The passing of Michael Jackson hit me pretty hard. I remember listening to his music when we were painting the living room walls in our new house at 23 Scotland Road in Pueblo, Colorado. I remember how monotonous that task seemed back then. The walls stretched from the 9"-by-9"-inch square I was lackadaisically swishing my brush around in to Narnia.
But then Dad put the needle to the vinyl and Mike's infectious gift pulsed through those speakers. I wasn't sold on painting (show me a kid who is), but I felt the groove and the strokes were suddenly broad and high. I was painting that wall with flair, sucker, and you couldn't keep me from doing it.
Then the record was over and it was time for Mister Mister and I went back to my little square.
Mike stuck by me all through my life, and I stuck by him. I'd watched enough footage of his videos to get a feel for his style of dance, and I could do a few things. Heck, I got up in front of over a thousand people in a skit once and did "Man In the Mirror." It wasn't spot on, but it wasn't terrible either.
When our wedding DJ spun "Billy Jean," there was a panic amongst my friends and I. We hit the floor and sweated it up, pointing, gesturing, styling and generally doing it...until we couldn't...do it...any longer.
Mike had that kind of effect on most of us born before 1982. He was our legend--our warrior of cool.
Many of my younger students don't know much about him. They wonder what the hype's all about, and whether he was ever as fresh as L'il Wayne or Kanye West.
I favor them with a smile and tell them they missed what it was like to have a living, breathing spectacle in your home ten times each day (bless you, MTv).
Jackson was a humanitarian, for all of his reclusive eccentricity. He was accused of some sick stuff, but was also completely exonerated of any wrong-doing (though not without controversy and a discussion of pay-offs).
Here's where I stand on his passing: he's gone and I'm already missing him. I saw a clip tonight of footage taken forty-eight hours prior to his heart attack. Watch that and tell me, muscle memory or not, whether the man was ready to turn us all on our ear once again.
My heroes are passing, and it's hard to reconcile. I never thought we'd see Michael Jackson's artistic legacy tamped out so soon. It's hard for me to believe that now, his catalogue is finite. We'll see the late work, of course. It'll be a monster hit--maybe the biggest in the history of humanity. But there won't be anything new done next year.
I love Elmore Leonard. He writes like a dream and has always been consistent, even into his golden years. The same holds true for Mickey Spillane, who passed a few years back. The same holds true for the venerable Ray Bradbury, who at 89 years of age has always contributed to his chest of unforgettable art.
And I can't imagine a world in which I can't look forward to a pair of Stephen King books each year. I just can't. In nine minutes I'll retire to bed to read "Morality," and I can only say that I'm looking forward to the next third of King's prolific and creative career.
Mike, you were the best. The absolute best. May you rest in peace.