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Michael Jackson and writing while intoxicated with pleasure

It’s actually cool in Gordes today – though the sun is shining, the mistral is in full force. A relief, actually. I read an article on sunblock yesterday, realised that the ones I’ve been using are substandard, and looked at myself in the mirror – yes, that brown tinge is a tan, no doubt about it. I’ve never been one for suntanning, I just like being out in the sun. But especially at my advanced age, that’s not a good idea without adequate protection. Sunblock is much-needed armour under the harsh Provencal sun. I’ll have to do better.

My morning treat, always, is opening my email – since I’m six hours ahead, yesterday evening’s emails from home are waiting when I awake. Today, two thoughtful messages, the first from Penny in England about Michael Jackson. She watched the memorial yesterday, found it moving and mesmerising. Michael inspired her son’s music career, was like his friend and so was her friend too. She loved his daughter Paris’s eulogy to her dad, and wrote:

Athough I observed his early popularity I wasn’t interested in him as a child star – not until my children made me listen again. It was the dancer who entranced me – Bad, Beat It, A Smooth Criminal. I was there with the stars watching the Motown 25 Billie Jean. I danced my way through my twenties and thirties with his changing image and that trembling voice in my head.

Penny admires how he kept dancing through his pain, and now, she writes beautifully, he can rest in peace and “I will dance for him and for me.”

I thank her for such a personal insight into how much MJ meant to the world. He just didn’t mean much to me; I was immersed in babies in the 80’s and had no idea what was going on in entertainment, or much else. But as I watched bits of the effusive memorial last night, I had Bob Herbert’s recent New York Times editorial in my head. Herbert wrote that we want to forget Jackson’s sexual abuse of very young boys, one accusation of which cost him many millions of dollars to silence. That Jackson’s troubled later life, focussed on the fantasy of becoming someone else, is symbolic of a time in American life when self-indulgence and unreality ruled.

MJ was a superb, magical performer and composer who did much good, there’s no question about that. But I also agree with Herbert that his later life as a white-skinned Peter Pan living in an amusement park was pathetic and grotesque. In eulogising the man as if he weren’t deeply troubled, “a danger to himself and others,” as Herbert puts it, I think we’re sweeping reality under the carpet. We can acknowledge his legendary generosity, the glory of his vast talent and accomplishments, without struggling to ignore the dark side, as if those later years did not exist or matter.

Then, a message from a former student, Monty, who writes that on-line registration for “True to Life 2”, my advanced memoir course at Ryerson, is now opencome one come all!!!

After registering he checked my blog, began April 1 and followed the journey from the beginning to now. He and his wife did a cycling tour of Provence not long ago and also visited Gordes and the Abbaye de Senanque – by bicycle! I can’t imagine trying to groan up the steep mountain to Gordes. I hope he’ll write about that.

At the end of his lovely note, Monty says this:

If I can be so bold as to make a small suggestion (please forgive me if I am too bold) – do your best at the writing thing while you are there, but don’t fuss about it too much. Your senses are probably so overloaded with new stimuli and wonderful experiences, friends, tastes, images and new insights (into yourself and your writing) at this point that it must be difficult to focus. Isn’t that why we get away – to get a new perspective. The challenge to write the perfect words in such an overstimulated environment is a very difficult one. Gather your raw material, “feel” the experiences (and record carefully how they feel), take notes and let it all steep – like good tea. The long Canadian winter will return soon enough and give you time ( and motivation) to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). In the meantime, as the Zen Buddhists say, “Be in the moment”. Don’t expect too much of yourself while away – your time will come.

How kind of him. I understand what he’s saying, and it’s true, there is a constant sensory overload during travel. But that doesn’t have to obliterate work. I’m here at a distance from my regular daily life not only to eat mountains of cheese and drink vats of rosé but also to write. Yes, it’s impossible to work on the road, in the chaos of moving from place to place, but it is possible when stable, as I am now in Gordes for the next few days at least, even though I’m constantly overwhelmed by the beauty, the smell, the taste – a huge French jay just landed on the ancient wall of grizzled stone outside right this moment, shaking his feathers in the sun, the wind gusting through the chenes verts, the pink oleanders tossing, the smell of rosemary and wet grass – I can take all that in, and write stories too. Yes I can, says the writer bravely, echoing Obama.

Though who knows what it’ll read like when I’m home, with bread crumbs stuck to the pages.

Monty’s mention of the long Canadian winter ran a chill down my spine. Time to do some weeding in the wind and sun. With sunscreen.



One response to “Michael Jackson and writing while intoxicated with pleasure”

  1. penny says:

    I wouldn't exactly say I loved her tribute – it was both distressing and disturbing. Millions of people saw a little girl trying to defend her father.
    this is what I wrote: "Are his children his own? Did he buy them? Tonight it did not matter because Paris Jackson told the world he was the best possible father. I saw her eyes alight with the confidence and determination to put the matter straight. Tomorrow it might matter who her genetic parents are because someone will see a way to make money. Jackson kept his children's faces hidden to protect them but he is gone now and tomorrow they will be on every paper across the World. I hope they have the strength to survive."

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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