Current events

Once upon a time, I regularly checked in on a blog that was maintained by the wife of a friend of my main squeeze.  Her posts were witty and hilarious, covering everything from the mundane and ordinary to the spiritual and all that is Josh Groban.  Over the course of some months I developed a feeling of oneness with this woman who, despite being friends on Facebook, I have never actually met.

Then one day the posts stopped.  There was some lame excuse for not blogging. Something about a doctoral dissertation and birthing a small human being.  Every once in a while (read: every four or five months) a new post would show up in my RSS reader, letting the world know that she had not in fact fallen off a cliff and perished a horrible, bloody death, and that someday soon the posts would return with their previous frequency.

It seems that someday soon has arrived.  Theology Girl has been updating with alarming regularity over the past week.  (You hear that, Adrienne?  Now everyone on my blog knows about it, so you have to keep updating.  How’s that for peer pressure?)

Although I had planned to take a short break from the internet, I hadn’t expected it to go on for quite as long as it has.  I wish I could present a cute baby from my loins as proof that I’ve been busy with other things, but that would be a vicious lie. The truth is, I’m just plain lazy.

The good news is that almost two weeks away has given me plenty of blogging fodder.  Here’s hoping I can maintain my resolve and follow through with posting the weird shit I saw last week.

I’m sure that my return to blogging after my brief hiatus, though, will be completely overshadowed by the big news that has just overloaded all the airwaves: the death of Michael Jackson.

I have to admit, I’m a little annoyed.  Not that Michael Jackson died, but that the minute he was taken to the hospital, NPR stopped reporting Farrah Fawcett’s death entirely.  The poor woman died seven hours ago; to me, it doesn’t seem like enough time has passed before letting the story slide to the back burner.  Twenty-four hours should be the minimum reporting time, no matter who else has died. Heck, they reported Ed McMahon’s death for two whole days before giving it a rest.  The point is, now that Michael Jackson has died, it seems like everyone has completely forgotten about her.

I wish I could say that I had fond memories of Farrah Fawcett.  Unfortunately, Charlie’s Angels was before my time, so I can’t talk about my favorite episodes or the kind of actress she was.  All I can say is that cancer is one of the worst things ever to curse this planet, and I know all too well what it is like to lose someone dear to me because of it.  I truly feel for her family.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never actually seen her act in anything except her short appearance in Logan’s Run.

Michael Jackson, on the other hand, has provided me with plenty of strange childhood memories. Although I was too young to know him with a ‘fro, before he had the Thriller-era nose job, I do remember when he was still black, before he got creepy.  If you don’t believe the photographic evidence, check this out:

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite recess activities with my friends was sitting on the grass beneath the big oak tree on the playground, playing clapping games. (Athletics were not my forte.  But that’s another story for another time.)  We would sing songs to keep the rhythm, like “Miss Mary Mack” and “Down Down Baby.”  We also sang the song about Miss Susie.  You know the one.  The lyrics dovetail into one another, making the supervising adults gasp each time we almost said a curse word.

“Miss Susie had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell.  Miss Susie went to heaven, the steamboat went to HELLo operator, please give me number nine…”

Naturally, we had to emphasize the word that might have gotten us in trouble.

I bet you’re wondering what this has to do with Michael Jackson.  Well, gentle readers, it has EVERYTHING to do with him.  Once upon a time, long ago in my youth, we ended that song with the following words:

“Miss Susie and her boyfriend are kissing in the D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K, dark, dark, Darker than the ocean, darker than the sea.  Darker than Michael Jackson chasing after me.”

You heard it right, gentle readers.  A quarter century ago, we included Michael Jackson’s name in a song because he was black.  I think kids today (if they even sing that song anymore (damn kids and their cell phones)) have probably changed the words to better convey the meaning, because heaven knows the man in recent years would not have held the same standard of chromatic comparison.

Let’s shift gears for a moment.  I’d like to talk now about Thriller.  This album is definitely in my top ten list of best albums of all time.  There were so many great songs, and one totally awesome music video.

A whopping thirteen (almost fourteen) minutes long, the music video for the title track was the first I had ever seen.  (We didn’t have cable, so MTV was a foreign concept, much like it is today.  Ba-zing!)  The video was an epic feat of such magnitude, with two stories in one that required not one, but two superhuman transformations on the part of the man, and a voiceover by the master of horror himself, that only a major Hollywood director was up to the challenge of handling it.  It was completely unprecedented, and in my opinion, although many have come close, none have topped it in sheer awesomeness.

When the video came out, my family came into possession of a videotape with a hour-long television special that detailed the process of making Thriller: The Epic Music Video.  It may have been taped off the TV, but I can’t be certain.  Either way, the origins of the tape have no relevance to this story at all.  What is relevant is that my brother and I watched this tape ad nauseam.

There are two great things about having a music video on tape in the 1980s.  First of all, being before the age of YouTube, owning the VHS was the only way to watch something on demand.  And believe you me, we demanded to watch it all the freaking time.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, was the fact that music videos from the 1980s made some semblance of sense and incorporated fantastically choreographed dance sequences.

Since we watched the video so much, we not only quickly learned all the words to the song, and all the nuances of the dialogue before and after the song, as well as Vincent Price’s monologue and delightful cackle at the end of the song, we also became quite well rehearsed in the art of Thriller: The Dance.

The pause button on the VCR remote became our friend, and with its help we were able to analyze each move made by the undead dancers.  With such iconic moves as the nervous ear-to-shoulder twitch and hunched hand-on-knee shuffle and hands-in-the-air-pelvic-shake, my brother and I made a two-person dance troupe.  We tried to don the rattiest clothes we could find, and twinkled our toes à la Michael Jackson all the live long day.  Never had we so badly wanted to be dead.

The best part of this story comes a couple months after our acquisition of the aforementioned VHS, on one fateful afternoon when my grandmother was babysitting us.  My brother, dressed in all his undead glory stood before her and began to dance the Thriller dance, hoping for a gushing of “My goodness, you’re so talented!”

What he got instead was a trip to the doctor’s office.  My grandmother had never heard of Thriller: The Song, much less seen Thriller: The Music Video, so my brother’s introductory dance movements (the ear-to-shoulder twitch) were mistaken for the start of a seizure.  Eventually my mother returned home and, after doubling over in a fit of hysterics, explained that my brother was only trying to dance for her.

To be honest, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Michael Jackson is dead.  All the weirdness of the last decade aside, the man was a genius. He shaped a whole generation of musicians in a profound way, and I do think he was very lucky to have been recognized for that in his lifetime.  Music would not be what it is today had he not been a part of it all.  One of my friends said it so well: “I’m starting to understand what the death of Beethoven must have been like.”

Some people, especially the young’uns who only knew a scary, child-molesting white man with a magical decomposing nose, may remember Michael Jackson as the sad, frail, eccentric grown-up child star.  I, on the other hand, choose to remember Michael Jackson the way I knew and loved him best: as a healthy, curly-haired, dark-skinned zombie with some seriously awesome moves.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nutmegnanny
    Jun 26, 2009 @ 16:23:36

    I really love this post. I remember the days of taping videos off MTV (when the played music) and watching them over and over again. It’s sad to think that most of the younger generation will only know Michael Jackson for his weirdness instead of his greatness. I’m laughing imaging you dancing with your brother but a little jealous you got the whole dance down:)

    Reply

    • megan
      Jun 26, 2009 @ 17:14:00

      I should probably remind everyone that it was two whole decades ago that I was able to dance the entire Thriller Dance. I think my body has forgotten how to move that way. Maybe this would be a good time to relearn it.

      Reply

  2. Mike
    Jun 26, 2009 @ 19:22:16

    haha – i didn’t know that about dean. i’ll have to ask him about it next time i see him.

    Reply

    • megan
      Jun 26, 2009 @ 20:00:21

      Good luck with that. He’s pretty much in denial about all the funny things he ever did as a kid. I’d be very surprised if he admitted to the incident. But my mom can vouch for it.

      Reply

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