A Song For David Bowie


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I was deeply affected by David Bowie’s passing today. I called my friend Rob to talk about it. We met up later and listened to some of the hits, and then bought a six pack and watched labyrinth. I’d never seen it before. It’s magical.

I tried to find a copy of Bowie’s new record in town, but every store was sold out, and that’s saying something when you live in LA.

Rob urged me not to go buy something. It’s not right, he said. For David Bowie, we need to make something.

So I did.

It’s called Quicksand:

 

*****

 

I was adrift, stumbling around London in a haze. I could tell you I wasn’t drunk, but that would be a lie. I could tell you I had better things to do, but that’d be a lie too.

I came across an out-of-the-way tavern down the east end. It was a tall old building. It looked like it could have been something many years ago, a rich merchant’s house or a church or maybe even a school. It was crumbling now. The top floors looked barely habitable. The dark front door had a worn, hexagonal brass doorknob in the center of it. Above the door, a large, black star that was back lit somehow. I didn’t care how.

I went inside. My buzz was fading and I needed a drink. Plus, I was trying not to go home.

It was a dive. I pushed past the purple curtains that shielded the interior from the cold and found a rotten palace of beer-stained hardwood. Crumpled cigarettes twisted in overfilled ashtrays. Pool balls sunk into deep grooves on the pool tables. The smoke was thick. It made my eyes wet. I was pretty sure it was illegal to smoke indoors, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone to stop.

I just needed a drink.

I stumbled to the bar and found a stool next to a garbage can, which was just perfect for me. It felt like a rock.

“Pint,” I grunted, and an arm slid a glass of something dark and bitter toward me. I downed it. It tasted like mud. Good mud. The kind of mud you could grow something in. It tasted like… like fate. I’m not really sure how, or even what, but that’s just how it was.

“Thirsty?” A voice asked me. I turned to my right and say that the voice belonged to a man. A woman. No… he was a man. He wore a bedazzled, leather 18th-century outfit that would have been right at home at a fancy dress party in West Hollywood, and he smoked a cigarette out of a long holder. You know the kind. Cruella DeVille had one.

Very Femme Fatale.

“What are you,” I asked him, “some kind of clown?” He smiled at me as he picked up a cigarette packet. He offered me one and I took it. I don’t really smoke. I just sort of suck on the things. If I haven’t been drinking, a get a little head buzz from holding something that can kill me in my mouth. I had been drinking, though, so it was all rather pointless.

“I’m the entertainment,” he told me. I glanced at him, and he jerked his head back at a dingy stage. There was an old, upright piano there with an orange and blue lighting bolt painted on it. I smirked.

“Classy,” I said.

“Hey, man,” he said, “just relax.”

I took a drag and signaled the bartender. He brought me something else. “Fair enough,” I said.

He watched me as I drained the glass, and then took his cigarette out of the holder and snubbed it on the counter. He crossed his legs and stared at me.

“What’s wrong, then?”

I swirled the backwash in the bottom of my glass. Then I drank it.

“I don’t have any problems,” I told him.

“Everyone has problems,” He told me.

“Yeah? What are yours?”

“One of my eyes is permanently dilated.” He showed me. It was.

“Huh. I never heard of that.”

“It’s called anisocoria. Got it when a bloke hit me in school.” He lit another cigarette. It couldn’t be healthy. “We were fighting over a girl.”

“Who got the girl?” I asked. He just shrugged. I laughed. It was short lived.

“So what is it?”

I looked at my empty glass, and signaled for another. “A friend of mine… well, not really a friend. This guy I looked up to. He passed away.”

“And you’re sad about it?”

I didn’t say anything. The man took a long drag.

“So what did you make him?”

“What?”

“What did you make him?”

“He’s dead, he’s not having a birthday party.”

“No, no. People die, so you make them something. It’s how you remember them, right?”

“I remember people by crying a lot and buying things.”

“Does it make you feel better?”

I didn’t say anything.

He shook his head. “No, no. Make him something.”

“Like… what, like a tribute?”

“It’s not for them, love. It’s for you.” He stabbed the cigarette on the counter and leaned forward. “You feel something, right? You admired this guy?”

“He was unique. He was brave. He was kind.”

“So make something unique. Be brave. Be kind. He made you feel something, so use that feeling and make someone else feel something. You know how people say if you remember someone they never really die?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s bullshit, love. Bullshit. They’re dead, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget. Use what you feel and make something that he would have said ‘yeah, I like this’ about.”

I reached into my jacket and pulled out my manuscript. “I think I did. It’s why I started drinking. I’m just… I’m not sure how it turned out.”

“So you’ve been carrying it around London?”

“Yes.”

“All night long?”

“That’s right.” I laughed. It’s the sort of laugh that you laugh when you’re really just begging for affirmation. “I was thinking about throwing it away. That’s why I took the stool by the garbage.”

He shook his head. “What are we going to do with you?”

“I just need to know.”

The lights dimmed. He smiled again. “There’s only one way to find out.”

He set down a clear, glass orb on the counter and snapped his fingers. The arm brought him two shots of something amber. He downed them both. I smiled.

“I never took you for much of a drinker.”

“Baby, I’m not even really here.”

He walked over to the stage and pressed some keys. I stared down at my manuscript. It was hard to focus. 

“Alright, ladies. We’ve got time for one last song.” He started gently pounding out some chords and singing. “Oh I ain’t got the power anymore, no I ain’t got the power anymore.” He dove into the verse, and I dove into my manuscript.

I read it. He played.

He was better. He was way better. It wasn’t even close, but then again, I didn’t want to compete, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t either. He played, and I read, and the music swirled around me, and I felt the power. My mind lit up like a solar flare with the sort of electricity you only get when you’re around someone who cares so deeply about what they’re doing that you end up caring, too.

“I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thoughts, and I ain’t got the power anymore.”

I looked at the garbage. You know how sometimes, in really dim light, you look into something that has volume to it, like a trash can, and it just yawns at you, and it seems like it doesn’t have a bottom, and it won’t ever, ever end?

Yeah, it wasn’t doing that anymore. The trash can, I mean. I could see a condom at the bottom of the liner.

I finished my drink and managed somehow to stand up. The room tilted and whirled so hard it made my brain hurt, but I found a path and made it to the door.

“Don’t believe in yourself, don’t deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death’s release”

It didn’t really make much sense, but it worked, in a weird sort of way. We made eye contact, and he nodded at me.

I just nodded back.

Then I left.

I suppose I made it back to Bloomsbury at some point because I woke up the next morning in my own bed, wishing I would have died.

I looked at the clock.

Morning. That was being generous.

My roommates would be back from Wales soon, and I…

Had it really been four days?

I rolled over. There was a manuscript on my bedside table. It had a touch of glitter on it. Next to the manuscript was a clear glass orb.

I never did find that bar again. It’s gone now.

I went looking for it my last night in London. The weather was warm, and we took Barclay’s bikes and rode them around the whole fucking town. We didn’t wear helmets, so our hair streamed behind us, and we laughed at the sheer folly of it all, kicked our legs out and screamed like kids, and the blood raced through our veins and our hair was blowing behind us and we could feel the life throbbing through our temples and I never did find the bar again.

I never found it again, but…

Now that I come to think of it,

I’m not sure I ever did.

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The Procession Of Death


   
I can see it now.

Geniuses, wearing their ceremonial garb of grey and blue, march out of the apple store. They hold the symbols of their order: A squat woman in the front holds an apple on a stick. She waves it high, announcing to the world this is a religious matter. Behind her comes the bearer of the iPhone and iPad, one held in each arm, ceremonially checking them every ten seconds for snapchats and tender updates.
After that, the elders arrive, the old MacBooks from the ancient times wheeled in on AV carts. Some say they can’t even process more that sixty-four bits. It’s just a legend, though. Surely, it is but folklore to scare the children. I must consult the geniuses later.

Behind them comes the effigy of Steve Jobs, rolling on a cart made of pure titanium and gold. Black turtlenecks burn in his honor. The effigy stands looking forwards to the future. Behind him comes the past.

My MacBook.

It is carried on a purple satin pillow. A black shroud hangs over it. Two geniuses in dark black robes carry the pillow. Their faces are concealed, but tears can clearly be seen staining their robes. In front of them, two similarly attired geniuses swing thuribles filled with the finest electronic components from the orient. They burn, releasing their toxic smoke so that the whole mall can smell it.

Mourners line the walkway to the exterior exit. They wail and gnash their teeth. They beat their chests and prostrate themselves on the ground. Why? They ask. What sort of god would do this?

What sort of god would ruin someone’s perfectly good MacBook with water damage?

No god of mine.

I take up the rear of the procession, dressed in all black, wearing a veil. I have already gone through one box of cleanex and, poor as I am, I hope my weeping will cease lest more money be put toward the tissue fund.

I am supported by my friends Stacy and Stephanie, as I can barely walk from the grief. They are sad too, though they could never hope of fathoming my pain.

To lose a MacBook…

It crushes your soul like a vice. It is an owner’s greatest fear to have to bury his MacBook. In an ideal world, my MacBook would have lived to a ripe old age while I am comfortably dead, but this is not an ideal world.

It is a dark one, full of terrors, full of things that go bump in the night and spill liquid on your MacBook when your not even there.
Damn whoever did this. Damn them to hell.

I weep as the procession finally reaches the dumpster. There are no dumpster women there today, and the only smell is the stench of death; the rot and decay of components; plastic wrap, burning.

The geniuses recant the five pillars of Agammom, and utter the sacred rhyme of Ulgoch, before they toss my MacBook in the dumpster. They reach for the compact button.

NO! I scream, breaking free of Stephanie and Stacy. My baby! My baby no! don’t put him down there! You can’t! You can’t!

I stroke its lid, running my hand over the humorous bumper stickers I stuck on it years ago. I can feel the air bubbles underneath the plastic. It’s comforting.

The geniuses try to pull me away.

I just need to say goodbye.

I wipe my eyes. My MacBook stares back at me, lifeless.

Remember London? I ask it. Belgium? France? Florida, remember that? The dorm room I brought you too after I picked you up from the student center? Remember the film school sets? The nights we drank together and spun dark tapestries? The rain on the windows of the old apartment? The rattle the air conditioner would make? Remember? Remember?

It remembers nothing, though. It’s hard drive is wiped. It’s dead.

I remember, though, and what is anything, if not a future memory?

I let the geniuses lead me away. I hear the compactor start, and they carry me to my car.

Stephanie drives. I’m in no state.

I write this to you know, gentle reader, on my old, old MacBook from 2008. The future is uncertain. 

What sort of computer will I procure? Will it even be a Mac? What will I do?

One thing is for certain, though.

My MacBook would have wanted me to go on.

So go on I shall.

 

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