David Bowie: A Chance Encounter on a Train

Why you should take the elevator.

byMichael D. Espindle|
People photo


I live in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley, and for many years I commuted back and forth to Manhattan daily on Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express. I had seen David Bowie’s wife, Iman, a few times in my Rhinecliff train station and knew they owned a home, or like a whole mountain or something—just across the river.

But actual Bowie sightings were thin on the ground. Then, one early spring day, 4 or 5 years ago, I got off my train in Rhinecliff after work and headed for the station elevator on the track level. I was still using a cane after recent knee surgery.

We'd had lots of celebs on the train over my years of commuting, and usually the word spread like wildfire through the cars. Not a peep on this trip.

I spotted a man getting off the Business Class car and heading to the elevator to join me for the wait. He was shortish and dressed in a style that could be described, generously, as “wanker": Baseball cap, bad jeans, bad sneakers, windbreaker. It turned out to be an ingenious disguise/not-disguise.

He approached me, and I saw "the eyes"—the gray one and the blue one. I stepped onto the elevator with him, dumbfounded. The door closed. I had to say something. So I turned to him.

Me: "You know, I know."

Bowie: "I knew you would!"

Me: "Well, Mr. Bowie, enjoy your time here up in God's Little Acre."

Bowie: "Oh, do you live here, too? We think it's absolutely marvelous."

The elevator doors opened at the station level and two aides swept him out a side door to a waiting Lincoln Town Car. He was gone, just like that, and I stood for a few moments in the hallway, dazed and adrenalized.

A friend of mine walked up the stairs from the tracks, looked at me and asked: "Was that...?"

I just nodded my head. Mr. Bowie, you will be missed.