There has been too much death around me lately.

I'm still crying over the rat. It takes a while. Every time. I keep telling myself that she had the best life I could give her. It takes so little to make a rat happy -- a warm dark place to sleep, water, food that appears at random, friends to nap on or groom behind their ears. My back was wrecked for a week, after I sat up with her pressed against my shoulder all night. I'm 34, I'll creak along to 80 or 90. Six hours out of the middle of my life is nothing. Six hours at the very end of hers was everything.

Circlet lost one of its authors under heart-rending circumstances. I never dealt with her directly, but Cecilia talks to everyone, this one perhaps a bit more personally than most. She's written about it here. Cecilia is the only person I know who routinely has arguments with people to convince them she should be giving them more money, and that's just cold impersonal cash. I don't even know how to begin with that one. I can always tell when I come into work looking as lousy as I feel when the first words out of my boss' mouth are, "Do you need something to eat? Can I get you some tea?" Even aside from the author's specific circumstances, extrapolating to a situation Cecilia couldn't improve somehow with tea doesn't get me anything pretty.

So let's start with David Bowie.

I am not, myself, queer, or genderqueer, or trans, or a member of any of the other communities that considered him an icon, or his fan community a safe place to express aspects of themselves that might otherwise result in ostracism, or worse. I know a lot of people who are; I completely understand why Bowie's death hit many of them in a way that most other celebrity deaths wouldn't. Bowie didn't just do a lot of these things, but ostentatiously rolled his eyes at anyone who thought there was anything wrong with it. He hung around with a lot of other people who, for all their faults, cared a lot less about who you wanted to sleep with than they did about where you got those boots or how you managed to use Christmas tinsel as false eyelashes. Social change rippled outward from it. You could almost trace it by watching Bowie's answers to questions about his sexuality -- "gay" to "bisexual" to "why are we still talking about this, I have an album out for chrissakes." Which is pretty much as it should be, I think.

I am also not old enough to know a world where this sort of thing didn't exist, in a reasonably open fashion. I was born in 1981, most of a decade after he'd retired Ziggy Stardust and let his eyebrows grow back in. As far as my memories are concerned, MTV has always been around, and rock star fashion has always been insane. During my lifetime, somewhere in the world, the ideas of Adam Lambert's spiked mail suit coats or Katy Perry's carousel romper or Björk's swan dress have always been lurking, and we've always been able to describe it as "like" someone -- Dali or Warhol or Bowie himself. I gained sapience in the late '80s-early '90s. We didn't just have archetypes; we had the whole globe networked together, really for the first time in human history. We had worldwide shared delusions.

I am just someone who is a little too smart, and a little too weird, and a little too much in love with glitter and feathers and big flappy coats. So I'm not going to step on anyone's toes here. I'm just going to sit in my corner and cry quietly with headphones on.

When people mourn popular artists, few of them mourn the real person. They don't know the real person enough to mourn. You don't live with them, work with them, have heart-felt conversations with them -- you read and watch and listen to the things that they've put out for public consumption, one way or another. What they mourn is the experience of that artist's work, the feelings it brings up when the art interacts with their brain. It's a legitimate thing to grieve for. We are all the sum of our experiences, and without that piece of art hitting that piece of your brain at that time, you wouldn't be who you are now. Knowing that stream of experiences has now dried up is genuinely sad.

I don't -- can't -- know who David Bowie really was, day in, day out, at home, at rest. I know what kind of person he chose to present to the world when he was working, and knowing what kind of person someone thinks they ought to be for public consumption says something in itself. It's remarkably difficult to fake being that cantankerous, and nigh-impossible to fake being that intelligent, so I would guess that, once he calmed down and quit living on cocaine and milk, what the public got was a reasonably close, if edited, version of who he was in his downtime.

I do know he produced a lot of art that pressed a lot of buttons in my brain, and I am very sad that he is not around to do it anymore. There is not a lot of mainstream music I'm willing to pay retail for. Bowie and Macca are really the only two big artists I've done it for long-term. Most things I get used or pester out of the library if I really want to hear it, but I shelled out for Reality about ten years ago. I just did it again for Blackstar, albeit via gift card. Worth it both times.

People make much of how Bowie changed over the years. New look, new sound, new studio, new album. He really didn't. The trappings are all over the place -- "because Bowie" is right up there with "because Japan" or "because internet" for explaining why there is, say, an enormous illuminated arachnid looming over the stage for no apparent reason. "It's for Bowie," you tell the stagehands casually, delivering crates of giant spider, and everyone just nods and goes back to what they were doing. 1. Outside is one of the creepiest things in music history ever to not somehow involve Trent Reznor. "Warszawa" has virtually nothing in common with anything by Tin Machine, other than they both involve instruments from the planet Earth. Probably.

(I like Tin Machine. They're loud enough to be useful when you're angry. Bowie and lead guitarist Reeves Gabrels together gave exactly zero fucks about anything. Also anything off of the album Earthling.)

But. Go back and watch him perform. Watch him move. Watch him pop his knee back and forth, marking beats with the heel of his right foot. Watch him smirk at the band when it's going well. Watch his shoulders twitch, watch him flip the mic cord around, watch him break his Serious Artistic Persona into a million pieces and grin ear to ear when he just can't help it anymore. Same guy in there the whole time. It fascinates me to go back decades and realize that I'm watching someone just begin to construct the person they will be ten, twenty, thirty, forty years later.

I spend a lot of time in the scintillating twilight of the theatre and the circus, attending striptease lunatic asylums and trapeze-tea parties at the end of the world. It has existed in one form or another ever since humans figured out what escapism was, but seldom has it been so much at the forefront of popular culture as it was during the rise of glam rock. I'm a nice girl from the suburbs who fell into a big glittery rabbit hole, and landed on a pile of steampunk ball gowns. The theatre was dirty and disreputable before this, nomadic, rootless and untrustworthy, riddled with prostitutes and thieves; respectable people went to watch plays and then fled home right afterwards. They certainly didn't get involved.

Last night, I put on my best warpaint, in galaxy blue and silver, and went downtown to watch a live space opera. Today I wake up, wash my face, and go into work to do inventory. Without Bowie and people like him, people who thought that boys could wear makeup and that Labyrinth was an appropriate movie for children, this in-between place wouldn't be. They paved a pathway in, and a pathway out, for those of us who hover on the borderline. I exist in many universes. Some of them are surreal and sparkly.

I don't know where I'm going with this, other than wanting to crawl into a hole right now, and pull the hole in after me. I don't know that I really have any basis for grieving the man who played David Bowie on stage, but I suppose I have as much right as anyone to grieve David Bowie the artist, the body of work he produced, and the memory of sitting alone in the back of an SUV in the Wal-Mart parking lot, my earbuds jammed in tight, crying quietly when "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" came on, because my life was in shambles and I didn't know how to fix it. He pressed a lot of brain-buttons, and he inspired a lot of people to press more. The world needs people like that.

So. Thanks, David. I know you didn't write this one for yourself, but it fits as well as anything else, I think.

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