You Are Not Alone

Living in Portland, it is rare for me to ever be at the center of a media blitz or at the site of a significant cultural phenomenon. But this week I happen to be in Los Angeles. Last night, my friends and I decided to walk down Hollywood Boulevard in order to check out the shrine erected around Michael Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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As you get closer to the site, makeshift stores selling bootleg t-shirts begin to appear. The merchandise includes caps, tank tops, and sparkly gloves big enough to accommodate the hand of Sasquatch. The t-shirts themselves range from ripped-off imagery from the Phantom of the Opera (I suppose this makes it easier in terms of design) to montages of MJ at various states of plastic surgery to ones that make him look downright Presidential. And not to leave out any prospective buyers— there were baseball and ringer t's and discounted wife-beaters. At one point I saw a black SUV slow down and make a quick purchase from the car.

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The shrine itself consists of handwritten notes replete with the author's first and last name and where they're from, photocopied pictures of fans taken with MJ, poster boards displaying messages of peace and love, candles, flowers, and whatever other detritus deemed worthy of sacrifice. For instance, a plastic spoon.

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One of the more intense contributions was a floral arrangement that chose to acknowledge the deaths of David Carradine and Farrah Fawcett as well. What, no Ed McMahon?

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With Jackson's Walk of Fame star and the surrounding area turned into such a spectacle, it was hard to tell whether people were gathering for the experience of "being there" or because they truly missed Michael and needed a tangible means of showing it. I mean, maybe these women dress like Michael Jackson every day? Most of us, however, stood around snapping photos, trying to gauge whether we were feeling sadness towards Jackson or just for the people who might never get over him.

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And you're probably wondering WWJD? Buy a commemorative shirt, of course!

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As I stepped back from the scene I looked down at Lefty Frizzell's and Army Archerd's unadorned and undecorated stars, located next to Jackson's; I'm sure someone, somewhere, misses them too.

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