if it wasn't for michael jackson, i would've never discovered music. in 1984 my 10-year-old self had many interests but music wasn't one of them. that is until i heard about this music video called "thriller" by michael jackson. i didn't really know who he was and i haven't even heard the song yet, but the world on the street was it had zombies and werewolves in it and everyone was talking about how amazing it was. since my town was still 6 years away from getting cable, nobody i knew had MTV, so there was no way i could see the video, and even if i did have MTV, i heard "thriller" was so scary kids weren't allowed to see it and they were only showing it late at nights. that just made me want to see it even more. since that was impossible (especially in an age without both cable and internet), i did the next best thing: i waited by the radio for hours, hoping they'd play "thriller." if i couldn't see the video, at the very least i could listen to the song. but it was that motivation to listen to a single michael jackson song that opened me up to the world of 80's pop music. it was all downhill from there.

eventually i did see the "thriller" video. i think it was some halloween special, that they were finally going to broadcast it on one of the regular networks. by today's standards it's not very good, but it was revolutionary for the time, a music video with such high production value, more of an event than anything else. michael jackson was just the epitome of cool back then. everything he did was awesome. the single white glove, the moonwalk, the mirror shades. everyone knew who he was, young and old, and all over the world.

i've always thought if he had died right after he made thriller he would've became a legend and his reputation would forever be untarnished. however, he managed to live another quarter century and his personal life spiraled into a circus. maybe he was just too weird. had he been busted for drugs, or punched out a reporter, or fathered an illegitimate child, people would understand, because that's what normal out-of-control celebrities do. but he became this asexual DIY project addicted to plastic surgery with a chimp for a friend and accused of being a child molester. not many people can get behind that.

when i heard the news that he had a cardiac arrest, i thought that was just a heart attack, and since he was already on his way to the hospital, i figured he'd be okay. but a cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. it's more serious, like the heart just stops. and when every single news outlet was covering this story, i started to get worried. and when the news finally broke that michael jackson was dead, i was shocked. sure, we've all made fun of him (heck, of the only 2 jokes i know, one of them is a michael jackson joke!) but i still never forgot the 1984 michael jackson, and that's the michael jackson i like to remember, and that's the michael jackson that died today. the man who introduced me to music.

perhaps the only non-rain day this week, i went to the 640 acres breakheart reservation in saugus. i'll write more tomorrow, for now enjoy some photos.

breakheart reservation is a massachusetts' department of conservation and recreation (DCR) property located in saugus of all places. it's a pretty conspicuous piece of land when seen on a map, a 640 acres area of wildlife in an otherwise thickly settled residential and commercial landscape. i picked breakheart because 1) i'd never been there before, and 2) it was different from my usual haunts (normally west of boston) that i was hoping to see something new for a change. the distance to travel is only about 10 miles but the route cuts through some busy thoroughfares so it took half an hour to get there. and unlike the leisure rides out west, the road north is all business, with nothing really to see and a whole mess of cars jostling for lane positions. i went through sullivan square to 99 north, cutting across 16 revere beach parkway to connect to route 1 north. that was a miscalculation as i suddenly found myself on a major highway doing 65 mph. though the motorcycle can go as fast as 85 mph, as a general rule i try not to go that fast due to an overwhelming fear of dying in a high speed accident.

normally i avoid DCR properties, precisely because of their popularity. with so much pedestrian traffic, these places are never that wild. joggers, mountain bikers, dogwalkers - these are the folks i try to stay away from. when i got to breakheart, i was surprised by how packed the parking lot was. in my usual naturing spots, i'm normally the only person around.

i took the first trail i came across, a promising one called the saugus river trial. apparently it's not very popular, maybe because of the mosquitoes, maybe because of the more challenging terrain, but i never saw another person during the whole time i was on that trail. though less than a mile, i spent more than 3 hours exploring the area, including taking a short detour to check out the mill dam trail.

with all the recent rain, fresh mushrooms were growing in select areas. it's still early in the season though, i expect to see even more later during the summer.

i did see any new species of ferns, just the usual: cinnamon, hay-scented, interrupted, and sensitive. i found polypody growing in one rocky area, but there were probably more in places i didn't see. at one point towards the end of the trail there was a large population of shinleaf. the flowers looked familiar but the leaves were different from what i saw in wayland (maybe a different species).

leaving the nashua river trail i ended up on one of the main paved access roads. i felt like a wild man stepping out of the wilderness and back into civilization again. i saw joggers, people walking their dogs, a couple of boys with fishing poles, and even some bikini-clad teenagers. apparently there's a beach further into the reservation, although not much sun on this overcast day. i chatted with a couple taking a leisurely stroll. i told them it was my first time at breakheart but i was really impressed with the place. they told me i should visit eagle rock, where from the summit i could get a really good view of boston. i could see mosquitoes eating them alive so i cut short our conversation and let them go on their way. i thought about taking their advice but came to my senses and decided to go home instead, saving eagle rock for my next visit.

i made my way home via route 99 instead of route 1; definitely slower going but i felt safer not having to deal with highway traffic. after a shower i caught the news that michael jackson was found unconscious and taken to the hospital. all the news networks covered it and hours later it was announced that michael jackson had died.