The Cook Awakening

Love and Gratitude

January 18, 2016
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges

It’s taken me forever to start this letter. 40 years since we first met, since you wound yourself around this heart and showed me what freedom could look like – one hundred at least of its many faces. 40 years since I followed the sultry vocal strains and outlandish images into a world of infinite possibility, the wry self-referencing smile and shockingly beautiful direct gaze stealing away my breath into a welcome delirium. Pot, cocaine, sex, endless nights of talking and dancing and mornings of shaking the neighborhood – your voice shrieking while I readied myself to float through a day of high school, wishing my life looked more like some image that would make you nod, grin, give your acerbic stamp of approval.

I had to walk over roads of self-concern to get anywhere near that. But in hidden places, away from prying parental eyes, I knew I was free. I dressed it up pretty and acceptable while they controlled the four squares and a roof, and I flew high high high under the radar, the wild life of a teenage girl in the 70s, after free birth control and before AIDS. Marin County was a party time petri dish, yes, there really was too much money and just enough drugs and hot tubs.

We lived a strange parallel life, you and I, you leading the way in the public eye with no goal in sight, always the joy of the process. I swam in the waters of your stories, and you helped me know that no thought was too weird, no impulse shameful. Society’s approval was a dim afterthought, the artist’s heart-led path the only truth worthy of attention.

You modeled a bloodthirsty love of life. Love; fun; abandon; intelligence; astute judgment; fearless, heartbreaking activism; fluid identity; fluid… everything. You were always in motion, no one could pin you down. I watched, listened, and learned.

At the heart of it was always beauty. Sheer, heart-stopping, cool-hot, compelling visual and aural pulchritude. I still look at photos of you from those days and I weep. Not just because you’re dead now. I wept before. It is a deep mystery to me how someone could exude that much charisma in everything they do. Yes, youth is magnetic, and I had my share of that. But… you shone fucking crazy bright. Fucking hell. Instant melting loins.

So, that’s how we started. Those days of magic got me through some hellishly dull years of reality living. As the dominant culture unraveled, there was no ground to stand on. You showed what a blissful life no ground to stand on could be.

I thank you for that. In some mysterious way, you were my earliest spiritual teacher, although I’m sure you’d giggle to hear the sentiment.

I lost track of you for a long time then. Maybe I didn’t need you as much – you’d done your work and set me free to live life as an artist. I found my way into a more overt spiritual path, which I now read you also walked, at least to some degree. Parallel again, in ways I never knew.

So, yes, I feel gratitude for the work you did in those early days, you broke ground for all the queer identified gender fluid edge walkers. We all owe you, big time. You normalized fringe self-expression like no one before you. And, others have thanked you for this, in much more beautiful prose than I can muster.

What I need to express is the next step that we took in these parallel lives.

Somewhere around when you got your death sentence, I stepped into the world of death and dying, felt the mysterious calling that would not be resisted. It would not be acted on, either, it demanded a waiting, a careful mindfulness practice of life – reading the signs, a practice of trusting that when the time was right, I would know.

And, I have known. Last year I dove into training, gobbling all things death and grief. It’s only training, mind you, I’m not ready to splash this all around in my professional life. At least, not much. But, as you probably know, it’s hard to prevent bleed through.

Although, it seemed you did a good job of that. I don’t remember reading a peep about your illness. You were in a frenzy of work, racing the clock to get your final stamp on the world of art and music. As you did when we were sweet young things, you did whatever the fuck you wanted – theater, music, film – all from the depths of your gritty experience of life and death.

And, again, as you were our model in youth, I honor your exquisite showing how a human might age and die. I look at the photos you left in these last months and my self-judgment calms. I have not aged as gracefully as I’d like – no more the nubile beauty that I imagined you’d tempt into delicious sin were you ever to have met her in the flesh. Your body was old, wrinkled, wasted – cancer will do that to you. And, the grin was all you, with the telltale, mismatched eyes. Unapologetically ill and old and full of living secrets. The Buddha said there is no escaping it, and you gracefully prove it for us all.

I am humbled at the divine plan you executed – one last hurrah! Let us enjoy and celebrate you – your play, your birthday, your album, fabulously mysterious and disturbing videos… and then, the news breaks… and so do we.

We break open. I am not the only one, I hear it everywhere – none of us are prepared for how much your death cuts into our hearts. The critics called you a dandy, a mere pop star, and somehow, part of us believed the belittlement.

You lived, an artist – you died an artist. Through and through. Kept a private life, and gave us what we needed to carry on with the understanding of what it means to BE an artist.

Just fucking do it. Get out of your comfort zone, and don’t fucking worry about whether anyone likes it. Push the edge, with love, humility and nerve. Wit and wisdom. Never take yourself too seriously, but never underestimate the power of your art.


Shit. Thank you.

Goodbye, David.

Goodbye, David.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 18th, 2016 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “Love and Gratitude”

  1. Angela Sparks Says:

    This is lovely and eloquent, Durga. I am sad to have lost this dear gentleman. He was a captivating artist and always gallant. Though I enjoyed many of his songs, I missed knowing what a sweet soul he was. Thank you for your beautifully expressed thoughts.

  2. Durga Fuller Says:


  3. Kathryn Kirstein Says:

    A beautifully crafted homage to a man who gripped the hearts of so many of us public or private outliers. Thank you for voicing so well what so many of us are experiencing – the painful anguish of loss along with the extreme appreciation for having shared this world with him.

  4. Durga Fuller Says:

    :'( <3

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