From “The Memoirs, Volume Two” :
Talk about depressing!
George Bush was about to start bombing
Sergio was around a lot and we always
talked about it and Day of the Dead was coming up and we remembered the
numerous altars we had done.
“Let’s do one against the war,” he said.
“Perfect,” I replied.
So he went and talked to his friend,
Freddy, at the IAGO, Toledo’s graphics arts museum, right on the Alcalá
walking street and directly in front of the big Santo Domingo church.
He reported back.
“Yeah, we can do it,” he said, “right in
front of IAGO, any time we want.”
“Well, what about permission, like from
the city?” I had done a lot of stuff on that street and others, and
knew permission from the city was always important, what with the street
cops and inspectors coming by.
“It’s IAGO’s space. They can do anything
they want. Besides, this is gorilla theater, Bill!” he said. I thought
well, OK, let’s do it, but Oh, brother!
* * *
So Sergio got a bunch of kids from his
school to help and I drew up some sketches. It was based around a giant,
realistic skull shaped like a globe with bloody continents dripping down
its head and positioned on a huge pile of other skulls, life-sized, and
assorted bones and rifles scattered underneath.
Up on the roof at the Periférico, our
crew constructed the big skull, of wood and cardboard, about ten feet
across, and covered with paper machier, then painted white with black
continents and, of course, red blood dripping all over it. The kids
came over and we made about fifty paper machier skulls, over baloons,
and painted them and bloodied them too. Pepe and Alfredo and Mary went
to work on a bunch of very realistic, cardboard AK-47's. We bloodied
Then we painted about a dozen big
cardboard plackards, black with the single word, NO, in white. It all
looked very dramatic.
I went to check out the location and talk
with the people at IAGO. Yeah, they said, good idea, do whatever you
want, Bill. I thought OK, here goes! I was getting a little queezy.
The day was nearing, we planned it for
the 31, to make the papers on the first of November, All Saints’ Day, we
hoped. I looked at the big skull, up on the roof. Then I looked at the
door. Much smaller than the skull, of course. Well, we’ll lower it
over the side, I thought. Then I looked over the side. Lots of
electric wires and telephone lines everywhere. Well, we’ll push it out
from the building with poles and guide wires, I thought. But what a job!
Then I looked over the back of the
building into the neighbors’ yard. A clear shot straight down, and then
straight out their garage doors. So I knocked on their door and talked
to the lady. Sure, any time you like, come on over.
It was still quite a task. Three or four
people up above and guide lines hanging down and, of course, all the
neighbor kids running around getting in the way and about getting
flattened by a descending monster skull. But we made it down and out
their front doors and into the rented pick-up we had hired.
My brother, John, and his wife, Paula,
happened to be in town. They’ve come a number of times for Day of the
Dead, and I always enjoy having them. So I said, come watch us put up
our altar, and they said, sure.
Well, we had our crew, of course, and the
kids from Sergio’s school and Sergio had gotten some lights and sound
equipment and the sound equipment guys, of course. The sun was just
going down and it was still light when we started to set it all up. A
borrowed platform was placed in the center of the street about six feet
tall, and the big skull on top of that. Right in front of IAGO is a
slight rise in the street and our death’s head really “loomed” out over
the plaza in front of Santo Domingo.
I was pretty much watching from the
sidelines, conscious of being a gringo and all, and the restrictions on
foreigners partaking in any political activity. John and Paula and I
sat on a nearby bench and I would occasionally send over some
instructions or other, to the crew.
The kids started piling up the bones and
skulls and AK-47's. Also, Sergio had sent a couple helpers over to the
main cemetery that afternoon, to the general discard area and they had
come back with four or five big, dead and faded, funeral wreathes they
had found, really gory, as well as a bunch of used flowers. Everyone
had brought lots of candles.
Slowly all this stuff was being
artistically arranged around the big centerpiece.
Well, it took forever and stuff kept falling or tilting and about to
collapse, of course, and Paula kept gasping and exclaiming, “Oh...Oh,
Finally, I said, “Paula, this is not your
job, to put up the altar.”
“But, Bill, that wreathe over there is
“Paula, do you have any doubt at all that
these kids are going to get the altar up just fine and in place and
looking great, all night long?"
"Good. Look, let’s go take a break and get a bite and come back in
a bit, OK?” Of course, I was nervous too, and glad to get out of
there for a while.
So, we left the kids in charge and I said
OK, make it real nice, guys.
And they did.
* * *
We came back in about an hour or so and
approached from below.
Hundreds of candles and additional lights
cast an orange glow upon the bloodied head. Sergio had recorded sounds
of gunfire and bombs, echoing against the tall buildings. The fading
funeral wreathes and bloodied arms lay on the ground. Long lines of
viewers walked silently past.
Paula said simply, “Oh, Bill.”
* * *
And, yes, we got big color photos in the
papers the next day and a banner headline, “Even the Dead Say No To War.”
* * *
...NEXT: "BACK TO SCHOOL"