BY LIZ AXELROD
We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago
Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World
I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago
I was fourteen and sheltered and different and stoned all the time. My parents had divorced a few years earlier and I lived on the edge of the naked cliff of Hippie Days and Punk Rock nights. I had a boombox. I took it with me when I went to hang with my friends at the Tomlinson Rec Center. Ziggy Stardust in spandex pants and blue eye shadow sang of Starmen and Moonchildren. I drank cans of Miller lights and smoked Marlboro 100’s with my eyes closed in bliss (also painted blue).
I was seventeen, pretending to be nineteen at the Peppermint Lounge in NYC. In neon brilliance, from the many mounted televisions, Fashion ushered me into the video era. Such beautiful noise! Bowie’s bright painted lips seared into my drunken-child soul. His warbled voice told my warbled brain you will never be the same.
I was twenty and not so sheltered, a junior at UNLV, living by myself in the house my mom had just sold but had not closed yet. I DJ’d from 2am to 6am at 91.7 KUNV, The Rock Avenue and worked the other nights at Rebel Gas. I had a yellow pantsuit like the one Bowie wore on the cover of Serious Moonlight. I had no money. I wanted desperately to see him in LA. There was a Bowie bus scheduled to leave right after my DJ shift on Saturday morning at 7:30am. At 6:15 I went to the grocery store and bought a bottle of Piesporter Wine and a bag of spinach. I had two quarters left. I put them in the slot machine (all grocery stores in Vegas have slot machines). I hit a royal flush, won $125 bucks; enough for the Bowie bus, some beer and a few other party favors the cool kids were selling on the bus.
I hit the bus low on sleep, high on everything. The stadium was packed. I followed people, smoke, and mirrors through the crowds. I slipped past burly guards and made my way to the stage. The Thin White Duke inhaled my spirit through the mic and exhaled me out in a line of molten disco. I was a pile of blissful notes and melodies. I swam with the crowd as we moved en masse to Let’s Dance and I cried with my fellow groupies when Major Tom died on stage. David Bowie’s eyes locked with mine as he asked the gods to give us all just a little more Time.
Giants Stadium was a full twenty degrees hotter than the sun-stroked asphalt outside as we walked through the doors toward the Spider Legs that held up the stage. I was glass at the Glass Spider Tour--shattered, and sweaty, and stoned, and enlightened, and alive, and dead all at once. When Bowie finally took to the stage, I lit up one of the five joints in my pocket and began to share. We passed back and forth, in and out, up the line of tight pants and tight waists and red hair and blue eyes with our metallic make-up melting off our faces. We were one, as Bowie always made us. As he always made me.
We lived our lives around these records. We danced and cried and drank and sang and lived and loved and lusted and felt a freedom that no other time or artist could have given us. We had no gender, no zippers, no restrictions, no problems. When the problems arose we put on the records. We cried together.
His heartbreak was my heartbreak. My passion was his art. His art was for all of us to love and live and lose and recapture.
This week I reveled once again in the fact that our birthdays are but three days apart. Then this morning it all fell away. My heart has not recovered yet. I feel like I lost a parent. I know the difference. I know the truth. But I grew up with this man. He held me tight when I couldn’t find my way home. His lyrics were my touchstone.
Who will beam for us now?
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Liz Axelrod received her MFA from the New School in 2013. She writes poems, book reviews, essays, fiction and anything her pointed pen finger deems relevant. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, Publisher’s Weekly, The Brooklyn Rail, Electric Literature, Counterpunch, Nap Magazine, Yes Poetry, The Ampersand Review, and more. Her Chapbook "Go Ask Alice" was chosen as a finalist in the 2015 Finishing Line Press New Woman's Voices Competition and will be published in March, 2016. She is an Adjunct Professor at SUNY Westchester Community College, a book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine, and co-host and curator of the Cedermere Reading Series in the home of William Cullen Bryant. Find her here: www.yourmoonsmine.com