Sunday, January 10, 2016

A party in the House of a Thousand Spirits

Every now and then I marvel at the places I find myself visiting, wondering, "How did I get here?".
This was one such occasion.

The connection to this event was the Day of the Dead in Old Town a couple of months ago.  There is a group that plays it every year.  They are aficionados of old Mexican and American music and the mix of the two.  They are not spectacular, but they are serious.

I'm not sure they are real.   I had this same odd vibe when I was a young child, maybe 9 years old, and we took a detour to an old town with ruins--Mayan?--near Guatemala City.  The town is called Antigua, I believe.  And it was a highly surreal and creepy place.  The undead.

So, I heard this party is an annual thing and was under the impression that is was like a big music party with people bringing food for the buffet and their own drinks.  The latter part was the biggest hit.

Those people just keep milling about ever so slowly swirling in a counter clockwise direction around the buffet table.  Perhaps they hadn't eaten due to some pagan fasting ritual.  All I know is they were some eatin' fools.

Earlier in my life I was often the youngest in a group, youngest in my job, not that old.  Most of the time I am not the youngest guy in the room or even in the youngest 2/3.  Tonight I was in the youngest eighth.

People brought instruments and there was a room, where you put them, as you would coats in some places. I thought no one would ever play.  Oh, did I say; we were there because Sande works for the historical society that handles a lot of that Old Town stuff. And she'd never been but wanted to go.

She and Karen and I ended up playing some of her stuff.  A guy jumped on piano and did a great job playing along. As did a violin and mandolin.  That was kind of nice the crowd still scared me.  As did the house itself.

It is an old house.  It holds more rooms than one might think upon approach from outside.  Once inside the dark wood trim and seven hundred native American dolls line to ceiling trim along the dark wood running along all the walls and doorways.  Lots of doorways and halls, it seems, and everywhere were people.  Old people who did little but stand or sit and eat.

There was a grumpy old guy who was very tall and miffed that Sande didn't play When the Saints Go Marching In.  He had some harmonicas and was up for it.  Later, in one of the many rooms a piccolo sort of flute thing and a couple of fiddles were playing Irish sounding stuff.  It was good.  The grumpy guy busted out into Yellow Rose of Texas, sort of, on his harmonica.  Couple of choruses and that was that.  Not much back up there.

I forget the name someone said applies to that sort of doll.  Someone else confided in me that many native American tribes find such collections offensive because the dolls have religious-spiritual significance and this trivializes it.  Or some such.

Along the lower half of the main hallway there is a dark wooden, oldish Spanish looking cabinet built into the wall.  It has one place where there is wooden door covering a shelf inset, about 2 feet wide and 1 high.  It threw itself onto the floor with a big bang.  No one was near it, but the strange owner of the house, who I believe is a gringo but likes to dress like a mariachi, insisted someone brushed against it as they walked by.

I know it was some ticked off spirits and gods from ticked off tribes.  That place has got some weird vibe going on.  At least most of the others seemed to know everyone or a lot of people.  There must have been fifty people or more.  And this house would have been tight for a family of four, despite all the little rooms and seemingly redundant hallways.

Seriously.  I was told there were 700 dolls.  They lady has collected them since age 5.  Probably hundreds of years ago.  It looked more like 7000.  They lined the entire house.  Everywhere.  And banjos and obscure folk string instruments, but the dozen.  Maybe it gives the Indian spirits something to do.  Feather, not dot.  What?  Is that racist or culturally insensitive.  I mean it in the best of ways.

My first thought, was of voodoo.  It just looked like some of them might be good for some ritual hoohah.

A fish in just a splash or two of water.  Mostly like out of it though.  But I did like the way some responded to my showboating.  I did, a little bit.  I was playing along and doing what I should most of the time, but a few times a ride fell to me and I had fun with it.  I like it totally acoustic like this, sometimes.  I think I appeased the spirits.  They thought the crowd was very strange, too.

It is a cool house but not even the bedroom was free of wall to wall voodoo American dolls and other things from long ago. I would feel like they were going to jump me from all sides.

Many of the people are or have been associated with the Whaley House--a reportedly haunted edifice in Old Town which also houses the historical outfit's office.  Some people go crazy there.  They start saying things like, "they don't want us in here right now".  That kind of thing. Referring to the ghosts.    The girl Whaley killed herself there. In the outhouse I think. Apparently the old man is the one opposed to changed and people coming and going.

So, what a mix--native American angry, insulted gods and spirits, and the crazy Whaley ghost victims.  Makes for an unusual party.  Had I not still been wiped out sick I probably could have stayed and made mischief--or friends--or both.

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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


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