Two years ago my father took me to Paris
And to give an example of how morbid the two of us can be
When we're together
We visited no less then three cemeteries.
The first we stumbled on by accident
It was empty and gray and we were lost, so we looked around
French cemeteries are unusual
No one is buried
They are all in stone sarcophaguses
Or small mausoleums
And everything is packed together so tight you can barely walk.
The mausoleums have huge windows, and you can see right inside
The people are buried under their floors
And the small room inside usually has a kneeler for praying
And sometimes photographs of the deceased
You could tell most of them were once visited often
Now nearly all of them looked abandoned.
My dad and I stumbled upon the grave of Manet by accident
We didn't even know he was buried there
And probably most of the rest of Paris didn't either
There was one huge mausoleum
It had a very big room inside
Set up like the room of a house
With chairs, sofas, paintings
Even ladies' dresses, laid out as if to be worn.
It was one of the most frightening things I ever saw.
The second cemetery I don't remember more then a few unremarkable markers
But the third one was magnificent.
La Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise.
Here we chatted with the remains of
Frederic Chopin, Jim Morrison
Edith Piaf and Sarah Bernhardt
(which, oddly enough, my parents used to call me
as a child because I was so melodramatic,
she being an actress)
Oscar Wilde was there.
He was Irish, lived most of his life in England.
Spent only the last few years of his life in Paris
Because he had spent the last five years in jail
Basically for being gay.
And those incriminating photos of him
Dressed in drag
And so he was buried in a foreign city
Where he had died in a hotel room
Accompanied by a single friend
And the hotel owner.
A fop to the end, his last words were,
"Either the hideous wallpaper goes, or I do."
I think we both know how that ended up.
At his tomb people had left business cards.
Things like, "Thanks for the wit!" written on the back
And I wonder how many of them knew