“But the film is a saddening bore
‘Cause I wrote it ten times or more”
On day four I’m listening to the first Bowie album I ever heard in full. And when that saxophone starts up on Changes, I’m right back where I was when I was seventeen.
Every piece of that memory feels so fresh and familiar – the lyrics of the song spelling out so clearly what I wanted. Of course this was the album I latched onto; the perfect metaphor for physical transformation. Okay, not perfect. But lines like “still don’t know what I was waiting for, but my time was running wild, a million dead-end streets” represented so clearly the previous failure I’d met when trying to lose weight. I yearned to make it work, but I didn’t know what to do. I kept assuming something would change without my instigation. But what?
Of course, Bowie was singing about so much more than that. But to a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish. And all meaning is ultimately determined by the listener, right? Diverging briefly: I feel that this is the perfect opportunity for an update:
I haven’t lost any weight yet. Although I’ve been increasing my distance each day, I’ve also been gorging after my runs. I remain at 77kgs, but with a plan. It consists only of two minor changes: larger dinners and limited post-run snacks. That’s right, larger dinners.
The problem with the last two runs has been that I’ve eaten during the day as if I were hoping to lose weight without the exercise. By the first step out the door of the last three, I was running at a caloric deficit. I would then come home from my run, my body crying from the ridiculous depletion of energy it had suffered, and eat everything. So, marginally bigger dinners; pre-defined snacks, problem solved before the second track.
Oh! You Pretty Things carries me through the surprising heat, as I visualise this early and incredible performance
My body moves effortlessly through the run, my mind elsewhere. Eight Line Poem a digression of the kind that I have always loved. Never eligible as a hit, it seems to come from a place that is far more pure – acting as a bridge on the album from one track to the next. By the time Life on Mars kicks off, I start to wonder how I will cut this post down to a readable length.
I begin working through it in an internal monologue, and realise that this process is becoming more cerebral than I would have liked. Even that observation comes to me in my blog voice, and the fourth wall of my brain is smashed from its very hinges. I strive, instead, to become again lost in the music.
External stimuli stifle my wish. I run past an old lady struggling with her groceries, and begin to wonder whether I should help her. No, she will just think I am a thief, I convince myself, better not scare her. I run maybe ten more strides, and come across two women struggling with a large piece of furniture. Well, if I didn’t help the old lady, helping here would make me a creeper.
And then, almost immediately I run past a fence tagged with the phrase “be nice to people”. I shit you not. It is a sad day when you have to be taught empathy by the scribblings of graffiti artists, scrawled on painstakingly rendered fences. Things quieten down for a few minutes in the outside world.
You may recall that on my first listen to Hunky Dory I wasn’t completely convinced. Running to it again today, I remember why: Kooks and Fill Your Heart. These tracks still feel like hangovers from Bowie’s earliest work, and as I pass the panel beaters the smell of paint thinner makes me wish there were a musical equivalent. On an album otherwise well informed by pop, though, you forgive these things as necessary aberrations.
A couple ahead of me are holding hands. As I get closer, the male gives the female a slight tug in the direction of the nature strip, signalling my presence to her. She pauses a moment to consider the request, and when convinced that it is not unreasonable, they both politely make way for me.
It occurs to me that the male human is a funny creature. Stare too long in his general direction, and he will threaten to fight you. But move toward him along a path and he will scramble to move out of your way, if he believes himself to be an obstacle. When grouped together, you may even witness one male physically move another in order to let a pedestrian pass, subtly establishing themselves as the alpha.
As I ponder my gender’s faults and virtues, I am interrupted by a familiar blur in the distance, my subconscious informing my eyes that this is not just another stranger. The blur has long hair – a woman – and I stare hard to sharpen the focus. Without my glasses, I cannot make out the face until I am a few steps away.
By the time I notice it is my best friend’s ex-girlfriend, I realise that my attempt to unscramble her face must have been interpreted as pure scorn by her 20-20 vision. I speed up quickly as I pass her, offering no more than an awkward nod. I’ll be nice to people tomorrow.
The weather is hot and awful for running. Andy Warhol plays as I run through the park. The line “Andy Warhol, silver screen, can’t tell them apart at all” strikes me as a succinct biography of the artist. Another lyric “Dress your friends up just for show – see them as they really are” reveals more about Bowie than it does about Warhol.
The idolisation track, Song for Bob Dylan, provides a great insight into the depth of Bowie’s belief in music, as well as his faith in Dylan as a songwriter “A couple of songs from your old scrap-book could send her home again.” Brothers in arms when it comes to their self-definition, in a parallel universe perhaps Zimmerman and Jones are the best of friends.
As I finish this track my joints begin to yell. I resolve to take tomorrow off. I persevere as a track I once hated starts, Queen Bitch. Bowie pre-emptively borrows from The Killers’ Mr. Brightside in this track – “now I’m phoning a cab, and my stomach feels small. There’s a taste in my mouth, and it’s no taste at all”.
Finally, The Bewlay Brothers plays, and I’m almost at 8.5ks again. I stop a little early today, mindful that the chances of injury increase exponentially the more exhausted I become. I listen to the bonus tracks while walking, wondering whether this constitutes cheating. More than that, with the same tunes colouring my exhaustion that I listened to 7 years ago, I get a bit nostalgic. I wonder whether my 17 year old self would be proud that I’ve made it so far, or just annoyed that I didn’t finish this years ago. I suspect the latter.