Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Missing Michael Jackson
I work quite near where Michael Jackson's parents live and have driven past their house countless times over the years without actually knowing which house it was. But today a friend of mine at work showed me her iPhone photos of the crowd around that house, so I decided to drive by it on the way home from work to see what was going on. Actually, it wasn't possible to drive down the block the Jackson house is on, as the police have it barricaded. But you can park elsewhere and walk down there if you want, so that's what I did.
One whole side of the street (the side opposite the Jackson house) has news media satellite trucks from end of the long block to the other. I'd never seen anything like that before; there must have been maybe thirty trucks lined up, maybe more. The trucks, with their satellite upload dishes on the ready, all aimed skyward, were pretty cool to see, but it actually seemed like a pretty slow news day. It made me wonder just how much "hurry up and then sit and wait" is involved in the average news person's day.
There was a pretty big crowd of people out in front of the Jackson house. The gate to the parking area was open, but people respectfully stayed outside in front (but there were a few police in the area keeping things orderly). I felt like the people were expecting somebody to arrive at or leave from the house, but instead, things seemed quite quiet. I wondered what it must be like to have a constant presence of people like that, but of course, the Jacksons are quite used to it. When my mother died, and then when my father died, I wanted absolute privacy for our family to grieve, but the Jackson family surely knew that these people waiting around outside their house were fans who loved Michael, which maybe helps some.
There was an immense amount of flowers, stuffed animals (including a gigantic stuffed cartoon gorilla), balloons, banners, posters, notes, and pictures all along the wall in front of the property. The basic themes of the notes were, "Gone too soon," "You're at peace, now, sweet one," "You meant so much to me," and "Thank you for the wonderful music, which we will treasure forever." It reminded me of pictures I saw of what people had left for Princess Di after her tragic death. I had been disappointed at the news media for failing to mention all the charitable works that Michael had done, but the signs and the notes out in front of the Jackson house did not repeat that same failure--his fans remembered, for sure. There were reasons beyond Michael's music that his fans loved him so; part of that was how much he gave to others, and another part of that was how much pain he had been in, himself. People could relate to that.
My friend who had shown me the iPhone pictures said she wondered if Michael would have been as creative as he was if it hadn't been for the pain, and I thought of others who had begun as child stars, such as Judy Garland (found dead on her toilet at the age of 47 with an overdose of quinolbarbitone). If they had had happy childhoods, they maybe never would have had the deeply affecting careers they had, so that which benefits so many others perhaps costs too much for those who give us what they do.
I thought about how lonely Michael had been, upon his own admission. It was terribly sad to think that with all his popularity all around the world, that it seemed that he did not have one real friend who truly cared about HIM (instead of what they could get out of him). A friend who might have warned him to stop having children sleeping over at his house because of the accusations it opened Michael up to, or to cool it on all the damaging plastic surgery, or to not let concert promoters sign him up for a 50-city tour when he was tired and frail. But then again, maybe he did have people trying to help him and he didn't listen, I don't know. Or, again, he just wouldn't have been "Michael Jackson" without all these things.
It's funny, Michael Jackson was always one of my favorites, and I was one who always felt that he was innocent of any crimes, but I didn't confuse him with a person that I have a personal relationship with. And yet now with him suddenly gone, I feel the same kind of guilt and regret that one can feel when friends and loved ones die--"I never told them I loved them enough...I didn't visit them enough or write to them enough or call them enough...", whatever the regret it is. For example, I never went to any of his concerts (surely he must have had them in the United States, but I wasn't really on that wavelength). I guess what the feeling boils down to is, "I always took them for granted," and in Michael's case, I always took him for granted, too. I guess he was always going to be there, pumping the music out.
It seems that no matter what we do, that lesson keeps on coming, and coming from unexpected places. I guess what it really boils down to is that we take LIFE for granted. And, like so many things that happen that result in a loss, Michael Jackson's death is one more thing reminded us of how precious life really is, and how much we need to be thankful for it every single second.