Thursday, July 2, 2009

Let's Pause for Music: Michael and Me

Remember the Time

We're the party people, night and day. Livin' crazy, that's the only way...

It’s 1979.  The house is filled with music and people.  It is dark, but there is a red and green light on and everyone is dancing, dancing, dancing. They’re bumping hips, snapping fingers, spinning around, and looking good.  Anne Marie, a teenage girl who lives at the end of the block, is doing the Robot, making her forearm swing at the elbow like it was attached with a hinge.   I try it too and everyone laughs at the four year old with all the barrettes in her hair, holding her hands at right angles and moving jerkily around the room.   I know I’m no dancer, but the music makes me feel like jumping, spinning, shaking my too-many-barretted-head from side to side.   The madness in the music has gotten to me and I am off the wall.  Later, I look at the cover of the album,  at the boy with big hair and a bright smile.   I can’t read, but I know his name is Michael Jackson. 


People always told me, be careful what you do, don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts.  

It’s 1984.  Long legs, long arms, long jheri curl.  Peach-colored glasses that are crooked on my face. Nine year old me, trying to Moonwalk on the kitchen floor, wearing my red pleather zipper jacket, like the one Michael wore in “Beat It.”  I keep trying, but I look more like someone running backwards on sandpaper.  Night after night, too, I pour over the cover of Thriller-- Michael in a glowing white suit lying sexily on some black, polished surface.   Watching him perform Billie Jean at the Grammy Awards, I cry when he moonwalks across the stage. All I have is an 11 inch black and white T.V. with a wire hanger in it for an antenna, but I cry because the show will soon be over.  Oh Michael, don’t go!  Dance for me one more time.  Don’t break this young girl’s heart.


Annie , are you o.k.? So Annie are you o.k. are you o.k, Annie?

It’s 1987.  I am in junior high and a nerd of magnificent proportions.  Even longer legs and a  short waist.  Huge glasses with coke bottle lenses.  Hair permed straight and pulled back into a sickly pony-tail(The jheri curl went out of style when Michael’s hair caught on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial—too much jheri curl juice.) I have changed and so has Michael. The cover of the new album, Bad, is a disappointing shock to me. Where is the handsome, brown skinned boy that I had spent hours day-dreaming about?  Who is this pale guy with long straight hair? Was that a cleft in his chin? Still, the music on Bad is still Bad—in the good way. And the video for Smooth Criminal, with that ridonkulous anti-gravity lean? Not that I could do that move myself— for fear of falling down and breaking my precious glasses— but how did he do it? My friends and I have many ideas: camera trick, wires, mirrors-- or had Michael actually found some way to defy gravity?   His moves are awesome, but why did he bleach his skin?   With a night and day difference in how he looks, I can’t help asking, “Michael, are you o.k.? Are you O.K. Michael?”


Do you remember the time, when we fell in love, do you remember the time when we first met…

It’s 1992. I am a college student, 17 years old. Michael and I are going in different directions.   I am wearing kente cloth and cowrie shells. My hair is in dreadlocks.  Meanwhile, Michael’s nose seems to be disappearing and his skin is getting paler and paler.  Still, no one else can sing and dance like he can.  Being college students who are too-cool-for-school does not stop my best friend and me from trying to do the dance in the “Remember the Time” video. Snap, move to the left, Snap, move to the right, then down on the knees, left-right-left-right.  I always mess it up and am still no dancer, but so what?    It is great to be dancing with Michael again.

It’s 2009.  My best friend calls me up after his death, in tears. I don’t understand.  Sure, it’s sad, but she doesn’t even know the guy, and he seemed to have gone off the deep end long ago. But then she reminds me of how much we had loved Michael, his music and his moves.  How we had spent so much of our childhoods listening to and singing his songs over and over again. His songs were like private jokes between him and us, him and me.  How "Mama-say-mama-saw-ma-mock-ooo-saw" sounded like "I'mma sit on the side of a mountain top." Oh, Michael, you so crazy!

And now, I remember the time when Michael Jackson was so much of my world, remember the time when I fell in love with the beautiful brown-skinned boy who made an awkward little girl forget that she couldn’t dance. And I cry for the loss of a friend whose music was the beat of my childish heart.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks guys. Glad you like the blog!


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