Monday, January 13, 2014

I love you / You love me / Wish you weren't a damn zombie

Like most burial grounds, Evans City Cemetery is a peaceful place – a hilltop oasis buffered on all sides by forest and farmland. 

It’s so silent here, in fact, that every noise I make is deafening. I attempt to exit my car gracefully and fail. I’m like a drunken teenager who tries to sneak into the house after curfew, but ends up stepping on every creaky floorboard.

I tip-toe through the tombstones and pray that I don’t wake the dead.

The thought of zombies attacking me isn't too far outside the realm of possibility. After all, this is where George Romero filmed the opening scenes of “Night of the Living Dead,” a film I view more as a documentary than a work of fiction.

Even as a fifth-grader at nearby Evans City Elementary School, I’d sit in class and imagine that an army of the undead – including lunch ladies, kindergarteners and mop-toting janitors – would burst through the door and devour my teacher while I herded my classmates to safety.

As much as I hate to admit it, I wouldn't be a take-charge, ass-kickin' hero. I’d be catatonic and shoeless like Barbra.
My daughter, Sarah, would have to save herself from the flesh-eating multitudes by tottering into the woods and climbing a tree. I’m sure she wants to do that now.

There is a dark cloud looming overhead, the wind is howling and she is standing in the middle of a cemetery wearing a Barney the Dinosaur costume. Even a 2-year-old can tell when a situation has gone from photo opportunity to child abuse.

I prop her up next to the large, marble obelisk of Nicholas Kramer.
Mr. Kramer died in 1917, but thanks to a low-budget monster movie, he has achieved a strange sort of immortality. Barbra cowers behind the monument as her brother, Johnny, tussles with a ghoul. That scene transformed Nick’s final resting place into a pop culture landmark.
Fans from around the world visit this stone. They peer from behind it in mock-horror as their friends snap pictures and utter the film’s famous line, “They’re coming to get you, Barbra.” I’m sure the average tourist isn't dressed like a purple T-Rex when they’re mugging for the camera, but, whatever.

Sarah does not share my enthusiasm for creating the perfect shot, so she takes off, her polka-dotted tail wagging behind her as she runs.

It begins to rain. And not a light sprinkle, but the kind of torrential downpour you only see in horror movies. Sarah plops down by a faded marker and starts to cry.

I feel like an asshole, but the only thing I can say as I run towards her is, “I’m coming to get you … Barney.”  

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