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Gary, Indiana, and Michael Jackson

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

From Gary, Indiana, to Michael Jackson, the entrails of a dizzying trajectory

I truly believe that you should go to Gary once in your life, if possible, as much as it is nice to go to Los Angeles to walk in his footsteps or to visit his final resting place.

This idea never occurred to me until I found myself there myself.

Of course, the Gary of 2016 was a shadow of the Gary of the 1960s. The family members who were there and with whom we talked told us about the gradual desertion of this town, where most of the houses - especially in Michael's neighborhood, so close to the factory where everyone, including his father, worked - have their windows closed with nailed boards, like in the movies, and look dilapidated.

But you have to go there, at least drive across town, to see how he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. You also have to stand in front of this tiny house, because it is really tiny, to measure the trajectory he made to get out of there. From this little mouse hole, we can better measure the heights he has reached. When you've been to Los Angeles before, or maybe when you've been near Neverland (which I wasn't, by choice), and you pass by Gary, and you go around, in a few small steps, that dollhouse where they lived so many of them, you understand that he didn't just travel a few thousand miles to the West, but a few billion miles, at the speed of light, to another galaxy.

I went to the maternity hospital where he was born and which looks like a desert. I tried to capture the air, the place, the spirit...

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I walked by the school the siblings attended, where they sang...

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Near the factory and the vacant lot, just behind the house...

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I was born in the Fensch valley (Florange and Arcelor Mittal, everyone, in France, at least, has heard of them) at a time when industry in Lorraine was flourishing, and I could never feel at home there, so it suddenly seemed to me that my home town was Monaco, next to Gary.

But seeing that Michael had grown up, like me, in his early years next to a factory, I thought he must have heard the same sounds of machinery that scared me at night. His endless vehicle bells, the sound of smokestacks venting, the smell of sulphur or hulls (the only thing I liked, oddly enough), and I thought that, without knowing it, all of this must have registered in him and perhaps echoed in me, in an unconscious, reptilian sphere that no one really masters or perceives with intelligence or the senses.

I didn't know all this, but there were some strange parallels in this childhood where music came before everything, even before school, where the hours of work had to be lined up, made up if they weren't done, written down in notebooks under the eye and the pressure of a parent who put everything on you...

Anyway, going to Gary and expecting Michael to be naturally celebrated there (how could it not be?), I fell flat on my face...

In Washington, D.C., where I was going the following week to give a lecture at American University on Dangerous, I was told that Michael was mocked by American academics who