I was out and about doing errands when a friend called me to tell me that Michael Jackson had died. My first reaction was to utter an expletive. I wasn’t sad, I didn’t think this was a false report. I didn’t know how to react. It’s as if a friend calls you and tells you that the Rocky Mountains had disappeared. The very configuration of the pop culture firmament has shifted before our very eyes. Jackson’s music career had long waned in the United States, for most of my lifetime he’d been more of a cultural than musical phenomenon. I didn’t think of Michael Jackson very often, but I always assumed he’d be around as a background condition. I noticed that even the professional sidewalk signature gatherers were departing from their script and were chatting up strangers about Jackson’s death instead of the environment or whatever they normally talked up.