Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gravely Pleasant Memories

More than thirty years ago, during our country’s feckless self-congratulations on having survived a mere two centuries, I lived alone in a rented room in an old house near a graveyard in Oakland, California.

My room was on the first floor, facing a neon sign across the street. The bright sign read (and still reads) “Oakland Crematorium Columbarium Mausoleum.” I didn’t do a whole lot of barbequeing during the year or so I lived there.

The cemetery to which the smoker was attached, though, is a beautiful one, and historic insofar as a European-style graveyard can be in so recently-subsumed a place as California. It stretches up from a genteel neighborhood of Oakland into low hills with spectacular views (weather permitting) toward the west to the Golden Gate and San Francisco. I used to wander its farther reaches, unkempt repositories of the lesser-blessed, and closer better-manicured bastions of merchant princes of the late 1800’s. I wordlessly hobnobbed with Crockers and with Adamses (the patriarch of the latter was the founder of Oakland from Binghamton, NY) and with nameless folks buried by the creek in graves overgrown by brush.

I loved that place.

Fast forward thirty years.

My surviving son, Adam, now lives just a few hundred yards from the room I lived in then. He hikes the cemetery now, in his mornings, and sent along these photos from his walk last weekend:

Steel-colored fog hides the Golden Gate Bridge (it would be in center frame) on an Oakland January. Doug’s memorial bench is a few hundred yards behind this viewpoint. (Photo by Adam Harrington)

Livermore Plot (photo by Adam Harrington)

An important Anglo settler family in Northern California was the Livermores , after whom the city of Livermore, its famous weapons lab, and the prominence atop Angel Island in San Francisco Bay are named. They have a plot along what I came to think of as “Millionaire’s Row,” but, as Adam’s photos show…

Nobody home. (Photo by Adam Harrington)

… the Livermore plot is oddly vacant! Adam says, “If one were to photo-shop the middle R from the family name, he would create quite an appropriate moniker for this oddly empty plot. All the surrounding ones are very much full.”

Live more, friends. Live more.


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