Dead Ringer: Er, for Paul Giamatti's Harvey Pekar in American Splendor, perhaps?

Kiss My Ashes Wednesday

I'm not sure what's creepier about this Ashes to Portraits website, the fact that they're actually mixing human cremains (i.e., cremated remains) into oil-based paint and using it to depict a lost loved one, or the site's music, which features chirping birds, woodpeckers, hooting owls and gentle organ tunes. Okay, I guess it's the music. These days, when people have their remains shot into outer space, dipped into liquid nitrogen for later re-thawing, or made into cubic zirconia-lookalikes, an oil painting using the burnt leftovers of Aunt Martha ain't no big deal. Indeed, the way Ashes to Portraits sells their service, it sounds like a downright bargain!

"An average funeral can cost anywhere from $6,800 - $17,800," states the site. "A cremation can cost approximately $1,200 (not including the urn.) You have saved a minimum of $5,600-$16,600. This means you have money to buy something very special for your family to remember your loved one for many generations."

Plus, return shipping is free. There's special pricing for members of the Armed Forces. And they throw in the frame, gratis. Prices? From $1599 to $1899, depending on the size of the portrait. (They take check, money order, and PayPal.) And no, they don't use all of the ashes. Whatever's left over, they send back to you.

The whole thing recalls my spoof of a couple of years back, "Forever Yours," wherein my alter ego Esteban Sauer wrote of a company new to PHX called Preserve A Life. Preserve A Life could preserve your loved one stuffed, seated in your living room if you like, or just a piece of the loved one, say, an arm or a patch of skin.

It too had special rates for ex-military. Hmmm.

I was a little suspicious, since I'd pulled something similar in the past, so I called the company and asked about doing a portrait with my grandfather's ashes. (Hey, why not, right?) Spoke to one of the owners, and it does seem to be on the up-and-up, at least as far as I can tell. I mean, if it were a hoax, this dood'd be getting a helluva lot of dead people in his mail box. I called the post office, and it is legal to send cremated remains through the mail. So there ya go. Also, seems the Boston Herald's written about it.

Wonder if I can get one of my ex-girlfriend nude? I mean, that is how I want to remember her -- nekkid and silent. I'm sure the ashes in the mix would help achieve the same skin tone as her nips, a light grayish brown. Only problem is, she ain't, at least not yet. Heh.

BTW, I hear Bruce Willis has optioned the Ashes to Portraits story for a sequel to The Sixth Sense entitled -- you guessed it -- I Paint Dead People.

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