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  • Today is David Bowie's birthday. He is 66.

    I have far too many Bowie related memories to even begin to try to untangle and recount. There's an outline brewing in my head for a story (could be a book, really) called "My Book of Daves" and Bowie will be central to that, you'll see. It moves from David Bowie to Byrne to Lynch with brief fixations on David Mamet, Eggers and the inimitable David Foster Wallace. A long standing crush on Dave Matthews deserves inclusion (whose music I do not particularly love but who strikes me as just a stellar human being) as well as nice associations with the music of David Grey, though now - for reasons I can't even articulate - just bugs me.

    It's multi-faceted and mercurial, my relationship with Daves. I have at least 15 of them as professional contacts and seem to meet 2-3 more each year. It's become a joke in my house and in the office - "you like him just because he's a Dave" which might be true. All of those Davids were instrumental in the early formation of my artistic taste and somehow, I think, link back to Dave, the first Dave. The best friend of my first love in high school - and much more than that, my first, great guy friend.

    Dave was the one whose shoulder I cried on, who I got busted drinking with in the park, the one in whom I could confide about anything and the one would share surprisingly intimate details with me including his sexual exploits with a divorced 30-year old woman. "Get out. No way!" I'd say wide-eyed. "Wait, so tell me how..." I wanted to know everything, was taking mental notes, picking up tips from this cradlesnatcher. I was mortified, intrigued, and utterly rapt. We were 17.

    Dave's mom was strikingly similar to my own. Blonde, bubbly, blue-eyed and direct, she'd make sure there was always something to eat, and chat with us late night in his kitchen. "So why are you two not dating?" both of our mothers would ask on occasion. The moms never met which is too bad - they would have gotten along splendidly. Just like me and Dave.

    It was a fair question and we did try dating, once, but it just didn't click. I couldn't get my head around exactly why then, except to think "he just doesn't smell right to me" which was it - the simple truth, right there. Chemistry is just like that and there's really nothing more to explain.

    His friend on the other hand - my detestable and undeserving love interest - reeked of Irish Spring which was a little overwhelming even then but somehow strangely alluring too, like a bad joke I got caught up in and couldn't wrestle myself out of repeating, over and over, ad nauseum. I just needed to get naked and dirty with that clean-cut, preppy boy. All the time. Whenever, wherever, like rabbits we were until we fought and I cried and I wound up back in Dave's kitchen, talking to his mom. It was a chemical thing. Uncontrollable and lamentable. But that's another story.

    So anyway, as I sat with my laptop tonight, listening to Bowie's newly released song "Where Are We Now?" my own 17 year-old son came bounding up the back stairs and stopped.

    "Whoa, what's that? Straight outta the 80s, yeah?"

    "It's Bowie" I said. "66 years old today. 66! Can you believe he refused to accept knighthood..."

    Ooof, too late. He was already gone. A quick nod and continued momentum up another flight of stairs straight to his bedroom to turn on his i-pod and listen to Radiohead for the umpteenth time, just as we did with Bowie at that age. Dave and I sitting in the driveway in his vintage Fiat, listening to "Heroes" repeatedly on cassette with the windows open, staring up at the speckled heavens, trying to discern the constellations in our teenaged lives - the whys of our wacky families, the possible directions of our futures, the reasons behind our tangled and confusing relationships.

    "Why do you do it - keep going back to him?" he'd ask. "All you do is fight. Well, fight and..."

    "I don't know. Why are you dating that old woman? She's got a KID! That's just gross..." Rhetorical questions, of course, now. But then we didn't have answers to any of it. Not at all. Not at 17.

    Oh, Dave.

    So, we left for college and drifted away to Connecticut and Kansas, totally disappearing from one another's orbits until we reconnected on one explosive night post college and then again, 20 odd years later. It was funny, heartwarming, and is certainly worthy of a chapter in my future Book of Daves.

    So I've digressed but that's what music does! Happy birthday, too-cool-to-be-Sir David Bowie. I like the new song, nice title. From where I stand "where we are now" is pretty grand in all regards and I hope it is for you too. And for Dave. The first Dave.

    Photo: Smithsonian, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
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