www.ambiente.us  JULY | JULIO 2009

The Way You Make Me Feel |A Devotional to Michael Jackson
by Armando Diaz Jr.

My brother sends me a text message a few days ago, “did you hear about Michael
Jackson”?  Immediately after I receive a text message from my sister, “is it true”?  In our
21st century age of the immediate I of course went to Google, then I turned to CNN.

Our one of a kind
wella (abuelita) still fills my memories with things she’d say like,
“vaya papi coma” or
“ya salganse de aqui sipotes (kids)” or “¡Baile papi baile! ¡Jesus”!  I
distinctly remember one of the
¡baile! Cheers as I was cutting a rug to Don’t Stop Till
You Get Enough.  I would do my best to spin around and make my hips seem to pop
out of place like his did.

There was some confusion coming out of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in
Los Angeles as I tuned into CNN.  The headline on the screen was “Michael Jackson
suffers cardiac arrest”.

I owe my love for all things music to my audio-video obsessed parents.  My father used
to have us (my brother and I) tape MTV videos for him on our huge VCR, while he was
at work.  The task always felt so important and later the
reward was getting to enjoy time together watching the music videos.  I remember
being 8 years old and how very important it was to tape every second of Thriller.  There
was this big build up to the debut of the video, it was like a mini movie having ending
credits and of course the whole turning-into-the-scariest-werewolf-ever scene.  I don’t
know but that werewolf scared the buh-jesus out of me, however I couldn't get enough
of the song, the video, or the dance!  Even as a 2nd grader, if you didn't know at least a
few of the steps from Thriller, you were blacklisted on the playground.

I started sending and receiving text messages back and forth from various friends
including my brother, sister and father.  Some knew more, some knew less.

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70's Inspired
Michael Jackson|Thriller live (1987)
What is going on?  I kept looking at the time, it was almost 6pm.  I wanted to remember
what time it was, what was the weather like outside, where was I sitting…

I wish I was in better touch with someone from my elementary school (Wadsworth
Avenue Elementary), so they can help me sharpen some of the details.  But in 1988 my
grade put on some sort of performance on the black top where about (45) 11 year olds,
including myself, were choreographed to the moves of Smooth Criminal, though come
to think of it, it may have been Another Part of Me.  Man! We were wearing black loafers,
with black slacks where the legs were brought up enough to expose our white socks.  
But not just white socks mind you, they had glue spray on them with silver glitter
sprinkled over them.  Then the white pressed button down shirts and of course the
glove, which received the same production effects as the socks.  To this day I am still a
fan of fedoras and jazz.

CNN now had the headline “Michael Jackson in Coma”, I was
becoming very hungry now for information.  They were starting
to toss in all these other tangents like what was he doing taking
all kinds of prescriptions, the effects of that trial a few years ago,
his upcoming world tour, the alleged shady characters in his
immediate entourage…none of that mattered to me.

My family had become heavily involved with the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints (Mormons) when I was a teenager.  When burgeoning and confusing feelings
about my sexuality and core identity where near their most intense, at age 17, I brought
it up to my church leaders.  Besides advising me to pray, that following Sunday they
stripped me of my Priesthood duties such as blessing the sacrament, preaching with
the missionaries, and teaching any Sunday school classes.  I just didn't know what to
make of anything, especially myself.  There must be something wrong with me, very
wrong.  I must be unworthy.  But you know what, deep down I knew different.  That same
after church a song came on the radio, that I later taped and played over and over.  That
song changed the way I looked at myself, and how I would respond to came out to my
peers, my parents, wore freedom rings to my graduation and invited a male date to my
senior prom.

The song behind that key life moment was,
The Man in the Mirror.

The headline was now “Michael Jackson is Dead.”  
I turned away from the TV and grabbed my
headphones and my iPod.  And played a song
that I remembered would bring me so much calm
and reflection, Stranger in Moscow.  Happens to
be a favorite of my sister’s also.

I presume we will always remember where we were when
Michael Jackson died.  My personal family history and memories
above are the best way I can possibly describe what Michael
Jackson meant to me and how his music influenced me, as it
has millions of us.  He was a living legend, and icon, an
individual like no other.  

It’s ironic really, that I feel he gave up his childhood so that I could have such vivid
moments in mine. The greatest and ultimate fact about Michael Jackson is that his
music is timeless, it will live on forever, and in turn so will he.  
Thank you Michael, thank you.

CLICK HERE for more Armando Diaz Jr.

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