Monday, August 22, 2005

A Stranger Spoke to Me...

...and it turns out he's somewhat of a local news item!?

On Sunday I had gone out to gain some photographic enhancements to a particular rant I wanted to get off of my chest. I will still be doing that, but it will be some other time.

On my journey, I realized I was very close to the Santa Ana Cemetery - so I went over to wander around. This place is absolutely fascinating to me. There are grave stones in there dating all kinds of way back when. I've been in this cemetery many many times, trying to get pictures that convey the neat-o ness of this place - but I generally fail in that regard.

How can you not love a grave stone that says "FRICK"?

The other thing I love about it is the high number of masonic graves that you can find there. I read somewhere on the net that a masonic graveyard was incorporated into this cemetery. And it makes sense, as there are a number of masonic lodges in very close proximity to this particular location.

The above picture was taken on one of my earlier visits this year. DOUBLE SCORE! It's STRANGE, and it's masonic. This side has the female version of the masonic woo woo order symbol on it. I think they are called Eastern Stars or something, but I can't remember. Thank goodness my livelihood doesn't depend on reasearch and junk... er... wait...

The above picture is the masonic man symbol side of the STRANGE.

And this picture below is just one of the fascinating moss covered statues found there.

As I walked about on Sunday, I tried to avoid groups of people. I've never learned the etiquitte to walking around in there, and I can just see myself sending some stranger into a fit of sorrow by walking in the wrong place, or something.

Minding my own business, as it were...this old man began calling out to me: "There's another one over here." and he was pointing. Now, I'm thinking to myself "he's SO not talking to me. Because that would be bad. And OF COURSE there's another grave over there. There are probably thousands of them in this place and I'm standing right in the center of like, at least 50....what in the heck is he jibber jabbering about....I'll ignore him, because that always works."

He called out again, and this time there was no mistake he wanted MY attention: "HEY, there's another really old one over here if you want to take a look at it." As I got closer to him, he started talking even more. I was still in shock that a total stranger would call to me across a park of graves, so I wasn't totally comprehending everything he was saying. The gist of it was, he's been working in this cemetery for the last 3 and a half years or so, restoring war veteran's graves. And their families' graves. He's been using a sealer on them, painting them with it. Below is the grave that he suggested I look at.

He went on to tell me that "they want to take it away, take MY WORK off of the stones. At this point, he hadn't really told me who "they" were. After all, I had assumed that when he said he was restoring graves, he was employed by the cemetery. I started to think he might be talking about ghosts or something. Touched in the head maybe? But as he kept talking, I realized he was talking about ... not really families of the deceased, but just the public in general. That there was a campaign to get him not only to stop what he's doing, but to remove what he's done.

So about the time I decide he's a little unique and to politely make my way away from him, he says to me "I've been waiting for someone to come along. My body is aching and I'm in a tremendous amount of pain. I'm going to stop working for today. Would you mind helping me get these buckets [of supplies] back to my van?"

I didn't know if this guy was a raving loony or if this was his way of kidnapping people or WHAT. Gimmie a break. My formerly Amish Mom put all kinds of "what if" scenario programs in my head and after 30 or so years, they still run flawlessly. It's also all of those internet scam forwards warning you about freakishly poisonous spiders and nefarious strangers with clever ruses. I told you my mind is a sponge for crazy shit!

I quickly assessed the situation and figured that there were enough people around that I'd be OK if he tried anything. Also, age had either shrunken him, or he was never very large to begin with - I further reasoned that if he tried to grab me, I could also flail like a girl and hit him with my camera. And my car keys.

So he sat in the back of his mini-van with Jesus stickers all over the back while I trudged over to the site he had been working on. It took me two trips to gather everything. On the last leg I handed him the last bucket as I saw him fishing around in a prescription pill bottle. I prepared myself to bolt, scream, flail.....and then he put something in the palm of my hand. He didn't grab onto my hand, he just firmly placed an object there.

I opened up my clenched fist and found...

And I had a little inside conversation with myself that went like this: "Wha? What is this? Oh, no wait. I can't take this. I'm not a bibley religious person! This old man would HATE me if he read my blog, or knew that I have a roller skating Jesus action figure, or that well, I'm just a heathen and find really old stones that say "frick" entertaining."

Instead, my outside voice said "What is your name, sir?" He said "Gene-O Platt. Platt like the river (my head said oh, not Plat like the Map?) Everyone here knows who I am. Thank you sweetheart for helping me." I silently railed against the sweetheart moniker, and then waved good-bye as he got into his car and drove away.

I wandered around the cemetery some more, and I found a very large monument that Gene-O had ... ahem.... restored:

You can't really see it in this particular picture, but the eagle now looks VERY MUCH like a clown eagle. I suppose the idea is "from a distance. It looks OK from a distance." But I couldn't help but shudder as I approached it. And I thought "Well no wonder they want you to stop this." and then I also thought "See? I'm a jackass. I'm criticizing an older man's labor of love. Might as well go out and make fun of some developmentally challenged kids while I'm at it."

I did a little reseach on Gene-O.

And at the end of the day, I don't know who's side I'd be on if asked to choose.


Rev. Brandy said...

WOW. I have so much to say, and yet, nothing seems appropriate. It is heartbreaking, as Gene-O is quoted in the link you provided . . . but for so many reasons, the least of which is the undoing of all he has done. Whoa.

ZooooM said...

The only reason I hesitate in the slightest in backing the Gene-o's of this world, is the fact that I'm rather lame in my love of non-restored historical artifacts. HOWEVER, I can and do appreciate the fact that many historical items must be restored in order to exist for future genrations.

I'm wondering why Gene-o couldn't have been given tools and finishes that wouldn't "harm" the stones as the government claims they do. And the fact that the guy went about it for over 3 years before anyone took exception should tell us something. He did say to me "nobody really knew they were here until I came along."

And I do believe that if anyone of the deceased could be asked, they would probably appreciate his work.

One arm of the agency rewards him for his work, and the other slaps him down. I find that appalling.

And at the end of today, I do find myself on Gene-o's side.