Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My First Dead-end Job

One summer in Montreal I worked in a graveyard.

My duties involved none of those hard-core activities you'd naturally associate with cemetaries, to whit the burying, the digging up, the stealing of jewelry, the necrophilia and the like. I earned my minimum wage by mowing grass, planting flowers on graves, and generally tidying up. Looking back, I like to call this my flower-power/proto-goth period.

I'd like to make two points. First off, all people who work in graveyards for any good length of time become stark raving mad. This is one of the few literary and film stereotypes which holds any water in the real world. Complete with the dour, unshaven faces, obsessive compulsive behaviour, lack of hygiene (especially involving handkerchiefs) and generally anti-social perspectives on the world, I made sure none were standing anywhere near when I passed by an open grave.

My second observation is that adjacent graves, identical in all respects, can have totally opposite soil characteristics. This I learned by having to dig with my hands and transplant literally thousands of flowers over the course of the summer. Some grave beds were warm, soft and yielding to my hands. Others were cement-like and almost required a jack hammer to make a hole large enough to plunk in a pansy or two. I eliminated all possible variables to account for this phenomenon, and could only conclude that the once-time personality of the grave-plot's inhabitant rubbed off on the soil surrounding the coffin.

Now the inevitable graveyard trivia question: which pop mega-star wrote a ditty about a cemetary worker? The correct answer tomorrow. No prize - just a hearty round of applause from this humble scribe.


Blogger Jozee said...

Grave digging is noble work.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...

I salute you for your intrepid soul. And for the good things you did (caring for the graves and planting the flora).

No idea about the cemetary worker ditty. I would have said Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King, but they were/are writers, not pop stars.

12:15 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Jozee: to paraphrase Hamlet, because you are making a house which will last until Doomsday?

12:22 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

T&B,etc: It's a tough question. I phrased the question in such a way as to make it ungoogleable. You really have to be up on obscure songs of pop stars before they hit the big times.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

Interesting perpsective on the soil. I have no idea about the song..

3:28 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Okay, you all seem to be flailing around concerning the trivia question, so here's a hint: he adopted his stage name to avoid confusion with one of the Monkees.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's got to be MicK Jagger with the stones. EH

3:59 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Anonymous - how did you know Mick Jagger's original name was Peter Tork?

5:23 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Peter Tork Rules, what a superstar!!

Did you have to re-bury the coffins when the permafrost melted and they floated to the top?

6:55 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

TPK: No permafrost in Montreal, my friend. Here in the Arctic it takes 4 men the better part of a day with picks and shovels to dig a grave in the frozen ground maybe four feet deep. If they're lucky, when can get an electric jack hammer to make it a little easier.

7:01 PM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

David Bowie

11:08 PM  
Blogger Belle said...

I got you beat. I worked half a summer at a funeral home, yup, helping prepare the bodies. There's a reason I only worked half a summer.

5:40 AM  
Blogger nanuk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:27 AM  
Blogger nanuk said...

WoD: Congratulations and a thunderous paw clap. David Bowie, born David Jones, recorded Please Mr. Gravedigger way back in 1967. He sang it a cappella, with thunderclaps and pouring rain in the background.

I will link to the lyrics in today's post, since it appears links in Blogger's "Comments" won't follow.

Belle: [Sigh]. Yes, you've got me beat in the dead-end summer job department. But do you agree that people who work around the dead are more than a little "off", shall we say? People who work around the dead for extended periods, let me emphasize.

6:37 AM  

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