Saturday, Anne and I wandered into Graceland Cemetery. Well, I shouldn’t really say we wandered into it. We saw it from above as we were riding the L back from waiting out the rain at the beach. So we got off at the next stop and walked back up to it. Surrounding the entire cemetery is an eight foot brick wall with six lines of angled barbed wire on top. So we had to walk a long ways to get to the actual entrance. And it makes you wonder if all the barbed wire is really necessary, it’s only tombstones right? After a few blocks we found the entrance on the corner, complete with security guards. We walked right in. The first thing that hits you is how quiet it is. You can see all the buildings around you, out above the wall and tombstones, between the trees. And there are quite a few pigeons eating the mulberries that have fallen onto the new black asphalt and not been smashed into a slippery goo by a tire yet. But you can not really hear any of the hustle and bustle of the outside world. And then you notice how immaculate this place is. The grass cut to the perfection of a golf course, the trees are perfect shapes, the blacktop doesn’t have a crack, I think they might have even paid extra to have the sky made a little bluer here on the inside. And, of course, you notice the tombstones. How they are arranged, their size and wear and tear. “So and so born at such and such a date, died at such and such a date.” That is the most of them, then there are the larger ones which attempt a short biography in stone.
“Where the dead wander the dead,” I said. I couldn’t help but feel that I was on my way out at least. This is not the space of circulation. This is not the space in-between. This is a space carved and guarded. This is a space given over to death, to the objectification of life, to life without life. Yow would think there would be a lot more pigeons than what there were with all the trees. But then pigeons are parasites, and mulberries don’t compare to french fries. It is difficult to be a parasite on death, for pigeons at least. Humans and maggots and human maggots have built up a whole economy around it. This space has been forcibly removed from life. There is no chance here. This is absolute control.
We walked for a long time. I don’t know how long, maybe ten minutes, maybe ten days. It is kind of like going to the beach, it doesn’t matter how long you are there, it feels the same when you leave. You have opened your self to a space where time doesn’t pass. The security guard drove by and told us they closed at 4:30. We said ok and as she started to drive off we realized we had no idea what time it was. “4:22” she said. We started heading back. At least we thought we were. Then I started to doubt it. It didn’t seem to be getting any more familiar. I’m not going to say I panicked but I started to get worried. Could you think of a worse fate than being trapped in here. Alive but wandering the dead, you start to question how much life you could really bring to the space of the dead. (Luckily the police came by and pointed us in the right direction, which was the direction opposite which we were walking.) All these monuments… aren’t monuments supposed to be how we remember directions? I think that is what some planner or somebody said anyway. Directions didn’t matter. Because this is a solid not a space. There is no room for life between, for movement and circulation. The void has been held back, quarantined. There are no connections, there is only one large piece of stone. And you enter it and you are stuck in time. How can the present affect you? The sky is only a backdrop. A blue piece of stone.