The Art of Dying
How One Guy in Seattle Is Changing What Happens When We Die
Forget about the romantic old graveyards of New England, Europe, and cartoons, with their cracked statues, elaborate gates, and eroded marble headstones. Most of us—those of us who aren't cremated—will be buried in cemeteries like Acacia Memorial Park, north of Seattle, just past the strip clubs and car dealerships on Bothell Way.
Fake-looking fountains greet you at the gate. A sign above the funeral home claims: "Dignity®." Flat grave markers, all flush with the ground, tile acres and acres of uninterrupted lawn. Like name tags at a convention, the markers blur into a generic wash of strangers: McGrath, Cotton, Plesha, Lundquist, Redmond, Bry, Anderson, Prill, Hardy, Oliviera. No tombstones anywhere—just desolate, lumpy planes and the sound of big Kubota riding mowers, growling like dune buggies, rolling endlessly over the dead.
Inside the funeral home, J. Vince Larkin, the general manager at Acacia, sits on a couch in a spacious room with big windows and bright natural light. He grew up in a family funeral-home business in Utah, but left to join the largest funeral corporation in the United States: Service Corporation International, the subject of an antitrust lawsuit for (allegedly) preying on consumers, manipulating markets, and trying to strangle smaller businesses.
Larkin worked at a few SCI "properties" (that's the word he uses—not "cemeteries," not "graveyards," but "properties") before settling at Acacia. "We provide a service to families in need," he begins in a preternaturally calm, rehearsed voice. He's said these words a thousand times before and will say them a thousand times more.
Acacia aspires to serenity, but achieves the anxiety of sameness. Nobody wants to be buried in a place like that.
Mary LaFleur has a bright smile and a big laugh and a glass of white wine in her hand. Her brass name tag says she's from Grand Departures Funeral Services in Tacoma. She's talking shop, telling a group of funeral- industry people a story about one of her hearses ("If you can call a van a hearse") getting pulled over in a carpool lane. "My guy told the cop: 'Hey, I've got somebody else in here—don't tell me he doesn't count just because he doesn't have a pulse!'" Everybody laughs.
An ambulance screams by outside.
"We should follow them to the emergency room with brochures," somebody jokes. "Here you go, pal, just in case."
LaFleur stands in front of an unusual headstone. Instead of the typical dark granite, it's made of cast glass. Green and translucent, it seems to glow. Today is the opening-day party for Lundgren Monuments, part art gallery and part funeral boutique on First Hill. Lundgren Monuments is a showroom for the glass headstones—which Greg Lundgren has been manufacturing for six years, in addition to making art and running a bar—but it's also an outpost for overhauling the business of remembering the dead.
Last January, Lundgren invited an array of artists to make urns, caskets, action figures, portraits, and other works of memorial art. They all said yes, including Roy McMakin, a sculptor who has a piece in the permanent collection at Seattle Art Museum and two in SAM's Olympic Sculpture Park. McMakin designed some caskets and urns over 10 years ago but, until now, couldn't find anyone who wanted to sell them.
The funeral-industry people survey a few displays by companies offering funerary stunts—packing your ashes into an artificial reef, shooting them into orbit with a satellite—but urns are the thing. None of them looks traditionally urnlike. One, by Arne Pihl, is a polished piece of dark wood. Others, by Timothy Foss, look like Japanese ceramics glazed with modern, minimalist patterns. Stefan Gulassa made a small, white cupboard for mementos of the deceased—a watch, a fishing weight, some fly-tying scissors—like Joseph Cornell's evocative boxed assemblages, but with a discreet metal case in the back that holds the ashes.
Lundgren's urns, made of small slabs of glass, look like tiny modernist houses. "An urn is a house, a little house," Lundgren had said a few days earlier, while giving me a tour of his studio. "This is style. This is fashion. When 50 Cent and P. Diddy die, I'm going to make them big bling diamonds out of glass."
The funeral-industry people are particularly taken with one object on Lundgren's shelves: a ceramic pipe wrench made of human bone china. "Human bone china?" they keep repeating to each other. "Human bone china!"
Its maker, Charles Krafft, stands inconspicuously—as inconspicuously as he can, being the tallest, baldest, most bearded man in the room—by the front door, drinking wine. Krafft makes hollow ceramics from pulverized cremated remains, then fills the object with the leftover ashes. He has made a ceramic military helmet for a veteran, a ceramic dog for a veterinarian, and a ceramic bottle of vodka for a friend of his ("an alcoholic gay man"). He also makes ceramic rifles, grenades, and "disasterware," including kitschy Dutch windmills with swastikas for blades. Krafft is one of the only artists in Lundgren's gallery—one of the only artists in America—who has been working in the funerary arts for years. He can't remember how long.
There are other boutiques that sell unusual memorial objects. LifeGem, an Illinois company, compresses cremated remains into diamonds, and has been featured on the Today Show, the Tonight Show, and Live with Regis and Kelly. But nobody, anywhere, has assembled a group of fine artists to show work at a gallery like this.
"This," Krafft says, looking around the room, "is a renaissance in the funerary arts in 21st-century America."
Greg Lundgren looks like he walked out of a fortune teller's prediction: tall, handsome, and slightly mysterious, with a mole on his right cheek and bangs that fall diagonally across his forehead.
"I get a little frazzled talking about it," Lundgren says of his monument business. "People either think it's morbid and creepy, or they treat it like a cute novelty."
We're sitting in his bar, the Hideout: an elegant room (two doors down from Lundgren Monuments) with a mahogany bar and crystal chandeliers. Dentil molding rings the high ceilings and the walls are loaded with paintings hung close together, salon style.
Lundgren talks earnestly, and obviously cares about things—from arts funding to aviation—but most of his business and art projects are so improbable they seem like pranks. His performance-art trio PDL recorded an unauthorized, satirical audio tour of the Seattle Art Museum for patrons' iPods. Under the aegis of Vital 5—Lundgren's one-man arts organization that won a Stranger Genius Award in 2003—he once "curated" a one-night gallery installation called God's First Solo Exhibition, featuring a yellow lily, a bowl full of pharmaceuticals, and a box of air. The Hideout isn't just a bar but "a five-year performance-art installation with a full bar," scheduled to close in 2010.
As he drinks a pint of beer, Lundgren tells story after story about dead young people whose friends and parents have called him to commission headstones. Fifty percent of his clients, he says, are the parents of dead teenage girls.
"It has something to do with light," he says. "Every parent says their child was a source of light, of energy, that they lit up a room." It makes sense that parents would be attracted to Lundgren's monuments. Granite headstones are dead things: opaque, final, still. But Lundgren's headstones are light interpolated through molecules of glass.
So he hears a lot of sad stories about how kids die. "You see people at the worst possible moments of heartbreak and pain—pain that's unfathomable to me. I never thought I'd get a call from a mother whose daughter flipped her car and drowned in three inches of water."
There was Morrey, the nationally ranked decathlete and student at Cal Poly University, who was found by his roommates at the bottom of the pool in his apartment complex at 6:00 p.m. (the toxicology report showed no drugs in his system). And Terry, the mildly retarded yard worker from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who mowed lawns and saw angels hovering above the grass; his family was poor, but a friend, who owned a mattress store, paid for the headstone. And the 24-year-old rookie cop in Louisiana, who got a call about some kids acting suspiciously; when he pulled up, they ran, he chased them through a yard, and one of the kids shot him in the face. There was the teenager in Michigan who had terrible acne, so doctors prescribed Accutane, but soon afterward the kid's kidneys gave out, a rare side effect of the drug; feeling like he had been handed a death sentence, he decided to live it up and spend all his time (a few years, it turned out) at parties. For him, Lundgren made a round headstone, using crushed red glass at the center, radiating out into yellow and orange, like the sun.
"I'm 38 and I've lived twice as long as most of the people I'm making monuments for," Lundgren says. "I've traveled around the world, tasted delicious foods, had a shot of tequila on a beach in Mexico after eating barbecued shrimp..."
His voice trails off.
In 1859, a Prussian immigrant named Adolph Strauch flattened the American cemetery.
Strauch was a landscape architect, trained at Hapsburg palaces in Vienna, who came to America dreaming of planed lawns and orderly orchards. Spring Grove cemetery in Cincinnati hired him as a landscaper in 1855 and then, four years later, promoted him to superintendent. American cemeteries, to Strauch's mind, were gaudy and grotesque, with their swampy and untended grounds, higgledy- piggledy monuments, and rusted fencing around private lots. He loathed obelisks.
Strauch redesigned the entire 733-acre cemetery, ripping out headstones and plotting scenic lakes and clusters of trees and bushes. Phil Nuxhall, the resident historian at Spring Grove, says some visitors come without knowing it's a cemetery. "Which is," he says, "exactly what Strauch would've wanted."
It took an American businessman named Hubert Eaton to turn Strauch's vision into serious profit and national renown. Sixty years after Strauch's triumph of the will over happenstance graveyards, Eaton took over Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles and had his manifesto carved on a huge stone tablet:
I believe in a happy eternal life... I shall endeavor to build Forest Lawn as different, as unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness. It is to be filled with towering trees, sweeping lawns, splashing fountains, singing birds, beautiful statuary, cheerful flowers, in contrast to traditional cemeteries containing misshapen monuments and other customary signs of earthly death.
Eaton, like Strauch, banished death from his graveyard, but for different reasons. Strauch had an Enlightenment-era obsession with orderly landscapes; Eaton just thought cemeteries were a bummer. He evoked his "happy eternal life" by eliminating headstones and giving burial areas cute names like "Graceland," "Babyland," and "Inspiration Slope." Eaton's taste in statuary tended toward the gimmicky, including a replica of David, carved from the same Carrara marble used by Michelangelo, and a 13-foot-tall statue of George Washington. He also hit on the idea of consolidating the funeral home and the cemetery into a one-stop shop, incorporating a mortuary, a flower store, and chapels into Forest Park. This was a sunny Californian version of central planning, a totalitarian regime of perpetual cheer.
Eaton and Forest Lawn were savaged by satirists like Evelyn Waugh (in The Loved One) and social critics like Jessica Mitford (in The American Way of Death), but people loved it. Forest Lawn was so cheery, in fact, its chapels did double duty for weddings and funerals. Ronald Reagan got married there, as did Regis Philbin.
Eaton put the "lawn" in Forest Lawn, and it's hard to overstate the significance of his accomplishment. Scrapping upright headstones cut down on lawn-care costs—groundskeepers could mow right over flat markers and didn't have to spend expensive hours on their hands and knees, trimming the grass. It was an industrial revolution, the equivalent of the assembly line in cost-cutting and efficiency. The modern American cemetery was born.
Since Eaton, death care has become one of America's most ossified and conservative industries. The last hundred years have seen a spike in buyouts, corporate consolidation, and profiteering that—its critics say—exploit grieving consumers and conspire to keep prices artificially high.
"Most people buying funerals can be herded like sheep and taken advantage of because they're in shock," says Joshua Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. "The level of sanctimony, predatory tactics, and aggressive sales in this industry can make you gag."
In 2005, the FCA filed a class-action lawsuit against SCI—which owns Acacia, the "property" on Bothell Way—and four other big funeral businesses: Alderwoods, Stewart, Hillenbrand, and Batesville Casket Company, which makes 50 percent of the coffins in the United States. (A year after the suit was filed, SCI bought Alderwoods, its biggest competitor, reducing the defendants from five to four.)
According to the suit, the funeral homes and casket makers conspire to squash smaller casket retailers by: (1) Refusing to do business with them, (2) coordinating casket prices, and (3) telling grieving families that caskets from anywhere besides Batesville—caskets from storefronts, Costco, internet retailers—are inferior, manufactured by "prisoners" or "Mexicans," or are resold second-hand after they've had other bodies in them for viewings.
(Lawyers for the defense declined comment on the record. One, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the suit as a frivolous attempt by overzealous lawyers to make something out of nothing.)
The death-care industry remains such a strong bastion of quiet conformity partly because the reformers of the baby-boom generation haven't started dying yet. The boomers have insisted on variety and individuality at every threshold of their lives: sex, marriage, parenthood. In their wide demographic wake, they have left us a thousand makes of vibrator, do-it-yourself weddings, and organic nonbleached hemp baby booties. But the boomers are myopic reformers. Generally speaking, they have only just begun to think about death, so have only just begun to pressure cemeteries and funeral homes for change.
Dave Quiring, of Quiring Monuments in Seattle, the largest granite-carving business in the Northwest, doesn't call himself a reformer. But he agrees the ground is shifting under the industry's feet. "This is a conservative business," he tells me during a tour of his carving factory on Aurora Avenue, with its conveyor belts, sandblasters, and saws. The radio, tuned to a classic-rock station, happens to be blaring "I Am a Rock" by Simon & Garfunkel. "This profession has been around for five or six thousand years and hasn't changed much in that time," Quiring says. "But it'll probably change more in my lifetime than in my father's lifetime or all the time before that."
Lundgren Monuments will succeed or fail depending on how many people seek alternatives to the defaults and clichés of the death-care business.
"You want ice cream?" Lundgren asks. "You got 150 kinds. You want cereal? You've got three shelves 50 feet long in the grocery store. But when it comes to death, you have to choose either A or B." Cemeteries, he says, are some of our last urban green spaces—why should they look as dour as they do? It wouldn't take much to turn them into sculpture parks.
"Can you imagine having a Jeff Koons sculpture for your monument?" Lundgren says. "And why not? Very, very few artists, designers, architects, and sculptors are making monuments anymore. We need to revolutionize the death-care industry."
His polemic is, in part, a businessman's complaint. Lundgren's cast-glass monuments adorn cemeteries in five countries and 20 states, but he's had to fight, cemetery by cemetery, to get them in. Most cemeteries only allow monuments made of granite or bronze, which don't erode like marble and sandstone. Glass, Lundgren tells reluctant cemetery directors, is as durable as granite. "And granite," he says, "is 70 to 85 percent silica."
Richard Peterson, the affable director of Catholic cemeteries for the archdiocese of Seattle, is reluctant to install Lundgren's monuments because of the weed whackers. "The invention of the string trimmer was a great help to cemeteries," he says in his office in Calvary cemetery, on a hill overlooking University Village.
"Oh yeah it was!" a bearded man in grass-stained coveralls shouts from the next room. "Hoo yeah!"
Peterson continues, "My first day working at Calvary, back in college, I spent on my hands and knees trimming grass around monuments. But the string trimmers even chip polished granite, so now we require the bases of monuments to have a rough finish so the chipping won't be so obvious."
Lundgren argues that because the technology required to cast thick glass is only 30 years old, people don't understand how tough it is. In his studio, he heats glass to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit—incidentally, the same temperature at which bodies are cremated—and cools it in computer-controlled ovens, over a period of weeks, so it congeals into a strong, flawless mass. "Slice granite as thin as a piece of window glass and throw a rock at it," he says. "It'll shatter."
But Lundgren's polemic is also an aesthetic critique. The modern American cemetery designed by Strauch and Eaton is nihilistically egalitarian. It communicates one simple idea: Death isn't just the great equalizer; it's the great homogenizer.
Dan Bellan, a monument carver, industry reformer, and columnist living in British Columbia, agrees: "In 15 years, I've carved hundreds of the same old granite monuments. The money was good, but I was contributing to these bleak, generic landscapes. And I didn't want to do that anymore. We've got an uphill battle to change mentalities and philosophies. Really, the only person out there doing challenging work is Greg Lundgren."
Greg Lundgren started his first business, called Mind Travels, when he was 20 years old. He had been studying aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California when he had, in his words, "a nervous breakdown." He suffered a panic attack during a final exam, returned to his apartment, and found he couldn't leave. His sister flew to Los Angeles and drove him back to their parents' house on Yarrow Point. He wouldn't be able to go into a grocery store or movie theater for the next two years. Lundgren wanted to understand what was happening to his mind and began dabbling in psychology, drugs, and experimental therapies, like sensory deprivation. He designed plans for a build-at-home flotation tank and decided to sell them. If people mailed him $35, he'd mail them the plans. He scraped together some money and bought a $2,000 advertisement in Psychology Today.
The month he mailed his check, Psychology Today filed for chapter 11.
Lundgren was disappointed, but not devastated. He'd already assembled a collection of letters rejecting his schemes and inventions. In high school, he'd designed a series of human-powered machines, including his "electrobike," a stationary bicycle that would generate electricity. He pitched his invention to the Sharper Image. It passed.
He returned to Southern California, moved into a house in Santa Barbara with a friend, grew his hair out, learned to surf, and worked for an architect. He started another business called Bark, making natural insect-repellent collars for pets using cedar blocks and eucalyptus nuts he foraged in the woods. Two years later, he moved to Los Angeles. It was a tumultuous time: the L.A. riots, the Malibu fires, the Northridge earthquake. He got a job with a company called Concrete Reality, which made architectural objects for rich people, including Sylvester Stallone, who commissioned a glass plinth to display his bronzed boxing shoes from Rocky. Four years later, Lundgren returned to Seattle to work for Jim Nelson, at Seattle Stained Glass, who eventually became his business partner and provided some of the capital to start Lundgren Monuments. (He owns the Hideout with a different business partner.)
Many of Lundgren's endeavors have suffered from being ahead of their time. He founded Bark in the early 1990s, about 10 years before the boutique pet business took off. Vital 5 began as an online art vendor in 1993, about 10 years ahead of the internet-commerce boom.
According to demographers, the baby boomers won't start dying off in large numbers for another 10 to 20 years.
Last summer, I buried three relatives in two states in two months—a course in comparative funerals. The New York funeral was modern and Eaton-like: Precise and efficient, it accentuated the positive. The Virginia funeral was from an earlier age, a Southern gothic of graveside orations, obelisks, and "other customary signs of earthly death."
My mother's father and his sister had the courtesy to die on the same day, so neither would be left alone on earth. They'd both been living in Suffolk, Virginia, just this side of the Dismal Swamp—Southerners, witty people who know how to fix things, jingoistic descendants of soldiers and farmers, with a touch of the bootlegger and the swindler. My dad's family, on the other hand, are New England Catholics—doctors and yoga practitioners who sail boats, appreciate jazz, and are fussy about who went to what college.
The Civil War continues to be fought in our family, and my siblings and I spent a lot of our childhood trying to convince the Northern relatives that we weren't shit-kicking barbarians and the Southerners that we weren't effete weaklings. But each side would've had its prejudices confirmed by the other's theater of death.
The priest at my grandmother's funeral in Albany, New York, was tepid. His elocution was sound, but his words were empty. He said something about making the most of every moment and how she made the most of every moment and then the stained-glass windows won my attention.
The graveyard was a long drive away. The tombstones were small, white, and uniform, like well-tended teeth. A computer at the visitor's center gave us digital directions to Grandma's gravesite where three burly white men in clean denim and hard hats shouted over the din of a backhoe that lifted her coffin by a chain, and swung her into her grave. When the coffin wouldn't fit, the fattest one stood on it to give it weight, push it down. It was an efficient New England burial, and the family decamped to a banquet hall where there was baked chicken and beer.
The preachers at my granddad's and great-aunt's consecutive funerals in Virginia were more fiery and theatrical, waving their fists and declaiming about hell being a real, hot, tedious place without toilet paper or hope—kind of like the church we were sitting in. Men dabbed the sweat off their foreheads with handkerchiefs, eulogists told jokes, and we all sang soulful hymns. (Later, in my grandmother's house, I listened to my uncle and a preacher-friend of his review their "game plan" for an exorcism for some girl in town that they were going to perform that night.)
The post-funeral meal was casual, with lukewarm fried chicken and sweet tea and coleslaw on paper plates in the fellowship hall next to the church. The old cemetery was just steps away and the tombstones, if they were like teeth, were neglected—some round, some pointy, most of them stained. Two silent black men lowered Granddad's coffin into the ground by hand, then shoveled the dirt on top. Two plates of fried chicken and coleslaw brought from the fellowship hall waited for them nearby, covered in plastic wrap.
The death-care revolution, in its way, wants to return to the emotionalism and uniqueness of the old-time, small-town funeral. Almost everyone I interviewed for this story—funeral directors, monument carvers, cemetery directors, artists, activists—stressed that death is the last taboo in American conversation, that people more eagerly discuss their politics, salaries, and sex lives than their dead.
An example: One of the artists showing urns in Lundgren's gallery had a brother who drowned seven years ago while kayaking at night. I'd hoped to talk to the artist about his brother's casket, which I'd heard was made from a dugout canoe. But after half a dozen back-and-forth e-mails, sent through an intermediary, the artist not only declined to be named, but asked that his brother's name not appear in the article.
We articulate our quiet anxiety about death in the shape of our modern cemeteries: flat, generic, refusing to say anything about the people moldering under the grass. But most of us—unlike my grandparents, unlike the artist's brother—won't be buried. My corpse, and yours, will probably be shoved into an oven, heated to somewhere between 1400 and 2100 degrees Fahrenheit, and turned to ash. Of the 2.3 million Americans who died in 2006, one-third were cremated. The rate in Western states—including Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii—is around two-thirds. According to a survey by the Cremation Association of North America, by 2025, over 57 percent of Americans will choose to be cremated. The top three reasons: Cremation "saves money," "saves land," and is "simpler."
The richer you are, the more likely you are to be cremated. Half of the people who make over $125,000 a year said they would "definitely choose" cremation. Only 19 percent said they were "not at all likely to choose." The trend went in the opposite direction for people who make less than $40,000. This data tells us two things: (1) High-end urns are the future, and (2) the funerary business, in its present incarnation, is doomed. Seattle's funerary-arts renaissance is positioned to change America's culture of death.
On an overcast June afternoon, Pamn Aspiri picks me up at the Vashon Island ferry terminal and drives me to the cemetery where her daughter, Briana, is buried.
Briana was an expert horsewoman who helped run a stable on the Kitsap Peninsula, teaching autistic kids how to ride. A couple of days after her 23rd birthday, Pamn says, Briana and a helper were breaking in a new filly that had a nose injury neither of them knew about. The filly's lead got pulled the wrong way, inflaming the old wound. The filly reared up and fell backward, on top of Briana, crushing the carotid arteries in her neck.
"She must've been knocked unconscious by the filly's head jerking back before they fell over," Pamn says. "If she'd been conscious, she would have made an emergency dismount, off the side...."
Pamn's voice trails off, and we sit silently, looking at Briana's headstone. It's made of translucent green glass, like the one in Lundgren's boutique/gallery. It would catch your attention anywhere—but here, among all the dark granite headstones, even on this cloudy day, it glows.
After Briana's funeral, Pamn and her ex-husband met the funeral director on Vashon Island to pick out a headstone. All the samples were granite. They all looked wrong. "Briana was unique," Pamn says. "Every parent says that, but she really was. She was such a beautiful spirit, she needed something special to mark her place." Pamn decided to wait. A few months later, a friend told her about Greg Lundgren's cast-glass headstones. Together, she and Lundgren chose the translucent green monument, curving upward to an elegant point.
Looking into it is like looking into a slice of water. Through it, Pamn and I can see the blurred landscape of the Vashon cemetery, flowers and fir trees bending dreamily in the wind. Tiny bubbles suspended in the glass appear to rise, as in a glass of champagne. Briana's tombstone is evanescent.
The stone bears Briana's name, birth and death dates, an Arabian proverb ("The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears"), and an etching, taken from a photo, of Briana kissing Atticus Finch, one of her favorite horses, on the nose. Photographic etchings in granite stones often look grainy and tacky, an aesthetic choice best left unmade. But, from the foot of her grave, Briana and her horse appear eerily real, like ghosts suspended in the watery glass. Pamn is crying a little and I'm crying a little and, through my tears, Briana appears on the verge of motion.
Back at the Hideout, a few days after Lundgren Monuments has opened and the reporters from TV stations and daily newspapers have come and gone, Lundgren says: "If you'd asked me 10 years ago whether I'd spend the Halloween of 2007 making a headstone for a 15-year-old girl who died in a car accident..."
He interrupts himself. "You know what I want when I die? I want my ashes dumped inside a bronze sculpture of Marcel Duchamp playing chess alone. There'll be an empty chair where people can sit and look across the table at Duchamp, who's just starting the game." And he wants other people in there with him—a community of art lovers, each of whom would pitch in, say, $3,000 to commission the sculpture and add their remains. How many more people, Lundgren asks, would get together to commission a sculpture by popular Japanese artist Takashi Murakami—maybe one of his voluptuous anime girls or smiling cartoon clouds?
"There's a potential half of a million dollars of real estate inside a public art sculpture," he says, and he's off, reinventing the American cemetery, as well as public art, arts funding, and philanthropy.
"You know what it's like?" he asks in the middle of this one-man brainstorm. "It's like west of the Mississippi in 1810."
It's hard to tell what he's referring to. The funeral business? Public art? The way people think about death? To Greg Lundgren, probably, the whole world looks like west of the Mississippi in 1810.
It's wide-open land.