The Great Search for Lady Day

With the all out indifference of New York City suffocating, I found myself barricaded  inside, listening to Billie Holiday's rendition of the jazz standard 'Solitude' over and over again. "In my haunt me." Her voice in the song sounds as if she's grasping at a wall, pleading. Who was haunting Billie Holiday?  The specter on the other side of the wall?   When I was a kid my mother gave me a Billie Holiday record as a gift. When I heard Billie's voice  for the first time, it was one of those mystical moments where I felt alive in a beautiful universe of nothingness and just as long as this woman was singing, oblivion was mine for the taking. I entered parallel dimensions.  Billie Holiday was haunting me - certainly.  Just a few days ago, after a long nocturnal blizzard blanketed much of New England, I decided to search for Billie Holiday. On a hot summer day in 1959 Billie was laid to rest in Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx. She was 44.  I took a train uptown.  I spent close to two hours in a frozen, snowed over cemetery looking for her grave stone.  I was waist deep in snow, trudging about, losing my breath, and at the moment I decide to take a break to rethink my strategy I find her final resting place.  Billie Holiday was buried next to her mother, which I found fascinating and touching.   Earlier that day I had bought Billie a little seahorse and left it for her as a gift  (sailors used give each other seahorses for good luck before embarking on long odysseys).  So there I was - I had found Billie Holiday.

Text and photograph by Oliver Maxwell Kupper