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New Orleans Cemeteries

I remember when I was in Turkey a few years ago, I was riding on the bus in Istanbul with the brother of a Turkish friend of mine. He seemed to not have a good opinion of America and Americans. I found that I really didn’t have much to say to him. He seemed to be kind of a sour person.

As we passed by a cemetery he remarked how “you Americans” put your cemeteries outside of town so you don’t have to see them. Here in Turkey our cemeteries are right here in town…

We aren’t afraid to be around graveyards like you Americans are and blah, blah, blah. I didn’t say anything because I was thinking how yes, out in L.A. they have these big cemeteries way out. You never see a cemetery within neighborhoods. For some reason I neglected to think about our own city of New Orleans. I guess I was so irritated at his prejudice that I was not thinking.

I should have said, “Well, ignorant, biased brother of my friend, you obviously know nothing about the city I live in where we have cemeteries everywhere. Yes, that’s right, most older neighborhoods have their own cemetery. In fact, I can remember when I was a kid seeing a second line right outside in front of my house (oh, you don’t now what a second line is? That’s where we celebrate the passing of a loved one. Do you have such a thing here in Turkey? I think not.) The hearse, the slow walking brass band and the folks with their umbrellas walking the casket to the graveyard only about six blocks away. Yes, right in the heart of the city.

“So I don’t know where you get your biased, anti-American prejudiced view from but that ain’t how we do it in our city.” Ah, the things we wished we would’ve said… Of course, if I said all that I would have had to explain the meaning of second line in detail, and also the fact that we bury people above ground here and that people visit the cemeteries and, horrors, sometimes will spread out a picnic lunch on top of one of the tomb slabs. Not uncommon.

“Do you guys do that in Istanbul?” I would’ve had to’ve asked. Anyway, I just chose to sit there in silence and let him live in his ignorance and biases. C’est la vie.

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