I’m still reeling from the loss of David Bowie. The past week and a half has been spent re-listening to albums I’ve put aside, or cranking up my personal Bowie playlist lined up with my favorite songs – ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Starman’, ‘Moonage Daydream’…so many on the queue.
I came across a paparazzi photo taken within the past year or two of David Bowie hailing a cab on the streets of New York. Decked out in jeans, sweater, scarf, sunglasses and hat, he looked like any New Yorker hailing a cab. He blended in. He was anonymous in this vast island of tall buildings that sprout like canyons among the noise of traffic and ongoing construction. I miss New York terribly, but what makes it even harder is knowing that Bowie was part of the fabric of something I left five years ago and long to return to.
When you live in New York, you know that someone famous could live right across the street from you, down the road, over on the next avenue. They are living there – somewhere behind the thick concrete and brick walls that hide multitudes of small apartments, crammed with people – or large enough to house the most wealthy.
You never think about who is famous nearby. There isn’t a GPS or an app to tell you. Even if there was, it doesn’t matter. The famous blend in with the grey and dark streets. The unexplained, spiritual energy of New York does something to disperse someone’s presence. You have to look thrice to notice someone. Probably because no one looks anyone in the eye – it’s easy for anyone – even the famous -to slip away when the city filled with eyes never meet the eyes of others.
But please know that in saying this – I’m speaking for my own perception. The idea of New York is subjective. The idea of New York is misunderstood. It’s a vision by own making. It’s a concept many love, hate or envy. It’s a concept of dreams and nightmares. Everyday hustle and romantic skyline vistas outside the window of a skyscraper at night.
In New York, there’s a need to flow with the slipstream of everyday humanity so one doesn’t drown in the crowded subway cars or tire of the energy, the vibration of human life staring you in the face as soon as you leave your building.
In order to survive, you stay within an invisible cocoon. You remain within your own mind space. You don’t let anyone in unless someone needs help. You don’t give yourself away lest you lose your self to the constant barrage of sound and visual stimulation.
In New York, you understand it when someone needs to be alone, especially those iconic faces that have been taken in by millions upon millions of eyes.
We place our idols – especially those who mold themselves into godly forms on stage – on such high pedestals. They seem otherworldly – especially Bowie. But he was a guy who did extraordinary things. Like any devoted writer, singer and performer, Bowie had a line to a cosmic source. He used it to bring down an element of creation.
Yet, in the end…he was a husband, father, an artist and a New Yorker.