OKLAHOMA CITY – Listening to the utterly haunting and beautiful fade-out of David Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” on 2016’s best album – Blackstar. There is an existential sadness in that song that is undeniable. Of course the whole album is Bowie’s gift to the living as his life on this plane comes to an end.
And that seems to be the underlying theme of 2016, which essentially kicked off with Bowie’s passing. That “Blackstar Event” I spoke of. Death permeated 2016. Sadness. Grief. Loss. You can’t go anywhere online – “the web” – and not see some reference to the rottenness of 2016 and how everyone is ready for a “new beginning” after so much depressing news, topped off with the election of an utter madman for president. Reading the Blackstar lyrics, not only are they about Bowie's impending death, but about the coming year, one filled with death and dark themes.
But you can't have the dark without the light, right?
Even recent, local stories - like the Oklahoma Sooners football player Joe Mixon, who essentially defended himself for striking a woman because "it felt like a dude hit me" when the woman hit him, causing him to hit her back. In Bowie's "Tis a Pity She Was a Whore," featured on Blackstar, he sings: "Man, she punched me like a dude."
Like a prophet, on the edge of '16 ... (ISO / Columbia)
It’s hard to believe that nearly a year ago – early in the morning of Dec. 31, 2015 – I have a very powerful, Bowie-inspired dream, which I address in my post “Walls come tumblin’ down.” I note a monolith (recall monolith-minded astronaut Buzz Aldrin being medically assisted in New Zealand earlier this month by a Dr. David Bowie!), a conversation with a dead astronaut (like the one in Bowie’s “Blackstar” video) and Lake Michigan. Of course, the city of Chicago, Illinois is on the shores of Lake Michigan. And a city embraced in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.
Lake Michigan can be seen in this shot of the Illinois Nazi's red Pinto wagon falling to the streets of Chicago. (Universal Pictures)
At the same time I’m listening to Blackstar, I am looking over a story about actor and singer Debbie Reynolds, mother of actress Carrie Fisher, who died within a day of her daughter passing away. According to TMZ, Reynolds “seemingly willed her own death Wednesday, telling her son before the stroke that claimed her life, ‘I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie.’”
It was last night, while re-watching the original Star Wars with my children – a lot of Star Wars simply everywhere these days - I synchromystically learned about Reynolds’ death, and this while her daughter is on the screen – herself an R2D2 hologram recording: “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
It was eerie, to say the least. And this after numerous Hunter S. Thompson syncs in recent weeks and months. In fact, as news of Carrie Fisher’s initial heart attack made headlines before Christmas, I thought of her mother and how she makes an appearance in Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo go to the Desert Inn and demand to be allowed in the showroom to see their “old friend” Debbie Reynolds. The staff allows the two drug-addled visitors inside, so long as they don’t smoke.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas art by Troy Little
Writes Thompson: “We promised, but the moment we got inside we lost control. The tension had been too great. Debbie Reynolds was yukking across the the stage in a silver Afro wig … to the tune of “Sgt. Pepper,” from the golden trumpet of Harry James.”
Interestingly enough, trumpeter Harry James’ music is prominently featured in the 1986 Woody Allen film Hannah and Her Sisters, in which Carrie Fisher plays the role of the sister April.
As Reynolds sang the Beatles and James tooted his horn, Thompson notes that after Dr. Gonzo erupts in fury at the sight on stage -
“Jesus creeping shit! We’ve wandered into a time capsule!” – they are kicked out of The Desert Inn and proceed on to Circus-Circus.
WEB OF LIFE
Within a year-and-a-half of Thompson having Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas published in Rolling Stone – to critical acclaim and launching “gonzo journalism” – Reynolds was happily giving her voice to the animated “Charlotte A. Cavatica” spider in the 1973 children’s film Charlotte’s Web, based on E.B. White’s beloved 1952 novel of the same name. The spider, with its eight "arms," appears synchromystically once again, as I noted in a 2015 Dust Devil Dreams post "The spider and the lizard." That post notes the film Rango, interestingly enough, which features an animated scene involving Hunter S. Thompson, aka Raoul Duke.
The voice of the “terrific” and “humble” pig (nearly killed because he was considered a “runt,” a word I noted in this Back to the Future-themed Dust Devil Dreams post - which notes Watership Down, the novel written by Richard Adams, who also died this past week and highlights a "runt" rabbit named Fiver who sees bad things on the horizon) Wilbur was by Henry Gibson, the actor who played the head “Illinois Nazi” in The Blues Brothers, a film that also notably featured Carrie Fisher.
As a side note, singer Aretha Franklin also notably appeared in The Blues Brothers, and would later appear with George Michael – who also died this week – on the number one 1987 hit “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”
Anyway, Charlotte’s Web seems to be syncing with me in 2016, and with the year – thankfully – nearly over, I realize it has something to do with death. Charlotte (Reynolds), the spider who helps her friend Wilbur (Gibson) gain acclaim – and life – does die at the fairgrounds at the end, but not before Wilbur has Templeton the rat (Paul Lynde) take Charlotte’s egg sac back to the farm from whence she came. And thanks to Wilbur and Templeton, Charlotte’s progeny are saved and she has 514 children. The web of life, as it were.
It would seem as though Bowie sensed that with his final act, Blackstar – and the music therein – was helping to usher in this transitory phase on our planet and a time where we have to face death as part of the circle of life.
Or as Bowie sings on “Blackstar” …
"Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)"
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