Today, Lise Quintana and Kolleen Carney explore “David Bowie: Sound and Vision,” by Julie Greenberg, submitted for the Dearly Beloved anthology.
I saw him walk in as I was eating Cheetos and processing a credit card order for a customer. My throat started to close, electric zaps shot up to my head causing an intense heat. Panic. My first thought, ” Go and see if he has an English accent,” I ordered my coworker, Sam. I could not move. “Over there to the left, the guy with the black jacket on,” I directed with my chin, since my hands were working.
“Go and see, please,” I begged. I didn’t tell Sam why I needed to know. I wasn’t sure yet. I guess I always pictured “The Thin White Duke” towering above all other humans. It’s the only reason I had doubt, he wasn’t tall. Sam followed him around the store pretending to straighten the sheet music in the bins. I finished with my customer who was buying beginning piano instruction books. He looked at me odd as sweat started to pour off my forehead. I remember he was annoyed because I got Cheetos fingerprints on his bag.
Sam reported back, “He has an English accent, why do you want to know?” The sheet music store wasn’t that big, but large enough so you could whisper and not be heard by all. I whispered, “That’s David Bowie Sam. I know it is. I don’t know what to do?” Sam wasn’t into music that much, even though he worked at a music store. Before I could hear Sam’s response to my dilemma, I ran back to the storage room. I crouched down on the floor putting my head down on my knees while maintaining a slow nervous rocking. It was like the first time I went to Disneyland and saw Mickey Mouse walking. I couldn’t believe he was alive and so huge. It scared the shit out of a three year old that was me. I ran behind one of the Disney trees, shaped as Donald Duck. My parents said I was shaking and they had to explain that it was a human in a costume pretending to be Mickey. Now the twenty two year old me was hiding in the storage room shaking from a real David Bowie. I needed a plan.
Should I tell him how much his music means to me? How as a child, his albums were my best friends and helped me get through some challenging times. How he made me realize being different from everyone else was really cool even if other kids were calling me FREAK! I knew he had been teased as a kid, and now he was the finest thing on Earth singing about Mars. Tea parties weren’t with my peers dressed as princesses. Alone in my room, my parties were attended by musicians, Ziggy Stardust, Elton John, Lou Reed. Record albums filled the small seats around my table and I would talk to my “friends” about their music, and their favorite songs on each other’s albums. “Ziggy, what do you think of Yellow Brick Road? Did you like helping Lou Reed make his album?” Aladdin Sane taught me to dance, and Ziggy Stardust wiped my tears. Bowie got me through many difficult changes.
There weren’t cell phones back then, so I couldn’t connect with anyone for advice, or take a picture. I was crouched next to a box of old sheet music. Sheet music that was over ten years old ended up in this bin. We called it the RIP bin. I could see if there was something from Bowie in this bin, and then I could have him sign it. “I love your music Mr. Bowie, can you please sign this?” Yes, that would be my plan. I think I could get up enough nerve to do that.
I tore through the RIP bin like a mad woman. It seemed like almost instantly I found the perfect piece of music. I took a deep breath and walked out of the storage room. I looked around, the store was empty, Bowie was gone. Sam said he bought a Mozart collection, paid cash and left. I stood there with the sheet music in my right hand, and a Sharpie in my left. Sam said he told Bowie he liked his music, and Bowie said “thank you sir”. I was too late.
To this day, the sheet music to “Sound and Vision” hangs on my wall. It’s unsigned, stained by my orange fingerprints. The “Thin White Duke” watches over me, as I dance.
“Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the color of my room
Where I will live
Blue, blue”…David Bowie