The Bicycles Were Gravestones

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Nobody wants to be buried in a place like that. M ary LaFleur has a bright smile and a big laugh and a glass of white wine in her hand. Two plates of fried chicken and coleslaw brought from the fellowship hall waited for them nearby, covered in plastic wrap. There was the teenager in Michigan who had terrible acne, so doctors prescribed Accutane, but soon afterward the kid's kidneys gave out, a rare side effect of the drug; feeling like he had been handed a death sentence, he decided to live it up and spend all his time a few years, it turned out at parties.

He returned to Southern California, moved into a house in Santa Barbara with a friend, grew his hair out, learned to surf, and worked for an architect. The original print version of this article was headlined "Grave Concerns". The funeral-industry people are particularly taken with one object on Lundgren's shelves: Strauch had an Enlightenment-era obsession with orderly landscapes; Eaton just thought cemeteries were a bummer.

She's talking shop, telling a group of funeral- industry people a story about one of her hearses "If you can call a van a hearse" getting pulled over in a carpool lane. LaFleur stands in front of an unusual headstone. Instead of the typical dark granite, it's made of cast glass. Green and translucent, it seems to glow. Today is the opening-day party for Lundgren Monuments, part art gallery and part funeral boutique on First Hill. Lundgren Monuments is a showroom for the glass headstones—which Greg Lundgren has been manufacturing for six years, in addition to making art and running a bar—but it's also an outpost for overhauling the business of remembering the dead.

Last January, Lundgren invited an array of artists to make urns, caskets, action figures, portraits, and other works of memorial art.

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McMakin designed some caskets and urns over 10 years ago but, until now, couldn't find anyone who wanted to sell them. The funeral-industry people survey a few displays by companies offering funerary stunts—packing your ashes into an artificial reef, shooting them into orbit with a satellite—but urns are the thing. None of them looks traditionally urnlike.


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One, by Arne Pihl, is a polished piece of dark wood. Others, by Timothy Foss, look like Japanese ceramics glazed with modern, minimalist patterns. Stefan Gulassa made a small, white cupboard for mementos of the deceased—a watch, a fishing weight, some fly-tying scissors—like Joseph Cornell's evocative boxed assemblages, but with a discreet metal case in the back that holds the ashes. Lundgren's urns, made of small slabs of glass, look like tiny modernist houses. Diddy die, I'm going to make them big bling diamonds out of glass.

The funeral-industry people are particularly taken with one object on Lundgren's shelves: Its maker, Charles Krafft, stands inconspicuously—as inconspicuously as he can, being the tallest, baldest, most bearded man in the room—by the front door, drinking wine.

Krafft makes hollow ceramics from pulverized cremated remains, then fills the object with the leftover ashes. He has made a ceramic military helmet for a veteran, a ceramic dog for a veterinarian, and a ceramic bottle of vodka for a friend of his "an alcoholic gay man". He also makes ceramic rifles, grenades, and "disasterware," including kitschy Dutch windmills with swastikas for blades.

Krafft is one of the only artists in Lundgren's gallery—one of the only artists in America—who has been working in the funerary arts for years. He can't remember how long. There are other boutiques that sell unusual memorial objects. But nobody, anywhere, has assembled a group of fine artists to show work at a gallery like this. G reg Lundgren looks like he walked out of a fortune teller's prediction: We're sitting in his bar, the Hideout: Dentil molding rings the high ceilings and the walls are loaded with paintings hung close together, salon style.

Lundgren talks earnestly, and obviously cares about things—from arts funding to aviation—but most of his business and art projects are so improbable they seem like pranks. Under the aegis of Vital 5—Lundgren's one-man arts organization that won a Stranger Genius Award in —he once "curated" a one-night gallery installation called God's First Solo Exhibition , featuring a yellow lily, a bowl full of pharmaceuticals, and a box of air. The Hideout isn't just a bar but "a five-year performance-art installation with a full bar," scheduled to close in As he drinks a pint of beer, Lundgren tells story after story about dead young people whose friends and parents have called him to commission headstones.

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Fifty percent of his clients, he says, are the parents of dead teenage girls. Granite headstones are dead things: But Lundgren's headstones are light interpolated through molecules of glass. So he hears a lot of sad stories about how kids die. I never thought I'd get a call from a mother whose daughter flipped her car and drowned in three inches of water.

There was Morrey, the nationally ranked decathlete and student at Cal Poly University, who was found by his roommates at the bottom of the pool in his apartment complex at 6: And Terry, the mildly retarded yard worker from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who mowed lawns and saw angels hovering above the grass; his family was poor, but a friend, who owned a mattress store, paid for the headstone.

And the year-old rookie cop in Louisiana, who got a call about some kids acting suspiciously; when he pulled up, they ran, he chased them through a yard, and one of the kids shot him in the face. For him, Lundgren made a round headstone, using crushed red glass at the center, radiating out into yellow and orange, like the sun. I n , a Prussian immigrant named Adolph Strauch flattened the American cemetery. Strauch was a landscape architect, trained at Hapsburg palaces in Vienna, who came to America dreaming of planed lawns and orderly orchards.

Spring Grove cemetery in Cincinnati hired him as a landscaper in and then, four years later, promoted him to superintendent. American cemeteries, to Strauch's mind, were gaudy and grotesque, with their swampy and untended grounds, higgledy- piggledy monuments, and rusted fencing around private lots. Strauch redesigned the entire acre cemetery, ripping out headstones and plotting scenic lakes and clusters of trees and bushes.

Phil Nuxhall, the resident historian at Spring Grove, says some visitors come without knowing it's a cemetery. It took an American businessman named Hubert Eaton to turn Strauch's vision into serious profit and national renown. Sixty years after Strauch's triumph of the will over happenstance graveyards, Eaton took over Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles and had his manifesto carved on a huge stone tablet:. I believe in a happy eternal life I shall endeavor to build Forest Lawn as different, as unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness.

It is to be filled with towering trees, sweeping lawns, splashing fountains, singing birds, beautiful statuary, cheerful flowers, in contrast to traditional cemeteries containing misshapen monuments and other customary signs of earthly death. Eaton, like Strauch, banished death from his graveyard, but for different reasons. Strauch had an Enlightenment-era obsession with orderly landscapes; Eaton just thought cemeteries were a bummer. He evoked his "happy eternal life" by eliminating headstones and giving burial areas cute names like "Graceland," "Babyland," and "Inspiration Slope.

He also hit on the idea of consolidating the funeral home and the cemetery into a one-stop shop, incorporating a mortuary, a flower store, and chapels into Forest Park.

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This was a sunny Californian version of central planning, a totalitarian regime of perpetual cheer. Forest Lawn was so cheery, in fact, its chapels did double duty for weddings and funerals. Ronald Reagan got married there, as did Regis Philbin. Eaton put the "lawn" in Forest Lawn, and it's hard to overstate the significance of his accomplishment.

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Scrapping upright headstones cut down on lawn-care costs—groundskeepers could mow right over flat markers and didn't have to spend expensive hours on their hands and knees, trimming the grass. It was an industrial revolution, the equivalent of the assembly line in cost-cutting and efficiency.

The modern American cemetery was born. Most Vermont towns appoint cemetery commissioners to oversee basic maintenance — such as mowing and fence mending — at larger cemeteries. But those unpaid officials can only do so much with their modest budgets.

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Free download. Book file PDF easily for everyone and every device. This Book have some digital formats such us :paperbook, ebook, kindle, epub, fb2 and another formats. But Lundgren's headstones are light interpolated through molecules of. Table of contents. I've been working at all this slowly trying to find out about my family.

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Marchant determined that Fox's husband had been a soldier in the French and Indian War, and he has a hunch that she was buried in Walpole, N. Like Marchant, Tom Giffin is a former history teacher with a commitment to giving Vermont's long dead their due. Laid off from his teaching job by budget cuts, the Rutland resident is now the interim superintendent at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility, where he makes the most of both his scholastic and criminal connections. Under Giffin's watch, inmate work crews regularly tend to local cemeteries — as do students of various ages.

He recruited the Mount St. Joseph Academy football players to reposition a plus-pound monument that vandals had toppled — and to plant daffodil bulbs around its base. Giffin has also put the Castleton University football team to work, and he regularly delivers history lessons to middle school students while they apply epoxy to broken stones. Giffin is in his mid-fifties and serves as president of VOCA. The late Leon Dean, an English professor at the University of Vermont, founded the association in to preserve abandoned and neglected cemeteries.


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Today it has several hundred members — including Marchant and Dean's granddaughter, Dianne Leary — who meet twice a year. Leary, 57, of Charlotte runs a house-cleaning and house- and pet-sitting business. She also carries on her grandfather's legacy: Her family regularly tends to a Monkton cemetery where some of their ancestors are buried.


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