A Funeral in Midtown and My Back-Story to Harold and Maude

funeral harold and maudeSome people might call it a Harold-and-Maude-syndrome because that’s where I initially got the idea that I should start going to funerals. I first saw that movie in a renovated theater in Minneapolis as an advance screening premiere. This was back in the early 1970s when movie theaters didn’t tell you the name of the movie you were going to see as a premiere. You just hoped you got a good movie. People are much more demanding today.

The velvet drapes slowly parted, the lights went out, and the music of Cat Stevens filled the theater as we watched the lead actor hang himself. What’s not to love about this movie? It became my favorite movie and for just about everybody else I knew, too. Harold and Maude played at the France Avenue Drive-in in the Minneapolis area consecutively for years because every time I would call my mother after moving to California she would throw into our conversation, “Did you know that Harold and Maude is still playing at the France Avenue Drive-in?”

My first funeral was for a person I did not know. I had no idea that you could just pluck a dead person’s name out of the newspaper, go to his funeral and nobody would ask any questions. You didn’t need an affidavit of death. I asked my girlfriend what to wear, whether black was necessary, and she assured me it was not but I should dress conservatively over respect for the deceased. We engaged in long conversations about the length of my skirt, what was too short, too revealing, too bright? Should I wear mascara — because if I cried my tears would mess up my face. What kind of Kleenex should I carry? Important questions.

After my first funeral, I began to notice that some of the people whose death notices I read in the paper were people I knew. That was unnerving. I didn’t think I was old enough to know any dead people. One was a guy I had dated a few times. Naturally, I attended his funeral and much to my delight it was an open casket. Whoa, a new experience for me! Except he looked very bloated and not at all like I remembered him when I was on top.

I say all of this because I attended a funeral yesterday for a person whose name I won’t associate with this blog because I’d hate for people to get upset, and not everybody shares my sense of humor. It was very hot. The funeral home was packed, overflowing. We arrived 15 minutes early and had to sit in the third-tier room so we couldn’t view the videos. That funeral home on Capitol Avenue is moving, I hear. My dentist in Midtown told me. Who needs a Sacramento real estate agent when you’ve got a dentist?

I feel indebted to the person who passed away. He was always very generous with me. When I first posted a blog about Fairytale Town in Land Park and expressed my utter dismay and shock that I was not allowed inside without a kid in tow, he wrote to me personally and said I could take his kids. He was serious, he said he lived a few blocks away: yeah, come over and get ’em. But then they had that free day when anybody could go, so my husband and I went to Fairytale Town by ourselves, and I didn’t need to take his kids. He also told me how to get a bigger battery for my phone to extend its life. He had an enormous heart.

He was only 37.  So young. Too young. We’re always too young when we go, unless we’re like my 88-year-old Hungarian grandmother who had so many things wrong with her health it was a relief to let go and she actually prayed for death every morning, but I’m nothing like her, thank goodness. She never saw Harold and Maude.


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