Thursday, January 19, 2017


High part and imagining.
That same cemetery in
Philadelphia, Laurel
Hill, has a cemetery
museum, in its office
building. Two and a
half rooms, some
interesting stuff, notes,
photos, placards. One
thing they have is a
'Frederick and Trump,'
(Robert Frederick and
C. A. Trump Company,
'Corpse Coolers').
I think it is, corpse
cooler. That was a
company that made
these display cases
for coffins, back
when people used
to get laid out, for
visits, in their homes,
on display. Before
embalming and
undertaking, and
all. It looked like a
nicely finished wooden
cabinet, horizontal,
which held the coffin,
and had a big screw
thing to turn so as to
prop up the dead
person, I guess as
much as you wished.
But the coolest thing
was it's all atop a
hollow chest of wood
which was filled with
block ice. Somewhat
insulated, the ice
stayed that way. I
guess it didn't melt
much and slop
all over the floor.
The family probably
had one or two
days to show off
their family member,
and then it all got
taken down and
the coffin was
carried out. The
thing had wheels
too, so I suppose
once 'Dad' or
'Uncle Otmar'
got inside the house
and set up, he could
sort of be wheeled
anywhere. Big
rooms and all,
you know. Funny
too, how now
Trump is actually
a name we all know.
Back then, someone
with that name was
making rolling stiff-boxes,
for house display corpses.
Oh well, as Eugene
O'Neil put it, in a
drama-title, 'The
Iceman Cometh,'
and I guess so.
I'd never been to a
cemetery museum
before. I guess, seeing
as Laurel Hill is the
definitive cemetery
for much of what
followed, it only
makes sense. It's a
bit fascinating  -
there are all sorts
of things, leftover
tidbits of this and
that, people's pens
and possessions,
little stories about
stuff. Not spooky
in that normal sense.
You can but hats
and tee shirts, mugs,
and the rest. All
that gift shop material
abounds. But, at the
same time, it's quiet
and the few other
people I've ever
seen there are
awed or agape
at things. This
museum is now
in its own small
building, adjacent to
the office, but before
this it shared space
with the office. The
two ladies in there
all day, and the
Manager person, they'd
just be milling around,
greeting people,
answering phones,
answering questions,
handing out maps,
and all, in the
middle of this
whole other thing.
It must have
been maddening
enough  -  so it's
now been moved.
Much more reverential
and thoughtful. There
were also a lot of
stories about, from
 these corpse cooler
things  -  the usual
dumb stories about
which I was always
doubtful  -  of
the people who
were 'assumed' dead,
and after a day or
two on ice and all
that were found to
be alive, twitched
or blinked, or just
woke up. Cold as
hell, as guess (even
though we all
assume Hell has
nothing to do
with cold - I don't
know why people
ever say that phrase).
Maybe that's true,
once in a hundred
thousand or
something. At
least now, when
people get embalmed,
you can be sure as
ever no one's ever
gonna' wake up in
that coffin in front
of you  -  seeing as
they've been drained
and gutted, basically.
It was a lot different
back then. I guess
you got buried with
your last meal still
in you. Ugh. There
were also those
stupid storied
about people being
buried with a string
tied to their finger,
which string was
connected to a
bell outside,
in case the
'corpse' woke
up the slightest
movement would
ring the bell and
the watchman
would (supposedly)
be alerted and save
this person. Of
course that in no
way accounts
for the 'no-air'
factor and how
to explain that,
but it covers a
good deal of story
line for 'saved by
the bell' as an
expression. Oh,
all this death
stuff just got
to be to much.
We don't do that
anymore, even
though I've seen
some weird
burial things.
There used to be 
an early TV show, 
when I was kid, 
called 'Naked City'  
-  I think the slogan 
went, 'there are a 
million stories in 
this naked city; 
this is one of 
them.' Thy 
were cool little, 
black and white, 
I guess one 
hour crime 
dramas. In the 
oldest way 
unlike anything 
that's done today. 
Real old, NYCity 
scenes, street 
stuff, real places, 
situations you 
could walk right 
into. It used to 
fascinate me. 
Maybe now it's 
called 'noir'  -  
that means 'black', 
but what's meant 
is that the story 
presented  -  
nothing to do 
with 'race' or 
'Black' as we 
get it today  -  
the story 
presented was 
dark, moody, 
tense, mysterious.
'Noir' is a whole 
school of stuff, 
unto itself  -  
fiction, books, 
stories, movies, 
etc. Naked City 
was great for all 
that, and I often 
thought these 
things would 
fit right into 
one of those 
old kind of 
stories; loft murder, 
intrigue, mystery, 
a death by 'odd' 
circumstance, to 
be investigated. 
Perfect stuff. 
All the people 

in these little, 
really almost

primitive, TV 
dramas, were always 
deep and heavy, 
really conflicted  
-  as were the 
very situations 
presented. I don't 
know much about 
much of anything, 
but if I was doing 
some psychological 
profile of myself 
or something for 
some silly college 
profile or presentation 
about myself in an 
admissions essay 
or any of that crap  
-  the ritual bullshit 
by which everything
like that is done today 
 -  I'd probably have 
to say that was what
did it for me, as 
a kid, formed and 
maybe made a big 
part of my stupid, 
later-on, citified
 character. "Dear 
Mr. So and So 
Admissions Person  
- Well, thanks and 
all but the most 
and the best of 
what I can say 
about myself is 
the summation 
of whatever you'd 
ever see in any 
of those 'Naked City' 
compendiums  -  
that, of course, 
you'd probably 
never see. Stylistic
differences, for sure.
No, it's not porn 
or any of that, you 
understand; it's 
about hurt. Do 
you know about 
hurt, I wonder. 
What it is? How 
it tolls in a soul 
like a razor-blade bell, 
just ripping through  
a formless void? I'd 
even wonder, does 
'hurt' ever even 
get admitted into 
this place? What 
would you say if 
I told you flat 
out that my values 
or awarenesses 
about things came 
first from all of this  
-  peculiar, twisted, 
dark and useless 
nowhere dramas 
about a big, crumbly 
city  -  streets and 
buildings, domed 
churches and 
doomed lurches. 
Could you 
understand that? 
Vigils in doorways 
where some old guy 
is staggering with 
blood coming out 
his mouth and a 
dagger in his back, 
where that lady 
screams at the 
very same moment 
somehow that she
drops of paper bag 
full of groceries 
when she comes 
across the scene 
and all the cans 
and things go 
rolling along the 
ground while the 
camera pans to a 
longer shot and 
all you see is 
maybe the street 
and a few cars 
and the police 
cruiser just 
coming around 
the bend as the 
camera pans the 
skyline and 
everything fades. 
Much like that. Yes.' 
I don't know why 
I just did that, 
wrote that. I guess 
I lost control of 
myself. Or just 
came back again 
to life, ringing 
that warning bell 
for Living, connected, 
as it was, to the end 
of my finger by 
the string of 
dreams I carry.

No comments: