Dead from New York!


It’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery!

When the day’s duties were done*, my colleague Ken and I repaired to the charming village where he lives. It’s just 30 minutes by train from Grand Central Station, but a world away. It’s also where Washington Irving had his delightful cottage overlooking the Hudson (and now overlooking the train tracks; apparently Irving traded his peace and quiet for unlimited free train rides and the ability to flag the train down like a taxi, instead of going to the station, which is less than a mile away).

In addition to Washington Irving, other dead local celebs include Madame CJ Walker, Stan Getz, and the cast of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Turns out Irving bagged the names for Katrina Van Tassel, Brom Bones, and Ichabod Crane from the graveyard of the Old Dutch Church (it really is old: built in 1685 and still in use).

While looking at Katrina’s grave (with its cheery, yet accurate, inscription “Death Conquers All” – and you thought it was Love), the groundskeeper approached.

He was from Central Casting, with a weathered face, long white beard, matching hair, and teeth looking much like the tombstones he attended to. He said, “Young lady,” (I immediately felt like I was in trouble) “do you know what happens at 1:15 every afternoon?” Not surprisingly, I didn’t, so he filled me in. “If you sit in front of the grave, the light makes her face come alive! And that, ” he said ponderously, “is exactly what happened to the 15 year old Washington Irving!” And with that, he got back on his John Deere tractor and drove away.

*This reminds me of a Gilbert & Sullivan song from The Gondoliers:

“But of pleasures there are many and of worries there are none;
And the culminating pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done!”

My father used to sing it, usually when he wanted us to do our homework. Despite the fact that he was tone deaf, he loved G&S and he loved to sing around the house.

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