Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dancing with the Dead in the Mission

Back in the days of my youth, I thought the Day of the Dead was a spooky, freaky event for (ahem) goth freaks and the morbid. After losing my mother in 2004 and my dad and aunt and first cat in 2006, I started finding comfort in the event. But I sort of saw it as an event to get the death behind me. Only during the past couple of years have I seen it for what it is, a day to dance with the dead and celebrate how they are there at every point. And every year, no matter how young we are, we dance one year closer to our own death.

This year I dealt with the deaths of a few people close but not that close to me, most of them quite elderly and having completed full, rich lives that ended suddenly and painlessly. I lost my dear cat Bunter who shared 20 years with me. On Friday I lost Guru, whose two rich months with me were as valuable as a life time.

The ceremonies tonight held great meaning to me. I shot a lot of video, but since I'm fading (no, not that kind of fading just yet, I'll share this piece from the end of the parade. If you look closely, you'll see wonderfully wacko Frank Chu of the 12 Galaxies fame, a recently married male couple and a Cindy Sheehan supporter saying it's time to raise democracy from the dead.

Tonight's ceremony had a deeper poignancy. During the opening speeches there were some profound comments about how this grassroots, non-corporate sponsored event represents the real America that we rarely see -- one that is culturally and economically diverse, one that doesn't always follow all the rules yet respects so many converging stories, including those who no longer have an heartbeat. And we were reminded that we may very well be on the verge of an enormous cultural change. Many of us lost people who mean a great deal to us this year, yet we have also witnessed the death of some things that are truly horrid such as some of the corporations that fell, and the carcass of the Bush Administration that will creak wearily into the abyss in a matter of weeks.

It's one of my favorite San Francisco events since it has a quiet power that builds as the night goes on. You never completely know what's lurking out there in the dark, and there are a lot fewer drunks and druggies than a most events. But, as my video shows, there is a spooky number of cops on the route, a sign of the number of shootings in the Mission this year and souls that have crossed the rainbow bridge.

Tonight I put down favorite toys of Guru and Bunter on one of the communal shrines. It felt good to honor these glorious four-legged companions who never met yet blessed my life this year.

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At 4:40 AM, Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

what a great post! SF does el dia de las muertos up well!!!

I love the concept of the communal shrine, I have to mention this to the folks who have 'brought' the day of the dead celebration to cleveland (this year is only our 4th year)

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Mouse - The shrines were definitely the best part. I was a bit dizzy afterwards seeing so many loved and lost family members and friends who still live in people's hearts.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Wow! I love the stiltwalker, and the person with George Bush's head on a stake. (Or was that Richard Nixon? Same thing, more or less.)

I'm sure we must do Dia de los Muertos here in New York, but I have no idea where.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Steve - I was sort of confused on the mask too. Looks more Nixon to me, but it could be...

I think Dia de los Muertos is one event where SF beats NYC dead in the water. (Yes, pun intended.)

At 11:02 PM, Blogger joe said...

Thanks for your comment on my Dia de los Muertos entry -- you see that we were posting about it within a couple hours of each other. Yours is also a nice commentary on what I consider both a beautiful and important celebration.

They're always still with us, no matter what.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Joe - I won't stick my neck out completely by saying what it says about spirituality, but there is no denying that most lives leave a mark on the world, even if it's a small one, and something of them remains long after their physical presence is gone. Old age has taught me, if nothing else, that what is important about those lives never leaves, and I enrich my own life when I take time to dance with those memories of them.


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