the graveyard mission

I’m calling myself queen of the double-entendre for this moment, even though the secondary element of this was only an afterthought once I’d typed ‘the graveyard mission’ as my title. The first plan was to write something moderately interesting (theoretically) about my finally having finished reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – and the protracted period of time it took for me to do so. Hence ‘mission’.

But then my mind started a-workin’, as it does every so often, and I recalled my own graveyard mission of yesteryear, or more of an adventure, I suppose, and decided that its tale deserves telling in some way shape or form. I’ll get to that later. Probably.

Back to the Gaiman. I really do enjoy what he writes, but for whatever reason I seem to take forever to read his books. And normally I read pretty damn quickly – refer back to my day of As The Earth Turns Silver reading splendour. ButAmerican Gods, as much as I love it, took me weeks to get through. I still haven’t finished Smoke and Mirrors, and I’m a self-described short story devotee. And The Graveyard Book followed that trend. I’d heard an excerpt read by Mr Gaiman himself at the NZ International Arts Festival back in March, and this further cemented the feeling that I Had To Get Around To Reading This Book. Since it was also winning stuff left, right and centre. I got it out from the library. I read the first two or three chapters. And then I got distracted. And the return today suddenly popped up out of nowhere, and back to the library it went.

I somewhat forgot about it. I felt guilty when I saw it on the shelf at work, knowing that I had yet to actually devour this book. But eventually, I did get it out from the library again. And again, I let it loiter, instead choosing to get the other books on my plate read. Every time I picked it up, something would distract me, and so it seemed to take an obscenely long time to read – it’s a children’s book, after all (I will say here that being partially geared towards children does not an exclusively child-appropriate book make, and it’s more than recommended for kids and adults alike, particularly as the NZ Arts Fest session where Neil read from TGB was all about YA fiction and what it does or doesn’t mean). But I powered through, and finished it, and loved it. The whole coming-of-age, following-Bod-as-he-grows thing was part of the reason I enjoyed it more and more as it went along – it’s only natural to form something of a bond with a character who grows before your reading eyes, I guess.

Anyway. That is the story of The (Literary) Graveyard Mission.

And so, a telling of The (Real Life) Graveyard Mission. In part. Since this blog isn’t ALL about the book review-ish-ness.

There’s a gigantic cemetery in Brooklyn by the name of Green-Wood, and this one time I went exploring there with two friends, let us call them K and M. It was late afternoon, and we were told as we walked through the gates that we only had half an hour before closing, to which we nodded. We went to find the Angel of Grief statue (which K and I had found once before – it’s a beautiful piece of sculpture and also happens to be on the cover of records by both Nightwish and Evanescence) and went on wandering for quite some time, whilst I wrung my hands and worried about getting locked in. The others weren’t concerned. We walked and talked (M and I collaboratively bemoaned Jodi Picoult, and talked about the merits of short story writing and the like – I’d only actually met Ms M earlier that day) and took in the beautiful surrounds and the generations marked in stone. Iced cookies from a Puerto Rican bakery were produced from K’s bag and eaten. Our phones spent the whole time switched off, disconnect being crucial to this experience. It got later, and when we saw cars heading the drive we made sure we were well away from road-sight, since it was definitely after hours by now. And we continued to wander. Just wander. Contemplative, appreciative, you know. But eventually, we were noticed by a security gentleman patrolling, who told us we had to leave, after we pleaded having gotten lost (not entirely a lie – navigating that place sans map is a mission and a half – like I already said, it’s huge, and our wandering had taken us across the whole cemetery) and proceeded to slowly follow us in his car after having told us in brusque terms which way to go.

At the gate, before unlocking it for us, we had a lecture – I guess my pink hair and K’s tattoos didn’t really endear us to him – and after saying that no, we didn’t have any relatives buried there, he told us, in all his khakied security officer glory not to come back. Does that make us kind of BAMFs? Three slightly alternative looking girlies wandering a cemetery because it was peaceful and gorgeous and we all had a lot of stuff on our minds at that point in time, I think… and we got BANNED by Mr Security Guard.

No names or anything were taken, obviously. We were in stunned silence as we walked away, before laughing our way to the subway. And that was only the tip of the iceberg for the weird excellence that was that night, since it went on to involve vegan pizza in Williamsburg, after dark Rock Band playing, and a spontaneous walk from Sunset Park to the Verazanno Bridge (some 50 blocks, shuffling down a grassy slope and running across a multilane highway – with concrete divider) to sit beside the river-turning-sea, dangling feet over the edge (this was M & I, we were more foolhardy than K and decided to climb over the fence so we could sit right over the rocks.)

One day that story will be told in more detail and more carefully chosen words. In the meantime, here’s a poem I wrote back in July last year, if you’d like to read it, inspired in part by that evening. I don’t do poetry often, but this is one that I rather like.

east and hudson

We get on well with bridges,
you and I.
We need them in our lives.
Our constant search for lights dancing between dark below
and dark above and
glowing overwhelming civilisation on either side.

We are the bridge between
two sides pulling apart, the bridge
gets a little longer every day
like a glacier slowly encroaching upon a valley.

We are the bridge across a harbour mouth
the beginning of ocean
We are land meeting sea
and man conquering the boundaries
of both.

I am standing on a bridge
but there is no water to cross, only sky
I am a shadow on the ground and
a silver speck in the sky
the bridge was not strong enough
it broke away, I was dragged by steel wings

I would build a bridge
across the water
so we  can walk when we’re too poor to fly,
too weary to paddle
in boats constructed from flax and old clothes
and I would meet you in the middle
and we would toss pennies into the sea

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