Death Salon LA: A Recap

death salon skullIf you know me well, you know I like me some creepy things. I used to park myself in front of the Discovery Health Channel, watch Disney’s So Weird as a kid, and browse websites for tales of the supernatural. During my gawth intellectual phase, I listened to Cradle of Filth, googled all the fancy words and characters in their lyrics (e.g. Gilles de Rais, Erzulie, Lillith, Faust, Walpurgis, and so on), and ended up writing a term paper about Elizabeth “The Blood Countess” Bathory. I even thought I wanted to become a forensic scientist of some sort once I graduated high-school.

Instead, I ended up going to Brown University and concentrating on gender and sexuality studies, but the passion for these issues lived on. Nowadays, this interest in the “creepy and dark” manifests more obviously in things like my love of the TV series Hannibal, unique earrings (e.g. baby doll arms, a bobcat’s jawbones), and the history of medicine. I’m still entranced by mortality, rituals, bodies, and how we deal with all of these, so it must have come as no surprise to my friends and colleagues when they heard I was attending Death Salon LA.

After avidly consuming tons of posts from The Order of the Good Death website (finding it via the founder’s Ask a Mortician series on YouTube), I heard about this event and promptly freaked out with joy. I immediately told one of my colleagues (the inimitable Megan Andelloux, or “Oh Megan”) who shares my fascination with these topics. After some deliberation because our schedules were pretty packed, we booked our trips from Rhode Island to Los Angeles and got ready for a weekend full of intellectual stimulation.

In just one day at Death Salon LA, I learned about demonic semen transfer systems, the mortification of female saints, cadaver saponification, decorated Bolivian and Peruvian skulls that are said to be miraculous, the mummified Capuchin hanging wall friars in Palermo, the democratization of images via post-mortem photography, anthropomorphic taxidermy, anatomical Venuses, St. Bartholomew’s flayed skin that he held as a sash, death cabarets in 20th century Europe, and more.

The experience was wonderful and illuminating, and it balanced subjects so there would be something for everyone. Still, there was definitely a big emphasis on gender and sexuality, which I obviously really appreciated, and the interdisciplinary, multimedia approach catered to a variety of knowledge levels. I’m terribly excited to see where it goes from here, and though I probably can’t go next year (it’s in Europe in 2014), I’m looking forward to it in 2015 when it comes to Cleveland.

As a demonstration of my obsession with documentation, and as a means to share information with those who couldn’t attend this year, I tweeted up a storm while I was there, and upon returning to RI, crafted a recap of the media bits I nabbed in LA. You can check out the 2 days’ worth of relevant images, tweets, and pieces I corralled:

You can also see the version posted on the official Death Salon website. I was sadly unable to attend all the events, so I wasn’t able to recap the Atlas Obscura trip to a local cemetery or the Death Salon LA Soirée with death-themed food and drinks. I’ll leave you all to dig up those resources, no pun intended.

Latino Blog Challenge Day 6: Crossing Borders

Prompt: “Immigration: For or Against?”

I’m for people moving when they want and/or need to, and I’m pro immigrant/migrant rights. I’m pro youth getting an easier path to citizenship when they didn’t make the decision to migrate without papers, but were under the care of a guardian who made that decision for them.

Not a fan of conditions that make it so people HAVE to migrate against their will, so that families are separated, so that people work in subhuman conditions to send money home or feed their families. Not a fan of heavily controlled borders and the dehumanizing language around undocumented people (e.g. “illegals” and “aliens”). Not a fan of super difficult processes to become a citizen of a country where someone is working and/or fleeing and/or trying to provide for themselves/their family and/or be part of the community.

Latino Blog Challenge Day 3: Feed Me, Seymour!

Prompt: “Favorite Latin Cuisine”

HARD QUESTIONS! I’m a total foodie and just spent a weekend in Puerto Rico having amazing Latin-American food. At Tierra de Fuego, we ate Argentinian food; at Perurrican, we ate Peruvian and Peru/PR fusion food; and at home we ate comida criolla.

I think the defining feature of my favorite Latin-American cuisine, though, is the lack of heat and the blast of flavors. Having grown up in Puerto Rico to a boricua mom and a Cuban dad, those cuisines are definitely my favorite, though I do have soft spots for Argentine and Dominican food.

But let’s just get our mouths watering now, and I can share some food memories:

  • Milanesa (a breaded cutlet dish) a la napolitana (with ham, cheese, and marinara sauce) or a caballo (with a fried egg on top) from El Deli in Puerto Rico, an Argentine place where I drank the mushroom & wine sauce like a soup, where we could draw/sign on the walls with big markers.
  • Abuela making short-grained white rice with tocino as I sat on a small, white wicker chair and watched cartoons.
  • Picking out the black rice grains from the big measuring cup full of white rice as I stood on a chair helping a neighbor when we visited Mayaguez.
  • Picking parcha (passionfruit) and sugar cane and guineos (bananas) and carambolas (starfruit) and little medicinal herbs and recao from our backyard.
  • Christmases with arroz con gandules, home-made pasteles wrapped in twine and banana leaves, arroz con dulce with that little cinnamon stick. A roast pig on the spit and Christmas songs about going to see Jesus, about the jibaritos on the mountains.
  • Limbers made in plastic cups and eaten after school, bright yellow corn ice-cream with cinnamon on top (or guava sherbet with creamed cheese balls), and shaved ice piraguas in Old San Juan.

Latino Blog Challenge Day 2: Visitando la patria

Prompt: “What Latin American Country/Island have I been to”

Well, I’ve lived in a Latin-American country most of my life–18 years to be exact–though some debate if Puerto Rico is even a country at all. It’s actually an archipelago, for starters–a collection of islands in the Caribbean, part of the Greater Antilles–that’s still not sovereign. PR is a commonwealth of the U.S., a strange love-child of the Caribbean waters and the U.S. empire.

Aside from that and perhaps touching the shores of some other islands when I was too young to remember more than a few snippets, I’ve never been anywhere else in Latin-America.

Hopefully one day I’ll visit other places, but here are some at the top of the list:

  • Cuba–my father’s homeland. He and his family fled Fidel Castro’s regime and thus hopped over to Mexico, Florida, and eventually Puerto Rico while my dad was just a small child. They all said they’d never step foot back there until communism fell and/or Fidel and his line died out. 
  • Argentina–we had online friends there in the late 90’s due to my dad’s love of Argentine Dogos and my mom’s tech savvy, friendly nature.
  • Costa Rica–pretty pretty!