Did You Hear That Michael Jackson Died?

I’m a very emotional person. I’m also a very cynical person. I always feel like crying at Hallmark commercials, while my cynical side simultaneously tells me that I’m being manipulated. I end up protecting myself a lot from feeling too much.

I have to admit that although I liked Michael Jackson’s music well enough, I was not a rabid fan. Maybe it’s because during much of the time he was popular I was in my own little fog of denial and self-preservation. When I was a child an astronaut could have landed on the moon and I would have been oblivious. (What? That happened? Oh. Damn, I really need to go back to therapy.) When I watched the ground-breaking “Thriller” video, I actually thought it was a little bit corny. I’m not saying I was right. Obviously I was very wrong. Totally out of touch with the zeitgeist, as I feel I’ve been for most of my life, or at least until the past ten years or so when I got myself together, woke up out of the fog, and started participating in life.

But I still withdraw at times. Yesterday I had a hair appointment. I did briefly consider canceling it to stay home and watch the Michael Jackson memorial service on TV, but I figured I’d just record it. My stylist happens to be two freeway exits past Forest Lawn, where the Jackson family had a brief private ceremony before heading downtown to the memorial service. The LAPD had freeways blocked all over the place, but by the time I headed out to Burbank, the family had already left for downtown. There was some slowing as I passed Forest Lawn, with drivers doing the lookie loo over toward the cemetary, but really, there was nothing to see. I arrived at my appointment on time, and chatted with my stylist about this and that, and when I left her I went grocery shopping. I did happen to have the radio on to the memorial, and when I pulled into the grocery store’s parking lot, Michael’s brother Marlon was speaking about his brother. It was quite sad, and I was tempted for a minute to just sit in the car outside Vons and listen. I saw a woman in the car next to mine doing just that. But I didn’t. I felt silly. That’s not the kind of thing I do. Michael Jackson wasn’t a part of my life. Sure it was sad, but what did it really mean to me? I had to figure out what to cook for dinner.

By the time I got out of the supermarket the radio was playing “We Are The World.” I didn’t recognize the version, and I figured the memorial service was over. But as I pulled into my garage, I realized I was sort of glad I’d recorded the memorial –  I wanted to watch it. Of course, I discovered that had set the recorder all wrong, and because the event had started late, I only got about an hour of it. I felt a bit disappointed, but hey, that was probably enough to get a feel for it.

And then I started watching. And I started to realize how important this man was to so many people, and what an amazing artist he was. Even if he wasn’t MY pop star, he certainly was an amazing pop star. I watched his fellow artists speak about him as a talent, and I watched his friends speak about him as a person. Yes, some of it seemed over the top and a bit much, but much of it also was very personal and specific. I began to think about the loss his family and friends were feeling, apart from the loss his fans were feeling. I began to think about my own losses. My cat who died recently, after being with me for sixteen years. My mother, who I lost twenty-four years ago. I began to think about my own mortality. I began to think about talent, and how Michael Jackson gave so much happiness and joy to so many people. I know we can’t all be superstars, but what have I ever done in my life that touched anyone else to any degree at all? How have I contributed to the planet? Who will miss me and speak well of me when I’m gone?

When my recording suddenly cut out, I started desperately searching for any TV coverage of the memorial, which of course by then was well over. I found little snippets here and there of pieces I had missed, but mostly I saw other people talking about their reactions to what they had seen. I started to feel angry at myself because instead of allowing myself to participate in something, I had played it cool and told myself it didn’t matter, that I wasn’t someone who needed to go along with the herd. I was separate, as I’ve been most of my life. I hold myself back from joining in. And I suddenly realized how much I miss out by doing that. I’m so afraid to be average, to be normal, to be one of the crowd, that I don’t participate at all. Yeah, that’ll show them how cool I am. When I finally saw the clip of Jackson’s eleven year old daughter saying how much she missed and loved her daddy, I kind of lost it. Beyond the pop star, beyond the friend, beyond the humanitarian, someone’s daddy was dead. And you don’t have to be in touch with the zeitgeist to get that.

Today I’ve been feeling very sad. I’ve been crying. Not about Michael Jackson, although I do think there is still a lot of sadness floating around Los Angeles. A collective consciousness of general sadness. Sadness for him, sadness for his family, and sadness for all our own losses. Even though my cynical side tried to protect me from feeling this sadness, my emotional side has picked it up, and today I feel raw and exposed. I want to be a good writer. I want to contribute somehow. I feel so far away from that right now, and I’m not sure how I’m going to get there. I miss my cat. I miss my mother. Today I feel so many things. Today I am letting myself feel, without the cynicism.

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3 Comments on “Did You Hear That Michael Jackson Died?”

  1. Imogen says:

    I remember when Princess Di died and it was blubber city – I was at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival at the time and they postponed the planned event so everyone could stay home and watch the funeral. I sat in my Hilton Hotel room and blubbed, then afterwards went out for dinner and had the best time and laughed til we cried.

    I’m glad I had that time, sometimes I think ‘did I really need to watch it then, when they’d repeat it (or the highlights anyway) again and again?

    I think that sometimes that emotional outpouring is good for us – yes I never knew Princess Di either, but it’s a good chance to do some grieving for things that are gone in my life.

    Public outpourings of grief give you an outlet for your own grief for Blanche and your Mother with no recriminations.

  2. karen says:

    I really thought the whole hoopla over MJ’s death was very silly and overdone, UNTIL I saw his little Paris speak at the memorial. I bawled my eyes out when I saw him as a beloved father, not just an entertainer.

  3. R Sanchez says:

    I know we can’t all be superstars, but what have I ever done in my life that touched anyone else to any degree at all? How have I contributed to the planet? Who will miss me and speak well of me when I’m gone?

    You’ve touched me.


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