I actually wrote this a few days ago and then didn’t post it, mostly because of the holiday. A few days later it felt a little late. Then I watched tonight’s Simpsons, and Fox replayed the 1991 episode where Michael Jackson, er “John Jay Smith,” guest-voices (except for the singing, but the speaking voice is him and apparently he was actually very keen on doing it) and then I really wanted to post this.
I know, you are utterly exhausted by the glut of Michael Jackson “news” on TV and the Interweb and wish we could get back to serious coverage of Iran and Jon & Kate. You wonder to yourself, what sort of backwards, brainless yokel is still sopping this stuff up to such an extent that they have to concentrate on this one story? Who are these idiots they cater to?
The answer dear reader, is the person in that photo on the right in the striped pants, or, more precisely, who she grew up to be. Because I, personally, cannot look away. When they get past the Michael news, I pretty much turn the station unless they’ve teased a later story. It’s not so much that I am interested in the stuff that’s coming out (oooh, he couldn’t sleep! The ex “wife” might want the kids!), it’s simply that that keeps him in the news. Because I’m not done yet. There’s a Hebrew expression, “l’havdil” which literally means, “to differentiate” but when used in the beginning of a sentence means “I am totally not comparing these two things, please don’t think I am, but this example is so useful so indulge me.” I wish there were an expression like it in English but there isn’t so here we are. So I say here, l’havdil! But what this reminds me of is shiva, the Jewish mourning period where you sit for seven solid days receiving guests and all you really do is talk about the dead person. If that’s what you want to do; it’s up to the mourner, but if you’ve sat shiva, you know, that’s kind of all what you want to talk about. You’re in a sort of shock and you’re trying to process and if maybe we keep talking about it, something will get clarified and you can move on. You want to sort through all the facts and details of the person’s life and how you related to it so you can decide what it all meant to you. Maybe some new fact that you forgot or never knew will turn up. I don’t care what they say, I just want to talk about Michael Jackson. Please?
I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think I actually miss Michael Jackson, because, you know, I didn’t know him and hell, I couldn’t name you one song he put out in the last ten years. But back to the girl in the striped pants. It’s hard to get a handle on her, she lives way in the past. I guess she liked to play in mud puddles and not so much with the hair brushing. But this week, when I heard lots of songs she used to listen to, for just a few moments I was inside her head, sitting on the floor in her parents’ bedroom (the only room in her house with a TV) with the lights off watching variety shows. And I realized that when they replayed all those interviews of Michael saying he’d had no childhood that suddenly, I could remember mine, like some sort of time-travel serum. And I knew why he missed it, because it was really happy and carefree and sweet like nothing feels like when you’re an adult. That feeling. That’s what I can never seem to access. Being an adult is pretty kickass but when you can feel for a minute what it felt like as a child, you realize what’s changed and what you’ll never feel again. And it’s nothing I could possibly put into words but the music, well, the music… it transports you.
When I was growing up we didn’t have air-conditioning. My parents worked at a Summer camp so we were away during the hottest time of the year. And if it got hot before or after that, we’d turn on the attic fan and open all the windows and the breeze would come on in. Sometimes, if it’s hot and I just have the window fan on, I can feel it. But not as much as when I hear music like this (and title comes from).http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1tjp7
I’ve watched and read a lot about Michael Jackson this week; I think his story is really fascinating, the fantastically-talented kid who was forced to become an adult at eight and then never grew up and never wanted (literally) to be in his own skin. But if there’s one piece that really nailed why I want to remember him the way I do, it’s this one from Josh Tyrangiel at Time Magazine. They won’t let me embed it but here’s the link if you are something like me and want to see it.