On Funerals and what they Mean

I was back down in Jamestown skiing last Sunday–I thought I'd update my thoughts of funerals, published originally last August:

Sunday, 10:30 a.m., sunny, no wind, dry air. The deportment of the small but sober looking crowd in the parking lot in the cool air at Fort Wetherill in Rhode Island said either: A) funeral; or B) religious service. Perhaps the two were a bit one.

As more cars parked and people stepped out for greeting, the handshakes, the hugs, the tears were unmistakable. Funeral. I knew where this group would go–the nearby natural exalted rock stage where there is a view of the Atlantic and of Newport that money can't buy. Not a more grand sight in New England. So, I had to huddle with the little guy and wife in the uncomfortable rocks by the side of the cliff we had been going to sit on…I am sensitive to these things.

The mourners filed onto the cliff. More tears; some dropped flowers into the outgoing tide 40 feet below; I saw what I took to be a small urn pass hands.

My brain's opera hall echoed with a strain from neolithic times; to peat bogs in North Europe; to sad apes trying to piece something together after a death. Among the couples, I noted the old woman who lacked a man. She received special gentle deference. I assumed it was her husband that was the missing. And I guessed the ashes being handed off, perhaps, had been a grandfather. A sire of mighty children? Maybe a fool or knave? Or a mix of the twain? I don't know. But looking at the expanse of ocean, I thought the gesture of the flowers indescribably sad and lovely.

Then a small unlovely fisherman, pole in hand, in red cap and jeans, broke into the tribal congregation. "Gonna bring me some luck?" he asked. I assume he didn't read the signs–admittedly unwritten, though obvious. Then he took his perch in a cleft of the rock to ply his crude, yet serene, art.

How perfect.

A few months ago I attended a funeral service in a VFW hall. The man who'd passed had suffered terribly; was good and decent. His grandchildren were comfortable enough to play on and around his coffin, whose lid was up. The body stared up as the kids, who'd really loved him, went about their business of being children. I've never seen anything more lovely.

Across the universe, some intelligence watches (maybe) this kind of a gesture. Does it understand tears, the craving for meaning? Does wonder why something as weak and transitory as a human ape holds a ritual to remember what represents a drop in a irresistible Niagara of progress? Does it cry with us? Laugh? Scratch its head?

"Exorcist" Demon not such a Bad Fellow

In honor of Halloween, I'm posting my meditation on the Demon God of the "Exorcist" franchise.

Poor Pazuzu: "The Exorcist" slandered this demon god rather unfairly. Pazuzu should fire his agent for casting him in the cinematic possession franchise. He's actually a good guy, blocking diseased winds and what not. (Who knows: he might be able to disinfect the foul gasses emitting from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, etc.)

Sure he looks mean (a face like a rabid dog's, and, yes, he's packing a serpent under his briefs), but think about the rough spirits he has to keep in line. In the truly execrable "Exorcist II: The Heretic," Pazuzu had to go toe to claw with Elizabeth Taylor's husband AND Nurse Ratched. Only the Luca Brasi spirit enforcer of Mesopotamia could have pulled that off. He's anything but some nasty jerk demon with nothing better to do than infest prepubescent rich white American girls.

In any case, over the past two decades, the Bush family has sufficiently punished the entire neo-Babylonian region for any slights Pazuzu might have inflicted here in the U.S.A., real or imagined.


Between drugs, budding estrogen levels, rock and roll, consumerism and teen rebellion, over time, Regan would have manifested all the symptoms of demonic possession unaided.

Why I Didn't Write About Whitey

A nice article in the local paper about "The Boston Mob." Again, I don't much feature Whitey Bulger, a not very interesting figure. There were far more colorful characters to write about from the 1960s, and they didn't kill women.

The Plovers of Cape Cod

My eyes got the treat of seeing piping plovers in Dennis, as they flew over the cerulean-to-clear water, in small elite squadrons. I've watched plovers fly in other places, such as Brant Rock in Marshfield.These tiny mixed pilot-planes always amaze me. They show a precision and intuition in flight, while in groups, that is astonishing. One bird moves; all his wing-men, maybe a dozen others, move with him. It's all so fast: sudden landing–then, just as abrupt, takeoff without any runway.

The squadrons veer off and then straighten. They show an astonishing superhuman yet military-like precision. More people should watch plovers perform–skip the meat-headed Blue Angel demos. Observation of these little miracles will make us appreciate non-violent flight. And we don't have to worry about a plover breaking formation, striking another plover, and crashing into the stands and igniting a holocaust among the viewers.