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Seattle Gay History: Grave robbing at Lakeview Cemetery
Seattle Gay History: Grave robbing at Lakeview Cemetery
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

On a hill facing east rests the gravesite of the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, the most visited gravesites in the state of Washington. Little did I know when I visited the cemetery over the years that yours truly would become a grave robber.

I was not a teenage thrill-seeker knocking over tombstones and giggling about defying death. Nor was I a tagger, destructive or a trophy hunter of moss-covered Victorian gravestone finials, angels, and other symbols of heavenly guides who lead deceased loved ones to that distant shore.

Why would anyone visit a cemetery if not to contemplate peace and quiet away from the roar and demands of the city? Perhaps to study the lost art of stonecutting or to research the founding mothers and fathers of Seattle or to pick meadow mushrooms for the dinner table - and to enjoy discovering interesting tombstone names like "Melody Choir," "E. Zippy Rivet."

Bruce Lee was mythic material, nicknamed by his parents "Never sits still" and the "Little dragon." In the early '60s, a friend took me to dinner at Ruby Chow's Chinese Restaurant where Lee lived and waited tables. My friend told me later that our handsome waiter was Bruce. I saw him again practicing karate in Ruby Chow's parking lot and also in a squash court in the Seattle YMCA. I still didn't know who he was but I was taken by his incredible body, his swift movements and strident warrior sounds. Bruce was a student of philosophy but totally absorbed with his body and fitness. He was exceptionally charismatic, with tremendous vitality and animal magnetism. The expressions on his face as he psyches out his opponents are beyond description, almost lost in ecstasy, almost sexual. He never lost track of his passion and chief goal that was to win. Quite a few were put off by his arrogance and his tendency to show off. But he was the first Asian superstar. His martial art disciplines were remarkable, a master, but convinced he would never live to be an old man.

On my visits to Lakeview Cemetery, I am always amazed at the tokens of affection placed on Bruce's grave: lots of flowers, a pinecone, small change, incense, notes, a rock, packages, walking sticks with Chinese inscriptions, fruit, toys, jewelry, photos, a key, letters, a trophy, greeting cards, seashells and marijuana roaches, etc. Some visitors have broken off chips from his gravestone. I asked the cemetery caretaker what happens to all the things left on the site. "It all goes in the dumpster." I asked him if he ever had any unusual experiences around Bruce Lee's grave or heard of any. "No," he replied. "All I know is that we bury them and that's the last time anyone sees them."

One day I showed the grave to a Gay psychic astrologer friend of mine, Issac Monroe. I never told him what I wanted him to see. When I parked 20 feet away, Issac got out of the car, walked right over to the gravesite on his own, circled the tombstone and asked, "Who is buried here? He is beloved!" I had to remind him who he was. Issac placed his hand over the grave and said, "I feel warmth." He withdrew his hand and said, "Now I feel cool air." I believe in phenomenon, but this warm/cool thing took me by surprise. I felt the difference, too, or was it the power of suggestion? I asked Issac why there was this energy around the grave. "Because he's here. He's not at rest. He cannot be, he doesn't have to be and he doesn't want to be. He is happy but not content. He wants to do things and he wants to communicate with people who love him. He's having a good time. He's a lot of fun, even a prankster, but perfectly serious."

I personally don't have time for ghosts but I can give credence to having a zen experience; On one visit to the cemetery I noticed a well wrapped brown paper package addressed to Bruce with lots of Chinese inscriptions. For some reason I was curious about what it said, not wanting to steal it, I decided to copy it on a sheet of paper and have someone translate it later.

The day was a little breezy with occasional stronger gusts. Just as I finished copying, the wind snapped it up and tossed it six feet away. The moment I reached for it a gust tossed it 10 feet away. I got up only to have the wind toss it 30 feet away, always it was just inches from my grasp. Still confident about the retrieval of this simple scrap of paper, I was now on the run, dodging tombstones before I reached the paper, but failed again to grab it. I now had to jump for it two more times and each time I missed it by mere inches! It was like I was dealing with a separate entity with a mind of its own as it played "catch me if you can." This is ridiculous, I thought, but funny, like a children's game. One more attempt with no result. I remembered Issac saying, "Bruce loves to have fun, but he wants to win. He isn't always at the gravesite, but when he is he likes to play with visitors. He can be mischievous, but with love." Was Issac right and Bruce is playing tricks on me as the paper kept rising skyward far beyond my reach. I was reluctant to believe Issac, but there had to be an explanation for this bizarre performance between me and some kind of divine wind, it was just too exquisite a happening. No one is ever going to believe me.

They say every good story has a bad guy, but I didn't realize until later that that bad guy was me and that I was a grave robber. Even though the earth is for the living, cemeteries are sacred grounds. How dare I desecrate that sanctity by casually and illegally invading another person's privacy? A package and a loving message to Bruce was not meant for me, period.

I watched the sheet of paper as it rose higher and higher on its mysterious, eastward flight, 500, 1,000, 2,000 feet and still rising, flip-flopping in the wind, disappearing on edge and reappearing as the late afternoon sun reflected on its surface. I could barely see it. At one point two birds saw the paper and seemed to do a dance around it before flying on. I watched in awe as this elusive paper vanished into thin air, as they say.

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