Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cemetery Exploring: Scranton PA and its Environs

It seems I’ll be allowed to go on being Ed Snyder for a while longer. Just got home from having surgery on my inner ear and am waiting for the power headaches to kick in. Pass the Darvocet, please. As I write this, I’m flying higher than angels.

When you go under general anesthesia, you’re never a hundred percent sure you’ll wake up, you know? (That is, unless you checked the appropriate box on the “Advanced Directive” form.) But hey, aren’t these the best conditions under which to write a cemetery blog? I certainly can’t go exploring in a local graveyard– my equilibrium is off and I might fall over a cliff or something. Boneyards around here are like that. Of the literally scores of them in the Philadelphia area, many are not kept up that well. There are the ones with sunken graves, open crypts, tombstones spilling into the river, the ones with dealers and hookers and burned out cars, voodoo offerings and long rusty saws and knives hidden in weeds. As for this last one, I’m not referring to the self-defense weaponry with which I typically arm myself when I explore such places. I’m referring to the giant carving knife I found stuck inside a child’s grave monument (shown above) in an abandoned Philadelphia cemetery. Intertwined with the memorial ’s faded and soggy stuffed animals was a melon vine. So I’m sure some homeless guy was using the knife only for good. The only thing worse than abandoned cemeteries is abandoned people.

Too bad you don’t dream under anesthesia. You have no brain capacity for that − they basically kill you, while keeping you alive. Thanks to Tommy for that comforting thought, and for driving me to the hospital this morn − Whoops – I was listing to port for a moment there, felt a bit of my brains leaking out my ear. Better right myself and prop up with some pillows. There. Any “Distance Reiki” practitioners out there willing to send some positive energy my way?

I need to recuperate well, you see, and not lose any white matter. The Cemetery Traveler will be heading up to Scranton, PA in a few weeks and he needs all his faculties. He also plans to stop talking in the third person, as it gets on his nerves. I was offered a spot at St. Luke’s Church as an exhibitor during Scranton’s First Friday Art Walk for November. I will be showing my photography (prints framed and unframed), greeting cards, and books – all for sale. As it will be in a church, I may need to go easy with my usual tongue-in-cheek banner ads, like “Death Images – Just in Time for Xmas!

I don’t have a lot of work from the Scranton area (even though I grew up around there), but I do intend to show some of the images sprinkled throughout this article from the nearby towns of Wilkes-Barre and associated environs. In fact, my signature image, “Folded Hands” (which you see at the beginning of this article, on my Facebook page, business cards, and the cover of my “Stone Angels” book) was made in the Exeter Cemetery, across the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre. I shot it some years ago around seven o’clock one misty morning, roughly twenty minutes after I left a sleeping woman in bed to zip back to Philadelphia. As I closed her locked front door behind me, I realized I left four pounds of fresh Polish kielbasa in her freezer. Damn!

Slovak Cemetery, Exeter, PA
Occasionally I post images on the Facebook page, “Cemetery Iron,” like this gate from the Exeter cemetery. (“Cintorin” is Slovak for ‘cemetery.’) The wrought iron fencing reminds me that for the next few months, all my food will have a metallic taste. Side-effect of the stapedctomy (ear surgery). My doting wife Jill just allowed me to devour a hot dog, which tasted much like one would expect a piece of cemetery iron to taste, were it served up on a bun. Maybe later, I’ll try a metallic Nutella sandwich.
Oww! Sorry − just tore off an errant ECG electrode they left on my right leg. Funny how when they were monitoring my vital signs, they complimented me on how “normal” I was! Hah! Me! Normal! If only they were to read this blog! Anyway, I’m glad I had the bionic ear installed (my hearing acuity will be so amazing I’ll be able to hear what people are thinking! Imagine that.). A benefit of hearing well is that when I do shows now and meet people face-to-face, I’ll actually be able to hear what you’re saying (instead of faking it, as I’ve been doing.  No that’s not true – I’ve learned to read lips. Again, not true. I can kind of hear, but I do sometimes allow my imagination to fill in the gaps. Much like how I write, since my memory is less than perfect. I’ve had considerable hearing loss since I was twenty years old, when I spent way too much time next to the PA speakers at several KISS concerts. I’ve also come to suspect that my parents may have dropped me on the head as a small child.

So anyway, while in Scranton for the Art Event, I intend to spend some time in the nearby Dunmore Cemetery, as recommended by my Facebook Friend,Wendy Conrad Belaski, who is a member of  The Dearly Departed Players (who give tours of the cemetery while reenacting the personalities buried there).

Angel, Hollenback Cemetery
Another favorite graveyard of mine in the area is the Hollenback Cemetery, which is across the street from the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital (click here for a view of its rather unique entryway). My Dad died there in 2004 (the hospital, not the cemetery). Hollenback is a quaint old hilly Victorian cemetery along the river, which is where I shot this angel. As for the cemetery where my Dad‘s ashes reside, that’s an unassuming little back-mountain graveyard in an area north of Wilkes-Barre that is so “out there” it’s just called the “Back Mountain.” I don’t believe there’s even a town associated with it, just a sand pit.

"Damaged Woman with Dog"
Here’s a photo a little statue near my Dad’s grave. Looks like the woman had some surgery done to her head. Which prompts me to break here and apologize since I, your favorite content provider, seem to be jumping around a bit, ah, content-wise. It’s the drugs. But hey, if it worked for Hunter Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, etc.), should work for me, right? Gee, I wonder if Microsoft Word has a plug-in for correcting dyslexic text? (Try to say that quickly three times! .. or just ONCE, actually…) It’s taking me much longer than usual to type this article since the effector neurons sending impulses from my brain to my fingers seem to be regularly misfiring. Have to keep going back to make corrections. Maybe I’ll lighten up on the next load of painnkilerz.

"Old Man"
You look at pictures like this “Old Man”  (double-exposed and cross-processed Ektachrome) from the Hollenback Cemetery, and you wonder if this guy had anything to live for when he reached the stage in his life when the sculpture was made.  Me, I certainly do have a lot to live for and to be thankful for – a wonderful wife, four lovely children. Oh, and the ability to go on being Ed Snyder for a while longer, until my peep-hole into the world is finally closed, as Kurt Vonnegut would say (or said, rather, as he’s dead). Vonnugut’s work, by the way, is one of the few things you can read when you’re drugged up and loopy, and still have it all make sense! This last image is for him:

Epitaph, Hollenback Cemetery, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania