Thursday, June 25, 2009

Public mourning, public celebration

I've written about this before, but it's come up again, as things tend to do, over and over. This evening, as I watched television footage of people gathering together in cities, because Michael Jackson had died, I felt another loss, the loss of any public life.

I've felt this before; on 9/11 and the days after, when Obama was elected, and sometimes, just when there's been enough snow to close the schools.

I didn't grow up in the country, as any of you who've read this blog before must have picked up on by now. I grew up in New York, in it's near suburbs, in the projects for a short time, and in the city proper the minute I finished High School. The city is in my blood.

I may love the countryside, the quiet nights, the frogs, the trees, the birds at my feeders, the pace, all of it, but my heart is that of a city person. When something happens in the larger world, my urge is to leave my house and be with strangers, to take to the streets for solace or for celebration.

Earlier today, when I saw the news reports, I looked out the window unto the garden that I love, and for one moment I loathed it. The trees do not care about Michael Jackson's death. The birds would not being singing "Billy Jean."

I was brought back to the early 80's and how I could look out my window in Brooklyn and see boys doing Jackson's moves on the street. And then I moved further back in time, to when I lived in the projects and won a dance contest - me! the shy girl who never spoke! - the Jackson Five were singing ABC 1 2 3 You and Me. . .Why did they give this white girl a prize? I couldn't believe it.

So, tonight I had an urge to sit on a stoop in New York, where I'm sure I'd hear Jackson singing, or maybe see someone donning a white glove in memory of him. In spite of everything I've directed you to in the last post, and a near-revulsion at what I imagine Michael Jackson may have done (and what he'd done to himself, and others had done to him), he was a part of my life. I'd never given it a thought.

Outside, the frogs and crickets are doing their thing. Tonight, I'd give anything for a bunch of weeping neighbors, a stoop, and an old boom box, a ghetto blaster, blasting away. Shut up! Turn that thing down! Nope, not tonight.

Photo note: Check out Lyle Owerko's "The Boombox Project."


jmcleod76 said...

Hmm, my inclinatuion is just the opposite. I'd rather not talk to anyone about it because, invariably, someone always says something insensitive: "Good riddance ... that freak!" etc.

I can't say MJ wasn't a freak, but I've always felt for him. I once got a question on one of those online surveys, "If you were invited to lunch with Michael Jackson, would you go?" and I said I would go "to listen to him, because I think he's probably hurting."

His was a very sad, brilliant life.

I was a child in the early 1980s, and Thriller was a giant part of my formative years. My closest girlfriends and I all had glittery Michael Jackson t-shirts and gloves, and we used to argue over which of us would marry him when we grew up. I had a Michael Jackson doll with several cnages of clothes, matching the outfits he wore in his various music videos. I remember going to the roller rink on Saturday afternoons and screaming my head off, along with scores of other little girls, when they played a Michael Jackson song. I was obsessive in my devotion.

By the time the late 80s rolled around, I was too cool for MJ. I was into (yes, I admit it) hair metal. I thought that Michael Jackson was a "fag," by which I meant he was lame and weird and his music sucked. It wasn't until I grew up and developed more compassion that I saw him as a human being, rather than a spectacle. It wasn't until I heard Beat It again in my early 20s that I realized what a musical genius he really was (even though I still don't care for his later work).

Anyway, all this is to say, may you be at peace, Michael, wherever you are.

Julie H. Rose said...

Thanks for sharing all of that, Jaime.