By Jordan Ikeda
I don’t remember a lot from when I was little. Bits and pieces fade in and out of my psyche. Flashes of going to my dad’s baseball games at the park. Snippets of a Disneyland trip with my aunt and uncle. The specifics of when I hid under my covers and chewed several pieces of grape flavored Bubble Yum after my mom had told me I had to brush my teeth and go to sleep. My dad and uncle’s construction work as they extended our house. My grandma making sure I was wearing shoes over the uncarpeted floor.
Fragments really. Fragments made stronger by old pictures and family members telling and retelling stories.
Being that I was only a few years old at the time, I’m not sure if what I remember is actual memories or somewhat more complicated reconstructions of my past. That’s the interesting thing about memories, they are forever being pushed further and further away, oftentimes distorted or changed based on newly recovered or freshly lost information.
So, like I said initially, I don’t remember a lot from when I was little. But one thing I am certain of, one thing that there is no doubt in my mind, a fact that I lived and breathed, was my adoration of Michael Jackson. That might read or sound extremely odd to people nowadays considering the child molestation accusations, the plastic nose and the infant dangling exploits. But I’m an 80’s baby, and back in the 80s, Michael Jackson wasn’t Wacko Jacko. He wasn’t plastic and white. He was the King of Pop. The slickest, most irresistibly cool, moon-walking, musical genius of my lifetime.
I was born in the summer of 1982. E.T. was the number one movie at the box office. A recession was winding its way down. Tylenol had a poison scare. The Vietnam War Memorial was erected. And the best selling album of all time was released.
That album, “Thriller,” had seven top ten singles, netted Michael Jackson seven Grammies, and would go on to sell somewhere between 50 and 100 million copies worldwide. It also would end up captivating the mind of a young Japanese American yonsei.
I remember having a white cassette tape of the album. I also remember my white glove, and the red jacket I begged my mom to buy me. I don’t remember the tape recorder all too well, but pictures paint a thousand words (see below).
I remember thinking how cool “Beat It” was, how tough Michael looked in that red, leather jacket with all the straps. The killer Eddie Van Halen solo in the middle. I remember the glowing steps in “Billie Jean” and that opening baseline that to this day stirs inside me the insatiable desire to bob my head and dance. I remember dancing (or at least trying to), kicking my leg up and pointing into the sky. I remember asking my mom how he was able to move like that. I remember fruitlessly practicing moon-walking in my room. I remember performing for my aunts and uncles, my grandma and parents. I remember going to Disneyland and watching “Captain Eo” three times in a row.
I remember the “Making of Thriller,” the zombie dance, the cackling of Vincent Price that made the hair on the back of my neck prickle with life. I remember “Bad” and being annoyed with Weird Al Yankovic’s “Fat.” I remember being mesmerized by “Smooth Criminal” and the dance that defies gravity, then being thoroughly entertained by “Speed Demon” and MJ’s battle dance with his rabbit doppelganger.
I remember listening to every song, every day. Wearing that cassette down until the magnetic, plastic tape burst out and crinkled. I remember desperately trying to smooth it out and recoil it back in.
To me, the magic of how the man moved, the perfect pitch he brought to every song, the screams and hard breaths, the sudden guttural sounds, the “ees” and “uhhhs,” they all came together and created this superhero figure to me.
When I used to play make believe, I was always Captain Eo.
I literally wanted to be just like him.
Somewhere, there’s a psych major writing a paper on the ill effects that Michael Jackson adoration has had on the populace. Perhaps in a few years, there will be a disorder that links Michael Jackson to unbecoming behavior. A disorder that people can buy medication to cure. Maybe there are some of you reading this thinking what a horrible man to want to be like. How sick and perverted and twisted he was.
I am not trying to excuse or look past the alleged stuff with children, where, even if he was completely innocent of sexual deviance, he will forever be guilty by association to a great many people.
Instead, what I am trying to say is that in spite of what the man had become over the last couple decades, to me, he remains and will always remain that superhero figure who danced like an alien from outer space and absolutely blew my mind.
For me, I can’t help but remember what he was and all the fond and concrete memories of my early childhood that he gave me. Those memories were bred in youthful awe. Nurtured with juvenile enthusiasm. Entrenched with adult appreciation.
And for the record…I won’t be giving them up.
Jordan Ikeda is a Rafu Sports Editor. He can be reached at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column. The opinion expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.