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August 21st, 2008

Eight hours sleep last night, which seems to be what my body now needs. The most I've slept at a single stretch in at least a couple of weeks, and I do feel slightly improved. So, I suppose I will make more of an effort to be in bed by three ayem, at the latest. Two would be ideal.

I wouldn't have thought that yesterday could have proved itself a worse day than my "day off" on Monday. Oh, but I was wrong. The words came only with the greatest reluctance, each one seeming to demand from me the greatest act of coercion I could muster. In the end, I'd done 1,187 words on Chapter Four of The Red Tree, though I felt like I'd done half that. I hope to finish the chapter today.

Also, I received word that Publisher's Weekly is sending me another book for review. I haven't even seen the first review in print yet.

I do wish someone could have warned me and Spooky that Swan Point Cemetery here in Providence, where Lovecraft is buried, has become a forbidden ground guarded by Nazi rent-a-cops. Before we left yesterday, Spooky checked the website to see whether or not photography was still permitted, and she found no rule indicating that it was not. In fact, this is what the Swan Point website has up regarding rules and regulations:

The grounds are primarily for the use of the proprietors, columbaria niche owners, mausoleum crypt owners and the families and friends of the deceased. Although it is private and exists primarily as a resting place for past generations, Swan Point is also a community resource, offering a place of serenity and beauty for quiet enjoyment. You are most welcome here and should feel free to walk, slowly bicycle or drive throughout the grounds. Please, at all times, wear proper attire, including shirts and footwear, and respect the privacy and solemnity of Chapel and graveside services. No walking of pets, skiing, skateboarding, fast bicycling, rollerblading or picnicking is allowed. Jogging and fast walking are acceptable between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. but, for safety reasons, no earphones may be worn at any time.

So, about 5:45 p.m. or so, we headed east, across the river and along College Hill, over to Blackstone Boulevard and up to the cemetery. We arrived about ten or fifteen minutes after six (the gates close at seven), and drove directly to the Phillips family plot. Clearly, quite a few people had been there before us, as all manner of offerings and mementos had been placed on or in front of HPL's headstone: roses, wild flowers, an assortment of wild mushrooms, coins, sea shells, several pages of handwritten sheet music, stones, and so forth. I added my usual frog, balanced on the top of the headstone. While Spooky took photos, I leaned first against the Phillips obelisk and then sat on the edge of the Byron Whitford memorial. As we were discussing what people had left, and as I was getting ready to have a look at the tree that has been planted to replace the fallen beech (the Lovecraft Tree), a security guy comes pulling up in a white car.

Immediately, he ordered Spooky to "delete those photographs." She, politely, questioned this, pointing out that she'd looked at the website before we came and there was nothing up there forbidding photographs. He said he didn't care what was on the website or what she'd read. Annoyed, I turned and continued walking towards the tree, figuring that she could handle herself and that the worst that could happen is we'd be told to take no more photographs. However, I'd taken maybe two steps, when the guy in the car began shouting about us not "having respect for dead" and ordering me not to turn my back on him. As I turned back towards the man, Spooky asked if he had no respect for the living, and I suppose this was some sort of provocation. He unleashed a stream of profanities at Spooky and me both. No, this does not make much sense. Within seconds, he was threatening to "call the PD" and proclaiming that he was "kicking us out." So, yes, I was being kicked out of the cemetery where HPL is buried, where I'd only come to pay my respects and leave a plastic frog (I've been visiting the spot since 2000, Spooky since about 1989), where our great offence was snapping exactly two photographs of one of the most photographed headstones in New England. I said something to Kathryn, to the effect that we should just get back in the car, which was parked very nearby. The man continued to shout an inexplicable stream of threats and obscenities, including a couple of homophobic remarks. I only wish we'd had a tape recorder, or that Spooky had not been so rattled that she'd had the presence of mind to turn on the camera's video, because I really wish that we had a word-for-word transcript.

As Spooky was getting into the car, I finally looked him in the eye and said the only thing I said during the entire encounter (which elapsed over the space of maybe three or four minutes, start to finish, at the most). I pointed a finger at the man and, very quietly, I said, "You will be reported." He screamed, "You do that, you piece of shit!." This is the only time I got a clear look at the man. He was white, late middle-aged, seemed to have about three-days worth of beard (salt and pepper), and spoke with a heavy regional accent (don't ask which one). I am fairly certain that he had been drinking, and he may have been intoxicated. He certainly acted like a belligerent drunkard.

We got in the car and drove to the cemetery exit/entrance, where we stopped to see if any signs forbidding photographs were posted. Just inside the gates, we found a sign with maybe a thousand words of text printed on it, rather small text, and the sign was positioned so that it would be on the right side of anyone driving in, and almost impossible to read. It looked like an historical marker of some sort. Badly shaken and angry, we drove directly back home. We both did searches online to see if others had had trouble with Swan Point security. Indeed, they have, specifically people visiting Lovecraft's grave. In fact, in 2006, the annual Lovecraft commemorative service and reading, held at his gravesite on his birthday (since 1987!), was forced to relocate to the Ladd Observatory, as the "cemetery's owners have recently become less open to such gatherings." I will be writing a letter to both the owners of Swan Point and to the Providence Journal, protesting the way we were treated by security, and I urge anyone else whose had trouble with Swan Point security to come forward. Last night, I was appalled. Today, the whole affair seems utterly unreal. If we'd been tagging gravestones or smoking weed or performing some obscene ritual to raise Cthulhu, even then his behaviour would have been questionable. As is, it was abusive and inexcusable (and, I suspect, illegal).

So, anyway....

I have to try to salvage the day, though having written that out, I find myself furious all over again.

Please, if you have not, pre-order A is for Alien and the mass-market paperback of Daughter of Hounds. Thank you.

* Note: Please feel free to link to this post or repost the account of our experience at Swan Point. One way to stop this from happening to other people is to spread to word about abusive security practices at the cemetery.