That Time I Almost Won Michael Jackson’s Guitar.

What is my biggest regret in life, you might ask?

Well, I have a few.  That one pair of track pants to start with.  The in-depth AIM conversation about the “ass-to-ass” scene in Requiem for Dream, in which I described in detail to a fellow ninth-grader, would be up there as well, mostly because my mom got on my computer and read it in full, then broke this news to me before my first job interview.  Sweet timing, mom!

But I would say, by far, my biggest life regret involved Michael Jackson’s guitar.

When I was a kid, in the pre-internet days, or at least the pre-internet-for-anything-other-than-dancing-baby days, people used to rely on TV for two now defunct concepts: music video and call-in contests.  Not of the QVC variety, mind you, but of the “please dear God keep sitting through these La Bouche music videos for the next hour” variety.

One such call-in contest took place on VH1’s cable channel, and promised a Michael Jackson autographed guitar to the 100th caller, or something arbitrary like that.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about what Michael Jackson meant to my childhood.  The first thing I ever purchased with my own money, a collection of birthday and Christmas money piggybanked for a year or two, was Michael Jackson’s History compilation.  I don’t know what it was.  Jackson wasn’t even necessarily still cool when I was a kid; he’d bleached himself bonkers.  But I remember counting down the days until that album release date, and having my dad drive me to Best Buy to cash in my savings, and I remember the world video premiere for “Man in the Mirror”, and “Scream”, and generally feeding my boombox nothing but Michael Jackson and the Space Jam soundtrack.

So, I must have been around eight years old, and of course I’m calling in to every damn contest.  I never get through, not even to local radio stations to make requests.  It’s more for the thrill of the hunt.

And then, something happens that day, during that concert.

I get through.

The first thing the woman on the line asks me is for my name.

8-year-old me blanks for a while, but manages to stammer and spell it out for her.  Now, in retrospect, am I sure there is some rule that you have to be 18 to win these?  Yes.  But that interrupts the story flow here, so let’s ignore that for a second.

She then asks for my address, where they can ship Jackson’s guitar to me.

Lady, I’m 8 years old.  What is an address?

I start freaking out.  I’m on the phone just stammering for a while, and then I just keep saying some variation of I don’t know, how do I find out my address?  And eventually I realize nobody is around to help, so I just kind of start crying and hang up the phone.

I could have had Michael Jackson’s autographed guitar.  Did Michael Jackson even play guitar?  I don’t care!  It was Michael Jackson.  And all I had to do was provide my address.  Instead, I cried.  A lot.  Like, a lot more than I should have even.

To this day, I get nervous when I have to spell out my address on the phone, which thankfully only applies to pizza deliveries and mail-order brides.  Also, exercise equipment I use for 48 hours before remembering that napping feels a lot better than exercising.  And it’s because of that damn dark day from my childhood.

Sometimes, I think about how that might have changed my life.

“Hey Sarah, do you want to go to the mixer with me?”

“Sorry Collin, I’m already going with Nick.”

“Oh yeah, does Nick have an autographed Michael Jackson guitar?

“No.  I just like his face a lot better than yours.”

“Oh.  Right.  Well, I guess that’s fair.”

Well, okay, junior high is never the best judge of anything.  Let’s try something else, rewind a bit:

“Hey Kyle, do you want to spend the night at house this weekend?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ve got an autographed Michael Jackson guitar!

“So?”

“…and we can put on Channel 78 after my parents go to sleep.  If you wait 10 minutes, you can kinda see through the static!”

“Awesome, what night did you say again?”

So, see, it would have made a world of difference.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure it was my one shot to ever win a contest.  I have won no contests of consequence ever since.  No call-in contests.  No fantasy football or college basketball bracket money pools.  Of the three times I’ve been to Vegas, my best trip was a break-even.

(To be fair, I did win a contest in eighth grade where I could pick a friend, and our principal would take myself and said friend out to lunch one day.  My friend was Hindu and practiced a vegetarian diet, so naturally we went to Burger King and said principal drove like a freaking madman to get there.  But bonus points for being allowed to bring that large carbonated plastic diabetes goblet back to English class and have the teacher tell me to throw it away — naw, Mrs. N, the principal said I could … and he’s your boss, so if you got a problem with it, I guess you can take it up with my man Rog or just start packing your stuff now.  I didn’t say any of that, of course, I just threw the Coke away as I was asked.)

I’m the guy who fate selected to win a Michael Jackson guitar as my only stroke of contest luck across my entire lifetime, and I didn’t even get the damn guitar.

So what did I miss out on, pricewise?  I’m looking at eBay and there are autographed Michael Jackson guitars going for $5,000.  5,000 dollars?  That’s like 15 percent of what I still owe Sallie Mae!

Anyway, the lesson here, parents, is to teach your kids their address by the time they start watching VH1.  Actually, no kids watch VH1 anymore, so that lesson no longer applies.  I guess it’s just my handgrenade to fall on in the end.

Oh well.  At least I had Channel 78.

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Bieber.

Bustin Jieber, Golf Wang.

I will never understand the world’s contempt for Justin Bieber.

Before I get into my thoughts on Biebz, I want to share a story with you.  A parable, if you’ll allow.  About one frosty-permed boy band poster child who was once held in the same regard.

This guy was the subject of countless jokes and derisive comments.  No talent prettyboy, said the masses.  Queer.  Lame.  Fag.  Whatever.  People hated him so much that that they actually claimed he was the least-talented member of N*Sync…and that was saying something.

(And this all glossing over the predictable, vomit-inducing mass homophobic labeling that popularly comes with denigrating anyone with prettyboy appeal, which is a separate rant entirely.)

Justin Timberlake is so GAY, dude!  I can’t believe anyone listens to that shit!  Now excuse me while I go listen to real music, like Matchbox Twenty or Fastball or Eagle-Eye Cherry!

Timberlake couldn’t have made more covers of MAD Magazine if he had majority share in the company.  Now fast-forward 10 years and tell me, with a straight face, that there is a better all-around talent in Hollywood.  I’m talking the full act: singing, dancing, acting.  Usher might take two of the three, Chris Brown one-and-a-half, but name a better all-around talent than Timberlake.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In the 10 years since it stopped becoming cool to bag on Justin, the dude has made more money and bedded more beautiful women than every other act from 1999 combined.  He’s been on more albums than most of them.  Been in more award-winning films than all of them.  And he gets in VIP rooms Derek Zoolander is even excluded from.

Oh, but I mean, I’m glad you were listening to real music.  How’d that Eagle-Eye Cherry discography work out for you?  Glad you’re fully-stocked on Pearl Jam shirts?  Lose your virginity with Fastball or some similar canned alternative bullshit straining through the car stereo?

(Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair to Pearl Jam, but still.  You get me.)

Now people act like they never hated on Timberlake in the first place.  Am I the only one who remembers what it was like to be 12 years old in the year 2000?  Queersauce, you probably got a Justin Timberlake poster in your room or something! The barbed-wire banter of 12-year-olds fighting for alpha.

Fact is, people hated Timberlake because it was cool, and because he represented the world’s most famous boy band (though the Backstreet Boys may beg to differ, 98 Degreez what up?)  It was more what he embodied than what he actually was.  And as soon as he said “see ya, suckas” to Joey Fatone and crew, he was off and running and swatting away the benjamins belting him in the breeze like desert grains in a sandstorm.

And now, of course, we have Bieber.

I never understood the hate for Bieber.  For one, he’s a damn kid.  Is it not completely irrational for a 35-year-old hipster to hate a 16-year-old kid for cutting a freaking album?  I’m just imagining the contingent of grown men who actually find some measure of pride in bashing a kid for doing something he loves, because it’s representative of the larger consumer-rape culture.  As if Biebz has any active say in the business model designed to rob fathers of preteen girls blind.  You could argue that he’s a willing participant in that system at best, but he’s a damn kid.  You think he’s making any of those decisions, drawing up any of those business models that bleed parents dry every time a new swoop-haired backpack comes off the production lines?

Hell no.  He’s probably getting blazed with some groupies in the back of his tour bus and playing Xbox.  He’s 16.  What the hell, is the assumption that he sits in a swivel chair stroking a 200-year-old, overweight housecat with his cold, puppy-crushing robotic arm all day long, gleefully setting in motion plans to transform America into a synthesized monoculture where everyone listens to the same poppy excrement and alteration of three chords or keys courtesy of Dr. Luke?

People want to make Bieber the face of an age-old corporate feeding model, and they say the same things about Bieber they used to say about Timberlake:

He looks like a girl.

He looks so queer.

His hair is so gay!

His music is shit.

He hasn’t even hit puberty yet.

He’s getting paid MILLIONS to put out the same song over and over again!

(Jelly too!)

Listen, I don’t like Bieber’s songs either.  It’s not like I’ve ever listened to a single one all the way through.  I don’t think I could.  But I’m in JBiebz’s corner.  WHY, you ask?  WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU EVER SUPPORT THIS CLOWN?!

Because I am banking on the most incredible 180 you have ever seen the second this kid turns 18.

First of all, he can play out that Donny Osmond image all he wants, but you know what’s going on in that tour bus.  Dude has 8.5 million Twitter followers and probably thrice the worldwide groupies.  You think he just smiles and waves at them?  Hell no.

Admit it, you’d play the role of auto-tuned popstar if you had those numbers in your favor.  Even the most adamant of the anti-industry hipsters would give in to the depravity-on-demand lifestyle.  So shut up with your Bieber hate when you know you would kill to have thought of his gig when you were spending your junior high years rolling houses and overanalyzing the blur of Channel 78.

Bieber is already a burgeoning #WINNER, without the stigma of being 40 years too old to pull it off.  I can tell you right now what’s going to happen, and it’s going to be awesome: he’s going to turn 18, start losing his fanbase slowly in the same way as the Jesse McCartneys and Drew Lacheys before him and just say hell with it, I’m throwing a coke-fueled rager in international waters and every beautiful person in this world who might do something legally-regrettable is invited.

He’ll probably rack up a drug bust or two.  If we’re lucky, we’ll get some sweet Insider Edition footage of him assaulting small children for being unambitious in their sandcastle construction before he does his first stint in county.  But I think before all that happens, he’ll join Odd Future’s lineup in some form or another.

Imagine that: Bieber, overnight, becoming the antithesis of Bieber.  Bustin Jieber.  You watch.  He’ll freestyle over “Yonkers” completely disowning the same model that made him possible and unraveling the universe in the process.

It.  Will.  Be.  Epic.

Jieber’s obscenity will make Earl Sweatshirt look like a radio edit.

He is going to break the hearts of the last few strands of his fanbase desperately clinging to their aging idol while the next teenage wonderboy is promoted up the ranks, and their tears are going to make for great album art.  WHY, JUSTIN, WHY?  I USED TO BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO YOU ON RADIO DISNEY WHEN MOM WAS DRIVING!

And, hey, even if I’m wrong about that specific brand of self-revolution, maybe he’s another Timberlake.  Everyone said the same things about him.  Look where he is now.  Ask yourself: how sure are you that you’ll look back on your Kings of Leon or LMFAO playlists 10 years from now and still think this stuff is awesome!

Whatever he turns out to be, though, he’s like, what 16 now?  Stop hating on a kid.  It’s pathetic.  Let him live out his dwindling shelf life as a teenage idol.  You don’t even have to work to phase him out of pop and quash the genre, it will happen naturally!  That’s the beauty of it.  You don’t have to bitch about how much you want him off the radio because once he’s in that 17, 18 range, he’ll be fading off the airwaves anyway because it’s getting harder and harder to pass for 15-16.

Just give the kid the waning stages of his teenage pop career, and his tourbus and Xbox and all the illicit activities in the back and stop bitching about it!

You’re going to regret it when he’s punching mimes off the boardwalk on a Four Loko bender.