>>>The brief wondrous life of Bowie
Photo: Jan Versweyveld-10, Sophia Anne Caruso

The brief wondrous life of Bowie

David Bowie, the Thin White Duke, is not dead; neither is he en route to space; he is still in New York, in the SoHo, in bookstores, theatres, and concert halls.
avid Bowie, the Thin White Duke, is not dead; neither is he en route to space; he is still in New York, in the SoHo, in bookstores, theatres, and concert halls.
What New York and David Bowie have in common is that they both survived all manner of excesses. The day Bowie died, the world went into mourning. But that was a mistake. It doesn´t matter that Bowie is not present. Nor if he has visited New York. If travel, according to Claudio Magris, “teaches us about alienation, and to feel outsiders, this does not apply in New York; New York clings on to culture, as did Bowie, like waking in the morning. Like the need to survive excesses.
Life is too short not to eat and drink well, is a slogan in Bottega Falai, a favourite spot for Bowie.

Last night I dreamed with Bowie

“I was on a train and he sat down beside me. We spoke about photography, and he told me he preferred 35mm”. Conversations, advice, or private concerts. Bowie’s admirers share in the “Dreams about Bowie” forum how the Duke appears to them in their dreams.

The “Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” written by Junot Diaz was one of the books that Bowie bought in McNally Jackson Books, one of his favourite bookstores. Another favourite was The Strand Books, where Marketing Director Whitney Hu recalls how Bowie, despite wanting to go unnoticed, “gave off electricity”. “He was always alone, wanting his private life respected, not wanting scenes with the tourists, but when he requested a book he was charming and delightful”. This is why the Chameleon continues on in New York. It was in 1969 when Space Oddity launched his career. He had arrived from Brixton, London, made his debut in 1972 in Carnegie Hall, that mythical New York space that, since it opened its doors to the public in 1891, has welcomed composers such as Rachmaninoff and politicians as Martin Luther King.
In one of those disconcerting coincidences of life, Carnegie Hall and The New York Times both announced just hours before his death a concert that was to include music of Bowie. That was in January and the concert was programmed for 31 March. It wasn’t a tribute concert, though he was expected to attend. But life and death had other plans.
David Bowie’s influence knew no frontiers, neither does Bowie merchandising.
Photo: Jorge Cotallo

Listening to Dad’s stories

McNally Jackson Books is much more than a conventional bookstore. It is also café, a publishing house, and a place to meet up. Bowie was a regular there. He liked to read stories to his daughter in the children’s section, and as one of the store managers recalls, “My colleagues would hide nearby to listen to him”.

“I’ve lived in New York longer than in any other place. It’s amazing: I am a New Yorker”, he had said ten years earlier. And so, when on the 10th January he died at the age of 69, his neighbours of SoHo, in Manhattan, filled the streets with flowers and music. The apartment he shared with his wife at 285 Lafayette Street has since become a place of pilgrimage. He lived the early years in hotels, the Gramercy Park Hotel and The Sherry-Netherland. “It would be pretty terrifying to have to live now in any city in the United States other than New York”, he said in 2002. Later he became more serene. He concentrated on his creative work. He would go to Booth Theate and the New York Theatre Workshop. It was at the Theatre Workshop that he played Lazarus, a play that he and Enda Walsh adapted from the novel “The Man Who Fell to Earth”,   written by Walter Tevis.
The owner of Strand Books still remembers Bowie’s visits to his bookstore. The Duke’s outfits did not go unnoticed.
Washington Square Park was one of his favourite places. He would end his walks with a visit to Dean & DeLuca, Bottega Falai, Caffe Reggio, and Olive’s, all highlights on his much loved route.
His final album, Blackstar stands as an epitaph. Jazz-flavoured rock. “You know who I am”. His lyrics paint his portrait, just as much as the books he bought, and the places he chose to live in.

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