January 4th, 2002

JOY

For no immortal can reisit the evil of the Thriller

Last night I was showing Ian my new Record Album frame and flipping through my vinyl collection to show him which album covers I'm considering as candidates for framing (for those curious, I'm considering this and this). While looking for them, I breezed past Lionel Ritchie's Can't Slow Down and was reminded of a reserve childhood story good for relaying next time I got bored at work.

That day is today.

Picture it: New Jersey, 1983. I had recently received a brown Fisher Price cassette recorder with which my brother and I would make little radio plays based on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. The video gave me nightmares, yet I watched it every hour on the hour when it was on. It was all that was talked about inside and outside of our house. We wanted that record BAD (no pun intended).

One afternoon, my mother returned from shopping, our tan Pontiac station wagon filled to the tailgate with grocery bags. We helped her carry them in and when they were all in the kitchen, she stopped and pulled out a thin brown bag and said with a combination of proud fanfare and nervousness: “now, kids. I bought this record while I was at ShopRite. They had Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie there and I wasn’t sure which one to get and I had them both in my hands and was weighing them out for a long time, but I think I decided on the right one.”

And she handed us Can’t Slow Down.

Simpsons fans, remember the episode when the kids wanted to go to Itchy and Scratchy Land and Marge told them that they couldn’t because she had already planned their trip to the Bird Sanctuary? I imagine that’s just what my mother saw then, that wide-eyed, dropped jawed stare of a crushed, speechless child. But it didn’t last long. We laid into her with a flurry of “Ican’tbeliveyoudidthatwhatwereyouthinkingbuyingLionelRicthieinsteadofThriller” and she said she didn’t realize that we wanted Thriller so bad.

We had to wait one more week until she went to the grocery store again to get Thriller, and oh, the joy of it. But in case anyone ever asks, that’s why I have a copy of a Lionel Ritchie album on vinyl in my living room.