Don't tell my son how MJ died

I’m not sure how many of you have ever taken a road trip with a ten-year-old, but the trick to survival is knowing something interesting that they don’t.

Back in the old days, that was pretty damn easy.  My parents always knew more than I did about everything.  There was no Internet - no information highway running - through our living room and filling my head big ideas, trivial facts, celebrity gossip and hot new trends.

Unfortunately for my wife and I - and every other parent today - this just isn’t the case. I’m a CNN addict. I leave it on in the house for noise’s sake and even then it takes all I can do to obtain what is going on in the world.  My son, on the other hand,  can be sitting in his room, playing a video game with his iPod on and still manage to ask me what Anderson Cooper meant by “blah blah blah.”

So, you can imagine how excited I was on our eight-hour drive to Alabama that I got to be his Anderson Cooper.  My son had listened to Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" on his friend's iPod and asked  me if I knew who Michael Jackson was. Old school pop was one topic I had no problem discussing,  so for eight hours I played him every Michael Jackson song from "Anthology Series."  We talked about his duet with Paul McCartney and how that friendship ended when MJ purchased the Beatles catalog.  Having worked in publishing for years,  I could offer him plenty of business info.

I shared with him fond childhood memories of my own. "Off the Wall" was the very first record album my mother bought me and I explained how it folded out and made a cool poster. I told him how much I was obsessed with "Billie Jean" and how I'd rewind my cassette over and over and listen to it in my Walkman as I rode my bike.

Inevitably, these conversations spawned questions like “What is a record?” and "What does 'rewind' mean?" But, for those eight hours I was a media genius - an entertainment scholar in the eyes of my son.

I rode that high all the way into the next vacation day when I reminded him of the lyrics to “Beat It” as we we swam in the pool. We discussed how cool it was that MJ had Slash play guitar on “Black or White” as we floated about on our new floats when, from the shallow end of the pool, came a shrill little voice with a taunting tone informing us that, “Michael Jackson is dead.”

True to my music-industry roots I replied, “He’s about to revive his career with a 50-date come back tour. No he ain’t, he’s dead!”
Then, out sneaked “Shut up you little fucker!” under my breath.

But he didn't shut up. “He died this morning. His heart stopped,” the little stranger said.

I saw the devastated look on my son’s face, but, before I put the energy into grappling with this emotional breakdown, I said, “Lets go to the room and turn on CNN. Anderson will tell us the truth.”

And he did. And the truth hurt.

“OH MY GOD…YOU KILLED MICHAEL JACKSON!” My son screamed in the throws of an emotional collapse. 

His new found media crush was no longer for the world and, in his mind, it was my fault. What the hell?

“You told me everything you knew about him, made me love him, and now he’s dead," he bellowed. "Don’t ever tell me about anybody else who is awesome!”

And just like that, my reign as an entertainment scholar came to a crashing halt. He still believes that I killed Michael Jackson, which sucks, but there is a bright side. Now, whenever he begins to get on my nerves, I remind him of my unique talent.

“Hey, don’t  make me tell you about The Jonas Brothers!” 

After all, if I really had the power to remove entertainers from the earth, that wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Live and Love Equally! 

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