Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My life with Bowie and mirrors

Me in my Bowie days, age 18
One day, when I was a kid, I found a discarded, tattered journal. And in every page there was a picture of a creature who cultivated, or had, an odd and profound beauty. To me, already obsessed with fragility and ephemerality, this young and old, male and female ker with orange hair, who sings My Death Waits, who know Jacques Brel, like my father knows Jacques Brel, like he actually is Jacques Brel, and the other Jacques, a whirlwind of feullies mortes in Paris. To me, he becomes the key to a mirror maze, where history repeats itself with so many minute variations that you find yourself lost and so far away, seeing reflections that don't see each other, and walls that are not really there. I needed to hear him, though, not just look at pictures glued in somebody's book. A friend goes to London and I ask her to bring him back to me, his voice, his words, a piece of his stage. And she comes back with the Man who Sold the World. And I stand in front of my wall, of course, and stare at it so deeply that it melts into the other side. The night side, the blurred boundaries. And my own mirror where I practise to kiss, wrapping myself in a feather boa. The street is silent, the room mine to play with, the shackles still in place. But the boundaries have become blurred. And this is Genoa, not too spiritually far from the Port of Amsterdam. Genoa, with its streets of decadence, struggle, red light prostitution with creatures of all ages and sizes and multiple variations of sexes. Was that not a stage? A play of mirrors where the red light smooths your skin, where the too young seem old enough, and the too old are still good for a night, or to hide you under their beds until your crimes are forgotten. Crimes, I had committed none, I preferred dreams. And then Jean Genie was another piece of the puzzle, although the roofs were a mixture of Florence, Paris, the greyness of the Genoa slates, and not so much of New York. And it was Jean Genet that I followed, not yet Iggy, through the meanders of his Lady of the Flowers, his bizarre films, his castling in prison. While my father tried to point out that the lumpenproletariat didn't even know (or care) about the Nazis. One little twist of the mirror and the scenario behind is totally changed. I found my Lady of the Flowers, called Cinzia, who liked to embarrass me by comparing freckles. She wasn't interested in girls, and her world was so remote from mine. Then aliens came, and 1984, that my father said it had been safely written or published in 1948, not during the war. And the game continued, where he knew my every move, from a slightly different angle, and introduced me to a world of real cabaret, Paolo Poli, who called me Grillino (little cricket). And not White Duchess. I am, after all, still a Grillino much more than I have ever been a creature of the night. Bowie taught me about different worlds, the flimsiness of self definition, the constant search, the slight changes that become rifts, that become slight changes, and that eventually melt into one marvellous, harmonious, if dissonant, melody.