‘Never Can Say Goodbye’

I scurried into Walmart this afternoon to look for a small computer desk. Office stores are hard to come by in our small town, and although I don’t usually like the quality of their furniture, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look.

As our computer needs and habits change, we’ve found ourselves relying on the two notebooks much more than the desktop that occupies the large, L-shaped desk in the spare bedroom. Because space is a real commodity in our home, it makes sense to replace it with something smaller. Anyway, that’s another blog post. Back to my story.

So, I’m browsing Walmart’s pitiful selection of fake wood furniture, when I hear a sound that stopped me dead in my tracks.

You knock me off of my feet now, baby! Whoooooooo!

As the bass line to “The Way You Make Me Feel” began blaring throughout the store, I forgot all about furniture and starting looking for the source. Just as I turned the corner, I saw the most beautiful of sights. An oasis of Michael Jackson merchandise in the middle of retail hell. Sparkly Jackson jewelry, t-shirts, handbags, buttons, posters, books, and CD’s lined the shelves.

Resistance was futile.

A few minutes later, I was standing in the checkout lane with my plunder. “Do you love Michael Jackson?” asked the checkout girl as she roughly tugged a hanger from the neck hole in a t-shirt.

“I love Michael Jackson!” I proudly announced. “I have since ’91,” I added to make sure she knew I wasn’t one of those born-again fans who only started liking him again after he died.

She made a little smirk and said, “I don’t like him.” And just like that, the thrill was gone.

As I made my way to the car with my merchandise, I considered what she must have thought of me; a 35-year-old man buying clothing and jewelry adorned with a pop star that she cares nothing about.

Poor girl. She just doesn’t know what she’s missing.

Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’

Last Wednesday evening, I donned a wig, fedora, red satin jacket, black surgical mask, and a sequined glove to go watch Michael Jackson’s This Is It – a documentary chronicling the King of Pop’s last days. Before leaving, I jokingly referred to the four people accompanying me as my “entourage.” It turned out to be not far from the truth when they almost had to drag me to the car a few hours later.

As soon as we arrived at the theater, two women spotted me and freaked out. As other fans arrived, several began to ask if they could either photograph me or have their picture taken with me. Some brought their children to greet me, whispering in my ear that they wouldn’t know the difference. This scene continued up until we were able to go into the theater and grab some seats on the top row.

I had been looking forward to seeing this film for weeks, and it exceeded all my expectations. I saw Michael Jackson as I had never seen him before – a man in charge of the smallest detail, but a human being who was full of love and graciousness towards others and filled with concern for our planet. I have no doubt that the concerts he was rehearsing for would have been some of the best that the world had ever seen. It’s a shame that this is the closest we will ever get to seeing the final product, but also a blessing that his death has exposed so many more people to his message.

I had been expecting to have a strong emotional response to the film, but found myself only tearing up a few times – once when Michael referenced his brothers and parents, and again when he sang a few lines of “Speechless.” MJ was thin, but amazingly energetic and his voice was flawless. It was much easier to be enthralled than emotional.

As the film ended and we made our way toward the exit, people once again started coming up and asking me for photos. I met one very nice lady who insisted her kids stand beside me for a picture. She adjusted my hair, stood beside me for a snapshot, and then gave me a hug as other fans gathered around with cell phones and cameras pointed in our direction. She began talking about what a wonderful person Michael was and her eyes welled up with tears. As she walked away, I heard her daughter ask, “Mom, are you sure that’s not Michael Jackson?”

After posing outside the building with a few more beaming MJ fans, my partner insisted that I go to the car. I was getting quite a head rush from my five minutes of fame and also felt inspired that so many people in my area are fans of Michael Jackson.

There is an instant kinship among Michael’s fans. We understand what it means to love someone that the world considered to be outside the concept of normal. We know what it’s like to be ridiculed for having that appreciation, and to constantly have to defend someone whom most of us never even had the privilege of meeting in person. As crazy as it might have seemed to some, I felt honored that these people allowed me to be their substitute for the evening; a way in which they could continue to physically cling to the thing they miss the most.