I was reading news on my computer when the image of a charming little building caught my eye. Clicking on the irresistible piece of architecture in the corner of my screen led to a true experience of what targets we have all become and why the Internet is “free.” It made me wonder if the National Security Agency could think I am dying. Here’s what happened:
When the weather turned pleasant I decided to make a pilgrimage to Woodlawn Cemetery and the graves of Herman Melville and Nellie Bly. Having visited Père-Lachaise, Novodevichy, Forest Lawn, and Greenwood in Brooklyn, I expected Internet searches to produce tourist-friendly information about public transportation, the visitors’ entrance gate (Jerome Avenue or Webster Avenue?) and a map of notable resting places. Since I would lead a friend through the 400 acres of this National Historic Landmark in the Bronx, and I had the energy for only a few relevant ones, I kept going back to the website, checking the directions, and studying the MTA trip planner. I googled Woodlawn Cemetery many times.
At the last minute, I went alone to the Bronx. While I did not have a map, I did have one particular experience – the sight of a miniature Parthenon set in the middle of an oval of velvet green lawn maybe 60 feet in diameter. It was the resting place of none other than Jay Gould. I was brooding over his robber baron ways, his capture of 19th century railroads and corner of the gold market, when I stumbled badly. I found that my foot was buried in a rare hole on that smooth expanse of lawn. I limped away, a wounded sophisticate unwilling to believe that the wily Gould had reached out to a disapproving mortal.
Woodlawn Cemetery fascinated me and inspired more research into various mausoleums and their contents and architects while I iced my ankle back at home.
Soon thereafter the charming image appeared in the corner of my computer screen. My click detonated it into an ad exhorting me to “Prepare for Eternity.” The charming dwelling, a cross between a folly and an arboreous weekend retreat, was in fact a little house of death. For weeks a mausoleum border appeared on every site I visited. It was on the New York Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph. Whatever site I visited, I was greeted by the same call to “Prepare for Eternity.” Swimoutlet.com had been insistent too, but I had bought their goggles. Turns out that mausoleums are products too. One even erupted into my face on a pop-up ad.
I can live with mortality, but I don’t like being stalked. Death haunts us all, but algorithms hunt us down. Research “Woodlawn Cemetery” and “mauseolum” fifteen times in three days and see what happens. You’ll be preparing for something too.