Dí­a de los Muertos

San Francisco has a very cool Day of the Dead procession every year. This year it fell on election night, which seemed strangely appropriate. I went as a plague doctor, a costume I’ve worn a few times now over the years, and always seems eerily anticipatory to me. I like being inside it, seeing so many familiar faces who can’t tell it’s me. As we headed out to drum and walk along (about 10 of us who had gathered at our apartment on Folsom) we knew the election looked bad. By the end of the night it got a lot worse. But the procession was its usual magical self, giving us all a chance to be in the streets, making music, enjoying the wild creativity of our friends and neighbors, and get some respite from the yammering madness that passes for news and reporting.

My pal Jeff Mooney, without whom I would not be able to fake being a drummer, kept me going on my snare after months of not touching it. He had a line at the end of the night that captured something rarely acknowledged but pulsing at the heart of a lot of so-called progressives, not to mention the general population: “The thought of giving up my fear terrifies me!”

Mary Brown had a fantastic portable shrine around her neck, dedicated to the amazing photographer Peter Palmquist. It was one of those delightful endless regression–or in this case endless progression–things. She had a picture of Palmquist from when he was much younger, placed next to a fake camera. Hundreds of people were taking her picture, which of course captured the photo of Palmquist, who died a couple of years ago in a car accident in Emeryville. So the collector of old photographs had his own image reproduced posthumously by the hundreds last night… a nice touch.
Loved the gamelan band, to whom we attached ourselves for a good long jam. We also traipsed around the edges of the Filhos de Gandhi contingent, as well as the Infernal Noise with Gold Trim Brigade (and realized that they were doing all prepared/rehearsed tunes, so we soon got out of their way). In contrast to the dark fear that seems to dominate the imaginations of so many other Americans, even people who live outside the Mission and continually buy into the notion that it is a very dangerous place, Dí­a de los Muertos is one of the oddest and most fun syncretic rituals in this town. Once strictly for Mexicans and other latin americans, it’s largely attended by the alt-cult young white scene, many of whom bring along the kids. It’s become a very culturally specific San Francisco event now, and is only vaguely related to the original… which is fine by me!

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