ISBN 1-890132-91-8

Round-Trip To Deadsville A Year in the Funeral Underground by Tim Matson

This week I chose Tim Matson’s Round-Trip To Deadsville A Year in the Funeral Underground as a sort of way to pay homage to All Saints day, or Día de los Muertos. The book had been sitting on my shelf since thesis, a spur of the moment Half-Priced Books buy, so I figured the slim 145 page book was overdue for a reading.

I had some notes on a piece of paper attached to the book that read: We don’t live in a letting go culture. Taco Bell story. The things I can say with a straight face. These were things I intended on talking about with the book for the blog, but now the only one I can remember is the Taco Bell story.

But first a bit about the book, TM takes readers through a year in the Funeral Underground by interviewing a slew of people he somehow associates with death from A Coffin Maker, an Undertaker, an Astrologer, a Balloon Man, to The Abenaki in a way to quench his fear of dying. The chapters are short, to the point, and while I was reading I could literally hear this man’s voice. I only found myself straying once in the Astrologer chapter when she discussed his birth chart and talked about the planet Pluto. The book was published in 2000. All I could think about was does his chart still count if Pluto isn’t a planet anymore? 

I didn’t have any expectations for this book, but when I was reading it, I was taking a lot of long walks with my elderly dog. This means I had to go slow, and stop, and look at things which gave me time to think more about the book an my experiences with death in general. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to any Gravediggers or Screenwriters on the topic, but I did once talk to our insurance agent. Hence the Taco Bell story:

 A few years ago, Husband and I were purchasing insurance and one policy that came up was life insurance. I was adamant that I didn’t want a funeral and didn’t care what happened to me when I died. The insurance man looked at me with a straight face and said, “So what do you want? To just send your ashes down the river in a Taco Bell cup and call it a day?”

Yeah. Pretty much.

I knew he was getting at costs and the realities of death, but my only reality that I found with reading this book and with walking the dog was that I don’t live enough. I mostly spend my days going though motions. My fear of death, face it we’re all a little afraid, is that I’m going to miss something. There is so much to miss. Sunsets. Laughter. I can’t imagine a time when I will be tired of living. Am I afraid enough to spend a year interviewing people about death? No. Interested enough to read about it? Yup.  

When the time comes, just find a Taco Bell cup and a sunny evening to set me free, and know that I spent a lot of times walking an elderly dog, peering into the essence of what it means to live, die, and be human. 

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6 Comments

Filed under Books, Dogs, Life, Literature, Non Fiction, Random, Writing

6 responses to “ISBN 1-890132-91-8

  1. I really enjoyed this article even though it was about death. In my lifetime, I’ve been to many funerals, a brother-in-law, two nephews, my grandmother, two brothers, my mom and dad, an aunt and several friends. What I’ve come to realize is a funeral is not “for” the person who died, it’s for those still living so they can say goodbye and even though a Taco Bell cup isn’t a casket, it’s still something those you leave behind can hold or see as they say goodbye and as you said, “set you free.” I think that’s how I want to go too, except I’d rather be put in a McDonald’s cup.

  2. Donna, you’re exactly right, and that’s what TM tries to drive home, that funerals are for the living not the dead. I’m with you, though, maybe I’d have it be a McDonald’s cup, but lately maybe it would be my tea mug. . .

  3. Felicitations on your grand adventure! I too am a book hoarder to the dismay of every man I have ever cohabitated with and particularly my husband who has been gifted with the entire lifetime collection. I literally have three stacks on my nightstand that I have determined to get through, though with no concrete plan in mind. I am taking a leaf from you and committing to one per week starting this morning. Thanks for the inspiration and the charming blog!

    • I’m glad you set a goal. Once I set a goal of two books a week, but that got overwhelming when the books I wanted to read were longer(ish). I stopped by your blog and found it interesting. I look forward to following you. Have a great day- and good luck with the book reading/hoarding. 🙂

  4. Charlie, I’m the same way – my hot chocolate mug would work. I know funerals are for the living, but I have to say that all four of my siblings -and myself- were grateful that my dad insisted on being cremated and no services of any kind. It was easier on my mother, too, not to have to go through the calling hours, a church service, and a graveside service. The people who really cared about her, came to the house to visit in the days shortly thereafter. No one lamented that there wasn’t a funeral.

    • I’m pretty lucky that no one that close has died on me yet- just my grandparents and all of their funeral arrangements were already taken care of because I was younger. This book made me want to look into what my husband and I should do in the event of, well, you know. . . I hate to be so grim, but as you say, when the time comes it’s nice that it’s already taken care of.

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