Tuesday, July 7, 2009

After Japan, After Michael.

The date today is July 7, 2009. Today seemed like a good day to go back to normal for alot of us. We came back from Japan and back from being absorbed with Michael's death for the last two weeks or so, and it has been surreal. Sure, usually it is the case that everyone who comes back from a vacation long enough to absorb wherever they came from (if different from their usual place of stay) usually comes back a changed person with a different perspective on things. For most, it is the understanding and experience of a different culture. We all breath the same air and are on the same planet, but the difference in the way people live just hours away on a plane take us to what we like to call a "culture shock." The way other societies live, the way they walk, talk, eat, and socialize all become alien to us. But that's usually the case for travelers.

This time was different.

During a time when we've never felt so much life before have we felt so much death. Arriving in Japan and trying to absorb all the life that was going on around us was overwhelming, and we couldn't have been happier. Then we hear about legendary graffiti writer Iz the Wiz who passed away a few days into Japan (on the 17th). Growing up, idolizing and being influenced by him and his generation of graffiti writers was a big loss for graffiti culture. Days later, in the midst of enjoying ancient culture in Kyoto, we hear of Ed McMahon's passing. Visiting ancient temples and riding around cities on our bicycles in the humidity was enough to take our mind off the news. The heat, beautiful scenery and beautiful people were enough to distract us from what was going on in the rest of the world, but everyday we would check the news and internet just to see what has been happening back home. We would send emails to our friend, family and to upload the photos we took to share with everyone back home. The next two days of traveling in Osaka go by fast and we arrive on the 25th of June in Tokyo.

June 25th, 2009.

The night/early morning of the 25th we hear about Farrah Fawcett's death. We all sit around and ask ourselves why all these people are dying and how it usually is in threes (Iz, Ed & Farrah). That night, we all went to sleep ready to ride around Shinjuku looking for things to buy the next day. We always remember every detail on the day something big happens. A tragedy like 9/11 or a celebration like the Lakers winning or when Obama was sworn in. In this case, it was one of the biggest tragedies of our lives. The air was a bit muggy, but the air conditioning was on. The room was dark, because the window blinds were closed and the lights were off. Just a little bit of light came through the window and the light from the laptop and TV was enough light to know what was going on, and suddenly, the sad experience of visiting Hiroshima didn't seem as sad anymore.

The Death of Michael Jackson.

We remember waking up to the news. When you click the internet icon on your computer to use the internet, the first thing you see is the news via Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN etc. For one us, it was through an instant message from a friend back home. In disbelief, we immediately go to the news pages and see headlines that say "Michael Jackson Dies." Just like everyone else, we searched and searched via BBC, CNN, LA Times & NY Times. They all said the same thing: Michael Jackson is Dead. We turn on the TV in our hotel in Shinjuku. Everything is in Japanese and since we didn't really understand it much, it didn't really matter. We saw his name on the headline news and saw the live footage of UCLA medical center with fans crowding around. By then, we knew he was gone. We sat around for about an hour or so before saying anything except "No way." It was enough to not want to do anything and enough to lay off eating breakfast, sending emails, blogging and wanting to sight see.

We expected it to be a frenzy outside in Tokyo, but we realized how they didn't show much public emotion so it didn't feel that different. Except maybe for the fact that the next couple of days have been of Japanese business men reading newspapers on the train with Michael on the cover and kids with the occasional MJ shirt. Other than that, it was still surreal, and we knew it wasn't going to hit us until we came back home.

After two intense weeks of traveling, biking and sweating, we were ready to go home (some of us wanted to stay, haha). It was safe to say that for the two weeks we spent there, we fell in love with Japan. The culture, the simplicity and the people became home for two weeks and never in our lives have we been treated so kindly by strangers. The times when we got lost, we were able to make new friends just by asking people how to get places. They went out of their way (unlike alot of people in America) just to show us how to get to a certain store or district, even if it meant they had to walk us or bike with us two or more miles away from where we met them. Sure, some can argue that they might have been treated differently, so maybe we got lucky. But without hesitation, we were shown the way. These small experiences were enough to make us not want to return back to normal life, because it was just too good. After two weeks, we had already become familiar with the train system so we were ok without having to have people show us the way to the airport. Lugging around our bicycle boxes, duffle bags, backpacks and the extra weight of souvenirs for two weeks was enough for us to finally just call for a taxi to take us to the station. We were tired.

The plane ride seemed a lot faster this time. This might have been partly due to us being overly fatigued and relaxed to get back home. On the way to Japan, we were excited and anxious and the plane ride felt a lot longer, so that must've been it. We missed the California weather. Japan was humid, although it was bearable. Everything was overcast in Japan which made everything seem a little gray. Maybe that's why all the buildings have bright colorful lights and signs everywhere? Who knows. We knew that we missed the California sun.

And maybe because of Michael's death, we wanted to be closer to home to be closer to him. Overseas, we only heard through friends, family and the media what was going on back home, and that made us a little more homesick than some of us might have been. So finally, we make it home safe. And we talk with our friends, and family and it all starts to really hit. All the news on TV, the newspapers and everything else start to make it even more real, and the reality of it is that it really sucks that he's gone. For many, Michael was their biggest inspiration and idol. For us, it was the same. Us, just like everyone else, seemed affected just as much by his death. We always saw his fans before who would cry and faint and yell at the sight of him, and we understood it. He had the power to make grown straight men cry at his shows, and that was magical. For most of us, he was magic. He made us believe that we could do anything. He was the American dream in every form possible, and that was more than enough to believe in some kind of magic. He was our generation's version of JFK or Lady Di when they died, but bigger. Americans loved JFK, the Beatles and Elvis, but everyone in the world loved Michael Jackson. And now he was gone.

Alot has happened since Michael left. Intense media coverage, scandalous stories, shitty tributes by shitty musicians (see Chris Brown and Ron Artest, yes the basketball player.), and that shithead congressman Pete King's bash on Michael seemed not to be enough. But we think after today's memorial at the Staple Center, it felt ok to finally go back to normal. A lot of us didn't go back to work, called off or just stopped doing things because of Michael (and even some fans killed themselves, crazy), but after today it finally felt like he got the respect he really deserved. Today was a good day for a lot of people. Everyone it seemed was a lot happier and content with it, at least everyone who cared. We don't really know what's going to happen after Michael, and we doubt that in our life time (maybe) that any pop star/entertainer will be able to do what Michael Jackson did, but that's ok. Because after big things like this happens, whether it be the best vacation of your life, the biggest celebration or the biggest tragedy, we have to go back to normal when it passes. And today felt like a good day to do just that.

Rest In Peace Michael. Just like the fans in his shows shout and cry out "We love you Michael", we can only do the same.

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