The Birthday Corpse!

My bicycle – Bianca, She-Goblin of Might – and I just returned from an evening ride through the cemetery and while there, we happened upon a really neat thing. A family was gathered around a grave, singing, of all things … “Happy Birthday.”

(Now, this was a non-incident bike ride, not a wasp-inside-sports-bra-biting-left-breast-crash-incident. For more details on that harrowing episode, let me refer you to my blog from last August entitled, “The Lore of Mountain Bike Gore.”)

I rode past these birthday singers, smiling to myself, not believing my timing, and continued my path up and down the little graveyard roads. I didn’t know if they were singing to the deceased, but if so … what a great way to keep life in perspective!

See, that’s one of the many reasons why I study Halloween history. I’m fascinated by how past and present societies, cultures, and religions – and the individuals therein – deal with death. I think it has a lot to do with how one will behave in life. Dust, angels, demons, resurrection, reincarnation – whatever people believe, I find it all interesting.

On my ride out of the cemetery, I went by that family again and asked a woman if they had been singing to the deceased. It turns out they weren’t, rather just taking advantage of their family gathering to sing “Happy Birthday” to a couple of kids who recently had theirs. So, no Birthday Corpse, but … I still like the idea.

It makes me think of the birthday girl from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, blowing out the candles. If you’ve never been to Disneyland, here’s a YouTube video of the ride to give you an idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E60nt-_f6Sw&feature=related You’ll see her about 9:15 into the video. I practically grew up at Disneyland, being an Orange County kid, so the Haunted Mansion is in my blood.

The Birthday Corpse idea also makes me think of the body. The mind. The heart. The spirit. Who we each are. How we progress year by year in our mortality. Teens, twenties, thirties … and on until our death … and beyond (as I and many others believe).

If those seem like dramatically contrasting thoughts on either side of the serious-to-silly-spectrum, well … that’s Halloween! In my Halloween history studies, I’m constantly intrigued and amused by what people through the ages have done to make it a season of frightful thoughts of death on one hand, and a time for pranks and lightheartedness on the other. (Throughout my blogs, I’ll share bits of this history, but if you’re dying to read more information now, I recommend you check out some books by my two favorite Halloween researchers: Lesley Bannatyne and Jack Santino … who are SO COOL, by the way. When researching an old Halloween-related tune a few months ago, I emailed both of them, wondering what they knew about it. They were both so gracious to respond with what they knew in their experience and expertise.)

Birthday Corpses make me think of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (much like the scene on Oingo Boingo’s album cover, “Dead Man’s Party”). On All Souls Day (November 2), or Day of the Dead as it’s referred to in Mexico, families gather around graves and have picnics to celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones. In their homes, they set their tables and have a feast, leaving one chair empty for the dead family member’s ghost to sit.

My dead Grandma Lawrence didn’t visit me at a dining table, but I think she visited me in a dream. This dream occurred in October a few years back (of all the months!) shortly after her death. In my dream, my extended family was all gathered in my driveway, having a viewing of my grandma in her coffin. I was sitting in the coffin with her, holding her hand. Then her hand started to move, and I looked at her face, and she came back to life. Her dead body came alive and totally reanimated! She got out of the coffin and just hung out with us. She wanted to be with us. She loved her family so much. We always had such fun family reunions.

I like gravestones that say things like, “Families are Forever” or “Forever Loved.” There’s a German section in the graveyard that I ride through and I’ve seen on a few headstones the phrase, “Heiraten für Ewigkeit” – “Married for Eternity.” So simple and beautiful.

My grandma was so wise. I always loved hearing any tidbit she had to tell me. She once told me that her 40’s were a great decade for her. She said, “By my forties, I finally ‘got it.’ I really had a good handle on life.” I loved hearing that because it makes me feel just fine with my 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and so forth inevitably coming.

I’m in my 30’s now, and I feel like I’m “getting it.” I’m getting my brain, heart, and body to all work together. I exercise six days a week for my brain and my body. All those little exercise chemicals that light up in your brain when you work out are so lovely. They make my brain run so smoothly. And I’m trying to keep my body young and full of energy so it can serve me well.

But what’s a girl to do when she has an affinity for fine cheeses and dark chocolates? Try to savor little bits, that’s what. I’ve got to be careful – my catwoman costume was a little tight last Halloween. Ha ha.

Yesterday, I wanted a burger … BADLY. You know. Sometimes it’s just like … burrrrrrrrrger. BUR. GER. BURGER!!!!!!! Gimme that red, charred, dripping meat. And I wanted the whole deal. Burger, fries, shake. Oh yeah. A lot of times I’ll just get one. But yesterday I thought, “Let’s be responsible about this.” So, even though I had exercised that morning, I told myself if I went for a run in the evening, I could get everything I wanted – cheeseburger with pastrami, fries, and a rootbeer milkshake.

Three miles and a short car ride later, my dreams came true. I think I must have sounded like Bill Murray in “What About Bob?” Mmmmm. MMMMM!!! M! I love sauce and melted cheese and tomatoes that bleed into everything. Biting onions that bite me back. Watery lettuce. Sigh. Mmmmm. Sigh. It’s like I almost dance with food like this.

This beloved burger came after some hard weeks of recording at Gaynor’s studio. The mixes are coming! On Tuesday my good friend from college, Brian Stucki, came and recorded cello on my cat song. Oh, he is so good! He double-majored in cello and voice (tenor), then went on to double-master in the same. Yes, he is QUITE the musician. So brilliant and gifted. He’s been singing in operas around the country. I wanted him, especially, to record this cello part because the music is silly and fun and quirky. And so is Brian. (He’s also one of the most emotionally balanced artists I’ve ever met – not always common in the world of artists). He did a fantastic job and I can’t wait to get this song out to all of you, my dear Trick-or-Treaters!

I’ve also been making great progress with my vocal coach, Jason, getting ready for the voice-track recording phase. Today we worked on my upcoming CD’s first song, “Mostly Ghostly.” He’s a great coach and teacher, helping me understand even better what I’ve written, helping me express the essence of my songs, digging into each and every phrase. We have lessons in the basement of a cathedral. It’s kind of like the Phantom and Christine (Kristen) under the opera house. Except not. Because he’s much better looking than the phantom and we’re not having a love affair and it’s a church.

A neat thing is that we are the same age. I’m precisely eight days older than he. Birthday Corpses!!! I hope that all of you Trick-or-Treaters are having good birthdays and good years. Or, as Tori Amos would say, “Pretty Good Year.” Well, it’s more than a pretty good year for me (because I’m in my 30’s and am training my brain to work smoothly, of course, so I will “get it” in my 40’s).

If any of you are having your “Halloween Birthday” coming up, I wish you a happy one. By “Halloween Birthday” I mean your 31st – because Halloween is October 31st. My good friend, Linda, just had her Halloween Birthday two weeks ago. I saved a pumpkin from last October on top of my fridge, waiting for the special occasion so I could carve a big 31 into it for her.

So, keep those birthday candles and jack o’ lantern candles lit, because I am cranking it hard to get this CD ready in time for your Halloween! I’m almost done programming the beats for my vampire song, and the guy I hired to do drum programming for my Samhain song is also almost finished. Full steam ahead!