September 3, 1987. I was almost 17, which would have made Jared almost 15. Jared had presented and won an excellent case for missing school that day, something that never happened in our home. My foot never left the pedal and the pedal never left the floor after we hit the interstate, and so the 100-mile drive from our home in Madison, Connecticut up to Foxborough, Massachusetts took just over an hour in the big blue family Ford Club Wagon Chateau van. Jared sat in the passenger seat, grinning like a cat with all the milk and fidgeting like a man that had just landed in a bed of poison ivy.
“Is this really happening?” My little brother laughed.
“It is,” I replied over the whine of the redlined engine.
I parked the van in the parking lot with a million other vehicles, and together we walked towards the thickening crowd.
“This sucks,” Jared worried at the sight of the long people-snake that coiled around the stadium.
“Don’t worry, it’s general admission; we’ll get close.” I promised.
Jared followed me as I wandered around the stadium, looking for the right spot and the right moment.
“Let’s do it,” I shouted, grabbing his hand and running for the head of the snake.
Moments later we were well positioned near the front of the line, sure to be on the field within seconds of the gate’s opening.
“Have you done that before?” Jared asked.
“Nope; that was just for you,” I assured him.
Less than an hour later we were standing in front and center of the stage, just far enough back to see rear of the stage, but close enough to it to see the color in the roadie’s eyes as they rushed about, prepping every needful thing.
It was hot and humid, and after a few hours of standing in the center of an anxious, sweating, and much older crowd, I was feeling nauseous and tired. Jared on the other hand, wouldn’t have noticed if someone had started to peel his fingernails off with needle nose pliers. He stared at that stage, waiting.
The sun set at last, affording us some relief. Something about the dark makes people lose their inhibitions, which for me makes them fun to watch, and so I spent the next hour pointing out the more bizarre members of the crowd to Jared. He would turn and look for a moment, nod in agreement with a laugh, and then return his attention to the stage. He was not going to miss that moment.
He didn’t. And what a moment it was.
The man didn’t even come out on stage for the first song, not that we could see anyway. He was somewhere out there in the darkness, singing as dancers in strange costumes beating drums dropped from the rafters, sliding down ropes amid flashes of colorful light.
A sudden silence and darkness fell, followed by a burst of light as the massive form of a spider lit up the night sky over our heads.
And then that voice.
“Up until one hundred years ago…”
The story of the Glass Spider continued as a figure, seated on a chair, holding a telephone in one hand and the crowd’s adoration in the other dropped from the belly of the spider.
I looked over at Jared just to make sure he was still standing, his feet still on the ground. He was, with his eyes fixed on that colorful, wonderful, masterful figure on stage.
I don’t remember much after that other than absolute amazement. Ziggy played guitar that night, and I was there to witness the magic.
Jared was the true Bowie fan; I had just offered to drive. Not that I hadn’t appreciated the hours and hours of Bowie records Jared had made us listen to in the attic bedroom we four brothers shared. I didn’t know just how important that trip together would come to mean to me in the years that followed.
This morning, almost thirty years later, I saw the news of Bowie’s passing, and then heard the sound of Ziggy’s guitar (on vinyl) coming from my daughter’s bedroom. A wet smile warmed my cheeks.
I don’t typically mourn for celebrities; they are people that have to eventually die, just like anyone else.
And I don’t mourn Bowie’s passing.
What I do mourn is not being there to see Jared light up in that moment.
That moment when the Starman came and met him, and blew his mind.