Remembering Michael Friday, Jun 26 2009 

“OH MY GOD. ARE YOU OKAY?”

That was the message that was texted to me over and over and over yesterday.

I LOVE Michael Jackson.  I probably love him an unhealthy amount.

I’m watching a TV that I own because of Michael Jackson.  I went to Budapest because of Michael Jackson.  I even mentioned my habit of solo Michael Jackson dance parties in my Boston Globe blind date.

My friends all know that, and they knew how upset I would be to hear that he passed away yesterday at the age of 50.

Beyond upset.  Devastated.

I don’t have to go into detail about what made Michael amazing — his incredible ability as a performer; his vocal talent and otherworldly dance moves; his influence on fashion and style; his ability to break down barriers; his generous spirit that set a precedent for celebrity philanthropy.

Michael was amazing.

And he made some SICK music.

I’d like to share a few of my favorite Michael stories.

Rocking Halloween

When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to be Michael for Halloween.  This was in 2003, not too long after he dangled the baby over the balcony in Berlin.

As many of you know, I take Halloween VERY seriously.  It’s my favorite holiday.  I always make my own costumes and add every functional detail I can think of.  (I once covered my body with Sharpie for my Amy Winehouse costume and it didn’t wash off for a week.)

Here is my costume:

And while I whitened my face, hemmed my pants, got a fedora and glove and spent a few weeks learning all of the dance moves to Thriller and Smooth Criminal and Billie Jean when I should have been studying philosophy…that’s not what made the costume.  What made this costume was the baby.  I threw it around in the air and flipped it all night.

That won me first prize at Fairfield University.  Oh, and it was one competitive night in terms of costumes!

That won me the TV that sits in my room to this day.

That’s one of my favorite memories of college.

Discovering Budapest

While studying abroad in Florence, my friends and I were deciding where to spend our fall break when I discovered a candy museum in a little town named Szentendre just outside Budapest.

Their star attraction?  The white chocolate statue of Michael Jackson.

mj

I HAD TO SEE IT.  I HAD TO SEE THIS STATUE.

That is what motivated me to convince my friends to make Budapest the first leg of our trip.  (Booking two flights for a total of ONE CENT on WizzAir — NO JOKE — didn’t hurt, either!)

And, you know what?  I loved Budapest.  LOVED it.  To this day, it’s one of my favorite cities.

And it was Michael who brought me there.

Let me finish with a guilty pleasure of my childhood.

Captain EO

Yes, the 80s 3D film from Disney is now on YouTube.

To finish…I’m heartbroken. We’ve lost so much, but his music will live on forever.

Love you, Michael.  May you find the peace you were never able to find here on Earth.

God, I still can’t believe it.

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No — thank YOU for being a friend, Estelle Getty. Tuesday, Jul 22 2008 

I knew she had been sick with dementia for a long time, but I was still really sad to find out that Estelle Getty passed away early today.

I’ve been a huge Golden Girls fan since high school, and Sophia was always one of my favorite characters (but how can anyone not love them all?).  She had the best lines on the show. In fact, she MADE that show. I doubt it would have been a success without her one-liners.

After seeing the outpouring of sympathy and shared memories on CNN, YouTube and People, it reinforced how many people loved her.  My favorite comment from a fan: “Her little wicker bag should be in the Smithsonian.”

Here are some of my all-time favorite Sophia quotes:

Dorothy: “Why can’t you sleep on the couch and give Clayton and Doug your room?”
Blanche: “Are you crazy? What will the neighbors think if they see two men in my bedroom?”
Sophia: “They’ll think it’s Tuesday.”

Blanche: “I tried giving up sex.”
Dorothy: “I guess you fell off the wagon.”
Sophia: “And onto a naval base!”

Blanche: “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to relax in a hot, steamy bath with just enough water to cover my perky bosoms.”
Sophia: “You’re gonna lay in an inch of water?”

Dorothy: “Ma, I waited up until two in the morning for you, and you still weren’t home.”
Sophia: “Oh, yeah.  Me and Gertie went over to Wolfie’s to pick up guys.”
Dorothy: “I called Wolfie’s. You weren’t there.”
Sophia: “Guess who got lucky.”
Dorothy: “Oh, God!”

Dorothy: “Ma, where have you been?”
Sophia: “I always believe that when you’re in a hospital, you should go around and cheer the other patients up.”
Dorothy: “Oh, Ma, that’s so nice.”
Sophia: “Yeah, so I went upstairs to Geriatrics and sang ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.'”

Sophia (after losing her glasses): Dorothy, I’m going to my bedroom.
Dorothy: “Okay.” (She walks from the living room to the kitchen. Sophia heads in the wrong direction and goes outside instead. A horn beeps and tires screech.)
Dorothy (running in again): “Ma?…Ma?!…MA!!”
Sophia (coming through the front door): “Who the hell parked their Buick in my bedroom?!”
Dorothy: “Get in here!”

Dorothy: “Blanche, what exactly makes you think he’s your man?”
Sophia: “Who?”
Blanche: “Maybe the fact that I found him first.”
Sophia: “Who?
Rose: “What about the fact that he dumped you for me?”
Sophia: “Who?”
Dorothy: “Laszlo, Ma.”
Sophia: “Who’s Laszlo?”
Rose: “A Hungarian artist we’ve all been posing nude for.”
Sophia: “In the future, a simple ‘none of your business, Sophia’ will suffice.”

Blanche: “Ooh…I’ve got goosebumps. Mel’ll be here any minute.”
Dorothy: “Honey, why are you so jumpy? You’ve been out with Mel a thousand times.”
Blanche: “I know but now there’s more at stake — everything’s changed. It’s all new and exciting. In many ways I…I feel just the way I felt when I was a virgin.”
Sophia: “You mean the feeling isn’t gonna last long?”
Blanche: “Are you implying I lost my virginity at an early age?”
Sophia: “I’m just saying you’re lucky Jack & Jill Magazine didn’t have a gossip column.”
Dorothy: “Ma!”
Sophia: “Hold it, Pussycat. I’m on a roll.”
Blanche: “I’m sorry, Sophia. But I’m not gonna let your skepticism ruin my entire evening. Mel and I were meant to be together.”
Sophia: “I wish I could say the same for your thighs. God, I’m hot tonight!”
Blanche: “I’m not gonna stand for this.”
Sophia: “Take it, Dorothy.”
Dorothy: “But I’ll bet you’ll lie down for it.”
Sophia: “Well, that was just plain rude.”
Blanche: “Some people just don’t know when to quit.”

Sophia: “You know why I call you Pussycat, Pussycat?”
Dorothy: “Why, Ma?  Because you only gave me yarn for Christmas?  Because you fed me once and I hung around?  Because you used to put me out at night?”
Sophia: “Because I love pussycats, and I love you.”  (She kisses Dorothy on the head.  Dorothy is surprised and smiles.  The audience awwwws.)  “And you were the only one who could catch mice.”

Here’s a video of arguably the funniest episode of all time, the episode when Dorothy’s friend Jean, who is gay, visits the girls.  Watch the whole four-minute clip if you have time — it’s hilarious! — but if not, watch Sophia’s reaction to the statement Dorothy makes at 1:14.

This episode eventually leads to my favorite Sophia quote of all time.  The next day, they can’t figure out where Jean slept, since she didn’t sleep in her bedroom.

Dorothy: “Ma, did Jean sleep with you?”
Sophia: “Dorothy, there’s a lot of things I want to do before I die.  That’s not one of them.”

RIP, Estelle.  Thanks for the laughs.

On Virginia Tech Monday, Apr 23 2007 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, but I know I can’t blog as normal until I write about Virginia Tech. It would be cheating to just skip over such a huge event as if it never happened. Especially since I also have a link to it. So since the massacre has been covered in such depth by every major and minor news outlet worldwide, I’m going to tell it from my point of view.

I found out about the shooting at around 11:00 AM on the day of the shooting. It was a Monday, which I have off, so I had just gotten up and was sitting at the computer. Then I got a text message from my friend Jenn reading, “KARA IS OKAY!! There was a shooting at Virginia Tech. I luv you girlies!”

My friend Kara is a grad student at Virginia Tech, getting her master’s in composition and rhetoric. I immediately went on CNN.com and saw everything — that 21 were presumed dead, and more were injured and unaccounted for. I got on AIM and saw Kara’s away message: “I’m okay. Please pray for the injured.”

I just stayed in my room all day, reading the coverage online but not watching anything on TV — I hate TV news when it comes to tragedies like this; they always try to drag the most horrible parts out as much as possible. The death count rose. And I just couldn’t believe it.

I had this vain hope that school shootings would be seen as a horrible artifact locked away in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Columbine being the cornerstone and foremost example. Then this had to happen, and my hope shattered. More than twice as many people were killed at Virginia Tech than were at Columbine. School shootings are still a reality, and they have become our most prominent example of domestic terrorism. Terrorism, loosely defined, is causing violence, death or any other kind of harm to the innocent, with intentions political or otherwise, for the purpose of instilling fear in others. These shooters don’t mean to instill fear — they mean to kill as many people as possible before taking their own lives — but the resulting fear across school campuses nationwide is a byproduct of the massacres. This is terrorism, plain and simple.

Now what?

I’ve been so upset the past week. I’m still in disbelief. And then I turn on the TV and they’re reading aloud from the tributes on the kid from Saugus’ facebook page, and I completely lose it.

Speaking of facebook, I’m very impressed by the support that everyone has given. I wasn’t surprised about how all the new groups popped up (there must have been several hundred when Steve Irwin died), but I wasn’t expecting everyone changing their pictures to the Virginia Tech logo and their school’s logo underneath with the message, “Today, we are all Hokies.”

There was one thing that I didn’t like — my friend’s reaction to one of the groups. There was a group whose name was something along the lines of, “Eternal rest to Cho Seung-Hui, O Lord,” and inside, it was basically people asking God to have mercy on his soul. Now, personally, I’m not into praying for people after their deaths (I pray for the families instead) — I don’t even think that I believe in hell, and I am DEFINITELY not in line with many of the Catholic Church’s beliefs. But I do agree with the general message of this group, though not overtly enough to join the group.

Cho Seung-Hui was clearly mentally ill, as much evidence shows. This poor kid had so many problems in his life, and combining those with his mental illness, he was a ticking time bomb. I feel sorry for him, and I know that if he hadn’t had this illness, that this shooting would not have happened.

So one of my friends joins the group, protests them from within the group, and then writes a facebook note trying to get people to join and yell at them.

Yeah. I don’t understand the point of joining a group just to yell at the group from the inside.

Do we honestly think that the shooter should be burning in hell? Do we think that he is currently burning at this very moment?

Even if I believed in hell, I don’t think he would be there. I don’t believe in black and white — that having sex makes you a bad person, that caring about the environment makes you a liberal, that falling in love with another country makes you anti-American.

I just think that the shooter was a kid who got dealt a very tough deck, and who was lacking a lot of things that we take for granted, like parents who paid attention, among other things.

Does this mean that I think everyone should be exonerated after death? Pedophiles and terrorists included? I don’t know. I honestly, truly don’t know. I need to think more about it. But I’ve always believed that people who are generally good at heart, underneath the mental illness, underneath the brainwashing, will be content in the life after death. Maybe hell is more like in Sartre’s Huis Clos than the proverbial images of fire: it’s just having to deal with a general, unending uncomfortableness ad infinitum.

This unfortunate event also brings gun control laws to light. A judge had previously ruled that Cho Seung-Hui was a danger to himself — yet he was still allowed to buy a gun. The only way he wouldn’t have been able to buy the gun was if he had been forced into a mental institution. Does nobody else see what is wrong with that?!?! Plus, to this day, the gun show loophole remains wide open. Anyone can go buy a gun at a show, few questions asked. How can we not have tighter gun laws?

Changing the laws does not mean we are taking away the right to bear arms! We need to be RESPONSIBLE because INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE DYING — and not just at Virginia Tech. The same number of people die each day in the inner city. Compare gun deaths per year by country: in Canada, the U.K., France and Japan, there are no more than ten or so each year. In the U.S., there are well over two thousand.

I honestly hope that some good can come out of Virginia Tech — that gun laws will be tightened; that schools will have better emergency evacuation plans; that more people will report an individual who seems so disturbed, like Cho Seung-Hui was; that mental health professionals will err on the side of caution when diagnosing. I hope anything can be done to keep school shootings where they belong: just a horrible trend that peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s, rarely happening again.

RIP Anna Nicole Saturday, Feb 10 2007 

She was so beautiful and so sad.
If only she gave herself as much love as she gave to others.

Homer Sunday, Oct 29 2006 

It’s been a while, and it’s been a tough while at that. My grandfather, Homer, died last week. That fact alone should give you an idea how I’ve been.

I don’t want to go into deep detail or anything, but I do want to talk about it a little. Homer had a heart attack. He was found slumped over in his car. He was 82. He had diabetes and hadn’t been in the best health over the past few years. My mom pointed out that she should have known that he wasn’t doing well — he was confused lately, missed holidays, got lost on the way to her old house once.

I’m really upset. I miss him, and love him, and sometimes it hits me that I’m never going to see him ever again, and it makes me miserable. But in spite of that, I’ve accepted it. I’m at peace with it, and I was at peace from the beginning. He had a long life, and had an especially wonderful past few years with his wife, Maryann, whom he married four years ago. That makes it easier to deal with.

Homer was my grandmother’s companion since just before I was born. He was always my grandfather, and he was my only grandfather, since both of my parents’ fathers died when they were teenagers.

He once came to my Humanities class freshman year of high school to talk about his experiences being a black soldier during World War II and his experiences at war and at home afterward, and how he was treated. (Later, I overheard a few of my classmates saying, “I didn’t know Kate was black!” I decided to let them wonder.)

Wakes are always the worst part. Seeing the body and kneeling in front of it is awful. This is the time when everyone cries the most.

And I don’t understand the point of praying for someone’s soul. Unless you honestly believed that they might not have gotten into heaven. Whenever I hear that someone has died, I always think, “God, please help their family.” Now I was the family. I kneeled in front of the casket, tears falling down (I try my hardest not to cry in public like that, but it doesn’t get worse than that), and thought, “Goodbye. I love you. Watch over us. Protect us. Keep us safe, keep us healthy, keep us together for a long time.”

I’ve always felt that when people die, they become omniscient. If at any point I think about Noni — my grandmother who was with Homer — I just know that she hears me, she knows what I’m thinking, and she knows exactly what’s going on. It’s the same for everyone who’s dead. And yes, this means that they know every single thing you do.

But there’s a hole in the logic, or if not a hole, it’s just an unnerving reality. Once I was in the shower and thinking about people who are dead, and my thoughts turned to Mr. Swanson, one of my Humanities teachers from high school. In fact, he was the teacher who put together Homer’s visit. (Now, don’t get up on me about thinking about Mr. Swanson in the shower. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t do any random thinking in the shower!!) And I thought to myself — WAIT. IF HE KNOWS THAT I’M THINKING ABOUT HIM, HE PROBABLY SEES ME NAKED. IF HE KNOWS EVERYTHING, HE KNOWS WHAT I LOOK LIKE NAKED. EEK!!

Well, nowadays, I just relax and think to myself that if random people know what I look like naked, they’re probably peaceful and accepting about it.

I have to say that it was really nice to meet so much of Homer’s family, who came up from D.C. and Georgia. It’s too bad that you only see family at funerals or weddings. And I haven’t been to a lot of weddings.

The party after the funeral was nice. We were eating great food and talking and laughing. One of Homer’s nephew’s is the CEO of Cracker Barrell (seriously. And jokes were told, and he told me to watch what I said!). And Homer’s sister Ruby, who we stayed with in D.C. once, wore the most AMAZING outfit — a champagne-colored suit, tailored beautifully with a bell-shaped skirt, trimmed with fur, with a matching hat and gold shoes. And a cream-colored cape trimmed with more fur. I gushed over how much I loved it. Now THAT’S a funeral outfit!

And then my mom stood up and suggested we tell stories and anecdotes about Homer, since there hadn’t been eulogies at the Mass. She started by talking about how she always loved how Homer would take her hand for a dance with him, since she never got to have a dance with her own father. She started crying, and that set me off again. And of course, she then looked at me and said, “Kate?” Like I could continue after that! I deferred to Sarah. I forget what she said; I was trying to get under control. And then I spoke, telling the story that everyone loves. I couldn’t help crying through it. When I was four or so, or at least when Sarah was a baby, I was walking with Homer and Noni on the beach (and know that whenever it pertains to my childhood, “the beach” is Revere Beach) and I kept putting rocks in Homer’s pockets. I put in so many that his sweatpants were falling down. Noni tried telling me that that was enough, but I kept putting in more, and Homer just kept smiling and laughing and holding up his pants.

Next, Sandy gave such a moving eulogy, I think everyone in the room was crying. I’ve always known Sandy as a friend of my mom’s family, but I never knew that she was the one who introduced Homer and Noni. And then Maryann’s daughter Krystal started to speak. She said that Homer was the only father she had ever known, but then she began crying so hard she couldn’t finish. Maryann hugged her, and she said, “I just wish….” and we all knew what she meant. She’s pregnant with her first child, and she wishes that Homer had a chance to meet the baby, and vice versa.

What I know more than anything is that Homer and Noni are together — she helped him across the bridge, as my mom always says — and my auntie Jill said, “She probably yelled, ‘What took you so long?'” That’s what matters. And though I feel so bad for Maryann, I know she’ll be okay.

I didn’t think I could write about anything else until I wrote about Homer. I’m feeling better now.

Thanks especially to Erica and Lisa, and to Nadine and Curran and Max and Mike at work for being so nice to me and understanding this past week.