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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bring out yer dead!

Inspired by local SF artist Nora Aoyagi and her blog post about The Columbarium in SF, I dragged Husband-cat and Eeyore there last Sunday. The Columbarium is a crematorium dating back to the 1800's that can be summed up thusly: moving, creepy, moldy.
Photo: courtesy of yelp
Photo: Eeyore
Eeyore is a madcap picture taker so he immediately wandered away with his high-falutin' camera while The Hub and I walked hand-in-hand around the multiple levels. The building is circular, with three floors looking into open center space and a fourth enclosed level capping it off. The whole place is rife with niches, with urns packed floor to ceiling and even out onto the stairways and ledges. They range from poignant to comedic to tacky-awesome. One of them had little figures of the Munster family, which I thought was silly until I saw a handwritten note inside telling the deceased that, 10 years later, their partner still missed them every single day. After that it was all about fighting back the tears. It occurred to me then that maybe seventh month of hormone-crazed pregnancy is not the best time to visit sad-ass memorials. Oh well.
Photo: Eeyore
Photo: Eeyore
Seeing the cards, notes, and flowers that loved ones left for the deceased brought up the great Death debate between The Hub and I. We have radically different notions of what we want for our remains after death. Minimalist that he is, The Hub is in favor of cremation and storage in a cubbyhole alongside five billion other people. Which is a nice idea except there's no way in hell I'm going to shove my way through a crowd of every time I have to visit him. Further, I suspect him of wanting this fate due to cheap Midwestern tendencies which would deem an expensive headstone "wasteful". How am I supposed to visit and chat him up whilst surrounded by others, I ask? I can keep him home on the mantel for that.
Photo: Ish
I expect a monument. I want a freakin' mausoleum or big-ass tomb with weeping angels and cherubs. I love my grieving ornate, gilded, and marbled. Death is not a place for modernism or minimalism. For me, we're talking full blown New Orleans over-the-top gothic wailing and beating of breast in sculptural form. And I ain't going in there alone. The debate never ends, but I did tell him if we could find a place as cool as the SF's Columbarium in Oakland I might relent. And the part of The Chapel of the Chimes that accepts ashes is way too modern and bland for me. So for now, stalemate (otherwise known as "whoever lives gets to choose"). Our plan is go together and force someone else to make all those decisions. For the record, we do want to buried on the grounds of The Chapel of the Chimes. We'll get back to you about what section…
Photo: Ish. And yes, this was my favorite niche + mantle + ironwork + stained glass window + depressing statement. Perfection!

2 comments:

  1. one of my favorite places ever ... besides the cemetery next door which is my favorite

    wish I had spent a lot more time there just reading and hanging out with the dead folks

    it seems like a place where one could get a lot of peaceful repose

    the best part, though, is being able to have your ashes in a container that looks like a well-worn book!

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  2. Yeah, one guy had planned ahead - his wife had passed already. She had one of those sexy-lady-with-a-cat's-head-statues as the base of her urn and her picture next to it. The husband's side had a picture, a flask engraved with a skull and crossbones and his name/birth date, and his urn: an ashtray shaped like a grim reaper holding a bowl. The urn-bowl had a cigarette sticking out of it. It was all kinds of awesome. Made me want to know them.

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