Monday, February 28, 2011

Magical Journey - Neverland 2011

I had felt it now for several months… Neverland and Los Olivos were calling me. I invited a good MJ friend, Robyn, to join me for the journey. We had met the first time over a year ago, while visiting Michael Jackson at Forest Lawn, Holly Terrace. There is a special bond that MJ fans have. No words need to be spoken and then suddenly every word spoken is about Michael Jackson. I remember the first day we met, both of us heart broken, tear filled eyes, and feeling lost. Although we had never met before we hugged, immediately shared both the love and grief that was suddenly flowing uncontrolled from our hearts and an instant bond formed. We are so different in many ways yet I knew she “Got It”. She knew I “Got It”. Since that day through the thick and thin of the MJ fan world we have remained friends. I have many MJ friends I have bonded with just this way, immediately sharing the invisible thread of LOVE for MJ and a seemingly endless sorrow and grief over his loss, coupled with an enormous joy of celebration over his life, music and all he shared with the world. I am so grateful for all my beautiful friends.

Robyn checked the weather for Los Olivos and in spite of record freezing temperatures and some mighty crazy winter weather which trounced the Southern California area over the past several days, pouring down hail storms, rain, wind and freezing cold the forecast said it would indeed be sunny and clear on Sunday. That we decided would be the day.

Sunday morning arrived miraculously bringing THE most beautiful, inviting, glorious day. The new morning sun glowing magnificently crystal clear, not one cloud in the sky, any signs of a storm had vanished, the air was fresh and crisp, washed clean. I simply can not remember a day so beautiful for a very long time, as if it was a special delivery gift straight from God, just for our Magical Journey to Neverland. 

We met at our appointed rendezvous spot, and with no time wasted joined forces, setting out down the road. Turning left out through the first beautiful valley, filled with rolling hills, orange and avocado trees which leads to the beach and on up north to the Santa Ynez Valley. As always this area felt like a comfortable old friend. I love this drive, it just simply never gets old, but today it was something even more special. Everywhere you looked the landscape was green and lush after the recent rainstorms, a feast for the eyes and senses. The green hills glistened shiny bright in the morning sun and urged us on to the Pacific. I felt a tug of resistance in my heart leaving the beauty of this little valley behind. I always see so many places of great interest and think, "I want to stop here... one day soon." No time to stop now... because my mission takes me onward toward Neverland. Feeling I must not waiver from what is calling me I make a mental note to return soon. My friend who has never seen this part of California before asks me, “What is the name of this beautiful valley?”  I have lived in this area for over 30 years and I draw a blank, “Hmmm.... I just call it ‘The valley that leads to the ocean’.” I had to laugh, sometimes you just take a road in life by habit and never look at the signs. Pondering this I nod to myself... "Oh so true on so many levels." 

We now make our right turn North out on to the 101 freeway and there I see just off to the left the Pacific Ocean begins to peek at us in the distance. We move at a quick pace along the freeway and suddenly there in all its majestic full view is the Pacific Ocean laying calmly, serenely, with waves lapping at the shore. The blue green ocean waters greet an azure blue sky, dotted by the Channel Islands lying in line one right after the other off in the distance. Words fail me here. It does not seem possible to adequately describe the beauty of this sight nor do my pictures capture it. Robyn points out, "Pictures can't convey this... it is truly an experience." This is simply not the usual view off the coast in Southern California, due to the smog that sadly fills the air most days. Also this view is not easily seen in the summer months when I usually make the trek to Neverland. June gloom, the low lying marine layer of clouds, which I also love, that creeps in over the ocean and down into the surrounding valleys prevents the view of the Channel Islands almost completely. Today though is an amazing gift, a most special treat for the eyes and senses and I drink it in completely. Lowering my window I’m greeted by the refreshing feel and smell of salt air on my face and laugh out loud as I ‘Oohhh’ and ‘Aahhhh’ while snapping pictures of the incredible shades of blue as far as the eye can see. I won't mention here in much detail how much this frightened Robyn as I drifted over the line while driving and said, "Ooops!"

The miles and the journey pass quickly, we talk easily and are lifted effortlessly along our way as we sing along with Michael's perfect voice. Soon we take the turn inland from the beach up into the mountains surrounding Santa Ynez Valley. I feel the pull of Neverland in this section of the drive even stronger. I think about all the times Michael must have taken this drive and how he must have loved the beauty of this land as well. The landscape here I am amazed to see still has the bright, summer wild flowers even in winter and we both wonder out loud “Is this Paradise?” Up the winding mountain road we climb. On the right I look over and see the snow topped mountains towering high above the the Santa Ynez Valley where Lake Chacuma is seated. Everywhere the trees are full of leaves, bright green with new dark red and purple spring growth sprouting out at branch ends creating an amazing contrast of color. The rolling hills and gentle mountains are spotted with wild flowers in white, purple, yellow and orange. I find myself wondering, “Does winter ever truly come to this magnificent part of the world?” Yet as I think this thought I smile as a picture of MJ pops into my mind. In this picture he is smiling a big gorgeous smile, dressed in a very warm looking leather jacket, on a very clear winter day much like the one I am currently experiencing. He is standing in front of one of his amusement rides in Neverland and is bubbling over with joy. I share this thought with Robyn, before I even finish my explanation of the picture she knows exactly which one I am referring to and she finishes my sentence. We laugh.
Figueroa Mountain Road or Neverland Road as MJ fans refer to it, is now ahead and as we take the right turn toward Neverland we find today our companions on this leg of the journey are some very easy going cows, many young calves nursing with their mommas and some bulls with mean looking horns. Squirrels are romping through the pastures at play and just as we turn a bend we come upon a group of wild turkeys taking shade under a tree. As we take in this sight I smile as I recall sweet Michael in one of the thousands of depositions he was forced to give. Michael politely confounds a greedy, snake of a lawyer when he talks about the leasing of the cows at Neverland for "Milk Money".

Before we know it we have arrived. We pull off the side of the road at the Neverland gates and within moments are greeted by a friendly security guard who tells us that although we are the only ones present now, on average according to their most recent count about 350 people a day visit the gates of Neverland. We tell him about the wild turkeys we just saw and he happily shares with us there is wild life everywhere on the nearly 28,000 acres which encompasses Neverland. I am very happy to learn from this security guard, unlike some in the past, that Michael’s land originally named Sycamore Valley Ranch, according to this friendly man, is still affectionately called Neverland by many currently on staff there now. Sharing about the wild life he tells us many times deer, come right down to the guard shack and find the flowers very tasty. They heartily resist being shooed away from the flower beds they nibble on and are not the least bit intimidated by the humans. Big wide eyed owls share their "Who? Who? Whos?" in the night air. It sounds as if even the animals have the sense to question just as the MJ fans do, "Who? Who? Who will be accountable for Michael's death?" Most interestingly he shares about three Gray California Foxes which actually climb trees and were spotted climbing up into the trees at the front gates where they sat lookout in the branches for quite some time. Also rattlesnakes and tarantulas have been spotted on occasion, as well as squirrels, bunnies, coyotes and even Bob Cats. Amazingly he shared that once Michael Jackson even saw a bear in his travels around Neverland along with his colleagues on another occasion.

I find a soft spot in my heart for this kind and amiable man as he shares with us that everyone who comes to Neverland falls in love with this place. I know what he means and I have never been inside the gates to the house. He shares his love of working at Neverland and simply can’t imagine working anywhere else, and also many who work there feel the same way as he does. Sharing that some days when they are off work for three days in a row they really miss it and long to come back to work. So much so that if he didn’t have the job anymore he would try to find a way to volunteer just to be on the land. There is a feeling here today, that is very special. I know that Michael left Neverland long ago, his world shattered, hurt, devastated, his heart and spirit broken. He stated he never wanted to return, saying “It isn’t a home anymore” after the Santa Barbara Police Dept and DA Sneddon invaded, ransacked and violated his home; but in spite of this I have found that anywhere Michael has been his beautiful spirit seems to fill the space now. The feeling of LOVE is ever present as if God has poured out a portion of MJ’s love over special ‘Michael’ places. I feel this spirit of Michael’s LOVE at Forest Lawn and Neverland the most. Yes, today I feel a special feeling at Neverland I have not felt before.
The guard takes a picture of the two of us from the other side of the gates looking out.
We stay for a while and meet other fans, take our pictures and then move on down the road to Los Olivos. I simply love this now familiar, picturesque little town, filled with wine tasting rooms, Inns, restaurants and art galleries. In talking with the local store owners I have learned that Michael used to drive into town, hop out of his truck or SUV and walk the streets just like all the other residents. There are many famous people who live in this area and they are always left alone. Today we stop by Young’s Gallery for a visit with Ralph. We share hellos and catch up a bit. He fondly shares his memories of Michael and his trips to Neverland and remembers a time when he visited Neverland while delivering a collection of framed art for Michael and relays that he and Michael were standing in Michael’s office when he noticed a mannequin of a man in the corner and on Michael’s desk was a huge collection of trinkets and nick-knacks that Michael had haphazardly arranged which he had received from fans from all over the world. My mind wanders to a video of Michael’s home movies which showed his collection of belongings and trinkets in his bedroom closet piled haphazardly this way and I laugh. 
It is now lunch time and I had learned from Ralph on a previous visit to town that Michael shopped at the local Grocery store many times, so we decide to visit and order lunch. The store owner freely and happily tells us Michael used to come in and buy goodies all the time. A man behind us with the heavy smell of alcohol on his breath over hears us talking about Michael Jackson and slurs a rude, vile comment about Michael. The mood immediately changes. No one is smiling now. Everyone in line including myself are shocked and disgusted. He is so offensive. The store owner who is standing behind the counter immediately displays an unappreciative look and chastises him, speaking up in Michael’s defense. My friend and I turn our focus on this vile excuse for a man and immediately tell him,”That is not true, a complete lie. Michael Jackson never hurt a child EVER.” He backs down, back peddles and says “Well... I knew the guy.” My New York friend minces no words, and in her N.Y. take no bull attitude lays the truth out for ALL to hear, “Well if you REALLY knew him then you most certainly would not say something like that. The fact that you said anything like that about him says you didn’t EVER know him.” Then a woman behind us speaks up, “Hey you need to shut your mouth. You don’t know what you are talking about!” The foul man tucks his tail between his legs and scoots out of the store. As we finish paying or our items amongst apologies from the store owner and his accolades about Michael's wonderful kind heart, I look at him and his assistant behind the counter and say, "Well he just picked the WRONG people to mouth off in front like that. Hopefully he learned a lesson." They both laugh and nod their heads. This whole conversation then leads us outside where some of the town folk who have lived in Los Olivos for years are gathered. They began to talk about the obnoxious, foul man, who made the ignorant comment about Michael in the store, telling us that everyone in town is just fed up with him. He is generally a miserable person who makes everyone's life miserable. A very interesting point is brought up stating that usually people who continually bring up that topic are themselves haunted by it in some way. They reassure us that he is an isolated jerk and that most all residents loved Michael Jackson. The offensive man retreats from the store and slides off to the safety of shadows on the other side of the street. The town folk we are talking to, who look like local ranchers, continue to glare toward him and look as if they could kick his butt at any moment, and as I watch them watching him I think to myself, “Hey I would so love to help on that one! If he says one more word about Michael...” but in my heart as much as I'd love to wallop him one... it is a waste of energy. I walk in LOVE and turn my attention to more positive things. 

We have found a common ground with these people we just met and immediately strike up a conversation learning that in 2005 during Michael’s most painful days they all lived in Los Olivos and some were Michael’s neighbors. Each had met Michael at one time or another and were invited by Michael to visit Neverland several times and enjoyed the amusement park, the rides and theater. Somehow I wasn’t surprised that generous, loving, giving Michael freely invited many of his neighbors to come and enjoy Neverland. They shared with us that most of the town’s people admired Michael greatly and thought he was a beautiful man. One man expressed passionately that he never hesitated for one minute to take his children to Neverland. He said everyone in town was happy to have Michael Jackson in their town and there was never any problem with him being there. No one ever bothered him and he freely walked the town as any other resident. Most importantly they felt he was one of their own when he lived there.

One story in particular which touched my heart for Michael, was shared by the lady who had just moments earlier stood in line behind us and come to Michael’s defense. It was about her aunt who lives on Figueroa Mountain Road, Michael’s road to Neverland. She shared that Michael’s neighbors who regularly visited Neverland with their children and loved him dearly were so upset for him during the trial in 2005 they decided they needed to let him know they supported and loved him. So her aunt  made a big sign and she wrote “Your neighbors love you and support you Michael!” Then when she knew his caravan would be traveling down the road on the way home from court, she stood out at the end of her drive way and held the sign high and waved to him. Michael was so touched he had his driver stop the car and he rolled down the window and personally thanked her. I wanted to cry with happiness to hear of the town’s support for Michael, especially during the trial. This is the first time I have had the chance to talk to several residents in Los Olivos about Michael Jackson. Several people openly and loudly stated they NEVER believed for a minute that Michael Jackson was ever guilty of hurting anyone, especially children. They stood by him the entire time and were very sad about what was done to him for money. They too were very sad to see him leave Neverland after the trial but they also understood why he felt he needed to go. 
Amazingly on our Neverland and Los Olivos journey we also met a wonderful man who had been on staff for Michael at Neverland. First he had been invited to visit Neverland as a guest and then was appointed a job working at Neverland. He shared some amazing stories. One story that was especially interesting to me was that it was rumored among the staff when Michael still lived in Neverland and before the trial that Michael had planned on purchasing the land just on the other side of the highest point of land on Neverland property. As you look through the front gates and straight up to the highest point just on the other side of that point you will find Zaca Lake, also referred to as the bottomless lake because it is so deep. According to Michael’s previous employee he had planned on buying Zaca Lake and the surrounding land which also lines right up to the border of the Neverland property. This land is also known to be an old spiritual Indian ground connected to another old Indian spiritual ground and town named, Ojai. I was intrigued when he further explained that Ojai lays just across the way in the adjacent, sister mountain range. Chumash Indian legend has it that these two are connected by a ‘spiritual energy bridge’ which looks much like a rainbow and this rainbow over looks Neverland. 
He also tells us of the days when he worked on Neverland and how beautiful and peaceful a place it was. I was so envious to learn he had even been privileged once to climb up into the ‘Giving Tree’ and sit for a quiet time just as Michael had so many times. I so long to reach out and hug the 'Giving Tree' for all she gave to Michael and the world through Michael. He shared that it was in the ‘Giving Tree’ that Michael wrote ‘We Are The World’ which is still this man’s favorite song of Michael’s. Also after having sat in the tree he could very easily see how Michael could have been so deeply inspired to write his music there, especially with Michael’s acute mind for music. He shared it was simply the perfect place for inspiration. He said anyone, an average person, could be inspired sitting up in the tree and looking down on the incredibly beautiful, peaceful lake and landscape. He too had felt the great inspiration which Michael must have felt while sitting in the ‘Giving Tree’. He revealed that Michael had a small platform built up on the high branch where he liked to sit, there were metal handles Michael used to climb the tree and also electricity for late night visits to the tree so Michael could see to write.
Having just seen the graffiti and broken lamps and missing stones from the front gates I felt I needed to take the opportunity to ask someone who had worked for Michael if anyone ever wrote on the walls when Michael lived there. He said occasionally people would write on the walls by the road and Michael did not like it at all. He would have it removed. He said Michael would say that he liked to receive the cards, letters, flowers and gifts and enjoyed those that were left for him by fans but absolutely did not like the writing on the old stone walls. I was astonished to learn it was not a new thing that fans would break and take things from Neverland as they have since Michael has been gone. He shared about one time in particular when the visitors were out of control with taking things. It was a weekend day when Michael had invited about 1,000 people to come and enjoy the amusement park. They arrived by bus loads about 10:00 a.m. staying until 6:00 p.m. enjoying all the rides, snacks, candy, ice cream, movies and music for free. Then at the appointed end time the security detail joined hands, stretched out in a line across the property and slowly began moving the group of people along, gently telling them it was time to go, that the day was done and everyone needed to leave. As the crowd moved and arrived at the bridge suddenly they realized they were in fact leaving Neverland, and began ripping up flowers out of the ground, grabbing plants and anything they could grab to take with them as memorabilia. The thought that they had been freely invited onto private property, Michael’s home, never seemed to matter to them.  I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at his words, yet just having seen the destruction to the front gates and lights; I felt in my heart he was telling me the truth. I just find it so hard to comprehend the selfish behavior of some people. What I would give to go back in time and visit Neverland and show Michael’s home the respect it deserved. I never cease to be shocked and amazed by the attitude, arrogance and sense of entitlement some people seem to have in the area of Michael Jackson, which is complete utter, stark contrast to Michael’s kind character. Michael, who had the purest heart, was one of the most giving, kind, considerate and humble human beings to have ever walked this planet. 

We left our new friends and went on to our next stop, the local hardware store. I had learned on my previous visit that Michael had purchased a red adult tricycle here for the ranch and I wanted to show Robyn. Maybe it is just MJ fans who notice these things but not far inside was also a Skittles candy machine and a straw type fedora aptly named "Jackson" Panama Hat. I have no idea if they have named this hat after MJ but leave it to us to spot these with no hesitation as if pulled to them like a magnate. We put the hats on and fool around posing and laughing but there is much more ground to cover and only so much day light in the winter months.

Moving on down around the corner is the next very special stop, Woeste Nursery. As we pile out of the car once again we are delighted by the sound we hear from the giant wind chimes hanging from the century old tree, playing their ancient, deep, harmonious notes. This sound greets us at the gate, inviting us, pulling us deeper in. We find ourselves lost in this fantasy land. I could spend hours and hours in this magical place. Simply everywhere you look you are reminded of Michael and I have to keep a tight reign on my wallet when visiting here. Robyn finds a succulent which she says looks like ‘dreads’, a light green group of layered, stringed succulent discs with red edges. We laugh out loud when she later names her new plant “Blood on the Dance Floor.” This time I escape without one purchase because sadly the string of giant butterflies I had planned on buying are sold out. I promise myself I will return in the summer when they promise me they will restock them.  
The day has moved on to afternoon and realizing that both Los Olivos and Solvang roll up the welcome mats and close up shop very early, even on the weekends, we reluctantly decide we need to move on to Solvang, but first we must check out the Lavender fields to see if they are blooming. Moving past the midtown flag pole and out toward the edge of town we are disappointed to realize that they will not be in full bloom for another couple of months. Ahhh Hah! Another great reason to come back soon. 
Solvang is now on our radar so we move steadily on down the back roads past the pristine horse ranches. This back road drive is simply gorgeous with its exquisitely fenced properties, plump, happy Shetland Ponies and beautiful horses with shiny coats, feeding on carpets of emerald green pastures.  I was very happy I knew the way already from previous visits and unlike previous visits did not get lost once. We rolled into Solvang and quickly found a place to park near some of Michael’s favorite candy and antique stores. I love walking the streets of this wonderful town, little Sweden nestled in the mountains of Santa Ynez Valley, filled with Tudor type architecture which Michael loved and white Christmas lights all year long. I found my souvenir for the day which of course reminded me of Michael, a necklace with a pair of floating silver wings on each side of a floating crystal heart. Yes that was my take home for the day. 
We quickly narrowed in on the antique store where I had previously met Dorothy, the owner of the Mole Hole who had met Michael several times. She originally had shown me the Violano Virtuoso, and today, Crit, was our salesman and historian. He shared with us that Michael shopped in this antique store many, many times and according to the store log he bought mostly gifts, womens jewelry but also some mens jewelry, as well as some antique pieces. I asked if I could take a gander at Michael's list of purchases but he declined saying it would be meaningless to me since they were all listed by item numbers and not piece names. I wondered if he was just trying to pull in a sale to buy a similar item that Michael bought. Then I remembered an interview with Geraldo where he spoke of not buying jewelry very often for himself but bought gifts for women in his life. Then thought well it is entirely possible Crit was speaking the truth but I never got my look at the list... at least I asked.  I had found a gorgeous antique ring I loved until I heard the price and Crit encouraged me by saying, "If Michael was here he would buy that for you as a gift." I thought, "Well, I wish he was here to buy it for me too!! I just wish he was here!!"

One antique piece Michael had definitely purchased for Neverland was the unique Violano Virtuoso. It is from the early 1900's and is a player piano and player violin in one machine. Crit proceeded to insert a coin and it began to play. I am not sure if it was the amazingly emotional day, or the fact that we knew we were standing where MJ had stood at one time and most likely listened to the same sound, or possibly the fact that moments earlier we were fondly remembering his beautiful and endearing "Yoo Hoo... Yoo Hoo" from another antique store when he became excited about a new find, or maybe just simply knowing that he loved all these type things and we did too, but when the sound poured out of this giant music box a flood of emotion took over. To us it was simply the most beautiful sound you can imagine, other than Michael's voice. I felt as though I was immediately transported back to a simpler time, at the turn of the 1900's. A lighter than air musical, carousel sound of both piano and violin simultaneously filled our ears. Robyn who had never heard it before was over come by the beauty, caught breathless, was unable to speak and began to cry. When the music finished we talked to Crit and another salesman about the emotion the piece brought forth and they smiled very kind, knowing smiles and comforted us saying, “Please don’t feel like you are the only ones to have ever felt this way. Everyone who hears the music has said the same thing. In fact there was one gentleman who came in and when the music played he immediately bought one of these for $60,000 without a second thought. He said he must have it because it took him back to early years, back to childhood with his mother and father.” That was in the 1980’s now they are selling for $72,000. Crit confirmed what was told to me by both Ralph, from Young's Art Gallery, and Dorothy, that Michael Jackson did in fact purchase one of the intricate music boxes.

Dorothy had also shared that Michael would take day trips out to Solvang, walk the streets, poke around and shop. He especially loved the book store, ‘Grand Tales’, which is no longer there but was on the corner next to the Mole Hole when Michael lived at Neverland. One day he was on just such a visit and entered the book store looking for his favorite book, ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ by Kenneth Grahame. She knew already from previous conversations with Michael this was his favorite book and made sure to keep them on hand. He would enter, she would greet him and then immediately smile and point him right toward the book. She said he liked to just stand in the store and read the books but also bought many. Dorothy was eager to share with me that Michael was a valued member of the community and gave generously to the local Rotary and also donated many items for auction to raise money for the town. You can always tell a true fan of Michael’s by the look on their face when they talk about him, and in Dorothy I saw that look of deep love and admiration on her face as she happily and freely talked about Michael Jackson. She shared that Michael was always polite, kind and generous. She jumped at the chance to share about one time in particular that clearly showed Michael’s sweet and considerate character. He clearly was just out shopping, looking for some quiet time and dropped into the bookstore. She had just pointed him toward his favorite book when suddenly patrons and tourists in town began to realize it was Michael Jackson. Soon he was surrounded by a crowd. Dorothy discreetly approached him and quietly offered to shut down the store so he could shop freely in peace. His response was an emphatic, “No, No this is your business!”, then stood there for hours, all afternoon, signing autographs and giving hugs. He never left once to take a break, get a drink or go to the bathroom. He just gave LOVE all day long. Yes, this was the kind heart of Michael Jackson.

We next decided we must have the traditional Swedish desert. We sought out a great Swedish café and as we entered the scrumptious smell met our nostrils and suddenly we were there for dinner instead. So we partook in the down home, comfort food, goodness of traditional Swedish Meatballs with mashed potatoes smothered in scrumptious gravy, along with a side of sweet and sour cabbage, topped off with a serving of delicate Apple Skivers covered with powdered sugar and drizzled with raspberry sauce. Pronounced ‘Skeevers’ as in Beaver Cleaver. I was amused to realize apparently our lovely waitress had tired of hearing tourists mispronounce the name and left me duly corrected. Robyn chimed in as she walked away, “Like Beaver Cleaver.” We laughed and both of us will now always remember the correct pronunciation.

After enjoying our scrumptious dinner we headed back to Neverland to see the very thing I had been waiting for all day… the waning crescent moon hanging over Neverland. I was surprised to learn that they no longer turn on the outside lamps at the gate and it is pitch black there except for the guard shack spotlight. I am unsure but it seems there has been so much damage to the lights by fans that they no longer work or it could be for conservation reasons. In any event it does make gazing up at the stars easier. To our amazement and my disappointment, and contrary to the moon phase calendar I checked before embarking on this Magical Journey there is NO moon out tonight at all, no waning crescent, no sliver of any kind to be seen anywhere. We walk up and down the road in the pitch dark listening to a group of bull frogs serenade us, thinking the view might be blocked by a tree but still find NO moon. Is this possible? I know nothing about astronomy except stars are pretty and the North Star is always near the moon. Tonight there is no moon so I am not even sure where the North Star is or which way is north so I can find it. Then I remember it is the brightest star. I look up at the stars and they are all so bright, in my mind there is no way of knowing. I have never seen stars this bright in my life. Robyn owns a telescope and loves to star gaze and we simply can’t take our eyes off this deep black ink sky. She, like a kid in a candy store, is pointing out constellations and naming them for me one after the other. I nod my head in amazement gasping over and over again, “Wow...Wow... this is so incredibly beautiful!” I have no idea what I am looking at beyond the Little Dipper except to say it is absolute utter beauty. Looking up it seems as though Tinker Bell has cast her wand and strewn across this black, velvet blanket hanging above us an array of glistening, sparkling diamond Pixie dust. As this scene grabs our attention it no longer matters that we can’t find the moon. The coziness I feel under this massive blanket of diamonds in the sky is beyond explanation. We stand, heads tilted way back and mouths hanging open gazing into the night sky… Speechless.

Having fulfilled our Magical Journey we climb on board, turn our car toward home, second star to the right and on past Neverland. Singing along with Michael sigh deeply and share, one... then the other “I still miss him so much.” “Yes… me too… I miss him so much.”

The sound of this amazing music box has been described by MJ fan Siren from Canada as "The sound of angels weeping, touching the depth of your soul"

Some Violano Virtuoso facts: There are only 2,000 in existence today and one of them belonged to Michael Jackson. In the 1904 was listed by the U.S. government as the 8th greatest invention of the decade. Hand built by the Mills Novelty Company in Chicago, IL between 1900 and 1930. Violano Virtuoso was a 1900  equivalent to the modern day juke box. These music boxes were sometimes seen and heard in diners.

It is virtually impossible to get the beautiful sound of this music box via You Tube but I have attached a video here so you can see a comparison. This is not the song we heard but it is very pretty.


  1. Oh Betty, I was there with you while I was reading. Your words bring it all alive, and it will help to keep me going until I can come myself someday soon. Thank you so much for sharing this day with us. I could hardly read for the tears in some places, it feels like home to me, although I know that sounds crazy, which makes me want to see it even more to find out why. You are a blessing to those of us who need to see through your eyes.
    L.O.V.E. Brenda

  2. Ah, Betty ... thank you for another wonderful journey. I had read that the residents of Los Olivos and Solvang were very respectful towards Michael. It is wonderful to have that tidbit of information confirmed through your experience. The player piano/violin is a lovely touch to this post.

    Thank you and Robyn for a wonderful trip. I so wish I could be walking the same roads and valleys he walked for a while! Through your words and experiences, I can ... God bless you!

  3. Thank you so very much Betty for another wonderful Magical Journey to Michael's home and the charming places he loved to visit. It is so comforting to know that he had the support and respect of his neighbors. But it doesn't surprise me, because they had the good pleasure of knowing the real Michael Jackson, not the media's version of him which didn't even come close to who he really was. It still hurts to think about the injustice of it all! But, I'm so glad you were able to hear some new heartwarming stories from people who were a part of his life.

    When you were describing the stars...I too, had such an experience the last time I was at the coast. I stood on the deck of my room on a very cold wintry night, with the sound of the ocean waves not too far in the distance crashing upon the shore while I gazed up at the sky which was strewn with millions of glittering diamonds! It held me in its spell for such a long time, I wasn't even aware of the cold or how much time had passed. I spent some of that time talking to Michael, and he would occasionally answer me with a shooting star at just the right moment in response to what I was saying! He always did have impeccable timing! I felt like he was right there with me the entire time! I was unable to tear myself away, and when I finally did, I found that a couple of hours had passed when it seemed like only minutes. It was truly a magical experience!

    I feel so blessed to receive the gift of your experience as you have shared it with us here. Thank you so much, my precious friend, for your LOVE and friendship!

    (((Hugs))) for both you and Robyn. I hope we'll get a chance to officially meet one day.

    God Bless You,

  4. This is such a wonderful story, Betty, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I too felt like I was right by your side. I loved it - thank you again and I can't wait to go on your next adventure with you!

    Lots of love, Karen from Melbourne, Australia.

  5. Thank you, Betty, this is beautifully written. It's so sad that Michael could no longer live there, Never Land was his life, his soul, he was there so happy.

    God bless you.

  6. What a great day.....and of course you captured it so beautifully...down to our last words as we left Neverland under a blanket of stars like diamonds scattered in the sky.... also the Violanao Virtuoso the you tube does not due the sound justice.... I have never experienced such uncontrollable emotion... it was like angels singing....
    thanks for the day spent and thanks for the memories ya more


  8. Gracias, ha sido un viaje muy emocionante, para mí no es posible ir a neverland, pero gracias a tí he estado allí con vosotras.
    Thanks a lot from Spain.Thank you for sharing this beautiful trip with us.

  9. Hi, I love MJ too. I´m from Brazil.I´m going to visit Neverland this month.How can I get to Neverland of Los Angeles?Is only by car or bus have? Could you give me the tips? I will travel April 09 and return April day 21 from.Do you understand? I´m sorry, I don´t speak English, I´m still learning English. Still crying for MJ, I really misss him.I loved his stories
    I await your response

  10. Hello Vera,
    It is wonderful you will be able to visit Neverland. I would advise to rent a car with a GPS directional system. It is a beautiful drive. There are no bus tours available. Your English is fine. I understood completely. Have a beautiful journey and many Michaeling moments you can hold on to For All Time.
    LOVE & Blessings,
    Betty (MJBliss)

  11. I love reading about your visit to Neverland ladies and then walking in Michael's steps in Los met so many wonderful people and came back with some pretty special memories. For the first time, I find myself wanting to vising Neverland and I would love to visit the places Michael did in Los Olivos especially the book store. Thank you so much ladies for writing this loving trip report.

    Beautiful Michael,always and forever.

  12. Hi Betty! How are you?
    I received their reply in april 25,but I am back from my trip. Wonderful!! I visited Neverland, Forest Lawn Cemitery, Staples Center, Sta. Monica, Sta. Barbara, Las Vegas, some places that Michael passed. Much excitement!! I do not believe I was in Neverland, it seems a dream. There were magic moments! I´ve spent the places you went too, and took pictures in front of the ranch too. I felt a great peace, I think that´s why MJ liked it there. It is very sad that he is not there anymore.
    And as he said: dream, work hard and hard to achieve it and what I did. Dream come true, but I intend to return one day. Who knows the ranch opens to the fans.If you have Facebook please visit my profile to see the photos of my trip.
    Search for Vera Lucia Leite.
    Always send news of MJ ! Do you understand?? Sorry, I am learning!!
    Thank you
    God bless you
    Deus abençõe

  13. Vera, That is terrific you were able to visit Neverland. Yes it is very peaceful and beautiful there. Your trip sounds wonderful and I am sure now you have great memories you will treasure forever. I have looked for you on Face Book but the only Vera Lucia Leite has a Teddy Bear profile pic is that you?
    Love & blessings,

  14. Hi, Betty
    Sorry, I´m not have answered before, but I could not post my comment in your blog. No,this is not my profile in Facebook. Search by Vera Lucia Leite of São Paulo - Brazil. In photo of the profile I´m on the door open arms Neverland a shirt of Michael. Do you have a Facebook? Do you want share it with me to exchange information MJ? I wonder how the day was June 25, in Forest Lawn. Do you live in California near Neverland? I hope news
    God bless you - Deus abençoe
    Vera - São Paulo - Brazil

  15. Thank you so much for the story. I'm just listening to the machine with tears in my eyes.
    And I can feel everything you wrote about.

    God bless you Michael. I love you.

  16. It is after reading this amazing experience whilst drowning in inexplicable grief that I first made contact with you Betty..... I was totally blown away with your beautiful, descriptive Journey - the Journey I had dreamt of making SO many times in my mind and heart. I felt the magic and love through every experience and conversation shared with us. I finished reading this electrifying and magical trip in tears of happiness, totally elated and buzzing....My response was to privately message you and to share my dream of accompanying you on a similar trip one day, never dreaming it WOULD transpire..... but transpire it did and the rest is History so to speak.... we found a wonderful, caring friendship through our uncondtional love and respect for Michael, and continue to share in the Magic and Wonderment that WAS Michael Jackson.....

    1. Dear Susan, it is so miraculous how Michael has joined lives and hearts together weaving his invisible thread of LOVE intertwining hearts around the globe. We most certainly created amazing memories on our supersonic Michaeling journey... cramming a year's worth of Michaeling into 10 days. It was a once in a liftetime occurrence and I'm happy I experienced it with you. It was a blast! I still howl when I tell the story of the blonde lady in the old mustang who was angry but it was so hard to tell because of all the excessive botox and giant pursed lips. I was so afraid she was going to suction cup herself to the window and crash. I couldn't stop looking or laughing! Hahahahaha It was hilarious! Oh and the men on the table shaking their bits in West Hollywood.... or passing Julien's three times getting lost and the calf and sooooooo much more. I'm laughing again. Wonderful memories. Thank you, my friend.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.