Friday, November 16, 2012


After the last face-painted, sign-carrying individual walked past, I returned to street level and hoofed it to the end of the Processional route. Downtown Tucson is a warren of small side streets, so it was pretty easy to avoid getting caught up in the bystanders lining the sidewalk along most of the rest of the route, and catch up with almost the beginning of the processional. I was looking for my sister who was helping at the MMOS (Many Mouths One Stomach - the organizers of the event.) merchandise tent. When I was close to the end I got out the phone. The call went something like this:

Me: On call attempt number three and weaving in and out of people lining the sidewalk; to me: “answer, answer, answer.” then to her: “Good you answered. OK, where’s the tent?”

Sister: “I’m not at the tent.”

Me: Stunned silence for a moment as I mentally adjust my plans “Where are you then?”

Sister: “Walking in the Processional.”

Me: to myself “Well crap, I’ll never find her now.”

Me: to her “Where are you walking in the parade?”

Sister: “Near the big glowing Earth.”

Me: Coming to a halt and scanning the river of people and floats that is the processional “I see the Earth, where ‘near it’ are you?”

Sister: “Well right now, I am under the helicopter.”

Me: Glancing up and moving towards the Earth and ghetto bird “The helicopter is moving, are you in front of or behind the Earth?”

Sister: “Do you see the tall floaty white thing?”

Me: Scanning up and down the street. “The 'tall floaty white thing' in front of or behind the Earth?”

Sister: “Do you see the … oooo look at how cute that puppy is. Hey, did you see that? He’s so well painted. There’s my kid! Alex I’m glad you found us. Having fun?”

Me: “Ahemmmmmm.”

Sister: “Sorry. We are in the middle of the street next to the two giant heads.”

Me: “The one with the wings?”

Sister: “No the one with the glowing eyes.”

Me: starting to get a little frustrated. “Are you still near the Earth?”

Sister: “No we stopped to wait for you.”

Me: Turning back from trying to get to the Earth. “I can hear drums through your phone. Are you near the band?”

Feels tap on shoulder and is engulfed by hug from a young lady I barely recognized as my niece. “Hi, Bubba. Where’s your face paint? Mom’s just right back there, looking for you.”

Me: “Is she dressed up?”

Fabulous niece: “Yes, she’s wearing blue. See you later.” As she swirls off and is swallowed by the crowd.

Me: Sigh

Me: “I just saw your kid, I know you’re close, where are you?”

As I am peering through the ever changing sea of painted faces pouring past, I’m cursing my heritage. Being really short at times like this is a severe disadvantage. A brief opening between the cow bones bicycle and a family carrying a sign for their grandmother who died in August this year, and there is my sister - looking rather fantastic. Best face paint year ever. And next to her, a completely unexpected surprise, a friend I haven’t seen in 2 years. We hug, move off to the side and decide to wait for the band to catch up. As the musicians come abreast, we turn and get caught up in the flood of people swaying to the beat of the primal drumming and are carried along towards the final destination, a dirt parking lot, quickly filling with people.

In the Procession

We walked in the Processional for the rest of the route. It wasn’t much, only about a quarter mile, and spilled into the lot with the rest of the participants. My sister led the way to the merchandise booth being manned by, among others, my other sister. “Hi, love you. Can’t talk. To busy.”

My sister and I dove in to help. Having worked more art fairs than I can count, selling shirts and water was pretty easy. We stayed there until the finale was close starting, then I headed off to the next adventure of the night....

Visitors at the booth.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I also watched the entire Processional from start to finish. A first for me.

I found a perfect spot on the second level of a parking garage. Hanging over the rail (just a little, I’m afraid of heights), I had an unobstructed view of the street. It started slow, two policemen on bikes shooing people onto the curb. Then one police car, clearing the stragglers out of the street. Then a police truck, followed by two lone figures dressed in silver, playing a haunting, lonesome melody on saxophone and trumpet. Immediately behind was the urn and its entourage.

Then like a flash flood in a dry canyon, came the throngs of people in the processional filling the street. Some with face paint, some with full costumes, some with floats.

The floats aren’t like you imagine or think of at the Macy’s Day parade. They are hand-made, often lit with lights to glow in the dark, and represent the death of a person or something a thing; this year we had a local diner and the seed library represented, in addition to a native snake, Neil Armstrong, and a remembrance for transgender people. Though the most touching are the personal remembrances, a lost friend or family member. A simple photo being carried by a loved one. Multiple photos on placards. This year there was “the house that Bob built”, a replica of a house, with photos of family members and a small diorama with skeletons reclining on chairs, and a dozen or more people with signs and a wheeled cart remembering Momma Sousa, all with pink wigs and face paint.

Mixed in with the floats and the individual participants (most in groups) are bands. My absolute favorite part of the parade this year was watching a group go by singing a Catholic hymn, followed a few moments later by a group of Mariachis, followed by a group of Scottish pipers, in face paint. I thought to myself – “Only in Tucson”.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


One of the most important portions of the entire event is the burning of the urn. This year’s was made by Creative Machines, a local Tucson shop. It was comprised of 60 interlocking decorative metal panels and weighed 500 pounds. It was stunning. The purpose of the urn is to be filled with offerings, prayers, wishes both for the dead and living. The urn is pulled along the processional route by a horned god (well, a guy dressed up at a horned god) and accompanied by a contingent of people swathed in silver (well, this year they were in silver). As they move down the processional route they collect the papers from participants and bystanders and add them to the urn. During the finale the urn is hoisted to the top of a tower (this year, in past years it was suspended from a crane) and set on fire. Burning the wishes and sending them to the dead while being a guiding light to the deceased.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Some of the folks dressed up for the All Souls Procession.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Last night I attended the All Souls Procession, a local Tucson event and celebrated nowhere else in the world. The Procession is a cherished Tucson tradition, dating back to 1990. It a time when worlds come together and the dead are remembered and celebrated. In Tucson it is a very public spectacle involving about 35,000 people either walking in the a mile and a half long procession route or watching. Cumulating in the fiery consumption of the urn; the vessel carrying the hopes, prayers, and well wishes inscribed on a piece of paper and dropped into the urn by people during its journey along the route.

This year I went early and lurked around the staging area, shooting photos of the event unfolding. In past years, I have participated and that required me being at my sister’s house 2 hours early for a face painting and get your costume right party. We would then all head down to the Processional route and join in with the mass of people carrying signs, moving to the drums and raising the roof as we went under the 4th Ave underpass.

It was such a different experience this year. I was on my own, and didn’t need to worry about loosing someone of our party in the crowd, or where we would meet at the finale. I just meandered about; drifting to what ever caught my eye. With the sun still high enough in the sky to afford good light, I was able to capture a number of images, non-blurry, before the event even started.

Face painting booth

The urn,a beast this year comprised of interlocking metal panels, and the takio drum that follows

Float for the seed library

Individual costume. There's a person in there!

Carried by individuals walking along side.

Another float. 

A float remembering the maker's Mom.

I'm going to break this post up over the next couple of days due to the amount of photos I would like to share. Next will be photos of participants - I believe.

Friday, November 2, 2012


A little early evening peaceful time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This past year Engine 844 conducted a tour of the states, stopping in Arizona for its 100th birthday. After being completely unsatisfied with the photos taken at the Tucson train depot, I jumped in the car and headed north. I had shamelessly eavesdropped and caught a snipped of conversation between one of the train employees and a bystander. The train would be switching cars in Eloy. I ended up with over 30 minutes to shoot photos of a steam engine working. Now I know the reason for the fascination with trains. Magical.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


A ring around the moon. Something we don't see all too often in Tucson.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I've been following devastating events of Hurricane Sandy on the news from my very warm desert location in Tucson, Arizona. I have a sinking suspicion, the area around Pier 17 I visited during my trip to New York City in April, looks nothing like this at the moment. Our thoughts are with all of you on the east coast.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


One of my sister's many talents is landscape design. I saw this lovely walkway and immediately thought of her.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The reward after a very long hike.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I've been going through my photos, finally, and have found many from past trips, get-togethers and adventures. This past April, I was in New York city again for the North East Astronomy Forum (NEAF). An unexpected and most enjoyable surprise was 3 extra non-work related days in New York City. Adventures abound! including strolling the streets and marveling at exactly how tall the buildings are. So different than the mostly 1 and 2 story buildings in Tucson.