Michael Jackson.

Yeah, I said it.  I agree with Chomsky’s “IdontcareaboutMJ” stance on Twitter—there are much more vital issues right now than the death of some old rock star.  I also understand the haters out there who say “good riddance” and “stop talking about him already!”  I felt the urge to wave a torch at the Frankenstein monster as he plunged into the quicksand pit myself.

But just like the horror in a monster movie, our phantasm of the performer keeps on coming back from the grave to frighten us a little more.  See, the image we projected upon this person is our own creature of the night.  We couldn’t live it out for ourselves, so we had someone else do it for us.  This happens all the time in many different forms.

Anyway, the story.  K and I are at the grocery store buying our essentials, trying to avoid the psychic contagions of others like usual.  We’re through the check-out line and passing the gumball machines when I spot a new dispenser.

Yes, you got it, the King of Dump himself.  Stickers, fifty cents.  Well, as I am a certified Sticker Stasher seeker, I’m on this.  Haven’t had many clues or encounters of ol’ Sticker Stasher for months.  So here come my quarters.  I have enough for two stickers.

What I get are two of the same sticker.  A close up of his face probably cropped from the Thriller LP cover.  Awesome, I can think of some great applications for Halloween cards.  Hek, I imagine a few friends of mine would find the sticker a hoot on their holiday cards this year.  But the point is, my collection gets a little bit of a twist.

I put the stickers in a thick book to flatten them out of their gumball machine-enforced embryonic folding.  As I stare at them, I realize there’s a clue in this.  Two faces, the same person.  That about sums up what I always thought of the man.  An outward persona of innocence, childishness, and victimization.  But inwardly very alert, ambitious, and narcissistic.  Perhaps even obsessively controlling.

One gets that impression when reading the behind the scenes stories in the studio.  This guy was obsessed with his own image, with wowing a psychological audience of people he imagined needed to be impressed, and he missed nothing.  He was a perfectionist and that allowed him to accomplish some amazing feats.

There’s a picture I saw of the guy, hanging out at Studio 54.  On one side of him the part owner Steve Rubell, on the other Steven Tyler of Aerosmith looking bombed out of his mind.  You could make the case that MJ was just an innocent, or a naïve fellow moving through a realm of decadence and shaky morals.  I see it as more a picture of three comparable peers in the world of the entertainment industry (which is another name for the second capital of the United States).

This guy knew what he was doing.

A week later I pass the same gumball machine and decide to spend another fifty cents.  I get a third sticker, and it’s the exact same one.  A third face?  I have to delve deeper.

I like a number of the man’s songs, and for a brief moment in time during my freshman year in high school I wanted to dress and dance like him.  But I think there’s a lesson here about the figure of the vampire that I will keep in mind.  Dodge the impersonal demands of the collective unconscious, lest you too be turned into a vampire.  Nobody’s back is strong enough to carry that load.

A figure that is seductive, hypnotic and irresistible.  Also a vehicle through which we experience the fear of unredeemed evil and the thrill of the night.  Not actually being alive, pretense is a large part of the vampire’s mode of operation.  Can this creature be sincere when it casts no reflection?  It holds up a mirror to us, but who holds the mirror up to a vampire?

I imagine a narcissistic vampire might search the vacant mirror endlessly, seeking a reflection that is never there.  Perhaps hoping to see something mirrored in other people.  But the only thing other people will likely say is, “Dude, you’re a vampire.”

The thing is, even a non-reflection is something.  No soul is still a thing that can be defined.  Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.  So often the temptation is to believe that because there’s no hope there’s no reason to act responsibly.  If there’s nothing there but grotesque monstrosity, then nothing’s lost by redefining what that means.

I think that’s why so many people looked the other way.  Secretly, they hoped there would be a road to Damascus moment.  But looking at the manner in which a case is building against the personal physician, I wonder if somebody might have unconsciously hammered in a stake instead.

Me?  I neither condemn nor praise.  I just feel sad, and I’m pleased to have some new stickers.