Saturday, September 25, 2010

Random Acts

After being told by my oncologist that I have to be on the low iodine diet for four more weeks I was feeling a little down so I decided to do something nice for someone else to lift my spirits. After work I ran home to let the dogs out and change clothes. When I finally headed out I realized I left my debit card at work so I turned around and went back to the office, retrieved my card and was finally on my way.

When I get the chance, I do volunteer work for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness and also the Find A Grave website. How this works is that a person who is working on their genealogy that doesn't live in my State makes a request for a photo of a loved one's headstone or maybe a home in the area. They put in that request at RAOGK, where I am listed as a volunteer, and I respond saying whether I will take the job, or not. With Find A Grave, people simply list photo requests and if I know I will have free time I check any requests in the area. I take the photos and then respond to the requester.

For the past few weeks I have been working with someone who put in a RAOGK request for a grave of an infant at Bethany Cemetery in Charleston. Bethany is one of the larger cemeteries in the city and for these I normally have the requester get the info on where the grave is located within the cemetery so I don't have to spend hours walking and looking. Last week I actually had a chance to call the cemetery office myself but I ran into a problem because this particular person is not even listed in the cemetery records. Ben, the gentleman at the cemetery office, said that Bethany's records from the 1920's and before are not that great. He said if I had other information on the person he could do a more extensive search.

I emailed the requester and she gave me info on the child's parents from the death certificate. In the meantime I tried to kill two birds with one stone and looked on Find A Grave to see if there were any pending requests needing to be fulfilled - there were five. When I called the office back I gave him all the names of the people I wanted to find. Ben took the information and said he would call me back, which he did about an hour later. He said he still couldn't find the infant, even with the extra information on the parents.

So, yesterday after work I headed to Bethany cemetery. I knew I didn't have much time since it was already 4pm, but I thought since Ben gave me directions on where to go in the cemetery to find the graves I would have no problem.

The weather was gorgeous! I wore jeans to work but changed into shorts when I went home and I'm almost sorry I did. As soon as I stepped out of the car and started walking I was attacked by a billion insects. Of course I'm allergic to everything so I immediately started swelling and itching (which I am STILL itching from over 24 hours later!) I went back to the car and put on a couple coats of bug spray, which is never pleasant to wear. I continued walking in the direction where Ben told me the first set of graves would be and couldn't find them. I must admit that his directions weren't exactly the greatest.

After spending a half hour on the first set of graves I decided to go find the others on the list so I drove to the other side of the cemetery. I found the landmarks Ben told me to look for, stopped the car and started looking. No luck. Ben's directions were kind of crazy. "Look for this grave on the road that runs parallel to the other road and when you find that grave the graves you are looking for are perpendicular to the landmark grave" - huh?? I walked and walked and couldn't find them. It was getting late so I decided to give up and call him on Monday for more specific directions.

When I got to the cemetery gate I was a little shocked because it was closed and locked. This isn't some little metal fence, either! This is a big iron gate! Before I could really panic a man rode up on his bicycle and told me that they were closed. Um, really? I guess he closes the gate to control traffic and then rides his bike around to look for stragglers. I'm glad he did! Spending the night in the cemetery isn't really something I really wanted to do - especially in that neighborhood!

Before I drove off I chatted with the gentleman a bit and told him that the office person (Ben) was super-nice, but his directions on where graves are located aren't the best. I suggested they create sections to make it easier on everyone. He didn't really care because he had dinner plans and I was keeping him...

After being released from the cemetery I drove to Charleston County Public Library's main branch to see if I could find some info on that infant that Bethany didn't have a record for. When I pulled up I found a parking place right in front but I thought that was a bit odd. I pulled up the library hours on my phone and it's just the way my luck is... they were already closed.

I was bummed because I always enjoy looking through the card catalog of local deaths because they are actually the handwritten, original cards from the turn of the century. Some of the causes of death are odd... diarrhea is a popular one. Also, I always found it interesting when I would find cards that listed people as former slaves, etc. Next time I'm down at the library I'll have to take some photos of a couple of them.

From the library I decided to take a drive around town. It was my favorite time of day... the sun was setting and it casts that gold glow all over the city. I just love that. Unfortunately, downtown was traffic madness. There were tourists everywhere! People were driving horribly. It's not an easy city to drive in if you are not familiar with all the one-way streets and the bike taxi's have taken over the city! Do these things have to follow traffic laws? They act as if they don't! When I crossed through the City Market I realized why it was so nutty downtown... MOJA! I got the heck out of there.

I decided to drive over to Mt. Pleasant and take I-526 home. The sunset had turned the sky all these amazing hues of orange and red - it was gorgeous! I grabbed my camera and stuck it out the window and took a couple of pictures. Of course, I was driving so they came out all wonky, but I actually kind of like them.

Speaking of photos, last week Robin and I went to Charlotte to see Lady Gaga! We debated on whether to go, or not because we are so incredibly broke. I put the tickets on Craigslist, but kept getting all of these insulting offers to pay below the cost of the ticket price and all of the service charges. This was a sold out show. Why would I sell the tickets for below what I paid for them? The morning of the show we pretty much said "screw it" and decided to go. What's a little more debt, right?

The show was incredible, but I told Robin that if we ever have the chance to see Lady Gaga again we HAVE TO get better seats. We were sitting pretty high in the arena and on the side of the stage. Gaga's show is really one that should be seen with a full view of the stage and up close. With our seats it was as if we were watching it on television. I felt really removed from what was going on onstage and the people around us were acting as if it were cocktail hour at the local piano bar. It's just so hard to be a part of the concert when stuff like that is going on... soooo distracting.

I loved all the outfits people were wearing at the show! I didn't really get any good pics of them, but I did manage to stop these ladies and have them pose for me. Aren't they awesome?

Paws up Little Monsters!

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