Bittersweet June... a time of reflection. This seems to never change... like the peeling of the layers on an onion different levels appear as the years tick by without MJ here on earth with us. Seems odd to some, who haven’t taken the time to know Michael Jackson, that so many around the world still love him so deeply but to us who have delved into this most interesting and beautiful man’s life and work... who are inspired by the life he led... who have embraced him, his philanthropic heart and his musical artistry deep in our own hearts... to those of us who live his music and his words... it makes perfect sense.
I have tried to shake this feeling about Michael... telling myself, “It’s been four years now. It’s time to let go... time to move on.” Sometimes even hoping for a personal Cher, “Snap Out of IT!” slap moment. Yet it never comes... Michael is deep in my heart and soul. So even if I left the MJ fan community as I’ve come to live it since his death, Michael’s inspiration would still be in my heart and life forever... in a way he never was before. God has placed me on this path and opened my eyes to so much. Sadly, the bittersweet fact is that my life is changed for the better because of Michael Jackson’s death. It is so like Michael Jackson to keep giving good out into the world even in death.
The thread of love continues to grow. Every year I’m blessed and honored to meet more and more beautiful people because of Michael Jackson. The LOVE for Michael keeps him ‘alive.' The LOVE from Michael continues to grow, weaving an invisible golden-threaded tapestry around the globe, connecting hearts, lives and people everyday. In spite of the evil which tried to destroy Michael and continues to dish it’s twisted sorted $$ lies to the mindless public what has become so very clear is that LOVE rises to the top. All the rest... is meaningless. The true man... the beautiful soul God created and filled with more talent than seemed humanly possible for one person will prove to be the Michael that the world will long remember.
This year’s June anniversary, this entire year, was especially difficult for me. This is why I haven’t written much of anything for my blog in quite awhile... the emotions out weighed the words until today. I truly wondered if God had taken the desire to write from me. Physically and emotionally I was not up to the celebrations. Everyday was like, “Draggin’ yourself out of bed” as MJ said to Michael Bearden in regard to the music for Smooth Criminal in TII. Many events, many fans coming into Los Angeles from all over the world filled everyone’s schedules full and for me resulted in a schedule with events and plans for 13 days straight and no energy to carry them out. Although I must say the joy of meeting sweet friends was like a wash of cool, ocean waves over the pervasive shroud of gray covering my heart. Embracing those in person that I’ve only known via Face Book is a joyful tonic like no other. The only time I ever felt truly free of the heaviness was in the occasional embrace of beautiful friends or when surrounded by MJ’s music and voice at Westlake Studios and during musical sensory immersion at the Cirque MJ One show and after party in Vegas. It was in these moments alone when the long fingers of MJ’s affirming, life giving music literally wrapped a healing touch around my lagging spirit... filling me with joy.
I realize now why MJ separated himself from his family and the world and spent long amounts of time dancing, singing and literally completely absorbed in his craft. Transforming, uplifting, spiritual music brings joyful, invigorating life and all the worries of life are left behind. No one can touch those moments... or take them away... they are God given. He shared those moments with us, the world, the intimate time of healing with the creator of his gift of music, art and dance. There are many spiritual Christian hymns that make me feel the same way, which bring spiritual healing. In these moments the Spirit of God lives in the notes and words. They too are a God given blessing... anointed. Yes, Michael was anointed predestined by God to share his gift of artistry with the world in a way no one had ever done before. As Michael himself said many times... his musical creations were from God. He never failed to point to God as his source. I believe this is why his music continues to lift and heal the hearts of so many.
Yes this June the schedule was packed; however there was one event that I looked very forward to and knew I wouldn’t miss if humanly possible... most especially if God was on our side. I didn’t know how I could help or how it would unfold but I love those type of plans. If it’s God’s will... it will happen... do the foot work and God’s puzzle pieces all fall into place. We should all live every day that way.
I was first approached by Mark in April, 2013 in a private message asking if I could assist with his plans. He and his girlfriend, a dear friend of mine, Rachael, were traveling in June to Los Angeles for Michael’s anniversary and he had very special, secret plans for her. It was clear he had thought a great deal about what he was sharing with me. I could feel the nervous excitement and anticipation in his request. I was happily and obligingly sworn to secrecy.
Mark and Rachael, a simply beautiful couple, had met many years ago brought together by their love of Michael Jackson in London as MJ fans. They both attended MJ fan rallies and concerts. Rachael was a strong defender of Michael and Soldier of LOVE, as was Mark, a huge MJ fan and a very artistic, talented dancer as well. Michael brought them together; however life separated them. Michael’s loss brought them back together again reconnected in a new and wonderful way. What is so amazing still to me is how Michael’s LOVE grows daily in the most touching, unexpected ways.
Mark has an unmistakeable spirit of appreciation for others rarely seen in today's world. He exudes gentle charm filled with genuine politeness. Not only is he outwardly handsome and beautiful his humble, considerate spirit warms your heart, bringing grounding consistency, lighting up any situation. His deeply engrained trait of steadfast caring and affability is a true treasure. This runs deep in his soul as his bright, white smile beams forth with genuine, heartfelt tenderness. God has gifted him also with the heart of a helper. He shows sincere caring always alert to the needs of others, jumping in to help without being asked. A ‘man’s man’ as they say and also 'woman’s man' too as is evident in the gentle way he treats Rachael and her children. Deeply artistic he thrives on expression through dance and music... thus his love of Michael... his inspiration. He too has had his share of troubles in his life... but as I’ve said LOVE rises to the top. Mark is just that... Top Notch... the cream of the crop. His outward charm and handsome features only grow stronger as you get to know the caring and genuinely kind man inside. Mark's eyes reveal a lovingly, strong and steadfast giving spirit ... so unmistakably Mike Like.
Rachael is a sweet, enchanting, gentle soul. Her sweet, heady laughter and youthful spirit are in complete opposition to her strong determined nature. She is a force to be reckoned with when she sets her mind to something. She is beautiful and quirky and wonderfully unique. God broke the mold with Rachael. She surprises me every year on her visits to the U.S. from the UK. Her love for her children, family and MJ run very deep in her veins. They are her life blood. Even at first look there is no mistaking her unique, natural, artistic expressiveness. A woman who wears her heart on her sleeve in the most childlike attractive way taking Michael’s love of Peter Pan to heart in her life. Her outward beauty and look of youthfulness are misleading to her age. She has also had her share of pain in this life... however again LOVE rises to the top. Rachael is a survivor and I can identify with her so well... I love her... she is my dear friend. It’s easy to see why Mark has fallen helplessly in love with her as well. They are simply the most gorgeous couple. A perfect match. I am elated for both of them, so blessed to know them and be a part of their lives. I feel like family with them, their protective big sister ready to move mountains for them if need be.
So it was... on the morning of June 23rd that I gathered festive libations for the day and drove to pick up the MJ crew for the drive to the Neverland Flyover 2013. As with most of my plans during June this day's schedule morphed and grew a life of it’s own. I originally was driving four of us; however the group happily and without too much added effort easily grew to seven. If there is anything I have learned while Michaeling it's ‘Let Go and Let God’, schedules are just made to be laughed at and there is always room for one more... well... until you run out of seat belts.
|Very Mike Like Bronze sculpture found on Ventura Blvd.|
|Marcela and Rachel at Hayvenhurst gate|
|Susan at Hayvenhurst gate|
No matter the shift in plans at every turn I kept in the back of my mind Mark’s request. Knowing it was of the highest priority... above all else I had a mission... a quest to get him and my lovely, unsuspecting friend, Rachael, to the gates of Neverland by dusk. Michael’s favorite time of day. Rachael had no clue of any plans, as far as she knew she was the one taking Mark on a very special first helicopter ride over Neverland and to visit the Neverland gates for the first time. Little did she know what was in store.
First on the loose agenda was the Heli Flyover, each of us set to fly in groups of three on our flights. Our scheduled time was ticking by closer and closer as traffic held us up. We stressfully forged through bumper to bumper L.A. freeway traffic. It seemed everyone in L.A. and the San Fernando Valley had decided to go to Ventura Beach via the 101 Freeway on this lazy overcast Saturday. I affirmed to myself and out loud to others that everything happens for a reason and took long slow breaths to try to relax against the time crunch. Finally in Ventura literally hundreds of cars lined up to get off the freeway for a day at the beach. Breathing a very large sigh of relief that I wasn’t one of them on that crowded beach the road opened up and we flew by them all on toward our destination, Santa Ynez Airport.
We could relax now moving more easily with the flow of open road. As we looked to the left ocean waves lazily washed upon the sandy shore under the overhang of misty clouds. The sky still overcast was a good sign that our hold up was for a purpose. Heli flights in cloudy weather are not as mesmerizing and afternoon skies over Neverland are usually always clear in the summer.
At a certain point in the journey with the vast horizon on our left stretching seemingly forever out over the deep Pacific I like to listen to a CD a friend of mine made of Michael talking. His beautiful speaking voice in a collection of speech excerpts, amidst a back drop of several of his songs. Susan popped it in and Michael’s voice filled the car. As usual it was very emotional, touching each person’s heart in a very personal way... resulting in very few dry eyes. No matter how many times I listen to his voice on this journey along the shore somehow it always has the same effect on me. Always it seems the perfect place to listen to his inspirational words. Those words that encourage each of us to bring just a little more LOVE into this world.
For many in the car this was their first Neverland Flyover. It is always so exciting to watch the bliss and euphoria on the faces of the flying new-bees. For me this was my third flyover and although I knew what to expect it was as always just as magical the third time as the first.
|Basket Ball Court Neverland Logo |
Pic not from flyover - credit unknown - night picture in Fall
Each flight over Neverland I have searched for something special. The first flight spotting and discovering the Memorbilia House on the hill where Michael kept many of his honors, plaques, gold records and award statues. He didn’t like to keep them in the main house so he stored them in this three bedroom, ranch house on Neverland property as well as many other warehouses. The second flight gifted me with the close up sighting of the spectacular Giving Tree. I will never forget it, sitting so stately at the end of the bridge and spotting Michael’s platform which still remains snug in it’s branches. This flight, the third flight, my desire was to spot the Neverland Basketball Court with the Neverland logo of the little boy sitting on a crescent moon painted on the court. We flew over the property three times peering down into Michael’s magical world. Sadly the rides are gone but the grounds are pristine, restored as if waiting for their return one day. The fountains were not on for this flight as they had been the previous year yet the lake was just as beautiful and enchanting. I also had a deeper feeling of sadness this time that I have not felt previously... there it was again that shroud of gray. Shaking it off I continued intently searching for the basketball court to no avail. Finally letting the gray take over I settled into acceptance this time may not result in my discovery of a new special Michael place at Neverland. Quite possibly it was hidden by trees around the house area. Then just as I decided to enjoy the rest of the ride unfettered... no sooner than I’d surrendered the search... there it was! Right there before my eyes protected from the afternoon sun... the basketball court lay just nestled up against a wall protected from the afternoon sun... which might explain why the logo is still in such terrific shape, unless it’s also been restored as so much of Neverland has been. It was hard to tell which... but there it sat just along the road leading out to the rides and the petting zoo. It was much further from the main house than I had anticipated. Joyfully I realized I had been looking in the wrong place. Yet before the flight was over, and those flights seem to always never be long enough, we never want them to end, right there like a gift out of no where... it lay before my eyes. I could see Michael playing around down there... in my minds eye... and wondered how many times Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant or Mike Tyson or any of Michael’s other friends or cousins played around on that court with him. My mind drifted thinking about how incredibly giving and generous Michael was with his precious home, Neverland. How notorious he was for letting his friends use and fully enjoy Neverland while he was away on tour or working. How many people allow others into their homes in such a way? No one I know... especially such an incredible home? Michael was generous to a fault... too trusting... too caring if there is such a thing... Michael was just that. Sadly it was just that amazing quality that opened his life and home up to greedy, users, liars and manipulators. Oh... if only we could turn back time...
For me at that point the Heli trip was complete. Settling in, no picture taking needed as I’d taken pictures on previous flights and just wanted to relax now, drink in the flight and view of Michael’s most beautiful, magical home of LOVE. I regret not capturing a pic of the basketball court. It all just went by too quickly. Neverland is truly such an incredibly gorgeous, enchanting oasis... there again comes that shroud of gray. If only things had been different Michael might still be living there today in the home he created. I wondered about his daughter, Paris, who is hospitalized and deeply misses her father... and if the world would ever leave Michael’s children alone long enough for them to live their lives and fully heal from the loss of their father. I wondered if they would ever move back to Neverland as I pictured them all happily playing on the grounds of Neverland together. All these thoughts circled in my mind and heart and with a heavy, ‘time will tell’ sigh... I surrendered it all to God in a silent prayer. All I know is that LOVE rises to the top.
Soon each of us, like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, had taken our joyful, magical flight in the clear blue sky over Neverland. Some were speechless as they tried to assimilate what they had just experienced. Some were giddy, talking away. I however was mostly quiet or talking to myself quietly about time management. Compartmentalizing as I knew 'dusk at the gates' was the end game plan... and I needed to make that happen for my dear friends.
Most definitely on my list of ‘To Do’ items was to show my band of merry men... errrr... ahhh... MJ friends... quaint Los Olivos with the flag pole literally in the center of town. The town down the road from Neverland where MJ had shopped and walked the streets so many times. Just as if planned that way it fit just perfectly with the 'gates at dusk' plan. Yes, God was in charge and it seemed to be falling into place. Not even an accidental bashing in of the license plate on the rent-a-car hindered us, as both Mark and I worked feverishly with the aid of the J. Woeste, Phillips-head, screw driver to pound it back into a flattened state. Smiling as we worked (well mostly Mark worked & I supervised) and conferring on the 'dusk at the gates' plans... we both looked at one another not knowing what was in store and shrugged. His nervousness did not seem to be assuaged by my, “You will know the right moment. God will show you.”
Like kids on an adventure we were all anxious to see the magic of J. Woeste Nursery. Although most had no idea what I was talking about when I attempted to explain where we were going... and after only a few words all that can really be said is, “You’ll see.” This magical escape truly fails description... a waste of breath really to even try. Only your eyes and senses can explain a trip here. I simply LOVE to see the look on the faces of those who enter these gates for the first time, to hear the astonished, gleeful gasp as they take in their first visual and sensual experience behind the gate as it opens and another world envelopes them. Thus here we enjoyed the late afternoon cool of the day, bathed in the warm, yellow-amber tones of the sun as it sank into the horizon of pale blue California sky. Here through this portal of fantastical escape from everyday normal life, surrounded by the winding paths of succulent heaven, we lost ourselves, strolling the seemingly endless enchanted paths, investigating every nook and cranny until finally emerging at the front gate where giant wind chimes hung in the ancient Eucalyptus tree. The heavenly sounds engulfing us as we posed for a group picture. Then with the license plate flattened and reattached, none the worse for wear, and a hearty, smiling, “Thank you!” to our host at J. Woeste we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from this fairyland, and set out into the quaint and quiet town of Los Olivos. Here we walked the country streets looking for a place to eat dinner. It was late and not much was open as Los Olivos rolls up it’s welcome mats early everyday even on the weekends; however we were blessed to find a coffee house with minutes to spare before the registers closed. They were still serving a light dinner of small personal pizza and soda. Most everyone decided to try Root Beer and the reactions were very funny. Some not liking it so much and wondering who would ever want to drink that stuff? Some feeling it was a great U.S. treat reveling in getting their hands on an ice cold bottle of the rich brown beverage. With dinner complete and unbeknownst to most in the car enough time was purposely passed to just make a slow drive down the road to arrive just before dusk at the gates. We all situated ourselves back into the SUV and moved on down Figueroa Mountain Rd., Michael’s road to Neverland...
just there... the second star to the right.
Upon arrival at the gates the merry band piled out of the car to the sounds of, “Oh my God... we’re here! We are actually here! I can’t believe I’m actually here at Michael’s Neverland gates!”
So I urgently waved for them to return to the gates and swiftly confided my secret to Marcela and sent her scurrying down the road with Susan to gather them both back to the gates. At their urging Mark escorted Rachael back to the gates trying not to answer her many questions about why. The gates opened and I led Rachael forward. Mark stepped inside looking VERY apprehensive as if he was experiencing an out of body surreal like state. I thought maybe he was going to need to pinch himself at any moment to see if he was dreaming. Rachael excitedly asked me, “What is happening? I don’t understand. What is going on?” I gently guided her by the arm calmly saying, “Shhhh... it’s ok... this is for you.” Nodding yes and directing her inside, “This is all for you. Step inside.” There just inside the gates Mark gently, lightly pulled her by the hand to him, then retrieved the ring box from of his pants pocket where it had been safely hidden all day. Here in this moment, this place and time with the giant Sycamores and ancient graceful California Oaks that have witnessed centuries of history on this land a silent hush fell over Neverland. The trees whispered a soothing song in the gentle breeze urging Mark forward. Everyone’s eyes were on him attentive, listening, no one breathing. Just listening intently to hear his words. He began to pour his heart out to her. His love overflowed... words overwhelmed him. He had told me so many times he needed to be on one knee when he proposed to her as he wanted desperately to fulfill her life long wish... yet at this very moment he seemed frozen. Rachael was shaking like a leaf in the wind unable to comprehend what was happening. Then in sudden realization as she saw the ring box she nervously laughed and chided him, “Well, get down on one knee.” Assuring her he smiled and dropped to one knee, opened the ring box which contained a very special ring especially engraved with "Neverland", looked into her eyes and found the words deep in his heart as he told her how much he loved her, ending with the words which completed the magic of the day, changing their lives, “Will you marry me?” He took a huge breath as she said, “YES! YES!” Then he slid the ring onto her finger and they kissed. Everyone even those not in our group were watching and enjoying the amazing moment. It was magical, memorable and so incredibly beautiful! The very first proposal at Neverland gates. Yes... God always makes a way and LOVE always rises to the top!
|Of course there is one red rose in full bloom!|
Pictures were snapped and much joyous celebration took place as I pulled the chilled champagne from the ice chest and laid out crackers and cheese and fruit plates. The happy couple made a special engagement toast with my family’s special silver goblets that have been used for several generations of marital and anniversary celebratory toasting. It seemed appropriate for them to use them as I feel they are so much a part of my family now, my sister, my brother. Champagne and raspberries and special pics together at Michael’s front gate just at dusk when the light is so special.
Yes... Michael’s magical, favorite time of the day... the perfect setting for engagement pictures.
Our loose plan was to wait until dark to view the Super Moon. To see the view Michael would have seen from his property in this corner of the earth. On this particular night coincidentally, of all nights, the Moon was the closest to earth. The biggest and brightest moon of the entire year. A Moonwalker, special engagement gift to this very special couple. However just like most of my plans... this one morphed as well. This night, the Super Moon night, most unusual for summer it was an extra breezy, very cool night which delivered a layer of foggy, low clouds not normally seen so far inland during June. As a result we couldn’t see the moon at all. However it didn’t dampen our spirits after a very beautiful, fulfilling day. By this time I could finally take a deep breath. I had completed my main mission for my sweet friends, now able to just relax before the adventures of what would be a hectic coming week filled with many MJ events. However for now things were calm... I reveled in the glow on the faces of all my friends. Thanking God to be apart of this special day. Yes for me the most important mission was now over. She said, “YES!” Mark and Rachael were simply beaming... clearly floating in a world all their own. Mark had given her the most memorable proposal any MJ fan could ever want... a day they will both cherish For All Time.
Yes again Michael’s wish coming true... his wish that all men and women would be united in LOVE on this planet. In our MJ community which wraps its loving arms around this globe this happens every single day. For those of my friends who don’t understand why I can’t give up my Michaeling and MJ celebrations... or maybe just for that part of myself that wonders why... THIS is why... the awe and the wonder... and the LOVE. Here in this vehicle traveling south along the California 101 freeway with the Super Moon as our guiding light, shinning ever so bright over the Pacific I am at complete peace as I listen to the “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” and the joyous laughter and conversation of those in tow...
|Marcela, Rachel, Kathy, Mark & Rachael, me (Betty), Susan|
All but two of you I met in person for the first time this June yet felt I’d known you all for a lifetime. We are connected... we are bonded. God bless everyone of you and thank you for including me in your plans this year. Your open hearts and compassion helped lift the pesky shroud of gray in my life. A Big Thank You for sharing and gifting me with these moments and these adventures and a BIGGER congratulations to our engaged couple, Mark and Rachael. May your dreams all come true and may you be blessed with a beautiful life together.
I’ll be expecting an invite to the wedding... wink ;)