Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

What a great, historic moment in American history. It's impossible not to be proud to be an American today. The United States not only won in this election, the whole world won in this election. The future looks brighter!

Before all this happened, I attended the "Day of the Dead" festival at the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery last Saturday night (November 1, 2008). Appropriately and unfortunately there had been a thunderstorm earlier in the afternoon, accompanied by the most gut-wrenching cracks of thunder I've ever heard in Los Angeles (there's hardly ever any thunder here). I mean, it could have cured you of leprosy!

The torrents of rain, no doubt, left a few of the Day of the Dead shrines in ruins, because when I got there around 9, there were more than a few vacancies. Which was too bad because what was left was pretty amazing, though this year I spent most of my time on the attendant festivities.

First of all, this was the fourth "Day of the Dead" festival I've attended here, and it was, by far, the biggest, most crowded one I've seen. Word is spreading about how great this is and by 9 there was actually a line to get in, though it moved swiftly. Once inside, all contact with the outside world ceases and one is transported to a world of sensory, auditory and visual delights that make you feel, at every moment, you could explode from overload.

There was more music from more stages than ever before. All Mexican and South American-themed artists, all playing in or around reflecting pools. At one point, I'm sitting on Tyrone Power's grave, watching a Mariachi dance troupe perform on a stage set up in the middle of a large pond. Through their vibrant costume reflections in the water, a single swan slowly floats into the colors, creating a rippling hallucination. It was like a scene from Fantasia come to life. Or would that be Make Mine Music.

It's always great to grab a glass of wine and head into the mausoleums. Walking inside, all sound gets transformed into an echoey wash. Kind of like the aural equivalent of the reflections in the pools outside. This must not be missed, for they only light the main corridor so that all the tributary halls move into darkness the further you go.

And you're allowed to wander anywhere. It's like getting to run around a cemetery at night when you're a kid. Something I always enjoyed, especially in the great old cemeteries around New England. But here you're surrounded by people dressed up as corpses, so the effect is decidedly weird and wonderful.

You can either be with other revellers or go off down a hall and be completely alone and sit by Rudolph Valentino's crypt. Sitting far down at the end of one of these halls, one can watch a constant procession of people (and ghouls) far at the other end pass by in the dim light.

Then there's the huge throbbing mass of people in death masks, dancing throughout the entire evening, down the cemetery pathways accompanied by dancing Mariachi musicians on trumpets and drums and incredibly ornate costumes. Everyone within reach becomes a dancer in their troupe.

Eventually the sensory overload becomes overwhelming and the only thing to do is to locate the other set of mausoleums at the west end of the cemetery. Hardly anyone goes there and they're darker, longer and scarier than the others. But a perfect place to find solace and peace, as the regular residents are a pretty quiet crowd.

It was a perfect night and the afternoon weather turbulence had left the night sky swept with streaks of cloud patterns. They formed an azure backdrop for the gorgeous palm trees that dot the sky everywhere you look.

If you live in Los Angeles next year at this time, you should make a point of attending, even though it costs a whopping $5. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it happens every year! Can't beat that.


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