Tuesday, June 30, 2009

His departure

I was up on a ladder, fixing one of our new ceiling fans, when my girl came home. She called out to me, and i told her i was in the bureau.

"Is it true that Michael Jackson died?"

My gut sank. I hadn't heard this.

"Nah, no. It's Farrah Fawcett you're thinking of."

Satisfied with my response, she went into the bathroom to change out of her street gear. I, however, wasn't satisfied. That nausea weighing down my stomach remained. I climbed off the ladder and turned on the computer. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it.

"Baby! You were right! He's dead..."

Over the course of the next 72 hours, i listened to as much of his music and watched as many of his videos as i possibly could. When i walked around my neighborhood, on every street and avenue, his songs poured out of the open windows of passing cars and steamy apartments. Even when i woke up the morning after his death was announced, i still couldn't (nor did i want to) believe it.

I can't speak to Michael Jackson's impact on other people. Even in my own home, my girl's experience with him was different due to her being several years my junior. She couldn't anticipate the amount of grieving i would need to do. In truth, neither could i. There was never a moment where i thought: "What will it be like when Michael Jackson dies?" I was unprepared for the profound impact his passing had upon me.

Some of you might be asking why i felt such a crater from the force of this man's death announcement. In an earlier post, i described how i revisited his video for "Thriller" over and over in my youth. I obsessed over the "cat creature" transformation sequence, catching as many views of it as possible (eventually, i snagged a sloppy transfer of it to VHS, slipping this cassette in my VCR to watch this every few days). I got such a high from watching his incredibly famous face submit to this intense transfiguration, overtaken by the entire beastly character molded over his features. I didn't partake of many illicit substances in my youth, nor did i need to. Simply witnessing a physical metamorphosis like this delivered a euphoria that sank deep into my mental fissures faster than anything else.

In many ways, his music made up the soundtrack of my youth. I owned every single one of his albums (some multiple copies of each as i wore them out from listening to them so many times). I even remember the stores i bought each of them at, including the weather on that day. However, i can't claim to have the same attachment others had to this musician. I never attended any of his concerts, and if i ever had, i wouldn't have been one of the fans screaming their heads off. My fascination was, as far as i can tell, uniquely and quietly mine.

We've all seen how his appearance changed dramatically over the years as a result of dermatologic treatments and plastic surgery. I, however, was not one of the many critics of his pursuit to alter his appearance. I was fascinated by it, and completely comprehended. You can hear it in his words in that Thriller behind the scenes vignette. He thrived on transformation. And for someone who sought perfection in his musical craft, i understand how with unlimited funds he would tinker endlessly. I say this with all seriousness, that when i listened to his music or watched his videos, i viewed him as a kindred spirit, an ally - and yes - a friend.

It's this fact that brought clarity to my mourning. I've since found other like-minded souls (i count most of you who visit amongst that collection), but he was essentially the first. His departure will continue to affect me, but to attain a sense of peace, i've been re-listening to his music and reminiscing about moments where i solidified parts of my identity through a Michael Jackson experience.

One of my favorites: Captain EO

Already a gigantic fan by the time this project was released at Disneyland (also a place i was immensely obsessed about), i couldn't wait to sit in the Magic Eye Theatre and witness the spectacle in 3-D. I remember standing in the winding, serpentine line watching the monitors show the "Making of Captain EO" video when the image of the evil villainess of this romp popped up on the screen.

The confluence of my personal stimuli at that moment was almost too overwhelming: Michael Jackson, Disneyland, prosthetic makeup, and viciously curved, long talons. How humiliated was i to be standing in that line with a pubescent signal of my arousal poking through my shorts. I couldn't get into that dark theatre fast enough (luckily i had a small backpack i could use to conceal my erection). Of course, i was delighted to see that the evil queen (ironically named "Supreme Leader") got a good amount of screentime as the filmmakers made good use of the 3-D technology by sending her clicking, ebony claws out towards our supplanted bodies. In the end, Michael's music transformed everyone in the dingy palace from industrial mongoloids to technicolor flashdancers. I was mildly disappointed with the dispatch of the wicked temptress, having always held a morbid attraction to the heavily made-up goth/dark girl, but nonetheless quite pleased with the experience.

Watching it these many years later, i can see it for its cheesy, overly simple and sentimental ontology but do not appreciate it any less. It played a part as did the rest of this man's creative output into the formation of the man you've come to know as Deity. I, for one, will truly miss him.


Lulu said...

It is endlessly fascinating to me the markers we use to signify important points in our life. They help define the person.

I am saddened that a man with so much potential and so much talent died prematurely, but wasn't really surprised. He seemed like such a tortured soul to me. A little boy eternally lost.

His death caused me to pause, but he was one of many last week.

I do relate to the affect his death had on you. I went through a similar situation when I learned John Lennon died. I spent my childhood listening to the Beatles through the filter of my older brother and sister and Beatles music, especially John's, defined a large portion of my life. It still does. John's death will always be a tragedy to me.

When someone who means so much to you personally dies, it is at least nice to know that their talent and their gifts live on. Nothing puts my world in order and my emotions back on track faster than listening to Lennon sing "Woman". It sounds like you will always have Jackson songs that do the same for you.

Very sincere and genuine post.

baby girl said...

michael jackson didn't have nearly the effect on me as he did on you, but his music was indeed the soundtrack to much of my youth. i remember rehearsing the steps to thriller and billy jean with my girlfriends at many of our slumber parties.

i admit to never seeing, before now, the video you posted here. it was fun to watch it now, especially after you shared your initial experience with it. i enjoyed this voyeuristic glimpse of your younger self. thanks for sharing it.

Deity said...

I've been trying to explain it to people who have no emotional reaction/connection to him. He opened up channels in my mind that i wasn't aware of. It's akin to being shown a hidden door that led to a passageway before you didn't know existed. That he was able to do that, i am forever grateful.

'Woman' is in fact an amazing song. I would say i have a deep connection with that and Mr. Lennon as well. Having since occupied his final hometown, i know i became more obsessed with the city he knew and embraced.

baby girl,
well, i'm glad to hear it was fun to view. do you think you viewed it differently knowing what effect it had on me?