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I thought I would somehow leave Michael Jackson behind when I left Los Angeles. Not sure why I thought this, but I was soooo wrong. I went to get something to eat just after arriving in the City. Stepped into the pizza place, and what are they playing? The Girl Is Mine…followed shortly by Thriller. Walk out of the place and slap bang into a street vendor trying to sell me a t-shirt.

The next day, I had a guy try sell me copied CDs of MJ’s music for 5 dollars a piece. I didn’t buy them in LA, so I ain’t going to be buying them in NYC!

I am really looking forward to Mandela Day. It’s a global call to action by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the 46664 campaign to encourage people across the world to follow the example set by Madiba to give of their time to others. The idea is that he gave up 67 years of his life for the struggle, so people should dedicated 67 minutes of their service to others. And this all takes place on Madiba’s birthday, the 18th of July. New York is spearheading the movement and on that day a star-studded concert is taking place at Radio City Music Hall, featuring Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Aretha Franklin, T-Pain, Wyclef Jean and a whole host of South African performers too. It’s going to be fantastic!

I managed to miss my flight to New York yesterday morning.

I overslept.

It was probably bound to happen considering I have had so little sleep in the past week. But it’s okay, because it gave me some time to gather my thoughts and reflect on things before heading to the City.

I’ve been reading the LA Times, which has a number of pages dedicated to the story of the memorial. Reading the articles, I relived many of the moments that took place during the event. When it was happening, I was so busy jotting down notes and tweeting that it all went by very quickly. I am so fortunate and grateful to have been able to experience this first hand, and to have been able to report on it for people back home.

Much of the focus of the memorial has been on Paris Katherine Jackson and her moving words about her father. Some argue it was not right letting her speak – celeb blogger Perez Hilton let the world know he thought it wasn’t the smartest of moves – but others say it did what nothing else that has been said or written about Michael in the past few days could: it humanized him. Many said afterwards that when Paris called him “daddy” it brought home the reality that MJ was a father, and he had a family, just like you and me. That’s probably where the similarities end, but it’s a powerful connection to make. Her words seemed to make sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Brooke Shields also brought some of that humanity in Michael out – talking about his mischievous nature and his infectious laugh. Relaying a story of how they snuck into Elizabeth Taylor’s suite to see her dress the day before the wedding, she brought to life another side of the popstar: that of a close friend who always had time for those close to him – no matter how famous he was – and someone who loved to laugh.

John Mayer’s guitar solo of ‘Human Nature’ was as moving as Mariah Carey singing the words of ‘I’ll Be There’- if not more so. But just being among the fans – the ordinary people to whom he meant so much – was by far the most touching and moving experience. People buoyed by his music, his memory, his Michael Jackson-ness.

Over the past few days I have discovered what the word ‘fan’ really means. It many cases it truly means fanatic – a fervent love for someone that you have never met. It’s a passion that keeps you hanging onto the person with all your might – even if they have gone.
Aside from the adults who relayed their fondest memories and unfulfilled dreams through devastated eyes, young girls too young to have been around during his heyday, also told me they liked his songs – because they could relate to them.

I am wondering what creates this definition of fan. I met a woman who was standing outside MJ’s Encino home, crying as if she’d only just heard the news. It was a week and a day after the world discovered that he had died. Another lady sat up for 23 hours the day before the memorial to paint a portrait of the singer to take with to the service. For these die-hard fans, I think his memorial service certainly brought with it sort of closure, a defining sense of “this has really happened.” For days after MJ’s death so many things were up in the air – including the funeral and memorial details and I think this is what caused so much of the grief to last so long and build up.

Anyway, whatever lies behind becoming and being a fanatic, I think I will take a little break from Michael Jackson before I head off to another larger than life personality – Nelson Mandela. It’s his 91st birthday next Saturday and I will be in New York for the first ever Mandela Day.

I almost can’t believe it is over. The memorial and funeral of Michael Jackson. The story itself is, of course, still far from being done. I’ve been working in two time zones so I am feeling the effects of it all now and am pretty exhausted. There is still so much to reflect on, but that will come. I fear the Starbucks has stopped working and I must get a bit of shut eye.

Being at the Staples Centre I truly felt a part of History (yes, I’ve been told to pardon the pun already). Because of the time difference I was there on Monday evening LA time, so I could report live for Tuesday morning SA time. The people who were there yesterday were mostly those who didn’t get tickets for the memorial. A few of them told me they came to pay their respects anyway, and sign a giant condolence card in honour of MJ.

Returning, after three hours of sleep, the next day, on Tuesday morning LA time, Tuesday afternoon SA time, I found more fans paying tribute to MJ the way they knew best. Some dressed up, some carried paintings, others wore t-shirts with his face on them or a single silver glove.

More to come, but for now a few hours of shut eye.

In amidst all the Michael Jackson madness, Americans still managed to celebrate the 4th of July. Well, most of them anyway. I went back to the Encino family home and couldn’t believe there were still so many people coming to pay their respects. I spoke to a lady who couldn’t stop crying and said that as a little girl she always thought she would marry Michael.

The Williams family travelled together to come pay their own personal tribute.

The crowds

There are also still loads of tributes on Michael’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

On Friday morning there was a press conference at the Staples Centre about one of the issues that’s had people talking about – the funeral details. The family spokesperson Ken Sunshine said the family was concerned about making sure the fans got to be a part of the experience.

    I finally got to LA and once I’d hired a car and got a crash course in driving on the “wrong” side of the road, I went out in search of the Jackson family home in Encino.

    It wasn’t that hard to find but the street was blocked off to cars other than ones being driven by people living there. There were a few policemen standing in front of the house and they had put up railings on both sides to keep the tributes contained and to prevent the people from standing in the driveway of the Jackson house and other houses.

    I couldn’t believe how passionate the people gathering there were – some of them in still in awe and shock. I met a couple of people who were visiting the site for the second or third site…it was incredible to see the emotion in their faces. When you’re in South Africa it can seem a little far removed but being here, seeing the things people are feeling, it seems as if it truly is bigger than I thought. People were singing his songs and dancing and sharing their memories.

    And quite a few of them stayed until past midnight. The policemen standing guard said this is how it’s been for the whole week.

    An angry poster about the Martin Bashir doccie that spurred the child molestation allegations.

    There were tributes from all over the world – even South Africa.