David Bowie’s got me thinking. I’m thinking about his influence on my childhood and my childhood in general, and the further away I get from childhood how grateful I am for it having happened when it did.
I believe I am an anomaly, stuck between Gen Xism and Millennialism. By definition, having been born after 1982 makes me a Millennial, but I don’t identify with that. I had older parents that raised me as though I was Gen X, and yet my dad was a Computer Programmer for the government so we always had the latest technology (like a Millennial). I can’t remember my first foray with computers; I decorated my dad’s work laptop with Fruit by the Foot stickers when I was in kindergarten while simultaneously learning DOS prompts on it. Because knowing a DOS prompt was necessary to make a CPU do a thing. Want to start up your operating system? That didn’t happen automatically, and that’s not something someone born in 1990 remembers.
Those switches to the right of the screen adjusted the contrast. This is a thing I remember.
Technology was so readily available, but it never did exactly what I wanted it to do. For my birthday (I was turning 12 or 13), I asked for this device to transmit footage from my parent’s Hi8 Sony Handycam to our Compaq Presario.
Internet Ready! 4.0! Emails! Old people and particle board desks!
Our computer didn’t have enough RAM or hard drive space for the things I wanted to do. I was so frustrated…I just wanted to try making movies!! I thought I’d be so good at it! Also annoying? My birthday is in January, and that was the year everything was covered in three inches of ice. The power went out for almost a week. I wasn’t even able to find out how disappointing Snappy 4.0 was until several days after receiving it.
What I’m getting at here is that I was always yearning, and that’s something that someone even a few years younger than me doesn’t necessarily know. I remember the unadulterated joy of WiFi entering my life, as but a year or two earlier my dad had drilled a hole in my bedroom floor to run an Ethernet cable up to my computer.
Coupled with my constant consumption of the latest technological advancements available to the consumer was a barrage of really weird media. The Age of Societal Acceptance of Nerdom was just beginning. Bowie’s death reminds me of the masterpiece Labyrinth, which reminds me of The Dark Crystal, which reminds me of Captain EO, which reminds me of Return of the Jedi. Basically, all things Lucas/Henson. I wish weird stuff like that was still being made for kids. It was scary. It’s healthy to be scared! I’m glad I had those movies as a kid, and I’m glad I had parents that allowed me to look at a man covered in glitter and spandex (which probably lead to my being attracted to men who fall outside of traditional gender constructs (which has done me zero harm)).
I got a little older and I sunk in to Star Wars as a teen and didn’t feel weird about it. Somewhere around the time my pituitary gland was poppin’, it became cool to be a nerd. I blame the World Wide Web for cultivating a reverence for pop culture and giving community to formerly disenfranchised geeks. Those who had no one to talk to about their geeky obsessions until suddenly they had whole message boards and chat rooms and the ability to make merchandise on Cafe Press about it. Thanks, Internet!
And so, I was raised in a swirl of AOL Instant Messenger, and being attracted to guys in eyeliner, and little devices that made life easier, and fantasy/sci fi genre shit, and suddenly cell phones! It happened before my very eyes and I wasn’t even realizing it. Hindsight is indeed 20/20. I read an article in which the author dubbed people like me, people who feel generationally sandwiched, “The Oregon Trail Generation“. I identify as such! I’m neither completely analog, nor completely digital. I appreciate convenience, but uphold the tenets of good old fashioned hard work.
So what does Bowie have to do with all of this? What does he have to do with my entitled, suburban upbringing? I mean, I don’t know…this is me rambling. I won’t pretend to be the biggest Bowie fan; I always found comfort in him and I liked him a whole bunch, but I don’t know him as well as I should have. What I can say is that as a kid that came of age on the cusp of a digital revolution is that I’m glad to have lived during a time in which I saw the difference that a person like David Bowie made. He was weird and wonderful bridge.