Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hey Good Lookin', Whaaatchya Got Cookin'?

Oh boy, do I have a shit ton of recipes for y'all today and with good reason.  You see, I am a self-proclaimed "feeder". By this I mean that I express love and affection through the making and baking of goodies & vittles, most often in the form of bounteous feasts. No doubt my friends, family, and housemates would all attest to this declaration's veracity if asked.  As of yesterday, I am able to add a doggy to this list of "Lauren's Feeding Propensity Beneficiaries" or "FPB's" as they are called in some circles. For this past Wednesday was a very special pup's 91st birthday, and he has been dining on homemade dog biscuits ever since. Let me not forget to mention this canine's studlicious owner, the dreamiest of dreamboats, the one and only Mike Cole, who also celebrated a birthday on this 22nd of September, 2010 (though judging by personal experience and what modern medicine has accepted as the official age when men hit their sexual peak, he just turned 18)......
As I was saying, when I cook for man (or man's best friend) I usually begin by planning a menu. Menu planning, how do I love thee, let me count the ways!
  1. Menu planning=sweet list making bliss. You provide me with the opportunity to make lists, oh joy! Recipe lists, shopping lists, ingredient lists, the list goes on! Without list-making in my life, I become listless. 
  2. Menu planning=the broadening of my cooking horizons. Learning experience! Menu planning allows for beaucoup experimentation: trying new recipes, new cooking techniques, new flavor pairings. 
  3. Menu planning=library time well spent. It gives me an excuse to visit the library more than my routine once a day (as if I needed to justify this). 
Three. There were three marinades featured on the Birthday menu... 
Mike Cole's 18th Birthday Chicken Wings 
A few quick words on prep. First, pay a visit to your favorite butcher and purchase 5 lbs of wings. Next, go home and put on "Happy Gilmore" (I am including this part because it's what I did and I don't want to hear any grief about how yer wings didn't come out like mine, so I'm mentioning it in case it turns out to be an important step in the outcome of this meal). Separate each chicken wing at the joints, which gives you 3 sections per wing. In Buffalo chicken lingo, these are called the "tip, the "flat", & my personal fave, the "drum". 




I did this by using my shiv a sharp kitchen knife to cut out the the piece of skin which attaches the drum to the flat, then simply slicing through the two joints and discarding the tip (though you could reserve these to make a stock). Finally, I prepared 3 marinades, into which I dumped a baker's dozen of wings each. I think it goes without saying that the longer you marinate, the more delicious the wings. 



Spicy Chicken Wings
adapted from Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook
1 T. freshly ground cumin seeds
1 T. paprika
1 T. turmeric
1 t. cayenne
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 t. salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 T. sunflower oil
Mix everything together and sensually rub all over wings.









Ginger & Sesame Wings
adapted from Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook

2 oz (1/4 cup) honey
2 oz (1/4 cup) red wine (I used boxed cuz that's how I roll)
2 oz (1/4 cup) soy sauce
3 t. ginger, peeled & freshly grated
2 oz (1/2 cup) untoasted sesame seeds



Mix everything together but the sesame seeds. Boil 2-3 minutes in a small saucepan, add the seeds & let cool. Dump wings in.



Wasabi & Mustard Wings
an LCM original recipe
4 squirts fake wasabi sauce
2 squirts spicy brown mustard
a buncha shakes of Mike Cole's homemade hot sauce
one small finely minced onion
Mix everything together and once again sensually rub all over wings.

And let us not forget the Blue Cheese Dressing, one of the main reasons for eating wings in the first place. In general, it's safe to say that store-bought salad dressings are total nasty crap. If you were unaware of this, read your labels. Barf. Make your own, it's easy, it's worth it, and Mike Cole will thank you for it.
Blue Cheese Dressin'
adapted from Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook
1/2 cup olive oil
5 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t. honey
5 T. gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper
Whisk everything together, season and adjust to taste.

Now, you'd think the final piece to the chicken wing menu puzzle would traditionally be celery sticks. But I think celery sticks taste like butt, plus I wanted to make this meal fancy-like, so I chose to make a slaw instead. It offers the same things as celery (i.e. crispiness and vitamins) and a whole lot more (prettiness, fanciness, even more vitamins).
Mixed Vegetable Slaw
adapted from The Frog Commisary Cookbook
3/4 lb cabbage
1/4 cup vinegar of your choosing
2 t. sugar
2 t. salt
2 1/4 t. pepper
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3 carrots, peeled & grated
1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each
Thinly slice the cabbage and, if necessary, soak briefly in ice water to crisp it (in which case, drain well, wrap in dish towel to dry, & refrigerate). Whisk together the vinegar & seasonings, then whisk in the oil. Combine cabbage, carrots, & peppers & toss with the dressing. Garnish with tomato wedges & serve.

Another good thing to keep in mind when planning a menu is pleasing the specific people you are planning it for. This is easy: make their favorite. So, when choosing what kind of birthday cake to prepare for Mike Cole (in addition to last weekend's beefcake), I settled on cheesecake, specifically Cappucino Fudge Cheesecake (cuz, as I quickly found out when seeking out a recipe, there's like 5 bajillion kinds of cheesecakes). Don't be put off by the fact that you first must make Homemade Chocolate Wafers, as they are an ingredient in the crust, or by the unquestionably lengthy directions. This cake is quite enjoyable and simple to make. Just follow all the steps and have fun with it. Plus, it don't hurt to keep in mind how much you love the person you are making it for.



Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake


Adapted from SmittenKitchen, who adapted it from Bon Appetit, February 2002
Deb from Smitten Kitchen emphasizes the intense nature of this cake, commenting on how Bon Appetit claims it serves 12, but she thinks it should really serve 30, it's that freakin' bad ass. She also adjusts the original to fit a 9-inch springform pan by keeping the crust, ganache, and sour cream topping amounts the same while only making 3/4 of the cheesecake filling. I decided that a 9-inch cake capable of serving 30 would be a tad too much for just the 2 of us (even while keeping in mind that Mike Cole's eating abilities are awesome and enviable). So I made mine in a 6-inch springform, cutting the ingredient quantities down by roughly one third). Below is Deb's 9" version, with some tweakage by moi. Check out the original if you’re brave enough to take on the 10" version.
Crust
9 oz of 
homemade chocolate wafers *(recipe follows)
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
7 T hot melted salted butter

Ganache
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
20 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup KahlĂșa or other coffee-flavored liqueur

Filling
3 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 T. Tia Maria
1 1/2 T. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 T. ground whole espresso coffee beans (medium-coarse grind)
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. molasses
3 large eggs

Topping
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

A handful of chocolate covered espresso beans (optional)




Make crust: Finely grind cookies, chopped chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in processor. Add butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down bowl occasionally, about 1 minute. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Wrap plastic wrap around fingers and press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan. 








Make ganache: Bring cream to simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and KahlĂșa. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth. Pour 2 cups ganache over bottom of crust. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later for decorating.




Make filling: Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.  Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended. Scrape down bowl, making sure you get to the bottom, where little pockets of unmixed cream cheese love to hide. Beat in flour. Stir Tia Maria, espresso powder, ground coffee, vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until instant coffee dissolves; beat into cream cheese mixture. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.



Pour filling over cold ganache in crust — it will go nearly all of the way to the top, don’t panic. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until top is brown, puffed and cracked at edges, and the center two inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about one hour. Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15 minutes while preparing topping (top of cheesecake will fall slightly, making room for topping). Maintain oven temperature.
Make topping: Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack. Refrigerate hot cheesecake on rack until cool, about three hours.
Run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip. If you’d like to make an approximation of the above decoration, pipe 6 diagonal lines atop cheesecake, spacing 1 inch apart. Repeat in opposite direction, making lattice. Pipe rosettes (or, uh, stars if you realize you do not have the energy nor inclination to practice rosette piping at that hour) of ganache around top edge of cake. Otherwise, have fun decorating freely. 
Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired. Chill until lattice is firm, at least 6 hours.





Do ahead: Cake is best made a day ahead, so the flavors have time to settle. The cake also takes enough time to make that it’s best not to rush through it the day you want to serve it. It can be made up to four days ahead. Wrap loosely in foil, forming dome over lattice; keep chilled.
Sing Happy Birthday to Mike Cole & his pup. Let them eat cake.









Joco's 91st Birthday Dog Biscuits


adapted from twodogpress.com
2 t. dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 T. dry basil
1 1/2 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg
5-6 cups whole wheat flour
Dash of Old Bay


Preheat oven to 350 ° F. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the basil, broth, honey, and egg. Gradually blend in flour, adding enough to form a stiff dough.

Transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball, and roll to 1/4" thick. Using a small bone-shaped cookie cutter, make biscuits! Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1/4" apart. Gather up the scraps, roll out again, and cut additional biscuits.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides. Let cool overnight. This waiting time helps make the treats crispier and crunchier and 4 out of 5 doggies happier.
Makes several dozen small bones.
*Homemade Chocolate Wafers
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert
Makes 50 to 60 1 3/4-inch wafers. 
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2.4 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
14 T. (1 3/4 sticks) salted butter, slightly softened
3 T. whole milk or yogurt
1 t.n pure vanilla extract

Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix thoroughly. Cut the butter into about 12 chunks and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or a cutting board and knead a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.
Form the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper or foil and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or until needed.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into slices a scant 1/4-inch thick (slice as thin as you can, and watch the baking time carefully, as it might be less) and place them 1 inch apart on the lined sheets (cookies will spread). Bake, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and back to front about halfway through baking, for a total of 12-15 minutes. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks, or slide the parchment onto racks to cool completely. These cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or be frozen for up to 2 months. These cookies should crisp as they cool. 



Welp, that's all for now. I will most likely be posting the rest of the birthday meals (yes, there's more) in the coming week. For now, I'd just like to say Happy Birthday, Mike Cole & Happy Birthday, Joco. You've made me one lucky gal.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Hajj

Allow me to explain how I found myself mere hours away from Michael Jackson at the time of his death. Until June 2009 I had never visited the West Coast in my life; in fact, Las Vegas was the furthest I had ever traveled in that direction. My significant other at the time was working on a film, in which several scenes needed to be shot on location in California. He proposed that I take on a female role in the film, and, in exchange, I could tag along, all expenses paid (cuz that's how I roll), using my free time to promote my label, Free Lauren Marsella. This is precisely what I was doing when I first received word that Michael Jackson was dying. 
My reasons for hopping on a bus to LA immediately following MJ's expiration are outlined in a previous blog post, but essentially come down to this (and I quote from that post): 
"I think it's imperative for myself as an artist to experience what I'm talking about in my art. Not doing so would be dishonest, a person talking about something she knows nothing about."
If you are not familiar with my work and/or story, I highly recommend you pour over this entry before reading the finished masterpiece below. And even if you are privy to my history in Hollywood, it never hurts to review.
To begin, I put together a recap of the 2009 pilgrimage. After careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that it is absolutely necessary to include excerpts of text and drawings from the original journal (with the addition of present-day notes and commentary) in order to properly introduce the story of this year's travels. Furthermore, it is my hope that certain themes common to both journals will become more apparent by creating this juxtaposition. Besides, it's all one long saga anyhow.
Some quick notes before we get down to it: all text has been transcribed the way it appears in both journals, not a word has been changed, though I have rearranged some of the ordering of the entries in order to be more chronologically accurate and to make the narrative less confusing. Let me also make it clear that these are excerpts; the material published below is by no means the two journals in their entirety. The hobo Grimace indicates when a break in entries occured. All italicized text is from the journal. Everything else was written recently. The photos are all my own, except for the Jeff Koons one.
Without further ado, I present to you...
FLM PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA AKA LAUREN MARSELLA THE ARTIST TRAVELS TO MICHAEL JACKSON'S STAR ON THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME
STATUS REPORT
by Lauren Marsella
Location: Greyhound bus
Time: 9:17 pm
Next Stop: San Jose
Comments: It took .3 minutes of being a woman alone (i.e. sans men friends or boyfriends) for a man to hit on me. The greyhound security guards are a real comedy team. Apparently, I have "sexy eyes" & if I am in possession of any marijauna, could they please smoke it. I did feel genuinely happy & a little proud when they made me open my briefcase & the comments & compliments from the two men that followed. I'm supposed to keep up the good work. I would not say they made me feel secure, but I would say they made me smile. I then proceeded to stand in line for my ticket, which was only 2 people long, me being the caboose. While waiting for the clerk to return from her break, I had the opportunity to observe the behind-the-counter area in some detail. They offered a variety of items for sale including Immodium AD (which I think is for diarrhea if I'm not mistaken), Alka Seltzer, AA batteries, & some mystery cream. The snack bar if you can call it that was the saddest & most overpriced thing I've ever seen. Greasy tasty cake type items sat crookedly & slightly smushed on a shelf which was sitting in front of a sign of the "menu" though half the letters were missing. It said you could get soup but all I saw was a refrigerator case stuffed to the gills with Fanta & a few microwaveable burgers & chicken wings. I can only imagine the hellhole those items are manufactured in.


But enough about that. I sat down on a bench facing the TV, hoping a little boob tube entertainment would help pass the hour I had to wait. I picked a spot which left space between me & the two creepy men on either side, foolishly forgetting the fact that I'm not surrounded by a force field & one of them could easily sidle up to me, which occurred immediately after choosing this doomed seat. His breath stank of beer & he was quite disgusting looking. He did make me chuckle a few times at the running commentary he made while he watched me draw pictures of Michael Jackson with angels & babies & an ermine. He said I shouldn't be drawing "Michael Jackson hugging a lamb to his bosom" and didn't I see the irony in what I was drawing.

















I pretended not to just to hear more commentary, which worked like a charm of course. He went on & on about Michael Jackson's psychology & told me I should be drawing "Joe Jackson sucking on Michael's tit" because "that's what he did in real life". I should also mention that this man's conversation opener was "HEY can I use your cell phone?" followed by "HEY did you know Michael Jackson is dead?" despite the fact that even deep sea angler fish know this.
He left me alone after about 10 minutes, when I watched his cheap-looking luggage set while he "hit the head". Then he said "Have a safe trip" and I said "You do the same" & that was goodbye. It was kind of nice.
I was hawking my wares at Needles & Pens, talking to Breezy, the nice co-owner lady, when she casually remarked that she heard something on the radio about Michael Jackson having a heart attack. Her mention of this news was so casual, that I didn't put too much stock in what seemed like another tabloid rumor. She took all of the MJ shrinky dinks I had brought to California, priced them, and laid them out for sale. The very moment I stepped through the doorway into the street, my cell phone went berserk with calls and text messages, not only from my closest friends and family, but also from people I hadn't spoken to or seen in years. And they all delivered the same message: the rumor was true.

See that doormat? Thanks to modern technology, you are able to behold the exact spot I was inhabiting when this part of the story occurred.  Incredible.

The bus ride itself was pretty nice. It reminded me of the time I traveled alone in Europe. To watch the sky change outside the window of some form of transportation in motion. It was nearly dark when I boarded & sunny (early morning Sunday sunny, you know the kind) when we rolled into the Hollywood Greyhound station. I had two rotten bananas on me, one of which I ate in the station as I examined the faded map for the exact direction I should travel in order to reach Michael's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was easy to figure out.
Wait, back to the bus first. My sleeping positions were inventive but the positions my fellow bus passengers came up with definitely put up a good fight in the bus sleeping position category of "Most Creative". The dude across from me.was so out in the aisle that the folks in the front of the bus had to literally leap over him, which they all politely did amazingly enough, and the little lamb slept through it all. I also liked him because he spent a decent amount of time thumbing through a "Teen Vogue" left by the previous occupant of the 2 seats he was currently splayed all over. He looked at it with some interest but with a hint of nonchalance.
There was one man on the bus I did not like at all simply because he was so scary looking & not only was he extremely frightening in his appearance, but he continuously walked up & down the aisle haunting me like a bus boogie man. Every time I opened my eyes a crack, his hideousness was upon me as he leapt over the splayed man.


My favorite part of the bus trip, aside from the moment I stepped off in Hollywood, was the clear nighttime sky with a million shining stars over the California Coast. It was a truly beautiful sight, & as I said before (because I can't emphasize this enough) only made more beautiful by viewing it from the window of a Greyhound bus. Anyhow, as the night pressed on into dawn, the palm trees were the first thing to appear. They were very beautiful too. I am currently debating on whether or not to make them my new favorite tree, replacing my current & long-time favorite, the weeping willow, then my temporary love affair with the magnolia tree. So I get to Hollywood, I step off, I eat the rotten nana, go pee & I'm off to the star. I call my mother at the very beginning of my walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was excited for me, and it felt good to, in some way, share that new experience with her. The streets were nearly deserted, no stores open yet, as it was 8 am on a Sunday in Los Angeles.

Then, I saw Grauman's Chinese Theatre on the north side of the street, across the way. I went over to the shrine. I'd say there were a dozen other people there, separated from the shrine & pile of fan letters mixed in with a bunch of rotten bouquets, by a metal barricade & rent-a-cop security guards. Everyone had a digital camera, everyone. Grauman's was playing this so-boring-it-was-fucking-depressing-asian-flavored muzak. People were quiet but not out of respect for the legacy of the deceased, no, but for either the fact that they were too occupied with operating their cameras to speak or out of respect for the beautiful muzak or both.
Then the walking recommenced. I walked forever, with no particular destination. I walked all through Hollywood, on Santa Monica & Sunset. I stopped at a Food 4 Less & ate a pound of strawberries. Then the most horrible thing occurred...

The man in the motorized wheelchair appeared. But this was no average man. This man was deformed in a way that makes you gag and think to yourself "That's no life". And this was no average motorized wheelchair. This motorized wheelchair was extremely hi-tech. So hi-tech that you had to look away from it because the amount of parts it had was too overwhelming for one person's vision. It took at least 4 sets of eyes to take on this elaborate contraption.
So this man appears on my left. He seems to be doing his own thing, possible waiting for a bus, when I notice he's following me. Not only is he following me, but he's pretending not to. His angle is to pause every few paces (my paces of course) and joystick himself to look down the street, as if searching once again for the bus. Right when I was beginning to wonder how long this would go on for, he spoke.
"Nice day," he said.
"Yes, it's beautiful," I politely replied with a small, forced smile.
"What are you doing?" he asked. Let me just take a moment to officially state that this may be my least favorite question to be asked by strange men on the street. For the simple reason that: IT'S NONE OF THEIR FUCKING BUSINESS. But I remain polite, and reply that I'm just wandering around. "Not headed anywhere in particular?" he asks.
"Nope, just wandering" I reiterate.
"Are you from around here?" More questions, 'damn him,' I think.
"No."
"Where are you from blah blah blah"
"Philadelphia blah blah blah"
"What are you doing in LA blah blah blah"
"Visiting friends blah blah blah". He keeps questioning me & the only reason I play along is because I'm too fucking polite & because, stupidly, I begin to think I underestimated this highly deformed man in the extremely hi-tech motorized wheelchair. WRONG. DEAD WRONG. The conversation slows down so much on my end that he ends up making these small statements that sound very dumb & sad like "Having friends is good". So he makes a decision and gets to the point or should I say he drops his mega-bomb of a question on me.

"No." is all I say. It's all there is to say. That simple question makes me feel more violated than when a stranger sneak attacks a finger or two into you on a crowded dance floor. He motors away, thank God. I venture on, feeling angry & filthy, never a good combination. But there is nothing I can do about it. So I walk on, with that unpleasant experience resting on my shoulders.
The next morning they (my friends/hosts) dropped me off at the bus stop by their house, my starting point on the journey to Venice Beach. After a half hour & some whistling & howling from men passing by in beat-up pick-up trucks, the bus finally arrived & I stepped on. The ride began with a discussion with the driver about ticket procedures and ended with overhearing a 25 minute conversation between two awful men in the back of the bus. The one man did all the talking, the other one offering up occasional "yeahs" and "You got that right"s. The first man claimed he would have no problem "punching that bitch in the fucking face" and expressed his annoyance with the "fucking bitch's" 10-year-old son bothering him while he was "talking business"....not "jewelry selling business" but "BUSINESS business", other "BUSINESS, because I don't sell as much jewelry when I ain't stoned." This man was truly awful. I wanted to look at him to see if what I was picturing as his face actually was his face. But I was too afraid. He was definitely one of those types that become instantly angered & very vocal about this anger when they notice that a person has glanced at them, even if you actually were not looking or it was a mere accidental glance. I pulled the string & exited the bus. It didn't take me too long to orient myself to which direction the ocean was in, but I had promised myself I would accomplish the task of buying a Metro day pass before I allowed myself to touch the sea water. This proved futile, as all the people I asked looked at me as if I was asking where the nearest Walmart is. I'm sure if I had asked where I could buy a replacement battery for my robot arm, they would not have batted an eye.
I ended up only purchasing one thing in Venice Beach & that item happened to be Krazy glue.
I thought, "All these people are so crazy, what with their broke down VW buses which appear to have been run over by Gravedigger at least 5 times, but they're still living in there, passed out next to their healing crystal stands, breaking into spontaneous dancing outside shops broadcasting reggae music, and screaming about how great marijauna is. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with these people. They ain't hurtin' anyone and they seem to really love colorful clothing, two qualities I admire very much in a People. But they were indeed admittedly weird and to say otherwise would be a lie. Then, in the same breath I told myself I needed some Krazy glue & once I had acquired some I should Krazy glue some stuff together on the beach right away. This I did over the course of a few hours. Then I peed in the surf, half waited for my clothes to dry, shook the sand outta my undies & left.

At this point, almost the entire day had been wasted, and there was only one thing left to do: return, once again, to the Hollywood Star of Michael Jackson. This I did, after a tortured bus ride back. I had been toying with the idea of selling my shrinky dinks out of my briefcase with the rest of the MJ death exploiters on the boulevard, and I most likely would have chickened out if the rest of the day hadn't been such a trial. So I joined their ranks as soon as I got there. I quickly fell in line with Cindy, the young, balloon-animal-twisting Asian woman of Hollywood Blvd, whom I had seen the previous day talking to Indiana Jones across the street. She approached & immediately struck up a conversation with me, beginning with inquiries about what I had for sale, then a multitude of suggestions aimed at helping me sell my merchandise better.
"You need a sign," she said. So, I made a sign. "Don't say 'shrinky dinks,' say 'souvenirs'." So, I did that too. "20 dollars is too much to charge, make it 15 tops." So, I did that. Then, "15 is too much, make it 10" then "10 is too much, make it 5 apiece." Meanwhile, she was barking at people to "help her out, she came all the way from Philadelphia, help her out" and "Look at what she has, MJ souvenirs, they're really great, buy one, just a few dollars" at which point I would give her a side glance saying 'What do you mean only a few dollars?' But it didn't matter anyway because a few dollars was too much for these tourists to spend on handmade one-of-a-kind MJ souvenirs. Her suggestions continued. "Your sign is too hard to read. Here, use this sharpie to make the letters darker." This I did. "You're not very perseudive," she said to me.
"What?" I said.
"I said, you really aren't very perseudive, are you?" To this I said nothing because of the humbling effect it has on a person to be criticized with made up words by someone selling balloon animals for a dollar to people picking their butts who are willing to pay a dollar for said balloon animals but not willing to look at your creations which you not only poured your heart & soul into but stayed up all night sweating over. But I pressed on, following Cindy's suggestions, politely listening to her blather. She touched on how easy some people have it, the stress caused by a marriage to a police officer (which she had never actually experienced, but as she imagined it would be), her $400 abortion, a mistake she claimed she would never make again & which she single-handedly paid for (in more ways than one), the way people in the world violently hurt each other, how she never had a mother, and so forth. This monologue was broken up by her screams of "Ay, poppy! Balloonus, eet's okay, Mommy, eet's okay?!" aimed at the little Hispanic children passing by in family groups of 50 people or more. The sensory stimulation was almost unbearable. But I pressed on. "Git yer Michael Jackson souvenirs!" I barked. "ONE-OF-A-KIND SOUVENIRS! I CAME ALL THE WAY FROM PHILADELPHIA TO SELL THEM-I-MEAN-SHARE-THEM, SHARE THEM WITH YOU GOOD PEOPLE!"
Then more criticism from Cindy. She told me to beg a little more, sound more desperate; at this suggestion, I responded with a shout of the word "PLEASE!" into the crowd, which surprised even myself so much that I actually though in my mind, 'Whoa, Lauren. That was a little loud, even by your standards.' This quick thought I ignored and followed up that robust "PLEASE!" with a "BUY MY STUFF. I CAME ALL THE WAY HERE FROM STINKIN' PHILADELPHIA TO SHOW THIS CRAP TO YOU PEOPLE, SO PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS BUY IT." Not surprisingly, this did not improve my sales one bit.

Tigger stopped by for awhile. His costume looked ragged and sweated in. Then Jack Sparrow went by. Superman had been across the way selling June 25th newspapers the entire time. He looked a tad like Christopher Reeves, but really, more like a Cardassian from Star Trek, in my opinion. A Cardassian in a Superman costume, that is. Yoda was there too, that may have been the most unconvincing costume I might add. An aging Marilyn was there too. Spiderman hung out with us a little, and the Joker too. Freddy Kreuger went by us & did a crazy thing with his eyes that I can't even begin to describe in words, nor could I duplicate if I were asked to. It was a crazy thing that lives now only in my memory, never to be acted out again or seen anywhere else. The most disturbing character of all was a tall, Black man dressed in an equally large and elaborate all-white get-up, sort of drag queenish looking, but still with the very present statement "I am a man under all this, and don't you fucking forget it" being made to be sure. He was sort of, well, let's put it this way: if Dennis Rodman were to make love to a huge arachnid, this man would be the spidery love child of that chilling & forbidden love-making session. This man scared the shit out of me.

At this point, I was getting really fed up with all of it. I slammed my briefcase shut, told Cindy I was going to take some pictures, but she didn't hear me, so I just left. I thrust myself into the crowd & snapped away as much as I could before the current spat me out at the end of the street, past the rent-a-cops, onto the corner. I went back around several times and did that a couple more times. I stopped this for awhile, so that I could stand still in the middle of it in an attempt to take in general observations about the people surrounding me.
Here is a list, in random order of what I noticed:
  • There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their movements across the square. All was chaos.

  • Matching shirts to keep groups from losing each other was a popular tool of organization.
  • Many of them were broaching on morbid obesity.
  • They all had made incredibly intriguing and confusing fashion statements.
  • They were breeding.
  • Photography truly is the most democratic of all contemporary media in the art realm;
So many photographs were being snapped that it gave one the freedom to photograph anyone or anything around her and not be noticed. I could have gone around pointing my camera squarely at childrens' private parts, and their parents would have been none the wiser. I took advantage of this fact by photographing people straight in their faces, which is something I usually shy away from. The last photograph I took of the whole day was of the young man selling blow pops for 5 cents apiece. I stepped up to him, took a picture of him straight on from a foot away, to which he slumped his shoulders and forced out "THANKS". I felt a little guilty for a moment, then reminded myself that this was the pimply guy who decided it be worth his time to blow pops out front Michael Jackson's star (for 5 cents apiece no less) and then actually carried this totally hair-brained idea out. Sometimes people need to be told that what they're doing is idiotic, even if it is told to them in a not-so-nice manner. Otherwise, how would improvements ever be made?


That was the last time I stood at his star. I had hoped to find meaning or answers, or in the very least, personal catharsis. I had hoped it would be revealed as a hoax, a disappearing act designed to let Michael escape from the world that wanted him dead, the world that he just wanted to heal. It would be unfair to say everyone wanted him dead. Some people I'm sure do not have an opinion, though this portion of the population must be quite teeny. Other people, such as myself, fans that have stuck with him though thick & thin, his disciples let's say, did not want him dead. You could say we are the Marys. One of the only people who didn't want Jesus dead was Mary. In addition to her, two other women: Mary Magdalene & Martha. Who are they? They are us.
The last destination on my first pilgrimage was the house where Michael Jackson's heart stopped. My cousin's place in Bel Air is only a stone's throw from the Beverly Hills mansion MJ was leasing for a reported $100,000 a month at the time of his death. She kindly offered to take me there and then spend the day touring Beverly Hills with a street-corner-purchased star map (awesome) which came with an American flag bandana due to the impending holiday (also awesome). We set out for 100 N. Carolwood Drive, the address of the MJ death palace, and after a quick 5-minute ride, we entered into this scene:
It was a chaotic mish-mash of police lines, news vans, tourists and their floral offerings. The shrine wrapped all the way around the corner, permeating the scrupulously manicured lawns of Beverly Hills.
Speaking of scrupulously manicured Beverly Hills lawns, I'd like to take this opportunity to briefly touch on my feelings concerning California. In comparison with where I was born and raised on the East Coast (where people are familiar with the concept of sanity), California is SO WEIRD AND AWESOME. It's grotesque and awe-inspiring all at the same time. Here we have the perfect example: the grass there is PERFECT. It's actually perfect. Each blade is the same exact length and they stand at attention at perfectly aligned angles. Look, see for yourself if you don't believe me:
Do I lie?! 
And while I'm on the topic, look at this photograph. If I were pressed to title it, I'd call it 
"LA in a nutshell: How did I get into this bloody great big nutshell? What kind of shell has a nut like this?"
Jesus H. Christ!!! What more could you want out of life?!?! Smog, make-out, gasoline, supermodels, pollution, billboards, and unlimited ultraviolet rays beating down on the whole freaking package in a glorious paradise of pavement and palm trees!
Bravo, California! Bravo.
Well. I'm leaving Los Angeles in a half hour. My body needs a huge diner breakfast, but it's not gonna get that. It's gonna get 7 hours on a crowded greyhound.

Was it a total loss because I missed the Staples Center memorial service? Certainly not. I was afforded the opportunity to stand on Hattie McDaniel's grave, smell the sweet fragrance of rotting flowers on a multitude of shrines, and fellowship with blood through the means of a vaporizer & enormous flatscreen televisions. I wouldn't trade any of it. This has been a life changing journey, and when I say life changing, I mean most certainly for the better.


Hollywood Hajj: Part Deux
Packing List
Passport, check.
$100 cash, check.
Free Lauren Marsella MJ jewelry creations, check.
Assorted wearable MJ paraphenalia, check.
"NEVER FORGET" sign, check. 
Cleaned out peanut butter jar for the collection of hallowed ground in Forest Lawn Cemetery, check.
What am I forgetting here....ah yes, my journal.....
The Second Pilgrimage to Hollywood by American Artist, Lauren Marsella, also known as "The Hollywood Hajj: Part Deux"
By Lauren Marsella

As of June 21st, 2010, I hereby swear off air travel in coach on the longest day of the year for the rest of my life. I say "in coach" because I don't want to swear off any air travel that might take place in Austin Powers' groovy private jet or in a hot air balloon. This is specifically air travel that includes fat, bald men punching my seat, old ladies who wake me up to do God-knows-what in the lavatory, & airlines who think XM radio is a suitable substitute for a movie. My pilgrimage this time around began on the tropical island of St. Thomas & rather than spending 12 hours on a crowded, stinky Greyhound, I spent 12 hours on 3 crowded, stinky airplanes. I'm really only complaining because complaining is fun. In reality, I would've ridden in a pet carrier with the baggage to get here. Anyhow, I can't believe it took me 27 years to realize the value of June 21st & the importance & symbolical nature of how I use that particular day each year. I've already banned gynecologist examinations & traffic court hearings from my birthday. It's only logical that I follow this with meditating on what my all-time favorite activity is, deciding that it's getting drunk on really good red wine & really cheap champagne & setting up a slip-n-slide so that the "splash down pool" is an actual full-size in-ground pool & doing only that on the longest day of the year with the people I love. So, there. It's a done deal. The only speed bump on the road to this annual June 21st dream tradition is the possibility of the world ending in the year 2012.

One nice thing & one bad thing about airports & airplanes is that they are chock full of ordinary people. And by ordinary, I mean unattractive & enormous, because isn't that what ordinary looks like in America? I wondered yesterday if a flash of relief flows through huge, fat people when they see that I am their seatmate. Not that I look like a potentially interesting person to talk to for a few hours, but the amount of negative space I have to offer, which their butts, guts, & thighs can overflow into. My flight to San Juan was a perfect example of this:
I'm glad I can offer this lard overflow space to the large people of the world. I just wish they didn't sweat & subsequently stink the way they do. The ginormous man in my row on the 3rd flight emitted a fresh misting of his stench into the aircraft everytime he moved, even if only to lift a Vienna sausage finger to stuff a packet of "Gourmet Pretzels" whole, shiny blue tin foil wrapper and all, into his cakehole. The horrible odor filled my vision with the image of cottage cheese, which he certainly did not smell like...well unless the cottage cheese had been pooped in by an entire Kindergarten class and allowed to sit for 48 hours in a giant Tupperware container in Death Valley. Wow. What an image. Now if that jackass, David Blaine, held his breath inside that for 18 hours, THEN I'd be impressed (though only slightly). Anyway, my field of vision was swallowed up by this image of cottage cheese because it's on my Top 10 list of "Foulest Things on Planet Earth" right after the cold cuts at Subway & immediately before Lady Gaga's taint. I sat groping for my Skymall catalog for an hour, completely blinded by psychosomatic syndrome stinkums. So that's why they offer XM radio instead of a movie!!!
So I wrote all that down, then I went to the Hammer Museum, & the first room I walk into I read this:
"I once read that of all the senses, the olfactory function has the most direct line to the memory bank. You smell something & significant moments from your own private past flash immediately before the mind's eye. As far as sensory experiences go, smell has always been a particular favorite of mine. The fact that you can indulge in it without those around you even being aware of your secret revery appeals to me."
-Charles C. Hill, The Smells of Summer
It's all starting to make sense now (pun intended).
Shortly following my arrival, I was only too happy to confidently draw the conclusion I was hoping would be true: California's still got it, and I still got it bad for California.

I’m not sure why it took me as long as it did to realize this trip reeks of death. I’ve been feeling pretty negative for the majority of it (aside from the hours spent being very high on the dog beach), but I assumed I had just been consistently eating bad food. Death is not necessarily a negative thing in my mind though; I wish it for some the way I wish others a Merry Christmas or a good weekend. When it comes down to it, I suppose it’s just that mankind disappoints me time & again, like the dumb kid bringing home a report card full of “F’s” every quarter.
I *almost* made it through the entire week without a strange man trying to get me into his car. His attempt proved to be a failure when I quickly concluded his idea of “some fun” was vastly different than my own. After I had passed his car by, succeeding in purposefully avoiding all eye contact with his face (the last thing I need is another creepazoid man’s spooky image rattling chains in the attic of my pervert-haunted megabrain), another car immediately zoomed up to the cur, at which point kissy noises came shooting out of the passenger side window in my direction. Yet again, not at all surprised by this display, just let down. Need I bother to recount the comments made as I strode through a bus stop populated by a group of Latino skater dudes? I think not.

With all the death and doom lurking around every corner, I can't help but wonder why God keeps throwing Her Divine Acts my way. Not only was my roundtrip plane ticket to LAX totally free, but upon my safe arrival it did not take long to be unknowingly led to the foot of a Great Work of Art (so Great, that that phrase must be capitalized the same way Christians capitalize the word "God", myself included). Since Alyssa (my long time friend & hostess for the first half of the Hajj) keeps long hours at a law firm downtown, it was up to me to fill my days leading up to the 25th. And what better way to fill your day than with good art watching? I boarded a bus and stepped off on LACMA's (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) doorstep. I located a ticket booth, flashed my old student ID, rode an escalator up 3 flights and opened a glass door into a world of heavily air-conditioned fine art. Go ahead and guess the Great Work of Art I encountered first. The very first piece of art I laid my eyeballs on. Come on, this is an easy one. MICHAEL JACKSON & BUBBLES by JEFF KOONS. I couldn't fucking believe it. A beam of light shot down from the heavens, encompassing the already gold-laiden sculpture with glittering flecks of Divine radiance, in the same exact fashion as the column of white light sends Patrick Swayze through the Pearly Gates in "Ghost". It felt incredible to look upon this work, a giantly important landmark in art history.


Admittedly, I've resented Jeff Koons ever since I submitted work to an art show in a bar in Chicago a few years back & the owner had the audacity to compare my earliest Blackfaced Michael Jackson paintings (created in art school for crying out loud) to this very Jeff Koons sculpture, saying my paintings were not as good & therefore he would not hang them in his bar. That combined with Jeff Koons' smug face peering out of those ridiculous porn star laiden ads was just too much. His grin reminds me of items found on the IHOP children's menu. Observe:


Anyhow, this resemblance to a chocolate covered pancake & love of big-boobed bimbos was all forgiven in the matter of a few brief moments.
The sculpture was located all the way across a very large exhibition space, & my instinct to start at the beginning in order to ensure I did not miss a single piece of artwork kicked in, causing me to move to an Andy Warhol Rorschach painting on the wall behind me to the right. I glanced around at a huge Baldessari photograph & back at Michael & Bubbles, thinking, "Who am I kidding? I obviously want to go over to that thing right now, so go. Lauren, you're being ridiculous." It took about 30 seconds to throw this exhibition-viewing-safety-net-system into the crapper, & I proceeded to make a beeline to MJ, pausing only to ask the guards about the museum's policies on photography. It's out of arrogance that I maintain this habit, as I'm fully aware of what I may or may not photograph in most art museums. I do it to give the seemingly decorative guards a purpose because all that multi-million-dollar artwork ain't cuttin' it at that particular task. Without me & my mundane questions, I figure those security people would be outta the job or in the very least, extremely bored, passing the time with their pointless chit-chat & occasional whistle-blowing when a patron has taken one step too close for comfort to a Rauschenberg combine.
Long story short, "Michael Jackson & Bubbles" is even more captivating up close & as I admire it an invisible tear come to my art faggy eye. Looking back I'm really glad I was not drunk in that moment. If I were intoxicated, that statue could have turned me into a blubbering puddle on the floor in 5 seconds flat. The rest of the space was filled only with more Koons work & as I mentioned earlier, the work of Warhol & Baldessari. The more recent Koons work was embarrassing to look at, it was so awful. Jerry Seinfeld is right: When you hit that high note, you say goodnight and walk off.
As for Baldessari, eh, who cares. And concerning the work of Andy Warhol, I'll put it the way I put it to my cousin, Will, a couple days later: I like Warhol so much & it's so insanely obvious that I would, I feel a sort of shame at my predictability, but even that is not enough to curb my Warhol Worship. They had 2 of his Tomato Soup Cans. Three Words:
To Die For.
Across the hall was a Joseph Beuys exhibit, at which I learned he was a former Nazi. Somehow this was included in the giant write-up glued to the first wall, but without any sort of negative connotations attached or even slight judgement being made about this tidbit could be found in this introduction, which was a tad perplexing to me. It went on to say this Nazidom & the state that Germany was left in after WW II is what motivated Joseph Beuys to create the masterpieces he did. But isn't that like saying Once Upon A Time there was a KKK member living in the southern United States who killed niggers for awhile & the resulting civil rights movement & the turmoil it spawned in that part of the country caused this former KKK member artist to create milestones in American art history? I'm rambling. Hollywood has brainwashed me to believe too much in the power of propaganda & the United States Constitutions First Amendment has led me to believe your opinions should be rained down on everyone & anyone within earshot. Either way, learning this factoid about Beauys did not change my opinion of him in the least: I thought he was a boring German dude who made much too highly praised pieces of crap while hanging out with dingo dogs & now I think Beauys was a boring Nazi who made who made much too highly praised pieces of crap while hanging out with Jew-eating German Shepherds. At times, I've attempted to learn more about him & his work, always with the same fruitless result. This might be the last time.
I zoomed through the exhibition, using the reflective surfaces of the framed artwork to fix my ponytail & spy on the other people milling about the room. This reminds me of something unrelated I wanted to mention earlier during my rant about ungodly fart smells on airplanes. While watching the stewardess do her spiel on how to buckle a seat belt, it occured to me that these moments, when we are not only socially allowed to full -stare a stranger in the face but encouraged to do so are so rare & precious, that we, I, must actively watch for them & take advantage of all they have to offer whenever I can. This one afforded me the opportunity to study Tonia's make-up covered face & re-affirm my pity for women with butt chins & also women who had been cursed to carry the name "Tanya" which could only be made worse by an odd spelling.
This poor woman's burdens were revealed to me in the brief moment in which I was allowed to look at her without reservation. Perhaps that is in some small way, part of the reason we've devised these social constructs.
Between my visits to the local art museums, I spent my time traveling to sites significant to the events that unfolded in Los Angeles last year: the UCLA Medical Center, where MJ was rushed after his heart stopped; the Staples Center, the only venue in LA large enough to hold a memorial service for a world famous icon, which took place July 7, 2009; and finally, his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the wailing wall of my, and many others', pilgrimage last year. All the while I was actively looking for signs of Michael Jackson and the public's reaction to his death at each destination and everywhere in between. Last year these signs took the forms of actual signage, crowds, shrines, costumed fans and so forth. Even Arby's paid their respects in 2009:
This year was different. I saw no sign of Michael Jackson until the night of June 24th, the eve of the one year anniversary of his death. After scouring the internet for MJ events, the only thing I came up with was a meeting on the Walk of Fame at 9pm that night. So, naturally, I went. What I found there (or I guess didn't find there) left me shocked and dismayed. Behold:
Last year's monster shrine

This year's shrine pitiful pile of puniness
I wandered up and down the street for awhile, killing time as the sun went down. Waiting for a sign of some kind. The square in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater was nearly empty, with the exception of the everyday tourists milling about, buying useless souvenir shit and posing with Superman (whom I was introduced to by Cindy, the balloon-animal-hawking, hyperactive Asian woman who attempted to help me sell my handicrafts on the Walk last year). What a life.
The mobbed streets of 2009
Not even a tumbleweed passed through in 2010


Eventually people did start to show up. They planted themselves in a circle around the puniness and proceeded to ceaselessly play with their mobile devices while self-consciously singing along to an equally puny FM radio droning tinny versions of Jackson 5 hits. The crowd grew, photos were snapped, one girl cried, a fat kid bounced his butterball behind to "A-B-C", the scene finally reaching its climax with the arrival of a couple amateur news people.

When the only MJ impersonator present was made to take his sunglasses off by a reporter, that was the last straw. I was already having a heck of a time combatting my mushrooming boredom and disappointment, now I was kinda freaked out on top of that.
Dude, put yer glasses back on right freaking now. Your face is killing the suspension of disbelief fo reals.

I sauntered on back to my friend's place, exhausted from endless walking, art viewing, and shrine visiting, my mind focused on ensuring a full night's sleep in preparation for the next day, June 25. MJ D-Day.
I am currently riding the 603 bus to the Forest Lawn Cemetary in Glendale, the final resting place of the physical form of Michael Jackson. If my calculations are correct, I will be arriving there at the exact hour & minute that he left this planet one year ago. Though I did not plan this, I do not believe it is a coincidence or an accident; rather it is another Divine Act in a long string of Divine Acts which has brought me to be in this place at this time at this point in history & in my life, the life of Lauren Marsella, 21st Century American Artist. The sun is shining, the palms are swaying & the world will come to an end before long. Aside from consuming far too many poached eggs in the past month & some menstrual cramps stewing in my gut, I feel well & am in a healthy state, at least compared to some. My mind is trying to unravel the mystery of where Michael Jackson is now & if he can perceive me & his other fans paying tribute to him today.Unfortunately, I am getting bus sick writing these words and must stop.
I arrived at Glendale Forest Lawn Cemetary at almost the exact time Michael Jackson's body stopped living one year ago. The sun was high & bright as I stepped off the bus; its rays beating down on the gobs of News vans & ricocheting everywhere in a clusterfuck of blinding reflections. Before observing this, I saw the police. They were the official greeters at this event, which is something that made me very angry since they obviously have no business trying to keep the peace amongst some of the most peaceful people to walk the Earth. They milled about on sidewalk corners, sometimes stepping out onto the scorching roadway, the rubber souls of their combat boots melting into trails of stringiness, their guts hanging over their tightly fastened belts.
I paused to get a better look at the news van activity but it became quickly apparent that absolutely nothing was going on there. So I turned & entered the graveyard through the very tall & very beautiful iron cemetery gate.

It was not at all difficult to figure out where to go, Though not many people were in sight, there were enough to create a visible line up the perfectly mowed rolling hills of Forest Lawn. I fell in line with some French kids my own age, who were snapping photos left & right, making remarks about what they saw using slang that I couldn’t help but be a little proud of myself for understanding all of it.

We hiked up & up the wide driveway passing by a pretty little pond complete with lily pads & a white marble sculpture of what I can only assume was a goddess. Finally we reached the top where there were many more people spread about in groups of about a dozen each, some obviously meeting for the first time ever. Seeing as I had not a soul to meet, I continued on following the French kids down a barricaded walkway. Nearly all of the people around us wore MJ apparel in some form, from concert tees to fully costumed get-ups spanning the different phases of his life & career. I myself had chosen a special outfit for the occasion, which I wished would express many feelings I was having about that day, my experiences the previous year, & the loss I felt. It looked like this:


I was so consumed with readying my own camera, that it had not occurred to me that my role as photographer would be so quickly usurped, transforming me into model & subject of many a digital photograph. This was quite a pleasant surprise, especially after feeling so self-conscious on the bus ride to the cemetary, where all the Mexicans crowding the seats around me eyeballed me with understandable confusion. Here, in Forest Lawn, the final resting place of Michael Jackson, I was accepted & at home. I suddenly realized, through my fellow pilgrims' picture-taking of me, that I was surrounded by people who understood, & a wave of comfort washed over me, filling every crevice of my heart. I was not a Freak Show to them, but someone to be remembered for paying tribute to Michael Jackson's life & good deeds. The gentle way in which they spoke to me reassured me that I was not reading too much into their behavior. I was amongst family.

Observations of the people attending Forest Lawn June 25, 2010:
  • White males played the role of the minority. In fact, there were only a couple dozen, and usually not American but Eastern European or Russian.
  • Groups in the majority, from largest to smallest: Women (Soooo many women, Blacks and Whites about equal in number), children of all races, Asians and Latinos, and finally the disabled (usually to an extreme degree).
  • The volume of the crowd was quite low, the mood respectful
  • People brought things to share with one another. This took the forms of special outfits, photographs, objects, etc.
  • Many folks, myself included lingered all day long, despite the Cemetery staff's incessant orders to "Keep it movin'"
  • It was common for people to scrawl impulsive notes while crying and thrust them into the hands of the staff to be placed on the shrine
Main conclusion I draw from these observations:
The people that are drawn to Michael Jackson's vision are the ignored and the struggling: women, children, minorities, and the disabled. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Granted, Michael Jackson led a fantastically amazing life; his talent and hard work afforded him luxuries most people can only dream of. The harsh reality is that this seemingly optimal existence was corrupted by child abuse, plagued with profound loneliness, and oversaturated with hardship that we couldn't even begin to understand. It's obvious that these trials influenced his work, and thus his audience.

Writing notes, expressing grief.
A boy shows off the shirt he made for the occasion, as his mother looks on.
A woman proudly holds up two photographs of herself with Michael Jackson.
One of the many Michael Jacksons, this one a blonde woman, who politely paused to pose for me that day.
One of many MJ fans reppin' with a sweet MJ tat
A costumed Portugese boy performs some classic MJ dance moves.
This man was a favorite. He asked me to name the different eras of MJ as pictured in the photos stuck to the straw hat he made. I would make a guess and each time, without fail, he would reply, "Uhhh I dunno that one. How bout this one?", pointing to the next photo in line. We covered all 20 photos in this fashion. It was a great hat.

Beautiful Black children dressed up as beautiful Black children.
Women loitering along the barricades, waiting for family members to catch up.
Mourners pausing in front of Holly Terrace, the building MJ's remains are housed in. A member of the staff told me that the entire hall was literally filled floor to ceiling with flowers sent from all over the world. When I asked what would be done with the thousands of floral arrangements, he said the Jackson family would come by, take what they wanted, and the rest would be taken to local hospitals to cheer patients.
This family was amazing. They came all the way from Japan, bringing with them a basket full of perfectly crafted Origami cranes which they had folded themselves. They then asked this staff member to gently toss the cranes onto the shrine, which you can see happening here in the background. Not surprisingly, the whole performance was heavily photographed.
These two people had their faces surgically reconstructed to resemble Michael Jackson's face. Their MJ dedication is more than skin deep. Needless to say, everyone and their mother requested photos taken with them, to which they graciously obliged.
My wonderful cousin kindly drove me 100 N. Carolwood Drive again this year. The scene was dramatically different than the one we witnessed in 2009, what with all the popo, tabloid news and tour buses roaring by every two minutes. This year we found only this:
No shrines, no news, no noisy hub-bub. Just a simple message, both appropriate & direct:
Hajj completed, The Artist arrives back in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
June 29th, 2010
What do I think about it now that it’s over? My expectations were not met in the least & the People have failed Michael Jackson. There was no sign of tribute, memorial or even a mere mention of him throughout Los Angeles until Thursday night at his star & even that event was lacking genuine grief. However, there was a decent amount of television programming dealing with MJ’s life & related stories, the best of which entitled “Michael Jackson & Bubbles: The Untold Story” I will discuss at a later date. But first I’d like to mention something that my best friend & loyal Hajj supporter, Andrea, pointed out to me recently & that is this: I made a sign with an image of MJ’s face & the words “NEVER FORGET” emblazoned across it & proceeded to carry this item from a tiny island in the Caribbean to Hollywood, California only to discover the sad truth: WE FORGOT. Yes, I know what you’re going to say: How can I make such a statement when people from every part of the globe came to Forest Lawn Cemetery to mourn & pay their respects? You’re missing the point. The point is that after all the good Michael Jackson put into this world, after all the talents & gifts he shared with us, after the incredible amount of hard work & dedication he demonstrated, & after we returned his devotion to helping us live better lives with blatant betrayal, we, as a globalized society are forgetting him after only ONE YEAR. ONE YEAR. Shame on us. Shame on our fickle nature & the so-called modern civilization that breeds this sort of selfishness. Civilization my ass. 30,000 years of human progress & for what? Black people are still niggers, women are still sluts. What a joke. But here’s the thing. To quote the character “Siggy” from “What About Bob?” to help explain why there’s hope for this miserable human race:


“WITH ALL THE HORROR THAT’S GOING ON IN THE WORLD, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?”
And therein lies our answer.
The most beautiful thing about humankind is the power of the human spirit. That, my friends, is worth all the struggle in the world. Michael Jackson knew this. And he fought the good fight hardest of all. God bless Michael Jackson & his family, especially his children. And, Michael, thank you. I, Lauren Marsella, will NEVER, EVER FORGET.