And the band played on…

img_4453On Saturday evening, Alex and I ventured out to one of my favorite DTSA night… Night of the Altars. Family members set up elaborate altars (ofrendas) to honor the memory of their lost loved ones. Many believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of the deceased are allowed to reunite with their families.  The ofrendas are decorated with sugar skulls, candles, marigolds, and bread called pan de muerto. Sugar skulls represent a departed soul and is placed on the ofrenda to honor the return of a particular spirit. This tradition has been transported to the faces of the attendees with hundreds of people adorning face paint to make the sugar skull come to life.

We began our night with Dinner at the new (and amazing) restaurant El Mercado, which serves tapas style modern Mexican cuisine and inventive cocktails. Our waitresses, of course, donned sugar skull face paint. Alex’s cocktail arrived in a glass cloche full of smoke, which was unveiled at the table with a puff of smoke surrounding our table. Talk about immersive.

We then headed to Art Walk, which is traditionally held on the same night as Night of the Altars, and viewed both static and live art displays. My favorite display this year was a colorful forest of foraged cardboard, which had been painted in vibrant colors and you could wander through the “trees” and see all the different designs.  Alex’s favorite was definitely a photo of Hume Lake, his childhood (and adulthood, really) home away from home.

Finally, we headed to the main attraction, which was the altars where we were surrounded by hundreds of people, both live and made-to-look-not-alive. On both sides of the street, candles glowed, and paper flowers were illuminated by the dim light. At the end of the street, a jazzy big band played Mexican music.

As I wrote in my original Night of the Altars post, I was surprised to find Mr. Ward of Santa Ana Winds on an altar. Apparently, Mr. Ward continues to take the opportunity to reunite with his “Winds” family.  This night, one of the assistants to the band members approached me while I was listening to them play, and asked… “Weren’t you in “Winds”?” I was surprised, and the man in front of me smiled and said, “I was too, I played trumpet.” As he walked back to the band, I smiled and thanked Mr. Ward for the music, and his legacy.

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Art Walk

IMG_1647On the first Saturday of every month, DTSA opens its arms, hearts and doors to artists. Well actually, the artists are always there. In fact, the artists open up their arms, hearts and doors to DTSA and others interested in viewing their offerings. A diverse group of people descend on one square block to enjoy art of all kinds: static, interactive, demonstrative, live. This night, a group of us biked downtown to enjoy the festivities.

Near the Bike Hut storage, there was a graffiti art demonstration which we watched in wonder at how spray cans were creating such a precise and colorful display. We then headed over to the center of the artist’s district.  It’s a courtyard of brick, with a fountain in the middle, surrounded by our most historic buildings. Where we entered, there was a live demonstration was being put on by High School students. They were painting their city, beautifully I might add, on an old convertible car. In the background, musicians played string instruments.

Hipcooks, a center that hosts cooking classes, had their doors open for visitors to look, learn and shop. A wedding reception was occurring in the restored electrical building in front of the central fountain where the art walk festivities were held. The couple and the party were visible behind large windows, a chance for all of us to peek into their lives.

IMG_1653Some of the art was temporary, some of it more permanent, some of it literally disappeared as time passed. One display was a continually updated work of words, which showed thought provoking political headlines and the time posted… like a human enabled Twitter feed, on a giant marquis. There one minute, gone the next. A cardboard Lady Liberty wept in the foreground of this display. Accident?

Another was a display of video and sound, as a musician carried his drums up to the summit of a snowy mountain in France, his boots crunching in the snow as he climbed. The paintings, drawings and etchings were done on various mediums, from canvas, to wood, to plastic, to small brown paper bags (which the artist informed me were used to hide 40’s (beer), vs. my intuition that they were lunch bags… perspective).

How to be Neighborly: Engage with the local culture. You will become part of it, and it will become part of you.

I’m not really an art aficionado, but I do appreciate having creative people near and around me. They encourage me to think differently, or just think period. Whether I come to a conclusion, or not, is not the point. The point is to exercise the mind, isn’t it?