around my grave

The first time I heard about Slab City, California was on a blog post at Birds Before the Storm earlier this week. Magpie had been out to visit what apparently is the closest thing America has to a Wagenplatz and had taken some lovely photos of the squatted desert caravan community. It looked pretty neat.

The second time I heard about Slab City was today, when spacebook told me that a dude I went to high school with had been found dead in the hot springs there. “Thirty-year old Karl Weikel had been submerged under the water for approximately 14 hours while others unknowingly soaked in the hot springs right over him,” reports this article. “The cause of the death is yet unknown, but an autopsy is scheduled for today. Karl was reportedly on drugs and alcohol when he went into the hot springs Friday night.

“However, he had also been the target of several beatings a couple nights before,” the article continues. “No two people seem to have the same version of that night’s events, but it’s rumored the attempt to burn some one out of their trailer is related to the altercations. Because of the beatings he received, the sheriff suspects foul play might have been involved in Karl’s death.”

I didn’t know Karl particularly well, hadn’t seen him since graduation back in double ought, but I still remember him clearly. He was the class clown, he was in a lot of my classes, and if my memory hasn’t been completely distorted by all the years of whiskey, he was part of the AP Bio trip our class took to the Virgin Islands where we had a pretty ruckus good time. (Can you fucking believe that my high school had a bi-annual trip to the Virgin Islands associated with the AP Bio class? High fives for Mrs. Peterson for organizing that, where ever she might be.)

If I was in the United States right now I would go to my mom’s house, dig out a bunch of old photos and post a few in a little nod to his memory from across the sea. I don’t know if we would have gotten along today, but he was someone I would have liked to run into again sometime. Last I had heard, he seemed to have become a pretty interesting fellow. Either way, I hope that however he went, it wasn’t in a lot of pain.

A birth on the horizon, a death in my graduating class—it’s launched me into a philosophical mood. Death is almost always a sad event, particuarly for those close to the deceased. And yet, I always think to myself, it’s “the next adventure,” as Gandalf says in Lord of the Rings. It’s an innate part of life, a confirmation of the connectedness of everything and everyone as we are returned to the earth that fed the plants and animals that sustained us.

So it seems like an appropriate moment to share one of the newer Black Diamond songs with you, Around My Grave Sing Songs of Joy. It’s become my favorite song of ours, and it’s about thinking about death in a less “it’s the end of the world” and in a more “cyclical, intensely sad, yet intrinsic to our very lives” sort of way. Unfortunately, we haven’t recorded it yet. So instead I’ll share the lyrics and raise a glass to Mr. Weikel. Hope you enjoyed your thirty years, Karl.

around my grave, sing songs of joy // black diamond express train to hell 2011

Blackbird, fly so high. But lay my bones deep in the ground, lay my bones deep in the ground.

Hey little brown bird, blood red chest, dead girl lying, crimson lips.
When I die don’t say no prayers, cause there ain’t no heaven, and there ain’t no hell…just sing.

Elderberry summer wine, berries’ blood will course through mine.
When I’m gone don’t shed no tears, just raise your glass, your fist, your voice…and sing.

Maple maple, sugar tree, branch above and root beneath.
When I die my cradle be, between rock and root I’ll sleep…and sing.

0 Comments on “around my grave

  1. Hey lady! It’s Amanda from Dan & Amanda/Sea Couch/Bmore/you know so I should stop adding more indicators! I get a chance to read your blog from time to time and whaddya know, I have a little moment to actually comment- huzzah! This is a lovely post and tribute, and I am sorry to hear of your friend’s death. I love your song lyrics- they are beautiful & I look forward to listening to the song. Let me know when it’s recorded & where to find it (sorry to be out of the Black Diamond loop-de-loop… *cowers woefully*) Also, I really enjoy your writings- you are a talented author and also funny/thoughtful/smart/progressive/inspiring/supercool. I am going to try to keep up with your blog more often. (I hope that doesn’t sound too creepy..) Wishing you the best- hope all is well and take care. See ya ’round ye olde interwebbe :)! (P.S.- Sorry for not using your name, but I wasn’t sure if it is private-I would not want to unleash a legion of gorilla stalkers.)

  2. Last time I saw Karl was a few years back while living in New York. I ran into him by chance and spent the rest of the day hanging around the city, sharing stories,and stealing rides on the subway. He was a mutant, weird and wonderful, and lord knows he will be missed.

  3. Sorry to hear it…hits home a lot harder when it’s someone from your own class – I was a 2000 grad also.

    Slab City is familiar to me b/c of the movie Into the Wild, check it out I bet you’d like it.

    And on a lighter note…wtf you got to go to the Virgin Islands for AP Bio? The most exciting thing in my AP Bio class was dissecting the fetal pig.

  4. Amanda: Heya! Thanks for stopping by and for all the kind words. I will def let you know once we record that song and have it somewhere for listening. We’re going to be recording in January, then hopefully bringing out our next album on vinyl WOOO. Which reminds me that I wanted to go order your new album…

    Kernut: Good to know. And thanks for the information in your article. The others I’ve seen on the subject are much less revealing.

    Bill: Damn I would have liked to have run into him again.

    FVM: Yeah, just totally weird, particularly because of the dramatic circumstances surrounding it.

    I watched Into the Wild a while back. Interesting movie, though I really disliked the main character.

    As for our trip to the Virgin Islands, I know, right?! That was fucking amazing. Every two years that teacher would take the AP Bio class down there to snorkel and study the marine life there for ten days. Absolutely amazing trip. Though I was too chicken to go on the night snorkeling trip. 🙂

  5. You’re welcome, and thank you for the back link. There’s a lot I didn’t put in, some because it’s vague. I hope it turns out that he just passed out from being too wasted, becuase the fights a couple nights before were hardcore. He was beaten three times by the same guy (possibly over a woman), bit by a guy who is suspected of being HIV positive, and someone burned someone else’s trailer in retaliation. It’s a bit like the old wild west here.

  6. I went to school with Kyle also he was 2 years older. I remember him and he was a nice guy. I happen to live in El Centro, CA which is near Slab City. I had no idea that he was out here. I have never been to Slab City, but we know that it’s a bad place to be, nothing good comes out of there. My roomate was even chased out of there by a guy with a chainsaw. As far as what Kernut posted…. I don’t know how accurate that info is, hearsay can be dangerous. I work closely with the sheriffs dept out there and it is an on going investigation so not a lot of info is being released. I know that people are freaked out up there, but nothing has come out yet as to cause of death. More will be released as they find out more.

  7. Wow, those are beautiful song lyrics. I haven’t written any poetry lately but you’ve inspired me. Sorry to hear about your classmate. When I was in high school, we actually had a few students die, which is totally surreal when you’re 17, but I don’t think getting older makes it any less surreal.

  8. Hey – this is the bio teacher – I actually took A.P. Bio kids to study in the islands every year for about 25 years – we tried to fund the money every year. Karl (and many others over the years) were able to spend time snorkeling on the fringing reef of st John….and I lived long enough to retire … which I did last June. My best to all of you former students …wherever you are… -R

  9. KMB: I prefer heresay to sheriffs who would rather not share any information at all. And you did mean “Karl” not “Kyle” right? Guess we must have run into each other at some point too then. *Waves.*

    Ashley: Thanks! Yeah, it is rather surreal. The circumstances make it even more so. I think I would have been much less shocked if he had died in more “ordinary circumstances.

    Mrs. P: Whoa! Hello? Really, it was every year? I seem to remember planning my participation so as not to miss it, but my memory isn’t what it used to be… Glad to hear you made it to retirement, hope it’s treating you well. Did your predecessor take up the Virgin Islands trip torch? Or are those days over? Either way, ten thousand high fives to you for making that happen for so long. That was a really awesome experience.

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