Columns » Bob Lancaster

Constant sorrow


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A columnist for the local daily was moved last week to share some life-lessons she said she learned from having been a longtime fan of the singer Michael Jackson, who, for those of you who might have been marooned in the Delta Quadrant on the far side of the galaxy the last couple of weeks, died unexpectedly on June  25.

It hadn't occurred to me that anybody could find anything instructive in such a life as Michael Jackson's, but I guess if the Christian right could make Ted Bundy into a role model then anything's possible. We used to deal with certain extraordinary people by sending them back to the volcano deities, and we do that now in a way that's more drawn-out but every bit as strange.

I remember an advertising campaign from some years back in which a great many people were shown saying they wanted “to be like Mike.” But that Michael J. was Jordan not Jackson. I don't think even his most obsessive admirers —  those who have taken over all the TV news networks, for example — would want to be like Michael Jackson.

They loved him, obviously — possibly in the same weird way that the Egyptians loved the other Boy King, Tutankhamun, who was similarly ill-served by courtiers, died amid rumors of murder, and had been married to a nice girl from Memphis. But they wouldn't have wished so woeful a vita on their worst enemies, much less on themselves.

So I thought maybe I was missing something. Maybe there were life-lessons to be learned, even by a surviving old crank here in Lower Hooterville, in contemplating how my life and Michael Jackson's reflected on one another. Might turn out to be like Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer, or a Beatles with the Maharishi thing.

Or maybe they meant negative life-lessons.

Anyway, today's topic, a brief personal portfolio of MJ-inspired life-lessons:

• No 1. Never delude yourself into thinking it can't possibly get any tackier.

• No. 2. Never think it can't possibly get any tackier today.

• It's beyond the power of mathematics to determine how many vultures can squat around a single corpse.

• If you're not happy with their having lopped off 50 percent of your nose, you're not going to be 40 percent happier when they've lopped off 90 percent of it.

• Being “cool” may not be all it's cracked up. You can be the very daddy of cool and have a life that monumentally sucks. In fact, it sometimes seems the coolest people are the ones most eaten up with self-loathing. Another name for that is constant sorrow.

• It's not true that only the good die young. And it's also not true that only the young die good.

• You can't buy happiness. Even if you never had any intention of paying for it.

• Get the therapy before the window closes.

• It's not about them. Never is. That's why they can't just shut up and go away. Or just shut up. Or just go away.

 • If you ignore St. Paul's advice to put away childish things when you're no longer a child, there can be terrible consequences.

• The dog barks and the caravan moves on, and it's sad in some ways when it moves on, but it's much, much sadder when it doesn't.

• People who have drab ordinary lives sometimes idolize freaks, but that doesn't mean they want to be freaks. It's the otherness of the freakiness that salves their ordinariness.

• When they start talking “legacy,” it only means they feel obliged to say something meaningful about you, which allows them to shoulder in on a little bit of the glory, but they can't think of anything meaningful about you, and there's a reason why they can't. So they make up for the lack of anything pertinent to say by saying a lot. Three weeks now on the Michael Jackson “story.”

• Ephemeral and long-term inconsequential is about all that can be said of any of us, kings of nations or of pop. “Legacy” to Shakespeare meant our evil outlives us while our good goes in the box with our bones. Not a good thing.

• A whole lot of legacy is which relative gets there first with the biggest truck.

• Go with the skin color God gave you. Or at least meet him halfway.

• No good can come from dangling a baby over the railing of a high balcony.

• Never a good idea to get too emotionally attached to a chimpanzee.

• If the Don McLean shoe fits — if “the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you” — then don't grow up. Adulthood will be one long embarrassment and heartache. And it gets worse.

• After age 30 — 40 at the outside -- no more overnight “tea-parties” in bed with stranger small fry.

• If you live like you're hair's on fire, check your hair. It might be.

• If you're determined to have children, go with your own sperm.

 • Keep enough cash on hand to feed the menagerie.

 • Just watch old Kirk Douglas movies until the yen passes for that cleft chin.

 Bonus life-lesson advice from Warren Zevon: Enjoy every sandwich.









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