Archive for the ‘Talking Heads’ Tag

RIP, David Bowie   1 comment

BowieFrom time to time, I type out what I’ve written in my daily journal. This is from today, January 11, 2016.

RIP David Bowie

I woke up early again, too early. 4:30-ish. (Once upon a time, that’s when I went to bed. Whatever happened?) I looked on Facebook on my iPad (with a coffee in my sleepless bed) and read that David Bowie had passed away yesterday. I think I saw it first from my daughter Hanna who lives in Europe and posted something before anyone in North America would have seen it.

I got up and put on a You Tube compilation of his songs. So many songs that have always been a part of my life, somehow. Ashes to Ashes is likely my favourite. But then there’s Space Oddity (the original appearance of Major Tom). Maybe I like it more. Changes. Heroes. Wild is the Wind. So many great songs, no point trying to enumerate them all.

I feel very sad today, which I find a little surprising. I mean, people die every day. I didn’t feel any particular strong bond to David Bowie. Or at least I didn’t know I had. Obviously he meant more to me than I had realized.

I mentioned this to one of the young women who works at Caffe Beano and she reminded me to look at the bright side, that he had an amazing life, he was old, he had cancer, etc. etc. I know she’s right. Of course she is, and it was good of her to try to cheer me up. But when you get to a certain age yourself, though, when someone who has always been there, a part of your life, suddenly dies (or even not so suddenly) you are reminded of your own mortality, and just how quickly our lives pass by. And that’s enough to make a person sad.

Looking back, I remember buying the album Scary Monsters when I moved to Toronto from Regina in the fall of 1980 to go to York University. I was twenty-four. I was suddenly exposed to the music (and art, generally) that my fellow students from across Canada were into. (I remember getting into the Talking Heads at the same time and buying their album, Remain in Light. 1980 was a good year in music.)

My new friend Janine definitely turned me on to Bowie. Of course, I knew his music before then, but she ramped it up significantly. It was very cool to identify with Bowie, and even dress in the new wave fashion – skinny Edwin jeans, black leather jacket, white running shoes and a hair cut that now could only be described as a mullet.

I damn near wore that Scary Monsters album out, I played it so many times. (Btw, we’re talking vinyl here. I didn’t get a CD player until the late ‘80s.) I was open to pop music again after a foray into the classical world that had lasted for about ten years while I seriously studied the piano.

Whoever Major Tom is, and whether that song is about drugs or just the general alienation and otherness that we all feel from time to time – whatever it means, exactly, Space Oddity has always been helpful, giving words to our experience and a balm to our alienation and in this way it could be said to be an anthem for a generation.

(There are others from around the same time – notably Stairway to Heaven, Hey Jude, Born to Run, and some earlier ones like The Sounds of Silence, Heart of Gold and Big Yellow Taxi. To name but a few . . . )

I seem to have a memory from back in the day (and I say that I seem to because I’m not 100% certain that it really happened). I was driving along an empty stretch of highway in Saskatchewan on a warm summer’s night. The sun roof was open, the great canopy of stars was vibrating above in the inky blackness. I had smoked a fatty and was listening to Space Oddity full blast – floating in a most peculiar away . . . sitting in a tin can . . . far above the world . . .

It comes back to me now as a moment of perfect contentment, one of those rare moments in a lifetime. It’s a nice memory, even if it never happened.

The world feels a little emptier today, the silence a little louder.

Thanks for reading.

RIP, David.

And then there’s this . . . .

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Posted January 11, 2016 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

The Bicycle Reconsidered   3 comments

Last November I got rid of my car and decided to see what life would be like in Calgary as a pedestrian and a user of public transit. I wrote a post about that on this blog at the time, and then wrote another after 3 months. I talked about the obvious advantages to my general health and finances. At that time, I figured I’d walked about 1,000 km I would otherwise have been sitting down for. Now that figure must be three times that. Put in practical terms, I suppose that’s like walking to Vancouver and back from Calgary.

When I first started this noble experiment, I suppose I felt like someone who in newly single after being in a long term relationship. Some people seem to feel that the default position for a human being is to be in a relationship, and that to be single implies a deficiency of sorts. But having been single for a decade now, more or less, I am finding for myself that it’s actually a positive position. I am one of the few people I know who actually enjoys being single.

Same too with my relationship with the automobile. At first, given that I live in Calgary which is a shrine to the car if ever there was one, my lack of wheels made me feel inadequate, somehow. Lacking. A negative position. But now that I’ve been at it this long, I don’t feel there in anything negative about it.  In fact, I am reasonably convinced that what I am doing is right and that all the people I see alone in their cars burning expensive gas as they idle in traffic jams are wrong, on many levels.

Now that it’s summer, if that’s what this cold rainy season can be called, I have another mode of transportation at my disposal – my bicycle. The freedom and joy of riding my bike has made any desire to have a car again all the more remote.  The great thing about it is the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the greater the distances one can travel. For example, one of the places I work at in North East Calgary seemed impossible to reach by bike a few months ago. Well last week, I rode my bike there. It took me less time than it used to take me to drive.

I just finished reading David Byrne’s book, Bicycle Diaries.  The Talking Heads are one of my favourite bands of all time and I respect and admire David Byrne as a songwriter and performer and artist. Diaries is a meandering travelogue of sorts, having for a large part not much to do with bicycles at all. Which is all right, too. It’s interesting to read his take on arts and culture in different cities around the world.

While he doesn’t devote a chapter to Copenhagen, he does talk about the work of urban planner Jan Gehl, who has helped “successfully transform Copenhagen into a pedestrian- and bike- friendly city. At least one third of Copenhagen’s work force gets to work on bikes now!” I have no illusions about this every happening in Calgary, a city with a vested interest in keeping cars on the road for great distances and long stretches of time. But I notice that the bike racks here have more bikes locked to them this summer than they did last, so it feels like we are moving in right direction.

When David does get down to it, especially in the book’s epilogue, he talks convincingly about the important role the bicycle plays in the greening of our cities. He points out the obvious, that driving an automobile is not sustainable at all, and soon will have to end for all kinds of reasons.  All of this makes me feel I am downright progressive and part of a vanguard that just might help rescue the city I live in and maybe even the planet from strangulation and suffocation.

If you’re interested in David Byrne and his take on different cities of the world (such as London and Istanbul) and cycling in general, this book is a good read. It’s not new, it first came out in 2009. (I found it at Fair’s Fair used book store.) It’s published by Viking.

I’ve included an interview with David about his design for bike racks in New York City.

Thanks for reading! Good riding out there!

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