I answered my phone to a known number. A whispery voice, trying to be quiet said, “come quick. We are at your brother’s house. Come now and we shall all go to the art museum together.”
“I’m on my way Tellias. Is Eleora ready?” I asked.
“As ready as she’ll ever be. She dressed up nicely just for the occasion. None of those old ratty things you don’t like. Come quickly. We are tired of waiting.”
I told him I’d be right there. I’d told Eleora and Tellias, two extremely ancient Vampires that I’d take them to the art museum. My brother Val wanted to come too so we agreed to meet at his house downtown. Another reason for meeting at Val’s is that he would pick the two ancients up at their house on the farm by the river, least they get lost and drive around for days, or until they ran out of gas.
As I was headed out the door I heard a voice clear. When I turned around there was Nigel, The Ghost.
“I want to come with you,” he said.
“I’m not sure that is a good idea. You know how the other Vampires feel about Ghosts.”
“Screw the haters. I’m going with you. I put out the word and a couple of the artists are meeting me there.”
“Come on, I’ve never met them. They died before I was born and they’re usually not around. This is a special trip down here. They’re making a special effort.”
“Fine, come on. I’ll make sure nobody is an asshole to you, as long as YOU promise to behave.”
“Cross my heart and I’m already dead.”
As usual Nigel talks A LOT when we’re in the car. He started as soon as I pulled out of the driveway.
“When I first died, when I became a ghost, for a short time I could go anywhere. The first thing I did was go to art museums all over the world. The weird thing was that some of them were full of ghosts, especially the V&A in London.”
“I love the Victoria and Albert Museum,” I said.
“It rocks. If I’d ever had kids I would have taken them there. You know school started. I’ve been watching some pretty stupid stuff on Netflix and most of it gets kids and parents and school wrong. My first parents, if you can call them that, which you can’t because they spawned my deviant siblings and me, but they sure as hell didn’t take care of us…anyway, my adoptive parents, who I consider my real parents…they’re still alive by the way, I think, they were great parents. They were the first people who treated me like I was normal and wanted. They made the best pancakes. Made them together. It was really cute. He’d come up behind her and put his arms around her and he’d stir while she put in the ingredients. I bet they still do that. Where was I going with the? Oh right. I was watching this stupid confusing show about some stupid and confusing twins, and the mom, one of the confusing twins, made pancakes for her daughter with a smiley face made of blueberries. The kid says “Mommy, we use chocolate chips now, not blueberries.” Then the mom just hesitates and looks like she has done something wrong. If it was me I’d say, “Yeah, and you’re going to eat those blueberry pancakes or next time I’m making a smiley face out of jalapeno flavored corn nuts. The brat should be happy someone made her breakfast. A lot of kids don’t ever get any kind of breakfast.”
Corn nuts. I admit I had to laugh.
“Take this exit,” he yelled.
“Do you want to visit your grave?”
He became silent.
At the cemetery few small groups of ghosts, maybe two to three in a group, stood around under trees, or near monuments. They ignored us as we made our way to the place under the trees where Nigel’s body was buried.
“They leave me things,” he said. Around his headstone were oil pastels, quill pens, paint brushes, and a rapiodograph pen. “I don’t know if I should feel touched or appalled.”
“Why would you be appalled?”
“I don’t know. It just seems weird that people leave things for me. I know, a lot of artist get art supplies left on their graves, but where were they when I was alive? On the other hand I have to admit it is flattering. Being dead sucks. I don’t mean Vampire dead, but ghost dead. God damn it.”
I decided to change his mood. “I’ve heard rumors that two of your paintings might be donated to the art museum.”
“Really? Are you serious.”
“Absolutely. After the show in LA last year there has been a lot of interest in you.”
“I had a show? In Los Angeles? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know until yesterday.”
“Was it a success?”
“It was closed early for Covid but until then, yes it was a great success. I’ll bring up the articles about the show, and you when we get home. It was all good Nigel, even the stuff about you and your delightful personality.”
“Who put it on?”
“The PCH Graphics and Art Center. The showed sixty of your works.”
“Wow. That’s impressive. If someone had told me on my 26th birthday, that I’d be dead in a few months, and in 34 years I’d be a ghost standing by my own grave with a Vampire who was telling me about a retrospect show, I would have told them they were bat shit crazy.”
“Yet here we are.”
“Here we are. Let’s get out of here and go to the museum. By the way, I was buried in this tie.”
“Nice. Did you paint it yourself?”
“I did.” Then he winked at me and vanished until we got in the car.
When we arrived at Val’s home Eleora and Tellias were looking out the window. They look like they’re only 19 or 20, but they’re well over 2,000 years old. They’re old, as in elderly old.
Eleora wore a white sun dress with red silver dollar sized polka dots all over it. She wore red sandals and had her hair tied up in a yellow ribbon. Tellias wore a red button down shirt over a pair of orange plaid pants, and yellow flip flops. His pale blonde hair was tied back with an orange ribbon. I thought of my son’s friend Randy who used to always wear a pair of orange plaid pants when he was in high school.
When I got to the door they both came out and covered me with kisses and hugs then took my hands and led me inside.
Once we were inside they both opened their eyes wide and stared.
“You brought a Ghost,” said Tellias.
“A Ghost,” said Eleora.
“Why did you bring a Ghost?” Tellias asked.
“Why?” Eleora echoed.
“I invited him. You all know Nigel is an artist. I don’t have a problem with him and neither should you my darlings,” I said.
My brother Val came in dressed normally in a nice black tee shirt and nice shorts, looking fabulous, as always. He kissed my cheek, then nodded to Nigel.
“Let’s go,” he said. “I don’t want anyone acting like a rabid dog because we have a Ghost along with us.” I knew Val was joking about rabies, but in the back of my mind I thought maybe not.
“Vampires don’t get rabies,” said Tellias.
“Why not?” Nigel asked.
“Our body temperature is too low,” said Tellias.
“Much too low,” said Eleora. “Much much too low.”
“Too low,” said Tellias. “That is why possums don’t get rabies. Their body temperature is too low.”
“Opossums,” said Eleora. “They’re just too cool.”
“Possums are too cool.” said Tellias. “Yet, possums are not Vampires.”
“And they have pouches. They are marsupials,” said Eleora.
“Yes, indeed,” said Tellias. “Marsupials.”
“Indeed,” said Eleora, “and they are not Vampires because we do not have pouches. That is why about 2,400 years ago we invented pockets.”
“Pockets,” said Tellias. “Nothing is as useful as a pocket.”
“Nothing,” said Eleora.
After that exchange even Nigel was silent. Then he vanished until we arrived at the museum about five minutes later.
We found parking in the shade right in front of the art museum. The old historic building stood proud and beautiful. Next to it was the modern building that had stood for the past twelve years, different yet complimentary to the old Italianate Victorian.
Right before we entered Nigel showed up again.
“Juliette,” he said. “Stop for just a moment. I need to do something. The others can go ahead if they wish.” Then he closed his eyes and put his arm on mine.
I could feel him. This was the 4th time he’d done this in the past 10 years since I’ve known him. Making oneself physical isn’t easy for a Ghost. Most of them can’t do it.
“This is going to wear me out for weeks, maybe years, but I had to do it,” he said.
His hand was colder than that of a Vampire, or I guess a possum too. It was freezing cold but somehow comforting to know that after flipping me off and telling me fuck you for years, he finally had come to trust me. He might have just been f
ucking with me messing with me but bonding through art brings out the best in him.
Val ushered Eleora and Tellias in through the museum doors. Nigel and I followed behind.
The elevator led us up to the main exhibit “Another World – The Transcendental Painting Group”. This group of artist, who worked out of New Mexico in the 1930’s was not of the Transcendental Meditation ilk. They studied the philosophy of bringing the light from the inside to their paintings and drawings, not through figurative or landscape images, but through extremely graphic compositions with overlapping color and light. This philosophy also overlapped with film, music, and sculpture. The art is based in human need. That is the need for communicating beyond the world in which we live in everyday and painting nonobjective works with otherworldly beauty. It is such a unique group, that it is difficult to describe both the artwork and the philosophy.
Both dramatic and calming images from Stuart Walker, Agnes Pelton, Raymond Johnson, Florence Miller Pierce, and Horace Pierce, and others adorned the gallery walls.
“We knew the Pierces. Not well, but we’d me them,” said Eleora. “They were lovely. Their children were precious.”
“They were so young,” said Tellias. “Too young to have their futures shattered by the evils of war.”
Eleora turned to Nigel, who shared the last name Pierce. “Are you related to them?”
“Unfortunately, no,” said The Ghost. “My family was rather uninspired and about as spiritual and artistic as arsenic laced dog turds.”
“I’m sorry,” said Eleora. “If you need family who appreciates talent you may spend time with us. We will be your creative family.”
Val and I almost dropped our jaws to our feet. Tellias and Eleora spend a lifetime telling us to never trust Ghosts or allow them into our lives.
“But only you and that girlfriend Ghost of yours. No other Ghosts,” said Tellias. “No others. The last thing I need is a house full of confused spirits moping around and wailing all night long.”
“The last thing,” said Eleora.
“I completely agree with you,” said Nigel. “I wouldn’t want that either.”
Eleora and Tellias blew kisses at us all and wandered away to the next gallery to look at the jade collection.
“Persnickety old shits aren’t they,” said Nigel.
“The older they get the fewer filters they have,” said Val.
Nigel let go of my arm. “I have to go talk to someone. Horace Pierce and Stuart Walker are both here. I can’t believe this.”
He walked down the hall to meet with two younger men. Two Ghosts.
“Who is Nigel talking to?” Val asked.
“Horace Towner Pierce. He was one of artists in this exhibit. He was part of the Transcendental Painting Group. His wife was Florence Miller Pierce. They were both insanely talented, and young, and in love. Um, Horace was also interested in film. We’ll go see his stuff in a bit. It is quite beautiful. His life was both joyful and tragic. He died young. The other is Stuart Walker. He also died young due to illness during WWI. His pallet and the creation of his own world is just amazing. I’ll show you his work. If you get up close, you can almost feel him there with you. Someone once described his work as comparable to entering a quiet sanctuary, where the viewer is immediately hushed and soothed.”
“Pierce. Any relationship to our Nigel Pierce?”
“No. None at all. Let’s give them some space.”
Val and I looked for Eleroa and Tellias and found them in front of a large wall of Raymond Johnson pieces. Tellias had his arm around Eleora’s waist, and her head rested on his shoulder. We left them alone and wandered around on our own.
“I’m so glad this show is here. These artists should never be forgotten. A whole new group of people are now seeing their work,” said Val.
“I love this show so much,” I said, not feeling like I had to elaborate on it. With Val I never had to explain what I liked or how I felt about anything, especially art. He never questioned my connection with art, or the artists.
We wandered over to the 19th Century California art. These were the artists we’d grown up with. Eleora and Tellias had many of their paintings. I had a few. The connections went beyond that. I could hear Eleora telling Tellias how she remembers the parties, and the galleries, and the late nights. So many late nights. As a child I was fascinated by all of the accents from American, to English, to Scottish, German, French, and Italian.
I felt a cold hand touch my shoulder again, then take my arm. Nigel had joined us again.
He whispered, “Thank you for allowing me to come her with you,”
“My pleasure,” I said.
We noticed three women looking in our direction.
“I’m sorry to stare,” said one of them, a woman of about 60. “You look just like someone I used to know.”
“Nigel Pierce,” said The Ghost.
“Yes. He was the best. It broke all of our hearts when he died.”
“Truly heartbreaking,” said another woman, who was the same age.
A younger woman, who looked like she might have been the daughter of the first woman who spoke to us, just gave a quiet knowing smile to Nigel. I could see where she might think he was cute, well, because he was, is a good looking guy. I can imagine he would still look close to the same if he was still alive.
The first woman asked Nigel, “are you related to him by any chance?”
“Yes, I’m his nephew. I never met him,” said Nigel. “What is your name?”
“Gloria Fletcher,” she said.
“You posed for Nigel. You’re still stunning. I hear he said he wished you were single,” said Nigel.
“Thank you Gloria for sharing your memories,” said Nigel. “It means the world to me.” They talked a bit more before the women moved on.
Eleora and Tellias slept on the way back home. Val and I talked about what we are going to do for our mom’s birthday. Nigel told us he’d find his own way home and vanished.
It was such a thoughtful and unusual visit to the museum, even for four Vampires and a Ghost. I guess it was fitting that we saw the works of The Transcendental Painting Group. It is even more remarkable that we met Gloria.
By the way one of my cats is named Gloria.
Art touches our lives in so many ways, almost as if each piece of art was a living thing. Maybe it is, because art live in our hearts and souls. At least it does in mine.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman
Oh, how much I love that post!!
Thank you so much. That means so much to me.
The show “Another World” is going to be down your way at the LACMA after it ends at the Crocker Art Museum (Crockerart.org) in Sacramento. It is so beautiful. You should go see it. https://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/another-world
That would be nice, but I’m not in SoCal anymore, Juliette.
I saw that. I’ll send you a private note. I’ve been so out of touch with everyone lately.
So have I. But then, Allan. At times, we just need to concentrate on ourselves.