It wasn’t your typical 4th Avenue party. As Tucson’s All Souls Procession lurched and drummed past the bars and clubs, the verve was there but the black-out drunks were missing. This was reason for pause.
In the short time I’ve been in town, the 4th Avenue strip has become my go-to for a good time. Seeing it so packed but so sober — so well-behaved — was weirder than the Victorian get-ups in the crowd and all the painted-on skulls. To joining-in was joining a solemn hive of disguised men, women and ghoulish toddlers communing with death.
They wheeled coffins and altars with open urns glued-on, burping ash at the bumps in the road. They carried portraits of lost loved-ones, lockets, and locks of hair to honor memories. The clunky feet of the living trailed the dead. It wasn’t a parade. It was a procession, a ritual.
“I came to remember my father and my brother,” said Alicia Armijo, 34, who helped friends push a wooden float with pinned on family photos down the two-mile course.
The ritual spurred a low chant that passed through the crowd in waves, something like the “Ah-ai” in the chorus of “The Macarena,” only deeper. It also spurred reflection. How are they doing wherever they are? How am I doing on earth?
“I want my daughter to know I love her, that every day I try to fight for someone who needs help just like she did. I learned that from her,” said Joy Willets, 46, of her activist daughter Catherine who died of cancer.
Defiance was a part of the procession too — my favorite part. There was Joseph Kittinger and his gang screaming, “Fuck the reaper! Come get me motherfucker!”
And the kids, being themselves, cracked their make-up smiling and fought over candy on the sidewalk. One smacked the ice cream off another’s cone: crazy people, lunatics full of life.
All photos by Daniel C. Britt.