Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dining with the Dead

The cool of the booth refreshes the back of my thighs as I slide in across the table.  A mid-morning sun is already percolating into the pores of those parading the sidewalk in time with the click, click, click of my heels and the drip, drip, drip of coffee on the countertop. Soon it will already be lunchtime but thankfully breakfast is served all day.  I look out past the shoulder of my breakfast companion to the gray stones that litter the lot across the street.  Through the full length diner windows are the residents of Oakland Cemetery. I have come to dine with the dead.

I spot a man walking his dog through the chiseled rows of rock.  Has the dog already peed on Margaret Mitchell’s grave?  Or—quelle horreur—defecated on the mound of golf balls before Bobby Jones’ tombstone?  Beyond that, is the old water tower of the former pot bellied stove factory now transformed into a conglomerate of a dozen trendy dining, office, and retail spaces—plus one watering hole, Krog Bar, occupying the former forklift warehouse.  My mind wanders to the fine wine selection lining narrow red brick shelves and an evening of slow sips of ablemarle red.  Devious arousal unfolds when partaking in such a highly cultured art in such a primitive locale.  Atlanta's history oozes from cracks in the floor and its fumes propagate my interest in unearthing what lies beneath. Six feet beneath.

Cemeteries fascinate me.  Perhaps it is the scuffle with death allowing me the liberty of rejuvenation, or the poetry of epitaphs, or the serene calm of hundreds of people lounging at rest.  Regardless, Oakland Cemetery is enticing and enthralling with a fantastic city skyline view to boot.  “One wrong move in this part of town and you’ll end up there yourself!” my friend jokes.  I let my laughter shake hands with death.  I can’t help but feel there are gentle on-lookers silently making their own commentary on our conversation.  Uninvited ghosts incite a self-conscious blush to warm my face.  My attention darts around the room.  To my right two mothers discuss the intimate details of their children’s social lives.  An overweight man awkwardly poses on the bar stool and takes another sip—the outline of his blackberry impressed upon the right pocket of his khakis.  A tattooed dude with two tag-a-long friends idle over the last crumbs.  Two lawyers philosophize bankruptcy law and banter their good manners—“Oh! You pick me up and pay for my meal! No, no…”, “Please.  It’s my pleasure.”   The air we share—us characters in a made-for-TV movie—is as languid as the hour melting away.

Two plates of pancakes interrupt the pantomime of conversation.  The glorified fluffy stacks are consumed in silence as if the next hour of our lives demand this syrupy nourishment.  And the next 60 minutes do demand a satiated belly if only to playfully mock the folks who rest across a two lane road. 

Exiting the diner, I squint under a now blinding sun towards the princes and paupers beyond a decrepit wall--smiling to myself at how the dead, yet again, inspire the living.  Pancakes and pecans never tasted so heavenly.

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