We don't have an annual festival honoring all the dead in the U.S. (no, our Halloween Snickers-and-SweetTarts fest does not count), and it's no wonder. Between cheap plastic surgery, biotechnologies that can deep freeze our heads, cyborg organ implants, and indefinitely expanded lifespans, why dwell on depressing stuff like mortality? But we need a good death ritual more than ever, if only to keep us humble. A little reminder of our own fragility once a year might help us keep our delusions of grandeur in check. And that, we think, would improve our politics, our social system, and our global relationships.
That may be a lot of weight for the Morikami Museum (4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach) to have to carry with its four-hour evening version of the Japanese Bon Festival. The Morikami's beloved annual festival is a condensed version of the Japanese holiday when, for a few days in mid-August, families from Tokyo to Nagasaki clean the gravesites of the departed, sweep the path between graveyard and home, light lanterns as spirit guides, and whip up a bunch of the ancestors' favorite treats. Everybody comes home: kids, grandkids, nephews, and nieces working in faraway places. It's a chance for the whole family to get together, even the family that doesn't happen to be alive at the moment.
The Morikami's Bon, which illuminates its famous gardens from 5 to 9 p.m., is a tasting menu; you get all the delicious highlights. The amazing Taiko drummers, for instance, are huge fun; they're a baton-twirling acrobatic rhythm section. And after you've had your fill of the ghost stories, the dance performances, and the crafts and games; after wandering the winding gravel paths and glutting yourself on sushi and sake, you're invited to make your own paper lantern boat as a memorial to a dead loved one. These boats are set adrift on the pond as dusk falls. It's a beautiful and moving ritual: The ghosts who have been remembered and embraced depart for another year. But they'll be back! Admission costs $10 for adults, $5 for kids. Call 561-495-0233. --Gail Shepherd
Stand By Your Band
During Miami's South Beach Carnival parade this October, bands of masquerade (or mas) marchers will strut their sexy costumes and celebrate the carnival tradition of Trinidad and Tobago. During the parade, the band is your community. There may be 100, maybe 500, people in your band. Maybe more. The band is your road crew, your source of music, food, and drink. You may stay true to your school, but you stand, or rather march, with your band. And the most important part of belonging? The costume, of course.
If you want to know what all the fuss is about, inspect the ooh-la-la costumes of one band. Check out the Flava Girls' debut of their "Mandrin Martini" costumes, and maybe even join up for the upcoming carnival. The Flava Girls are one of six sections of the CaribCrew band -- other CaribCrew booze-themed sections include "Champagne Dreams" and "Designated Driver." This is the first peek at the full Flava Girl costumes, with four on display, for men and women. Accompanying the debut will be music from Miami-based soca singer Roger George to get you revved up for the big party in October. The debut party starts at 10 p.m. at Club Meridian (115 S. 20th Ave., Hollywood). Admission costs $10. Visit www.flvagirls.com, or call 754-423-9635. --Dave Amber
... in the hood
The murder of underground radio station operator DJ Uncle Al surely would have garnered massive attention had it happened on a day other than September 10, 2001. Word on the streets of Liberty City, where Al lived, is that the fatal bullet was really intended for an acquaintance who'd stolen a competitor's radio transmitter. "Uncle Al was like our local Uncle Luke [Luther Campbell]," says Cedric Hollywood, program director for 99 Jamz, which is co-sponsoring today's "Peace in da Hood" street festival in memory of Al. Gospel singers warm up the stage, followed by space-age pimp duo Eightball & MJG, Ciara (she sings "Goodies," featuring Petey Pablo), and Miami regulars Dirtbag, DJ Spoon, and Picallo. "I'm sure Uncle Al is operating a pirate radio in the sky, proud of the fact that his city will never forget him," Hollywood says. "He's a Miami hero." Fifteenth Avenue, from 62nd to 71st Streets, will be bumping from noon to 9 p.m. The festival is free. Call 305-244-9056, or visit www.wedr.com. --Deirdra Funcheon
Dykes and Dogs
At the "Dogs and Their Dykes" event, the Best of Show could be the mangiest mutt and everyone will still applaud. Contest categories range from best costume to least obedient, but the owner-dog lookalike contest is a favorite. Maybe this year's contestants will feature snarling pit bull owners and prancing poodle owners. Since the room will be filled with dykes, we'll put our money on the pit bulls. The highlight of the day should be the Most Butch and Most Femme -- dog, not owner -- competitions. While dogs of any sexual orientation will be let in the door, you'll have to leave your cats at home. The show takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (1717 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale). It costs $10, plus a $3 entry fee per contest. Call 954-961-7176. --Karen Dale Wolman