Last Tuesday, I had an appointment downtown, and as usual, I was running a bit late. As I inwardly berated myself for, yet again, not allowing for the typical traffic congestion and search for parking in my calculation of how long I needed to get somewhere, I spied a car leaving a plum parking spot right in front of the door of the building I was going to. Score! Saved from tardiness! I snagged the spot, and didn’t think much of it beyond that.
Then, it happened again the next day when I went to the dentist. Parking right in front of the front door. Hmm. “My parking karma is pretty good at the moment, I guess,” is all I thought. But, when it happened several more times after that, I got suspicious. This just does not happen in San Francisco. Anywhere in the Bay Area, really, but especially not San Francisco. And we’re not talking out in the outer Avenues by the beach. No, this was in SoMa, the Castro, the Mission, Valencia Corridor….and three times in a row in North Beach. Places where there’s never any parking. San Francisco locals, back me up here. This was unprecedented and peculiar.
I got to thinking…did I die, and heaven is just San Francisco with easy parking? Am I dead, and no one told me? I threw this question out to my Facebook friends, and my friend Juan offered the most practical solution to the puzzle: “go see if the line outside Tacolicious still goes around the block, and then go see if it takes 20 minutes or more to get a coffee at Ritual. If you can say yes to either of these things, you’re still among us.” Anyone who lives in SF can testify, the purgatory of waiting at those places is just an accepted part of our earthly reality. So, I conducted Juan’s experiment, and here’s what happened:
Tacolicious: No line at all. Walked right in, no waiting. AND, I got a parking spot right out front. Another one.
Ritual: Another parking spot right in front, no line, and got my latte and a pastry in four minutes flat.
To top it off, last night, at just before 8 p.m. on a Friday night, walked in and immediately got a table at Mandalay–another spot where a wriggling throng of people waiting to get in is ever-present, especially on a Friday night. Oh, and although the parking spot wasn’t right in front of the door that time, it was less than half a block away. That’s still pretty heavenly by SF standards.
So, yeah. I’m clearly deceased. And so far, I have to say, I’m rather enjoying death.
Anyway, this all got me to thinking about a conversation Fernando and I had while we were in Hawai’i last October. We were drinking Mai Tais on the terrace of this place across from the garden in front of the zoo at the ass end of Waikiki Beach. Across the street in the park, some laborers were throwing big, dead palm tree branches into a chipper, which was forcefully blasting the ground palm branch pulp into the back of a garbage truck for disposal.
Fernando watched them quietly, sipped his drink, and then said quite matter of factly: “When you die, I’m going to put your body into one of those things.” The elderly couple sitting close enough to us to hear this pronouncement gasped in horror, but I laughed. By now, I’m used to Fernando’s humor, as well as the fact that he starts fantasizing about my demise after we’ve been together for more than 24 uninterrupted hours. I just told him to make sure and point the chipper spout out to sea, and blast me into the ocean, instead of into a garbage truck, and that would be fine with me. (This conversation, aided by the additional ensuing Mai Tais, also lead to me ask him how he would kill me if he was ever going to, to which he replied without hesitation, in that picante Peruvian accent of his: “Don’t be ridiculous, I would never kill you….I would hire someone.” I still can’t decide if that’s kind of sweet or unforgivably impersonal.) But, now that it seems I might actually be potentially dead, I realize I don’t really want to be put through a chipper.
Several years ago, some friends took me out to celebrate my birthday, and for some reason, we all ended up planning our fantasy funerals over dinner. It wasn’t as sad and bleak as it sounds, there were margaritas and tequila shots involved. So, my fantasy funeral involves having my cremated ashes placed into hollowed out coconuts, and then all my friends and family will gather on the Golden Gate Bridge, launch the ash-filled coconuts into the air over the water with big sling shots, and then skeet shoot them, so that the coconuts explode and my ashes sprinkle over the San Francisco Bay. Come on, you’d go to that funeral, right? I thought so. So, that’s my fantasy; my Plan A, if you will. But, this being San Francisco, I can imagine the permits necessary for that kind of send off might be prohibitive, so I figured I’d better come up with a more realistic Plan B. I did some research, and there are some super interesting options, at least, for those of us who wish to be cremated:
- The Neptune Society is building a huge, beautiful eco-reef off the coast of Florida, into which you can have your “cremains” placed, with a marker, and let your family scuba down to visit you. I like this idea. I love to dive, plus I think Dale would be right at home there. A company called Eternal Reefs has also established several ocean reefs, where you can be part of the circle of marine life, but they aren’t as pretty and cinematic as the Neptune Society’s:
- You can have yourself turned into an hourglass: http://www.inthelighturns.com/hourglass-urns.html. This seems appropriate for board game enthusiasts, or Days of Our Lives fans. I would worry that one of my knuckle bones wouldn’t get fully ashified, though, and would get stuck in the neck of the hourglass. So, not for me.
- You can be shot out into space and placed in orbit on a satellite: http://www.memorialspaceflights.com/. Surprisingly cost effective, actually. If they throw in a looped soundtrack to Major Tom, I’d seriously consider it.
- You can have your ashes compressed until they form diamonds, and make jewelry out of them: http://www.lifegem.com/. Well…not actual diamonds, but “memorial gems.” It’s a nice idea, but if you think about it, is it really a good idea to have a necklace that is that important? What if you lost it? Plus, I don’t want to end up at the bottom of someone’s jewelry box, or bedazzling someone’s nose ring. And knowing my friends, someone would turn me into a special occasion cock ring. Actually, that would be funny.
- You can have your ashes made into a personalized frisbee: http://www.discgolf.com/disc-golf-discs/steady-ed-memorial-discs/. I totally don’t get this one. It seems to me, if you’re going to have Grandpa made into a frisbee, they could make some nicer ones. These look like the kind they give away for free at conventions.
- You can be blown into a piece of “art glass”: http://www.memoryglass.com/. Yeah. You know how every group of friends has that one person who takes up “jewelry design” with glass beads as part of their midlife crisis? I have a feeling that’s how this got started. Please, Fernando, don’t have me made into a paperweight. No one would dust me.
- You can have your ashes painted into a painting: http://www.memorials.com/art-in-ashes.php. I love this idea. Especially, if they could do me as one of those portraits whose eyes follow you when you walk across the room. That would be awesome!
- You can be stuffed into a teddy bear: http://www.huggableurns.com/gallery.htm. For those who want to haunt their kids or grandkids, and watch them freak the fuck out when the dog rips the teddy apart and spreads the insides all over the house.
For those of us who remember vinyl LPs, you can have your ashes pressed into a vinyl record, with a recording of your last message, a song, or just the sound of your ashes crackling and popping: http://www.andvinyly.com/. They press enough discs to give out to your funeral guests as gifts to remember you by. If I did this, I would want the recording to be of K-Tel’s Music Express, which was my very first, and very favorite record of all time. I even made up a special dance routine for the song “Get Dancin'” by Disco Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes, that I still secretly do sometimes. People could do the dance at my funeral.
- You can ascend to the heavens in a helium balloon: http://www.eternalascent.com/photogallery/miscellaneous.html. This is kind of nice. They put a cupful of your ashes into a big balloon (you can choose red, yellow, blue or green), fill it with helium, and then….let it go. The balloon is sturdy enough, and has enough helium in it, to float up about five miles, where it freezes and shatters, and scatters you into the atmosphere. You could make some beautiful sunsets.
- You can have your ashes put into fireworks, and shoot them off into the night sky! http://www.heavensabovefireworks.com/. Talk about going out with a bang! You can have a big professional fireworks display like the kind you see at the holidays or after ballgames, or you can do smaller rockets for funeral guests to fire off themselves from a beach or something, for a more intimate send off. I think this one might be my favorite. For one thing, I’d get to have my funeral at night, and you all know I’m a night owl. Also, it would create the proper atmosphere for serving corndogs, which is a must. And it’s really not that far off of my Plan A with the coconuts; same kind of explosive idea, just less interactive.
There are so many choices, I can’t decide which one should be my Plan B! Tell me what you think. You can vote for up to three options, or tell me a new idea in the comments!
Shout out to Confessions of a Funeral Director for doing the leg work on the research!