Vacationland by John Hodgman

Vacationland by John Hodgman

Author:John Hodgman
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2017-10-24T04:00:00+00:00

The Middle


Graveyard Fun

When my daughter was younger we would sometimes go to the cemetery. The cemetery is called Green-Wood. It is in Brooklyn, and its main entrance is on Twenty-Fourth Street where a giant, Gothic triple-spired gate presides. A colony of green monk parakeets, supposedly descendants of a long-ago pet store jailbreak, nest and chatter there among its cold, stony hollows. They liven up the cemetery. (Parakeets are famous ironists.)

But there is a side gate, nearer to where we live, that my daughter and I stumbled across one spring. It was just there at the end of Prospect Park West, hiding in plain sight after the last block of shops and houses and schools like a purloined letter. I was excited when we found it. I already loved our neighborhood, but to discover after years of living there that it also had a secret door to a massive Edward Gorey–esque necropolis was dreamlike, an embarrassment of weird riches. “Never forget what your father and mother have given you,” I said to my daughter. “Let’s go in.”

I only had a mustache then. It was a rainy, humid, gray spring day and I was wearing a raincoat with my hood up and dark sunglasses for some reason. My daughter was wearing her red jacket and yellow boots. We approached the guard at the gate and he stopped us.

“Are you sure you want to go into the cemetery?” he said.

“Yes!” I said.

“I was not talking to you,” he said. “I was talking to her.” And then he looked at my daughter and said, “The cemetery is very large. There are many places you can go where no one could hear you if you needed help, even if there were a lot of visitors today, which there are not, because of the rain. So I ask again: are you sure you want to go into this cemetery, alone, with this man who has a mustache and is wearing dark glasses?”

“I am not afraid,” said my daughter. “This is my father.”

Reluctantly, the guard accepted this truth, and let us pass.

The guard was right. The cemetery was mostly empty, aboveground at least. But below, it was full to bursting. They don’t bury many bodies anymore: they are almost out of room. So the ground was heaving with the dead, and nature feasted on it. We wandered over mounds of the greenest grass, and the limbs of the dogwoods, heavy with rain and fresh blooms, dipped to meet us as we navigated around the headstones and obelisks and peered through gated windows into dark tombs. It was vivid and beautiful and quiet and not scary.

In fact, I realized, we were the scariest thing there. There were a couple of actual mourners. They had the sense to drive through the cemetery rather than plod through the rain and muck. We ran into them from time to time on the road. Coming around a bend we would see their headlights and wave our hands in greeting, and each time, the car would slow and stop.


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