Life is a dream and when you die you awake – the Aztecs believed, and on this day wore skull masks – calacas – to dance in honour of their dead loved ones. Los Angeles celebrated in style at the beautiful Forever Cemetary, with famed, departed souls; amongst them George Harrison, cremated here but his ashes were taken to the Ganges and Cecil B. DeMille, and tombs with more square footage than most modest homes and more marble than you could shake a stick at. The streets were busy with those enroute to its gates and most had taken the care to dress with powdered and painted faces. Not scary, mostly beautiful with ladies in flowing skirts, bright oranges and Scarlett reds and intricate flowers, hearts and long golden fluttering lashes.
My friends Quincy, Francine and Julian took turns in spotting the most amazing alters, hundreds of them, lining the paths of the cemetery. Mariachi bands played, kids laughed and the drifting aromas of frying onions and warm corn tortillas made for a heady mix. My brain went into over drive pretty soon and just when I thought I’d had my fill another creation, like the white paper towers, stacked into a city scape with miniature white, skeleton dancing under chandeliers, seated along a long table with the (translated) words of they are all together now, embroidered in red thread on a cotton cloth. A middle aged woman with hair a shade too orange, laughed and said she wanted to be there. After getting her full explanation of ‘not right now’ but when its time, I looked upon the scenes of happy fleshless individuals in their various states of happy employment and had to add my agreement.
Emotions mixed with delighted interest and the stark, foot stopping, reality of real people in photos and poems written by relatives, still here to tell of their departeds time on the big blue. My camera, at times, felt intrusive, but the people really were celebrating.
After a walk back along Santa Monica Boulevard, the Hollywood sign and the white domed Observatory, hanging in the hills to our left, I returned for a quick meal of rice tortillas, stuffed with salad and my new-found delicacy of black bean tempeh and a bowl of mexican bean soup I walked back down to Sunset Junction with a happy smile on my face, laser lights squiggling patterns in the sky, music throbbed and crooned into the mild night and orange and white lit baubles twinkled around patios, with pumpkins and witches swinging in the wind. I marvelled at my fortune.
The 99c store had another gem for me, not just in the tubs of apple sauce, 4 for 50p or the 14p bag of almonds but in the girl with the blue painted face of avatar, who happily let me capture her creativity on camera and then proceeded to tell me that I was beautiful! I’m telling you, life is darn good. God bless America.