Friday, June 26, 2009

Only Human

At 3, I was traumatized by the "Thriller" video.

From what I recall, Dad took my brother and I to the Zappacostas to watch the world premiere on MTV. One look at that fucking werewolf and I was running for the door. Afterwards, I spent nights paralyzed on the edge of my bed, convinced that if I stepped down onto the rug, that damn beast was sure to grab my ankles and attack (as he was no doubt hiding beneath me). I am no fool, Wolf!

At 8, I played with family friends in their living room in Wilmington. We repeatedly put on "Thriller" , turned off all the lights, and proceeded to run around like maniacs, trying to escape the monster.

Some days, I would pull our old records off the bookcase and pour over the album covers. I distinctly remember examining Thriller... Gazing at the handsome man on the cover, pouring over each word of the enclosed song lyrics, memorizing Paul and Michael's parts in "The Girl is Mine."

At 13, my mother presented me with the Dangerous CD. I wore the thing out, blasting "Black or White", "Remember the Time", "Keep it in the Closet" over and over again in my room, furiously dancing about, imagining I was on stage performing for my adoring fans.

At 15, Grace and I would stay up nights listening to HIStory, attempting to guess which song was next hearing only the first chords. Grace still doesn't knew the words to "Man in the Mirror", though I quite prefer her version with its questionable phrasing.

At 21, I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge armed with Invincible. The man still had it, as far as I was concerned, and proved it with tracks like "You Rock My World".

At 28, J and I, along with all of our friends, rocked the eff out to "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "You Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" one stifling evening at a resort overlooking the Caribbean.

At 29, I couldn't tear my eyes away from CNN last night. Gobsmacked, I answered the phone when my brother called. "I can't get over this," I say to him.

"Who cares? You're upset that a pedophile died?" he demands quickly.

I try to explain to him that there was another MJ I knew, before all of the baby-dangling and the nose jobs and the skin-bleaching and the molestation allegations. He was a man of indescribable, awe-inspiring talent; a soft-spoken young man who was undoubtedly different than the rest of us. In his latter years, those differences became increasingly alarming.

But before, man. Before, it was really something to see.

The pervasive coverage is a testament to his self-proclaimed moniker: The King of Pop. Here was arguably the most controversial, strangest, most famous man in the world. A person who means something (for better or worse) to everyone on this planet. None of us can possibly imagine that life, and how profoundly it must affect an undoubtedly fragile soul.

I'm not sure which man you'll remember, but I know this: some of my happiest memories are courtesy of MJ.

And for that: a sincere thank you, Michael.

Thank you.
One of my absolute favorites here.


Grace said...

To say Michael Jackson shaped pop music as we know it would be an understatement. He defined it. I think it is befitting of you to recount the memories you have of the King of Pop. It’s a natural response when someone close passes away. You pull out the pictures, tell the funny stories, and remember that person as you knew him or her best.

The allegations that developed during the latter part of MJ’s career were disconcerting to say the least. And while many will speculate, the truth is that, in this lifetime, there is one person to whom you are held most accountable, the man in the mirror. As of late yesterday, this man’s fate lies with a greater authority. I choose to take the stand it is not my right to cast judgment.

And so, I will also choose to remember MJ for the music. And the moves. Oh the moves. And as I would handle the loss of anyone dear to my heart, I will share a few of my memories, which, ironically enough, are shaped around the persons I have become.

1) A Best Friend: Your blog, so you go first. I vividly remember HV and I standing in front of her TV on Devon Road. We would rewind, play, rewind, play in slow-motion, rewind and play again until we could do the Michael/Janet SCREAM dance in its entirety.* And then we’d argue over lyrics. To this day, I attest that my lyrics are the most accurate.

2) A Sister and Daughter: My next crystal clear memory is the moment I knew I could truly entertain others using my God-given humor.** With my immediate family as my audience and the living room floor as my stage, I popped my right leg out, pointed my left hand towards the sky, gave out a fierce yell, and, using my right hand, gave my pretend junk a firm grab. Hilarity ensued.


3) An Individual: At eleven years young, looking up at our 18-inch non-cable tube, MJ’s Black or White video debuted on network TV. Each set change in the video was a different country, and the diversity of the cast was rousing. During the last minute, zoomed in faces morphed into each other with the intent to prove black is white is Indian is Asian is all the same. Growing up in an mixed-race neighborhood, I was conscious of the pre-existing stereotypes between black people and white people; I knew it was fundamentally wrong to judge someone on the basis of color. But for some reason, this video, watching it again this morning, will always serve as a strong reminder that while the color of our skin is an ingredient of our make-up, it in no way defines who we are.***

Rest in Peace. You will be missed.


* by “entirety” I mean me finally mastering the first jump up from kneeling position move and you mastering the dance completely.

**For a few years it was touch and go as whether to laugh or be concerned for my mental well-being.

***Don’t believe me? Ask the losing team at the 1992 PA Double Dutch State Championships. White girl can jump.

Anonymous said...

Michael Jackson will live forever, in my heart. -Allie