The weather in Seattle has been doing this false-spring thing that happens almost every February: for a week, maybe two, the days are suddenly glorious, sunny, with temperatures nearing 60 degrees. The branch tips of all the ornamental cherry trees on my block are misted in pink; random crocuses erupt from the lawn at Bagley Elementary. And everybody responds in pretty much the same time-honored way: by running around outside like ninnies, wearing as little clothing as possible. This ensures that everyone gets a good head cold going just in time for it to start raining again, which it will do until June.
But it isn't raining yet. This week I reaped another one of spring's rewards, when I pulled on a lightweight jacket I hadn't worn in nearly six months, put my hand in the pocket, and discovered both a cheap stretchy headband I'd been missing, and my favorite sunglasses, which I'd long assumed had been left in god only knows what coffee shop. Hurray! I hoped that maybe there'd be a forgotten $20 bill in the other pocket, but my luck did not extend quite that far. Oh well.
To take advantage of today's sun (and, no doubt, to bring the rain around forthwith), I went up to the coin-op car wash near my house, to give the Cherry Bomb a good scrubbing. The place was packed, nearly every stall full. The car wash backs onto a residential alley, and so there are multiple signs posted over the wax guns and vaccum hoses: No Loud Music. But that hadn't deterred the guy parked dead center at the vacuum island, all four doors open, blasting his album of choice: Thriller.
Oh, Thriller. The good old days, man, before Michael Jackson lost his entire mind. Just a couple weeks ago, Krispy pointed out to me that it's been 25 years since that album came out, a number that seems impossible. Likewise, I can't conceive of a pop-cultural moment that could so entirely capture the entire freaking planet today. At the height of Thriller's prominence, Mom, Sis, and I each had a copy--a cassette for the car, vinyl to be played indoors on the Good Stereo in the living room. My dad favored Eddie Van Halen's guitar licks on Beat It, and he labored in vain, for what seemed like years, to master the moonwalk. "Is this it? I'm doing it! Am I doing it?" he'd ask, shuffling backwards across the kitchen in his yellow work boots. (And...no, Dad. Sorry. That wasn't it. No, not that time either.) I remember when the Thriller video--puffing itself up a bit as a Short Film--premiered on MTV, a watershed event in itself, because Jackson was one of the first, if not the first, black artist to appear on the network. Yeah, go back and look at that sentence again; I typed it, I lived it, and it's unfathomably remote to me: MTV's Jim Crow period, coinciding with my lifetime. Anyway...MTV aired it every hour on the hour, for the first day or weekend or whatever...and I was incensed because we had to go visit my great aunt, and she didn't have anything as highfalutin' as cable. I missed three or four airings! My seventh-grade cool cred was suffering blow after blow!
So. Thriller at the car wash. Vincent Price rapped, and I couldn't see the other patrons in their respective car-wash cubbies, but...I can't have been the only one, I can't, to have been doing a little zombie shuffle-stomp, my sneakers slapping in the collected puddles of rinse-water and lime-green tire dressing as I wielded the foam brush.
We were up to Billie Jean, by the time I pulled alongside the guy by the vacuum station and set to work buffing with an old beach towel. Sadly, the buckled pavement did not light up underneath my feet, or his. Dude was taking his time, babying his car with about half a dozen bottles of different automotive unguents and potions at his feet. He was kind of a ridiculous specimen, on sight: tiger-striped (!) doo rag, mobile-phone ear bud hooked over his right ear. Not old enough, I don't think, to remember this album from the first time around. "Is my music too loud?" he asked me politely, and only now am I wondering if he asked me this because he thought I was old. Too old for loud, too old to jam.
"No--I love it!" I blurted helplessly. Quite the contrary, my ironic friend. It was taking everything I had not to outright shake my ass to the good old non-insane King of Pop, younger then than I am now. Yikes, man. It's all turned out quite a lot scarier than Quincy Jones ever anticipated, I expect. But oh, the memories. That album, raising the dead for the express purpose of getting down.