Creative Ghosts

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity. I am an artist and writer. By using both I am a story-teller using both words and pictures – sometimes together and sometimes not.

I am fortunate to know so many other creative beings who are writers, artists and musicians and even actors. Anyway, being one of those kinds of people is never easy. The risks of even admitting one is creative is great. You’re scorned if it is your passion or if try to make a living of it. You are celebrated if you succeed. There seems to be no in-between. And nobody understands, or so it seems. Mentors are few and far between. Paths are unclear and filled with holes.

Then again it can be wonderful and rewarding and magical. When I’m creating I’m happy. When I’m creating and making money that really makes me happy.

This morning I’m working on some drawings and writing, as well as some business…

I’d just fixed coffee in my red French press and looked out the window to see the red shoulder hawk sitting in an oak tree and turkeys walking below (just setting the scene.) Anyway, my brain was starting to go blank and doubt was setting in and my attention span was well, I have no attention span what so ever.

I looked up from my computer to see a pale face surrounded by a mass of shaggy dark hair. It was Nigel, THE GHOST, my ghost, sitting across from me with a fuck-you-Juliette look on his face.

“What are you trying to do today Vampire?” He was in one of his usual fresh out of the grave moods.

“I was just thinking about all of my insanely creative friends.”

“You have friends?”

“Don’t be rude. So tell me Nigel, you were a successful artist. How did you manage it?”

He leaned back in the chair and then loosened his tie.

“Well, Juliette, my dear dear dear Juliette, I learned the business. I was sort of an asshole. I never took no for an answer. I believed in my art. But most of all I had a lot of support. Nobody every expected me to do anything but succeed. Good thing my family didn’t want anything to do with me or I would have never done anything. But my friends and my foster family were my real family. They believed. They made me believe. I probably would have killed myself before I ever made it out of high school if I’d stayed with my biological family. I was my art. My art was me. There was no separation. I worked smart too, learned from my mistakes and… connections were a big thing. I went to the right school. Right away I started to network and find the right people. I’ve never been shy. I was driven. I didn’t listen to anyone who wanted me to be nice or follow the norms or get a real job. Most of all I was good. I was great. People still buy my art. They still love it. Can you imagine if I’d lived? Can you imagine all of the people with real talent who are alive right now but so beaten down by all of the crap that they’ve heard all of their lives about how art doesn’t matter? At least their art doesn’t matter because… It was easy for me because I didn’t have to please anyone but myself and I was damn great at both art and pleasing myself. Everything is easy if you go throughout life as sort of a prick.”

I listened and thought a bit then poured more coffee.

I looked up and Nigel’s handsome almost transparent face was next to mine. “And you want to know what else Juliette? Tenacity. A lot of tenacity. A whole lot of tenacity.”

“It is easy when you’re young to dream,” I said, thinking of the teens I know, and of my own youth.

He gave a laugh, but it wasn’t mean. It was happy. “But when you’re old you have the life experience. You can do anything.”

“It isn’t that easy,” I said.

“Nothing is that easy, especially bringing back that passion but it can be done.”

“Anything else?”

“Don’t be a ghost before you’re dead,” said Nigel and he vanished in a whisp of blue smoke.

I’ve had doors slammed in my face. So I go to a side door or through a window. Or I find a better door. Or I kick the door down. Or I sit outside and yell. But as I go through my own front door, into the home I love knowing that my creativity bought this house I know that nothing can get me down at this point. It can’t. I won’t let it.

As I embark on new creative endeavours, new journeys so to speak, I will try not to bring any old ghosts with me. Well, with one exception. I will bring Nigel along with me, even if he is a pain in the ass sometimes. But when I go it alone I know he’ll be there, along with so many others cheering me on.

And in turn, I will be on the sidelines cheering on my creative friends. Better than that I’ll march in the parade beside them.

Never give up your art. Never give up your creative spirit. Never give up. Never. Like Nigel said – don’t be a ghost before you’re dead.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

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Where’d you hear I was dead?

I was sitting (and still am) at my dining room table with my laptop and overheard my husband on the phone.

“This is Theodore Kings…yes, it’s me Teddy….well I suppose, but no I’m not dead…I haven’t been dead for a long time. Where’d you hear I was dead?….Really?…I married Juliette…Yes, that Juliette… You and Juliette? My wife? Really. No I didn’t know… I wanted to ask you about…”

From there is was all business. I hadn’t thought about him for years. I hadn’t talked to him for at least eighty years if not longer. We’d spent a year on and off, more on, traveling around Europe and ended up in New England. Then we just sort of drifted apart and pst touch, as Vampires tend to do. I had no idea that Teddy knew him.

Anyway, what was I writing about? Huh.

Oh right, we were looking at vacation spots and thinking of either Iceland or Bermuda. Seriously. But we have to go to New Mexico and school and skate schedules have us booked up.

The cat is on the table next to me purring, then I hear a voice asking, “So are you dead?”

I look up to see The Ghost sitting across from me. Yes, that ghost.

“I’m very much alive,” I tell him.

He smiled that nasty shit eating grin of his, “Sort of like those parasites that go dormant for years on end then come to life when they smell blood.”

“Do you need something Nigel?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Not really.”

Tonight his eyes were almost black under his long lashes. He smiled and started to fade out, then reappeared in the chair next to me. He is so annoying.

“Juliette, my dear, you were never a real person were you?”

“No, I was never a real person. I’m one of the lucky 10% of Vampires born this way.”

“Then how can you be undead? I mean you’re a Vampire so you’re supposed to be undead. But you were born alive as a Vampire, so you didn’t die first did you? That wouldn’t make any sense. Then again, I’m a ghost and that never made any sense to me. I was alive and then I was a ghost. And my body is in a box marked with a stone. People still come by and visit there. I’m hardly ever around when they visit. And here we are talking. Fancy that. So what exactly is undead? Isn’t it weird to be a monster? Do you ever feel like a freak of nature?”

“We’re done talking Nigel.”

“You’re done Juliette. I’m just going to hang out for a while. Go back to what you were doing.”

I tried to ignore him and started to look up stuff, you know research on the book I haven’t finished yet.

“Hey, Juliette, mind if I take your car?”

“You’re a ghost. You can’t drive.”

“Just checking to see if you were listening.”

I reached out and touched where his hand was. My palm rested on the table but it made him smile. “I’m listening. It must be difficult to be real and then not real. Teddy had a Hell of a time adjusting. How are you doing with it Nigel?”

“Alright I guess. I need to get out and haunt more but it gets old after a while. Not quite 30 years and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Just kidding. It’s fucking great.” He almost spat that out with a ghostly snarl. Not as good as a Vampire would snarl it out but almost.

We sat for a while and listened in to Teddy’s phone call. They were talking about diamonds.

Nigel stood up and straightened his cufflinks. “It was fun. I gotta go.”

“Haunting?”

He smiled. “No, hot date.” Then he vanished with a thin bit of blue smoke like an exotic cigarette, but without the smell.

You can’t always define friendship or connections or old loves or old pals. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? It’s just a thing.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First published January 2015

Fog

Today is perfect. Thick fog blankets the oaks. Small birds dance among the branches. Rain is supposed to come later today, but this morning I will enjoy the cold, damp, beautiful, and mysterious fog.

Out on the deck, in his usual spot, I could see the Ghost talking to my calico cat. Even in the fog, even in his semi-transparent state his black hair shines, and his blue eyes stand out like a Caribbean lagoon.

“I know you’re watching me. I know you’re writing about me,” he yells making the glass of my dining room windows shake.

I went outside, trying not to trip over the cats who are trying to get out and in at the same time. The calico hissed at the younger gray cat. He backed off, then pushed himself around her. They always get so pissy with each other. It is even worse now that the dog is gone.

Last night I was wondering why the area around the cat food bowls is so messy these days. Ahhh. There is no dog to clean up the floor. Damn. I miss my dog so much I can’t even say it out loud.

I make it out to the deck feeling the wonderful cool damp air on my face.

“Do dogs ever become ghosts?” I had to ask.

The Ghost gives me one of those are you stupid or what looks. “No, dogs don’t become ghosts.” Then he looked away, over the trees, then back to me. “I miss her too. She was the best dog I ever met.” Yes, dogs can see ghosts and they love people even when they’re not alive.

We stood together, a Ghost and a Vampire watching the tiny finches and sparrows in the trees.

“When I was in high school, back in the late 70’s we had official smoking areas in school but we couldn’t eat in class. That was so stupid. A kid could take a smoking break but if he was hungry he couldn’t have a snack. Now there aren’t smoking areas but kids can eat in class. Some things change for the better. A lot of things about high school are better now. Where your kids go, went, still go, teachers aren’t having sex with students anymore. Kids have more options on what classes they want to take. There aren’t elite classes reserved for the so called smart kids. Everybody gets a chance to excel. If I hadn’t died so young I bet I would have worked with teens. Fuck that, I would have been a parent with teens right now. I would have had a dog too. And a wife.” Then he smiled. “At least I do have a girlfriend. She is a ghost but I love her as if she was alive. She likes your kids. I like your kids. You did a great job with them, considering you’re a Vampire. My parents were total assholes.”

“Where are your parents Nigel? Are they still alive?”

He smiled a bitter smile. “My dad is in Hell as far as I know. I don’t know where my mother is. Maybe in prison. Maybe shacked up with some meth head out in the desert. She didn’t even go to my funeral. She has never visited my grave. Stupid bitch. I’m thankful I didn’t spend my formidable teen years with either one of them.”

That is all he’d say about his family. His memories of his past are full of memories he doesn’t want to say out loud, and the rest of his memories are filled with holes. I let him ramble on for a while. He’ll talk for hours. I don’t know if he is making up for lost time or if he has always been an extreme talker. I stopped listening when he started to talk about economic theories, and why the Gold Rush era ghosts who hang out by the lake are so annoying and creepy. I’ll have to agree with him on that one. The Gold Rush ghosts are exceptionally annoying and creepy.

It started to rain and we came inside.

Then Nigel smiled. “It is nice to talk to a real person, even if you are a Vampire.”

“You know I’m always here,” I told him.

Then he laughed and vanished.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Red Dress, White Trim, A Dancing Ghost and the Quiet Musings of a Vampire Mom

Red Dress, White Trim, A Dancing Ghost and the Quiet Musings of a Vampire Mom

She was a shining light in the forest, not a ghost who haunts but a ghost who dances to her own music.

I watched from my window as Mary danced in the woods. She wore not clothing of the 15th century when she lived, but a red mini dress with white fur trim on the hem and bell shaped sleeves. A long Santa had was on her head with a fluffy white ball at the tip. Bells adorned the top of her white over-the-knee boots. Her red-brown hair was braided with gold ribbon. When you’re a ghost you can wear what you want, do what you want, dance and love when you want.

That is if you don’t let your own ghosts get in the way. That was Mary.

Had it been any other ghost she would have annoyed the crap out of me, but since it was Mary I was enchanted. She is like a little elf who haunts my kitchen as she sits in front hot cups of coffee taking in the aroma. We chat about romance and fashion. She is a delightful little spirit.

Sometimes she slips and shows her own bloody and mangled murdered form but today she dances with joy to a long lost Christmas song.

A coyote yipped close by, down in the brush and Mary vanished. Damn coyotes. The cats lifted their heads at the noise. My dog didn’t even acknowledge the existence of her coyote cousins. Had it been a Golden Retriever she would have been all over it’s ass, but she had no time for coyotes.

Just as most Vampires have no time for ghosts.

I stood in front of the window with a glass of red wine in my hand watching the rain. My husband Teddy came up behind me and kissed my neck.

“What color do you want to paint the living room?”

“I don’t know. It depends on what color flooring we get,” I said putting my arms around his neck and kissing him.

I know that has nothing to do with ghosts but it has everything to do with how things go around my house. Just little bits, like a fragment of a song or just a small bite of something good.

“Did you see the ghost darling?” I asked my husband.

He missed her unfortunately. And so we started our evening discussing the news of the day, work, our kids, what color we want to paint the walls, what we’d wear to the next black tie party and other things married people talk about. What? Did you think we talk about spider webs, bats and blood all night? Hardly. We’re no Dracula and Elvira. Nobody we know is that.

Teddy asked me if I was going to tell anymore Christmas stories here. I think I will. I will also repost The Travelers (a Christmas tradition) and some new stories soon.

In the meantime, just imagine a tiny young transparent woman dancing in her red mini dress under the canopy of oak trees to the music of Tchaikovsky and Johnny Marks.

Have a lovely December,

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Passings in the Night

Passings in the Night

The plan tonight was to share some Vampire tales and adventures and truly funny things, but plans change.

Tonight I saw The Ghost, Nigel. He wore an impeccable black suit, his hair was a perfect glossy black and all in place. He motioned for me to sit with him out on my back deck under the cold night sky.

His eyes met mine and he told me a story.

“I died December 3, 1986. I normally wouldn’t have remembered the anniversary of my own death, but, it was the strangest thing, I was standing out in the woods, not doing much of anything. When you’re a ghost you don’t do much of anything. Anyway, I was out in the woods and a woman came towards me. She was smiling at me and I knew things about her. Her life had taken up where parts of mine had stopped. Then her life stopped December 3, 2013.

She looked at me for just a moment in passing. It was dark but I could see the light coming over the horizon. She asked me who I was and if we knew each other. I told her “I don’t know you, but we’ve loved some of the same people.” I turned her in the right direction.”

Nigel stood up and looked up at the stars, hovering in and out of a transparent state. Then he came close to me and made himself look as real as a live person.

“I couldn’t go with her. But I sent a little bit of my love along, I hope. Well, I know I did. Don’t look all sad. I’m a ghost. These things happen. Hey, nobody should die alone. She left surrounded by love.”

“Who was she?” I had to ask.

He shook his head slightly. “I don’t know. But we loved the same people, just not at the same time. I loved them first, then she loved them after I was gone. I have a feeling she was better at it than I was, or most people for that matter.”

There were so many questions I wanted to ask him but tonight was not the time to ask or to try to get answers.

Love is a force that we can’t explain or quantify. It goes beyond words, beyond sorrow and beyond grief.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

First posted December 2013 – In memory of Julian Elsworth and Lil Longshore.

 

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Small Ghosts – St. John the Baptist Cemetery – and my weird brother

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You never know who you are going to run into. Last Saturday morning we went out to the Farmer’s Market in Folsom. It wasn’t the usual California Certified Organic Farmer’s Market we usually go to, but one that was closer to home. We thought we’d give it a try.

By we I mean my daughter Clara and my elder brother Max. Of course Max complained that he wasn’t a morning person. I told him it would be just like when we were kids. He wasn’t impressed but enough prodding and cajoling got him up and into his usual black shirt and jeans. I always tell him that a visit to my house never guarantees he will get any sleep.

Yes, that is what this Vampire family does every once in a while. For those of you who are new here…we don’t live in the dark shadows or crypts or old black houses or castles. Our world is the same as yours… only we’re not quite like everyone else.

He wasn’t impressed by the market either. It was small compared to the larger Certified Organic Farmer’s Market we’ve been going to since the kids were babies. On the bright side there was a wonderful tea and spice seller I’d go back for. We also picked up some wool for a friend who spins.

The crowd wasn’t large. Maybe it was the biting cold wind. Despite that Max still got more than his fair share of looks. There is something about him that attracts people – a magnetism that oozes out of him even when he is at his grumpiest. A smile from him can warm and chill like death depending on what kind of mood he is in.

“Your friends are so weird,”Max said out of the blue as I was exploring the spice and tea booth.

“Tell me something I don’t know. At least they’re interesting.”

The night before we’d been out and about doing Vampire stuff (you know – Vampire stuff) and ran into my old pal Foxy Mendoza (aka Mitch aka Jonathan.) Foxy is pretty annoying and an acquired taste like fermented shark or unripe green oranges or dog food on toast. Foxy is always fun and flashy and for some reason he can charm those warm-blooded ladies unlike most Vampires. Women are attracted to Max like they’re attracted to chocolate or shoes. They like Foxy like … I have no idea. Last night Foxy was wearing red pants (something nobody should wear over the age of five) with a blue and green vest that he wore over a black shirt. This was topped with a pork pie hat with a peacock feather in it. None of it went with his strawberry blonde hair and pale complexion. He was talking about how cheese and mustard pairs up and the historic… anyway, it was annoying – but fun to watch. Plus Foxy is always so glad to see us.

So back to the Farmer’s Market. I saw a few parents from the school so we had to chat. Max was charming as I introduced him.

By the time all of the booths had been viewed and we’d visited with our friends Max and Clara were ready to go.

On the way home I decided to stop by the old St. John the Baptist Catholic cemetery (this is really an old-fashioned graveyard.) You’ll find no lavish crypts here. It is a small plot of about two or three acres and a small church founded in 1853. Yes, this was the Gold Rush Era in California. Irish emigrants came here to find their fortunes, make a better life and for many, die before their time. Unfortunately like many cemeteries of that time a high number of the graves are those of children and young people in their teens and twenties. Deaths at a young age were not unexpected, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t tragic or heartbreaking to their families and friends.

Max walked alone for a bit while Clara and I looked for stories in the headstone inscriptions.

A few were born around the same time as us or born before we were. We remembered places like this as a child, but so many are now gone or moved. Maxwell was born in 1849 on a ship in San Francisco Bay. I came along ten years later with three more brothers in-between us. We thought such practices of burying folks was odd, until we were told that we were not like others. If we were lucky and smart we’d be around long after the white stones turned gray with age and wind wore the names down to a faint scratch.

We didn’t feel any ghosts in this place. We never have. Everyone had moved on or moved elsewhere. Maybe under a full moon or an anniversary there might be the spirit of one of the occupants, but the place has never felt overly haunted like other places of the dead. You might find them (ghosts) walking the banks of the lake or sitting on the edge of the bluffs, but not here where they were laid to rest so long ago.

That isn’t quite the entire story. In the back, along the fence is the lone grave of a small child. She didn’t live during the Gold Rush but a much later addition. Her name was Julie Ann and she lived from 1975 to 1983. Over the years her grave has been visited by strangers but there is no sign of anyone around who loved or cared about her. Her stone is covered with dirt, lichen and leaves. She is alone, far from the family graves of children who lived in the nineteenth century.  I hope she was loved. More than anything I hope she isn’t there.

As a rule I hate ghosts, but the small ones are sad little things that need to move on and have their peace.

Clara jolted Max out of his revelries by bumping on his arm and asking, “So, Uncle Max, how long do you plan on having the squirrel on your face?”

“Excuse me?” Max looked annoyed.

“The beard. I think it looks good,” I told him. It does looks good – short and neat, not one of those shaggy things.

“You should shave it off. But I like the glasses,” said Clara. Like a lot of teenage girls, Clara thinks glasses on good-looking guys is ultra hot. She wandered off to look at more stones and find things to tell her friends about.

Max stopped by one of the older stones and smiled. The inscription was of a 21-year-old women from Ireland who died in 1862. She’d come all the way to California only to quickly die.

My brother glanced at me. “She isn’t there.”

“Tell me more,” I said leaning against him in that funny way siblings lean on each other.

“Mom turned her.”

I almost said HOLY SHIT, but let him continue his story.

“The lass was in an abusive marriage. As a Vampire she could have freedom she never had as a young wife with a husband who thought it was his duty to beat her. So with the help of our dear mother she escaped and a stone was placed on an empty grave.” Then he gave a low laugh. “She lives in Seattle now.”

“You know her?”

“Yes, I know her. Oh don’t look surprised. She seduced me when I was sixteen.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were only six – just a kid.”

We looked up to see Clara looking at more stones as she made her way back up to the car. I was not going to tell her about Max’s friend. She could learn about that later – much later.

Anyway, for those of you who are traveling around Northern California or in  the Sacramento area and looking for something to do on a Saturday or Sunday check out Folsom. You can visit St. John the Baptist then talk a walk down historic Sutter Street, have lunch, shop or stop by and have a beer at one of the many fine pubs. Walk down to the old Powerhouse or across the old footbridge and get a first class view of the beautiful Rainbow Bridge and Lake Natoma. Then have a picnic at Negro Bar State Park and feed the geese and ducks at the beach. Bring your bicycles and ride around the lake on the American River Bike Trail. Or head over to the Folsom Zoo where you can see the most amazing assortment of wild animals (from tigers to hawks to monkeys) who have been rescued and can no longer survive in the wild on their own. Then take a drive over to Folsom Dam. There used to be water in the lake before the drought (really, I kid you not.) You can also see the famous Folsom Prison which is right next to the lake. Maybe you’ll hear the ghost of Johnny Cash singing in the hills (I doubt that too but it sure would be cool.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First published in 2015
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On the American River Bike Trail near Negro Bar.

On the American River Bike Trail near Negro Bar.