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Mourning The Man Who Fell To Earth

Mourning the Man Who Fell to Earth

“If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.” – Dean Podestá, ‏@JeSuisDean

A fist closed around my heart this morning waking up to news that the Starman really was just that now.

I think many around my age would have known him first as Jareth, and for many too the Goblin King would have been their first love.

That was my introduction to Bowie, followed by an old cassette of ‘Low’, one of the few in my Dad’s music collection that I’d play ad nausem in a worn out yellow Sony Sports Walkman. Finding a British first pressing of that album a few years ago in NYC was one of those “Holy Grail” moments for a vinyl lover. I was ridiculously broke at the end of that trip, and chose not to eat that day in order to afford the record. A decision I don’t regret; Low remains my favourite from Bowie’s expansive career, and one of my all time favourite albums period.

His art influenced and inspired, his interests, exposed many to other formative works. I even remember experimenting with the Dadaists cut-up technique as a way to reorder scenes from Woyzeck in theatre school because *Bowie* used that method to create some of his lyrics. So many little connections for so many of us, evidently clear by the outpouring over his death.

So before I wind up down my own rabbit hole of grief; with tales as to why and how this man I never knew meant so much to me, I’ll end off here with something my dear friend Peet wrote instead because it’s pretty bang on:

It feels like family because, for so many of us, it is family.

This funny looking man has been a huge figure in my life for well over 20 years. Not in a “Oh, I liked Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” type of way (honestly, I haven’t seen it), but in a “well, I listen to him fairly regularly all of the time and always have”. He influenced and impressed upon me in numerous ways, many of them likely unknown even to myself. I know that it’ll be a while before I even fully register this, because it’s so strange and new.

I was blessed enough to seen him perform several times, and went to his Hollywood Walk Of Fame star unveiling. Weird how that’s the one I’m remembering today. Him, this odd guy with poorly dyed red hair, and his gorgeous inhuman wife, on the street in front of the Knitting Factory, existing in the real world, out in the sunlight, smiling and waving to the lunatics who’d shown up to share in this admittedly-meaningless moment…

And now, what? Now we all have Black Star (which I am dreading listening to again for fear of hearing goodbye, as I have never been able to listen to Joey Ramone’s final album). We still have Ziggy. We’ll always have the Duke and, yes, Jareth. 

He’s never going away, you know? Family doesn’t do that. That stay with you in little ways forever.

I fell to Earth once. But I am back now. David Bowie Le Petit Prince by Onlyleigh.

Thank you for the art, the music, you. See you in the stars xx

Le Petit Prince Bowie Art by: Onlyleigh

Musings & Life

A Visible Soul

Waves of grief

Grief feels like drowning.

At least to me it does. A mixture of struggling against the waves as they hit you one after another. Gasping for air, fighting not to be pulled under until you finally are and then everything gets really slow and you’re just floating, suspended.

I’ve been pretty quiet lately because of, well, grief.

And for as much as a I feel like I have an understanding or a handle on death, I’m never quite prepared for the insane torrent of emotion that happens in the wake of it. Wave after wave of different raw feelings hit me, hardly able to catch my breath in between. All the while part of me is numbly aware of everything, distant and observing, waiting to resurface.

At this point, you might be wondering who has died.

It was Jasper, our darling cat, my constant companion and friend for the past 7 years.

Grief in wavesHis health had been touch and go the last while, but it seemed manageable with the right diet. This year though he started taking a turn for the worse, I think we kept hoping more meds or the right meds would fix it, but they didn’t and he was too far gone and in a lot of pain. It was crazy to see how quickly he declined towards the end, which at least I suppose he didn’t suffer, a kindness in the quickness of it all.

I still wasn’t really expecting that he would die though…

Do you ever find that though you logically know and understand something, as much as you might try to rationalize and explain it to your emotional side, it just doesn’t cut it?

I’ve experienced the loss of loved ones that have been expected, unexpected, totally unexpected and holy-fecking-hell-are-you-kidding-me unexpected.

I thought I’d be as ok as one can be when faced with Jasper’s death. But it’s really hit both of us harder than we expected. I’ve not wanted to talk much about it or share the extent to which this has been affecting me for fear…I guess fear of people dismissing my grief. Because Jasper was a cat.

But than I thought screw it. He was an awesome furry little guy. And that should be celebrated. And it’s ok that I feel this upset over his death. He was family. I’ve posted a few things since about it, and I have to say I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by nothing but kindness, love and support from people both near and far – and it’s helped *immensely* – so thank you.

I’m glad I didn’t just totally hide away and say nothing, because that would have been ignoring what had happened as well as the pain. And for as horrible as we’ve both felt, I think facing it head on has been better for us dealing with it in the long run.

Jasper CattooSeptember is finally here now, and things are speeding a long at what feels like a break neck pace. I’m trying to look forward to some pretty wonderful things which are soon on the horizon, but no matter what though, Jasper’s in my heart and etched on my skin. #catlady4life <3

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

Art & Culture

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire

Death Becomes Her - Mourning Attire

A new exhibition opening today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has me wanting to hightail it down to NYC. Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire is the Costume Institute’s first fall exhibition in seven years and looks to be a cracking good one at that.

Exploring the evolution of mourning fashion between the years of 1815 to 1915, the show is a fascinating look at how women’s fashion impacted bereavement rituals. The exhibition includes mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra, with several ensembles being exhibited for the first time including a “silk chiffon mourning gown that last saw light when Queen Alexandra of England wore it in 1902” (Flirting with the DarksideThe New York Times).

Examples of restrained simplicity are shown alongside those with ostentatious ornamentation. The predominantly black clothes are set off against a stark white background and amplified with historic photographs and daguerreotypes.

Mourning Dress DetailAmerican Mourning ensembleMourning Evening GownDeath Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire is on now October 21st, 2014 through to February 1st, 2015.

And if you’re around in NYC for Halloween, the Met’s Friday Evening Gallery Event with interactive experiences from Edgar Allan Poe readings to spooky photo booths or sketching in conjunction with the exhibition is a great alternative for some morbid culture – Victorian costumes encouraged!

Musings & Life

Live For Joy – Sparkly Devil

Sparkly Devil Live for Joy

Writer, burlesque rebel, opinionated loudmouth, sparkle addict, Crossfitter, wreakor of havoc.

That’s how Sarah described herself.

Sparkly Devil at the Hubba Hubba Revue by Patrick McCrackenSparkly Devil at Hubba Hubba Revue, DNA Lounge, San Francisco, California, 25 May 2013. Photo Courtesy Of: Patrick McCracken.

She was all of those things and so much more.

I’ve been trying for the past few weeks to make sense of what happened in the early hours of May 26th, 2013. And still nothing does. The facts are there. The cold, immovable truth that my friend, Sparkly Devil, was killed in a car accident outside of San Francisco returning home from a performance at the Hubba Hubba Revue. Her husband Bones, critically injured.

And there it is. It takes a second for the news to be told, and a lifetime or more to process it.

The past few weeks have frankly, sucked.

They have been the suckiest suck suck that ever sucked, for me, and for a lot of people who knew and loved Sarah.

My friend Patrick likened this to a Tsunami. This all encompassing wave of grief that just hits you out of nowhere, drags you under, and suffocates you.

My tsunami moment happened the other day when I saw a woman crossing the street who looked like Sarah – same killer curves, bold red lips, bleached blonde hair and a leopard print coat. She was going into a Tim Horton’s here in Toronto. Logically, of course I knew it wasn’t her. But I tried to get across the street to see none the less. A car passed by blocking her from my line of sight and then she was gone.

And that just did it. In that moment it really hit me that she was actually gone.

Cue pouring rain, and me sobbing in the street looking like the soggy bastard love child of Marc Bolan and the Crow.

I walked home in the rain half crying and half laughing at the absurdity of thinking I saw Sarah in Tim Horton’s, and what her reaction would be to find herself haunting a donut shop in Canada.

Suffice to say there would be a lot of expletives from Sparkly Devil in my imagining of this.

At After Dark in San Francisco with Sparkly DevilAfter Dark, San Francisco 2007 accosting Sparkly while doing a Zoolander. Sarah’s expression is the best.

So I’ve tried over and over again to write about Sarah and these recent events. It’s a pretty impossible task, and I can’t even begin to simply sum up such an absolutely brilliant, sparkling and inspiring life as Sarah’s. Nor do I really want to.

What I can do, is write about those little moments, those random things that you remember about a person. Like the daft road trip film I wrote with Sparkly Devil as one of the main characters, or the fact that Sarah was the first person to send me a Gmail invite (my password for the longest time was  her stage name Sparkly Devil), that her wedding invitation was pinned by my desk at work for years – Sparkly Devil & Bones embraced – always giving me hope for a whirlwind fairytale romance of my own, or hearing about the epic “Sephora Glitter Battle” between Diana and she in Las Vegas, envisioning mountains of red glitter covering the two of them.

All these little moments in between the bigger ones that define and make a person who they are.

The first time I met Sarah in person was one cold, oddly snowless winter over ten years ago in 2002.

Sparkly Devil in Chicago with Carrie & IsmeneSarah with Carrie & Ismene in Chicago, 2002.

We had become fast friends online through various newsgroups, as well as following each other’s LJs where her wit and humor really shone as she shared the adventures and nuances of her life with friends.

At the time I was living in the UK and had a vacation to Chicago coming up. When Sarah found out I was headed stateside she told me she was going to drive from Detroit to Chicago to meet me and we could hang out.

That was the type of person she was, to drive across states to see a friend from afar. I remember being floored by this; she was always one of the cool kids to me. Sarah said she needed to test drive the new VW Beetle for an article she was writing and it was the perfect opportunity to do so.

Article or no, the fact that she drove 4 hours there and back to spend a weekend with someone she hadn’t met in person yet really touched me.

Sarah & I hamming it up in Chicago, 2002The trip was fantastic, and meeting Sarah was an absolute highlight. I adored her. It’s too rare in this life to come across someone like Sarah. After that trip I would subsequently get to see her again several times in Las Vegas and San Francisco. Too few but brilliant times I’m so incredibly glad for.

It’s upsetting and sadly unsurprising to see some of the articles coming out now in the wake of her death, tabloid and sensational elements painting a one dimensional picture of who she was.

Yes, Sarah was a Burlesque Star and absolutely beautiful.

Sparkly Devil performing at Little Minskys in San Francisco

She was also an accomplished journalist with a razor sharp wit, fiercely intelligent and articulate with a fantastic knack for swearing like a sailor in all the right places.

Sparkly Devil, Photo By Patrick McCracken

She was an incredibly creative performer with perfect comedic timing and an explosive presence on and off the stage.

Sparkly Devil Photo By Noctopia

A glamorous pin up with a deep seated respect and sense of history in regards to the Burlesque movement. She championed this history and educated those unaware of the roots and trailblazing creative efforts of Burlesque performers of yore. She was at the forefront of this revival long before it was the cool thing to do.

Sparkly Devil by Patrick McCrackenPhotos Courtesy Of: Patrick McCracken

The articles out there focusing on a sensational story don’t convey what I loved about Sarah. She defied convention and you couldn’t pigeon hole her.

I loved that she was a Feminist and a geek, who delighted in Bruce Campbell leaving her a voice mail. How infectious her energy and enthusiasm was, and how she was always doing a million different interesting things at any given time. She led by example and was an incredibly inspiring woman and I admired her greatly.

Was. Man…it’s still really hard to use past tense now. Sparkly *is* inspiring and will continue to inspire me in how to live passionately.

Sarah – the original Bullet Bra Bombshell. Brains, Bawdy and Beautiful.

I am so glad I had the chance to see her perform in person. The above photos are from that night in April 2007 at Little Minsky’s shot by our talented friend Patrick McCracken, who photographed many of Sarah’s performances. That evening Sarah made sure I had the best seat in the house, right up front by the stage where I was treated to a special performance. The club was packed, and it was clear why after Sparkly Devil’s show.

Sarah and I may have lived thousands of miles apart, (the curse of making friends online is often the distance), but my life is that much more sparkly and better for having known her.

I can’t even begin to piece together all the wonderful things she was. Simply, she was my friend, fiercely loyal and so big hearted with such a wicked sense of humor. I am going to miss her so bloody much.

Live for joy.

Sarah, no one could ever accuse you of anything less.