Friday, June 26, 2009

Gone Too Soon

By Odienator

I was sitting in Tom's Restaurant on 112th and Broadway, showing my friend, Jeff, where they shot the exteriors for Seinfeld. I heard an older Black woman sitting opposite me say "did y'all hear Michael Jackson died?"

I thought she was kidding. She was on the phone with her daughter, and she kept going back and forth between her phone conversation and us; she became our Brenda Blackmon. The owner at Tom's turned on CNN and the reporter said "Michael Jackson had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He was not breathing."

"Thank God," I said, "at least he's not dead."

"My daughter says Fox News says he's dead," interrupted the woman.

"Fox isn't news!" I said. "They're never right about anything!"

I was just willing the truth away. Subconsciously I already knew he was gone: Both the woman on the phone and I heard the words CNN used to describe Jackson's condition: "Michael Jackson has been taken to the hospital...and he was not breathing."

"They never said he restarted breathing," I said, looking into that woman's maternal eyes for any sign of disagreement. She nodded affirmatively, and looked at me the way only a mother could, with firm sadness tempered with clear comforting. Her eyes were saying "No, honey, I can't lie to you."

I looked at Jeff, who said "that would be insane if it were true."

This was insanity.

I looked at the TV and on the bottom of the screen, CNN had chosen to do something it rarely does: It agreed with Fox. "Michael Jackson is dead," read the bottom of the screen. I felt like I'd been hit with a brick.

When my Mom was pregnant with me, one of her intense cravings was for ABC by The Jackson Five. I don't know if this is the reason, but I've never been able to get enough of that song. Whenever it comes on, I want to get up and dance, to the point of relying solely on my will power to restrain me as I have no shame. Naughty By Nature sought further to entice me when they sampled that song for the first and still only rap song my Mom likes. So even before I put on the mortal coil Mike has just shaken off, I knew his music. Ironically, the first song I heard on the radio after this news was "I'll Be There," a song I always thought Mike was way too young to sing (though he does so convincingly). All I could do was nod at his sentiment. He'll be there. Even though he is physically gone.

R.I.P. Mike.


Ryland Walker Knight said...

During a commercial break, there was a StateFarm ad scored with "I'll Be There"... I would have cried had it not been equally hilarious, and perfect. In the end, I nodded, too, and kept on cooking dinner.

Brian Darr said...

I was staffing the AV desk at work when the rumors started coming in from patrons. At first I didn't believe it either. By the end of my shift, I'd had several conversations with people equally shocked. A weird hour at the desk.

Last night I listened to "ABC" just before bed. It's the only one of his songs in my itunes, but I don't know why that is and must remedy it.

odienator said...

Ry, they seemed to have an equally ironic sense of humor on the radio. One DJ played Never Can Say Goodbye, I'll Be There, I Want You Back, Will You Be There and Gone Too Soon back to back. If he had played She's Out of My Life after that, I would have crashed.

In NYC, on the subway, people were asking us over and over if it were true. I also heard that Twitter crashed as a result of people sending tweets. It's too bad they got Twitter back up and running...

The song I keep hearing Mike sing in my head is You Can't Win, from The Wiz. You can get out of the game after all.

Brian, you have to at least have I Want You Back in that iPod!

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