Day #34, Thursday
I checked in yesterday at an almost abandoned – because of the coronavirus scare – hotel. It is just off Interstate 5, a few miles from the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. As I pulled-in to park at the hotel, my rental car’s odometer turned to 3,999 miles; it had 1,005 when I left Miami Airport, thirty-two days ago. When I entered the hotel lobby through the sliding glass door, I was properly masked. I pulled a 20” overnight bag behind me. The desk clerk pointed to a hand lettered sign that had been taped to the front edge of his black marble countertop. “No Vacancy! Reservations Only.” I replied to his gesture with a nod and pulled-out a copy of my reservation that I printed three days ago at a sister hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“Welcome,” said the clerk, “have you come far?”
The question amused me. I wondered if he really cared, but I answered, “I started in England, came to Miami, made a few stops, and now I’m here. Yes, I guess I have come quite a distance.”
“Business or pleasure,” he asked.
“A little of both, but not much business, I just retired.”
I thought he had finished with the pleasantries, when he pointed to the registration form that he had laid in front of me and said, “Please, sign here.” I signed and he handed me a keycard for a room on the third floor. As I turned toward the elevator doors, he said, “The hotel’s restaurant is closed, but when you decide about dinner, I have a list of very nice take-out places.” I nodded but kept walking.
I slept well and the dawn was bright and sunny. I had circled today in red on my travel-calendar. My destination so marked was simply, Forest Lawn, GLENDALE.
Today is what we call a superlative. The sky is a clear, bright blue, a light breeze is blowing from the southwest, the sun is warm, and the humidity is low. By the time I got my lazy self and my belongings to the car it was 10:30. As I reversed from my parking place, a red Hyundai pulled in and a very attractive young woman in a black and white maid’s uniform got out and started toward the lobby. I had hindered her path and she stopped to let me pass, but I felt obliged to apologize. I pushed the passenger-side, down-window button and shouted, “Sorry!”
“Did you stay here last night?” she asked.
“Yes, and I’ll be back for the next two nights.”
“What floor?” she wanted to know.
“I see your car license plates, are you from Florida?”
“Could we talk? When will you return?”
“I don’t know, I’m visiting some graves today down at Forest Lawn. Maybe around four or five?”
“Okay, see you then.” She turned to walk in front of my car, I waited, then drove the nine miles to Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Just outside the gate there was an ancient old man who literally popped off a lawn chair that he had situated only inches from the curb. He raised his hand, palm-forward as a friendly gesture for me to stop. I did and he came around to the driver’s side to ask if I would like to purchase a flower for the grave I was planning to visit.
What a novel thought. “Yes,” I replied, “I’ll take three roses, red ones.”
In seconds, he returned with the flowers wrapped in newspaper. “So you’ll be making three stops today? The roses are a dollar each, three dollars, please.” I handed him a five.
“Where can I get some help finding the graves I want to visit?”
“Depends who you’re looking for, I know most all the famous ones and visitors are welcome at the office after eleven o’clock.”
“Well I guess the three I’m most interested in today are Mary Pickford, Humphrey Bogart and Carole Lombard.”
An apologetic grimace came over his face and I knew from my ‘research’ that two of the three are buried in non-public areas of Forest Lawn. “But there are hundreds of other famous people here,” he protested.
“I know, but I’m not a movie star tourist, I’m doing serious research and fulfilling a lifelong dream.”
My new best friend knew all three sites I wanted to visit and took his time to be helpful. His apology that Mr. Bogart and Miss Pickford are buried in places with no public access seem truly heart-felt. His use of formal terms of address was a true measure of his respect for his, probably self-appointed, position of cemetery greeter.
“Now, it’s Mrs. Gable [Carole Lombard] you should visit first. She is resting in the Great Mausoleum,” he turned and pointed to the Garden of Memory Columbarium of Eternal Light, “right over there.” “Poor thing,” he continued, “she was only 33 years old.”
I saw nearly a hundred gravesites of famous people with names that I carefully noted for future reference, then I ended my day with a visit to the columbarium in the Garden of Memory.
Usually not one for obvious chicanery or disregard for rules and regulations, I’ll return tomorrow and seek official permission to visit Mr. Bogart and Miss Pickford.
I wonder what the maid wants to talk about?