Tuesday, July 10, 2007


You'd expect more visitors than we see in our graveyard. Sure, Easter and Christmas, Mother's and Father's Day are big visiting days in the boneyard, but other than Toddler's Row there's never much traffic in the yard, which makes the regulars standout.

Without fail at 0630, rain or shine, an older gent struts into the graveyard, proud and purposeful, erect in a stooped sort of way, trying to retain that old military bearing despite his age, gravity, and, one suspects, arthritis. He's always crisp, probably a retired Marine or an Army lifer. He tends a single grave, bending at the knees to to sweep away the dead grass, then stands erect, removes his cap and prays...or maybe he just remembers. He's never long, though. It's only a minute or so before he about faces and marches across the yard and through the gates.

My wife and I make up stories about some people we see, like the older guy in the white convertible with a much younger blonde riding shotgun. They whizzed in one Sunday morning with the top down, all tanned and fit.
"I guess they're going by to show the old dead wife his new car and spouse", I said.
One visitor we can't figure out, however, is the younger girl in the black over silver PT Cruiser convertible. Every weekday morning around 6 am she enters the graveyard and just drives aimless, looping circles on the roads around and through the graves. She never stops, never takes the same route twice, and then, like she'd finally made up her mind about something, she heads out for the boulevard. Cruiser girl's been doing this for several weeks now and I'm getting ready to go stop her and ask what she's up to.
On the other hand, maybe she can be my private Suzanne Sommers in a white Tbird.
I like the biker best of all the visitors. A big guy with a black beard and one of those black Nazi-looking helmets riding a real Harley hog thunders into the cemetery every now and then, always around sunset. You can tell him from the note of his pipes. Even inside our house we feel the earth tremble as he racks his pipes and shuts down in an expensive part of the graveyard.

His ritual is aways the same. He always brings a big pizza in a flat box and a six-pack of Corona, and, sitting next to a grave, he eats a single slice of pizza and drinks a single beer with his buddy. When he's finished, he boxes up the pizza and leaves it and the beer on the grave.

Years ago, I spent 4 years in the Western Pacific on the island of Guam, where America's day begins. There was some flavor of Buddhist temple near our house that I visited now and again. The temple catered to the needs of Japanese families making pilgrimage to Guam to honor the fallen family members from WWII and was kind of a mixed use Taoist, Buddhist, whatever establishment. The monk was affable and enjoyed the occasional visitor. His gardens were beautiful and restful. He had a 3-legged dog.

Inside the temple itself, always awash with the smoke of dozens of burning incense sticks, worshipers bring food and drink to leave on the alter for ..."the gods" the spirits of the dead? Somebody. I learned from the monk that the gods ate the essence of the offering, leaving the physical behind. While I never saw him eating or drinking items from the alter, I always suspected that he did. He never looked like he had much to eat: scrawny.

So when the Harley fires up and after the biker has rumbled out of sight through the gates, it's my cue to hop over the fence and retrieve our dinner, I say to the gods or the dead guy or maybe both or maybe no one, "hey, you gonna finish that?"

I hope the gods got all the essence out of that pizza and 5-pack of Corona.

1 comment:


Outrageously Funny! Or, perhaps I'm
just an old fool that appreciates a
unique perspective. Thanks! reb