Monday, June 29, 2009

Man in the Moon

My daughter Suzanne called me this weekend to talk about the death of Michael Jackson. It is interesting how one rather strange person could have touched the world the way he did. We all marveled at his gifts of music and movement. He was creative and iconic in so many ways. As he got older, he didn't really grow up which is the way he wanted it. He was taken with all things Peter Pan, going so far as naming his estate "Neverland" after the home of the lost boys. Accusations of child abuse and pedophilia made him a lost boy too. All that notwithstanding his legend is assured. I heard one analyst say that he was a modern "Benjamin Button" being born with the wisdom and gifts of an old man who got younger and less mature as he got older. His strange genius will give us much to think about in the years to come as we all ease on down the road.

The touchstone for Suzanne, her sisters and myself revolved around watching his videos together on Saturday mornings. He wasn't so much "Bad" as he was a "Thriller." The stunning moment for me came at the Motown 25th when he glided across the stage, indroducing the "Moonwalk" to the world. It was like watching magic become real. How could he move backward while walking forward? A few weeks later at the Princeton High School talent show Shammie Flenoid did a Jackson inpersonation and duplicated the moonwalk. I grabbed him in the hall the followig week and insisted he give me "moonwalk" lessons. I considered it a basic skill for a superintendent--moving backward as you appeared to be moving forward. I was convinced it was a skill I would use frequently, especially at board meetings. As the spring rolled on the moonwalk lessons continued everytime I visited the high school and could round up Shammie. I dutifully practiced at home.

I have to admit that while I thought I would use the skill in many circumstances, I only unveiled it once. It was at graduation. Shammmie was graduating and as he accepted his diploma from the principal, I waited on the side of the stage to shake his hand as I did for all the seniors. As he approached me and stuck out his hand, I stuck out mine and glided about four "moonwalk" steps back across the stage. He found himself chasing my hand. I am sure that is all he remembers from his graduation and it created quite a stir from the audience as well. My moonwalk career began and ended that day but I continued to brag to friends that I was the only superintendent in America who could do the moonwalk.

Aside from the many hours of music I have enjoyed I have to thank Michael Jackson for giving me the sense of magic that comes far too infrequently in our busy and mundane lives and for giving me and my children a shared memory. Pop culture is often rightfully criticized for its coarseness and stupidiy but sometimes it brings us together in ways we don't fully understand. And sometimes it lets us share some magic.Vaya Con Dios M.J.

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