Nascar was just one bit of our time spent down in the DC area visiting my brother Kevin and special friends Kate, Alison and Kate’s dog, Poofy Dufkins. We also got out for a good ride in rural Virginia one day and down to Roosevelt Island the next, which is a pretty nice place to stroll around and read memorials about nature preservation.

It was on Saturday afternoon, after some great coordination by my brother Kev, that many, many folks gathered together in a downtown Irish Pub to raise our glasses to Shane and spend the night hanging out.  It took some kids 7-plus hours to get down from the Long Island area, and they came anyway!  Super rad.  Getting to be with such a massive group of kids, all hurting but ready to party down, was truly a fantastic way to celebrate Shane’s life.  I think about that night a lot now, and all of the friends, old and new, that I got to see and spend a little time with.  You guys and girls, and all the strength and love you have, are with me on my travels.

And then there was Nascar!   What a day it was!  Who knew getting together to watch race cars go around in a track could be so much fun?  My “guy” (Ryan Newman, based on a piece of paper I picked out of a hat) made it so far in the day, but got knocked out in a crash.  There also was a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’, pork pulling, chicken grilling, keg downing (though Lemery’s brew was the best J) and back patio chilling to be had.  A great way to spend a Sunday.  There will be no more eye-rolling at the mention of Nascar to this girl, that’s for sure.

 

Views from the saddle. A great day spent riding in rural Virginia...

...through quaint farmland...

We scoured the internet before we left, seeking out the biggest hills in the area. We got the rolling kind...

Preparation is the key...

Three of the finest individuals my lifetime has granted me with, dressed in their Nascar finest (Note: the photo stops where Perry's legs begin)...

Crowded around for the thunder of engines, we gathered to watch the race begin. Kevin was front and center...

Troy takes it all in. I'd like to think I wasn't the only one who learned a lot about the industry and downright lifestyle that is Nascar that day...

Another self portrait, as seen through Morgan's reflection...

That's how Kev and Kurt got it done...

 

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Dia de Muertos…

November 17, 2010

Since arriving in Mexico, we kept it in the back of our minds that there might be a chance to be in Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead celebration.  As our travels and pace unraveled, that likelihood became a reality.  We arrived late on October 30th and over the next few days got to experience and partake in many Dia de Muertos rituals and celebrations.

It is believed that in death loved ones do not actually leave, but merely continue their life in a parallel world and for one day a year the departed can return to their homes to be with their families.  For departed children that day is November 1st and for adults, November 2nd. Everywhere you look there are archways made of marigold flowers and altars containing offerings of fruits, bread and drinks for the visiting spirits.  I was also told that some families may leave their lost one’s favorite games or activities, such as paints and brushes if they were an artist.

I visited the Panteon General, Oaxaca‘s main cemetery, both days, marveling at the commotion and celebration that was occurring.  On one hand, there was a circus happening outside the gates.  Literally, a carnival was set up, with rides and games and various stalls selling food and offerings lined the walkways toward the entrance.  Within the cemetery, the mood was still one of lightness and celebrating, but much more respectful.  Each day more and more graves would be covered in flowers, food and candles.  Some families would be gathered around, chairs set up and a regular family dinner occurring.  My favorite was the older man who brought in a xylophone and played furiously while the family danced happily around that particular gravesite.  The respect paid was so unlike the mourning you often see occupany death and cemeteries.  I must say that in glancing around, with the soft flicker of candles catching the corners of so many smiles, it was truly one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my time here in Mexico.

 

An altar with offerings to the deceased, including some rather famous icons...

Local artists decorate these large paper mache skulls and they are on display along the walking streets throughout the week...

In the evenings, the Zocalo was decorated with hundreds of candles...

...illuminating the gazebo in a fairytale like way...

The evening of November 1st was a fantastic frenzy, with celebrations and parades happening all throughout the city's streets...

Never to miss an opportunity to sell stuff, these vendors lined the walkways leading into the cemetery. A bit bizarre, but at the same time all in the good fun of the holdiay...

A walk through the graveyard culminated my understanding of the holiday. Everywhere I looked there were beautifully decorated and cared for sites, exhibiting the true colors of Dia de Muertos...

The love and honoring shown clearly in the time these offerings take and the attention to detail...

And yes, it was a lot of continuous, upbeat celebrating. Sometimes you can't help but pass out on a sidewalk...