Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Joe Jackson Memories

Photo courtesy of photobucket/iansaintlaurent
The great tragedy of mankind at this time is the failure of the vast majority of human beings to heed the Divine Call, and this is in large part occasioned by the failure of most of those who have believed to live up to the high standard that Bahá'u'lláh has set. This is the condition in which we must work in our service to mankind, turning a sin-covering eye to the faults of others, and striving in our own inmost selves to purify our lives in accordance with the divine Teachings.

(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 498)

You already know. Michael "The King of Pop", aka "The Gloved One" died on June 25th, 2009. If you were like me, you didn't believe it when you heard it. I tossed off the story as another ugly rumor about the man. In fact, I dismissed the entire cardiac arrest report as implausible--from my point of view, only morbidly obese or the elderly/severely ill people die from cardiac arrest. Certainly not Michael Jackson! He didn't fit the profile. Well, I'm not a doctor. And as Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on CNN in regards to Michael, "...being thin isn't an indication of overall health". Huh. That's still difficult for me to wrap my brain around. I've spent so much of my life being morbidly obese and wanting to be thin that the concept of a thin person being unhealthy seems too remote to fathom.

I know there are still a lot of people making "Jacko" jokes, or they are "tired" (like my father) of the constant Michael Jackson coverage on T.V. (Note to Dad and others: turn the boob tube OFF!) However, I am trying to the best of my ability to live up to the tenets of my faith, the Baha'i Faith. It isn't easy. When people want to dissect someone's character and how he conducted his daily life, I get the urge to join in with the rabble of the crowd. More and more, however, I also hear a soft, kind voice urging me to refrain from doing this. It's a bit of a lonely place to be, only seeing and saying good things about other people.

Beyond many of the people I know in the Baha'i Faith and in my recovery program (and my own children,praise God),there aren't too many others attempting to see only the good in their fellow inhabitants of this planet. In fact, this point of view is considered, "naive", "unrealistic" or "Pollyanna". Right now, I can honestly say that I do see the "dark side" of others. It's just that I am CHOOSING to focus my attention on the positive characteristics of the people, and if there isn't much there, I try to refrain from comment. Admittedly, this is difficult, especially in regards to my ex-husband and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Oh, and Condaleeza Rice. (I have my reasons!) Obviously, I'm not perfect. But I'm trying.

This is all part of my personal recovery/transformation program. As I open up to see and hear the good in this world, the more I see the positive, loving aspects of myself, a human being living on this big, blue-green marble called Earth. And I'm beginning to love her inhabitants a lot more. This unanticipated benefit to developing "a sin-covering eye"--as I look for the good in people, I can more readily see the good that is within me. I never thought that was at all possible, at least until now. Two events had to happen--I got into recovery from food addiction, and I began deepening my knowledge and understanding of the Baha'i Faith. Ever since I began this leg of my journey through life, each day has been both a gift and a blessing, even in the seemingly "bad" times.

Now, you are saying, what does all this have to do with Michael Jackson? Get to the point! (So impatient, my friends!) Well, I've read a lot of mostly positive comments about Michael Jackson, but the negative ones are also beginning to gain momentum. I've voiced my own doubts about MJ over the past two decades--his bizarre behavior, his ever-changing appearance (he was once SO handsome!)--I've said it all, just like so many other people. Yes, Michael had problems. And so do I. I'm an addict, not a drug addict, but a hardcore, gutter level bottomed-out food addict. I can relate to the characteristics of ANY type of addict, whether they be alcohol, drugs, compulsive spending, workaholism, codependency/enabling, or whatever. The substances, activities and behaviors of each type of addict may be different, but the addict mind is all the same--give me more, more MORE!

I do suspect that Michael was one of us--an addict of some sort. I have no proof of that, of course. But from the comments I heard over the past few days from different people who knew him, it seems that he spent many years in a massive internal battle that he was trying to fight by himself. Ultimately, when an addict tries to conquer addiction on his own, the "beast" (addiction) usually wins the war. I hope that wasn't the case with Michael. Since I feel this way, however, I can't point the finger at him and crow about his outrageous behavior and public mistakes. I can see how I used to be like him, a lonely person in a self-imposed, hellish prison that was constructed as a "shield" against pain and the imagined cause of it--the outside world. All I can say is, "there by the grace of God go I", and pray that Michael works through his earthly sorrows in the afterlife so he can be closer to the Almighty Creator.

Right now, I have so many wonderful memories of the hours of pleasure Michael and his brothers have given me. It all began when my mother came home from shopping at the McChord Air Force Base commissary and base exchange. The year was 1969, and our family was living in a three-bedroom, one bath home in Tacoma, Washington. Among the bags and bags of groceries and household supplies she bought (my parents always stocked up whenever they shopped on-base) was a record album she picked up featuring five extremely good-looking brothers on the cover.

"Here," she said while handing the album to me and my sister Tam to inspect. "I thought you girls might like this."

We didn't just like it; we loved it. We wore that album, and many others that followed out so badly that record needle kept skipping across entire tracks. But the highlight for me came in 1973--the year the Jackson Five FINALLY came to the Pacific Northwest to do a show at the Seattle Coliseum (now re-named whatever-corporate-sponsor arena).

I shrieked like a banshee being pummeled by Godzilla when I first heard the announcement on the radio, which got the immediate attention of my family. They vigorously questioned my sanity, except my eight year old brother, Ricky. He was too busy laughing. I ignored them, and called my friend Patti to tell her. At least she understood me. She screamed louder than I did. (We were fourteen years old, people. Hormone overload and obsessional behavior is just part of a teen-aged girl's development. Remember that if you ever have the misfortune of hosting a slumber party for your daughter and her friends. Don't expect to sleep through the constant chatter, laughter and screams!)

Two months interceding between the day I heard the commercial for "J5" day and the concert date--sixty days of anxiety, pulsating excitement and daydreaming about Jermaine Jackson (HUGE crush on him)during my classes at Baker Junior High School. On the night before the big day, I slept even less I usually did on Christmas Eve. I was awake and getting dressed at the first of dawn.

"That's a damn shame," my mother remarked when she saw me starching and ironing the pantsuit I had bought for the occasion. "I can barely get you out of bed in the morning to go to school, but you'll wake up with the roosters to see that Jackson boy!"

I didn't care what she said. She just didn't understand (Cue DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince); I was going to see my idols, the Jackson Five. NOTHING was going to mess up that day for me, not even the inevitable hair-do ruining Seattle rain. (Which it almost did.)

I don't remember much else about preparing to leave for the drive to Seattle. It was probably the typical family chaos scene whenever we took a trip somewhere. More than likely, we were late picking up my friend Patti from her house, and when we finally got on Interstate 5 North, my father was probably speeding and complaining while my mother kept trying to navigate by telling him what he was doing wrong. In the meantime, Tam, Patti and I sat in the back seat of my parents' blue Chevy station wagon, nervously whispering about the upcoming show while Ricky (siting in the front seat with my parents) kept turning around and making faces at us.

Then it happened--a miracle, literally. The drizzling rain let up, and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds as my father exited Interstate 5 to downtown Seattle, and stopped at a red light. While we were waiting for the light to turn green, Tam started making these weird, strangulated noises and pointing wildly at something to the right of me. Puzzled, I turned to look, and I saw THEM--the Jackson Five! They were in a long, black limousine, and by the intercession of God's Love (and great sense of humor), the sudden appearance of the sun illumined the interior of the car so we could get a good look at all of them: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael and members of their entourage.

Pandemonium broke out in the back seat of my parents' blue station wagon. All three of us emitted stratosphere-shattering high-octave screams that must have sounded like a sonic boom to my parents and Ricky.

"What's wrong with y'all?" Dad roared, while Ricky was beside himself with laughter. Mom just stared at us, horrified. She was a southern-born, genteel Libra, and such behavior was unbecoming of any young lady as far as she was concerned, even more so for the two daughters she had raised. We should have known better. Well, maybe Tam should have. She's a Pisces. I was, and always will be, a tomboyish, rebellious Aries with an innate disdain for "Ms. Manners" and Emily Post.

"Dad!" I screamed. "Hurry up, step on the gas, we have to catch up to that car!"

"What? What car? What you are talkin' about?"

"Don't you see that limo...hurry up, they're getting away!"


"The Jackson Five!!!" Tam, Patti and I all screeched in unison, which prompted even more raucous hilarity from my incorrigibly mischievous brother ("They screamed in three part harmony!").

"Awww...y'all imagining things now! You got those Jackson boys on the brain!"

But I was desperate. All I could see was my ONE chance to see and talk to Jermaine, to tell him that he meant the whole universe to me, father was preventing that from happening.

"Dad, please, c'mon, the light is green; hurry up, we can still catch up to them!"

But to my disappointment, he barely tapped on the accelerator, and the limo carrying my heart's desire disappeared into traffic.

"Ain't no way I'm gonna have an accident just so you girls can act a fool!"

I was pissed off at him for years about that.

We did, of course, see them about two hours later. My parents wanted to do the tourist thing and walk around downtown. They offered to buy the three of us hot dogs and sodas, but we refused (Ricky eagerly made his order). My stomach was roiling with nervous anticipation, and for once in my life, food was the furthest thing on my mind. One look at Patti and Tam told me that they felt the same way-- they just wanted to get to our seats in the Arena and wait for our beloved Jacksons to come out on stage. We told my parents and Ricky that we would meet them in the same spot after the concert.

Strangely enough, I can't remember much about the show. All I can recall is that my heart seemed like it was pumping a thousand beats per second, and I nearly lost my voice and my mind when the five brothers hit the stage. When Jermaine sang, "Daddy's Home", I bit down on my left hand to contain myself. The teeth marks were still visible the next day.

The lasting memory that both my sister and I have of that concert is not about Jermaine or Marlon (Tam's fave)--it's Michael. The closing song was "I Wanna Be Where You Are", and MJ belted it out--heart, mind, body and soul. He kept singing and dancing, even when he was backstage. It was electrifying,incredible. Pure magic. The three of us sat in our chairs after the show was over, too stunned to move. We didn't know it before, but we knew it then. We had just witnessed a genius sharing his God-given talent with us. What an awesome privilege!

All I can say is, thank you Michael. May God bless you throughout your continuing spiritual journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are always appreciated, except when they are nasty.