Friday, September 3, 2010

System of a Down -- "Soldier Side" (2005)

Dead man lying on the bottom of the grave
Wondering when Savior comes
Is he gonna be saved?

Big-ass snowstorm
Six months ago, I discovered System of a Down while shoveling snow.  I must have seen them on some "best of" list and gotten one of their CDs from the local public library, but I hadn't given it a chance until a couple of feet of snow got dumped on my driveway early this year.  I had a lot of time to listen to music while digging us out that weekend, and the System of a Down -- hereinafter, "SOAD" -- songs finally came up on my iPod.  

As my loyal readers know, I became quite enamored with "Lost in Hollywood," the last track on the Mezmerize CD.  Mezmerize was released in May 2005, while Hypnotize was released six months later -- the two CDs should really be viewed as a double album that wasn't issued as a double album.  (SOAD has been on an indefinite hiatus since then -- these are their two most recent albums.)  

Mezmerize                                              Hypnotize
Both CDs debuted at #1, making SOAD the only musicians other than the Beatles, Guns 'N Roses, 2Pac, and DMX to have two studio albums debut at #1 the same year . . . which may make you wonder how a smart, hip guy like me totally missed out on SOAD until 2010.  

Better late than never.  I tried to make up for lost time in Cape Cod last month by listening to these two albums over and over and over, and I'm going to post about several SOAD songs in the next couple of weeks.  

The lines quoted above are from "Soldier Side," the last song on Hypnotize.  (The first cut on the Mezmerize CD is a brief preview of this song called "Soldier Side -- Intro.")  You'll understand shortly why I picked it for this post.

Edward Hopper's "Cape Cod Morning"
Just past milepost 3 on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the Old Colony Rail Trail -- formerly a spur railroad line -- splits off from the main trail and heads almost due east, skirting Harwich Center and passing through a lightly populated area on its way to Chatham, the snootiest town on the Cape.  The Old Colony trail, which ends just before you get to the heart of Chatham, is about 7 miles long.

The day I took my ride, some enterprising type had left a cooler full of Gatorade and bottled water on a table at the intersection of the two trails.  The sign next to the cooler listed the prices and also proclaimed the owner's belief in the inherent goodness of man:

"The Honor System"
But the absent entrepreneur was well aware of man's fall from grace into sin -- so while he trusted, he also verified:

"We are watching u!!"
Signs instructing bikers to stop and walk their bike across the street are present at every intersection of the rail trail with a street.

Not a chance! 
The hell you say.  The CARS ought to be the ones who have to stop.  (Unless I'm in a car, of course.)  

One of the highlights of this ride was the First Congregational Church of Harwich and its cemetery, which are adjacent to the trail.  This church was organized in 1747.  The current building (the third on this site) was built in 1832, but its appearance was transformed by the addition of a 100-foot spire to the church in 1854.

Here's a brief video showing the church:

The oldest grave in the cemetery is dated 1748, and there are a total of about 30 18th-century graves here.  The longest-lived person buried here was Deborah Long, who was 102 years old when she died on April 9, 1865 -- the same day that Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.  (Just think of that -- she was a child during the American Revolution yet lived to see the Civil War.)  The youngest resident of this cemetery was an unnamed son of Darius and Huldah Hall, who breathed his last only 14 days after being born in 1858.

First Congregational Church of Harwich cemetery
Cape Cod cemeteries -- there are well over a hundred of them, most quite old and many quite small -- are fascinating places.  The epitaphs can be beautiful and heartbreaking.  (I assume most of them are not original, but were copied from prayer books, hymnals, or collections of religious poems.)  I think it's a healthy thing to visit an old cemetery at least once a year, although I can't say doing so has made me any better equipped to deal with the prospect of death.

The epitaph on 58-year-old Seth Hall's 1793 gravestone is far from cheery:

Worms devour my waisting [sic] flesh
and crumble all my bones to dust

The epitaph on Stephen Burgess's 1832 stone (he was 21 when he died) is short but eloquent:

Be ye also ready.

(Good advice, although not pleasant to hear.)

This is from Mehitabel Freeman's 1842 stone:

Lo, where this silent marble weeps,
A friend, a wife, a mother sleeps.
Till the last trump of God shall sound
To raise her body from the ground.

Note that Mehitabel Freeman was 19 years and 4 months old when she died -- possibly in childbirth?

James Dickson, who died in 1860 at age 57, seems to have been blessed with a loving wife:

Husband dear, on earth I miss thee.
Miss thy voice, thy well known step:
But with angels thou art resting
And around me watch will keep.

Note the upward-pointing finger at the top of this gravestone, expressing confidence that Mr. Dickson will eventually ascend, not descend, to his eternal home.

For those of you who are interested by this sort of thing, the "Cape Cod Gravestones" website has information on some 40,000 gravestones located in 135 Cape Cod cemeteries -- about 10% from the 18th century and 90% from the 19th century.  The site includes color photographs of about 4000 gravestones.  
Here's "Soldier Side":

Here's a link to iTunes if you want to buy the song:

Here's a link to use if you prefer Amazon:

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