Friday, January 6, 2012

The Obits Annual 2012 Part II

I'll never really know how my mind works.  Years and years ago, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, there was a cartoon in Playboy of, I think, a Fink Bread truck (there really was once a Fink Bread in New York City, that baked bread for commercial eateries) that was being held up by a gang of either hippies, or beatniks. They were armed, but totally bummed out when they realized what their target was, and that, "Hey man, it really is a bread truck."

I was reminded of that thought was I began reading, mostly re-reading, the obituaries in the recently compiled release from the New York Times. "Hey man, these people really are dead."

There have been obituary compilations before. Years ago there was 'The Last Word.' There was a collection of Robert McG. Thomas's obituaries as they appeared in The Times, '52 McGs'. The Economist produced a massive, high paper quality hardcover edition of their obituaries, 'Book of Obituaries.' But all these books were compilations of obituaries as they occurred throughout a period of time, not just a 12 month period.

If you can parse the events, the freshly produced obituary is a bit of historical short story that appears soon after someone's demise. Maybe it is theater. The front cover topping blurb in 'The Obits Annual 2012' calls them "the curtain call." The show is over, liked it or not, and here's the wrap up of people who brought it to you.

Now, re-reading these obituaries at a further elapsed time from their first appearance, it settles in my mind that these folks have really passed away, and we won't be hearing from them in the present tense any longer.

Tony Curtis will not be seen around town in large glasses with his younger wife, or standing in front of a recently completed painting. George Shearing can't possibly now produce his version of music that will yet be written. Sargent Shriver will not weigh in on Arnold and Maria's lives.

The freshly absorbed obituary is the service and the trip to the cemetery. The later read same obituary is the headstone. It's the final proof the subject has left us.

Except of course in Elvis's case. Or anyone else you care to mention.

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