Mr. Sandman's Sandbox

The musings of a Deaf Californian on life, politics, religion, sex, and other unmentionables. This blog is not guaranteed to lead to bon mots appropriate for dinner-table conversation; make of it what you will.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blogger: Ave et Vale

You know, nothing is forever. Everything is finite, even the universe. So it stands to reason this blog is impermanent as well.

Now, before you start wondering, no-- I haven't decided to quit blogging. I know there's been long stretches of silence, moments of herky-jerkiness, where I've backposted and filled in the void. But generally, I've managed to keep this blog going for nearly two years. Throughout it all, I've enjoyed the platform I currently have.

But life is not just ultimately impermance; it's also about change. It's time for me to make a change. This is the last post I'll be doing here at Blogger. While I don't plan to eradicate this particular address, I won't be saying anything here anymore (with the exception of responding to any comments that come in following this particular post-- I'll still respond to you, my readers!). Instead, I'm setting up shop over at DeafRead. The new and improved Sandbox can be found at Mr. Sandman's Sandbox.

The name remains the same; all the entries have been imported and moved; my particular brand of rants and raves won't change; the general lack of comments probably won't change either (just my luck!). It's just the URL and the supporting platform, which will be WordPress.

I'll miss the combination of tan and cream, the old-fashioned font styling, and Haloscan. But I think it'll be fun regardless-- I'll still be spouting my particular brand of wisdom for you to appreciate or ignore, as you see fit.

So-- ave et vale. Hail and Farewell.

But considering I'm not "dead," but only moving, a better closing might be:

The Sandbox is dead; long live the Sandbox! *grin*

Monday, November 13, 2006

He's a Breast Man

Congrats to Matt Daigle, of Sioux Falls! He just won Mothering magazine's contest for an international breastfeeding symbol. While I was torn between the second and third choices in the finalist round, Daigle's symbol is similar to quite a few international symbols that I'm surprised someone else didn't draw it/think of it earlier. As it is, Daigle gets credit for it, although he's turned over all rights and has placed it in the public domain.

For an all-too-brief interview and a look at the winning design, go here. It's great that we have deaf people from all walks of life not only endeavoring to achieve equality with their hearing peers, but also achieving success and showcasing the fact that deafness is not everything, but just an aspect.

BoT Forges Ahead

Since November began, there hasn't been a lot of news coming from Kendall Green (although the post-mortem in the press is another matter!). But the past few days saw press releases from the Board of Trustees indicating it's full steam ahead.

On Saturday, November 11, BOT chair Pamela Holmes released a statement regarding the BoT's meeting and the fact that they heard from a number of representatives, "including students, faculty, university staff, representatives from the Clerc Center, and alumni. Also, prior to the meeting, the Board had an opportunity to meet with representatives from a parent group. We heard from the constituency groups their ideas about what characteristics an interim president should have and what the selection process should be."

I'm not sure who they met with exactly (they obviously heard from Alex Zernovoj and Noah Beckman, as per the Washington Post article yesterday), or for how long, but the fact that they are *listening* indicates a sea change from previously. This is a good sign; while the students cannot ever expect to wield real influence in choosing a president (and they shouldn't expect to)-- no student body anywhere has that much power-- it is imperative, especially given Gallaudet's unique constituency and alumni, that the Board listen as much as possible to the campus community and its affiliates.

This morning, the BoT sent out another memorandum, this one outlining the creation of the Interim President Selection Advisory Committee (IPSAC), and the Board's intentions. I was impressed by the intended makeup of the IPSAC:

1 student, SBG
1 student, GSA
1 student, International Students Association
1 student, Coalition of Students of Color
2 faculty
2 University staff
1 Clerc Center teacher
1 Clerc Center staff
2 alumni
2 administrators
1 member of the Board of Trustees

Past overrepresentation by BoT members has been corrected, alumni are included (which I think is very important), and the students cannot complain that they aren't being represented. Given the (very!) compressed schedule as presented, the IPSAC is going to have to be on their toes and present on-time and fully engaged in all the meetings that are necessary between now and the conclusion of their duties. I wish them luck.

I notice the BoT is being more careful this time-- no ranking of candidates is required, and they seem to have absorbed the lessons of the protest. They're being both proactive and protective at the same time-- smart move, IMHO. They know the eyes of the deaf community will be watching them, and they know the press is going to follow their next few moves carefully. I really don't envy the BoT their job right now.

It's also clear the BoT is not considering Dr. Jordan as an option, which I think is a very wise move-- his political capitol has been spent a thousand times over, and while a lot of people out there want him out now, most seem to have taken the tack (and one that I previously advocated) that it's best to just let him quietly serve out the remainder of his term-- a matter of weeks at this time.

The interim president has my sympathies, whoever that person is. I (and the rest of you!) will be very curious to see who submits an application. Given how last time turned out, the community should be grateful if more than two or three people apply. The job is tough to begin with, but to be on the hot seat in the wake of Fernandes? That may be asking for a bit too much. I wish the successful applicant a LOT of luck.

The 18-month time period seems sufficient time enough to prepare to develop satisfactory criteria regarding the attributes the next permanent president must have, to solicit campus and alumni input, and to allow some of the necessary reforms to begin, if not fully implemented.

I'm cautiously heartened by the Board's moves thus far. There's still far more that they need to do, or encourage the interim president/permanent president to do (for example, re-organizing DPS/DOSS-- I still find it appalling that many can barely communicate with students, staff, and faculty in ASL; and repealing the "Guidelines for Expressive Activities and Assemblies"-- Mishka Zena (Elizabeth) pointed this out as well). I just hope the rest of the community steps up to the plate with equally appropriate moves and dialogue. Those of us on the outside can do our part by minimizing the second-guessing (of which I've done my share), the speculation, and the gossip, and instead participate in the dialogue in our own way.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Off to the Races... Again

Well, as you know, I'm a political junkie. I recently looked back on my various posts and realized about half of them are in a political vein. Even those that deal with social commentary are about political issues, or topics that crop up in politics fairly frequently.

So you can imagine what life was like here Election night-- constant checking of various sites, talking with friends, and the like. It was definitely an improvement over 2000, 2002, and 2004. *grin*

While I wouldn't characterize the Dem's win as a sea change, I wouldn't exactly buy into the "normality" of the election cycle. Yes, the midterm election in a President's sixth year (assuming they serve two terms) tends to favor the opposition party, and there have been elections that were far more devastating (the 1958 election for example, when the Republicans lost 48 seats in the House, and 13 in the Senate), but I think it was very clear the public wasn't buying the hogwash coming out of the White House. If anything, support for the Iraq war has dropped substantially over the years, and it's pretty clear to me and to anyone with half a brain (and yes, there are quite a few people in this country with no minds at all) that most folks want out of the Middle East.

Corruption definitely played a part: Masturgate was recently followed by the Holier-Than-Thou's having a scandal of their own, thanks to "Pastor Ted," who has since been disavowed by such Holier-Than-Thous as Lou Sheldon, who curiously admitted that he and others had known about Ted's *ahem* personal life for some time now. So far it doesn't seem like there's going to be the same uproar about this concealed information as it was for Foley and his House buddies like Hastert and Reynolds (both of whom were re-elected-- Hastert's return was expected, but I'm disappointed the folks in Buffalo didn't see fit to toss Reynolds out on his ass-- guess the annual lake-effect snows froze their mental processes permanently...). This was all in addition to Abramoff, which definitely had a pronounced effect on such folks as Bob Ney, and here in California, Richard Pombo.

This last is a stunner I'm personally happy to have happened-- Jerry McNerney won in an upset over Pombo, and turned out one of the most stridently anti-environmental politicians I've ever known. In one particular instance, Pombo wanted to sell off 15 national parks; the resulting outrage prompted his staff to say it was all a "joke." (yeah, right)

Har har har. I don't particularly find it funny. Our parks are lands that should be held in stewardship permanently, not auctioned off to corporate interests. He wasn't a big supporter of the environment in many other ways, so I'm very happy to see him sent packing.

Regardless of the outcome of this election though, I think the Dem's hold on the Senate is precarious, at best, and I'm not holding my breath for a lot of change to be effected in the coming two years. What I'm hoping for is some renewed common sense, and some checks and balances (finally!) on Smirk's agenda.

What both bothers and delights me though, is that as of November 8, the next election began. The front-loaded calendar means in just a matter of months, we'll have to wade through tons of stuff about Clinton, McCain, Obama, and a host of others. We're off to the races again, and this go-round won't end until November 5, 2008. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens, as I think that will either point to real change, or to the continuation of a lot of things that started over the last few years. Whether it bodes well or not, we'll find out. As they say, to be continued...

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Our book group met once again, this time in the heart of the ethnic enclave of Jewish Los Angeles-- Canter's, the venerable deli on Fairfax, near the Farmer's Market. While there are other equally good delis out there (Nate'n Al, Jerry's, Factor's), Canter's is to my mind the grande dame.

The selection (book, that is!) this time was Wifey, by Judy Blume. I read this ages ago, but my housemate hadn't. She decided it would be a good read for the rest of us, but didn't realize it was going to be a bit more racy than the average Judy Blume book. The rest of us rapidly assured her it was NOT a "chick" book, nor was it necessarily what it appeared to be.

Wifey is the story of a Jewish housewife (thus, the choice of our venue) stuck in a less-than-ideal marriage. While the book is definitely a product of its time (it was published in 1978), it's amazing how well it has held up-- a lot of the themes are definitely issues we deal with today. Over pastrami on rye and other deli faves, we caught up with each other as well as dissected to death Blume's work.

I had originally been introduced to the book by an old friend/flame; however, all I remembered at this time was all the sex in the book (bad, bad me!). After re-reading it though, the book turned out to be far more wistful and thoughtful than I realized. While it isn't the deepest tome out there, it certainly provided more than enough fodder for our group.

Our next read and meeting will be next year, and I'm looking forward to it already. Right now, though, I need to pay attention to the wifey who's patiently waiting for me to stop writing and start giving her the attention she so richly deserves...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gallaudet: Public Perceptions

In the wake of the revocation of Fernandes' promotion by the Board of Trustees, the Deaf Blogosphere (or DeafBlogLand, if you will) celebrated and conducted an online assessment of the conclusion of the protest. Not to be outdone, the Corporate Media weighed in with its own postmortem-- but it wasn't very pretty.

While our internal community's retrospective was congratulatory and focused on the work that remained to be done, the outside world seemed to be tut-tutting at the turn of affairs at 800 Florida Avenue NE. Whether that bodes well or not, I'm not sure, but it does mean that in addition to the on-campus issues (audism, racism, sexism, institutionalism, dwarfism, Papism, ad nauseam), the campus community and the deaf community at large will have to fight an even larger (and to my mind, far more important) battle: the public relations image of Gallaudet, and by extension, the deaf community.

For better or worse, Gallaudet represents the deaf community (or at least, a very visible portion of it!); this can be positive, as it was in the wake of DPN, or when an alumni succeeded and attributed their accomplishments to their studies at Gallaudet. But it can also be a distinct drawback; if I had a dollar for every person I've talked with who said that they encountered skepticism in job interviews or outside contacts regarding their Gallaudet degrees, I could take a nice weekend trip somewhere (Jamie Berke, over at Berke Outspoken, talked about enrollment, and the subject of public perception emerged in the conversation she quoted). Like it or not, what happens at Gallaudet does impact (fairly or not!) public perception of Gallaudet alumni everywhere, and by extension, the signing deaf community at large.

A recent incident in my life exemplifies this: the Thursday before the Board capitulated to student demands, I had an obligation at my temp job that required an interpreter. The interpreter was new to me, and I to her-- as we chatted a bit and got to know each other, the inevitable question came up: "What do you think of Gallaudet?" I shared my stance, but quickly learned that the interpreter was against the protest. Now, bear in mind, this is someone who has had a long association with the community, views deaf people as equal to hearing people, understood Deaf Culture, signs ASL, and as a minority, understood how minority deaf people feel and where they're coming from. Yet she couldn't support the protest-- and this was largely because her perception was that the protest was based on identity politics.

For many of us who were not on campus or were not in touch with people who were on campus, it's very easy to view Gallaudet through the prism of the media, of second- and third-hand narratives, of information that that isn't and wasn't clearly explained and dissected. I spend way too much of my time tethered to my pager and to the computer, and in touch with people who are in contact with far more connected people than I. But this interpreter wasn't, and to be honest, she was far from alone. I've talked with tons of people out here over the last few months, and very few demonstrated they really understood and were able to sort through the various layers of issues, concerns, and elements regarding Fernandes, Gallaudet, the protest, and the state of the community the last 6-8 months.

I then explained to her why I supported the protest (with reservations, of course!); as I guided her through the timeline and explained each step of the way what various individuals and groups said and did, she started to understand. By the end of our conversation, she supported the protest, but agreed with me that FSSA had done a piss-poor job of PR, and that identity politics clouded everything.

Yes, identity politics. For that, we have quite a few people to thank. First are those idiots that verbalized and advertised their opposition to Fernandes based solely on her not being "deaf enough" or her (in)ability to sign ASL, her aloofness, her seeming disconnection to the pulse of the community, etc. Jeers also to Fernandes, Mercy Coogan, and the administration in general, who seized upon identity politics as the overarching narrative, and continued to push it in the media, at every opportunity. Personally, I'd like to see Coogan follow Fernandes and Jordan out the door; I really don't understand why Gallaudet couldn't have hired a deaf person to handle public relations-- it's not like they haven't before.

Finally, raspberries to the sorry individuals who collectively make up the Corporate Media-- while Susan Kinzie eventually wrote some balanced articles in her coverage of the protest for the Washington Post, quite a few others out there didn't do their homework, and merely seized upon what they considered to be conventional wisdom.

Some writers excoriated nearly everyone, and it doesn't come across as good: witness Marc Fisher's WaPo blog of October 30 ["Gallaudet's Grievous Misstep"], in which he takes the BoT to task, commenting "that they caved to the petulence and arrogance of the student protestors while sending only the mildest message of rebuke." His words paint the BoT as a bunch of ninnies, and the students as petulant and arrogant. Not a pretty picture. He also mentions Congress (which I think is NOT good-- remember, Congress is theoretically ultimately responsible to the voters and the citizens at large-- and if they think Gallaudet is a waste of money, they *will* tell their representatives so): "...the federal government, which uses taxpayer dollars to provide 70 percent of Gallaudet's budget... It will take a long time before Gallaudet's administration can regain any sense of control over the school; maybe they need some help from the entity that pays the freight."

The comments aren't much better either. Witness the words of Not my Tax Dollars:
If 70% of Gallaudet's money comes from the government and many students never really graduate (they jut linger around for years), where is the oversight as to how taxpayers money is being spent? Is Gallaudet a "true" university and is a degree from Gallaudet equivalent to a degree from any other university? If it is an accredited university, it certainly lacks guidelines that is applicable to other universities. It appears to me that my tax dollars is funding a free-wheeling commune. I say, shut it down unless it can be run as a real educational institution.
Let's hope people with the real power over the purse strings never read that...

But Fisher is in the minority-- most reporters and commenters merely repeated the basic facts, but they continued to select and highlight comments about identity politics. For example, in the New York Times article on October 30 [At College for Deaf, Trustees Drop New Leader], Diana Jean Schemo writes,
Dr. Chen Pichler said that protesters doubted Dr. Fernandes’s commitment to upholding the primacy of American Sign Language on campus, and that the next person selected would have to be strongly committed to reinforcing what is often referred to as Deaf culture — with a capital D — at Gallaudet.
While Dr. Chen Pichler mentioned that there were a host of other issues involved, the major quote was about-- surprise-- identity politics. It was only at the very end of the article (which is the first place that regional and local newspapers cut when they run out of room to publish the article in full-- I used to work in a newspaper composing room, and you'd be surprised at how much gets left out of the original article, even at the paper where the story originates) that Schemo mentions a crucial fact: "In a faculty vote several weeks ago, 82 percent of the faculty demanded that she step down." [Schemo's subsequent article, on October 31, was an improvement, but still danced around ASL, identity politics, and other factors that had nothing to do with Fernandes' mismanagement of Pre-College Programs and her actions as Provost, to say nothing of the problems during the Presidential selection process]

Back to the Post: the paper's editorial of October 31 [Gallaudet's Loss] again stressed disapproval of the students' actions-- while this is just the Post, the paper is rather influential in our public discourse, and is read by millions daily. The editorial's authors condemned the students: "...what triumphed was lawlessness and the principle that a university president should be chosen on the basis of popularity." [Obviously, the writers didn't read my posts about the fact that ultimately, the issue was the promotion of Fernandes, and the facts showed she wasn't deserving of promotion] The editorial went on to point out the lack of public relations on the part of the students [i.e., FSSA]:
When students launched their protest against president-designate Fernandes in the spring, many of them stated the objection that she was "not deaf enough." Though deaf, she grew up speaking and lip-reading; she did not learn sign language until she was a young adult. That protest theme didn't play well beyond Gallaudet, and it was dropped from public discourse; students and faculty soon were reacting angrily if it was ascribed to them. But the protest movement never came up with a convincing alternative explanation for their anti-Fernandes passion. All that was left was a series of relatively petty complaints about her executive style as provost.
I don't agree with the editorial at all, and I think the editorial's authors didn't fully do their homework (and obviously didn't do a good job of talking to Kinzie or reading her work; the disconnect between the editorial and news departments is common at many, many newspapers), but fairly or not, this is how the Corporate Media views the protests, the students, and Gallaudet as a whole.

Susan Kinzie's article, co-written with David Fahrenthold, on October 31 [At Gallaudet, Peace], discussed the aftermath of the protest, but quoted Dr. Janet Pray: "It's very dismaying to think what the future will be here. The board of trustees has sent a message that if you don't like a decision the board makes, you can just throw a temper tantrum . . ." While Pray was noted to be an administrator and Fernandes supporter, the notion that the students/protesters were throwing "a temper tantrum" isn't the kind of image Gallaudet or the deaf community needs.

So far, a lot of the problems stem from officials, professors, and staff members who have been quoted on Gallaudet. But it doesn't help when Noah Beckman, in an otherwise excellent interview with Newsweek [Being Heard] , closes by saying that he cut class [yes, Beckman, among others, was probably exhausted and needed a bit of downtime-- but is that really something you want to share with the world at large? What does that say about the emphasis placed on academics and personal drive?]. The beer chugging during the celebrations didn't help either-- luckily, it doesn't seem like the fallout from that landed in the national media [with the exception of Washington Post Express], but it certainly made an impression in the deaf blogosphere, as evidenced in DeafDC's coverage of the incident making the Express.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Luckily, there are some of us that are battling back in public. Aside from his unfortunate final comment, Beckman gave a good interview to Newsweek, and Kelby Brick's Op-Ed piece in the Baltimore Sun was sorely needed. It's going to take far more than just a bunch of interviews or some columns, or even blogs like the one I'm writing now. As my conversation with the interpreter demonstrates, we're going to have reclaim our public image, both as deaf people and as alumni, bit by bit, piece by piece, person by person. We're going to have to work harder at being ambassadors on behalf of deafness and deaf people than we ever have before.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Holiday Retrospective

For most people (including myself!), THE holiday to recover from has always been Christmas. It's my favorite holiday, but it's also the craziest time of year for lots of folks, yours truly included.

Still, we're a few weeks away from that, despite what the retailers have been telling you since the end of August (YES, I actually saw a couple of stores start putting out holiday decorations and items the last week of August. It's slowly increased since then, and started being out in force this past week, at the end of October. Yoo hoo? Anyone heard of Fall? Halloween? Thanksgiving? I remember when I was little, stores and businesses actually had Thanksgiving and harvest-themed decorations and goods on display. Now it seems like we figuratively jump from Labor Day and summer to Santa and Christmas. Sheesh), and there are other celebrations and things to do.

As it is, the last few days have worn me out, from walking down Santa Monica Boulevard from Doheny to La Cienega and back, and then hanging out at the old Plaza and Olvera Street. Still, it was a fun time, and I'm looking forward to next year. We enjoyed dressing up this year, but we have a killer costume concept for Halloween 2007. Never too early to start planning... *grin*

Anyway, I thought I'd present a retrospective of sorts, through pictures, of the last couple days.

Let's start with the annual festivities in WeHo. These gentlemen to the left are representative of the ladies of WeHo. Somehow, I don't know why, gays really get into the spirit of things so much better than we straights. There's almost always several crews of fashionably, exotically, or outlandishly dressed "women" parading the street, and these ladies are no exception!

This is an example of one of the more visible costumes during the night-- quite a few people were on stilts, platform shoes, or other types of height-enhancing contraptions as part of their costume. I don't know what the hell this is supposed to be, but it was cool enough we snapped a shot of this guy, and his pal in front. While there was considerably less near-nudity this year, there were quite a few people exposing plenty of ass, legs, and other limbs. I wasn't able to see them, but my walking buddy said she spotted a male-female streaking duo, and there were a few others that left precious little to the imagination...

Every year, there's always a bunch of folks as a group concept, and this year was no exception. Last year was better in my opinion, but there were quite a few themes and groupings in place for the big show this time around.

This is one of my favorites: the cast of major characters from "Sleeping Beauty," one of my favorite Disney films! Cruella De Vil (or Katherine Harris, take your pick) managed to sneak in there, but seeing as how it's all Disney, it's okay by me.

There always seems to be a fair number of monarchs presiding over the festivities, and this year was no exception. As you can see, Neptune flip-flopped his way from his nearby Pacific grotto to wander the streets and grace us with his presence.

The guy on his left, however, seems somewhat lost. Then again, there were a lot of people looking like that-- overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of costumes: left, right, behind, in front, coming towards you, already walked past you...

Just like little kids do, adults tend to follow the crowd, and Halloween is no exception. Every third partier we saw was a pirate, and it got old pretty quick. However, we thought this bad-ass dude was a bit more clever than most. People, may I present.... Davy Jones' Locker!

Politics and current events spark creativity in some, and more mundane outfits in others. Here we saw the marriage of a popular book/movie with political affairs, as The Man in The Yellow Hat ferries (In)Curious George through unfamiliar waters for Georgie... the Boystown of West Hollywood.

Then again, politics doesn't always have to be so serious, or so snide. As you can see here, the girls are really going all out for Arnie! Wonder if he'd love to pat their asses, comment on their tits, or maybe fondle them a little. Who knows...

Of course, that's not all we saw, but these represent some of the more interesting and unusual costumes we saw. We got pictures of just about everything we wanted to. Unfortunately, a couple of topical costumes, drenched in black humor, couldn't be captured. My one regret was not getting a snapshot of "Steve Irwin," with a *very* realistic stingray plastered across his khaki shirt, which was surrounded by blood. But hey, we can't win 'em all...

On All Souls' Day, we stationed ourselves in the heart of Los Angeles, in the oldest Europeanized area in town, where we toured the handful of altars, observed the Novenario, and watched the dancers, as they celebrated the next stage of life.

As we began to circumnavigate the old Plaza, we were greeted by this spectre, surrounded by decorations and and lights. A very spooky beginning to the evening...

Here's an example of an altar. This was one of the more elaborate ones, and was quite celebratory as well as mournful. The woman whose life is being remembered was a long-time doctor in East Los Angeles, who died of cancer not long ago. Her family not only decorated the altar with colorful skulls and bright lights, they created a homage to the departed woman, with pictures from throughout her life. In the front, you can see they've put out her favorite foods and drink, as they welcome her back -- after all, once she crosses the veil, she'll be hungry and thirsty.

What was especially nice (and quite a few of the altars do this), was the inclusion on a separate table of a biography, in both English and Spanish, of the doctor. I was able to get a sense of who she was, and why she was being remembered. Personally, I think it's a wonderful tradition.

The saddest part, though, was the altar set up yet again for the murdered and vanished women of Ciudad Juárez. It's been more than ten years, and there has still been no resolution. May these women rest in peace.

There were more people this time (at least it seemed so!) than when we went to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos previously. Because of the crowds, and because of the seeming disorganization of the participants, it took forever before we could see the processional, and even longer before we actually got to see the dancers in action. Here, Señor Death (or one of his minions), toasts oblivion as he undertakes the Dance of Death.

From the Land 0f Make-Believe to the Shadows of Darkness, it was an enjoyable time. Now I've got to start figuring out where I'm going to gain 5-7 pounds come November 23...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

El Día de Santos

Once again, Halloween transitions overnight into Dias de Los Muertes-- the Days of the Dead. Today is All Saints Day, and tomorrow is All Souls Day-- the days when the veil between the living and the departed is most fragile, and the quick are said to commune with the dead. It's a Latin American tradition, and one that has taken hold over the years in the United States, as more and more Latinos settle in los Estados Unidos.

In the past, we've gone to Olvera Street to help celebrate this holiday; last year, I decided not to go, but discussed a little bit about Dias de Los Muertes. As I get older, these few days on the edge of October and the start of November take on a more special meaning for me, as more and more people I once knew are no longer living. While I enjoy the parade, the sweets, and the atmosphere when I go to these celebrations and festivals, the meaning behind the Day of the Dead has started to permeate my thoughts, and I reflect, commemorate, and celebrate the friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and relatives that are no longer here.

Sometimes I think other nations and cultures have a healthier attitude and approach to death than we do. Here in the States, we've clinicalized and sanitized death to the point that it has become rather removed. I've never seen death naturally, in the home or in another environment; for me, death is something that happens in hospitals. In America, if someone is sick, whoosh! Off to the hospital, off to the intensive care unit. From there, it's a quick transition to the funeral home, the crematory, the cemetery. There's not much sense of natural transition, of a connection between the dying person's life and the state of transition that they're entering. Once the person is dead, people's reactions differ. Some choose to remember them, speak of them, embrace them still. Others refuse to speak of the dead, and to them, they are completely dead.

In Mexico, the attitude and cultural values surrounding death are so different. My great-aunt in Mexico visits my great-grandfather's grave during Dia de Los Muertos, and keeps his memory alive. To her, he isn't so much dead as he is simply just part of another world. He is still a part of her, still a part of life-- it's just that he physically isn't there anymore. Regardless of whether there is actually a next world or not, I find it a more healthy perspective. Even if a person is truly gone, they leave something of themselves with us. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes negative-- often, it's a mix of both. Remembering everything is what keeps them human, what keeps them with us.

To me, a person is not truly dead as long as there is someone still alive who remembers them. Within the strands of memory, we can see them, we can hear them (I know for us deaf, that may not be possible, never be possible-- but I've been told by hearing people that sometimes they dream of the dead, and they distinctly "hear" their voices just as they were when the speakers were alive), we interact with them. Sometimes this remembrance is private, personal, of a commemorative nature; sometimes it's a celebration, as Dias de Los Muertos expresses.

Once the last living person who remembers a dead person themselves die, then that person is truly dead. The same is true for an event, or historical occurrence. Right now we still have many people who remember World War II; the number of those who remember the Great Depression or the Roaring 20's are fewer. Those who can clearly remember or actually participated in the Great War are scarcer still, and the pool of those humans around the globe who were present in the year 1900, when Queen Victoria still sat on the throne, is miniscule compared with the total population (but their numbers have grown over the years-- we seem to be developing a larger pool of centenarians than ever before). There's a great site chronicling some of these long-lived people-- good way to kill a little time, and muse about the lives some of these people led.

But I digress. To me, many people in my life who have died are not truly dead; they are just around the corner, or beyond the hill. I can't see them, but I know they're there. Perhaps today and tomorrow, during these Days of the Dead, they are with me, just as I am still with them.

Viva el Amor Eterno

I do not fear death
as I know those who have died before me
will welcome me with their loving embrace. My senses will be awakened by the sweetness
of the Dia De Los Muertos yearly celebration. I shall be remembered for eternity,
as my decedents will be preparing
and adorning their altars in my honor
and for other beloved. There will be a sense of excitement
as they will be creating my favorite foods,
bringing me gifts that my soul has inspired
as they welcome me back. At my altar,
there will be the lovely aroma of the copal,
and a glass of water that will quench my thirst
when I arrive from my long journey.

The salt and sweets will remind me of
the bitterness and sweetness of life. I will see my family spending the day
lovingly cleaning my grave
and adorning it with zempasúchil (marigolds),
baby breath, candles and more. There will be great day of
laughter, music, and poetry.

I yearn to hear their stories of my life
that they will tell their children
so they may know who I am. Yes, it will be a joyous occasion
as I will be reunited
with my dear family and friends! Thank you, gracias.
I know I will not be forgotten. As your memories of me will continue
from generation to generation.
- Ginette Rondeau