Traveling With Michael Jackson

The passing of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, oddly enough caused me to think of some of my travels. Coincidentally, my first New York Times article, regarding visiting the places once visited by Dillinger and Capone in Wisconsin, came out today and will be piggybacking on the tragic events of yesterday. I tried to tell my editor my article may be causing the boost in sales today. He wasn’t buying it I guess.

Michael Jackson is about as universal as a superstar could be. I remember Sarp, one of my sixth-grade Turkish students in Ankara who used to delight in getting up in front of class and busting a few MJ moves, the moonwalk in particular, for his classmates. My co-teacher Chad once pulled out the phrase “mama say mama sa mama koo sa” which he had taught to a student who brought me the attendance book from his classroom each period. Of course it didn’t matter where in the world I was but someone was playing one of his songs and no matter how bad the English, they could sing along. Remote bus stations or airports with one of his tunes piped in. Yesterday when he was officially announced to be dead, I received a call from Thailand when it must have been about 6 a.m. The news was already going around.

My favorite MJ reference was from a pirated CD on a sidewalk display in Peru several years back. It was a Greatest Hits compilation, one of many he had over the years. For some reason pirated CDs have the exact digital copy of the music and what appears to be the exact album cover, even the font, but for some reason, most everything on the cover is misspelled. One would think these things are scanned and thus identical. I never figured out why the spelling discrepancy was there. Some obscure loophole in a copyright infringement law? Who knows? But the title was for the song “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” The transcription of that came out as “Don’t Stop You Learn English.” Well said.

If you’ve got a Michael Jackson story from an experience abroad, please post it here. I’d love to hear it.

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