Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: There’s no need to die of boredom

I always used to complain when I was growing up in Mandan that there wasn’t anything fun to do. Just about every weekend I sat in front of my TV, by myself, complaining that if there was something fun to do outside I’d be doing it. But I was convinced there wasn’t anything to do in this sleepy town and that entertainment in Bismarck-Mandan was a contradiction in terms.

Now that I’m in my thirties, I see now that I wasn’t entirely wrong. This is still a sleepy community, but it is not without its shindigs, galas and general merriment. You just have to get out and find them. When I was younger I never considered that I was at home by myself because I was antisocial, and a bit of a weirdo. It was simply easier to project my frustrations on things other than me rather than own up to the truth.

Entertainment is a major concern for people here. Much too often people complain that there is nothing to do. These are questions we have all asked ourselves before, it is a tale we have all told. And well, that just isn’t the case. I’m not one to say that people are wrong, but I have no shame in saying they are not right. All that’s required is breaking away from your usual routine and trying something new. This community has much going on to move and inspire and entertain you, but people need to get out of their safety zones and embrace the fun that’s out there. Because we truly are the Great Plains here. And I firmly believe that. We might be kinda plain, but that doesn’t mean we’re not great.

I feel I would be somewhat self-righteous if I didn’t share my insight and offer you my personal taste for entertainment, which is hanging out at graveyards.

I can’t really say how I got into this. I’m not into the zombie craze and I’ve never enjoyed watching horror movies. I’m so sensitive, as a matter of fact, that I get spooked by the idea of people who sleepwalk. So I don’t view graveyards in a cryptic or morbid way. I see them as a place we all must go eventually, a natural and unavoidable fate none of us escape. It’s something we might not like, and not want to deal with, but can’t run from in life, like credit reports, sharing the road with others, or college.

I believe we have yet to tap into the potential fun one can have at graveyards. In my mind they exist so we may be reminded of the blessings we are given in life – to live, to respect the ones who have lived, and the ones still living. Graveyards are our symbol of life passed on, but they have become synonymous with misery and fear. They are often portrayed in books and movies as asylums for lurking evil. This should no longer be the case.

I propose a new way to perceive the misinterpreted world of graveyards to dispel the ugly myths they have been cursed with.

To begin with, graveyards must shift from a religiously-based standard and migrate towards something less mainstream, less dark and sinister. They need to become fun and enjoyable. More commercialized.

Take morticians, for instance. The pure semantics of the word “mortician” gives us a creepy vibe; I propose from here on out we call them Afterlife Hauling Technicians. Their formal suits must also be done away with, as Afterlife Hauling Technicians should instead wear flamboyant clothing with bright colors, like Zubas pants, tie-dye, or puffy shirts, and hats with propellers, in order to eradicate the creepy vibe they convey.

Death’s messenger, the Grim Reaper, should be transformed into a friendly, furry creature that children will appreciate. His name must change to something more adorable, like Reepee. We could give him his own children’s TV show, and every Saturday morning children from across the globe will flock to TV sets to watch his show, “Reepee and Friends.” Parents will nod in approval as Reepee teaches kids moral lessons by singing colorful songs about death and mortality.

For Christmas, kids will be pulling on their mother’s leg, begging her to drive them to the graveyard gift shop, aptly named Body Parts, so they can buy toy dolls of Reepee and his friends, Decapitated Danny, Heart Disease Harriet, and Tapeworm Timmy.

And we don’t have to stop there. A restaurant, called Good ‘Til the Last Drop, could be set up for friends and family as they pay their respects to the ones they love. Children will be served complimentary appetizers, and enjoy coffin candy for dessert, a new form of cotton candy. Good ‘Til the Last Drop could also feature signature drinks for adults, like the Profusely Bleeding Mary, the Tequila Earthworm, or the Zombie-tini. The restaurant could do the same, from the Buried Underneath Six Feet of Ham to the R.I.P. (roast beef and Italian sausage on pita bread).

I can just imagine now how all family conversations will go:

MOM: Hey kids, it’s vacation time! Where do you want to go? The zoo?


MOM: Six Flags?


MOM: How ’bout a safari to Africa?


MOM: Outer space?


MOM: The future?


MOM: Well then, where do you wanna go?

KIDS: Let’s go see gramma and grampa!

MOM: But kids, gramma and grampa passed away a long time ago. If we wanted to see them, we’d have to go to the cemetery.


Can’t you picture it? By doing this, those awkward feelings of trepidation toward graveyards and death would be put to rest, for lack of a better cliche. We’ll be stimulating the courage to face our fears by making death a fun thing to do.

Death is a topic that is learned, and what throughout time has been the most effective approach to learning? Making it fun. The realities of death should be faced with truth, honesty, integrity, and a smile. Remember that the next time you’re helping yourself to some coffin candy.