It’s been said that there are more people alive now than that have ever lived throughout history. It’s not true, at least with respect to the whole planet, but it’s an intriguing thought, anyway. I wonder, though, whether it’s true for Los Angeles? I’m not about to pull out a calculator and figure it out (I can’t come up with the math on my own, and anyway, I wouldn’t know what button to push) but it’s the sort of thing I love to ponder. And where do you think I chose to do my pondering? Check it out, after the jump.
If you die in Los Angeles and no one shows up to claim you as their own, the city cremates your body and sets your ashes on a shelf. If you’re still unclaimed after three years, the city has a modest memorial service and puts you in the ground with the other 1500 or so (sometimes as many as 4000!) unclaimed bodies from that that year. Your final resting place? Evergreen Cemetery near downtown LA.
After hearing about this on the radio, I decided to pay the cemetery a visit and see if I could find these mass graves myself. I’m into the whole aura thing, and I happen to find cemeteries strangely picturesque.
Evergreen is fascinating. It’s wedged into the dense, noisy kaleidoscope of Boyle Heights, a strange, sprawling patch of open space in an otherwise metropolitan free-for-all. The cemetery is a multicultural affair, as varied and colorful as LA itself. Haratounian lies next to Chavez lies next to Hayakawa lies next to Lankershim. Some stones are regal and stately, others caked with dirt and surrounded by dead grass. In spite all of these differences, of course, they all share one simple characteristic.
Yeah, you know what it is.
The one thing about cemeteries I find most depressing, is not all the dead people, but the dead things that living relatives leave at the grave sites.
Alice Marie Longyear’s lifespan echoed her surname.
Vera M. Ware died at 23 years old. She rests in a desolate a corner of the cemetery. Lonely? Yes, but she got her own tree.
The Japanese population here is impressively large.
N. Hama clearly lived life as an outsider, not afraid to stand apart from the crowd.
The most depressing gravesite in the cemetery. If I were buried here, I’d have to zombify myself long enough to rectify things.
Also worth checking out: The Issei memorial, honoring the first generation of Japanese immigrants. The shrine is attractive and moving.
I never did find the graves of the forgotten Angelenos, despite wandering the length and breadth of the cemetery for the better part of two hours. There was no one to ask, either, because the office was closed. I will return, maybe next time with a date.
For more information on this cemetery, check out the nice multimedia thingy over at KCET.