Thursday, March 22, 2007

Highway 61 Revisited

Fred Wong's funeral service took place yesterday, out on Highway 61, in Centralia, Pennsylvania. People from all over the world came to pay their last respects. For those of you who knew and loved Fred, but could not attend the service, I am posting some photos, allowing you to grieve a bit, and post a tribute to Fred if you are so inclined.

"...Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61..."
--Bob Dylan

It was difficult to get around, as there were huge steaming sinkholes out on Highway 61, and we were afraid to drive too close to the actual town. Even walking, the ground would cave in a bit, and fellow mourners would have to help each other out of little 3 or 4 ft. deep sinkholes.

Fred's properties in Centralia. The area had some sort of landfill/mine fire many years ago, and apparently it is still burning underground because of all of the coal deposits. The real estate deals were too good to be true, so Fred bought a lot of property there. He planned to start businesses there, and "bring Centralia back to its former glory." That was his dream.

The area was steamy hot and smelled terrible, and some mourners passed out from carbon monoxide or something.

I took this picture at the Fred Wong Tribute Luncheon. We ate pizza, oreos, and some sort of hot dog & cheese casserole. Someone spiked the hot Dr. Pepper with tequila, so people got a little rowdy. We pulled ourselves together for the hike back to Centralia for the final viewing of the casket and ceremony, where Kurt (from the blog 'Other People Exist' ) spoke at length about his relationship with Fred. Kurt's eulogy brought tears to everyone's eyes. Yes, it was that moving. It was the only angry, fiery speech--it was his "Fred Had A Dream!" speech. Most of the other speeches were long and boring, and there was a lot of standing around just breathing fumes.

Fred's Wife, Mrs. Susan Yu Wong, wanted an open casket, but Fred's body had been splattered on Madison Avenue and was in pieces. Still, Mrs. Wong loved the soft fuzzy fabric lining of the casket and kept insisting on an "open casket" ceremony. So the funeral director stored Fred's body in a Hefty bag in the cloakroom and just had the empty casket in the viewing area. People lined up to admire the casket. The casket was made in China and was beautiful. Mrs. Wong kept telling everyone that Chinese caskets were superior to American ones and also cost $700 less on average. Fred loved to save money, she explained. The Hefty bag came up missing somehow, and in the end the pallbearers carried the empty casket to the graveyard.
Frederick Norman Wong, age 32. RIP.

"He never done no wrong
He never done no wrong
A thousand miles from home
And he never harmed no one
And he was a friend of mine."
--Bob Dylan