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Lenny La Rue, IPA

Sacramento, United States

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Artist's Description

I have three things from my paternal grandfather: the sight of him in an picture in a museum that closed; my beloved father, and; this shot of where he is buried. I have only been to one family gravesite in my life, as most of my family are Christians who have no interest whatsoever in someone’s vacated body. But dad once told me his dad was buried in this cemetery, the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which is on the same grounds as the Old Sacramento Historic Cemetery (or did I get that name backwards again?).

One day when I was shooting for my sole multimedia project, Freak, I tried to find my grandfather’s gravesite. After looking at all the markers there and not finding a ‘La Rue’ among them, I visited the cemetery office to inquire. The man there pulled out an ancient book and looked up the name. ‘Yes’, he said. ’He’s here but his site was never marked. But we know the area.’

Here is a photograph of where that man directed me. <slowly shaking head, smiling> Yup, that’s a La Rue family Christian burial for ya, albeit from a LONG time ago – letting go of the deceased’ body but loosely hanging on to it anyway. :-) That day, I walked until I felt the time was right and put my hand to the ground to photograph, lacking anything else. This recent visit to the greater cemetery grounds would have been incomplete without another shot of… anywhere at all.

Notes: Freak still exists tho the audio was never good, the hand-written text was downright terrible (I’ve never been able to write legibly), and the photography was all Polaroids. I promised myself I’d redo the last two and put the audio on a remastered CD. Instead, I copied the old cassette as it was onto CD and archived it. The rest of Freak is laying somewhere in the apartment – who knows where.

- Dad knew almost nothing of his dad and this semi-site is now all I know of.

- Instead of burial, La Rue’s are usually cremated. Still bewildered and in shock from my mother’s death, I was taken on a trip to Monterrey, CA to scatter her ashes where she requested they be scattered: in the bay itself. Well, that’s littering, even if it IS your momma. So the plan was to scatter her ashes from the window of a small airplane. My sister, my step-dad, and I were left in a room before the pilot came to say he was ready. I don’t know what we were supposed to do in the room but I guess it was some sort of last respects. Well, what we had was a small cardboard box with mom’s name on it. We’d all said our goodbyes to mom so we were just looking at a box.

Maybe it was curiousity; probably was. But I picked up the box and shook it. I was a bit surprised when it went “bump” and I’m still pleasantly surprised I didn’t scream or drop it. Probably still in shock. Anyway, always the curious one, I opened it and found a surprisingly small amount of ashes and a few small bones. I can’t remember what happened after that. I never asked and my sister never told me.

The pilot came in and inquired where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. He was told to fly out to sea, let us open a window, and we’d toss mom’s ashes out, scattering them in the sea. The pilot said we couldn’t do that or we’d all have mom’s ashes in our faces, ears, noses, eyes, mouth, clothing, and HIM if we opened a damned window while the plane was flying. Well, that didn’t sound like a good idea to any of us so we asked what we could do. He left the room and returned with a bag – a brown paper Lucky’s Grocery Store bag. He said we could put mom in that and toss IT out of the plane and politely left the room again (probably to laugh his ass off but, again politely, elsewhere).

I think we all looked at each other wondering who was gonna dump the stuff in the grocery bag. None of us could do it (Why???) so we put the resealed box straight in the bag and went to the pilot. I don’t remember taking off or landing. But the part in the middle was really reminding me of the movie “Throw Mama From The Train” when it came out later that year. It seemed like we were high in the air and going nowhere once we were over open water. I started to wonder if we WERE going anywhere then thought, ‘of course we are. We can’t litter close enough to the shore to be seen, can we?’ That got me back comfortably into my calm state of shock.

The pilot turned to us and said we were in a good place (“Good place?” Good place to toss your mom out of an airplane window? Strange thing to say, it seemed). I got the “honours” and opened the window. Right then I was sure happy the pilot was smarter than we were because NO dog would have enjoyed sticking his head in THAT breeze. Wow. It almost gave me whiplash but I gamely took the brown paper Lucky’s Grocery Store bag, now with a box in it, rolled it a bit to that it wouldn’t explode in my hand from the wind, and “Threw Mama From The Plane”. Then the pilot shut down the engine noise and banked steeply so we could all look out the window until it hit the water. A smack, far too far away to hear, but quite visible and the brown paper Lucky’s Grocery Store bag bounced and bobbed. Then it bounced and bobbed some more. In fact, it never did stop bouncing on the waves tho it didn’t do any more of that sickening “splat” business. The pilot asked if it was OK, somebody said yes, and we went back.

Sometimes, I dreamed about that “splat”. Sometimes I dreamed about bobbing and bouncing brown paper Lucky’s Grocery Store bags – usually after doing my shopping at Lucky’s which was the one grocery store I could walk to from home. Often I wondered if some dumbass big fish came up from the deep too fast to see what he was going for and swallowed mom whole, sorta like Jonah, since it’s unlikely a whale did that. (Well, unless it was a killer whale. It might have forgotten to chew Jonah and forgot to swallow too. Sharks aren’t all that bright but dolphins are and killer whales are related to the latter. How a smart animal could have zoomed up to swallow a grocery store bag is beyond me now but wasn’t 22 years ago while I was in shock).

More likely the Lucky’s Grocery Store bag became a soggy mess and decomposed while bobbing with mom. And since not too many creatures we know of have mouths big enough and brains dumb enough to swoop up and swallow a cardboard box 1/4 full of ashes and a few bones, mom could have bobbed back to the Monterrey shoreline and gotten her own fine for littering (since only her name was available). Or she could have bobbed right out of the bay, out into open sea, and landed just shy of where Red Bubble is now. Some kid could have run out into the waves while his parents screamed at him and snatched up the strangest ‘message in a bottle’, except without the bottle or the message. The tape on it would have lasted a while so the box would have lasted a while and we ALL know bones last a while, tho I’m not sure if ashes do. And running back to his now-relieved parents, he might have waited to open the box until he got there, to share the opening of the bobbing treasure chest.

All we can hope for then is that there was no breeze that could give a bewildered man in shock a whiplash.

Artwork Comments

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