Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lively thinking.

"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Matthew 6:20


New York City beckons to me, no matter where I am. Which might explain why no matter where I get off the train, I take a wrong turn, get on the wrong bus, or give someone the wrong instructions on how to get to their own destinations. No matter where I am in New York City I am, I'm lost.

It's the greatest gift in the world.

Today, for example, I found myself wandering from 2nd Ave to Avenue B along 2nd St. If you've ever been to the east village but never wandered past St. Marks, or even better, if you've never been to the east village, you may have no idea what I'm talking about, but I feel the need to give you the coordinates, in case you ever get lost there yourself, and I recommend it. Just walking down second street, I was immersed in the heart of this corner of the city. Everything I passed was picture worthy (don't worry, you can find the pictures at the end of this story).

I see a lot of beauty today, unmarked and inviting, calling my name and dragging me in. I wandered into gardens- little pieces of heaven planted in between the solid stone that makes a city authentic. I saw graffiti depicting stages of life- childhood, and marriage, and remembrance once the life has passed away. I saw beauty and pain, and hope, reflected in the upkeep of a small street side project, just being born.

But what stuck with me most was the marble cemetery- a garden planted with a few marble monuments, just sitting in between second and first avenue, representing the death of the numbered streets, so close the edge of Manhattan. The cemetery did not look like the kind you see on the side of the highways in New Jersey, or the kind that you find tucked away in the back of a church, over populated and heavy, but instead, was scattered and spread. The monuments commemorated families and important people, though I suspect, even looking back now in reflection, that there were many others, lying beneath the surface, with no memorial at all. The ground spanned the entire avenue, and three signs adorned it's tightly locked gates- one explaining it's purpose, one stating it's name... and one proving that this was a historical landmark in New York City, and therefore was protected by the laws for landmarks.

It was this third one that caught my eye, and reading through it, I felt a surge of urgency. How long did New York fight over whether or not this was a landmark? What had been the reason for wanting to dig up the bones of long passed people? I had the sinking feeling that it might have been a McDonalds, or more likely, a Starbucks. Forget the people who once inhabited the city- move them somewhere else and let's create the mirage of artistic creativity which can be purchased in a paper cup for 4.25. Anger swelled through me as I thought through the realities of the world- why should people have to fight for their right to stay buried where they were once left.

I guess that as the world changes, things have to be moved. And I understand death to be a transition- beneath the ground, those vaults were left with nothing but bones. But burials aren't for those who have died- they are comfort for those who are living- small connections to those who have moved on, somewhere physical where a soul in mourning can just be for a few moments and remember those they loved.

And the tragedy, to me at least, is not that these people died, because everybody dies. And it is not that these grounds are tightly locked and that most people left there are not visited frequently except for the average pesky blogger with a camera. But the real tragedy is that we live in a world where those people and their memory have been reduced to real estate- that their worth is measured by the proximity of their plot.

I hope, of course, that all this speculating is just the over dramatic musings of a writer. But as I consider all the highways that cut through grave yards, of all the people who have been uprooted and relocated in their final rest, I can't help  but wonder if maybe I've been born into a generation that never really grasped what reality is.

Anyway, that's enough from the blogger. Check out the pictures- they tell a much better story.

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