My Kind of Crazy

Back around 1995 or so, in my early college years, I went over to a friend’s house and sat down on the couch next to him. He was watching a documentary about David Bowie.

I didn’t listen to much music as a kid, and I grew into an adult that doesn’t listen to much music, either. Back then, I didn’t have the slightest idea who Bowie was. After watching this documentary for about 45 seconds, I made some sort of snide comment about this person on the screen. Just shooting my mouth off. I probably said something about how this guy was obviously just a attention whore, and a garish, desperate one at that.

My friend, who knew a *lot* about music turned to look at me for a long moment. And while he didn’t look at me in disgust… well… his expression was a close cousin to disgust.

“Dude,” he said. “David Bowie is you. If you had money and talent,” he hesitated for a moment, looking me over, then added. “And style.”

At the time, the comment did what it was meant to do: it put me in my place and shut me up. Later in my life, I took it as a huge compliment, even if my friend hadn’t meant it that way.

Today, I just learned that Bowie died. I’ve been thinking about him, and reading about what people are saying about him online. And here’s the truth: Bowie didn’t have a huge impact on my life. I’ve never owned one of his albums, or even listened to one of them all the way though. (Like I said above, I came to music late in my life, and .)

But I always was glad he was out there, doing his thing. Looking at the two of us, at our lives or our careers, there’s not much similar there. But I like to think we were on the same team. That we were fighting the same fight.

As to what that fight is… well… that’s hard to articulate. Every time I try to simplify it, it doesn’t sound right. This particular sentiment doesn’t lend itself well to slogans, but “Get down with your bad self” and “Let your freak flag fly” come pretty close.

In an odd connection, as I write this, I find myself thinking of John Green’s phrase, “Imagine me complexly.” I think that Bowie was the crystallized embodiment of that concept. He defies simplistic reduction. It is impossible to think of him in a simple way.

(Also, John. If you’re reading this, I think you’d be a great Bowie for Halloween some year. You should really consider it.)

That’s all. I don’t really have a point here. No thrilling conclusion. No narrative arc. No anagnorisis. Just musings.

Be good to each other, people.

pat

This entry was posted in a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms. By Pat40 Responses

40 Comments

  1. ericthered
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:35 AM | Permalink

    “Be good to each other, people.”

    – Yes. Please. Thank you

  2. Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

    Similar to you Pat, I didn’t have any of his albums, but his music always inspired and incited me, and I was, just as you said, glad and pleased that he was in the world “doing his thing.” He had the strange and wondrous power of the true artist, philosopher, sage, and king, which is that he was his own man and followed his own direction, which seemed to be a profoundly deep and moving one, that reached down into the shadows where all the good stuff is hiding from the blinding light of this strange self-obsessed world.

  3. arvy_p
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:18 PM | Permalink

    Bowie was one of those people who made it cool to be weird and to push boundaries. I can get behind that any day of the week.

  4. trousertroll
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

    About 20 years ago I found a David Bowie CD in my mail box. It was just a single, some kind of promotion. CD’s were newish in our apartment, so I eagerly popped the disc in our player and reclined to give “I’m afraid of Americans” a listen. It was crap. 20 years can blur a memory, but I remember the lyrics: “I’m afraid of Americaaans… I’m afraid I can’t heeelp it…” While I confess to having never watched The Labyrinth nor listened to any of DB’s other tracks, I always disliked Bowie because of that song. Upon his death I can’t help but look at my Americanness and wonder what it is about my countrymen and I that frightened DB so. My wants are modest; right now they include a slice (or three) of cheesecake and some dark beer. I think most of us are like that. Thus, I’m not prepared to say good riddance to a fellow who by all accounts is worthy of admiration, but I will confess the only remorse I feel revolves around never having had the opportunity to find out what exactly Bowie’s problem was with my people.

    • Hahentamashii
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

      If you’d done a little bit of research you would had found out that the song came into being after seeing a McDonald’s pop up in Java. The song was about cultural invasion, which is something I can understand, and even associate with, as an American.

      Bowie said “It’s not as truly hostile about Americans as say “Born in the U.S.A.”: it’s merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when [its] first McDonald’s went up: it was like, “for fuck’s sake.” The invasion by any homogenized culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say, Umbria, Italy, more so. It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows expression of life.”
      -Wiki

      That bit at the end really drives it home.

      I can’t believe you went two decades wondering something, holding a grudge even, when you could have spent less the 60 seconds looking it up.

    • Samuel Erikson
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

      Here’s the inestimable Chris O’Leary/BowieSongs on “I’m Afraid of Americans.”
      https://bowiesongs.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/im-afraid-of-americans/

    • catiecan
      Posted January 13, 2016 at 7:27 AM | Permalink

      I think the fact that you’re basing your entire opinion of David Bowie on one song from a 20 year old concept album says a lot more about you than him.

      That said, a lot of people outside the USA are afraid of Americans, with some very good reasons.

    • laura118b
      Posted January 13, 2016 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

      I’m afraid you also kind of missed the point of the song by dismissing it out of hand. Americans, in the song, are everything. The concept of the new, the strange, the viewpoint that challenges you. You, in your reaction to it, were not the American to be afraid of but the singer (viewpoint) that new things are scary.

      He also spent probably half his life living in New York, so American to him could not have been that bad a thing ;-)

  5. fungstyle
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    You were definitely on the same team. You both found ways to touch lives and let people know it’s not just OK to be different – it’s better. Consider listening to one of his album’s straight through – he used them to tell complete stories for the most part. Any will do, but Ziggy is a good place to start.

  6. ripshin
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

    Hahaha. I was confused all the way through this post – all the way to the end, actually, when I went to click away and on to other things and I realized I wasn’t reading Brandon Sanderson’s blog, but Patrick Rothfuss’. Makes SO much more sense now! (Can YOU imagine Sanderson as some sort of platonic form of Bowie? Me neither!)

    Carry on…

    rip

  7. Jsherry
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:12 PM | Permalink

    Not having been being a zealous devotee of Bowie’s, I likewise found it hard to explain to students in my classes today how I could nonetheless be deeply affected by Bowie’s importance an an artist. While most people my age (42) know at least a handful Bowie songs, I couldn’t really point to a hit or an iconic song that 15-year-olds would instantly recognize. And maybe that’s the key. He can’t be pinned down to a song, a style, a period. He’s a glam alien…he’s a brilliant comedic actor…he’s a goofball 80’s icon dancing in a video with Mick Jagger…he’s a jazz fashion icon…

    And really, he should be famous just for his stint on Extras, mocking Ricky Gervais in impromptu song:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv6mEv_rDdE

  8. Samuel Erikson
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

    ‘As to what that fight is… well… that’s hard to articulate. Every time I try to simplify it, it doesn’t sound right. This particular sentiment doesn’t lend itself well to slogans, but “Get down with your bad self” and “Let your freak flag fly” come pretty close.’

    Bowie made it seem safer, made it seem, if not acceptable, then at least possible, to be one of the misfits, the freaks, the alien. No one before or since has had that impact on such a wide scale, and it’s unlikely that anyone else ever will.

    (This is not to say that you, Our Gracious Host, haven’t had that impact for some people. But scale is key.)

  9. Gavin9697
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:04 PM | Permalink

    Thoughts on David Bowie and Lori Lightning and the statutory rape allegations against Bowie?

  10. Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    The movie Labyrinth was what started my crush on David Bowie. Loved that movie.

  11. lizzylizletitgo
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:45 AM | Permalink

    TIL that David Bowie has a much-written about history of “sleeping with” so called Baby Groupies – 14-15 year old girls. The women talk about it in the documentary “Please Kill Me” and you can read more by googling it.

  12. Manda
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 10:12 AM | Permalink

    I can think of one thing you have in common. Your art has made it into space.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apemYk2oz7M

  13. somandyjo
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    I’ve always felt like a freak who was told to keep it in because it was too weird. Then I grew up and found someone who loved the freak. It was liberating. Sometimes, when I’m feeling out of sorts, I think I need to hide the freak flag. Then that someone, who is now blessedly my husband, says something that reminds me that my freak is awesome.

    I let that freak flag fly, and it makes me happy.

  14. Posted January 12, 2016 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

    The use of “anagnorisis” in this post and my subsequent search to find its meaning and learn more makes this post meta.

  15. Anna
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 7:52 PM | Permalink

    I loved Bowie and Monday morning I cried after reading the news and while getting ready for work. This morning I was again getting my day started and as I reached down to hand my dog some food my MP3 player shuffled over to Magic Dance off the Labyrinth soundtrack and my instant transition from loving dog mom to loud ugly crying was so immediate all three of my dogs ran into the other room and hid.

    His music is beautiful and moving to me but there are other artists I like more. But the Goblin King. That character defined a segment of my childhood and therefore defined me. It hurts to know that he’s gone.

  16. Valarya
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 12:28 AM | Permalink

    Even if you’d never heard of his music, as a lover of fantasy I’m really shocked you don’t at least know him as the Goblin King from the Labyrinth!

    Jim Henson is a little child’s imagination come to life. Dark Crystal. Labyrinth. Muppets. All of it. And Bowie got introduced to an entire new generation through Henson.

    If you weren’t watching the Labyrinth in the 80’s, Pat, I don’t know what to say. Well, other than please please let your children experience it at least!

    Dance, magic dance.

  17. Karim
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 1:37 AM | Permalink

    “(Like I said above, I came to music late in my life, and .)”

    Deep, Pat.

    But yeah, I know what you mean about having a connection to an artist whose work you don’t necessarily process. Farewell, Bowie.

  18. Kthaeh
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 6:32 AM | Permalink

    It heartens me to know that you had a judgy-cocky phase in your life when you stupidly shot off your mouth about stuff you were totally ignorant about. My own judgy-cocky-outspoken phase lasted for decades, and I now look back at some of the crap that came out of my mouth with equal parts amazement and mortification. So thanks for sharing.

    • somandyjo
      Posted January 14, 2016 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

      Agreed. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t been slapped more.

  19. Corey
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    So, a bit off subject, but Mr. Rothfuss you were in my dreams last night.

    Now, wait! wait! Before we go believing this is some stalker-ish post, hear me out! Ok, it is a bit strange…

    Anyways, in the dream, a bearded Patrick Rothfuss was on a hilltop, alone. He stood on a concrete platform waving his hands down to me and the others around me. Me, being a huge fan of yours, started screaming to all the strangers around me that Rothfuss was up on the top of the hill, and he was preparing to give a glorious speech!

    So we start to run up the hill. We’re all excited. I don’t even know if the others even know who you are, but they’re excited anyhow. How could you not be excited, Rothfuss was giving a speech! The hill was steep though. It was one of those dream hills that going up was extra difficult, like running up a treadmill. It was a battle, but we eventually made it up the plateau…

    …to find some random bald guy with a similar beard awaiting with a smile. He was ecstatic that so many would come to hear him speak, while we were utterly disappointed that he was not Patrick Rothfuss. Awkwardness was felt all around as we stayed to listen to this random man speak. Now only if I could remember what he had to say! At least this random bearded man had his dream come true.

  20. Sandhya
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    I grew up with David Bowie. He was my age. I was always a round peg in a square hole. He helped me believe I wasn’t crazy or, more importantly, wrong. I am still grieving his loss. He released his last album two days before he left. I have listened to one song. It is about death, haunting and strange. I am sad. Now will someone please explain to the old lady what the fuck meta means?? I have looked it up and I’m still confused.

    • cynrtst
      Posted January 19, 2016 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

      Meta:
      A term, especially in art, used to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential.

      “So I just saw this film about these people making a movie, and the movie they were making was about the film industry…”
      “Dude, that’s so meta. Stop before my brain explodes.”

      From the Urban Slang Dictionary.

  21. knoxwriterrealtor
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 3:19 PM | Permalink

    Like Sandhya wrote, David Bowie helped me believe I wasn’t crazy. I grew up in a very strict (also very loving) Christian home. Life was very narrow. Then I visited a friend’s house when I was 7, and Labyrinth was playing in the living room. I’m convinced the movie has magic in it; it oozes into my house whenever I watch it so I know for sure. Maybe it’s just his voice. I was never a celebrephile, and was only interested in two celebrities my entire life — Bowie was one of them. I always felt such a strong kinship to him, and never even told anyone I was a fan until I was in my mid-twenties. Funny, the things you keep inside yourself. When I was little, I had a vast imagination and saw faeries in every forest and goblins in my house, and … I don’t really need to give you the whole blabla. He had such an impact on my life, and I’m glad others feel the same. He was the personification of weird, and I loved him for that. It was like I could say, as a teenager, “Yes, I’m really weird, but David Bowie is my kind of weird so meh. He was in a movie with faeries so I’m going to keep believing and writing about them.” Ah, I just figured it out: he was very fae around the edges. ;) Like me. And probably like you, Patrick, considering you coined that phrase. You could see it in his eyes.

  22. kittykatkatja
    Posted January 17, 2016 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

    I needed to register just so I could like/+1 this.

    Looking forward to the JoCo cruise!

    -Kat

  23. Khern0203
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 10:10 AM | Permalink

    Pat, you have never seen Labyrinth? You absolutely MUST remedy that right away.

    I have been a Bowie fan since my high school days in the late 70s/early 80s. I have seen him in concert 7 times, at small theaters and at huge stadiums. And I went a little crazy myself when I heard he had died.

    Bowie was not just a singer, or a musician; he was an artist in the true, expanded sense of the word. He created things. He created songs, yes, but he created so much more. He created himself, again and again, and always new and original and way ahead of his time.

    Yes, Bowie was “a little fae around the edges”. I’m not totally convinced he was from this world.

    If you’re interested in hearing more, I have created a Spotify playlist called All Bowie All the Time. It has my favorite songs on it – 50 of them, over 4 hours of music. Give it a try.

  24. Jsherry
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    Pat, you and John Green should spearhead a Halloween trend this year and start an artistically cross-curricular trend, asking authors to dress up as their favorite musicians. Could be a different artistic medium each – next year you could do painters, then dancers, etc.

  25. Posted January 18, 2016 at 10:06 PM | Permalink

    I was visiting a friend in Vienna in 1987 and he took me to David Bowie’s Glass Spider show. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, more like an opera than a rock show, with professional dancers and spoken word pieces in between the songs. I liked it, although some of it was confusing.

    David Bowie has been so many characters through his career. If you haven’t seen Neil Gaiman’s fanfic, I recommend it:

    http://www.neilgaiman.com/Cool_Stuff/Short_Stories/The_Return_of_the_Thin_White_Duke

  26. wintermute
    Posted January 24, 2016 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

    Sometimes I think about writing something without a point, conclusion or narrative arc. Then I remember that I have a job to do.
    Do your work, Pat. Do your work :)

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