It was a warm spring day in 1993, in Hollywood, California. I was 14 years old, headed to one of my favorite haunts, the Golden Apple Comic Shop on Melrose. Back then I was an avid comic book collector and I needed a fix every couple of weeks. As I walked through the door, something was different. There was a charge in the air. I looked around unsure what was going on. The place was mostly empty, except for several men in dark glasses who were positioned throughout the store. Everyone was focused on someone in the back.
I craned my neck and could not believe who I saw. I was actually in the store with Michael Jackson! I quickly glanced at the guy behind the counter who nodded his head at me to confirm. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip past.
I tried to play it cool. Here I was, this lanky Jewish kid in high tops and a yarmulke, standing before the king of pop. I took in his famously eccentric attire, the fedora and the bodyguards. “Are you Michael Jackson?” (I figured it was a good opener.) When he responded that he was, I went straight for the gold, asking him for his autograph. He politely obliged, scribbling his moniker on a cardboard comic book protector I had hastily grabbed off a nearby table.
I thought the encounter was over but then he caught me off guard. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Uh, sure,” I responded.
“Are you Jewish?”
“Yes,” I answered, wondering where this was going.
“Why do you wear a yarmulke?” Michael asked.
We shared a shy, sort of sheepish smile together at his knowledge of this insiders-only word, and I tried to think of an appropriate response. I drew on my 14 years of Jewish upbringing and education to muster up the best response I could think of. “We put a yarmulke on our heads to remind us always that there is One above us, and no matter how great we are, He is greater.”
He nodded, accepting the answer, and said it was very nice, but it was hard to tell what he really thought behind those impenetrable sunglasses. After some small talk and a handshake, I left the store, excited about my newly acquired autograph.
The next day in school, all I could talk about was meeting Michael Jackson, and my awesome new autograph got passed around among all my friends.
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