The High Cost of Living

Yesterday was bizarre, bizarre. A step back in time for me, as it were. A bit of the backstory -

When I was a kid I was fascinated by death. Not in the 'killing small animals way' (actually I'm quite the pacifist in that regard) - more along the lines of infamous murders and the like. My mom had a book of famous crimes of the first half of the twentieth century (complete with photos), and I poured over the thing, reading with gusto all the gory details. I still remember the picture of Charles Lindbergh's baby. The story of Ruth Snyder & Judd Gray. As a teenager one of my favorite poetry finds was Ogden Nash's "A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor". I read books about Jack the Ripper and his ilk.

So yesterday I'm browsing around looking for info about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. I found a site called, and I was quickly sucked in. It appears to be run by a guy who does celebrity death tours in Hollywood. I spent a couple of hours there, most of the afternoon, actually, reading the stories and looking at the pictures.

To be honest, I felt somewhat guilty by spending the day doing what amounted to staring in the street at the passing funeral procession, but it got me to thinking about the social taboos we have surrounding death. There are the euphemisms, for instance. (Down here in the south we say he or she "passed away.") There also seems to be a (fairly modern, it would seem) taboo against photos of the dead. Although I also found this yesterday, and it seems like a wonderful idea.

It's a shame, really, all these cultural rules and regulations. I think we dishonor the dead by refusing to deal with the more visceral aspects of it.

Death is all around us, every day. It stands behind us, holding that ticking clock. And yet, in our isolated, sanitized modern world of medical miracles and antibiotic soaps, we have learned to treat it like some pedophile uncle we'd like to pretend doesn't exist. It seems odd to me. I spent the day with Him yesterday, and while it was a strange day, it wasn't sad. Just...another part of life.

Momento mori. Et in Arcadia, ego.

04 February 2009


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