Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This is It

When I was a teenager, my favorite book was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The secret mountain hideaway where the world’s greatest innovators and industrialists disappeared fascinated me to no end.

I couldn’t help but wonder if such a place could exist in our exposure happy society. Rumors that Elvis is still alive made me think of a secret place where people can hide. Ruminations that maybe Jim Morrison didn’t really overdose made my ears wiggle. And now Michael Jackson has a new song. His swan song.

I envision the three of them together now in a secret mountain hideaway. All with their death by drug overdose in common as if that story is just recycled due to lack of imagination or laziness. They could be sipping virgin Pina Coladas in absolute comfort in a place where weather surpasses L.A.’s. What does it matter to them if the story isn’t original?

Of course this is a Rand fantasy. I know that the new song of Michael’s that is sneaking around the internet was recorded and named, “This is It” before his demise. I know that the icons Elvis, Jim and Michael have become are constructs of the entertainment industry. They were rewarded though. They were spoiled, pampered and enabled. It would be hard to imagine the three of them sitting there in their ergonomic chaise lounges discussing health care or the latest version of Halo.

But then again it could happen. I met Michael Jackson once when he was on the cusp of becoming extraordinary. It was chicken that briefly brought us together. He came into the fast food restaurant where I worked. It was closing time.

This was the Michael Jackson right before his album Off the Wall when he still toured with his brothers. This was just a member of a well-known family who lived right around the corner and up the hill. No King of Pop nonsense, no glassy eyed stares and high-pitched voice, no sequined glove. His face was as it should have been, golden brown skin, curly hair, a few inches taller than my 5’7”, regular clothes. He was handsome in an average way, his dark eyes his best feature. His voice was soft, his presence calm, he wasn’t looking for fans to bestow adulation.

Our conversation went something like this:
“I would like the chicken cooked up fresh,” he said.
“It will be 15 minutes or more. We have to reheat the oil vats.”
“I’ll wait,” he said in a way that showed he had patience or maybe he had nothing else to do that night. “And I would like my corn from the back.”
“This is fresher.”
“From the back please.”

The world didn’t collapse when these three left. There’s no doubt they are gone. But a secret utopia does sound nice doesn't it?

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