Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Michael Jackson, 12 years following your voice #12
Gary, Blanket, Katherine and... always, the smart team of mister Randomness Jackson...
Since I'm in the travel chapter (after all, I hear we're on vacation, even though we can't travel very far and the weather is acting up) I wanted to make a jump tonight that's more temporal than geographical compared to my previous posts.
We are, indeed, 6 years after Los Angeles. In 2016 then. To my great joy, I find myself invited by an association in Gary, dedicated to the memory of the Jacksons, to give a conference on Michael's birthday. I was also invited to give a lecture the following week at a University in Washington DC, so I had to accept this honor! At this time, my conferences (that you can find at these links, in free access on YouTube, in french and in english) were about "Dangerous" and the links between the iconic Mark Ryden cover and the musical content of the album.
By chance - and by now you know the other name as well as I do, or even the other little names if you consider that there is a "benefactors' association" behind it! - my oldest son, Joseph, was able to make contact with Blanket shortly before. They are about the same age and at that time Blanket would sometimes respond to messages (this was before he closed his account and reopened a less personal one). My son had asked him if he would be there for his father's birthday and told him how much he wished he could take a selfie with him. Blanket replied that he would be there and that he would gladly accept the offer! My son told him that he would recognize him because he was in a wheelchair, so he might not be able to get close to him easily. But Blanket was ready to come and join him.
Except that as teenagers as they were, they hadn't agreed on the exact time. The 29th fell on a Monday, and the Jackson family's festivities ran from Friday to Monday. We arrived in Gary on Saturday night, at the hotel next door to theirs, but they had left by the afternoon.... Blanket was going back to school on the 29th, so he had to go back to California... Disappointing, but what a pleasure for my son to know that Michael's son was willing to do him this favor... A real mark of generosity... He has a lot to live up to, that's for sure!
And speaking of generosity, we had to go back to the stock!... And there too, Mister Chance and his cronies arranged that, when we took our car to go in front of the Jackson's house, we arrived at the right time!
What a pleasure to listen to the radio in this area near Chicago. Lots of small local black radio stations playing Motown-style soul with regular appearances by the Jacksons... It was really fun. It gave the feeling of being "at home", "back in the day".
I wanted to make this journey by listening to a Michael song that seemed to say everything about the place and the time: "Childhood". What I know for sure is that the music stopped right as we parked in front of the house. It was 2pm.
Relive this trip with me...
About twenty people were chatting in the street in a friendly way.
Time to take a quick look around... It was touching. Moving. Impressive... I'll come back to this in a future post...
(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
Then, all of a sudden, we felt a little wind of emulation. And, indeed! What better time to arrive! Michael's mom had just opened the door and stood in the doorway for a few minutes to greet us. Amazing! I didn't even think it would be possible to see her!
We had unfortunately missed Blanket, but that was to arrive at the only time we would see Michael's mom. Because at no other time during the weekend was it possible to see her again. Just a glimpse of her wheelchair.
My son, on the other hand, saw her again, behind her window, looking at him, the next day. Indeed, the time I went to prepare my conference at the Gary Library, we had left him there. He was still hoping to run into Paris and he is hard to reason with when it comes to the beautiful Paris! And it just so happened that since he was in a wheelchair, Katherine had spotted him behind her curtain. Talking with her nephew, who was serving as a guard (all the staff present were in fact family) and with whom we had exchanged a few words the day before, she knew that we were from France (there were almost only Americans).
So, once, she had him bring her a drink : "Here, it's from Mrs Jackson" said the cousin... And another time, she made him bring a bag with several T-Shirts of Michael, one of which she had signed to him : "It's from Mrs Jackson. It's for you and your family. She signed one especially for you."
We were very moved by that... It's one thing to know that Katherine was the person who instilled, through her example and values, that sense of unparalleled generosity that characterizes Michael, but it's another thing to see that generosity in action, out of sheer kindness and empathy, towards a young person in a wheelchair who was patiently sitting in front of her house without asking for anything. It was Michael's birthday, but it was my son who was receiving gifts !
(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
I will come back to this short stay in Gary, which made me understand and feel a lot of things, but I especially wanted, tonight, to tell you about Katherine, who, by the way, was also kind enough to sign my first book for me (I had her bring me the English version that had just come out, and it seems that she kept it next to her all day, going through it from time to time).
Long life to you, Mrs. Jackson, and thank you for giving Michael to this world...
P.S. Oh yes, I forgot! My conference took place on August 29th at 7pm... At the time when a release of white balloons was taking place in front of the house... Why? Because it seems that Michael was born at 7 o'clock in the evening...
We'll say what we want.... I'm saying that... As one says, I say that, I say nothing! ;-)