September 17, 2019

A Grave Matter Part II

Early Friday morning and Jay slipped out for his glorious work as a call center rep for some communications company that had been bought by some other communications company recently. I slept in until 11 and then stayed in bed for a couple of more hours because I could. Then it was time to hang around the funky apartment that needed a good cleaning, looking out the window at the jets taking off and landing from LAX, walking around the block a few times, sitting on a bench outside staring at the old cracked concrete steps and the apartment sign which was falling apart, and watching the people passing going to their jobs or going somewhere, who knows? None of them seemed to be happy about it. There was the old guy drinking out of a paper bag with his back leaned crookedly up against the wall of the building next door. I went inside and took a nap from all the excitement and still recouping from the bus ordeal. A couple of hours later Jay came back and we went out to play some pool and grab some street tacos. When we got back to the apartment I asked “What do you got planned for tomorrow?” Jay looked around and said, “well, I kinda got a hobby, you probably think it’s weird, but I like it. I hesitated to ask. “Yeah, what might that be?” Jay said “I’ve been going out to the cemeteries looking for famous people...you know reading their tombstones or mausoleum niches...it passes the time and it’s free and it’s pretty cool to know somebody famous is under you. Yeah, that qualifies as weird thought I but I was a guest and didn’t know anybody else to hang with. “Uh, I guess that’d be okay” I said haltingly and without an ounce of conviction. “Cool” said Jay. “I was thinking of going out to a couple of places tomorrow.” Well, that should be interesting I thought as I went over and laid down on the bed of nails torture cot. I fell asleep easily last night, but tonight might be a different story since I was no longer practically dead from fatigue and having my knees jammed up against the seat in front of me and every time I moved some piece of metal was jabbing me like a butter knife and the thought of walking around some cemeteries the next day was just a little disturbing.


The sun came up as it usually does the next day. It was cool in Los Angeles and Jay and I were working the grave watch to paraphrase Joe Friday. After a breakfast of half-stale bagels and not so instant coffee, we got in the car and started on our appointed rounds. “I think we’ll go over to Holy Cross Cemetery first, I haven’t been out there yet” Jay excitedly announced. I still wasn’t too sure about this whole thing. “Who’s buried out there?” I asked. Jay said Bela Lugosi for one was buried out there…”you know, the guy who played Dracula.” Well, that piqued my interest a little. It should have been about a fifteen minute ride but it took three times as long, what with all the traffic and that. They eventually got there. “Don’t they chase you off at these places?” I asked. “No, sometimes they even have maps or you can ask somebody who works there. They’re cool about it.” replied Jay. We started walking around and before long bumped into BA-BA-BA BOOM BA-BA-BA BOOM Bing Crosby’s marker. “You know Bing Crosby, don’t ya?” said Jay. “Yeah, I’ve heard of him. So he’s really buried here huh?” I crooned. Jay sang some out of tune ‘White Christmas’ and said he liked to read some about the people he was ‘visiting’. It made it seem a little more ‘personal’ and there were some people whose names he didn’t know, but he knew their work. “It makes for a little more connection.” he said in hushed tones for some damn reason. Some of those people whose graves they saw had some real sad lives. Yeah, they were famous, for a while at least, but a lot of them wound up destitute or committed suicide. 


We saw the gravestone of Mel Blanc, the guy who did almost all the voices in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. His stone said “That’s all folks” just like what they used to say when the cartoons ended. Jay told me that he didn’t do the voice of Elmer Fudd though. “They had some other guy do that one. I don’t know why.” Then came the graves of Rita Hayworth who we had heard of and knew she was an actress from long ago but really weren’t sure who she was or what movies she was ever in, the comedian John Candy who we did know and liked, and Ricardo Montalban. “Welcome to Fantasy Island” Jay said in a really bad imitation that probably had Ricardo turning over in his grave that was beneath our feet. Good thing he didn’t try ‘rich Corinthian leather’ or ol’ Ricardo might have come up from his grave to choke him.


Then we got to the grave of Bela Lugosi, Dracula himself sort of. Both of us grew up watching old horror films like Dracula and so this was of special interest...far more than any damn politician or film executive who might have been around. “It’s pretty cool thinking that the guy who played Dracula is buried right here” I said and I was starting to get into this new pastime. “He’s buried in his cape! Did you know that?” asked Jay. “No way, really?” exclaimed I. Apparently, Lugosi never actually asked to buried in his cape, but his wife thought it would be a nice touch, so that’s what happened. He wound up getting typecast in that kind of role and his career never took off. “What about that guy who played Frankenstein? Where’s he at?” I wondered aloud. “Oh, you mean Boris Karloff. I think he’s buried in England or something. By the way, he didn’t play Frankenstein. The monster didn’t have a name. That was the doctor’s name, you know the guy who put him together.” said Jay sounding like a tour guide. After a ten minute argument over whether the monster was named Frankenstein, we agreed to disagree, but Jay was right. “Where’s the Wolfman buried?” I asked this fountain of cemetery information. I of course was referring to Lon Chaney Jr. who was the original wolfman. “I have no idea but I’m sure we can find out.” Jay howled, sort of. Just so you know, Chaney’s body was donated to medical science. Personally, I think it would have been cool to have Lugosi, Karloff, and Chaney Jr. buried next to each other. That way, you’d have they guys who played Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy (the original one, not the modern crap ones made recently), and the wolfman all together. Anyway, we walked around some more and then decided to head over to another cemetery. Reportedly at Lugosi’s funeral, one guy said to another, “Let’s pound a stake in his heart just in case.” I think Bela would have liked that joke.

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