We all have our guilty pleasures, and recently mine arrived in my mailbox. People magazine. I didn't order a subscription, but like manna from heaven the first issue appeared, providing some heft to my stack of assorted bills and credit card invitations. I didn't even make it into the house. There I was, at the end of my driveway, traffic zooming by and me flipping through the tabloid.
If you continue to grow up and older in today's world, you learn one of two things: There's a reason for expiration dates on milk cartons, and pretty soon you won't know who the latest Hollywood starlet is. Used to be I could read a gossip magazine and recognize most of the “gossipees.” But now it isn't as fun to peruse the glossy tabloid pages while standing in a check-out line at Target, because now I'm not quite sure who is who and why they are popular.
Can you say old?
Another guilty pleasure for many of us is the celebration of Halloween, no matter our age. I love this holiday, because short of dressing up (which is optional) answering your doorbell on the evening of the 31st (still optional) and giving out candy (again, completely optional), there really isn't anything you have to do, unlike with other holidays that shall remain nameless. It's all fun for fun's sake without any ties or obligations.
Recently, I was talking to my friend Carlos Sosa, founder and director of the SosaGroup and a Puerto Rican boy born and raised in “da Bronx.” We discussed the differences between Halloween and Día de los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead. Carlos said that Halloween -- aside from what it has come to (decorations, candy and a night of fun) is about scaring the demons away. But Día de los Muertos? It's about the celebration of our ancestors.
Don't let the sugar skulls and skeletons fool -- or scare -- you. This tradition originated in Mexico and is meant to honor the dead with festivals and lively celebrations, with celebrants enjoying food, drink, parties and activities the dead enjoyed in life.
Sosa told me that in the Latin culture there are three ways to die. The first is physical death. The second is being laid to rest. The third is to be forgotten. The first two are inevitable and a part of life. The third is the only aspect that doesn't have to be an assumed part of death. Day of the Dead helps prevent the third way of death from happening to our departed loved ones.
Nopal Cultural, a contemporary multicultural arts organization, is in its second year working with the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art to host a Días de los Muertos celebration on Oct. 31st. Last year nearly 500 patrons attended the event. This year with a free admissions day to the Eiteljorg and additional programming in the State Museum's atrium, Alisa Norholdt-Dean, the Eiteljorg's Public Programs Manager, said the Eiteljorg expects close to 1500 revelers.
At the event, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., there will be opportunities to create art, watch performances, enjoy ofrendas (altars honoring the dead), contribute to a community ofrenda, shop at the Mercado (marketplace), and enjoy a Catrina (parade of skeletons). If you can't wait for the full-blown party on the 31st, you are invited to view the altar exhibition now on display in the museum's Lilly Theater (thru Nov. 1st).
In my last People-that-I-never-ordered-or-paid-for issue, I struck gold in recognizing at least one of the famous featured folks. This time it was a writer. Remember the 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert? Julia Roberts played her in the 2010 film adaption. (Oh, that's the third thing you learn as you grow older: Julia Roberts will never play you in your memoir film adaptation.)
Gilbert has written subsequent titles, and she is currently promoting her latest book Big Magic, which began as a 2009 TED Talk “Your elusive creative genius,” with 10 million views. I like her writing. I also like that she has IKEA shelves lining her office. (I learned that from People too.) But what most leapt off those glossy gossip pages was news about the three barely-there white ink tattoos Gilbert has, two on each forearm and the third on her right wrist.
I don't have any tattoos inked on my body. Absolutely no judgement from me if you do. I just ... don't. But if I did, I would have the one on Gilbert's right wrist: Stubborn Gladness. Gilbert says that the tattoo serves as a reminder that “joy is a muscle; you can't simply wait for it to happen.”
Días de los Muertos is not scary or dark, and it's not geared to one group of people from one part of the world. It's fun, reflective and -- most of all -- inclusive. It is for all of us who have lost someone who shaped our life or rounded out our lives. Despite loss, it is a way to exercise our stubborn gladness about having had the wonderful family and friends who touched our lives and not forgetting them.
For my father's altar, I will add a jazz CD, an IU sweatshirt, and a glass tumbler filled with a Manhattan. For my children's father, it will be his glasses, his red Razor cellphone, a photo of our old Spaniel and yet another jazz CD. For Días de los Muertos, my family will be stubbornly glad in loving who we miss and celebrating that although death is among us, so are our people who have gone before us.