Drifting further back along the memory stream today, back to nineteen seventy-two, I stumble over one of my favorite artists, a person named David Bowie.
Bowie’s song, “Changes,” came out when I was in high school. My most vivid memory, though, was talking about the song during my first permanent duty assignment in nineteen seventy-five, three years later. I was with the 2750ABW at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Permanent meant that I was assigned to the place, and would be there for a while. I was a command post emergency actions controller for the base and HQ Logistics Command. Three of us were on duty at a time, for twelve or eight hour shifts.
One night, I was on duty with Dale and Sistrunk. Studying, as we were often doing, I was singing the song to myself. “What is that you’re singing?” one asked. I explained what it was, and who performed it. They knew Bowie, but not that song, which surprised me. It was a youth’s surprise. I thought we all inhabited the same universe in America, where we all listened to rock music. But Sistrunk didn’t listen to music in his car or at home, and Dale preferred light jazz. I didn’t know the light jazz performers he enjoyed, and was amused, thinking of him as dated, when he shared their names.
That’s why “Changes” is perfect for that memory, and this time. As years passed, windows opened on myself, but they still remained small and few. I stayed in my personal garrison, spying on others, wondering what they think of me, as I thought of them. I think about the child I was, and then the man I was, and now, the person that I became, and wonder who I’ll be next.
Bowie’s lyrics capture the sentiment. “Every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet. So I turned myself to face me, but I’ve never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker. I’m much too fast to take that test.”
We think of the universe, world, and its inhabitants in terms of static existences, but really, we have snapshots of moments that we consider permanent. Almost everything is always changing. We’re just not fast enough to comprehend it.
As a bonus, it was Rick Wakeman on the piano in “Changes.” Wakeman was already known for his session work on many albums, but had formed Yes with others, another group I greatly enjoyed.