Ocean View

Aside from too many Murphy’s Law moments I’m having a wonderful time visiting my daughter in Southern California.

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Yesterday we were in Laguna Beach. It was raining but still exceptionally beautiful. On Friday, after I almost missed my flight, we went to the dog beach. If you ever feel like crap go to a dog beach. You’ll immediately feel better.

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Laguna Beach, CA

I’m a bit tired and my old Vampire brain is full right now.

So here are a few more photos of Laguna Beach and the Art Museum there.

xoxox
Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Juliette’s Monday Book Club: Ecotopia

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Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach

On Christmas morning I found my stocking hung by the chimney with care with a copy of Ernest Callenbach‘s Ecotopia.

The back cover description: Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable-state” ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. Now, twenty years later, this isolated, mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned American visitor: New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston.

Skeptical yet curious about this green new world, Weston is determined to report his findings objectively. But from the start, he’s alternately impressed and unsettled by the laws governing Ecotopia’s earth-friendly agenda: energy-efficient “mini-cities” to eliminate urban sprawl, zero-tolerance pollution control, tree worship, ritual war games, and a woman-dominated government that has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the twenty-hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses. His old beliefs challenged, his cynicism replaced by hope, Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds.

Written in 1975 this novel is still relevant, especially today.

I haven’t read Ecotopia, but I’ll start today.

As a life long resident of California, and explorer of the West Coast and American West I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of California and maybe a few other states breaking off and seceding from the Union. I’m not one of those State of Jefferson folks, but the idea is fascinating (especially in today’s toxic political environment.)

So read along with me. Let me know what you think. My daughter told me that when she found the book at the used bookstore near the University she thought of me.

So happy reading, and wishing you a wonderful 2020 and many, many, many books well worth reading.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman 

The Quiet Beauty of the Dead: Colma Part 2

A few years ago (2016) I visited the city of Colma, where almost everyone is dead. Seriously, over a million graves are there with less than 2,000 living in residence. There are no cemeteries in San Francisco – they were all moved to Colma. People and pets are still buried there to this day.

The photos were taken by my friend Amelia who joined Clara and I for the day. Thank you Amelia. These are lovely.

Click here for Part 1.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Colma: Part 1, City of Angels – A Photo Essay

Colma: Part 1, City of Angels – A Photo Essay

No cemeteries are allowed in San Francisco. The town of Colma has become the official cemetery spot and now hosts over a million graves. The photos are from The Italian Cemetery, Cypress Lawn, and a pet cemetery.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Children's Area Italian Cemetery, Colma, CA

Children’s Area Italian Cemetery, Colma, CA

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A Tale of a broken down car on a not so lonely road.

It was 1932 and my brother Val and I were driving home for the holidays. We decided to drive rather than take the train. It provided us with more freedom and a chance to see some of the back roads of America. In 1932 almost everything was a back road compared to now.

Let me back up a bit. I told a version of this story, about six years ago, without as much detail.

Anyway, we packed up and took our Packard Dualcowl Pheaton on the road. What possessed me to wear silk and fur is beyond me now, but that is just how we did it in those days. Val as always looked dapper and totally relaxed. Val and I are less than two years apart in age and act and look too much alike to be taken as anything other than brother and sister.

Over the years Val and I have had a lot of adventures together, starting when we were children. In the 1860’s and 70’s we pretty much ran the streets as young Vampires anytime we could get away. Sometimes our brother Aaron would be with us. Rarely would our eldest brothers Max or Andy be with us. We saw people nailed to floors, public hangings, fights, and acts of violence that made no sense what so ever. We spied on artists as they painted or had affairs, or did both. We saw dog fights, cat fights, rode on trains and horses, and tried to do things that, as Vampires, were nothing but trouble for us but well worth the effort. We saw Werewolves, Ghosts, and some things we still haven’t been able to explain. We helped the helpless and even exacted revenge where it was appropriate. We kept secrets that we still keep.

So there we were, in 1931, driving on an dirt and gravel road with no name, across the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on trails that are older than old when something in our beautiful car blew smoke and sputtered and stopped.

It was night, which is no big deal for us. We could see the eyes in the woods. No big deal. Woodland creatures respect as they respect all predators. A couple of bears came cautiously close, black bears. We started to sing and the animals left. No need for bear spray.

“Now what?” I asked my brother. I was absolutely starving and needed food badly. Sure in a pinch an animal would do but human company would be nice. More than nice.

We walked down the road for a mile or two when we could smell the scent of human kind in the air and saw lights through the trees.

Then sounds. Mournful singing. Singing in weird monotone voices, pitched high and ancient sounding.

There were old songs handed down from generation to generation without benefit of written music or any written word. I was sure most of the singers couldn’t even write their own names. I remembered ancient ones singing songs like that when I was young. They were songs as old as the mountains and older than the memory of men.

These were people who had mined, and farmed, and settled the remote edge between California and Nevada. It was a place of unmatched beauty, wonder, and mystery. It was also a place where it cold snow any minute, a face I reminded Val. I did not want to be stuck in the snow and have to wait for someone to dig me out in the spring.

We came to a white washed clappard building, not a church because there was no steeple or cross. It was a meeting house. In neat black script above the door was written Oak Hall – Welcome All. The door opened and an arm motioned for us to come in.

The room was full of folk, plain folk of all ages, singing with unified voices songs of the hills. They sang of life. They sang of lust and greed. They sang of love. They sang of  the spirit that is deep in us all. They sang of all that they knew.

Then they looked at us in their basic work clothing. We were rich city folk, like two people who’d just come off of a movie set. We might have well been John Barrymore and Greta Garbo.

The man who waved for us to come in took us to a table near a stove with a pot of coffee, and a table with cakes and cookies.

“Our car broke down about a mile back. Is there a mechanic in the group who can help us? I can fix a tire or replace a belt but this is beyond my expertise,” said Val.

“The fancy Packard?”

“Yes, that is us. Wrong car to take on a cross country trip.”

“Mrs. Jeeter over there, the one in the blue dress, said she saw you and your wife drinking from a flask when you were pulled over earlier today, between here and Bodie. She said she was surprised you weren’t driving all zigzaggedly. Don’t worry about her, everybody around her partakes every now and then. We don’t care what the government tells us what to do.”

“My sister. This is my sister, not my wife. This is Miss Juliette Todd. I’m Val Todd.”

The man held out his hand, “John Cutter. Glad to meet you. Now that I look at you a bit more I can see how you look alike. Come on in and warm yourself up. We’ll have someone come out and look at your car in a bit.”

Another man, a giant of almost seven feet tall came up to us. He was wearing a black suit with worn work boots. “Don’t be afraid,” said the tall man who was obviously one of their leaders. “We know what you are. You’re people of the night. Show us your fangs.”

Val and I froze as they gathered around us. Then when our fear built up they started to sing.

We are all different
Children of the Earth
God’s blessing
On us all
God’s blessing
On us all
There is no evil
Only fear
There is no evil
No evil here.

Then they sat us down and offered us their wrists. They told us stories of Vampires and Werewolves, of Demons and Ghosts. They told us of all creatures and of their vision of all living in unity. Two of them admitted to being Werewolves. They all had stories of Vampires who’d rewarded those who had helped them.

They said they’d welcomed us because we were lost. They invited us to join them at their Thanksgiving table. There would be fresh turkey and greens, cornbread and black eyed peas. There would be pie and root vegetables found in the forest. There would be kinship and understanding.

We stayed for the feast. And we talked of their kin and traditions. We also told them of our family.

They all wanted to touch us. They all wanted to share their blood with us. We sang the songs with them into the night. We learned their songs and they learned a few of ours – or at least some popular songs of the day.

Val and I slept through the day, and when night came again they walked us back to our car, which started just fine.

I think about those people with their calloused hands and bright eyes. I think of their mismatched untrained voices that sang in unison like an unearthly wind or a chorus of lost angels.

And to this day Val and I are thankful. We never could find that road again and nobody we ever talked to knew of these folk we spent our Thanksgiving with. I’m sure they were real and not just ghosts in the woods. I’m sure this Thanksgiving one of their great grandchildren is listening to the story about the time those rich Vampires came to visit.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about who you want to be with, but maybe who you need to be with. We’re thankful for all of them. And thankful for the haunting memories of music and fellowship. Most of all we’re thankful for good intentions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

2019 Nano Pablano Cheer Peppers. 

Dia de Muertos Overload (and ghosts with banjos in my kitchen)

Dia de Muertos Overload (and ghosts with banjos in my kitchen)

I swear sometimes it feels like…

Halloween is just around the corner. Day of the Dead. Día de Muertos.

Sometimes the dead get too excited about the Day of the Dead. Sometimes the dead can’t wait.

As a Vampire I can see ghosts. I can see them almost all of the time. They’re everywhere, but they generally respect the space of others – especially those who are on the edge of the shadows.

But not this October.

I’ve got things crawling up my walls. Small hominoid weirdness in the form of shadows crawl up the walls and around the ceilings of my breakfast nook. I have no idea who they were or where they came from.

Then there are the 49ers, not football players but the ghosts of old gold miners camped out in my living room playing guitars and things that look like banjos. My house is built right next to a major gold mining area. People who mined gold tended to die young and away from home. Their ghosts linger around looking for comfort. I just wish they’d find comfort somewhere else.

For anyone else, anyone who can’t see ghosts it isn’t a problem. OK it usually isn’t a problem but I want my space back.

I’ve tried to shoo the gold miners away. They just look at me with sad faces and fade away for an hour or two, then I hear the music again. The music is horrible too. They’re going to make my ears explode.

As for the nasty little crawlers, They disgusted and frustrated me beyond just about everything I have ever known.

For the past week I’ve been seeing every ghost except my ghost. That would be Nigel the Ghost. And I can’t forget his charming girlfriend Mary. Nigel isn’t always that charming. In fact he’s a major asshole most of the time, but he is my asshole ghost.

Nigel didn’t come with the house. Neither did Mary but they’re here. We don’t know why, but look up the old blog posts about them.

Anyway, I’ve got a woman with her head in her hands walking up and down my stairs. I’ve got some musicians from the 1920’s hanging out in the kitchen. More just come and go. It’s a mess.

I was at my wit’s end but I had things to do, places to go, people to meet.

When I came home from a couple of meetings I had today the ghoulish gold miners were still playing their mournful songs.

“You guys are worse than leaf blowers,” I yelled at the. “You need to go away NOW.” I showed them my fangs, like that would do any good.

A small dark shadow sat in my kitchen window watching me with dark mournful eyes. I wondered if ghosts could get pink eye because this guy sure did have it.

The woman on the stairs had put her head back on, and she was now sitting on my stairs alongside another woman who had a huge knife sticking out of her chest. Their large skirts covered about half of the stairwell. I walked right through them on the way up to my bedroom. I thought about changing clothes but I had no idea who would suddenly appear.

This is ridiculous I thought. And it was. I mean, who likes a house full of ghosts? Nobody.

Then just about the time I almost felt like screaming in frustration I smelled a hint of red wine, gardenia, and oil paint. Turning around I saw Nigel, The Ghost.

“They’re all gone,” he said, as he rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. Then he shook his head and let his shaggy black hair fall into place around his pretty but very male face.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Anything for my favorite vampire,” he said with a slight smile. “They think you’re safe, the ghosts do. They think you’ll like them and blog about them. Like all ghosts they’re just a little confused and posts. They just don’t want to be forgotten.”

“That isn’t my problem,” I said.

“Obviously it IS your problem. But I took care of it Juliette. You owe me.”

“Yes, I do,” I said. I also regretted saying that as soon as the words left my mouth.

Nigel came close and I could feel him put his cold ghostly hands on my cold vampire shoulders. He put his face close to mine and whispered in my ear, “Even the most tormented souls long for a champion. Even those who live in the land of nowhere, in the perpetual hell of a tortured soul, and a fractured reality need love and a sense of safety. That is why they seek you out. Don’t be a bitch Juliette.”

Then he kissed my cheek with lips so warm it surprised me, then he stepped back and vanished with a wisp of blue smoke and the scent of pumpkin spice.

I stood for a minute, my mind full of ghosts, and my meetings, my family coming home in a few hours, and everything I needed to do in the next few hours. But I thought before I left home again that I’d share this.

October is here. As usual my brain is full.

And Nigel, if you’re reading this… don’t get too full of yourself.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman