Dust to dust

I’M A FILE man, a decades-long habit. I had a jammed file cabinet in Houston, and I have another one in Mexico.

I was going through the Miscellaneous file recently and came upon my mother’s death certificate and the certificate of cremation from Atlanta Crematory Inc. My sister mailed these to me in 2009, which is when my mother died.

You learn things by reading a death certificate and a certificate of cremation. I notice that my mother died on Jan. 8, and she was also cremated on Jan. 8. No time was lost.

There was no wake.

The certificate of cremation doesn’t have lots of details, but the death certificate is more informative. Mother died in Emory University Hospital at age 90. She had been hospitalized about a week, and had been taken there by my sister.

deathI only have one sibling, and she is a very conflictive person, which is one reason I was not present. I prefer distance between my sister and myself.

The death certificate says my mother’s “usual occupation” was teacher, and that’s quite right. Eighth Grade was her preferred class because she said they were old enough to wipe themselves but too young to have become smartasses.

Her parents — my grandparents, of course — are named. Her father’s full name was Walter Jackson Powell, which I knew. Her mother’s full name was Osie Evelyn Moree, which was interesting. I never knew her middle name.

Osie is a very old-fashioned name, but Evelyn isn’t so much. Nonetheless, you don’t see many babies nowadays named Evelyn. I like Evelyn. It’s all about Eve.

(Going back further, her father was Dard Moree, a very wealthy farmer who would have been born about the time the Yankee General Sherman was laying waste to Georgia. Dard’s success played a role in my being able to retire at 55, bless him.)

She was my favorite grandparent by far. My maternal grandfather died when I was 12, and my father’s folks lived farther north, way up in Atlanta, and we lived in Florida. Mother’s people lived in south Georgia.

It was an easier drive in the Plymouth, plus my father didn’t like his parents. My mother, an only child, loved hers.

Moving down the certificate, I see that even though the Atlanta Crematory Inc. cremated Mother, it was Wages & Sons Funeral Home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that handled the arrangements. Mother had a contract with them.

Wages & Sons Funeral Home. Ironic, no? Wages & Sons also handled my father’s funeral back in 1991. I attended that one. I did not attend my mother’s funeral because there wasn’t one. I’m not sure exactly why. My sister ran that show.

The certificate goes on to point out that Mother was not embalmed, which I guess is normal if a cremation is in the cards. And then we get to the cause of death.

Since she was 90, the cause is pretty straightforward. She died of old age, but hospitals and City Halls want details, and here they are. Three conditions did her in.

Starting one week before she drew her final breath was “pseudomonas healthcare acquired pneumonia,” which sounds like she got pneumonia from being in the hospital. And then two days before her death, there was acute renal failure and hyperkalemia. I had to Google that last one.

The “cause of death,” it says, was congestive heart failure. And there was no autopsy. Good. Any halfwit who’d finished Junior High knows why she died. She was 90.

Down at the bottom of the certificate are the names of the attending physician, Sonjay Raja Lakar, and the “certifier,” Dr. Ronak Patel, demonstrating that multiculturalism is alive and well at Emory University Hospital.

Did you know the overwhelming majority of American motels are operated by East Indians? I read that somewhere.

It’s interesting to get into the files now and then.

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(Note: For a more heartfelt yarn about my mother’s death, one written just after the event, read Dancing the Hassapiko.)

Downtown at dusk

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I’VE SPENT 34 years of my life in tourist towns. The first was New Orleans — 18 years — and now here on my colonial Mexican mountaintop — 16 years.

My heart goes out to people who pass their lives in Topeka or Barefoot Bottom, Georgia. Yes, there is such a place.

There are different styles of tourist towns. Some may not look like much themselves, but their location makes them tourist attractions. Beach locales are one example.

If you count beach locations as tourist towns, and I am, then we have to add my childhood decade in Florida to the aforementioned 34 years, making a total of 44 years.

But let’s stick to tourist towns that are tourist draws simply because they’re beautiful. And where I am right now certainly qualifies. Look at those photos.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was sitting on one of the cement benches that surround our plaza, just watching folks, enjoying the view, the cool breeze, stuff like that.

I had my camera in my man bag with my Kindle, so I whipped the camera out and took these photos.

I’m a sharing kind of guy. I hope you don’t live in Topeka or Barefoot Bottom, Georgia, either.

That would be so sad.

The winter scalp

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See spouse standing at rear for perspective.

IT’S A YEARLY ritual, the scalping. Sometimes it’s more drastic than other times. I do it personally, the cutting, not the hauling away. I hire help for that.

The gardening situation here on the mountaintop, more than 7,000 feet above the faraway seas, is problematical. Things grow wildly during most of the year.

Then winter comes, sometimes calmly, sometimes not. Last winter was calm. This one is not.

When winter is calm, a minority of them, plants have a two-year span of glee. This is particularly so for the bananas, which are totally out of place here. Till the first freeze last week, they had soared up to 10 or 12 feet with wide trunks to match.

The freeze burned them to a crisp, well, actually, to a brown sag. Luckily, banana trees, no matter their height, are easy to cut. I use a small pruning saw. Though easy to saw, they can weigh a lot, and they come thundering down.

I dodge like Cassius Clay, like a geriatric butterfly.

Years ago, I drove to the tropical town of Uruapan and bought two cute little banana “trees” in cans. I planted one next to the house, and the other by the Alamo Wall. A friend who had lived in Florida said, “bad idea.” Stupidly, I ignored him.

It was like a ghetto household in Detroit. Babies appeared faster than I can count. I transplanted one out next to the street wall, giving me three banana gangs. In time I hired workmen to put cement restraints around the bases.

Now I have lost all patience. As every year after a freeze, I have cut them down, leaving stumps that rejuvenate themselves. But workmen come next week to cover two of the three mobs with cement and stone. I’ve had enough!

Another troublesome plant that also does not belong here, but is beautiful most of the year nonetheless, is the golden datura, which is also easy to cut.

It wilts quickly in a freeze, and I whack it back to its base. Like bananas, it rejuvenates in springtime.

The photo at top should be panoramic to show the pile’s true dimensions. It’s the biggest ever. Tomorrow two guys come with a pickup to haul it away, somewhere.

Never a sailor man

shipI’VE NEVER BEEN on a sailboat.

Oh, I’ve stood on one tied to a dock in the same way I’ve been on a cruise ship tied to a dock in San Juan. But out on the open waters, sails deployed and speeding along?

I’ve never done that.

Strange, since I’ve been on planes — myself at the stick — motorcycles, hot-air balloons, gliders, cars, trucks, trains, buses, you name it, but never on a sailboat in spite of being raised in Florida.

SterlingThough I’ve never been on a sailboat, I have a favorite sailor: Sterling Hayden.

Hayden was a reluctant movie star, often broke, and a full-blown eccentric. He made movies entirely to finance his sailing. He became a movie star because he was a very good actor, a born ham, and because he was so freaking handsome.

HaydenNot only was Hayden an actor, he was a very good writer. He wrote an autobiography named Wanderer and a novel named Voyage. Both are excellent.

But more than anything, he was a sailor who wandered the world. I admire that.

And I’ve never even been out on a sailboat. What’s wrong with me?

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(Hayden’s eccentricity increased with age. Here’s an interesting video. Notice the car he arrives in. He died in 1986 at age 70.)