I am lucky enough to live a ten minute walk from Green-Wood Cemetery. Designed and built in 1838 by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same guy who did Central Park and Prospect Park later in the century, Green-Wood was the template for those later parks. Death has never been so bucolic.
I go there whenever I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life. I wander around nearly five hundred acres of the hilliest terrain in Brooklyn, Revolutionary War battle sites, glacial ponds, screeching parrots… and 560,000 dead folks who obviously were successful enough in life to have some amazing 19th century statuary carved in their honor.
And in all those visits, I have recognized exactly two names: Governor DeWitt Clinton and Leonard Bernstein. I know there’s several other famous bones around, but I don’t pick up the map at the entrance. I just ramble, looking at how acid rain, falling trees, and youth-gone-wild have changed the statues. The names only matter because people in the 19th century sure had some monikers that please the nine-year-old boy in me.
I find comfort in the notion that you can build a pyramid to yourself, and 150 years later all people know about you is that your name sort of rhymes with “areola.”
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