember the expression to this day. One day, Mike compared me to David Bowie (I am not making this up) and challenged me to be “fiercely authentic” too.
Are you “fiercely authentic”? Are you uncomfortable discussing issues brought up by the LGBTQ community? Are you homophobic? Are you wondering right now why I am making reference to this as it relates to the passing of David Bowie? Let me finish by explaining. I have dedicated my adult life to pushing the boundaries of what society sees as “normal”. Everywhere I travel and people see me for the first time, I always hear…”That’s Amazing”! I appreciate that. I was snorkelling with Darlene on the Hawaiin Island of Kauai last week and the ocean was far from calm. I came up on the beach and guy who was very buff watched me walk by, and proclaimed…”Dude. You were snorkelling out there without arms? Man, that’s amazing and inspiring and right now, my mind is spinning about what’s real and fake. Thanks man!” You see? The thing is, I don’t consider myself “Amazing”…just fiercely authentic! Thank you David Bowie…wish I could have met you!