Planet Earth, gentle and blue
With all my heart, I love you.
One day, Michael decided he wanted a llama. He asked me to take him to nearby Agora and we ended up at this lot packed with hay and horse trailers. From the car, we eyed four llamas out back. I parked between two trailers, unintentionally shielding my Mercedes from view. It was the only parking spot available. When we walked into the office – two kids dressed casual but smart in T shirt and jeans – this guy, bent across a counter doing some paperwork, didn’t even look up when he said, “We’re not hiring.”
“We ain’t looking for no job,” said Michael, wearing his shades. “We’re here to buy a llama.”
The man looked up. Not a flicker of recognition on his face. It took me about two seconds to know that his musical taste ventured nowhere near the Thriller album. “We don’t have any llamas,” he said. The look on his face said it all: you can’t afford it.
“You have four of them out back,” I said, trying to keep calm.
“You know how much they cost?”
Michael smiled. “We know how much they cost.”
Then came an incredible bombardment of questions, fired by the man’s prejudices and assumptions. “Can you afford a llama? What do you boys do to afford a llama? Where will you keep it? Have you ever thought about this?”
Ever patient, Michael explained that we had a house with grounds and were serious customers. “I know how to look after all kinds of animals,” he added.
The man begrudgingly asked to see some ID. Michael handed over a bank card. I handed over my driving license. And then night became day.
“You’re those Jackson boys?” said the man, his face lighting up. He began to back-pedal about how he had to be careful and he couldn’t sell to just anyone; you understand how it is. Bu we didn’t understand: we saw right through him.
“So you’re happy to accept me because now you know who I am?” Michael asked. The biggest misconception people had about my brother was that his legendary shyness made him timid, but he was a man of principle, especially where his roots as a proud black man were concerned and he wasn’t afraid to speak up on this when riled.
Michael took back his ID and came right out with it: “You are an ass, and we don’t want to spend our money in here any more.”
Then we walked out to the Mercedes the man had failed to spot when we arrived.
- Jermaine Jackson, You Are Not Alone
Michael at his Neverland Ranch in 1991. Such a beautiful set of photos by Dilip Mehta.
I recall having dinner with the family in a restaurant one night and watching Michael as he picked up crumbs from his plate and dropped them in his shirt pocket. “Michael, what are you doing?” I finally asked him.
At that moment a rat poked its head out of Michael’s pocket, and I had my answer.
Michael bred rats while we lived in Beverly Hills. We lived in an area where there was a great deal of vegetation, and I’d see big brown rats scurrying through the ivy and bushes from time to time. After a while, I was surprised to see the rats seemingly change color; some were partially white, a few totally white. Then it dawned on me that Michael was letting his white rats out into the yard, and they were mating with the wild rats.
I never confronted Michael about his breeding project, but when we moved to our Encino house I informed him, “Your rats are not coming with you.”