Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

22 Jun 2001, 10:33 a.m.


Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Alexei, a friend and an unbelievably cool guy, is also an expat for the summer. In fact, about a week before I left Berkeley, I was in a car with him and his friend Nicole. She's now in Ireland, he's in Tokyo, and here I am in St. Petersburg. That link was his weblog -- go there, it's a nice contrast to mine. His is actually interesting.

I forgot one of the people whose graves I saw at the Alexander Nyevskii Monastery (which contains the Necropolis): Stravinsky.

My lack of personal experience with death hampers me, both as a writer and as a human being. Yet, what kind of churl would I be to wish that a life would end for my benefit?

I suppose that's my lead-in to talking about the Kunstkammer. Tsar Nicholas had a Museum of Oddities. Today I saw it. I couldn't stand it for more than thirty seconds. Despite the joshing that my friends and I had done before going in, it wasn't funny to see babies and fetuses in jars. The tiny skeleton was pretty unsettling, too.

I didn't stay in there very long, but I think I was there long enough to judge that it was not meant as a memorial to the dead. (I had thought before going in, "Gee, maybe this is an example of how the Europeans are more enlightened than Americans about dealing with death, kind of like with sex and drugs." But no, it was just a carnival of freaks. For perverts, if I may judge, and use the term in an antiquated way.) So my count for the last month stays at four. I've visited the Alexander Nevskii Monastery's Necropolis, the Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the house where Abraham Lincoln died.

I've spoken earlier about my experience of Arlington. In its own way, the house where Lincoln died felt worse than Arlington. It was a forced, one-way excursion through the living rooms to the bedroom and eventually out onto the street. I felt very voyeuristic, and also very sad as I stood in the room, next to the bed where he died, and read the little card with his date and time of death. It was the day after I saw Bamboozled.

What if Lincoln had lived? I know I'm pulling a hypothetical that "Head of the Class..."

And more later.

First published by Sumana Harihareswara at