Like I’m sure so many people did this morning, I listened to “Thriller” on the way to work. I haven’t listened to that album in its entirety in years. It’s fantastic, really, and holds up far better than I thought it would.
Before I get too into this, let me just say: my public persona is decidedly unsentimental and insensitive. I cracked jokes about Jackson’s death and laughed when other people did so yesterday (and likely will for weeks to come). He was amazing, and a peerless entertainer, but was completely fucked up and pretty goddamn scary. Besides, there is not much in this world I can’t laugh at. You laugh, or you go insane. That being said, I don't get maudlin very often, so feel free to skip this one if you want to always think of me as a hard-ass bitch.
Anyway, while listening to “Thriller” this morning, memories started flooding back, ones I didn’t even realize were buried in the archives. Sitting on my brother’s bed in our shared bedroom, listening to “Thriller” fucking endlessly on a portable cassette player with tinny, muffled speakers. Begging my mother to rent the “Thriller” video on VHS and then being scared shitless by it. Watching “Beat It” about a thousand damn times at a friend’s house until we got the choreography down. Trying to moonwalk at another friend’s house across her living room floor in our socks. I was only six when it aired, but to this day, my father says that Jackson’s moonwalk on the Motown TV special was one of the most spectacular things he’s ever seen. I even remember when music videos were so important that they would show his new ones during prime-time network TV (after “The Simpsons”, say). You’d talk about it the next day at school, whether you were seven or seventeen, because you still frigging cared – on some level – what this dude did.
So, remembering all this weird, archaic, pleasant stuff from my childhood, I actually started to tear up. Not for Michael Jackson, of course, but for myself. When the symbols and icons of your youth die, it’s like shutting the door to a room you wish you could go back into. When the people you grew up with – personally or culturally – stop existing, it seems like your childhood gets another step further away. Without those touchstones to spur memories, your early years seem more like something you saw on TV or read in a book or imagined, and less like something you actually lived. An easier, more innocent time is long past, time marches relentlessly on, and life only gets fucking harder and harder.
This is far, far less eloquent than I would like it to be, but it’s hard to put into words. It’s not the loss of Michael Jackson that has me so upset. He was one of the overarching symbols of what was probably the best part of my life. And it’s the loss of that which has me a bit inconsolable this morning.