The expected Phoenix sun had finally appeared. Once again we made our way to the gym, a recurring theme during my visits to Phoenix. As I worked out I once again enjoyed the assortment of eye candy on display. I'm certain that were I a regular habitue of this particular facility the view would become more routine, however, since I was a visitor passing through there was still a novelty factor in play.
I was, at last, able to enjoy the spring time, southwest rays in the back yard. Our plan was to take in the local Sunday afternoon gay bar scene, starting with, at my request, an establishment with a sizable outdoor space. Enjoying a drink outdoors, indeed enjoying anything outdoors, can be challenging in Chicago in March. We ended up visiting 3 bars that afternoon. Cocktails were also a recurring theme during this visit.
One of my hosts has been active on a networking web site called "Find a Grave". Online memorials are created and requests are sent out for photos of grave markers or memorabilia celebrating the life of the deceased. On this day he was going out to the nearby Veteran's Cemetery to locate and photograph grave markers.
As a child traveling with my family visits to cemeteries were often on our itinerary. Not only did my mother have a fondness for gothic horror and the macabre, she also understood the lessons in history that could be learned by these cemetery visits, particularly older ones. Viewing the resting place of one who is particularly admired or historically important can often instill a feeling of connection with them. In some cases it may spark interest in further study and exploration. I remember going through cemeteries on a trip to the east coast visiting the graves of the founders of the U.S., and later, on a trip to Dayton as an adult, visiting the gravesites of the founder of the Huffy bicycle company and the Wright Brothers.
The day was bright and sunny but the sun had not yet reached it's full height and heat. Our time was concentrated on the columbarium. While my host took photos of the memorials behind which rested the cremated remains of those who had served in the Armed Forces, I spent my time reading the epitaphs.
There were the ones you would expect to encounter, husbands and wives sharing a space with the word "Together Forever" carved on the memorial plaque. Others remembered the deceased as "Beloved Father", "Beloved Mother", Beloved Son, or "Beloved Daughter". Some were whimsical, "Gone Fishin"or "Lining up on the First Tee". There must have been quite a pair of mouths on the couple who were remembered with "Cursing Together Forever". Some were poetic, "2nd Star to the Right, Straight on Till Morning". One that had a particular effect on me read "Now You Can Dance Again". There was the unexpected, a memorial to the Mayor of Phoenix from 1964 to 1970.
I was saddened by memorials to the young men and women killed in our senseless conflict in the Middle East. Many of them decades younger that I, I pondered what their future would have held.
I tried to imagine the lives lived alone after the death of a spouse of many years or the history that had been witnessed by those who lived to see 90 years of change.
I tried to imagine a utopia where places like these would no longer be necessary. A time when mankind could learn to live without armed conflict. I tried to imagine a time when respect and tolerance would result in a world at peace.