Saturday, April 14, 2007

Glendale's Forest Lawn or My Birthday Project #2

Weird. I woke up this morning and thought about what I wanted to do for the second week of my birthday projects. I checked the Weekly and the Times and the local blogs for something interesting to do, but nothing struck me, really. I would have loved to have gone to the bbq fest at the Autry, but you don't get to eat anything. What's the point?

So, I decided after so many years of living in Atwater that I would go see Forest Lawn and take in its mighty splendor. And it is nothing if not filled to the rafters with spendor.

Before, though, I was on the way to my now almost weekly hike with Tom in Runyon Canyon when my mother called. It was an ungodly hour, so I knew something was wrong. She left a voicemail. My last remaining grandparent -- Grandmother -- had a stroke. I called my mother back and, well, it's too early really to tell what has happened and if she will recover. I love her dearly, but she is in a lot of pain, very unhappy and I hope that whatever happens can bring some peace to her. Weird, though, that on the day I decide to go to Forest Lawn, this would happen.

Nonetheless, I trudged forward. Came home, took a constitutional through Atwater, picked up Subway for Carl, Burrito for me, visited briefly with neighbors and came home. Finally, it was time to take in project #2.

I hit Fletcher, made a left on San Fernando and passed the empty shell of a KMart -- which will hopefully not become another Home Depot -- passed the police station where inexplicably cops keep coming down with cancer and yet the city does nothing, passed the office parks and small buisneses and made a right on Glendale Ave and into the cemetery.

It is huge. The first buildings -- well, all the buildings -- are made to look like medieval regal homes, halls and cathedrals. It's not done unless it's overdone. An information officer offered me a map, a guide to annual events and a business card, should I want to buy a plot of land for eternal rest. I passed on the card.

I drove up the hill and parked outside the building which hosts the "Last Supper Stained Glass Window". There is a twice an hour presentation and revelation of the window which hangs behind old and dusty curtains. It's a magically religious experience and I'm slightly embarrassed that my phone goes off in the middle of the auto presentation. The free show is worth every penny.

Next up: the "Court of Freedom". There are dead people everywhere. This Court includes various nooks that are called "Garden of Everlasting Peace" and "Benediction Slope" and such. Somebody must get paid a lot of money to come up with these names. Inside the court are jingoistic tributes to Washington and our soldiers and our freedom and so on.

The Freedom Hall smells of decomposing bodies, decaying flowers and incense. It's unsettling, sweet and smothering at the same time.

After, I drove over --this place is immense-- to the "Wee Kirk O' The Heather" Church-- which sits next to a vast parking lot. The show is hourly and the next one was in Spanish,so I passed. It is beautiful on the outside and, from what I can see on the inside, it's just as well done inside. Disappointed that I couldn't really see more, I headed over to the museum.

This "museum" is bizarre. As you first walk in, you find yourself in the middle of a Winslow Homer Wood Cut on Newspaper Ink exhibit, I shit you not. What this has to do with death, cemeteries, even taxes, I know not. Not remotely interested, I passed further into the museum/store and found chochkes for sale, replications of unfamous paintings and medieval doors and suits of armor, Korean fans, Japanese Ivory, African Ivory and, hell, a kitchen sink.

It's as if somebody emptied out their garage and said, "Hey, let's open a museum and shoppe, but the "shoppe" must be olde fashioned and have an extra 'p' and 'e'.

At this point, I have had enough of this theme park of decaying flowers, decomposing bodies, jingoism and death. Before, I totally leave, though, I pass another "exact replica" -- this time, a statue of David. If nothing else, he was hot. I do think that when I die, it would be amusing to be planted in this verdant land of folly. Of course, I don't so much as want to be buried, but rather cremated with my ashes sprinkled on hot dogs from Pinks and have my friends finally for the last time, bite me. Or not.

More pics at Flickr.

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