Friday, June 12, 2009

Where Old Hippies Go to Die

I remember, when I was very young, watching this really impossibly idiotic black & white TV show called "Ramar of the Jungle." About the only intriguing part, in my book, was the myth of the mysterious Elephant Graveyard. Old elephants supposedly had an internal radar, and wandered there to die when they knew their time had come. I really believed there was such a place.

Many moons and many graveyards later, the time had come to bury my parents. They were staunch old Yankees (although my father was a transplanted Confederate from Kentucky) who died in 1990 within six months of each other at the very respectable ages of 85 and 91.

At the time of my mother's death (she went last), I flew back to Connecticut from Los Angeles, where I had been sunstroking my brain for 8 years, to meet with the venerable funeral director, Earl, who was no spring chicken, himself.

We exchanged the usual terse New England pleasantries, did our business, then settled in for a proper chat. I don't remember much of the rest of the exchange, but I will forever remember one thing he said about my future demise. "A real Yankee has no damn business being buried in California. You need to be buried on Yankee soil, where you belong."

There was no way I was going to go back to New England, for several reasons, the least of which was I had no one to go back to. But what Earl said stuck with me through the years.

When I finally got my shit together, as it were, and decided to move to Astoria, Oregon, my friends in L.A. were appalled. One of my best friends, Harry, finally called me on it, and demanded to know why the hell would I even think about leaving L.A. The answer that fell out of my mouth, unbidden and unexpected, was, "I don't want to die here." And that was the bottom line. I just didn't know I had drawn it until that moment.

So here I am, five years later, still in Astoria, and still loving it. Today, I was walking my dog on the Riverwalk, and happened to notice at least five other geriatric hippies. They still have their long hair, bandanas, and other badges and accourtrements of our era. My hair won't grow long any more, but I still have my 5 ear-piercings in each ear and I don't remember how many tattoos.

And the first thing that came to my mind was "so Astoria must be where old hippes must go to die." Well, I can't think of a better place to live, or die, for that matter. With apologies to Earl, it looks like this old Yankee will stay in Astoria for the duration.

Click here to see Elleda's photography at the Astoria Photografpix web site

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