Saturday, July 7, 2012

Neverland by Air - June 2012

Nicky, Robyn and Rachael crammed into the red sardine capsule.

Once again I teamed up with my heli buddies Nicky and Rachael from the UK to take the heli flight over Neverland. God brought us together last year in the most wonderful way. Now this time we filled the car to the max and included Robyn and Gi for their heli flights as well. The energy in the car was electric, high energy and our journey consisted of many belly laughs as we crammed three grown women into the back seat of what might be considered nothing short of the Mercury space capsule astronaut placement procedure. Once crammed into your spot there you remained for take off and the duration of the flight. Snack and potty stops were long processes of extraction from the red sardine capsule. There is always the plus side to driving... my preferred spot in all Neverland adventures. However when driving you do miss out on the cell phone pics of Michael in concert.

Unusual for a June day the weather was cool greeting us with a clear bright blue Southern California sky. The temperature an absolutely perfect 76 degrees with a pleasant breeze. We all met at my house and gathered in the MJ Room for a quick pic. Then after car implant placement we began our journey via the adjacent valley. As we traveled through the local green bottom valley everyone enjoyed the view of the encompassing rolling hills now a yellow brown from a flash of recent summer heat. These beautiful hills surrounding the lush green of the agricultural valley always remind me of sand hills from God's playground sandbox. As if God's giant hand at the beginning of time scooped up sand and let it slowly trickle through the cracks of his fingers creating giant mounds.

Soon we emerged from God's valley and began our journey up the coast toward Neverland and Santa Ynez Valley. Here our eyes feasted on the blue Pacific beaches and horizon. As we drove I felt it the perfect place to play a CD of Michael's voice speaking. All the ladies became quiet as we were all mesmerized by his beautiful heart and amazing speaking voice. Most people, not true fans, always think of Michael with only the high pitched, shy, light and feathery voice which he did have; however these excerpts were of speeches with Michael's encouraging and enlightened regular speaking voice with his genius music as background. Tears were shed and heavy sighs were heard while we listened  traveling north with the gorgeous Pacific Ocean on the left and Michael's voice lifting us moving us onward.
Nicky and Rachael
We felt so blessed to take the spectacular flight over Neverland, for all of us our dream was coming true as we embarked on our journey. For the three original flight members especially poignant was our dream to relive our special moments from last year. The feeling of excitement was just as real. We all agreed the nerves of fear were not there for us this year. For Robyn and Gi there were definitely nerves for the unknown. Instead for us three a calm excitement came over us and we settled into the flight with certain objectives in mind. Our pilot for this journey was friendly, George.

We climbed on board, took up our same seats as last year and donned our headphones which shut out the sound of the loud engine and propellers and enabled us to listen to Michael's beautiful voice and also one another. In a flash George revved up the engine for take off, lifted the bird into the air, GPS set for NVR (Neverland). Still having a strong memory of the Giving Tree flashing before me and disappearing in an instant my main objective this flight was to see the Giving Tree closer and longer than last year. I had done my due diligence and knew exactly where this lovely ancient tree of Giving and LOVE for Michael proudly stands.

There was a feeling of calmness and focus this year and with my 'main objective' on my mind I decided not to take so many pictures but instead stay calm, drink in, just experience the journey. Heavy anticipation of where we were headed filled the cockpit as we whirred off over the Santa Ynez Valley looking down at horse ranches in full operation. George pointed out one in particular which gave us an over head view of horses practicing on a race track in a ranchers back yard. I wondered how does one get so involved in horses and racing horses they build their own race track? It was completely captivating. It's a different world in Santa Ynez than where I come from. Although beautiful and interesting my mind quickly left thoughts of the race track and horses as the heli moved on to our final destination. The low brown rolling hills and scrub brush seemed to stretch forever this year. The wind was much stronger this trip and I felt a bit of trepidation at times; however I had complete trust in George's flying abilities as Channel Islands Helicopters flies many flights out over the ocean and through much rougher winds on a regular basis. This was a piece of cake for George and he was unflappable, calm, cool as a cucumber even in the heat from the sun that was bearing down on us through the front window. I learned from George there is no UV protection in the glass of the heli so sun screen is advisable. Like kids anticipating Christmas the winds felt as though they were pressing against us, holding us back from our destination. We forged on through the wind toward Neverland. On this year's journey to Michael's haven we came upon Neverland from a different direction than last year so our first look on Michael's oasis this time was a tiny patch of green hidden behind some low hills with water gushing high from the fountains. I missed it at first as in my memory it was so much larger. Then narrowed in my sight on the beautiful, emerald, green hideaway as it became larger and larger in my view. At first we were shown a very high aerial view of the entire ranch and then circled lower and lower.  It was just as it was last year. The grounds are pristine, lush and restored. I learned from the pilot that the fountains in the lake are not always turned on but were gushing beautifully just for the MJ fans during the heli flights in June.  For me this is not only a nod from Tom Barrack to MJ's fans but also a sign of hope for the future of Neverland.

Informing George the previous year I was able to only see the Giving Tree for a second or two and that I 'NEEDED' to see it up close on this journey he determined to help us garner a close up view. He did not fail us. In doing my research I'd located exactly where we needed to fly this time and gave him the location. He knew exactly where we were headed and wasted no time getting us there. This time around we went very low and zoomed in for the Giving Tree... right there at the end of the bridge on the right. As we went lower and lower and came up on the bridge I searched for the circular white cement border that creates the ground crown of the Giving Tree's base. Then I spotted it! There it was... right there. The only living thing left that Michael loved still residing at Neverland. I wondered what stories this tree could tell if trees could talk. It's big branches larger than the others there in that area. The branches were full of leaves and there just behind it was the house. I tried to see Michael's bedroom which lay just beyond the Giving Tree but the tree canopy would not allow that view. My mission was fulfilled so for the rest of the journey I relaxed into the flight and enjoyed the view of the train station, award house, theater, pool, game room, zoo, amusement park pads and much, much more. One thing that stood out is that all is intact and restored. Even the empty aviaries look wonderfully kept. I wish now I had taken more pictures but the above pics give a general area of the Giving Tree thanks to Rachael. I literally put down my camera and just drank in every aspect of the flight I possibly could. The grounds are pristine and beautiful just as Michael would have kept them; albeit less flowers and less bronze statues as most are in storage. The Train Station beautifully manicured and from what I could tell the clock is working.

 No matter how much I love to see the beauty of Michael's beloved sanctuary before my eyes there is always the missing which looms. First it's the missing rides and animals then of course inevitably it's the huge clanging bell... Michael forever missed. Michael is what made Neverland magical... without him there we only have remembrance. It's always such a roller coaster of emotion from the high peaks of joy, the anticipation of the laying eyes on Neverland, to the bittersweet and sad reality. This heli ride always brings home an even deeper realization Michael was forced by evil to leave his beloved, sweet and healing Neverland. The end result was all that happened to him in the following years. It was here when they raided Neverland like raging Klu Klux Klan Gestapo that Michael's last days were numbered. These men who committed such selfish, bigoted actions were in the end responsible for stopping the flow of LOVE and healing the world's children received from Michael Jackson. How many more thousands or millions of children and people would have been helped by sweet Michael's altruistic giving heart had this evil been aborted for truth.

This time as I gazed out over the green landscape I pictured the masses of squealing children flooding through the gates. Those who visited and whose lives were changed for the better by Michael Jackson's LOVE and giving, wondering how can people be so evil, so cruel? All so utterly beyond my imaginings or comprehension. Yet still it is happening, still I see it in the MJ community as I watch people use MJ's name for monetary gain and personal notoriety. It makes me ill. I forced the sadness away wishing with all that was in me that I could turn back time and bring Michael back so I could tell him how much I admired and respected him for all he did for mankind.

We continued to fly in a circular pattern over Neverland and the mixed emotions that filled me on this trip left me still, quiet and sad. I forced a smile as tears filled my eyes. I didn't want to cry and blur my vision unable to take in the precious view. I wished the flight to last forever or better yet that we could just land in that clearing by the lake, please. Like all things Michael there is so much sweet, incredible beauty mixed with so much bittersweet sadness and ugliness. I tried hard to focus on the beauty as we flew one last time over Neverland high into the air for a final view of the entire ranch.

We made incidental small talk with the pilot on the ride back to the airport. I left a part of my heart over Neverland the year before and another piece on this day once again... there... with Michael. I truly believe he would have done something with his beloved Neverland. The fact is although he was so deeply hurt he never sold the ranch. He was in need of money and never sold it. He stored away his beautiful personally hand painted carrousel and Katherine Train, the furniture and all the bronze statues. Who does that unless you are saving it for some day in the future? He stopped the auction which had all his items from Neverland up for sale and demanded them back. He was very hurt as anyone would have been with the unbelievable Gestapo type violation of his privacy and the torment and torture of the trial. Anyone would be... but I believe Michael was healing and regaining his strength and making many plans. It is my belief that he had plans to return to Neverland in some way. It is my hope that Neverland will finally in some way be used to honor Michael and help children once again... fulfill his wish to help the children and heal the world. Michael always thought big and this is my big dream for Neverland.

Josh leading Prakash, Robyn and Gi to the heli
We landed at the airport as smooth as butter once again. It always surprises me how incredibly smooth the helicopter flies and lands. We thanked our pilot and made our way off the tarmac. As we disembarked Robyn, Gi and Prakash were led by Josh out to the tarmac to board for their flight. They were so very nervous and filled with anticipation they were unable to talk or respond as they stared straight ahead toward the heli. We returned to the airport grassy area and main building to wait for their return and met many other beautiful fans who we have come to know via Face Book. I smile now when I think how beyond excited some were thinking they could not take the flight but at the last minute purchased a seat enabling them to create Neverland Michaeling memories for a lifetime. It wasn't long before Robyn, Gi and Prakash landed, their faces glowing upon return completely changed filled with the enchantment of all that is now Neverland today.

Nicky, Rachael, me, Mikki, Carla, Kim, Hillary, Susan, Anne
For more pics and details about Neverland Flyover see my blog post
"Neverland by Air - June 2011"

For me once again a partial dream come true. The rest of that dream will be one day fulfilled when I walk the grounds of Neverland and hear children laughing and squealing as they climb on amusement rides. The light can't fade! I remember as a small child watching Mary Martin playing Peter Pan on T.V. as Tinker Bell's light began to dwindle, her life slowly beginning to fade she urged all the children of the world to clap and wish her back to life. Just like then when I willed Tinker Bell to live by clapping my hands and exclaiming with all my heart, "I do Believe! I do Believe!" Neverland will live again... "I do Believe! I do Believe!" For Michael's sake... to honor Michael... I Do Believe Neverland Will Live again because LOVE never dies. Are you listening out there... LOVE NEVER DIES! Neverland needs to be completely restored the way it was when Michael lived there. We have nothing else that could honor Michael and Michael's legacy in such a perfect way. As Michael said, "Neverland is the totality of all that I am." Michael's true essence was helping and healing hurting and needy children. I pray one day someone(s) can and will make this happen for Michael again.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.  ~ Albert Einstein


Mount Katherine as seen from a road up above Neverland
Pic credit to Monalisa Jackson (Olivia)

For all those coming to Southern California and are interested in taking the Neverland Heli Flyover.... Channel Islands Heli is no longer in business. At this point in time there are no more flights with this company or any other heli companies in the Santa Ynez area. As I shared in June... sadly those flights were the last flights.

1 comment:

  1. Betty, thank you for taking the time to share this with the fans. You all looked like you had so much fun. Bittersweet moment if you will. I look forward to one day joining you. I absolutely love the picture of you all laying down under the Santa Ynez Airport sign. So cute! - Love Bonnie