Good read

Reimagining the funeral experience in LA

reimagining-funeral-home-calsunday.jpgPhoto in California Sunday Magazine by Kendrick Brinson

Amber Carvaly and Caitlin Doughty, both 30, have ambitions to disrupt the funeral business and offer a new way of honoring a loved one. Their company, Undertaking LA, is due to open this summer. In a piece in today's California Sunday Magazine, they explain that the business plan include's encouraging home funerals and do-it-yourself preparation of the corpse if you wish, like I'm simpler times. Sample:

Carvaly and Doughty acknowledge Undertaking l.a. won’t be an easy sell, but they’re convinced that the funeral-home business is ready to be disrupted. “People are like, ‘Someone died, I gotta call the police! I gotta call a funeral home!’ And that is a lack of education on the industry’s part,” Carvaly says. “Leave the body at home. Honest to God, a dead body is not an emergency.”

One reason they’re hopeful is the response to Doughty’s other projects. Her sly but empathetic memoir about working in crematories and funeral homes, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, made the New York Times bestseller list last year. The online group she founded, The Order of the Good Death, has held conferences in the U.S. and Europe. The most recent one took place at the Getty Villa in Malibu and included talks like “Death and the Hollywood Ending” and “Catacomb Saints.” The event concluded with Doughty interviewing a medical examiner, who explained that cats will eat your face first if you die with only them around. Half the crowd nodded; the other half gasped. Carvaly worked the merch table, selling black T-shirts with future corpse written on them.

The crematory Carvaly and Doughty will use is in the San Fernando Valley, a few exits past the city’s largest and most famous cemetery, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Doughty and Carvaly have come here to shoot videos for their website to show clients what to expect if they participate in a cremation: chain-link fences, limited parallel parking, overturned shopping carts, dead flowers in the planters. “Of course, I wish there were waterfalls,” Doughty says, shielding her eyes from the sun. “But this is where a crematory would be,” she says, looking up and down the shadeless street at rows of gray warehouses.

This issue of California Sunday Magazine also has Vince Beiser's piece on Task Force 2, the urban search and rescue team that recently returned from earthquake relief duty in Nepal, and a found archive of forgotten surfing culture photos that turned up at the Rose Bowl flea market.

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