I’ll do anything to avoid hearing or reading the W-word these days. The issue has pitted husband against wife, neighbor against neighbor, and caused members of our local gardening group to pummel each other with their heirloom tomatoes.
Brutal, it’s been brutal.
So how about a visit to a place famous for peace and quiet – where no one shouts, and those from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs co-exist. It’s a place of quiet harmony, even though most permanent residents have nothing more in common than the same heart rate.
Yes, I’m talking about . I don’t think you’d call the pervading philosophy “live and let live,” but then, perhaps that’s the secret.
At Mountain View, the famous share the same real estate with the infamous and the not famous at all. And it works, even though they’ve got some folks with notoriously big egos in the same gated community -- scientist Richard Feynman, inventor and dreamer Thaddeus Lowe, Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, to name only three.
And since local business seems to be the topic du jour, consider this: The Mountain View client base is fiercely loyal; more than 120,000 have checked in over the past 120 years, and not one has voiced a single word of complaint.
That, my dears, is customer satisfaction.
Mountain View first broke ground in 1882. Prior to that, not many options awaited Pasadena’s dearly departed. Most were laid to eternal rest in their own backyard or the back acreage of the family property. Which made eternity a relative term indeed, as land traded hands frequently, and excavation took place on a massive scale, for stores, houses, streets, railroads.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the “garden cemetery” concept landed in Southern California. The garden cemetery didn’t imitate a park, rather, city parks, eventually and for the most part, imitated the garden cemetery – with acres of lush grass, landscaping, shaded paths, trees, statuary. Cemeteries were not only a final resting place for some, but a recreational area for others. Visitors strolled the grounds, had picnics.
Though the permanent residents represented a diverse population, in the beginning, a cemetery wasn’t exactly a model of equality. Maybe the dead couldn’t take it with them, but they could sure as heck let everyone know how much they had to leave behind. This led to family mausoleums, the bigger the better, and monuments, intricately carved headstones, and statuary. The wealthy imported the crème de la crème of grave markers from Vermont, where Italian artisans, trained in Milan, produced lasting works of art.
Nowadays, modern cemeteries favor a vista without raised headstones or mausoleums, just granite markers, like nametags, all of the same size, pressed flush with the earth. Tidy, polite, democratic, but reminiscent, I think, of filing cabinets.
Not so Mountain View; well, it is in Altadena, after all. Where one can expect individuality and creativity from the rich and the poor, the scientist and the bohemian, the quick and the dead.