Sunday, September 12, 2010

Too much Peace and Quiet

It seemed as if everyone fled town on Memorial Weekend. One of our neighbors went to Tahoe, the other to Hawaii, and our good friends headed for Italy. Our son took his family away in a motor home, and our daughter attended a reunion with relatives-in-law.

We were left behind to behind to celebrate the four-day weekend on our own.
Since every hotel and RV park was already booked for the weekend, we decided to take a day trip and get out of the hustle and bustle of the suburbs—people partying, swimming, BBQing—and go somewhere with peace and quiet.

We chose Colma, AKA the “City of Souls,” where the deceased population outnumbers the living, 1.5 million “souls” to 1,600 residents. Why go to Colma when we could have spent a day anywhere else—relaxing in the Wine Country, shopping in Carmel, or exploring San Francisco? Research for my next book, which is set in a cemetery, and features a spoof of vampires, zombies, and other members of “the living dead.” (I really need to start setting my books in places like Paris or New York.)

Plus we’d been everywhere else in the Bay Area.

Colma was founded as a “necropolis” in 1924, and offers 17 cemeteries for humans, plus one for pets. Apparently, the city of San Francisco ran out of room for its dead, evicted all existing cemeteries in the city limits, and relocated them to Colma. It turned out to be a fascinating and unique city, nestled along El Camino Real, between Daly City and Pacifica. The motto there is: “It’s great to be alive.” I don’t think my town of Danville even has a motto.

Passing up the monument shops featuring fancy granite headstones and flower marts with “easy to install” bouquets of floral arrangements, we headed for the pet cemetery called Pet’s Rest, (not to be confused with Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, where the pets actually came back to life after they were buried.) This pet cemetery is filled with tiny headstones that mark the names of well-loved pets—“Shadow” the rabbit, “Gyzmo” the dog, “Mr. Furry-Face” the cat. They’re buried here, along with the occasional bird (“Tweety”), fish (“Ahab”), lizard (“Godzilla”) and monkey (“Darwin”), plus thousands of other well-loved companions.

Next we headed for Hills of Eternity and located the grave of Wyatt Earp, the famous lawman. There are lots of well-known names resting in Colma, like William Randolph Heart (he’s at Cypress Lawn), Joe DiMaggio (at Holy Cross), and Emperor Norton (Woodlawn). There was even an award-winning musical filmed in Colma called, appropriately, “Colma: The Musical.” I don’t think we have anything like that in our Valley—“Livermore: The Western,” “Dublin: The Thriller,” or “Danville: The Comedy.”

At the end of the day we agreed, Colma is certainly a peaceful place, with its immaculately kept lawns, colorful floral bouquets, and quiet pathways. But it’s a little too quiet for my taste. After a few hours I missed the sound of kids splashing in the pool, the smell of barbecued chicken, the sight of friends and family gathered at the picnic table.

Colma: A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I prefer life in the Valley, with or without a motto. But if you insist, how about, “Danville: Bring on da noise!”

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