Sunday, November 01, 2009

Dia de los Muertos

Happy Dia de los Muertos!!! This is a Mexican tradition, which supposedly pre-dates Christianity. I don't really know that much about it, but it has come to my attention only within the past few years because I became fascinated with the artistic skeletion figures one can buy in a "Fair Trade" shop in Portland (there are quite a few, actually). Call me morbid, but I just love skeletons and skulls, especially when they appear in art.

Portland supposedly has one of the largest Dia de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead" for anyone who's an "English only" xenophobe) festivals in the country (Guadalahara, Mexico is one of Portland's sister cities). There's a parade tomorrow at 3 p.m. that I hope to attend if I'm not too into getting my apartment organized that I make it an all day housecleaning. It might make for a good break to get out of the apartment and see these artistic skeleton costumes up close.

On Halloween, I just relaxed in the apartment for most of the day. In the afternoon, I had errands to run, which included going out to the Cascades shopping center near the airport. Its right on the MAX line, so that's convenient, though its further out than I normally go to shop. This shopping center has a Best Buy, Sports Authority, and most important of all: Ikea. As well as a bunch of other little stores and the usual stores like Ross and Marshalls.

My primary reason for going is because I had to pick up a display of the planets in our solar system at the Learning Palace (geared towards school teachers). At work, we're making the busiest season a little bit fun for the professional staff. We keep track of their membership goals and other paperwork that needs to be compiled and turned in. So, on the wall of my section of the office, I will put up all the planets from Earth to Neptune, with a space station and the moon as well. The theme is borrowed from Star Trek: "Boldly go where no D.E.* has gone before." (*D.E. is the nickname of the professional staff, which stands for "District Executive")

I have a bunch of USS Enterprise spaceships printed for each district in our organization. Each planet represents meeting 10% of their overall goal. If they make it past 90% by year's end, their spaceship will pass Neptune and enter "the New Frontier." What do they win? I don't know yet. Maybe a Milky War bar for their efforts. It should be fun and hopefully make things a little less stressful. We are entering the season I hate the most at my work, because the obsession with numbers increases each month, with the biggest pressure for the end of the year numbers. This includes membership and donations, and if they don't raise enough, there's talk that more employee cuts might have to be made in January. My job is certainly expendable, so it is my hope that if I just stick with this place through the end of the year, that a new place of employment will open up for me in January. At any rate, I'll have my passport by December and will apply to every private contractor position in the Middle East that I qualify for.

After finding the colourful, cardboard planetary display at the Learning Palace, I went to Ikea. This is the first time I've been to the one in Portland (its been open for a couple years now). The first time I went to an Ikea was in Seattle in 1999, and then in Salt Lake City in 2007. I like the store, but I must admit that it is a bit overwhelming to me. Its almost too much of a good thing. I prefer simple and small. I like to be in and out of stores, and only tend to linger in bookstores. Ikea, though, is a time consuming event. I like to look at all the room set up displays and get ideas. I also like looking at various products and trying out the furniture. Most of the designs, though, aren't really my style (I'm pretty much a Pier 1 Imports / World Market kind of guy). But, while I'm not a fan of the furniture, I do like the bookcases, the loft beds, and the simpler items (the kinds you don't have to pick up in the warehouse). The picture frames are great and pretty reasonably priced.

I found what I was looking for (two DVD storage boxes for $4.99--one is to store all my Mormon movies in and the other will store my other spiritual films. The rest of my DVDs are on display on various shelves). I wanted to get some other things, but I was disciplined. I'll probably go again before Christmas for some gifts to family. I was tempted to eat at the cafeteria. The food looked so good, but I behaved myself. Maybe I should have splurged on Swedish meatballs, because today begins my new diet. No more consumption of meats from cattle, pigs, or turkey. Once I adjust to that, I will see about ending my consumption of chicken, though that will be hard to give up. Chicken is probably my favourite meat.

On the ride back to downtown Portland, I noticed quite a few people dressed up for Halloween. As I waited for the Green Line MAX, I saw a Red Line Max train with about eight adults all wearing full Care Bears costumes. Yikes! I also saw one man wearing a Santa Claus costume (interesting idea...mixing the holidays). Most of the costumed people I saw were an assortment of demons, witches, vampires, and zombies. Vampires and zombies seem to be especially popular in literature and movies these days. As cool as it is to see people dressed up for Halloween, Portland does not compare to Georgetown on Halloween. In 1995, a shipmate and I went up to D.C. over Halloween (I believe it was on a weekend). We stayed at a church member's apartment. He and his group of friends took my shipmate and I to Georgetown to see all the costumed folks walking around. I'll never forget one interesting couple: a male sex slave with a dog collar and chain, which was held by a very towering dominatrix. Scary. It would be funny if the guy on the leash was a Republican politician.

As I waited for the various MAX trains to take me to the Cascades shopping center and back home, I thought about the movie I saw Friday night: Paranormal Activity. According to an article I read online, it is now officially the most profitable movie ever made (surpassing record holder: The Blair Witch Project). An $11,000 film has grossed over $60 million. That's an amazing return on the money! I thought about the movie, though, and it didn't sit well with me. I did not have nightmares or troubles falling asleep. The movie is ridiculous. There were a few points in the movie that were ridiculous, but the ending was what killed it for me. While I did like a lot of the film and the way it built suspense and gave you scares with so little seen (we don't actually see the demonic ghost), the film was not without its weak points as well. A better ending would have made a stronger movie, I think.

So, here we are...in the final two months of the year. I hope I achieve a lot of my personal goals this month. I'll probably ease off on my job search, because finding a job near the end of the year is virtually impossible. Besides, they really need me at work and with the Star Trek theme to make goal achievement more fun for everyone, I have something to look forward to at work (and the irony of it all: a Star Wars fan is going with a Star Trek theme...but only because it was easier to find props to use). This month, I also begin writing my second novel with the target completion date of February 2010.

Finally, I wanted to bring this post back to Dia de los Muertos, because I like how Mexicans celebrate the dead in colourful, festive art and food. Its important to be reminded of our mortality and to remember loved ones who have passed. Our society seems to be almost repressive about death, to the point where people seem afraid to talk about it. How do I know? Because a lot of people think I'm morbid. I talk about death, spirituality, and the afterlife so casually that it has bothered some people, particularly those who'd rather not talk about it.

Also, whenever I mentioned my interest in finding a private contractor job in Iraq or Afghanistan, nearly everyone expresses some kind of fear. Yes, its dangerous...but its also an adventure, which is what my soul needs right now. I wasn't meant to work a low wage job behind a desk for the rest of my life. I don't fear death because I believe quite strongly that we are eternal beings. Its only the body we lose, when our time is up. Hopefully Dia de los Muertos will catch on in America as our country becomes more hispanic. This is definitely the Mexican tradition I love (more than Cinco de Mayo). Let's all dance with our skeletons today!

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