Fame, Fortune, Obscurity, and Immortality

Reading A. Lincoln, a most fascinating biography about

Abraham Lincoln, watching the Trump presidency take shape, composing notes and research for a book about murder on Route 66, the quest to create brand recognition for Jim Hinckley’s America, writing an article about the tragic life of David Buick, and the loss of two friends this year led to a bit of reflection. Magnifying my thoughts about the brevity of life and how much time we spend chasing fame and fortune in a futile hope that we can gain a dubious form of immortality from our accomplishments was a small photography expedition this afternoon.

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I suppose some of this darkly shaded reflection is rooted in these times of division, uncertainty, and transition. In this, there is a sense that I am not alone.

This afternoon a research project necessitated a short expedition to the Mountain View Cemetery and a bit of exploration. Decades have passed since I worked there and the cemetery has greatly expanded since then. So, seeking out the pioneer section, specifically the segregated segment where Chinese and other peoples were interred became a bit of a challenge.

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As I wandered among the weathered monuments, some of which are now blank lumps of concrete or stone, my reflections on life broadened. Imagine the changes witnessed and the incredible adventures of a life that spanned the years between 1838 and 1928. Who was the unknown skeleton buried in 1941? Who was the unknown Mexican that was struck by the train in 1903?  He may be an unknown today, but apparently Burt Johnson was well known and well liked in Oatman.

For about as long as I can remember there has a been a fascination with cemeteries, with the empty places, and with the people that walked this world long before I got here. In light of how popular the empty places like Glenrio and Amboy are among Route 66 enthusiasts, the assumption is that I am not alone. Consider the popularity of vintage photos filled with detail as another example.

Personally, a primary reason for the allure of empty places, old photos, lost highways and back roads, cemeteries and the stories of people like David Buick is that they provide balanced perspective. They are a constant reminder of how short life is, even if I am fortunate enough to live a century. They ensure that I don’t take myself to serious. They help me balance the need to make a living with what makes life worth living – friends, adventures, adventures shared with friends, and memory making good times with friends.

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The Old Trails Garage In Needles, California courtesy the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

Consider today’s cover post. Look at the vehicles. They represented a major investment for owners, as well as a source of pride, and for their manufacturers, a bright and prosperous future. A fair bet is that within five years not one of these cars was still on the road. If there were survivors, the rapid advancement of automotive technology had rendered them obsolete relics. The company that manufactured them, an enterprise that provided a livelihood for thousands of people and a life of leisure in luxurious surroundings for owners, would be a fast fading memory five short decades after this photo was taken.

Perspective, that is the key to living live in a pragmatic, grounded manner. Simply put, none of us are getting out of this alive. So, LIVE LIFE. Make goal number one leaving this world a better place than when you arrived. And goal two, don’t confuse the need to make a living with thinking that making a living is life.

Until next time, mi amigos, here is a life filled with laughter, friends, and adventures.

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