i know i’ve been quiet lately

and i’ve hated it. and one day, i shall tell you all why. but in the meantime, i felt i needed to take to my trusty old blog to pay homage to michael jackson. i’m sure about a trillion other ppl are doing the same thing today, but i don’t care. i am heartbroken over it. i never thought about this happening, and suddenly, it has. and i think most of us affected by the news never really thought about michael jackson…dying. be he did. and here’s what i have to say about it:

when i was three or four years old, i forget when, exactly, but my dad brought me to a record store in the short hills mall, i think, in north jersey. and i bought my very first 45 (that a 45 record single for all you kiddies out there, before casette/cd singles and way before itunes): “beat it.” i swear, i listened the hell out of that record. i would fall to the floor, probably in full view of my parents, or maybe i hid?, i have no idea, but i’d play air guitar during the electric guitar solo, leaning back like i was limbo-ing (just as i would at bar and bat mitzvahs a decade later)…i’d have goosebumps. i loved that song. i loved him. it was inexplicable and it was raw and mysterious, but i loved him so.

i found a red vest covered with zippers and had my parents buy it for me. i rode my red bmx ride around the neighborhood and my driveway, hoping just hoping, someone would tell me i looked like michael jackson. or at least think i was him. (me, the little white girl in new jersey) when my neighbor finally said that i looked just like him, i was elated.

i bought a michael jackson hologram sticker. and not knowing anything about holograms–perhaps they were still new-ish in the 80s? or perhaps i was just a hopelessly clueless kid who couldn’t tell time til she was in third grade. yes, true. sadly–i put it on my window across from my bed. of course no light ever hit it like it was supposed to, but i could see the shadow of his curly hair. there was a rainbow arching behind him, i remember. and he looked so kind in my little-kid eyes. i truly thought he was the very best. (and yes, i tried to moonwalk just like him. but didn’t we all?)

the thriller video scared the beejezus outta me. (still does) and yes, he got weird. (even iwondered about his nose-job, even as a four-year-old, that i guess he got before the thriller album came out?) and we all watched him get weirder. i bought the reissue of thriller last year, and i’ve been throughly enjoying it. listening to it when i need a boost. it’s only lately, what 26 years later??,  that i see his musical genious. “human nature”  (above) is one of my favorite songs *ever*. it is. amazing.

i heard that jackson was rushed to the hospital when i got into my car last night after leaving the office. by the time i got home and crawled into bed (i had a terrible headache), i heard the news: he had died. it’s all i could do not to throw up. i fell asleep watching movies on-demand, trying to put the whole thing out of my head. when i woke up, i knew it wasn’t just a bad dream. watching, disbelieving, his body transported via helicopter, then coroner’s van…i’m shaking my head now. it’s just…sigh. it’s terrible.

what’s even more terrible, in a way, is how it’s all coming outnow is truly how eff’ed up his life may have become. i’ve never been one of those ppl who thinks money can cure anything (tho it can certainly help ease stress, which could, in turn, make you feel a whole helluva lot better, and hence, happier) but his is the perfect example. here’s someone that had all the money, the whole world, at his fingertips. and he just faded away. i mean, he did, but he didn’t. even tho he had this “king of pop” title, he became a whisp of a man. while a lot of ppl made fun of him, i mostly just shook my head, sad, feeling a little ashamed for gawking along with the rest of the world at photos of him.

what i realized as i was driving to work today is this: we don’t think about these iconic-type ppl dying. it’s like they’re larger than life. bigger than life, bigger than death. and when one dies, suddenly, especially, it’s like the rug has been taken out from under us. but they’re not larger than life. they’re not larger than death. in the end, they face mortality just the rest of us. no amount of surgery, money, painkillers or anything else can change that.

this is someone who’s been “with” me my entire life. yours, too, if you’re close to my age (30). you all know how i feelabout madonna. well, while i may not feel the same way about  michael jackson, it’s similar insofar as: he’s always been there. we expect these larger-than-life ppl to be there–until they’re not.

i can’t help think that…well, he seemed to be struggling for so many years. he’s at peace now. my friend john sent me this articlethat really sums it all up. it’s written by a rabbi that was close to jackson–and tried to help him. here’s an excerpt:

In many ways his tragedy was to mistake attention for love. I will never forget what he said when we sat down to record 40 hours of conversations where he would finally reveal himself for a book I authored. He turned to me and said these haunting words: “I am going to say something I have never said before and this is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you and God knows I am telling the truth. I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That’s all. That’s the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said I know I have an ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just wanted to be loved because I think it is very important to be loved and to tell people that you love them and to look in their eyes and say it.” One cannot read these words without feeling a tremendous sadness for a soul that was so surrounded with hero-worship but remained so utterly alone. Because Michael substituted attention for love he got fans who loved what he did but he never had true compatriots who loved him for who he was. Perhaps this is why, when so many of his inner circle saw him destroying his life with prescription medication – something he used to treat phantom physical illnesses which were really afflictions of the soul – they allowed him to deteriorate and disintegrate rather than throwing the poison in the garbage.

Michael’s death is not just a personal tragedy, it is an American tragedy. Michael’s story was the stuff of the American dream – a poor black boy who grows up in Gary, Indiana, and ends up a billionaire entertainer. But we now know how the story ends. Money is not a currency by which we can purchase self-esteem and being recognized on the streets will never replace being loved unconditionally by family and true friends.

i can’t stand the fact that we all had to watch him turn into, well, what he became towards what would become the end of his life. and i can’t stand the fact that people in their teens and 20s now will never remember him the way i do. but for me he will always be the gentle soul in the hologram on my childhood window. despite the allegations and the face masks and the painkillers. he’ll always be that cute guy holding the baby tiger on the thriller album. the tough guy battling the zombies. the guy in the zippered leathered jacket telling those crazyass gangbangers to just beat it. michael, i’m sorry your life turned out the way it did. but you gave us all a gift, you gave the world a gift. hopefully you see that now.



One response to “i know i’ve been quiet lately

  1. So beautifully written . . . I had the Thriller cassette rather than the album, and the poster instead of the sticker, but other than the details our story is exactly the same. So true that attention isn’t love – maybe Madonna believed that at some point but I think she’s at a place where she knows the difference, and that’s why she weathers and rides her fame rather than succumbing to it. A hard lesson but maybe something for all of us to learn, with our micro-fame and our micro-attention and our all too human macro-need for love.

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