You Are The Brightside Needs Your Help

Hey, friends! Have you noticed that I’ve been missing? You haven’t? Well, I’m hear to tell you that I HAVE been missing, but I’m gearing up for a big comeback. I need YOUR help, though, in determining what direction I need to go. I’ve been feeling pretty scatterbrained lately and I just want to hone in on WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT! Do you hate wading through long paragraphs? Maybe list posts are for you. Do you love learning about people that have met serial killers? Look no further. Do you hate reading book reviews? Tell me to knock it off. YOU GET THE PICTURE.

Anyway, choose 2 or 3 of your most favorite topics and place your answers in the comments section. I’ll also be placing this poll on the You Are The Brightside’s FB page and Instagram page, if you want to go that route.

Thank you for an awesome 2018 and I’m looking to make 2019 even better. Cheers!


San Francisco’s Secret Tombstones

I was hangry, it was 11 a.m. and I had already walked 8 miles. I witnessed (with my 6-year-old) someone smoking out of a bong and a bloodied man talking about how he was going to “kick Tyler’s ass.”  But here I was, leaving the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and ditching my family to trudge up an unkempt path in search of rocks. I had to keep one eye peeled for weirdos lurking behind trees. There was no one around except a maintenance man and what he was maintaining, I’ll never know. The thought of my disappearance ruining my family’s life crossed my mind once or twice.

Secret tombstones in San FranciscoRisking death (and heat stroke) to find San Francisco’s secret tombstones is just what I do, I guess.

So, this is the deal. There are just three cemeteries in San Francisco proper (which I never visited), not counting the Pet Cemetery (I didn’t make it there, either). In order to visit THE cemetery of “San Francisco,” you need to leave town and go to the city of Colma. Colma is a necropolis, holding the remains of approximately 1.5 million people. The dead outnumber the living by a thousand to one.

I first heard of Colma earlier this summer when Eliot and I were watching a show during Shark Week and they spoke about poor Albert Kogler who died of a shark attack in 1959. He was swimming at a beach near the Golden Gate Bridge and, BAM, he was chewed up by a great white shark. Long story short, Eliot and I thought we could swing by the cemetery to say hi to Albert, only to find that he was buried in Colma. *cue the sad trombone*

Okay, Tara, but why are there, like, no cemeteries in San Francisco? In 1900, after San Francisco had started to become really crowded, they outlawed new burials in the city. In 1912, they EVICTED all of the dead bodies and moved most of them to Colma, at a cost of $10 per body and marker. If a family could not afford the fee, the bodies got removed and dumped into mass graves. Now you might be wondering what happened to all of those markers and tombstones (if you weren’t, NOW you are).

The city of San Francisco gathered all of the tombstones, smashed them up and used them in public works. The pathways of most of Buena Vista park were lined with the broken pieces of the markers. I saw grey, white and black stone, over and over again, but I wanted to find one with a name or a date. The grey, white and black stones were like a bread crumb trail leading me to…….more grey, white and black stones. I almost gave up, but at the last second, there they were: “K E. H” and one that said “died,” accompanied by a “59 yrs.”

Seeing these little stones stirred some weird, unexpected feelings of regret for all of these……people? Or these rocks? Who or what was a feeling bad for? I would be lying if I said that I didn’t stand there for a second contemplating all of these discarded people and their gravestones. Why? Because I have to feel bad for everyone (and their rocks) ALL OF THE TIME. It’s exhausting.

Eventually, I started to imagine the boys, sitting outside of the video game store, their patience with my weird obsessions running thin. I said a quick goodbye and returned to the living.

If you ever get a chance, you should stop and check them out, but I won’t tell you where they are. You’ll have to sweat your ass off looking for them yourself. Just beware of that weird maintenance man.



Pere Lachaise: The Most Visited Cemetery in the World

Pere Lachaise, with 3.5 million visitors a year, is the most visited cemetery on earth. It is hauntingly beautiful and serene with hills and tree lined walking paths (which look gorgeous in the fall!).

The most famous person buried here is Jim Morrison, but Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Edith Piaf and others rest inside it’s walls.

Napoleon opened the cemetery in 1804 and the first person buried here was a 5-year-old girl named Adelaide. At the time, the cemetery was so far out from the city no one wanted to be buried at Pere Lachaise.

Whatever marketing tactics they used were successful because by 1830 there were 33,000 people buried here. And now? Approximately ONE MILLION.

As you can imagine, they’re not handing those plots over so willy-nilly anymore. Unless you die in Paris or you live here, you’re not getting buried at Pere Lachaise.

My dear husband was so patient as I obsessively took pictures and walked around. I could’ve spent all day there.

I’m lying. I could’ve spent two days there.

Anyway, here are some of those photos:

The juxtaposition of the older tombs alongside the sleek, modern ones was interesting. I love the little lamb on the top of this one.

This was the first grave that grabbed my attention (really, no pun intended). Those arms holding onto each other? So simple, but moving. Handshakes used in funerary art are also used to symbolize a farewell from earthly existence and a welcome into heaven.

Check out that crow. There were a lot of crows which just added to the poignancy of the cemetery.

This blue door caught my eye every time I walked by.

A grave for a child.

This was a sculpture of a person crawling into the tomb. It was a large and imposing figure, for sure.

Skulls and other sculptures are used to remind the living to remember death (“memento mori”).

This was one of my favorites.


A view from the garden.

Jim Morrison’s grave. I was surprised how crowded he was back there. There is a chain link fence up to deter people from getting near it because it has been vandalized several times, but it’s clearly not stopping anyone.

The chain link fence and the tree where people leave love notes and chewing gum for him. In case you’re wondering, I did not leave my Hubba Bubba behind.

I saw this beautiful tree lined path on the way out.

Have any of you been to Pere Lachaise? What were your favorite parts?


Check out my recent trip to Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans here.