Wandering Through the Graveyard, Yeah, the Bell Tolls for Me

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They say, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.”  I used to be able to hear various church bell cotillions growing up, but today the only things I hear from my surroundings are the various airport noises, police and fire sirens, and the tornado siren that goes off every Wednesday at noon.  Perhaps the church bell cotillions have gone out of style, in much the same way as we try to distance ourselves from the natural rhythm of death and dying.  In Victorian times, death was up close and personal and in your face.  There were no nursing homes to warehouse the elderly, and for the most part, when one got seriously ill or injured, death came quickly, usually either on the spot or at home.  There were no fire squads or life-flights or trauma units to tend to the catastrophically injured.  People didn’t linger on in cancer wards or on machines in intensive care units, sequestered off to die, far away from prying eyes.  You just bit the big one wherever you happened to be.

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Maybe some Metallica, cranked up, would help.  I doubt it.

Infants and children died at an alarming rate as well, which begs the question, how emotionally invested were parents in their children?  I could see the temptation in those days to keep loved ones at arm’s length rather than to dare to get too close, but I’m emotionally distant to begin with.  I don’t like getting too close to anyone even if I am somewhat confident of their continued longevity.

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I do think that this mother was very close to her departed six-year old Wallie.  This headstone is both unique, and to me, rather sad.

Maybe wandering through a graveyard is macabre, and certain graveyards have a sort of a creepy vibe to them, but others are pleasant to wander through.  I’ve always found the Marion Cemetery to be a fascinating and aesthetically pleasant place to wander about, at least in the daytime.  I’d like to go back again with an empty memory card and several hours to simply take pics and read the headstones and try to visualize the people whose lives were behind them.

There are graveyards closer to my house, but there’s something intriguing knowing that I have relatives buried in the ones up in Marion County.  Some of my relatives’ graves are marked, but some aren’t, and most, I’d have fun finding.  I have yet to find the numerous relatives of mine that are buried in Marion Cemetery, but I also have to remember that place is massive- it covers hundreds of acres and goes back to before the Civil War.   When I took this batch of pics I was mostly wandering through the Civil War era sections of the cemetery.  It was cold that day and after about two hours I’d pretty much gone through my memory card (I have a bigger memory card now) and my joints’ tolerance for cold and damp. I’ve not done much traipsing about in other parts of it.  Yet.

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Amos Kling was Florence Harding’s father. His obelisk is rather impressive, but I didn’t step back and get a pic of the whole thing.

I’m still amazed at how much money people had to have spent on some of these monuments.  Either Marion County was a far more opulent place back in the 19th and early 20th centuries (I’m guessing this one) or people spent a lot more scratch on the dead than they do now.  Maybe it was both.

I do know there are a good number of unmarked graves even in the Marion Cemetery which is the largest (and highest dollar real estate) cemetery in Marion County.  Whether poverty is the main reason behind that. or indifference, I don’t know.  I know some people die and nobody really cares too much about remembering them, but in the end how many people really are remembered for long, and how long do those stone monuments last?  Many of them from the 1880’s and earlier are almost beyond deciphering.

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This one always intrigued me- is it an idealized image of the deceased or a heavenly specter, or both?

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I think they were referring to the building being built.  Still funny though.

The Lost Art of Redneck Cookery, Historical Excursions, and Inevitability

It is fortunate that my grandmothers taught me how to cook. Since it is legend in my family that my Mom’s atrocious culinary offerings caused Suzie the Dachshund’s premature death, I’m glad my grandmothers were around.  In all fairness, Suzie wasn’t a particularly picky eater, even for a dog.  She was known to eat underwear, socks, rocks, her own poo, Barbie heads and assorted limbs, and pretty much anything else that would fit in her gaping maw.  So Mom’s cooking- I can still see the mashed potatoes with the big black burnt flakes and the accompanying “gravy” that was the texture, flavor, and consistency of partially hardened concrete- might have been a contributing factor or even the final tipping point, considering Suzie’s complete lack of discernment in her eating habits.   

I won’t say that I am the best cook there is by a long shot, but I can hold my own with most old-time redneck cuisine.  I can roll my own noodles, (no I do not “roll my own” anything else, except maybe pie crust) fry chicken, grill steaks, bake breads, pies, cakes and cookies, make soups and casseroles and roasts, etc.  Unfortunately these are skills that most young people see as being quaint and obsolete.  I could not be any more weird to the kids if I went out and shot deer, tanned the hides and made my own shoes .  My son and his friends consider microwaved ramen noodles, pizza delivery, and Taco Bell to be the apex of fine dining. 

The relevance of learning cooking skills  just doesn’t register with the POMC.  He worked at Taco Bell for two years and figured that was enough cooking for him.   He thought I was completely nuts to be boiling a chicken and rolling out noodle dough when you can get chicken-n-noodles all ready to be microwaved in less than five minutes, courtesy of Marie Callender. 

In my humble opinion- while some microwave meals aren’t half bad and I am not above eating them on occasion- when you do have the time and motivation to do the authentic slow food thing it tastes better.  My old time redneck cuisine isn’t all loaded down with salt and preservatives and heaven only knows what else either. 

Admittedly, most women of my generation (and most likely those younger than I) are about as clueless about home cooking as I am about football or other assorted man-sports.  My grandmothers’ generation was probably the last generation to consider cooking an essential skill. 

So here I am with my archaic skill sets- yes I can cook and bake, and do needlework for what it’s worth.  I enjoy down-home slow cooking when I have the time.  So there.  But it does disturb me that it’s a dying art.  It’s getting harder and harder to find things like shortening, cornstarch and various spices. Even worse, it’s getting harder and harder for me to find the time.

I am looking forward to Dad’s Birthday Cruise on Saturday.  It’s sort of disquieting for me to go since I’ve not had a classic air-cooled VW for years, but his buddies in the car club are cool and it’s always a good time.  I wouldn’t miss it barring extreme illness or Act of God, since it is also Dad’s birthday party, and an opportunity for me to get him an embarrassing gag gift.

We always go to one or two historical sites in Marion County.  This year we are going to the tiny village of LaRue to see a collection of Jim Thorpe memorabilia and then to check out another guy’s extensive collection of license plates.  Dad is always good at picking out interesting places to go.  I was sort of disappointed that we weren’t doing anything architecturally related this time, (I so enjoyed touring the Harding Home and Etowah a couple of years ago,) but it’s good to mix it up.  I might be surprised at what I get to see.

In a way it is almost painful to go home and revisit the past.  So much that I see in the history of those places points to a future that should have been better and brighter than today.  Unfortunately I was born into a place and time that was just on the cusp of catastrophic decline, and in a sickening sort of paradox, as I grew up, I watched it all fall and disintegrate and decay.

I know the reasons behind the fall, but hindsight is 20/20.  When one is confronted with the lingering shadow of what could have been, that which has become a spoiled, dusty, failed memory, and today’s more sordid reality, it can be disheartening. Sometimes when I drive past the decaying monoliths of a long-dead industry I see my own heart, my own spirit- something that belonged to the past and sort of exists, at least in form, but isn’t really there anymore.

I look at the idle, rusting frameworks and I see my own metaphor drawn out, speaking the unsaid, wrought in cold, dead steel.

Everywhere and nowhere, all points converge here.

I can find divers examples of proof for the devolution of humanity, believe that.  Just go to WalMart.

I don’t know what is more frightening- WalMart in the summer, or the stunning vision (or was that a sight) of fat, bald dudes in Speedos that we were treated to at Put-In-Bay.

The Birthday Cruise always ends at the Marion Cemetery, which I have not even come close to fully perusing despite emptying out my memory card and spending a Sunday afternoon last March taking pictures of almost everything that caught my interest. A 2GB card is not enough, especially if you want high res pics.

I’ve always thought this to be the saddest monument in the Marion Cemetery, poor six year old Wallie.  For being almost 150 years old, his monument has held up remarkably well.  Perhaps a grieving mother put this up years after Wallie’s unfortunate and premature passing, but it is consistent with the often maudlin Victorian traditions of memorializing the dead.  In those days death wasn’t just an Old Person Thing confined to hospitals and nursing homes, shrouded in wiring and tubes and technology and sanitized by distance and closed doors.  In 1864, when Wallie succumbed, death was a Living Room Thing, something that visited old and young alike, that was intimate and piercing and all consuming. 

Perhaps in society’s sanitization of death we have also depersonalized it and in the process have stripped ourselves of some of  our humanity.  We live with the false assumption that we have forever. 

Granted, medical science has come a long way in postponing death.  I would have likely been worm food thirty-odd years ago if not for antibiotics (yes people did die from rheumatic fever) and was almost worm food for sure twenty years ago- even with an eleventh hour c-section.   Delaying the inevitable is exactly that, though.  We all have to die, but we aren’t very good at facing it.

Dylan Thomas exhorted us to, “Rage, rage at the dying of the light.”  I think there is a sort of futility in that gesture.  On one hand there is the tragic death of one who seems to forfeit so much potential- someone young, someone with a great deal of talent, but then there is also the tragic life of one who is suffering and weary of life who longs for the sleep and peace of death and can’t find it.  God can make sense of such paradox, but I can’t.

There have been times in my life when I have wondered why I have been left to suck up valuable oxygen while those who I feel to be more worthy of life die.  That’s a question that I can only leave to faith- and to trust in the wisdom of God.  I figure no matter how long I am here, it’s only for a limited time.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

When Is Panic the Appropriate Response?, Views of the Macabre, and Wake-Up Songs

 

Perhaps as a person who has dealt with PTSD, major depression, and panic attacks, it would be helpful for me to know when panic is the appropriate response.  I have been known to vascillate from near catatonia and total apathy to going postal over a popcorn fart.  One thing that I have noticed after being on Prozac for the past six years, is that my reactions seem to be a lot more “middle of the road.”  I don’t freak out easily and for no apparent reason like I used to when I had panic attacks on a regular basis, but I don’t go into total apathy mode either.  I do notice and still care about all the things that are screwed up in my particular dystopia, but not to the point of losing sleep or climbing the walls.  This is a good thing, I think, unless I should be freaking out and just don’t realize it.

Jerry freaks out about the grass.  I don’t know if all middle-aged to elderly men have a thing about having a perfect lawn and freaking out if you don’t, but Jerry sure as hell has a lawn fetish.   He always thinks the grass needs mowed, especially if he can see any dandelions.  Personally, I like dandelions.  They are nature’s way of giving lawn freaks like Jerry the finger.  There are limits to what you can do with grass.  Our lawn is not a golf course.  There’s a bus stop in front of our house, so a lot of the time, as they wait on the bus, the freakazoids from the drunk and domestic apartments behind the body shop are tossing their cig packs, drinkie cups and various other detritus in the front yard.  I swear I picked up- with the shovel- a trucker bomb in the front yard the other day.  So as long as the height of the plant life in the front yard is compliant with city ordinances, I wouldn’t be too paranoid about it.  The back yard is the dogs’ shitter.  Do they care if they shit in dandelions?  Probably not.  George Carlin once asked (in reference to cats, but same principle) how many gourmets lick their asses.  How many dogs really care about the quality of the greenery they’re dropping a deuce in?

Thankfully, yesterday, when he finally moved out of Tipsy McNumbnuts mode, Jerry decided to call his half-brother Ray Earl (oh, the joy of redneck names!) who repairs lawn mowers, to see if he would take a look at the one he trashed.  In the meanwhile, he managed to start one of the beat up old mowers he buys at yard sales to sell on Craig’s List, and he did quite fine last night mowing the grass with it.   Since he was sober and acting like he actually had half a brain for once, I decided to be nice and pick up all the visible dog shit in the back yard for him.  That was partially for my own benefit, because he always seems to either step in it (and then, of course, he will traipse it through the house so I get to clean it up off his shoes and the floors) or it gets mulched in the mower, so you step out the door and it smells like shit.  Neither alternative is pleasant, but  I was overjoyed to be spared a field trip through the seventh circle of hell with him in Sears or Home Depot.  Scooping up shit is not nearly as bad as following Jerry around in Home Depot.

I am not much of a shopper, especially for a woman.  I dislike crowds, and generally avoid stores altogether if I can buy what I want online.  But home improvement stores are Jerry’s equivalent of DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse- one of the hugest shoe stores in the Midwest-with locations all over beautiful Central Ohio.)  Jerry can spend hours looking at building supplies and tools and chain saws and trimmers and mowers and all the various crud available at home improvement stores for hours on end.  I find gawking at that stuff insanely boring unless I need a particular item to do a particular job, then I get what I need and get out.  It usually smells like fertilizer or paint in those places, and I really don’t want to linger. I don’t think I could spend as long in DSW as Jerry spends on his forays to Home Depot.   Ideally he would go to the home improvement store with Bob- they both know what they are after, they both like to gawk at things like varnish and caulk, and I don’t have a freaking clue.

I do try not to be one of those old geezers who bitch about really stupid things.  I don’t want to end up like the old bitty that lived across from Mom and Dad who complained about kids “stealing her snow.”  She was dead for four months before anyone realized it.  Her kids never bothered to visit her, and everyone who lived in the neighborhood avoided her because she was constantly calling the cops on everyone.  I don’t want to become so petty that I end up calling the cops over dogs barking or loud exhausts.  Usually I only bother law enforcement if there’s something dangerous going on, like people shooting off shotguns, or there’s a drunk guy passed out in the drunk and domestic apartments’ parking lot when it’s 20 degrees out, and he’ll freeze to death if nobody retrieves him.

I figure cops have better things to do than to hassle people about dogs barking or to give the young punks fits about the ass-nasty rap music they like to blare through their sub-woofers.  I’m not saying I like it when people let their dogs bark incessantly or when anyone plays rap music, but I’m sure I do things to annoy people too.   

Jerry got an interesting piece of junk mail yesterday- from a cemetery up in Lewis Center (a small town about 25 miles out) extolling the beauty (and quoting pricing and payment plans) of having your very own pre-paid grave plot

I hate to say it but I find such a thing a bit macabre.  It’s one thing to realize you eventually might need one, and go trolling for grave plots on your own, but it seems just a bit morbid for a cemetery to be sending out flyers with the ValPak coupons. 

I am planning on being cremated if for no other reasons than to save money and space.  I should consider buying my urn ahead of time. 

If I leave it up to Steve-o I’ll end up spending eternity either flushed down the toilet, or in an old Folger’s can that Steve-o will eventually mistake for an ashtray.

I am going to have to compile my CD of  “Songs to Wake Jerry Up” for use when he’s hungover because he was partying like a rockstar the night before.

Here’s a preliminary list:

“Stars and Stripes Forever” – John Philip Sousa (this is a wake-up classic!)

Ren and Stimpy’s “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” song

“Shiny Happy People”- REM (it can be a just plain annoying song)

“Dixie Highway”- Journey

“Rock and Roll”- Led Zeppelin

“Crazy Train”- Black Sabbath

“Bastille Day”- Rush

“Smells Like Teen Spirit”- Nirvana

“For Whom the Bell Tolls”- Metallica

I could have fun with this collection.  I will have to troll my MP3 collection tonight and see what I can find. 

Something tells me I really don’t want to know.  After Steve-o did the 7/8″ earrings in his earlobes, I didn’t have the courage to ask him what else he has pierced.  Some things are TMI, even for me.

The Three “Esses,” a Walk in the Graveyard, and a Limited Time Offer

I always knew that guys had it easier in regard to a lot of every day things.  Their morning get-ready routine goes as follows: Shit. Shower. Shave., which are known collectively as “The Three Esses.”    No fussing about with makeup or hair styling or any of that noise.  Their haircuts cost less.  They don’t have to fuss over clothing choices (usually) and generally aren’t that picky as to whether or not their clothing is clean.  It took me years to convince Steve-o that sniffing the crotch of one’s pants is not an acceptable method to discern the difference between “soiled” and “fresh.”   They eat anything as long as it contains the three food groups- caffeine, nicotine, sugar and grease, remembering always that alcohol is a sugar.

The bad thing is that some of the guys I know probably have to have someone write down the Three Esses on their bathroom mirror, lest they forget them.  Of course I would have to add a bit of a dental hygiene regimen to that- please brush your teeth, and Listerine is not a bad idea either!

I finally figured out what the major advantage is to being born male:

When a male child is born it is as if the universe makes a statement to him. You are made exempt from household chores by the magical power of possessing the Twig and Berries!  Schwing! Jerry never literally spelled it out that way, but in practical application he might as well have. A swinging Johnson apparently gets nearly half of the human population out of a LOT of work.

I did manage to take a nice, long wander about in the Marion Cemetery yesterday.  I dumped a lot of the crap in my memory card (several times) and still didn’t scratch the surface as to cool old gravestones to take pics of.  The angel (above) really struck me.  I hadn’t noticed it there before, but the entire cemetery is about two square miles which is a lot of wandering about.  Most of my wanderings yesterday were in the old / high faluting part of the cemetery with the really over the top monuments.  For those who think old ostentatious grave markers are really way cool also, you can view the slideshow on Shutterfly .  Nobody did death like the Victorians.

I was shocked by the number of stillborn infants, very young children, and women who died in their early-to-mid twenties, though I shouldn’t have been.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries one in four women died in childbirth and infant mortality was at times almost 50%.   Usually there were no causes of death on the gravestones except for the some of the Civil War Veterans who were killed in action.

I find this one particularly sad.  Either Wallie was an only child, his parents had a lot of money, or both.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

Life is a limited time offer.  I guess that is the lesson to take away from an afternoon in the graveyard.

Lust?  What’s that?

Oh, yeah.  It’s been a very long time.