“It was a year to the day that my best friend died and for weeks I sat alone in my room and cried. . .”
While the UCLA Baseball team attempts to duplicate the softball team’s National Championship against TCU in Omaha, the above Murs quote from Walk Like a Man on the genius album 3:16 – the Ninth Edition bumped in my rental Saturn Aura today en route to work – coincidentally, a year to the day that Michael Jackson died. . .
And while certainly not my ‘best friend,’ Michael was truly a ubiquitous childhood presence since my parents purchased the Off the Wall vinyl record for my little record player. Thriller and Bad were soon to follow, along with the decades of drama, controversy and just plain weirdness.
Personally, this is more notable for me because I was with Irene and Rezzy Rez in the Weird streets of Austin. After a day of grinding the hot pavement around Congress & 6th, my beautiful wife & I passed out in the quirky, wonderful room of the Hotel San Jose. . .only to awaken at 9pm local time to a phone call from Denicke claiming that the King of Pop was dead.
Shaking the cobwebs from my overheated brain, I immediately was in disbelief – sure, we all know Michael is crazy/unhealthy/eccentric/nuts but he’s not dead?!?! Sure enough, I had slept through 11 text messages and four other missed calls. Turning the flat screen to CNN, it was all Michael. Shots of the UCLA Hospital flooded the airwaves; vigils were spontaneously sprouting throughout the greater L.A. region – yet here we were, halfway across the country.
I remember wishing that I could be back home – the socio-cultural chaos nearly crashed the internet – so I could feel first-hand what Michael’s adopted native streets were feeling. Texting and calling my L.A. friends as I could, the vicarious feel just wasn’t enough to supplant my melancholy reverence for a childhood icon dying suddenly. We proceeded with our plans to enjoy the city, expecting the ‘normal’ craziness of downtown Austin.
What we saw instead, however, was a vibrant homage to Michael. Each bar was loudly playing his smash singles:the Ventura Blvd.-inspired Billie Jean to Pretty Young Thing to Smooth Criminal to Rock With You were on rotation all night, everywhere. People were talking about Michael nonstop and for this one night – it really was about the positivity, something that hadn’t been associated with Michael in at least two decades. It really was a party, and after about eight drinks (and countless bars), we ran into a street artist, who was putting the finishing touches on this work of at:
We were mesmerized, inspired and amazed – even after the nonsense, after the accusations and improprieties, after the self-imposed isolation, and it was an appropriate tribute to a man that really was able to make us feel like a child again; even for one night.
So this is for you, Michael Jackson. Rest in Peace – you’re still, and will always, be loved.