Monday, September 6, 2010

Going Graving

Why is it a "must see" part of any tourist trip of Washington, D.C. to include time at Arlington National Cemetery yet any other part of the country or world visiting graveyards can be viewed as downright creepy? Same thing in Europe where one can hardly consider going without taking in the crypts of Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, all manner of Parisian and Roman Catacombs or even the US National Cemetery at Normandy on the coast of France. Millions of people pay big money to come from all over the world, myself included, to visit the last resting place of the Kennedy Brothers and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier yet few of them wander or even know whom in their own area might be sleeping peacefully just across town.

Graveyards never creeped me out as a child because I never hung out with the kind of friends who wanted to tell ghost stories by the light of a flashlight held under the chin by the side of a tombstone. I was fascinated with them just the same for the simple fact that people were under the ground, as if in some eternal spa, stretched out in their finest clothes and undergoing some long term beauty treatment. Yea, that just got a little macabre, didn't it?

Anyway, the notion of visiting burial grounds in to adulthood stems from still wanting to pay my respects to notable people along with the fact that standing graveside is quite often as close as I'll ever get to some of them in real time. They can't go anywhere and in most cases the entourage of hangers-on and private security have long since died with them or latched on to some other living soul for their livelihood. Add in the fact that most cemeteries and mausoleums do not charge for admission and there's no such thing as a bad seat. Just don't expect them to perform while you're there.

One meaningful visit to a fallen personal hero was the chance to express my condolences and gratitude at the grave of Brian Piccolo who's story was so movingly told in the film "Brian's Song," still a Top 5 favorite movie of mine today.

Thanks to websites such as FindaGrave.Com a particularly enjoyable trip took me one bored Saturday from my then home in Chicago to visit James Dean in his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana. I put a tank of gas in the car and drove through the heart of die hard America, the kind of deep rural country where only people with relatives go. I learned some things along the way, including the fact that Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield is from the same area!

Luther Vandross in New Jersey, George and Martha Washington as well as Abraham Lincoln, Frank Sinatra and Sonny Bono (same small cemetery) in Palm Springs, Marilyn Monroe in Los Angeles, even Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas, the list goes on. I never met Michael Jackson in person and he now lies in a restricted area of Forest Lawn in Glendale. Still mourning the loss nearly a year later I have to be thankful at least that I saw him once in concert.

Only, of course, in the middle of 73,000 people, he didn't see me.

Gotta go.

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