Wednesday, February 3, 2016

We Can Be Heroes

Just for one day.

HEROES! GET YER HEROES! TODAY ONLY! screamed the newspaper salesman in my head. One downside to a 20 year media boycott (no telly, no radio, no 'news' other than online) is that I heard about Bowie's death via my fb wall. Days after. So I can't remember the exact time and place. I remember when Elvis died: I was in the back seat of Dad's car and the news oozed through the radio off the tongue of one of those sleazy, doped up rock n roll radio announcers to the backdrop of 'Moody Blue.' As well it should have. Those were the days. Now and forever, instead of remembering the exact time one of my heroes (like Bowie) died, I'll remember a homogeneous blob of news McNuggets served up via (anti)social media.

I don't have a telly, but I still managed to 'acquire/finagle' some American late night comedy shows. All of them had Bowie bits (not 'bits' as in 'pieces' of him, my sick UK/Irish friends). Memorials, footage, music, all of it. They showed flowers and candles on Bowie's Hollywood star, outside his house, outside all of his former houses ever—including his Berlin residence (my auld pal Der Irische Berliner was there). Though I was in Prague at the time of hearing of Bowie's passing, I will never forget my Berlin-Bowie connection.

It was early December in 2008, the last day of my Scouting For the Next tour. It was the end of my Decade of Decadence in Prague and I needed a new country to violate. I was on a 3 day bender, a tiki bar tour of Berlin with one of my Pragueish-American (that's a nationality), Prague-tiki-bar-owning friends. We were hung-the-fuck-over, sprawled out in the lobby of a Berlin-Kreuzberg youth hostel, awaiting our return to Prague. They were playing Bowie on the hostel speakers. Then I heard the softly warbling voice of Bowie transform, Reichisch-dictator-like, into ICCCCHHH!!!! ICH BIN DER KÖNIG! UND DUUUUUUU!!!! DU KÖNIGEN!!! Bowie was screaming 'Heroes.' In Deutsch (Deutsch must be screamed to be truly effective)!  At the time, I had no idea that Bowie had lived/loved/recorded in Berlin. HELDEN done in Deutsch confirmed it: only non-Americans bother to learn the language of their host countries. The truly great ones even learn to sing it (though to be honest, English lends itself better to lyrics. I mean ICCCCCHHHH? Really? I fucking LOVE IT).

While I age ungracefully, wideness setting in the body and mind, I remember my heroes, and where I was when they died. Most of them died while I was abroad. Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, DeForest Kelley (Bones!), and Bowie. Most of my heroes are/were rebels, outlaws and misfits. I would have it no other way. What put the choke in my throat about Bowie's death wasn't the flowers, the mourners or the non-stop Bowie-a-thon music. It was a scribbled note left on Bowie's Hollywood star, which bore a quote by another famous misfit, Guillermo del Toro:

"Bowie existed so all of us misfits learned that oddity was a precious thing."

And so he did. And I'm feeling pretty fucking proud to be an oddity right about now.

Bir Sir (when he was just a little sir) saw Bowie perform live in Mountain View some time in the 90s.  It's all a haze.


  1. I learned about Bowie's death from my FB wall, too, and I have telly...and even a Sunday newspaper.

    But I loved your stories about your experiences with his music in Berlin....and your memories of where you were when Elvis died. I was in Auburn, in a honky-tonk place...drinking and dancing. And then the news broke. Sadness all around.

    1. I'm not a believer in regrets, but if I had any... I regret not hanging out in more honky-tonk places. They don't have them in Europe. :(


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