Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just What Your Funeral Needs

A few pictures of some of the more flamboyant sights at the National Funeral Directors' Convention in New Orleans. I call that top one origami urn. There appeared to be a language barrier between myself and the sales dude so I can't tell you what it is really called, but I think with some papier mache, twine, and couple of beers we could make this happen at home.

I loved these tree balls. Again it was the language barrier, but I did catch that they take very little time to dissolve. A reminder from me and my funeral buddies: cremains are inert. You will not be fertilizing your tree with Uncle Gerardo's ashes. They will just be peacefully co-existing. See my previous post and you'll find where you can procure some horse manure for fertilization.

This is a closeup of the jaw-dropping glazes on the snazzy handmade art urns. I wonder if Mama would mind if I made her into a lamp.

And the Steinway shiny black casket would be good for the man we call in my family Grandaddy Babe. Babe has created multiple generations of Star Trek fans in our family. I think it only appropriate that we bury him in something that looks like what Mr. Spock was briefly laid to rest in.

An SUV hearse for when you need that extra room. Or is it the horsepower? Driving in snow? Who do they think they are kidding? This is all about the bling.

Speaking of bling: a gold casket because you are worth it and you want to look like Liberace in your final moments above ground. Earth to gold casket maker: we are NOT pharaohs. If this can convert into a hope chest, a 7 foot mirror, and a dinette set, then you have yourself a deal.

For some reason, they did a big reveal on that hearse below. I think it is this year's new model. Call me an old fuddy duddy, but I think your brother would get over his car fixation at death and be satisfied with the lovely horse drawn caisson at right. Or with you giving him the ole' fireman's carry to a shady spot under a nice tree free of golden caskets and horse manure. But truly, if it makes you happy... go for it.

As for me, funeral conventions make me happy. I like the death work I do because it makes people less anxious and helps them through their grief. I like many funeral directors because many of them are characters. That's like looking in a mirror but the reflection has an uncanny knowledge of anatomy, life insurance, cremation regulation, and how not to stop a fistfight at a funeral home visitation. I like all the things pictured on this page because I may not want it for myself but I am glad there are many, many options out there.
I still want to be wrapped in a quilt and laid right down in the ground so the earth can take me back a little at a time and a I can be a tasty treat for worms and microbes. Maybe one day plants and a tree could grow up right through me and take a little of me back above ground for a new life as a leaf, or a seed, or even a petal.
That's what I like but it is hard to exhibit that in a convention center.

Thousands of Funeral Directors Again

Time for another year at the National Funeral Directors' Convention. This time it was in New Orleans and it is a wonder I survived and came back home again. I'm pretty sure if feather dude here had offered me and mine jobs as feather tamers or tambourine tuners, I would have not returned to the lovely Commonwealth of my birth. Thanks to this convention I could also be employed as a keg taster of NOLA craft brews, a gumbo ad campaign chairwoman, and a professional wanderer of side streets in the Garden District.

This was the best convention for incorporating local funeral customs as a jazz funeral was conducted in honor of those funeral directors and their loved ones who have died in the past year. Great music, a good homily, and everything ran smoothly as one would expect from the pros represented. Then there were the elements of the jazz funeral: from the dirge to the costumes, the horses, the band, the waving of the white hankies, the move from sorrow to jubilation, and the dancing in the street. I was very pleased that Emporia, Virginia's divine Miss Edna whom I eulogized this past summer was one of the honorees. I danced and waved a hankie in her honor.
In addition to the jazz funeral, there were classes on everything from embalming to marketing, from green cemeteries to business management. I did not include pictures of those, because the fantastic dancers from the funeral are better looking and more interesting to readers of this blog.
My son is old enough to read this blog now so I will point out that the horses did unload a pile of manure inside the convention center but funeral directors are good detail people so precautions had been taken due to the likeliness of such an event. (In other words, Little Man: there was a special carpet and a guy with a shovel who took care of the problem.)
Per request of one of the most faithful followers of Auspicious Jots, I am including some very nice urns here. Each one is handmade. The artist is a crafty and inventive woman who determined that we all aren't wooden box and ginger jar people. If my faithful reader posts a comment, I can provide the link to this gal's website to help you procure one. Prices ranged from $600-$1,000. Beauty ain't cheap but I like the symbolism of that bird one.
You know I won't lie to you. Not every minute of the convention was spent in classes, going to funerals, in cemeteries, or checking out the latest in funeral stuff. I did a lot of that. But much of a convention entails networking. In the funeral business that seems to involve a bar and good food, no matter where the convention is. With this one being in NOLA, there were just a LOT more choices for the food and beverages. Let's just say that we made the most of what the city had to offer and utilized its fine public transportation system on a daily basis.
As one of my new funeral friends likes to query, "Do you undertake what I'm saying?"
I will be posting a couple of the quirkier finds from the exhibit hall in a separate post. You know you can't help but check it out.

Honky Tonk Queen

There are times when life is just flippin' perfect. My day with Whitey Morgan and the 78's was even better than flippin' perfect.

They came to my town because I begged them to. They liked the Southern food my homies and I whipped up for them. (Homemade fried chicken, hush puppies, cheese grits, the world's best green bean casserole, biscuits made with LARD, olive spread, brownies, bean salad, and deviled eggs all washed down with beer and some jello shooters.) They were kind enough to hang out with me and mine when they could have been napping. We got to know each other and then they rocked the house. It was great.

Their new CD is very different from their first one and I love them both, much in the same way that I love the 78's and the Chiggers who opened for them. It was great to have local honky tonk buds hanging with national honky tonkers. I would happily follow both bands all over the country if it weren't for that whole raising kids, family business, not a dime in my pocket thing I've been workin' here lately.

A quick review of the pics that don't speak for themselves: *Dancing with Chiggers frontman Wes who dances as well as he sings and that is a major compliment on both parts. Not pictured is me dancing with Mrs. Chigger who can cut a rug on her own with her fine self.
*Up next is Whitey himself who is surprisingly tall. You watch the YouTubes and you don't pick up on that. Reason being, the rest of them are pretty tall, as well. Some would argue that it is the boots, but as a later shot shows: we were all wearing boots.
*I am snuggling with friend of almost 15 years and Chiggers pedal steel player, Tim. He helped sweeten the deal to get the 78's to play by offering the Chiggers as an opening band. It was a great match and both bands liked each other immensely. That is the victory grin that Tim and I are sharing.
*The orange shot is of the bassist of the 78's, Jeremy. He was the one I talked into this insane adventure. As a buddy of mine who has passed his 70th year said that night, "That man is a darn fine bassist." I agree. He is just a fine person who has translated that into some fine musical talent.
The night was a dream come true and I will be smiling about it for years to come. There is a track on the new CD called "Honky Tonk Queen". Please see that it is played in my honor when I pass on to the great dance floor in the sky.