Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The dead zone -- but the natives are friendly

I’ll do anything to avoid hearing or reading the W-word these days. The issue has pitted husband against wife, neighbor against neighbor, and caused members of our local gardening group to pummel each other with their heirloom tomatoes.

Brutal, it’s been brutal.

So how about a visit to a place famous for peace and quiet – where no one shouts, and those from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs co-exist. It’s a place of quiet harmony, even though most permanent residents have nothing more in common than the same heart rate.

Yes, I’m talking about Mountain View Cemetery. I don’t think you’d call the pervading philosophy “live and let live,” but then, perhaps that’s the secret.

At Mountain View, the famous share the same real estate with the infamous and the not famous at all. And it works, even though they’ve got some folks with notoriously big egos in the same gated community -- scientist Richard Feynman, inventor and dreamer Thaddeus Lowe, Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, to name only three.

And since local business seems to be the topic du jour, consider this: The Mountain View client base is fiercely loyal; more than 120,000 have checked in over the past 120 years, and not one has voiced a single word of complaint.

That, my dears, is customer satisfaction.

Mountain View first broke ground in 1882. Prior to that, not many options awaited Pasadena’s dearly departed. Most were laid to eternal rest in their own backyard or the back acreage of the family property. Which made eternity a relative term indeed, as land traded hands frequently, and excavation took place on a massive scale, for stores, houses, streets, railroads.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the “garden cemetery” concept landed in Southern California. The garden cemetery didn’t imitate a park, rather, city parks, eventually and for the most part, imitated the garden cemetery – with acres of lush grass, landscaping, shaded paths, trees, statuary. Cemeteries were not only a final resting place for some, but a recreational area for others. Visitors strolled the grounds, had picnics.

Though the permanent residents represented a diverse population, in the beginning, a cemetery wasn’t exactly a model of equality. Maybe the dead couldn’t take it with them, but they could sure as heck let everyone know how much they had to leave behind... [more on patch]


  1. Quite a hotel... everyone checks in but nobody checks out. No one hour rates here. hahahaha That's a bit o' black humor I guess.

  2. I have to agree w/you... We have Zane Grey in ours... In fact he has his own garden area and its gorgeous... Cemeteries may be unsettling for some but I find comfort... Its quiet for one thing, and it seems people (visitors) are kinder and not rude like they are once they leave the place- and I am talking about the folks that are alive.

  3. mmm... I quite enjoy a cematery!!

  4. I love cemeteries. Maybe it's the peace and quiet that attracts me, although I do like the mystery inherent in them, too. All those lives and only a hint on their markers as to the kind of people they were and the experiences they had. It's a shame, as you say, that graveyards are so characterless now.

    Re: Birdman's comment - could this be the Hotel California the Eagles sang about..?

  5. I like graveyards and scrap yards. They are peaceful, apart from the mental dogs that scrap yards always have for some reason.

  6. We are indeed on the same wavelength this week! But I don't think I'm going to "graduate" from my granite headstone to a mausoleum. I'd rather leave it to the kids (if Uncle Sam lets them keep any).

  7. I'm not going to make it to the big house either. But I have written my epitaph. Much better to do it yourself than leave it to disgruntled children.

  8. It sounds like the Hotel California...
    Cemeteries are some of my favorite places. So peaceful and not at all spooky to me!

  9. Yeah, I'm with all of you. In primitive times (Ok, I'm Cliff in Cheers again, but bear with me), they laid rocks on the grave to keep the dead from rising.

    I'm the opposite.

    As Heathcliff (not the cat, but the Wuthering Heights guy)said, "May you not rest as long as I am living ... haunt me, then! I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always..."

  10. Excellent piece about Mountain View. I wonder what Richard Feynman and Eldridge Cleaver chat about when no one else is around. A cemetery with just flat markers sounds really boring, for both the living and the dead.

  11. It's really so wrong that Pasadena doesn't have a cemetery. I want to be buried in Pasadena, but it's not possible. That just ain't right.

  12. SoPas doesn't have an official graveyard either. So, Mtn View has 6 relatives of mine, that I know of.

    Somewhere along 10 years ago, I went to go "visit" my mother. Rounded the corner and had a pack of 10-15 dogs RACING thru the headstones near my mother's final resting place. I LOVE dogs, but, scared the daylights out of me to have something living running at me, in a pack, at full speed!

    Then there was the time the parrots descended near us as we were mourning. Not quite the mood we were looking for when burying our loved one.

    Keep on researching Mtn View. A lovely place and lots and lots of stories----bet that'll keep your keyboard burning up!

  13. Love the multi use aspect, resting place for dead/playground for living.

  14. You found an unexplored topic. You could hang out across the street at Altadena Ale House and play Cliff, regaling the locals with these fascinating tidbits. I haven't been to Mountain View but now I want to check it out.

  15. Speaking of epitaphs (and we almost were), Doris emailed me this one she and her husband found while on a walking tour of Shetland Island:

    Donald Robertson born 14th January 1785
    died 4th June 1848 aged 63 years
    He was a quiet man and to all appearance
    a sincere Christian
    His death was much regretted which was caused by
    the stupidity of Laurence Tulloch of Clothister [Sullom]
    who sold him nitre instead of epsom salts by which
    he was killed in the space of five hours after taking a dose of it.

  16. Dear, Lord, tell me you are kidding about the heirloom tomatoes. A good tomato deserves a much better fate.

  17. Great article! Cemeteries have always been fascinating to me, particularly the old ones with their unique headstones. The epitaph you posted from your friend is amazing -- a mistake Laurence Tulloch never lived down. (Unless it wasn't a mistake....)

  18. Oh, Cliffie, this is a great topic! Bring on the little-known facts. I've taken a few photos of our cemetery. As far as I know, our only "famous" people are only well-known within our borders (e.g., Carter, etc.). Guess I'll have to stop being lazy and do a bit of research.

  19. My family is resting in Forest Lawn Glendale...before my mom died, she told me that we should take her and my other relatives there out and sprinkle what's left of their ashes over the mountains and sell the plots...

    true story!!!

    When TheChief's dad passed he was placed in one of the mausoleum's at Forest Lawn. About a year later TheChief took his mom to visit and were confronted with a locked door, camera and voice box that asked them what they wanted. TheChief said they wanted to visit his father. They were asked where he was and TheChief said "I don't know...down the hall and to the left"... The voice indicated they passed muster and they were buzzed in. There were flowers and trinkets laying by the door outside and a few people sitting there...TheChief then realized that his dad was just down the hall from Michael Jackson...