how'd elvis get so big?


unlike most people, i was never a big michael jackson fan. i didn't get the appeal, and i didn't get all crazy over his dance moves the way most people did. i remember watching him on mtv as a kid. my uncle mike said, "watch! he's gonna grab himself. there's nothing there." i didn't really understand what uncle mike was talking about. was he implying that michael jackson lacked genitalia, the way a department store mannequin did? i waited for the moment with great anticipation. michael grabbed his crotch. "bastos!" my mom would say, tagalog for "nasty." i was kind of let down. it wasn't controversial or cool or anything. madonna with the cone bra, now i could see how that could be controversial.

i didn't get michael jackson the same way i didn't get elvis. i remember hearing about how elvis died, taking a dump and all. sometimes, i thought about elvis taking a dump while eating a peanut butter sandwich, but i don't think that's how he went. i think i confused that image with myself eating a sandwich on the toilet when i was five, or else mistaking elvis with the way mama cass elliot died, choking to death on a hoagie. every time my mom caught me eating something while lying down, she'd warn me. "mamas and the papas," she'd say, and somehow, i'd always know exactly what she was talking about.

so no, i don't think the king was eating anything when he died on the throne. all those anti-materialist counter-culture loonies always talked about how his death was such a perfect metaphor for our doomed culture. we americans are on top of the world, we're so popular, and then we're just gonna eat everything up and cease to exist when we use up all our resources. there was an elvis special on television once, the kind they always play when it's his birthday, january 8. they were probably showing some concert, or else blue hawaii or something. i turned to my cousin, and i asked, "how'd elvis get so big?" he laughed, pointing out the absurdity of my question. "how'd elvis get so big?" he repeated. "he's the king."

but honestly, i didn't get it. he shook his hips, and he drove all the women wild. my mom would always tell me when it was his birthday. as good catholics, we'd observe the epiphany of the three kings, january 6, and then two days later, the king's birthday. i think my dad loved elvis more than my mom. i think that, as children, both of them listened to a whole lot of elvis. but all his movies were shit, the hip gyrations were lame, and the dazzling outfits and utter arrogance (and later, i would learn, blatant racism) were just too much for me. i hated elvis.

i didn't hate michael jackson. i just didn't get it. my college roommate, tony meatballs, was obsessed with michael jackson. there was a period where he would watch all of michael's videos, michael jackson concerts, even pepsi commercials that featured michael jackson. it got to the point where i even had to tell him, "okay, no michael jackson when i'm here." he'd put on his headphones and watch the king of pop for hours on end. i had to ask him, "why are you so into michael jackson?" tony would respond, "i don't know, man. the man can sing. the man can dance. he can do it all!" i'd shake my head in disgust.

because both meagan and tony meatballs were such big michael jackson fans, we had john tape the exclusive two hour interview that aired in 2003. all i remember from that interview was michael climbing up a tree and the reporter just shooting him confused looks. the reporter couldn't understand why michael couldn't just be an adult, why he couldn't just have a normal job and be miserable like everybody else. i thought the reporter came across as a real condescending asshole. michael made a fool of himself, though, saying that he only had two nose jobs "that [he] could remember." and when asked about his drastic overall physical transformation, he simply attributed this to "adolescence." "it's called 'changing,' it's called 'adolescence,'" he said.

michael jackson died today. my co-worker, emily, and i were watching the story unfold on cnn. i told her about my cousin and how he kept hitting the "refresh" button on his browser the day anna nicole smith died. i told her he'd hit refresh, and it would say anna nicole smith was rushed to the hospital. he'd hit refresh, and it would say anna nicole smith was in terrible condition. he'd hit refresh, and she was dead. that's essentially what we did today. we were rubbernecking on the internet superhighway. people tweeted his death even before it became official. the trending topics were: michael jackson, rip michael jackson, p michael jackson, thriller, #michaeljackson, cardiac arrest, and the list went on.

i had a huge grin on my face all afternoon. i was smiling to myself at how sick we were, joking about how we were just waiting for the actual death to be confirmed. "it's so sad," stacey said, but she didn't really look sad. she had more of a mock-frown expression on her face. i thought about how strong his presence had been in our culture. like tim and david brent doing his dance moves on the bbc version of the office. and screech wearing the black suit and white glove. and the thriller dance that filipino prisoners performed, and that jennifer garner's character performed on 13 going on 30. he played a large role in shaping our culture, but no one in the office was really that sad about it.

i think i will be more emotionally distraught when steve perry goes.

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