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The operator of the Mansion of Horror wasn’t always the carnie with the sad smile he was famous for. Before Playland, before death, before ruin, and most definitely before the incident, he was a wealthy man. He had power. He had money. He had a beautiful wife who adored him. He was the envy of his peers. He was the American dream.
Not the real American dream, mind you. You know, the one where anything’s possible. When America was a place that you could go to escape tyranny and persecution. No, he subscribed to the dream of a house in the suburbs. A white picket fence and a pair of sporty cars in the 2.5-car garage. Dinner was always on the table when he came home from drinking with the boys.
It was the summer of ’66, after all. The terrors of the 50s were behind America. The national flag featured fifty stars for quite a few years back then. Jorge was a man about town, and they all loved him for it. Women wanted to be with him. Men wanted to be him. He was always faithful to Lucille, and she doted on him. The summer of ‘66 was looking up for Jorge. His life wouldn’t run afoul the fates for another eighteen months.
The summer of ’66 was three years before he found communion with the dregs of society. They had ruled Lucille’s death self-inflicted, but Jorge knew that that was not the case. He knew the combination of his brief infidelity and the policies of the Catholic Church were the culmination of his greatest loss.
It wasn’t a loss that would balance another exurbanite purchase. The taxman wouldn’t weigh this loss against gains made on the market, and decide that as a contributing member of society that, “boys will be boys.”
Jorge stood tall, as a man should, when the police arrived at his office. His stoic demeanor betrayed no hint of underlying turmoil. He thanked the officers, offered a firm handshake, and returned to his desk. He motioned for the door to remain open as they departed. He would grieve for Lucille in private, as all good Americans should.
His decline wasn’t rapid by any stretch of the imagination. It did take him a year to be exonerated in his wife’s death. Another six months for his friends and colleges to shun him. Even the target of his unfortunate ardor ignored his cries for help.
It was eighteen months later, when Jorge, easily confused for a vagabond, retrieved a crumpled up newspaper in the gutter. Like the paper, he could never be new again, but a help wanted ad in the summer of ’69 promised a new life. His old life of privilege and moneyed wants would be forgotten. Cast aside.
Today, we commit Jorge to the ground after forty-five glorious years with Playland. We’ve returned here to pay our respects and bury him next to his wife. Rest in peace Jorge, you’ll be missed.