Sunday, October 11, 2009

Expiration Exploration

I found this book in a shop with a picture of a sculpture. It was so disgusting I felt was imperative that I hunt this sculpture down and discuss my unsettled feelings in person. I researched a little, and learned it was in an old graveyard in the middle of the city. As long as I was going to be hanging around the graveyard, I decided to make a Day of Death out of it, get all my morbid fascinations out of the way, and hunt down the rumored funeral carriage museum as well.

After wandering around the decrepit industrial area that was the vicinity of this graveyard-thing for a half hour, asking for directions in Spanish that is apparently So Abhorrently Terrible not one person can understand me, I stumbled across it all by myself.

It's a walled fortress of concrete the size of a football field. You walk in and the first thing you see are endless hallways of stacked headstones, 7 tiers (read: bodies) high. They're slid in there, in these slots where headstones and fake flowers and glass figurines mark whose dead human-shell rests where. It's fascinatingly endless, and halls lead to doorways which open up into rooms, which unfold with benches and manicured bushes into more corridors... and there is no one else there. Really, no one. I ran into one person the whole two hours I was there, and he was a maintenance man. He didn't even notice me with his top 40 American radio station on, T.I. blaring while he plastered crumbling stone crosses back together on top of Francisco Lopez or something's tomb-house.

There were these cats who skulked around. Black cats who leer at you defiantly with crazy eyes. They were at first an odd presence, but on second thought, completely fitting, like sorority girls in bad frat movies. Both with the same seeming obliviousness to their morbid lifestyles. I tried to explain to them how they were feeding into a cliché that negatively stereotyped their whole kind, but they were skittish and unfriendly and we parted ways quickly.

In the back were gathered a whole yard of structures, little elaborately designed stone houses. They all looked like playhouses for the Adams family children. They were streaked with black mineral deposits, decorated with skulls and weeping angels and twisting black iron. Over the years, some had eroded and the angels faces were melting like in Indiana Jones, smoothed into grotesque disfiguration. Palm trees grew sporadically, pushing up through cracking stone, reaching their limbs into the tomb-houses through broken glass in neglected windows. A door was ajar on one of the tombs, and I peeked in. There was a table with a cross and dust and broken whatevers and also a GIANT CAVERN in the floor that goes down, down, down and leads to... ? Maybe some cats, some old dry bones, maybe a new arrival, though it didn't smell like it.

I was there for over an hour before I found IT, though I had been taking my time. Lot of the tombs in this place had angels, cherubs... Jesus looking peaceful, Jesus looking sincere, Jesus looking maternal, Jesus looking baller. La Pieta is popular, Jesus with wings makes an appearance or two. But this one dude. This one dude. Had the sweetest awesomest creepiest tomb ornament I've ever seen. Picture: Skeletor from He-Man, with brittle pointy wings and decaying robes, sucking the life out of Random Human Man, dementor style. It kind of takes the “P” out of the whole “RIP” idea. WTFFFFFFFFFF This is what happens when your family still has a bone to pick with you after you die.

The funeral carriage museum was an appropriate complement to the maze of graveyard. I wandered about a 20 minute walk north, until I came to the funeral services building. I walked into an office reception with beige carpeting and nametags and mints in a bowl and expressions with just the right balance of sympathy and professionalism. Seeing as there were no signs for a museum anywhere during this journey, I timidly asked the receptionist in my limited vocabulary Spanish where the 'dead car museum' was. Obviously, she didn't fucking Comprendo, so I just made confused tourist gestures and repeated “museo” (El Espanol for museum) like a retarded Pokémon. Then she Comprendoed, and she got on the phone with someone or other, and eventually a janitor appeared. He led me through the back, past a bunch of people in suits at desks and computers, past the water cooler, past the headstone samples, into a tiny little elevator in the stairwell that went slowly down, down, down.

In the basement, when you walk out of the elevator, you encounter a pristine display of about 25 funeral carriages and cars and accessories, replete with manikins and informational materials. The carriages are huge and ornate and so creepy. The white ones are for virgins and children, says the janitor. In the back, there is a door with a window, and if you look through the window there are coffins and coffins in various stages of completion. A coffin factory.   

I called my mom.  

My mom: "Oh how are you, honey?"

Me: "Oh, pretty good, today I went to a graveyard for a few hours then I went to a funeral carriage museum and coffin factory."

My mom: "Oh great sweetie, I'm glad you're having fun."  

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