I jumped from having one foot tattoo to three during my trip to Vermont.
When I told the tattoo artist in Vermont that I wanted “Is there life on Mars?” on my foot, he didn’t question it. Instead he was excited. I liked that he didn’t ask me why I wanted it. Instead he just said “Bowie?” and I said “Yeah” and he was stoked to do it.
A lot like “Life on Mars?”, when I try to explain my tattoo with words it makes as much sense as the song lyrics.
I’ve known the song for as long as I can remember. When I was 10 I googled the lyrics and was all like “What does “Sailors fighting in the dance hall, Oh man! look at those cavemen go, It’s the freakiest show” mean?!?!?! And more importantly why does none of this make sense, but I still love this song?” A quote from Neil McCormick explains the song perfectly:
“A quite gloriously strange anthem, where the combination of stirring, yearning melody and vivid, poetic imagery manage a trick very particular to the art of the song: to be at once completely impenetrable and yet resonant with personal meaning. You want to raise your voice and sing along, yet Bowie’s abstract cut-up lyrics force you to invest the song with something of yourself just to make sense of the experience. And, like all great songs, it’s got a lovely tune.”
As I’ve gotten older the song has come into my life at very memorable moments. When my roommate and I were sophomores, after a long day, we watched the movie Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I had seen it before, but this was the first time I really paid attention to it. This scene:
There’s are so many things about this scene that make it magical that I can’t even put into words, but basically this scene further confirmed my love for the song.
Two things about the song. The lyrics don’t make sense, but it is still beautiful (I’m going to use the word beautiful a lot in this post… be warned). The lyrics literally do not make sense (Bowie has confirmed this) for the most part, but you still feel nostalgic, and hopeful, and emotional. It has seriously taught me that things do not need to make sense for them to be beautiful or have meaning. Another thing the song taught me is not to get tired of not having answers. “Is there life on Mars?” is a question that we may or may not never know the answer to. The uncertainty of this should not stop one from questioning, because the questioning process itself is just as special as finding an answer. A lot of things in my life don’t make sense. Getting “Is there life on Mars?” tattooed on me in Vermont made sense though. Vermont is a place that produces a mixture of emotions in me. Happiness, pain, loss, uprootedness, joy. It’s all there. It doesn’t make senes, and unless you’ve been to Vermont with me, it’s a part of me you might not fully understand. But it’s beautiful, and going to back to Vermont made me really get how thankful I am to have grown up there and to still have amazing moments there with people I love.
Things will not always make sense, and that is beautiful. Questions will not always have answers, and that is beautiful. That is what “Is there life on mars?” means to me.
The 802 is for Vermont, and I probably won’t do a blog post about that one. I feel like I’ve always had an 802 tattoo anyways.