On the night Michael Jackson died, I watched Cameron Diaz do the moonwalk across Washington Square under a violet sky. Somewhere between the vibrant smog and two gay kids vogue-ing to their boom box in the middle of the fountain, the rest of New York City fell into the rhythm of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. A woman in a pink dress slid her pulsing body into the shallow water, twisting the music, and throwing Frisbee to the homeless man enjoying their sport. Two, tattooed white men jammed out on acoustics switching from “Hey Ya” by Outkast, to following the Jackson tune. My friend Lydia and I waltzed around the fountain, wondering why there were mosquitoes in New York City, and Was it because of all the new flowers? “Did you hear about Michael Jackson?“ some homeless man yelled, throwing the Frisbee under his leg to a friend. Washington Square is for Squares now, we joked, ever since it underwent construction. Some of the usuals selling pot still skulked the perimeters by the chess tables, but mostly the park was full of the lounging well-paid.
“That’s Cameron Diaz”, Lydia said nonchalantly. We both were not surprised given the world is a stage and actors could be anywhere. We sat beside the fountain and watched as Cameron ran up to a light post and twirled around it, before setting her white purse down on the ground and grooving to the Jackson tunes playing from the two boy’s boom box. She swung her hips and flicked her hair; completely aware she was unaware, and the rest of the city somehow paid her no notice. She turned to where we were sitting and gave a short wink. The two boys with the boom box waded out into the water to stand atop their stage in the middle of the fountain. The sky was purple, and somewhere between that color and the music coming from the boy’s speakers all of New York throbbed to Michael Jackson.
Lydia and I walked to St. Marks, discussing how far away everything had always seemed in walking-distance measurements, years ago, when we first met each other and decided to become close friends who saw each other once in a couple months. St. Marks in the process of turning into a giant sushi bar stared at us from closed down tattoo shops, and stripped vintage CD stores. I decided we should pay our respects to Mr. Strummer while we were in the area, and so we made the trek to Thompson’s Square. At the corner of St. Marks just before the Square, two cars stopped at the light and blaring the same parts of “Thriller”, before pulling away, revealing the pub behind it playing the same tune.
“Michael Jackson’s dead!” a punk kid screamed our way.
We crossed the street, and stood in front of the Joe Strummer mural. People in high fashion pushed by, smoke curling the edges of the building of the bar next door. “Strummer is kind of like a Dylan. More tangible, though, I think,” I said to Lydia. We watched the wall; she trying to read something from the paint, and me hoping I could bring the man back to life.
“It’s strange, isn’t it? Death, I guess,” I said.
“It’s funny that this painting is here, and no where else. It suits him. But we’ll all be there. Behind the brick.”
“Yeah, somewhere. We all get leveled.”
As we walked away I asked Lydia about her relationship with God. In secret these are my favorite conversations to have with her. Lydia has the most beautiful God of anyone I have met. Her relationship with the Man is a vibration, a vibrance, and a heart string tying Lydia to Him and somehow invisibly to each and every thing. The kind of love she feels is the most pure form of love and belief and for that reason her belief is more real to me than anything sanity could teach me.
“How are you doing spiritually?”
“I lost touch with the reason.”
“Doubt has it’s ways.”
We turned a corner near a neon Walgreens, only to find a man lying in the center of the road, a group of men and women with white flowers in their hair on their cell phones. Lydia and I stopped along with another man on the sidewalk, and watched. A car with its hazard lights blinked softly on the normally empty street, hinting it was the culprit of the broken man. “We got 911,” a woman said softly. No one was worried, no one yelled. The man just lay there, unmoving, uncelebrated for its lack of blood.
We moved on.