A friend of mine, Caroline Jacobs, posted a link to an early David Bowie video on facebook last week. Although it was about 1:00 in the morning when I saw the post, and although I had already been staring at my computer for close to five hours, I decided to check it out. (You can too, here: David Bowie performs “Fame” on Soul Train). Watching the thin white man sing, I thought the following almost as one sentence: “My god he’s hot. my god he’s young. my god he can sing.” After thanking Caroline for the post, I proceeded, though it was now after 1am and I was entering my 6th hour on the computer, to troll the web for additional links on David Bowie.
Interesting facts learned (mostly at http://www.bowiewonderworld.com/faq.htm): Bowie is really Jones. He has two children. He studied meditation with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, founder of Naropa Institute—now my very own Naropa University. He loves his wife. She loves him. His teeth are much better today than they were in 1971. He’s still hot, though he’s not so young. That’s okay, as I’m not either. One site said he regretted telling Michael Watts he was bisexual, not because he wasn’t, though that isn’t entirely clear, but because it had caused undue confusion for his younger self, which was apparently already confused enough. No matter, he and his confusion have created decades of great music. Not about DB but related: Iman is, of course, still stunning. Who the hell even knows how old she is—nothing as mundane as age matters when you’re a goddess.
I can’t say where this post is going, though I think it has something to do with missions, by way of Major Tom, ground control, and sitting in a tin can. “here am I sitting in my tin can, far above the world, planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do…”
- an important assignment carried out for political, religious, or commercial purpose, typically involving travel.
- a group of people taking part in such an assignment.
I went on my own mission last week, to the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago. Somehow that seems fitting, as I can never hear, see or think the word “mission” without also hearing, seeing and thinking Jake and Elwood Blues saying “We’re on a mission… from God.” I don’t know if they really pause after mission, but in my mind they do, as if waiting to land a punch line. Because really, what god has time to send two pasty white boys to Chicago on any kind of mission political, spiritual or otherwise? Much less musical. Though you have to give them credit, the white brothers could sing. And Belushi—for a fat boy he sure could move. Though I have to say, looking at 80’s era clips of him, he really wasn’t so big. Not by today’s standards anyway. More than heft, I think it’s the knowledge of the vast quantities of cocaine and alcohol that were rushing into, through, and out of his system each day that makes his agility so astounding.
Anyway, my own mission to the windy city involved not music but words. And friends. Presumably words first, but no. Friends first. “A group of people taking part in such a mission.” Now, unlike “mission” noun, singular, “mission” noun, plural, conjures (in my mind) the somewhat less happy vision of Evangelicals torturing natives in the name of a white Christian god. Pastier even than the Blues Bothers and, though no less amusing (if torture can be amusing), nowhere near as talented, well meaning and/or fed.
In the case of Chicago, however, I was quite keen on being a part of the greater whole. Setting aside thoughts of teenagers dressed in matching pink, yellow or blue t-shirts lining up in airports to fly to “impoverished,” read brown-skinned, third world countries to trade physical labor and spiritual rhetoric for promises that each newly painted building will be used to worship a decidedly peach-skinned god, I hauled my introverted, Christ-and-crowd-aphobic self one thousand miles west to spend three days in the company of people who see something in me that I barely recognize myself. People who love words every bit as much as I do and who share dreams of one day spinning them into something approaching comprehension.
To those friends—Celina, Raki, Rachel, Ivy, Angela, and Kevin, who took turns making my “mission,” noun, singular a far wilder, louder, and more educational “mission” noun, plural—I say cheers and thank you. In your presence, I stepped that much further into the dream, listening to panel after panel populated by people carving out missions of their own with and for books whose pages hold a black inked brilliance bound by handmade covers, some stained with letterpress ink.
“Commencing countdown, engines on….”