Monday, December 26, 2011

Michael: as a Verb

Michael: (Related forms) Mich·el·ing, Michael-ism, Michael-ness, Michael-ed;
noun, adjective, verb

1. to go from one Michael place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey: to travel for pleasure to follow in the steps of Michael Jackson.
2. the act of a Michael journey.
3. to journey, to traverse distance places, to proceed, to go from place to place as a Michael Jackson fan in pursuit of, seeking all things MJ.
4. to associate, consort with other Michael Jackson fans who pursue all things Michael Jackson.
5. to travel, journey, or pass through or over, as a country or road, town or city where Michael lived, visited, traveled, performed or shopped.
6. journeys; wanderings; pursuing all things Michael Jackson
7. to express ones Michaelness.
8. to focus on, watch, listen to, to attend, to buy, dance to, sing, embrace all things Michael Jackson.
9.  to spend endless internet and video hours in pursuit of all things Michael Jackson; to blog, to post, to text, to You Tube, to instant message, to email, to tweet all things MJ.

We had never personally met. Like millions have done around the globe since Michael Jackson’s death we became friends on Face Book via the LOVE we hold dear for Michael Jackson. I had wondered what I was getting myself into as you never really know someone just from posts and messages on Face Book. I have learned you can have a great back and forth posting relationship with someone and then you meet them and they are not at all what you perceived them to be. You just never really know someone from Face Book communication. The old fashion face to face communication of expression is lost in the technological world of text messages, email, Face Book and the internet. It’s so easy to type (((HUGS))) and another thing to embrace someone in person. To look them in the eye and say, “Hello” or “How are you?” let alone “I LOVE you.” A term which is the mainstay of all Michael Jackson fan pages. So I was a bit nervous; however I had prayed for months about our encounter and vacation time together and had a sense of peace and anticipation. I also knew God was in charge and I was on yet another Michael journey. I was excited for what was in store and how the next 10 days would unfold.

I arrived early at LAX airport as I didn’t want her to land in a strange place alone without someone to welcome her. We had exchanged pictures of each other to know who to look for but pictures don’t always do justice to the real essence and appearance of a person’s spirit. They can look so different in person. Then there she was, you couldn’t miss her even though she was just a “little bit” as my dad used to call me when I was small. I am not a tall person but Susan was a bit shorter than myself and very thin and trim. Yes small in stature but there was no mistaking that great big MJ LOVE. MJ shirt, jacket, loafers and a big smile. I called her name as a question, “Susan?” with instant recognition as we made eye contact. Gathering her up, off we went wheeling her suitcases to my car as we embarked on the beginning of a new Michael adventure. It seemed from that moment on for 10 full days our Michaeling only stopped long enough to garner a few hours sleep before moving on. It was a wonderful whirlwind of activity, restful sharing, constant MJ music, laughter, commiserating over the sadness of broken hearts over the loss of Michael Jackson and a full years worth of Michaeling crammed into 10 days.

At times there was silence as we digested a day and felt our own feelings over a subject or adventure. What is it that makes a friendship? The ability to be who you are and feel what you feel and not have to constantly tell someone what that is... a knowing... a communication without words. This is what we had. Although there were ALOT of words too. Many, many as we stayed up late into the wee hours of the morning, night after night talking and watching MJ videos, never able to get enough of Michael Jackson and not wanting to waste a single moment of her time in California.

I had planned a massive Michaeling tour session fitting in as many of the So. Calif. Michael spots as possible. Neither of us had any idea what was truly in store. This was a trip of a lifetime for Susan. Each day ended up evolving as the agenda was loose with only 3 major days with scheduled plans; Disneyland, Neverland and Shambala. It was all a first for Susan and although I had been to many of these spots before I was just as excited as she was and felt anxious to share them. We simply had no idea how much fun we would have sharing our common interest and endless stories and research about Michael.

Her English dialect was so fun to listen to and I learned many new English meanings in our journeys across the So. Cal. landscape as we endeavored to walk in Michael’s footsteps. Words such as: ‘motoring’ as we drove, ‘car park’ as we found ourselves lost in the Kodak Theater parking structure (is that possible? Apparently for me Yes!). We readily agreed on the name of the old restored surfer wagon, the ‘Woody’, we passed at least 5 times while I maneuvered in unending circles to find my way to the surface of earth again and up out of the parking structure or ‘car park’. I had no idea the Kodak went so deep into the earth, but there is a dead end & it holds a maintenance material area which is really not at all interesting... but still I managed to find it. The ‘que’ is the line we wait in whether by foot or car. The ‘sponge cakes’ are the pancakes she ate at IHop. The media is ‘blinkered’ in the UK and I have to agree in the US as well with all their fallacious lies about MJ. I have the biggest ‘dust bins’ or trash cans she has ever seen... super sized by UK standards. From the very first day she pitched in with chores like the dishes or bringing in the dust bins from the street and also the mail. We both had a good laugh at my neighbor's puzzled response and strange look when she asked how to open my ‘postal box.’ 

Most times getting lost can be very entertaining and adventurous and I always meet interesting people. I had pondered buying GPS for her visit and even priced them, as I knew I’d be driving quite a bit but decided against the extra expense and thought I’d just wing it as usual. Of course as a result I became lost innumerable times. It was fun and exciting sometime and bewildering and exhausting other times. There were a couple of nights past midnight when I just said “I’m too exhausted to keep looking. Let's just go somewhere else.” The trouble was I was so engrossed in thought and conversation so many times I would forget where I was and would get lost even while taking her to places I have been to many times. We laughed so hard when I was searching at one point for Michael’s tattoo salon, Anastasia’s, off Wilshire in Beverly Hills. When we finally found it I realized I had been there before as it was only doors away from Julien’s auction house. I circled the area searching for the salon and played good tour guide pointing out Julien’s where Michael’s clothes and the Thriller jacket were recently auctioned and kept pointing it out each time we passed missing Anastasia's completely each time announcing instead, “Well there’s Julien’s!” Susan laughed heartily as she said “I saw Julien’s so many times as we passed by that I thought there were several Julien’s.” Good thing she wasn't paying this tour guide. It was hilarious.

Then there was the time we searched all afternoon and into the evening for Ed Hardy only to learn after visiting three different Ed Hardy stores, and to make it more confusing two of them are on Melrose, the Ed Hardy store we actually had in mind, the one that Michael visited with Christian Audigier, is now the Ed Hardy Outlet. I didn’t realize so much Ed Hardy history existed until I talked to the many Ed Hardy sales people in each store as Susan shopped or we asked for directions to different stores. After searching for hours and shopping at each store we arrived at the outlet with only minutes to spare before closing but Susan immediately spotted the items she wanted to purchase and snagged her booty. As the store closed for the night I promised I’d bring her back... if I could ever find it again. Then as I was taking her to dinner days later in Santa Monica to a restaurant I have been to several times before I again found myself completely lost yet again. We traveled up and down a street, I now have forgotten the name of, that was in the middle of West Hollywood. Her comments while lost there that day consisted of, “OH MY! Betty! I just saw some naked men dancing on the table shaking their bits about!!!” I howled with laughter and informed her, “Oh! I forgot to tell you about that part of the tour!” U turns and I are a well adjusted duo. If all else fails make a u-turn and try again.... this way of traveling about L.A. of course enabled Susan to again view the ‘shakers of the bits’ a few more times. This time she hid her eyes. Let’s just say I have learned if my instincts say to go west I better turn east.

No this is not Alzheimers... I'm just 'Directionally Challenged' and I have surrendered to this sometime mind boggling and frustrating fact, embracing it as part of who I am. At least as an independent woman I can freely ask for directions and meet great people I would never have met otherwise. I have been known to call friends in Colorado while driving for directions to the Grove in Los Angeles. Thank God for cell phones and helpful, loving friends with a sense of humor. However, this time I called my son who is always accommodating no matter the time of day or night, asking for directions to the restaurant we were in search of and when he asked me where I was I looked up absolutely, utterly astounded to see right before me the Ed Hardy Outlet that I had searched for endlessly the previous day. There it was in all it’s glory! Susan and I broke into rolling gales of laughter as we both realized where we were. My son has long ago accepted the crazy part of his mother but he was not as amused as we were about discovering the Ed Hardy Outlet in our quest for dinner and supportively said, “Ok Mom. Uhhh Let’s just get you where you’re going.”

So the first day in Los Angeles I decided I better take Susan to Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, and one of Michael’s favorite places on earth. I thought it best we go while we were both fresh and had plenty of energy. Disneyland was amazing as always and everywhere we looked we were reminded of Michael, from the train station to Mickey Mouse. I snuck her in the back entrance to see Michael’s huge Capt. EO portrait and then of course went straight to the theater to see the Capt. himself on the big screen. The whole day was filled with Disney magic. I think we sat through Capt. EO 5 times ending the night front and center at the Castle to view the most amazing fireworks and then one last visit to say good bye to the Capt. Oh that gorgeous smile. Michael no don’t wave good bye... PLEASE come back don’t leave...

Finally we ended our Disney day with a visit to Michael’s rock in the moat at the castle and the rebel that I am had to stand where Michael stood. We took turns. Yes my bad.

The remainder of the agenda except for the Neverland and Shambala journeys was very loose and whatever we found and experienced just flowed. I took her to the MJ Hollywood Star where she met Jovan the impersonator from Haiti. It was good reconnecting with him and to see he is doing well and still very inspired by Michael Jackson. Very close to MJ's Hollywood Star we took a look at the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood display where MJ’s fedora is behind glass with a sign stating that MJ traded his fedora for a box of McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys along with an MJ signed Dangerous album on display. It always makes me smile to think about Michael giving away his fedora for MickeyD toys.

At Gardner St. School she saw the wonderful results of the fans from all over the world speaking up for JUSTICE for Michael as his name gleamed bright on the Michael Jackson Auditorium. The principle of Gardner St. is a fan of Michael's and has instituted many art and music classes which honor Michael and teach the children about his genius and beauty.

We visited Michael twice at Holly Terrace, Forest Lawn and also the main mausoleum where the majestic white angel stands above the space where Elizabeth Taylor now rests and is not far from Michael. While there we also viewed the beautiful Michelangelo show room and Last Supper stained glass window display. The gorgeous water lilies I had been waiting to capture in photos were in full bloom and contented Wild Geese were gathered at the front gate fountain. We visited the Forest Lawn Florist and Susan chose special flowers for Michael which included a sunflower and butterflies and decided to have them delivered inside to Michael. We went up to the Holly Terrace patio so we could personally watch them go inside. The second visit I brought Michael a Charlie Brown sunflower from my garden, one of the last of about 30 that bloomed throughout the summer, and left it outside with many other beautiful flowers the fans have brought or had delivered from other florists shops. There are always flowers inside and outside on the patio for Michael. 

 She was happy to see the Thriller House in person where Michael filmed his most famous short film of all time. This old house has been restored leaving portions just as they were for the filming of Thriller. It sits in the most amazingly beautiful, refurbished neighborhood of Victorian homes in Los Angeles and not coincidentally on Carroll St. That eery coincidence is never lost on me. 

The Palace Theater where Thriller was also filmed isn't what it used to be but we made sure to stop momentarily to see it. One day I hope to go inside. The same ticket booth that was used in the scene of Michael and Ola Ray while filming Thriller still sits inside behind closed gates. The lights still look the same. It would be so wonderful to see this great theater restored to it's former glory one day.

We made sure to stop by the court house where we had made arrangements to meet Larry Nimmer on the first day of jury selection. It was awesome to be able to take her to the court house to speak her feelings for JUSTICE for Michael Jackson. She displayed her shirt which clearly displayed Conrad Murray as Dr. Death. I carried the same t-shirt to the court house for her throughout the trial. 

Off The Wall antique store in Hollywood on Melrose is always fun to visit. I was not surprised to learn from the owner that one of the pieces from the 1900's medical school set that Michael had purchased but never took delivery on before he passed away was now gone. I was happy to hear that the leg in the set was sold to an MJ fan. The two heads still remain and are as intriguing as ever.  The antique Disney figurines that Michael loved so much are still in the corner display and on the day we visited there were also wonderful antique toys in the front window which so reminded me of Neverland. Seemed everywhere we looked there were Michael reminders.

The Autry Museum was also fun to see and we learned this exhibit of Michael’s clothes will not be open much longer. We also were shown a very cool tribute, guitar belt buckle which is a replica of the one which Michael wore is for sale. The original that Michael wore is on display there in the exhibit that Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins designed.

 The Grammy Museum now has a new permanent Michael Jackson display which is not to distant from the Graff Lab Mural so we made sure to swing by the Graff Lab after visiting the Grammy so Susan could see that incredible TII Michael mural.

  The Super Bowl MJ Mural off Hollywood Blvd is always so much fun to share with fans. I just love that mural and it always brings a smile to their faces along with many ooohs and ahhhs from those I take to view it. Susan loved this mural as well.

Once we finally found them the Ed Hardy and Moist stores were interesting, as well as Anastasian’s and Julien’s. The woman who waited on Michael at Moist was there and we were told that a video plays on occasion of Michael's visit to Moist. Michael liked to shop in both Moist for Men and Moist for Woman, gender never had boundaries to his fashion taste. The day we visited the video of Michael was not playing; however across the street was definitely a reminder of Michael. A full size Peter Pan statue (albiet the face looked a bit evil to me LOL).

Carolwood was last on the list but we ended up seeing it the day we were searching for Ed Hardy. This place is always difficult to visit. To me it will always be a crime scene... then maybe not just for me because not long after Michael’s death it was included on the Hollywood Star Tours Crime Scene Map. Long before Conrad Murray was found guilty. Every time I visit this place the incredible, unnecessary loss of Michael Jackson is felt. This day the tour buses were coming by on a regular basis, as usual, much to the chagrin of the home owners who happen to be Christian Audigier and his wife, who at times post guards to keep tourists away. This day it was guard free but we kept our distance to respect their property.

In my search of Engine House 71 which I know is just around the corner from Carolwood, not that I like to go there but in an attempt to be a good tour guide I thought I’d point it out to Susan. Following my inner directional instincts we ended up going the wrong way. It was only a short distance and I realized with no surprise we were headed instead for San Fernando Valley where Michael lived at Hayvenhurst so instead of a U turn we rolled on up and over the hill into the San Fernando Valley and ultimately were dumped out on to Ventura Blvd. Thus we decided to go to Hayvenhurst for a visit instead. We stopped to buy a lovely orchid for Mrs. Jackson although she and the children are not living at Hayvenhurst, it was the gesture of love that mattered. We walked down to the compound rang the bell and the guard kindly thanked us for the gift through the intercom and assured us he would come out to retrieve it. We left the orchid on the brick planter and stepped across the street to wait, he came out shortly and we started a conversation with him. He was so polite and friendly and as we talked we looked down the drive way and there was Kenya! Beautiful Kenya... Michael’s family dog, a beautiful chocolate brown retriever, the children’s dog. She was wagging her tail and so happy and content, very well behaved. We talked for sometime to the kind gentleman and again as always with every time I have ever visited Hayvenhurst and spoken to the guards I was once again assured simply by this man’s gentle, kind spirit that MJ3 and now also Kenya are being very well cared for.

On another day when I was showing a friend, Sara, from Colorado around L.A and we were in search yet again for the Ed Hardy Outlet I instead did in fact find Engine House 71. I dunno... it makes no sense.... but there on the right was Engine House 71. Baffling. Seems sometimes Michael leads me where he wants me to go.

This next part of our Michaeling adventure was not the best time; however with all things the Lord can turn the seemingly bad completely around. One of the highlights of the week was our trip to Neverland. I was very excited for Susan as this would be her first ever trip to the gates of Michael’s Neverland. I have learned to just take life as it comes most days... most especially when on vacation and Michaeling. We first had so much fun spending some time in my MJ guest room where Susan was staying going through many of the MJ items I have collected before leaving on the journey. A day which started with so much joy quickly changed as we traveled slowly toward our destination. Our journey to Neverland this day was not my typical joyful adventure. Fear can squelch freedom of expression and inhibits fluidity. God tells us to be free of fear. I have worked very hard for many, many years to turn my fear into faith. Today I wander freely through life working hard to avoid the pitfalls of fear. It's still not an easy thing to do. On this journey to Neverland I found myself and Susan unwittingly at the mercy of someone else’s fears as another insisted on driving. Preferably I'd have rather been lost anytime than ever endure this experience again. Never have I visited the gates of Neverland, Los Olivos and Solvang and not felt exhilaration, peace and joy except for this day. Let me just say this for the person out there who has never been to Neverland... who knows nothing about the lay of the land around Neverland; there are indeed back country roads and if you don’t know how to drive a country road I would suggest a bus, taxi or just let someone else drive. Yes Neverland is in the country far away from everything. That is why Michael loved it. There are far reaching rolling hills with animals and wild life, ranches with cows and horses and if you are afraid of such things this may not be the place for you. For me a trip to Neverland is also a time to stay late and take in Michael’s moon and millions of twinkling stars that Michael gazed and wished upon when he lived at Neverland. Why else go? Bring a jacket if you don’t want to be chilly in the summer night. Yes it is dark for the only lights are the lamps at the drive way and the stars and the moon above. The crickets chirp, the bull frogs ribbet and if a coyote’s howl frightens you to death, again this may not be the place for you. For me I LOVE it. I am comforted by the distant coyote’s howl, it energizes me. For me a walk in the dark on Mnt. Figureroa Rd. while looking up at the stars and moon is like a spiritual journey. Also I must share with you if you are afraid of dirt and don’t like plants then Woeste nursery in Los Olivos down the road from Neverland is also not the place for you because after all it is a nursery, a plant nursery and there WILL be plants and dirt there, everywhere. For me it is like a fantasy wonderland.

Now after a long day, it was turning dark and we were very SLOWLY heading back from Solvang to the gates of Neverland before the next leg of our journey into Santa Barbara. I was pondering the absurdity of the day, and how it had been a very long time since I had felt hostage to fear, as we were driving back on Mnt. Figueroa Rd. when suddenly there was a baby calf in the road. We swerved almost hitting it then just kept going. I was shocked and sat up in my seat turning to look back, openly asking “How do you think it got loose? Maybe we need to go back.” My question was stonewalled with absolute refusal to stop the car in the dark on a country road. The driver not giving a hoot about the calf or the fact that any other cars might possibly hit it, or that someone could be hurt. Susan was beside herself with concern about the little calf. It looked so frightened. We pleaded to turn around to help the calf but there was no reasoning with her. We went on to the gates of Neverland but all joy was gone, only disappointment and shock in it’s place. Only Susan and myself emerged from the car for any length of time to take in the gates and the night sky. It was barely dark and the stars were not fully visible but soon I was the only one taking in the view. She wanted to leave for the night. I sat on the stone wall at the gates and looked up at the stars wondering what parallel universe I had stepped into this day. Susan who is a huge animal lover could not get the worry over the baby calf out of her mind. We were all so miserable at this point that we loaded into the car to drive on down to Santa Barbara. On the way again we saw the baby calf... or as our fearful driver put it “It’s just a cow. It’s fine.” All I could see was a dead cow, or dead calf, if someone didn’t intervene in some way so we again begged for her to stop. Finally she begrudgingly stopped and Susan and myself piled out of the car. I immediately found a phone number on a near by fence and began calling the number hoping to arouse someone to gather up their livestock. Susan on the other hand went directly to the baby calf and began shusshing it gently along the road disappearing into the dark up over the bend. The driver of our car began to scream out the door “Get In the car!!! NOW!!” while gunning the engine and pretending to leave. I was shocked to say the least and by that time was also on the phone with another friend we were planning on meeting up with. Our plan had been to meet around midnight. Those plans now scratched as well. Something else to remember when Michaeling is that very few nights end early as there is no time in Michael land. In any event by this time all I could say to my friend on the phone was “Oh the joys of MJ fan drama. I have Susan saving a cow and another screaming at the top of her lungs demanding we get in the car.” I wondered for the life of me why she ever wanted to join in our adventure, was it just to play the part of the squasher of dreams? So with the screamer in the car vocalizing her total disregard for the calf and her passengers and the local phone call made to the neighbors I walked up the road to collect Susan and tell her we needed to get in the car or be left behind as our driver gunned her engine and threatened to leave us there on the road in the dark. She reluctantly acquiesced as her mission was incomplete. It was a VERY long, SLOW, uncomfortable ride home. I was enormously relieved to finally see my house, walk through the door and close it behind me on this day. One more time realizing you never really know someone until jealousy and fear looms it’s ugly head in your life. Thank God for positive choices in life and the freedom to close doors.

So very happy to be home, I literally closed the door behind me, turned looked at Susan and in one accord we simultaneously gasped, “OH MY GOD!” Then the relaxed laughter and easy flow immediately returned. It was like night and day. We stayed up that night unable to sleep watching MJ videos and talking about the day and Michael; however neither of us could shake the memory of that poor frightened little calf. The last we knew the calf had run along the road and the last sound Susan heard in the murky blackness of the night was the clinking of chicken wire and much skidding and scuffling. We had no way of knowing if the calf was ok or if it was entangled in a ditch snagged in chicken wire. I looked at her and said... “SO why not go back in the morning? Let’s go back to NEVERLAND! There is no way you are going back to the UK with just ‘that’ Neverland experience under you belt!”

So we drove back to Neverland the next morning. This trip was the opposite of the previous day. The sky was blue and bright, the drive moved along at a quick clip, MJ serenaded us the whole way and soon we arrived at Mnt. Figueroa Rd. to check on the wayward calf. It seemed to be a week full of animals of all sort. As we traversed the road in search of the calf we saw Muscles in the road and swerved to miss him. In this case we were not about to save the snake as he was on his way to where ever he needed to be with his belly full of what looked to be a small mouse or some other meal. Then happily we spotted the calf. He was back behind the chicken wire fence where Susan had shooed him and now standing under a tree with his mum and dad and also two friendly donkeys. Clearly we could see where he had gotten out. We attempted to cinch up the chicken wire to no avail so decided to seek out the owners of the ranch. Susan being from England approaches easily and bound out of the car to knock on doors. I on the other hand being from L.A was a bit apprehensive and in the end regretted letting her go door knocking alone while I sat as the get away driver. We were directed to a ranch who as it turned out was Michael’s immediate neighbor and the very home of the Milk Money Cows Michael leased his land to for grazing money. Susan climbed the porch stairs and knocked, sitting just inside beyond the screen door at a desk a gruff voice responded “Yes. What can I do for you?” Susan looked into a face of a David Nordahl looking mountain man with a scruffy long beard and wild lumber jack way about him and explained about the calf escaping the night before and he said he would send someone down to mend the fence. Our job done on behalf of the calf we felt relieved the little guy would now be safe and moved on not much farther up the road to the gates of Neverland. We parked under the giant old oak that stands sentry at the gates, it’s bark riddled with wood pecker holes. A blue jay perched up in the branches of the old Oak lit down to the split rail fence to say hello. A lizard skittered out and posed for a picture. We seemed to draw animals at every turn this trip. It may have been Susan’s Dr. Doo Little personality. My cats simply loved her as well.

 This return trip to Neverland Valley as it turned out was a perfect blessing because Young’s Art Gallery was open this day and we were able to spend time visiting with Ralph. It was fun to watch and listen as he entertained Susan with stories about Michael’s love of art and his visits to the shop. Then we moved on to Woeste nursery once again and spotted some wonderful new items on display that had just been delivered that morning. It was an amazing ‘Do Over’ at every turn. Moving on into Solvang we ran into a wonderful lady who knew Michael and whose children had been to Neverland many times. She shared heartwarming stories about Michael’s visits to Solvang stores and other local areas. The love in her heart and deep admiration of Michael was so evident. We clearly connected and again it was so comforting to know Michael was loved and appreciated by his neighbors. Along this part of the journey in Solvang we also saw a beautiful momma deer and her twin fawns. They were swift but I managed to capture one in a picture.

After feeling fully saturated with all things Michael in Solvang and with it now truly dark enough out to see the stars crystal clear we returned to the gates of Neverland for a real visit where we listened to the same night sounds that Michael listened to and looked up into the night sky at the same stars and moon Michael gazed at. We were taking our time at the gates when suddenly there was much activity inside the gates, security walkie talkies were buzzing. Perimeter and building checks were being done. Security was on high alert this night. We stayed for a while at the gate and under the Oak and then returned to our car where we sat facing the property wondering what was going on. Then we noticed a long line of headlights. A long caravan of cars lined up with their head lights beaming out toward the gates seemingly waiting to leave Neverland. Still curious we got out of the car and approached the gates as all the cars began to leave. In the second car was Tom Barrack. He was very friendly, smiling and waving hello to us as he slowly drove by. After the excitement died down and all cars drove away, we stayed for a while longer, listening to the Neverland night sounds then made our way back home. The drive home that night was filled with Michael’s music and lots of free flowing conversation. Much to think about with the goings on at Neverland this night.

For the last day of Susan’s visit we had made reservations months in advance to visit Shambala where Michael’s big cats Thriller and Sabu now reside. They will have a home here for the rest of their lives. I had met spunky Tippi Hedren at Julien’s when the Thriller jacket was up for auction and had been really looking forward to this visit. There were many people visiting Shambala this day. There were three groups each assigned a tour guide with a megaphone. It’s a long day visit and you are invited to bring a picnic lunch to eat at tables set up by the man-made lake at the end of the tour. All food is gathered and kept back at the picnic ground before embarking on the tour through the facility. Each group has a tour guide, two to three docents and another staff member following along to keep visitors safe and to make sure they don’t wander away from main trail or reach over near cages which is totally understandable. These are wild animals not trained house pets. They can be very dangerous and I suppose sometime the humans do stupid things as well like trying to feed or pet them.

Thriller and Sabu are in a cage at the edge of the compound up against a hill, we were pleased to learn were also at the beginning of our particular part of the walking tour. Sadly our tour guide knew nothing about Thriller and Sabu and seemed to believe the hype of the media about Michael. He clearly didn't want to talk about or answer questions about Michael's big cats. He completely skipped over MJ’s cats and moved on to the other part of the tour. I controlled myself to a degree but finally had to speak out about how disappointing our tour was since we paid the $50 a person to see and learn about Michael Jackson’s cats. I had made it clear we were MJ fans coming to Shambala specifically to see Thriller and Sabu. It was confusing to me especially since Shambala’s promotional campaign for 2011 was using Michael Jackson’s cats to promote and bring in donations, yet our particular guide knew 'nothing' about these beautiful animals, seemed to not want to talk about the cats and quickly moved on to other cats where he then spent long amounts of time talking about each animal. Anyone who knows me knows this just wasn’t going to fly with me. Not to detract or negate from how beautiful the other cats are it seemed extremely insensitive, ignorant and prejudicial toward MJ to me. As the tour moved on away from MJ’s cats I became more and more frustrated and disappointed, moving toward the back of the group I quietly voiced my complaints to the docents to no avail. My words however did not completely fall on all deaf ears, they were heard by a facility staff member standing at the back of our group. This man was so kind, as I stood next to him he quietly offered information about Michael’s big cats and confided to me that he fed Thriller and Sabu every morning and threw the ball for them to play.

Finally someone who knew about MJ’s cats! He shared that Thriller was very aggressive with the food and was the ruler of the roost so to speak. Sabu the male cat was more laid back and would allow Thriller, the female cat, to eat the food first every time, then he would eat his food when she was done. I smiled and couldn't help but think, “What a gentleman” but I am sure it is more about being territorial. He pointed out that they had a portion of the lake in their cage and would play and lay in the water. There was also a giant ball and other toys for them to play with. Sabu was laying on top of what looked like a giant dog house type shed which had a hard plastic green awning type roof over it. Thriller was laying inside the shed. He said those were their normal places they lay at rest. That Thriller was always inside the little shed and Sabu on top, they had claimed their own spots and they most always laid in the same place. I asked about water for them to drink and he pointed out the large water bin that looked like a metal trash can hanging on the fence and said it is filled often. He explained that they were nocturnal and slept most of the day and became much more active at night and feeding time.

There is a replica of an African Safari tent with a wooden floor which is set up and furnished for over night stays for guests. It sits just adjacent to Thriller and Sabu’s cage and those who stay over night are entertained by their growls and the sounds of their night time antics as they prowl in their cage as well as all the other cats in the compound. Night time becomes very active at Shambala. I was surprised when after going through the rest of the tour we arrived at the gift store and were then taken back by our tour guide to Thriller and Sabu’s cage. It was then that he began to show just how unknowledgeable he was about Michael Jackson and his animals, much of what he began to tell us was media lies. Such as Michael abandoned all of his animals and fled the country. Susan and I quickly put him right about that and ended up sharing the truth with him about Michael on many things. In response he said he had no idea. I was shocked that he was allowed to share such things on this tour. They are all volunteers but to allow someone to talk in a negative way about Michael especially when they were using Thriller and Sabu as their promotional income for the year of 2011 was just terrible to me. After eating our lunch I approached other staff members and met a wonderful, kind lady who also takes care of Michael’s cats regularly. She was adamant that Michael NEVER abandoned his cats or any of his animals. There was a veterinarian in charge at Neverland and it was the same vet who brought Michael's cats to Shambala. She also shared how the video of Thriller doing the moon walk happened accidentally one morning while she was present as none of the cats are trained or perform in any way. She just happened to have a camera in her pocket that day and captured Thriller moving backward as if Moonwalking. At Shambala these big cats are allowed to live out their lives with no human pressure to be anything other than the natural wild cats that they are. Sadly these magnificent animals should be free in the wild but for these animals who were originally pets or zoo animals, such as Michael’s cats, this is a wonderful place for them to live comfortable safe lives. After lunch Tippi Hedren also gave a speech and signed books and met with visitors.

For Susan’s last night in Los Angeles we watched more MJ videos and shared until late. We continued easily talking the next morning on the way to the airport. I have driven to LAX more times than I can count but of course on this day I was talking and of course found myself completely lost. What better way to end this 10 day Michaeling tour? We laughed as I pulled into a strip mall, got out of the car and asked for directions. It wasn’t long before we found our destination, Virgin Airlines at LAX. It was sad saying good bye to Susan our hearts and lives now bonded. A lovely lady who will always be welcome in my home, in my MJ room.

She called me from the UK today to wish me a happy Christmas as I prepared to write this story and I was so pleased to tell her that among other wonderful amazing MJ presents that I received was GPS from my son and his girlfriend!!! Apparently the time I called my son at 5 a.m. on the morning of the first day of the Conrat Murderer trial convinced him I needed GPS. That morning I was once again in the dark of night, alone and lost in downtown Los Angeles. After dialing him I didn’t realize I had forgotten to hang up before he answered as I had come upon some bus drivers on the way to work who amiably gave me directions. He over heard my asking for directions and back and forth conversation with these friendly people as they directed me to Temple St. After I realized my phone was still on I just hung it up. I laughed when he called me back very curious and amused with the question, “Mom, For the Love of God where are you now and why?” Funny how roles change with our children. Somehow he wasn’t surprised my answer had to do with JUSTICE for Michael. I had a mission that morning to receive the sunflowers to hand out for the Call For Love Face Book group. My family has come to know and accept my Michaelness and the directionally challenged part of me as well.

So now to all my MJ friends who have been nagging at me about getting GPS, and my response has always been “maybe someday"... someday is here... now to learn how to use it.
A late Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year to everyone...
and of course Shamone! Happy Michaeling!


  1. Once again Betty I have been enthralled in your amazing journey. I always enjoy your stories. To think you have so many amazing MJ journeys. I dream one day that I might be lucky enough to experience these lovely things that you have been able to see. Things aren't always possible when you live so far away. Until then I will continue to read your journal of your travels. You have a way of wording it that makes me feel that I am right alongside you.
    Happy Michaeling.

  2. I wish to echo Darlene's sentiments and say what a pleasure it was to accompany you and Susan on your 10 day Michaeling trip. You brilliantly captured the authenticity of such a trip; the excitement, the disappointments and frustrations etc. I loved it and urge you to never stop sharing your Michaeling stories!

  3. Thank you Darlene and Karen. Happy you felt you were on the trip with us. :D Thank you for the encouraging words. God bless you both!

  4. What an adventure Betty! You're an awesome tour person. LOL It sounds like fun to get lost with you. There's alway's something to see and as long as you're getting lost with a friend, well, it can be fun. I'm so glad you both had a good time. Save that MJ room for me. One day I'll be there Betty. You should take pics of each geust you have in that room. If I ever come to California I would most like to see Holly Terrace, Neverland and Carolwood drive. I will be emotional I know. I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like. It seems only a dream for me. One that I hope comes true. Thank you for sharing this adventure Betty. - Love, Bonnie

  5. Yes Bonnie, You especially have a reservation in the MJ room. That is a great idea to take pics. Hmmmm now I need to invite them back so I can get the pic. LOL LOL