michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 35)
i'd love to say 'i wished you were here' but the thing is, i know you were... i know you saw how beautifully the day went- in fact, i was the best day i have had since you... transcended. it was a day you would have reveled in, had you physically been here. it was the first time i actually saw portland, oregon filled with so much love and community.
i spent a portion of the day anticipating seeing your performance as the scarecrow again. i can't emphasize enough how much warmth you brought to that character... the second time within a week, you ask? this time it was free, in a park. it was related to an event where communities could get together and know each other. that was the idea(l). i went by the park to see where the film was playing, and i saw so many children happily playing without a care. the adults created a water slide for them to play on; there would be a man spraying the slide as the kids passed by.
before i went to the park i went to the veterinarian so i could change the date for lumbia's appointment (she's due for a checkup soon). the office appeared to be closed a half-hour early. i was confounded by this but i trudged on, as the park was in close vicinity anyway. as i was walking i heard a conversation happening about 'the wiz'... something to the effect of, 'yeah, diana ross and michael jackson are in it. and he had a big afro.' they didn't seem to remember who else was in it. i walked across the street and i informed them that i heard them speaking of 'the wiz'. one of the women sitting outside mentioned they were thinking about going to see it in the park. my eyes lit up and i opined that they should go. the woman asked me if i remembered who else was in it, besides you and diana ross. i did mention some other names, and i spoke of my love for you. i told them i was putting on an event for you in the park at the end of the month, as well as doing a radio show. i also mentioned that i had been writing a book for two years.
in the midst of conversation a tiny toddler walked up close to me and said, 'we are gonna go see mikah jakson tonight!' i just fell in love right there. it's amazing how little kids who may not even realize the wealth of your art get so excited about you. i think they know anyone who seeks the truth of love, whether or not they physically know that person. i showed everyone the shirt i was wearing with your likeness (as i was displaying my love) and one of the older children said to me that she loved my jewelry. she asked me if i was hot, with all the clothes i was wearing (i am quite fond of layers; besides, it doesn't really get THAT hot here). i told her that i was from new york, so the weather we were having was not that hot at all. she mentioned that she was going to a wedding, and was going through the desert to get there. she also mentioned that she was working on her bicycle because by the time they would get back from the film it would be dark.
i bid them all adieu, and hoped i'd see them at the park later on. as i continued on i ran into a pair of brothers, who were just messing around as brothers (who were about the same age) are want to do in the middle of a summer's day... when i see children i usually say hello to them. but these two beat me to it. in ever a playful mood they both eagerly waved hello to me. with the same excitedness i waved back. i told them hello in spanish; i though i had heard them speak to me in spanish, so i responded accordingly. i also asked how they were in spanish. their mother (or adult companion) smiled with a sort of comfort, or amusement. i began to run, and the kids ran with me. they kept waving hello, and i kept waving back. it was one of the most touching moments i've ever had in my life.
whenever i have these moments with children i recognize the light you had in your eyes...
in between all of this and going to see the film i went to run errands, you know, the 'adult stuff'... i went to my work to pick up some food to eat during the film and i saw a young man with his trousers extremely baggy (so much where they were on his legs as opposed to his waist). personally i don't find that to be very attractive. and taking with the socio-political history of the 'sagging trousers', i am not sure i get why others find it attractive. (i'm not sure if anyone told you that bit of history, as you came from a generation which did not wear their trousers like that. but the 'sagging trousers' derive from when black boys and men were hung on trees, where a large portion of the town would celebrate their hanging. as part of this celebration, the one who was hanged would have their privates cut off. the trousers would be let to hang so as to show their 'manhood' had been taken away).
this is so intriguing to me, when it comes to you, teacher... people would always say things about you, about how you were 'less of a man' than other men, because of some of the things you said or did, without looking at WHY you may have done some of those things. yet so many others do things which have a history of pain attached to us. people wear really large trousers so as not to fit on them, perhaps as a reaction to 'tight pants' (which are said to be 'not manly' it is a psychological manliness, so to speak... however, the style of pants they DO wear has a real, physical history of 'manhood-snatching'. life's ironies can be quite funny sometimes.
with this i saw the young man outside, and i said to him matter-of-factly, 'pull up your pants, young man'. i felt like a parent. the young man (he looked to be around my age) turned around and responded, "oh, you're checking me out? you think i'm sexy?" i said, "nope. i'm just saying to pull your pants up." there is a time and a place to explain these histories to people... everyone is not always receptive to what you will give them. body language is everything. however, he was receptive to my statement, and when he realized i was serious (but not condescending) he gave me a look and pulled his trousers up a bit (if not all the way). if i see him again i'd love to speak with him about the histories of this style. i wonder if he thought about the consequences of his actions as he pulled them up. perhaps so, perhaps not.
one thing i am learning more and more (i knew this but i had lost it over the years) is that you must open yourself up to giving people the benefit of the doubt. this opens up to spontaneity. i am not so sure if anybody would have told him to pull his pants up. people just ride off folks who dress a certain way as being socially insignificant, and the base of these relationships are of fear. if you are to move about in the world with a desire for 'true freedom' you have to lose so much of the fear. was he receptive to my comment about his trousers because i called him 'young man'? i don't know. but my hope is that i created some sort of an impact (particularly with my matter-of-factness).
it is also curious that he associated my comment about his trousers as having some sort of sexual connotation. we have become so conditioned in this society to believe any and every gaze is either set for mating or violence. we aren't allowed to just be. i don't know how you coped with all of that, teacher... i realize you used a lot of that energy as part of your performance; but in your private life i'm sure it was difficult for you to always be put in a position to take sides, when asked if you were in a 'relationship'. of COURSE you were in a relationship. you've had many: with fans, with friends, with family. but people hardly asked you about that. it was always, do you have a girlfriend? do you want to be married... as if those types of relationships guarantee more happiness or satisfaction than the platonic or familial kinds. i've been put in that position as well, but obviously not like you have.
anyways, back to the park... the sun was getting ready to set for the film to be watched, and there were SO many kids! my heart just melted. there were so many kids there to see the brilliance of your art. i take the doll of your likeness out, and the kids loved it! i think some of them found it a bit strange a 'big person' like me would have a doll (which i carry around everywhere with me), but nevertheless they were fascinated!!! they would go 'is that michael jackson?', and the parents (all mothers) would laugh. there was one really small child (one who just learned some body parts) who enjoyed the doll tremendously. when i asked where the doll's head was, he pointed to it! when asked about the nose, he pointed as well... he kept holding the doll's hand. it was wonderful. devin (one of the people i went with-both devin and rebecca went spontaneously with me) told me i was really good with kids. i don't know about that; i just know i love them.
the movie began, and as the opening credits rolled your name came up... everybody clapped! i think it's funny that now you are no longer physically here, people realize the greatness of your art. or were they simply paying respects? either way, it's a good thing.
i danced the whole time during all the songs, and i said the lines right along with you. i anticipated your entrance as the scarecrow (everyone clapped again after your introductory song) and i felt sad after your exit. i cried a bit more this time, because the concept of 'home' meant so much more to me on this day. even devin cried a bit. when dorothy returned home after her experience, i knew. i just knew. i rode home on my bicycle singing the song out loud, and i cried a bit there as well. i got home (no pun intended), i listened to the song on the turntable, and tears streamed down my face.
all of the wonder of children, and the spontaneity of the day was home for me, if just for that moment. and i looked over to my right as i was riding home, and i saw you there; you were smiling. i know i saw you smiling.
thank you for being there with all of us on this day.