I do not think I will ever run out of ideas for stories. Each time I experience something new, or revisit a place or a beloved text or a mulled-over conversation, I pick up some new little gem, and string it like a pendant onto the thread of my lifelong storytelling journey, and I do this until my necklace is filled from end to end with jewels. When it gets to be so heavy that my collarbone cannot bear the necklace’s weight any longer, I must stop and actually spend time with some of these ideas before I can search for new ones.
When I visit Hollywood Forever, this happens to me most dramatically. The thoughts arrive rapid-fire, and I move from one idea to another with each step over the smooth mausoleum floor or the rocky paths that weave in between the graves. I do think writers are a bit odd because even in the midst of something heartbreakingly tragic, there is a small voice in the back of a writer’s mind that says, “Oh, but won’t this make for an incredible story?” And that’s how I feel when I’m at this eclectic cemetery, absent of any traditional graveyard signifiers: there are no Yew trees here, nor any sense of a flesh-tingling, preternatural chill, nor any sign of violet clouds in the ever-blue sky. This is the land where the palm trees are found, and the sun shines year round.
(I still do get creeped out occasionally. I was alone in one of the mausoleums for quite a bit and I felt sort of suffocated and strange and had to escape).
This post is about a cemetery so it’s a little morbid. I will try to communicate my experience in a respectful way that is also filled with wonderment, because that is what I feel when I make the short trek to Hollywood Forever.
I struggle with the paradox of being respectful of the dead and their families’ grief and then wanting to appropriate this grief into a mode of creating that would eventually lead to a story. For it is not my own grief I’m working through (which, when it’s your own grief, you can grieve however you want); it’s someone else’s, and I must be respectful of that and tuck away my voyeur-self in the same way that I refuse to look at freeway accidents. I am more impulsive when it comes to graves rather than crashed cars, however, and I stare and wonder about the soul that lies beneath the grass.
Today, I took a different path through the cemetery and wound up around the left backside of the mausoleum near Johnny Ramone’s grave, and that is when I noticed an overwhelmingly colorful grave with a garden and balloons; it was so enormous, spilling over with toys and plants and signs and doo-dads, it seemed to take up the space of five plots. So I wandered over to it.
It was the grave of a little girl. Earlier in my path, I had seen a sign for an event of remembering children on December 6th, so perhaps all of the little girl’s garlands and gifts had arrived during that special ritual.
I didn’t catch her name because her tombstone was covered with decorations. She wins the award for the most fabulous decorations in the entire cemetery.
Sitting on top of her grave, in a row, perhaps some holding hands, were these dolls. Perhaps they belonged to this little soul when she was alive, or maybe they were bought new and placed here later, to be her friends in her new journey.
Look closely at these dolls.
These dolls are all dead.
They are the dolls of Monster High (who actually have their own books) and I think they are just the best kind of friends that could ever be placed with this girl. There must be a story there, I think.