Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


When we played tag in grade school

Filed under : Famous People,Life in general,Music
On July 5, 2009
At 8:30 pm
Comments : 8

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).

Jackson 5 – The Love You Save

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.


8 Comments for this post

KP says

I hear you Bec. It seemed like each song I heard this past week brought me back to a different me: the little kid watching The Jacksons cartoon with my brother while eating big bowls of Apple Jacks, the pre teen roller skating to Shake Your Body Down and Don’t Stop Til You get Enough, the teenager doing the Thriller dance with my soon to be sister in law every time that video went on ( which was pretty much hourly).

I always felt sorry for and fascinated by him, because it was easy for me to understand what it was like to grow up fast and to wish you were someone else.

Great piece of writing Bec. I’ve missed this place.

Irishcardinal says

Beautiful piece of work, Becca. The fan, the fan. That is always so evocative of peaceful summer days and hot summer nights from my childhood. A breeze from a fan with a curtain blowing in the background, while reading on a bed brings me immediately back to my younger days. There’s some phenomenon of physics having to do with sounds, where you may think you hear the phone ringing while you are in the shower, but it’s not really ringing. We had the same thing going with the fan late at night–we would swear we heard Jack Buck calling a Cardinals game on radio, long after the game was over, in the sounds from the fan. That’s summer and childhood to me.

Becca says

Thanks, guys, and thanks for sharing those memories. It’s really amazing what will bring you back and it’s so precious to be able to get there. I find myself looking at kids lately and thinking, “what will you remember about now? What will make you remember?”

KP says

Exactly Bec. Everything is so transient that my kids can barely remember what they enjoyed yesterday

On a somewhat related note, I apparently remember and can still perform the entire Beat It dance as well as Thriller. I may have a new career ahead of me.

Kara Anderson says

The piece on Michael Jackson was beautifully written. I can so vividly remember “Rockin Robben” being the very first 45 I bought at the long gone record shop around the corner from my home. God, I loved that store and going there with my mother on Saturdays was one of the best memories of my childhood and I didn’t have many with Mom.

I still have my ABC album up in the attic. I plan to watch the Motown special over the weekend because Michael performing in it was another memory that still gives me chills.

I understand how you feel is what I’m trying to say not very well.

Becca says

Thanks, Kara. Rockin’ Robin was one of my favorites! My brother and I used to play the 45 on our little plastic-covered turntable.

day says

So well said Becca! I, too, cannot turn away (well at this point it’s been over 2 weeks, I guess I can now) from the coverage. I can’t say that I’ve been an avid MJ fan all this time (I checked out of his music sometime after Bad), but the retrospectives brought back so many good memories for me. Thriller was the soundtrack to my middle school years. My own daughter is the age I was when I was grooving to Thriller on my record player. It makes me realize how much time has passed; how much life has been lived since then. Not just my life, but Michael’s bizzare and sad life as well.

Becca says

I think you hit on something there, day. All the time passing in Michael’s eventful life really does make you realize how long it’s been. Feels like just a few years ago…