September 13 through September 21, 2016
I am happy to announce that I celebrated your birthday this year in the city of your birth, Gary, Indiana, with many of my friends. It has been many years … twenty plus years, in fact … since I visited your childhood home on Jackson Street. Back then, there wasn’t much to see. It was just a little, four-room house on the corner of a street in a somewhat run-down neighborhood, bordered by a school at the rear and a lot of non-descript little, four-room houses identical to it. The city, itself, has been a victim of the closing of the steel mill, which was its main claim to fame and prosperity when you were growing up. There are a lot of fairly dilapidated neighborhoods with empty, boarded-up houses and storefronts.
However, there are forward-thinking people with plans to rehabilitate the neighborhood. I had heard of one of those people for several years, who has made his home across the street a refuge for fans and a welcome center where food and community are celebrated with considerable gusto. My thanks to him for his unconditional welcome.
Now, 2300 Jackson Street and the house next to it are bright spots on the block, sporting lovely renovations, a monument proclaiming your accomplishments, landscaping improvements, large posters bearing your face in the windows and a wrought iron fence.
In the intervening years, the house has become something of a Mecca for your children who gather to honor you (Michael Pilgrims), drawing crowds from countries spanning the globe. I was offered the opportunity to join them this year due to a Fan Art Exhibition which had been long delayed due to the serious illness of the organizer of the event.
Upon recovering from her illness, Dr. Catherine Gross began preparations almost immediately to make this Fan Art Exhibition happen during the weekend of your birthday, when so many of your children would be able to be present in person. She acquired a beautiful venue called The Aquatorium in Miller Beach, Indiana, located a short drive from Jackson Street in the sand dunes right on the shores of Lake Michigan, gathered the art she had collected from fans all over the world (several of my own humble little drawings and paintings included), and staged a spectacular Art Exhibition to showcase the fact that you continue to inspire long after your Ascension. Countries represented by Art included Canada, Russia, United States, Hong Kong, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and France. It was really quite a large exhibition. My thanks to Dr. Gross for keeping the dream of this Art Show alive during her extended illness and to her remarkable team who made it happen on August 28 and 29, 2016.
Of course, there were other events scheduled during the weekend, some of them sponsored by your mother and held at Roosevelt High School, including talent shows throughout the day on Friday and Saturday and a “White Party” at Que’s Lounge. However, my personal favorite was the Fan Art Exhibit at the Aquatorium.
I wondered if you were present, walking among the fans and community members who attended, of course.
Now, you know better than to ask that question. Would I pass up a chance to live the dream I held for so long in my physical life?
Yeah, I figured that was kind of a stupid question to ask. Evidence of your presence was everywhere, including outside my hotel every morning when I awoke and left the room to speak with you. There on the ground each morning, a feather awaited my awakening and welcomed my thoughts of you. On the morning of your birthday, I woke before the dawning and went outside to hold a private little sunrise meditation as the dawn painted the cloudy sky with pink and peach colored edges.
Of course, it could be argued by the uninitiated that I see you everywhere and in everything, but I cherish those little reminders that you are with me.
I love to be with you
Ole’ man sun, he don’t have to come
I keep warm with your smile
And when my troubles get bad and I should be sad
I’m happy all the while
I forget the world outside
Having your love, enjoying life
Just me and you
What a lovely way to spend my time
Oh, Baby, I love that song! The purity of your voice is just stunning in that song from your youth.
On the morning of your birthday, we arrived at the Aquatorium early and had the chance to walk down the footpath through the sand to stand at the water’s edge and get our feet wet. It was a wonderful way to mark the day and something I had always wanted to do. The water was clear and cool and the sun was approaching its zenith; the city of Chicago could be seen through the haze in the distance. Naturally, there on the beach waiting for me was a beautiful little white feather, of course. It was exhilarating, a treasure hunt, and you were everywhere.
I definitely felt your presence on several occasions during the trip, but never so much as when I arrived back home and started thinking about all the things I didn’t do during the weekend.
What do you mean?
Well, I was kinda regretting not going into Chicago, where the bust of an ancient Egyptian at the Field Museum so closely resembles you or hanging around more at the football field. As these thoughts were passing through my mind, I realized that my traveling companion and I were in the perfect place at the perfect time throughout the entire weekend. Of course, you know that I attributed that to you. It seemed like everything just clicked into place ideally for us to be where we needed to be to offer our gifts where they were most needed.
For example, I was a bit impatient with my friend while she was creating flyers announcing the Art Exhibit at the computer station in the lobby of the hotel, but as it turned out, those flyers brought quite a few guests to the exhibit to view the fantastic art that was on display.
After she got the flyers completed to her exacting standards (this is her gift) we printed up about 200 of them at a local Staples and handed them out to all the people re-entering the football field at Roosevelt High School and posted them at 2300 Jackson Street. They were highly effective in drawing people to the Art Show. She called it “gorilla marketing.” Once again, I am learning patience and the art of letting go (lessons still badly needed for a self-confessed control freak.)
On Saturday morning, while eating breakfast in the lobby of the hotel, we ran into three lovely German friends who had traveled to Gary, Indiana to celebrate your birthday. They were staying pretty much to themselves, so I decided to go over and introduce myself and play the role of the friendly American. Of course, their t-shirts were a dead giveaway. As it turned out, we had more fun with these German ladies. We even got asked to quiet down out in the parking lot at around midnight one evening because we were getting too rowdy, laughing and sharing stories over the language barrier! That hasn’t happened to me in a lot of years!
Oh, I can’t believe that … you are such a rowdy person! [Michael laughs out loud.]
Yeah, right! This was just another example of how you are still bringing complete strangers together and fostering a sense of community among them – people from different cultures who don’t even speak the same language – even seven years after you left the stadium.
I have never left the stadium. And you’re all just another part of me.
That is so true. It is at times like these that I feel the truth of that statement so strongly.
On another occasion, as stated earlier, we arrived at the Aquatorium a little early on the anniversary of your birthday – early enough to walk down the footpath through the dunes to the beach and stick our feet in Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful morning and the water was so clear that you could see the drop off about two feet into the water and the rocks at the bottom. I had always wanted to do that. My parents always said the lake was too polluted and unhealthy. So, in keeping with my philosophy of jettisoning the past and living in the moment, I got the chance to be a “wild-child” on the morning of your birthday and stuck my toes in Lake Michigan. It was a heavenly experience to let the waves wash over my feet while listening to the gentle sound of the surf. For me, it was just a beautiful moment, communing with nature on the shore of Lake Michigan with you on my mind.
Then, as we were the first to arrive at the Art Show, we went inside and opened up the Art Exhibit. Several pieces had fallen overnight from their mountings, so we picked them up and turned on the lights to welcome early guests. As it happened, we were in just the right place at just the right time to greet a woman from France, who was scheduled to give a lecture that evening at the Gary Public Library close to your childhood home on her academic treatise on the Dangerous album and its cover art. We found a piece of cardboard for her to write out all the particulars of her lecture so that we could attend it later that evening.
It turns out this wonderful lady has made a serious study of Michael Jackson throughout her academic career at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her specialized field is Musicology and she has created a doctorate in the study of Michael Jackson!
Well, I am sure you know how much I support any serious effort to examine your body of work with an unjaundiced eye.
In talking with her, we discovered that she had written a book in French and had it translated into English, but she was uncomfortable about the translation. She had been told it was awful. I was moved to offer to proof-read the English translation of her book for her and make suggestions to improve or clarify it for a more general audience than those well-versed in Musicology. If we hadn’t arrived early that day, we would not have had those few quiet moments down by the lake or met her and been moved to offer her my services.
It just seemed that we arrived right where we needed to be right when we needed to be there throughout the entire weekend and, as a result, these synchronicities abounded. Of course, not knowing this ahead of time, I was a little impatient because things were not in my control, but I am learning to “let go and let Michael handle it.”
[Michael laughs.] Many would call all of that coincidence, but not you. You see my hand in everything.
Indeed, I do … and I so enjoy ‘seeing your hand in everything.’ I have learned from my experiences in the past almost twenty-five years that there are no coincidences.
That is true. There are no random occurrences or accidents. Everything that happens … happens for a reason. Each is an opportunity. In your case, many are opportunities for you to practice patience. Will you choose to remain in the impatience and the anxiety it causes you or will you surrender your need to be in control? In someone else’s case, it might be a different valuable lesson. But in each, it is an opportunity to surrender to love.
Well, I didn’t realize that at the time it was happening.
No, but you are willing to learn. That is your great strength. You are very ready to reveal your weaknesses, but reluctant to talk about your strengths. And as the saying goes, ‘hindsight is always clearer vision.’
Your daily spiritual practices have left you more open to experience the moment and less ready to fear the unknown over which you exert no control. You experienced a moment of impatience at the time in place of the hours or even days you would have endured and allowed to fester in the past. That’s called progress.
As we’ve said before, it’s a step-by-step, incremental process. One step forward followed by a step or three backwards. It doesn’t happen overnight. And just when you think you have this thing in the bag, something shows up in your experience that makes you realize that you still have a long way to go. Each step leads to the next organically and without strain or pain, unless you choose to experience the strain or pain. It is always your choice.
However, it’s not me making these things happen. It’s you!
I prefer to think of it as you, my dear one. My readings tell me that it is spirit or my higher self, but as far as I’m concerned, YOU are my higher self. The Persian poet, Rumi, speaks to this so beautifully:
“This is how I would die
Into my love for you
As pieces of cloud
Dissolve in sunlight.”
Awww! God bless you! I love you MORE, you know. That, too, is your choice. It is LOVE … We are LOVE.
Exactly. I am so glad you see things my way.
[Michael giggles.] But the point is not to die into LOVE … it is to LIVE into it every minute of every day … to breathe into it with every breath you take … to bathe in it like you did for those few moments of bathing your feet in the lake … to dance into it by making each step so full of joy that it becomes a dance … to be so immersed in it that you recognize nothing else exists … because nothing else does exist.
That is such a perfect description of how you lived your physical life, my dear one. You were the embodiment of those words throughout all the moments of your life and you continue to personify them even now.
Okay, now you’re just embarrassing me! But … thank you.
Even those things you observe that don’t look like love are indicating a lack of love and, as such, are love crying out for love. LOVE is the only truth, the only reality. It’s what we all seek through our addictions, but it can’t be found through them.
Wherever you go, in every country, or in every continent, people yearn and hunger for only one thing … to love and to be loved. Love transcends international boundaries and heals the wounds of hatred, racial prejudice, bigotry and ignorance. It is the ultimate truth at the heart of creation.
And … well, you ARE just another part of me! We are ONE!
We are not seeking your dissolution, here. We are remembering, realizing and recognizing your completion … your expansion … into LOVE.
That is so beautifully stated, my heart. Thank you!
When I returned home and settled in, I began proof-reading Isabelle’s book. Surprisingly enough, I was able to understand the majority of it, I think. The translators had gotten the gist of what she was trying to say, although it was a little rough in the mechanics and usage areas of the English language and there were a lot of colloquialisms and inconsistencies within the translation.
It took me a couple of weeks to go over it twice, compile my suggestions for changes to the text and go over it one more time to make sure that I had caught everything. I wanted to be extremely thorough (as anything pertaining to your body of work deserves.) It was a challenge, but I think I was able to help her in cleaning up the translation so that it would be intelligible to the English-speaking community.
During the time I was working on this challenging project, the synchronous occurrences just kept piling up.
Oh, absolutely, my Sweet King. It was as if I was being led. I felt I was on the right track, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing throughout this process. I interpreted these little signs as encouragement to continue on the path I was traveling.
Can you be more specific?
Indeed, I can. I made notes of all the “little miracles” that occurred during the weeks I was involved in working on this book in my daily journal, as I always do.
One day was particularly noteworthy. It was Saturday, September 10, exactly fifteen years after the second taping of your 30th Anniversary Special at Madison Square Garden in New York for later broadcast. I had the opportunity to attend those tapings; several of my friends were in the audience. It was also exactly one day before the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. My journal entry begins at 3:45 AM.
The first occurrence that I noted was: I had a dream that was vaguely Michael-related. I was traveling to Europe to meet three of my friends whom I have never met, but who followed you around during your tours. We were going to follow you from country to country for months and I was so excited that I would meet them and accompany them on their adventures. You did not appear in this dream, but you were everywhere and the emotions were very real. I was setting off on a “great adventure.” My friends and I would be in the audience of many of your concerts and I would be visiting countries I had only heard of or read about. We would be gone for months. The freedom, the anticipation, the excitement and the sense of impending discovery were palpable presences in this dream.
You know how infrequently I remember dreams, so, of course, I had to contact my friends and let them know that I had dreamt of them the following day after a few more hours of sleep.
But the frequency and clarity of your dreams are improving enormously, aren’t they?
Yes, they are and I am so grateful. As I sat quietly writing about the dream in my journal, I began to write the sentence, “I haven’t gotten to do our reading and meditation yet today because I am waiting for a claims adjuster to come and look at the car.” In the middle of the word waiting, I heard a knock on the door and it was the claims adjuster coming to look at BIG Red, in which we had hit a deer a couple of days earlier. The timing was impeccable, perfect and spoke to me so clearly of your presence! It was as if you were impatient for me to get to the reading. I had to laugh at that!
See? Even I can feel impatient. [Michael laughs.]
After the adjuster left, I began our reading and meditation. In the middle of the meditation, the scent of your cologne permeated our little sanctuary so strongly (and your face floated by behind my closed eyelids just as the scent appeared.) That scent lingered for hours, literally! It was heaven-scent (pun intended.)
(Michael chuckles.) I love it when a plan comes together, don’t you?
Yes! And I need a fifty-five gallon drum of that stuff next time you’re in the neighborhood.
Then, later in the day, I went into the bedroom and noticed that the Wii game console had been turned on. As I usually do, I said, “Hi, Baby! Thank you for being here,” and turned it off. The next time I walked through the bedroom it was turned on again! I had to laugh at your persistence!
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if he played She Was Lovin’ Me (I use your original title to differentiate the demo from the remix) during my nightly fix of your voice? I love the demo of that song! While the lyrics are about a two-timing woman, the sonic resonance of the demo is so atmospheric and intimate and sensual! It’s a sexy, slow dance in audio format. They changed the entire character of it in the remix. (They did the same thing with A Place Without No Name, and, in my opinion, lost the original Michael-ness and intent of the song in the remix.)
Anyway, that evening, I turned on the MJ3 player (which is always set to random play so that you can choose my playlist) for my customary half hour of listening to your beautiful voice before drifting off into sleep. After We Are the World finished, She Was Lovin’ Me began! It was a “Mikegasm” to round out a day of “little Mikegasms” during which I noticed and acknowledged your presence.
[Michael giggles and I get a visual of him covering his mouth.] Mikegasms! That’s funny!
I wish I could claim authorship of that one, my dear, but I can’t. I don’t know who thought that one up, but it fits. I love days like that. They make the dry spells seem more tolerable.
A couple of days later (the 13th, to be precise,) I was visited by the lines of a poem while I was sitting with my journal in my lap and wrote them down so that I wouldn’t lose them. The lines just poured through me, into the pen and onto the journal page fast and furious. When they stopped flowing, I asked, “Okay, Baby, where did that come from?” I got a few more lines in response:
Art is not limited
It is not words
It is what breathes inside
All of life
Available to all
Restricted to none
Later, that evening I saw a fabulous new painting by my beautiful friend called “Within” that so unerringly illustrated the lines of the poem it was uncanny. The next day, I requested her permission to use her painting in a video with our poem and spent a wonderfully absorbing afternoon creating the video posted below on With a Child’s Heart.
All of these little miracles seemed clustered around and during my work on Isabelle’s fabulous book.
Did you like the book? Tell me more about it.
Yes, I loved it. It is an examination of the cover art by Mark Ryden for the album Dangerous and presents her scholarly research into your collaboration with him to produce an attention-getting, symbolically-significant work of art to illustrate your musical offerings in the tracks on the album. As such, it underscores your knowledge and love of the visual arts and how they can be used to attract and hold the public’s attention.
However, it also offers a Musicologist’s perspective on the musical contents of the album, drawing from the historical and cultural lexicon. As such, it presents a much clearer focus on your knowledge and use of music and lyric to bring awareness to global and societal problems.
The title is: Dangerous: From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson: Pop Culture in the Pantheon of Fine Arts and I do so hope she decides to move forward with the publication of the English translation of her book, even though the corrections I suggested were extensive. It so illuminates your collaboration with Mr. Ryden, your knowledge of the fine arts and the fields of music and physical movement and the intelligence, deep thought, originality and hard work that went into the recording of the tracks as well as your attention to detail in the production of the artwork accompanying the album.
It is a fascinating read and would make a significant addition to any collection of scholarly, serious Michael Jackson material.
The fact that you used Mark Ryden’s painting as a model for much of the material in Dreams (the Pepsi commercial you created around the Dangerous album and in which you brought significant sections of Mr. Ryden’s painting to life) just highlights the cover art further. Because it was broadcast on a global basis, particularly during your Dangerous World Tour, much of the world has been exposed to Mr. Ryden’s painting.
The publication of the English translation would make her scholarly research for her doctorate accessible to a much wider audience, taking it from the ‘hallowed halls of academe’ and making it available to the general English-speaking world.
It sounds interesting. Will you keep me posted?
I will indeed, my love.