Greta Garbo is making news again.
Sotheby’s will be auctioning a cache of Garbo private letters and photos, many of which outline her loneliness and frustration with being a female creative forced to perform what she deemed mediocre work.
To honor their release, I’m reposting a story about my accidental visit to her final resting place. Enjoy!
Just when I think being married to an architect couldn’t get more, ahem, entertaining, I am gobsmacked yet again. I spent a day riding a train to a remote suburb with MTM. We scurried along a grey stone wall, following it next to a road until it turned right into a gate, where the road opened up into what looked, to my untrained and tacky eyes, like Antarctica or that scene at the end of the movie “Alive,” where Aaron Neville sings “Ave Maria” as the cross comes into view on a range in the Andes. You know that place: where a plane crashed and they ate each other to stay alive.
MTM the architect took me to a graveyard.
Not just any graveyard, mind you. A UNESCO World Heritage site graveyard. A Gunnar Asplund designed graveyard. (I didn’t know who the heck he was either. Click on the highlighted link at his name if you are an ignorant non-architect like me.)
At the entrance to the graveyard is a cavernous sub-zero wind tunnel, I mean, a barren, snow-blanketed field with a mammoth stone cross set off-center and flanked by – dared I hope – a building. A modernist box that surely contained heat and some hot cocoa for me to sip while MTM flitted around snapping photos of screw details and blades of grass through the snow and handrails and the frame of the sky through a hole in the roof. When I finally dragged my frozen carcass to that building, I was devastated to learn that it did contain heat, an off-limits inferno for me – because it was the crematorium.
Who designs an inviting crematorium? Except an architect?
I steeled myself for more sub-zero wandering outside, following MTM down a graceful ribbon of drive that acted as – you guessed it – another wind tunnel. Only this time, there were trees on either side to break the gale. Or, to contribute to it. I don’t know which would be a more accurate descriptive.
Finally, we came to a snowy avenue through some trees. In the distance, I saw a white building with a pointed roof through an archway. Again, my ice-addled brain longed for a hot drink, hopes that were crushed once more when I discovered the little building was a funeral chapel. About fifty photos later – of the outside; a funeral was actually going on inside, making it off-limits for eager architects, even ones that wanted to hang around until the service was over and pretend to be part of the mourning party just to get a glimpse of interior – we wandered through one of the cemetery ‘rooms.’ MTM glimpsed what he thought to be a significant burial site on the opposite side, and I, who could barely move any limb by this point, trudged through the knee-deep snow behind him.
I made it to an aloof promontory, and who did I find buried there but Greta Garbo.
Suddenly, this was the best idea MTM had ever had, taking me to see gorgeous Greta Garbo’s grave, with her signature in gold on the headstone. Hyperactively, I took too many photos of my own and gabbed enough to disrupt her alone time.
I forgot that I was freezing. I didn’t want hot cocoa. The wind chill no longer touched me. I stood in the face of acting greatness, and I think it made me appreciate the architecture.
A little bit.
A repost that I hope will be new to most of you.