Upstate New York may not get the attention that the state’s largest city does, but it is a place of wonder. One of those sources of significance is the unique blend of individuals who’ve impacted both American culture, and, in turn, my life, that called this region home. It’s difficult to describe what I’m feeling as I’m standing next to Rod Serling’s grave. This is a man who held a profound influence over my outlook by letting his imagination go where it would. It’s more than the Twilight Zone—although its theme is one of the ringtones on my phone—it’s the sense that I somehow knew this man I never met. It’s also the sense that his gravesite is so humble, in a rural area outside a small town, the kind that often featured in the stories he wrote and presented. It’s the sense of connection.
As I young person I practiced writing short stories based on the mood set by the Twilight Zone, with a dash of Ray Bradbury thrown in. From a small town myself, imagination was my means of enlarging my world. We didn’t have the money to go many places but the magic box in our living room could take me to weird places alive with transcendence. The results were beyond price and there was something deep and liberating here, even for a kid whose religion said it was all nonsense. Even religion requires escaping sometimes. I know the publishing world has moved beyond what was fashionable in the sixties and seventies, but that can’t dislodge the shard in my chest right now. If there are spirits in cemeteries, they are here.
Some time ago I began, as I had time, uploading my photos of famous writers’ graves (along with those of other recognized names) on Pinterest. On the way to Interlaken, I wondered aloud why nobody seemed to show an interest. I find cemeteries peaceful places, and sacred spaces are those where people significant to us have been, in some form, at some time. I know Rod Serling loved upstate New York. It was his escape from the busy life of a writer whose cachet was marketable back in the days when anything seemed possible. Retreats are those places we go to restore ourselves when work simply won’t allow creative people to have unstructured time. I wasn’t expecting a huge mausoleum or towering monument here. Others have found their way to this place nevertheless. I am in a sacred place and the quiet here is kind of a prayer.