January 18, 2019

Body Snatchers

Body snatching...that is stealing a body from a grave...such things have not been limited to old horror movies born in the imagination of a writer, or an occasional shocking case or two like Burke and Hare many years ago...and I’m not talking about any form of zombie apocalypse...no, the real thing—indeed, it has taken place many times all over the world...unsavory people who would go into graveyards armed with shovels and did such a thing were often called ‘resurrection men’...because they brought the dead back...not to life, but to something...like dissection...so it was kind of like a resurrection, a correction, a connection...between the dead and the living...sometimes they would use various accessories like tarps and such to help avoid their dirty deeds from being discovered...wooden shovels were sometimes used to make less noise, and there were a variety of methods to get to the corpse...one was to tear the top of the coffin off...wrap a rope around the body, and then drag it up out of the grave...pleasant work...others were more brazen and didn’t care if there ‘work’ was obvious or not...most of the time, these ‘body snatchers’ would then sell the bodies they dug up to doctors and medical schools that were in need of cadavers for study purposes...for some, it turned out to be a lucrative profession...if somewhat distasteful to some...the doctors who bought the bodies certainly weren’t going to say anything...back in the day, the law stated that bodies could be used for dissection if they were of criminals who had committed ‘harsh’ crimes...however, this law did not make enough bodies available for those who wished to study...therefore, a nice little trade started where some people would dig up freshly buried bodies and then sell them to those who wanted them...and had the money to pay...it became such a problem in England and Scotland that people would place stone with iron bars over the graves to keep the snatchers out, called mortsafes...or they would pay someone to guard a freshly used grave...at least until the ground settled and made the task more difficult...snatchers were always on the prowl for newly dug graves that would make their work easier...resurrection men weren’t above hiring people to go to a funeral to scout out if there might be any future problems in retrieving a body...sometimes, weights were substituted for an actual body by enterprising individuals who then sold the body to interested parties...body snatching has also been done to try and cover up crimes or to try to fool police or insurance investigators...in one example, a man wanted by the police dug up a body in a remote cemetery in Mexico and placed it in his car in an attempt to fake his own death...he made sure the car was incinerated by the staged ‘accident’...yet, there was still enough evidence that tipped investigators off that the body was not his...eventually, he was captured by authorities...body snatching is different from grave robbery in the fact that the body is not usually stolen when robbing a grave...only any valuables that might have been buried with it...such as looters plundering the tombs of the Pharaohs in Egypt...interestingly, body snatching was only considered a misdemeanor...some body snatchers were careful not to take any rings or jewelry as that would have made the crime a felony...in more recent times, sometimes when rural cemeteries were ‘moved’ to make way for ‘progress’, it was shocking to some that many coffins were very light to lift...a.k.a. empty.

January 16, 2019

Pharmacy On The Corner of Fourth and Main

Sitting on the spider webbed cracked concrete ledge in front of the window of the old rundown pharmacy with our backs resting against the dirty glass that hadn’t been cleaned since the Truman administration...in my old hometown that I loved so much, I’ve been back once since and that was for the funeral of a friend who still lived there and hung around with the same people he hung around with in high school...how quaint...and unimaginative...the one where I used to buy all my 45 r.p.m. records for something like 79 cents...all those 45’s that I got in my garage now in an old trunk...and I keep saying I’m gonna buy a turntable and listen to them again like I used to...but the turntable never gets bought and the records haven’t spun, spanned or spinned in years...the rundown pharmacy that wasn’t as nice as the newer one down the street but it had a certain charm of an old relative that nobody liked except you...only half of the lights actually worked and the tile floor had decades of yellowing old wax on them and there were sticky spots on the floor that never got mopped...cars passed by with people grimly looking ahead and not seeing anything...driving by the calliope of green, yellow and red lights--green again, yellow again, red again...or cute girls in cars that we waved at like they would want anything to do with a couple of punks whose only method of transportation was a 10 speed bicycle or our own two feet...if they agreed to go out with us, we’d have to go out in the street and beg for money to spend on them...people on their way to work or going home from work or maybe not going anywhere except in the fertile imagination of their minds--piloting their machines of chrome, rubber and steel...passing Italian Beef restaurants, banks, clothing stores, kiddie stores and the ice cream shop that we considered ourselves too cool for but went there anyway...passing the summer days away, 9 blocks from home--but it felt like miles when it’s your first taste of freedom--away from the the helicopter parents that kept you confined to a block or two around your house when you were younger...I don’t know if kids still got that issue or not...maybe they’re more independent now...Mom working, Dad working, latch key kids...who bothers to watch them?...or it’s karate lessons, dance lessons, gymnastics, soccer, and a million other distractions and babysitters real and electronic...now there’s a mass murderer and child kidnapper around every corner and you can’t be too safe...and just down the street from the aforementioned pharmacy was the old bowling alley with twelve lanes and bowling balls that hopped the turnstiles and took a subway system where the balls boarded and then get off at the same stop every time...at least it used to be a bowling alley...later it was reincarnated as a spinning silver ball disco that was about 53 studios away from Studio 54...just a bunch of awkward teenagers and young people who tried to imitate the dancers on Soul Train or American Bandstand and then went out and snorted cocaine in the parking lot in dark cars or passed out from having drunk too much Canadian Club...after that phase, it was a restaurant that I was never in and never heard a good word about...then one day, the big old steel ball of doom came along and leveled the building into piles of rubble...bowling alley rubble, disco rubble, restaurant rubble, and the rats had to find a new place to live...as for the old pharmacy, eventually it curled up and died and became a resale store--selling stuff somebody else didn’t want anymore...that didn’t last too long...I moved away and when I came back it was subdivided and it now was a tattoo shop, a massage parlor, and a Turkish food carry out place...all the necessities of modern day life ya know.

January 14, 2019

Easy Rider and Being Yourself

In 1969 there was a whole lot of shakin’goin’ on, makin’ love goin’ on, and fakin’ goin’ on (mostly the government trying to fake the common man on how the Vietnam War was going— like saying we were actually winning) and there was a movie that was released that made a big impression on a lot of people...it was called ‘Easy Rider’ and it starred Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson...without rehashing the whole plot which you probably know anyway, it was basically a ‘road’ movie featuring guys who were traveling around the country on their motorcycles...I think they were going from California to Mardi Gras...there they meet two woman played by actresses Karen Black who went on to a pretty good career, and Toni Basil (yes of the 80’s song ‘Mickey’ fame, you know Oh Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!)...anyway the point is that in one scene three guys are sitting around talking and the Peter Fonda character (Wyatt) brings up the question of if you could be somebody else, who would you be...a stranger they had met says he’d like to try to be Porky Pig (might have been the drugs or alcohol talking)...the Peter Fonda character says that he never wanted to be anybody else...I don’t pretend to know the psychological implications or bimblafications of this, but I think it would be pretty cool to be so content with yourself that you never wanted to be anyone else...I think most of us grow up wanting to be somebody else...somebody better looking, or somebody more talented, or somebody more popular...we see some guy on TV and think “yeah, I’d like to be like him”...we may even try to imitate that person in some way in real life...but you know, you always go back to bein’ who you are...you can’t fake steak...you can change some characteristics, but trying to change your whole personality is tough...some people never grow out of it...always wanting to be somebody else instead of being satisfied with who they are...anyway, I think that was a pretty cool moment in a movie that I thought was just OK, but nothing great...the undisputed king of the ‘on the road’ scene (at least in the 50’s) was Jack Kerouac (he wrote and became famous for the massive scroll turned into a book ‘On The Road’) and as stated in ‘Kerouac In Florida, Where The Road Ends’ by Bob Kealing, Kerouac didn’t like the counterculture classic...he claimed whereas he and pal Neal Cassidy had a good time and celebrated America itself, the characters in the movie were just on drug fueled road adventure...“They’re trying to make heroes out of those guys, and they’re not heroes” Kerouac reportedly said...he also called the characters ‘criminals’...although to be fair, neither Kerouac or Cassidy were exactly like choir boys...Kerouac saw the movie just months before he died an alcoholic wreck in St. Petersburg, Florida which has also been called “God’s waiting room” because of all the old people who used to move there and wait for that grim grim grinning reaper to come by and do his job...by this point, the Beats had been replaced by the sunglasses wearing, finger-snapping, bongo playing Beatniks (that’s the image anyway), and then along came the peace and love hippies...some saw the hippies as an extension of the Beats and yes, they wanted to live an alternative lifestyle...but most of the Beats were aspiring writers who wanted to make money and become well-known for their literary talents...you hate to use a broad brush, but the hippies for the most part were pretty aimless if you don’t count the whole peace and love thing which was doomed to fail anyway and in many cases a charade designed for their own self-indulgent pleasures.