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Michael Jackson -- One Year Later

Michael-jackson  One year ago today I was sitting in a terrible college summer dinner theater performance, killing my iPhone battery from relentless under-the-table Googling and scrolling through a deluge of "Michael Jackson is dead" updates on Tweetie. 

My mind was blown. It was a weird day. Farrah died. Michael died. Scroll scroll scroll. 

The Michael Jackson memory machine keeps rolling and I pay attention to it because it's in my face a lot, although I long ago stopped reading beyond skimming about Dr. Conrad Murray. I don't know what happened to Michael Jackson. I don't know what kind of a person he was. I can't confirm or deny whether he did the things he was accused of doing in what would turn out to be his later years. 

But just like I remember the stop light I was sitting at when the news came on the radio that Diana died in a Paris tunnel, I remember that I was sitting in a terrible performance of Cabaret when I processed the news that a man who had been an icon for my entire life had cashed out in California. 

It's weird, what we remember. It's weird how we keep remembering it. Ask the ghost of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Ask anyone who remembers. What I do know is that, right or wrong, last June 25 I had no concept of the Michael as he was when he died in his house from who knows what concoction of drugs. My mental picture -- and that of many others, if the flash mobs and impersonators are to be believed -- was decades old. 

I saw myself sitting on the edge of my bed, watching the "Beat It" video debut on Casey Kasem's Top 40 tv show. I remembered a relatively obscure song called "First Time On a Ferris Wheel" that I used to listen to over and over in elementary school. I remembered dance floors tearing it up to "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."

I remembered all of "Off the Wall," actually. I'm a big fan. I wondered if he -- as much of a fan as he was a star, in some ways -- had gotten upset over Farrah's death and needed to numb out more than usual. I tried to remember if he'd ever gone to shindigs with her like he'd gone with Brooke Shields and Bubbles the monkey and Emmanuel Lewis and Liza Minnelli. 

I think about weird things sometimes. It keeps me occupied. 


In the months since I've rented "This is It" from the Redbox at the grocery store and never watched it. I gave it more than a second thought when Lisa Marie got all up in his fans' business. It has occasionally crossed my mind over the past year at random times that Michael Jackson is dead and it has been strange all over again. 

But then again, death is weird. We spend a lot of time crafting these lives, in some kind of denial that ours or others will end, or I guess we couldn't keep up the action every day. 

Michael Jackson was really the last thing I wanted to talk about today. I didn't want to have an opinion about it. I didn't want to have any feelings. But somehow, in spite of myself, I do. The life cycle of a public grieving spectacle for a person like him is rough to watch, in a way. There are the flash mobs and cemetery hordes with white gloves and doves and sunflowers. There are Jermaine Jackson's opportunistic tears and a door that hasn't yet closed on Dr. Murray and his black bag. I wish his kids would be left out of awards shows and off of tabloid covers. I change the channel if Joe Jackson's face appears. I still think Janet Jackson is one of the hottest things on two legs who can blow Ke$ha off of a stage. 

And there are the detractors who focused -- and I'm not saying it was wrong -- on Michael Jackson's alleged inappropriate behavior with children. There are people who are all, "You don't know Michael Jackson. What's wrong with you?" 

And I guess that's true. I didn't really know him. But I don't know many people my age who didn't know Thriller, and looking around on June 25 and its aftermath I saw a lot of people grieving a time, if not a man. It'll happen over and over again, throughout our lives. It happened in the months after Michael Jackson died, to varying degrees, with Patrick Swayze and Corey Haim, with Gary Coleman too. The 80s meant a lot, apparently. The soundtrack mattered, anyway. 

It's difficult sometimes, to watch what time does. It's sad that so many go from larger than life to something smaller, so I guess it's natural even if it's a bit over the top to want to blow them up again. And I know that no matter how long I live, even though I likely won't participate in any more of the public displays of grief or affection or disparagement, that I'll always remember. That's just the way it is. 

. . . . .

Laurieis listening to Off the Wall today.

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