Monday, January 11, 2016

Toasting David Bowie -- and my past -- with a wine oddity

I saw it on social media while still in bed, and then I couldn't move.  A friend - much younger than myself and therefore someone who couldn't feel what I felt - said "I didn't even know he was sick."

David Bowie had left the world.  I came to his music later, after Ziggy Stardust. My 70s ears were full of Donna Summer and the Bee Gees. It wasn't until the 80s that I became passionate about the new incarnation of David, the white-suited handsome man who sung alongside Blondie and Duran Duran in the playlists of the Melody Bar in New Brunswick, where my roommates and I danced every Thursday night.

It was Let's Dance that was, not our initiation, but more the moment when we fell in love. When Matt Pinfield (because we had the coolest DJ ever at the Melody and we didn't even know it) played the single, one of us would pull the others to the floor.  In our neon big shirts with large shoulder pads and our dark lipstick and fluffed hair, we shimmied over the old planks sticky with beer. In the frat houses of College Avenue, across the darkened rooms of The Roxy, when David Bowie said, "Let's Dance," we obeyed.

He made us feel cool. We were children of almost-immigrants (one or two generations away from Italy or Ireland), raised in the boring suburbs of larger, more exciting places. But when we listened to David Bowie, we could share in his exoticness.  When I hear his voice, I think of his massive intelligence and his wit -- his sense of irony only matched by his sense of fashion.  When he was older he married one of the most beautiful women in the world and bought a castle.  Who didn't want to be like David Bowie?

I got through today in a fog, flooded by memory.  I texted my ex-husband, "Didn't we see David Bowie in concert?" Yes, he replied, at the PNC Arts Center.  It was a good show I remembered.  I emailed my college friends "We have to raise a glass soon!"  I texted my son (a different generation but a musician who mourned him with a musician's heart), my poet friend Howard.  I posted on social media, but it wasn't enough.  The sadness deepened... and the memories had their way with my mood.

In my mind, I was back at the Melody dancing --  living with abandon for a few hours at a club. It was a time when being young meant endless possibilities.  I remember slipping my arms into the sleeves of an emerald green silk shirt, pulling up my black leggings, placing my feet into my faux-Doc Martens and painting on black eyeliner -- it was all a girl needed back then. That and the music. We had the night and cheap beers and shots of kamikazes, and we loved David Bowie and Adam Ant and Howard Jones and Madness and it made us feel cool and alive and immortal.

But we didn't stay young. We had children and bought houses.  We had our hearts broken by friends and lovers.  We buried parents. The cassette tapes gathered dust or were sold at yard sales or donated to charities.

We stopped listening to David Bowie.  When I was still married, my husband bought me his greatest hits on CD.  I appreciated it, but it all felt dated. I liked new music and didn't look back much in life.

But, tonight, I've got Bowie playing and my eyes are wet from tears.  I pulled one of the weirdest wines I had  - Mukuzani Red Dry 2006 from Teliani Valley in the district of Kakheti.  I bought it in the Republic of Georgia, during a life-changing trip to this ancient wine-making land.  It's made from the delicious but little known Saperavi grape. It's got inscrutable Georgian lettering on the label, curving and looping like backwards 6s and 3s with little flourishes.

None of us can be Bowie, but we can all embrace our special breed of oddness.  I guess as an explorer of vineyards, it's my passion to find the weird wines - the ones no one has heard of.  I'll raise a glass of this little known wine and toast David Bowie, and youth, and creativity, and lost loves.  I'm looking back tonight and feeling the great weight of time past, cherishing those beautiful nights that live on in memory.  The nights when we all said, "Let's Dance."

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