It's Poe's birthday and over at Bissette's blog, he is celebrating this great man of American letters. I tried to post the following there but was denied by some technical thing beyond my understanding.
So here my Poe story, somewhat a shaggy dog!
When I got out of college, I worked as a stockman for a discount department store chain as there were no full-time newspaper jobs I could find. That gig lasted about a year when I was hired to teach a developmental reading program in private high schools.
That job brought me to Baltimore and a time at Boy's Latin High School. There was another teacher from the company there, a very nice guy named Andre who liked smoking grass. One night, Andre said that he and I, both being English majors, should find the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe died in Baltimore under very mysterious circumstances and is buried in the graveyard of one of the oldest churches in the city – the only church with real catacombs.
The church is near John Hopkins University and church officials have had problems for years with medical students raiding the catacombs for skulls.
Andre picked me up around 8 p.m. on an October weeknight and he was smoking. I didn't mind it, although I have never indulged.
As we were driving toward the church the blue light from a cop car could be seen right behind us. Andre had his joint in his hand. He quickly exhaled and hid what was left. This was 1977 when drug laws weren't as relaxed.
The cop was young and tapped on the window. He took a long look at us and before Andre had begun opening the window, he smiled and said, "I thought you guys were someone else. Have a good night."
Both of us sat in a state of relief and shock and we continued down to the church.
Once there, we had little problem finding Poe's grave as it was toward the front of the church in a prominent place. There was an empty liquor bottle laying next to the base. This happens a great deal as if the spirit of Poe somehow would enjoy this gesture.
Andre decided we should read some gravestones, which went back to the colonial era, and I whipped out a pen light –once a geek, always a geek; I still carry a flashlight quite frequently.
We went through the graveyard until Andre was sure he had seen something move. I though our chances of being scaring a college student or being mugged were far greater than seeing a ghost.
Andre, though, couldn't be convinced and we left fairly quickly.
If I ever go back to Baltimore again, I'll certainly pay my respects again.
Note to Bissette: It's too bad Steve that when you and I were at Fanex so many years ago pimping the "Year in Fear" calendar – copies still available! – we couldn't have made a pilgrimage to the grave as well...minus the paranoia and the cop.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs