Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Come on, let's go" visit a famous grave!

Some of my readers are now sighing and rolling their eyes in what I can only hope is loving exasperation. Yes, today I headed into the San Fernando Valley to visit the grave of deceased teenage rock star Ritchie Valens, subject of the film "La Bamba," which wrought havoc with my 11-year-old hormones. The cemetery, San Fernando Mission, is very easy to find and its employees are happy to help visitors find the headstone for Mr. Valens and his mother, who died in 1987 (the year the movie came out!). The employee that I asked said "Ohhh, Ritchie Valens!" in delighted tones and gave me very good directions. It was a ways off, and when I got closer I asked a second employee for help. "Ohh, Ritchie Valens!" he said delightedly and led me to the stone you see above. I studied it a bit self-consciously, and he used his shovel to trim a bit of grass from the edge, before realizing this was perhaps not conducive to a solemn graveside experience and walking away.

It is impressive to contemplate that this boy was only famous for eight months before he died. They are extremely proud of him in his nearby hometown of Pacoima; at least one public building is named for him, and the city went bonkers when he got inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Do you remember the opening scene in "La Bamba" where the planes crash into each other and destroy the school? That really happened at Ritchie's Pacoima school, and he was really not in class that day because he was attending his grandfather's funeral. The Times had an article about it a few months ago.

I strolled around the cemetery a bit more, and the first employee drove by and saw me, apparently wandering hopelessly lost many yards from where I was supposed to be. "Over there!" he called, vigorously pointing to the grave. I smiled and waved, which he took as a sign of imbecility and pointed with even greater vigor. I finally had to bawl "Yes, I found it, thank you!" across the placid cemetery lawn.

Bob Hope is buried there too, but I don't care about him.

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