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.
One of my absolute favorites here.