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.

 

A particularly ill-tempered Ghost – or – Don’t forget your paranormal friends during the holiday season)

“I remember my last Thanksgiving. I was dead a week later.”

I looked up from my work at Nigel the Ghost. He’d materialized in the chair across from me in the breakfast nook. Today his black hair was in kind of a side bang across his blue eyes making him look like he was getting ready to sling his guitar over his shoulder and go play in a Punk Pop or New Wave band somewhere. He was wearing a white shirt with a black vest, and black tie looking rather somber.

When someone tells you something like that words often are difficult to find, especially if it is a particularly ill-tempered ghost.

So I asked the first question that came to mind. “Did you ever figure out who killed you?”

“No. Not a clue. It still pisses me off. I was in the shower and then nothing. Blood running down the drain and the side of my skull was bashed in.”

“How long has it been?”

“Thirty three years.”

There was a pause. We looked at each other but nobody said a world. I could hear the clock ticking, and the dog no doubt doing bad things in the back yard like digging a hole the size of Lake Tahoe.

“I hate the holidays. And you’re a Vampire, here forever, and you don’t even eat Turkey.”

“Turkey isn’t really a Vampire kind of thing Nigel.”

“So what do you eat? Small babies? Unsuspecting travelers from other states?”

“Were you this rude when you were alive?”

“No, but I’m doing my best to haunt you with my rudeness since I know I can’t frighten you with loud noises and flying furniture.”

I got up and went to the kitchen for more coffee. I’d made a note to my self to go to Dave’s Bottle Shop later because they are having a huge sale of Poet’s Blood and Philosopher Plasma. I can get 20% off of case price. That also includes wine. In the meantime I had a ghost to deal with, or not. I didn’t have to deal with him.

For as long as I’ve known him I’ve come to expect him to be especially assholish around November and December.

“We could visit your grave if you like. Do you want to watch a movie? I could check Netflix.” I said. “All the new Christmas movies are coming out now.”

The room grew cold. He brushed his hair out of his face and glared at me.

“What do you want from me Nigel?” I asked.  “You know I’m a Vampire. You know I don’t particularly like Ghosts.”

I got half and half out of the refrigerator, and poured it in my coffee.  Nigel followed me. He leaned on the kitchen counter.

“I can see right through you,” I said.

He slammed his fist on the counter, making the entire house shake. “Oh, now you think you know my motivation. Just because you’re a Vampire…”

“No, I can see right through you. You’re transparent. I can see the dog looking through the sliding glass door.”

He lifted his hand and the door opened letting a muddy dog inside. She went to her dog bed and curled up. I turned away and the dog jumped up on the couch and pretended I didn’t know.

I looked at the mud on the carpet.

Nigel ignored the mud. “May I please have a cup of coffee? It would calm my nerves.”

The Ghost sat down at the table with me and held his hands around the hot mug. He took in the smell of the coffee he couldn’t drink. “Thank you. I feel better now.”

He didn’t apologize for his rudeness or the mud. That was fine with me. I don’t expect much from any Ghost, especially Nigel.

He looked up at me and gave me a half smile. “So are you going to blog about how diverse the paranormal community is, and how we all get along, and how everybody should be like us?”

“Nobody reads my blog or listens to me Nigel,” I said.

“It was a stupid idea anyway. Mind if Mary and I come hang out with you on Thanksgiving? How about the entire week when your kids are home from school?”

“Sure, that would be nice. Everybody likes Mary,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Please note Juliette that I did thank you. This is for Mary as much as it is for me. She likes you.”

Mary is Nigel’s Ghost girlfriend. Long story short, she was murdered in 1701 or sometime around then. They’re a good match. He is sweet when she is around. Love will do that, even to a surly perpetually pissed off ghost.

My family is used to Ghosts. We don’t always like them, but we accept them, as long as they don’t throw furniture around.

I’m never sure what the head count will be for Thanksgiving. All are welcome, even if we aren’t all exactly the same. And even if we are.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

2019 Nano Pablano Cheer Peppers. 
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Coffee with Vampires and Ghosts

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

 

 

Musings on Pets, Art, Vampires, and Trying to Make Sense of Anything At All.

It started out as one of those days where the dog ate all of the cat food, the squirrels at all of the bird food, the cat tried to eat a bird that flew into my house, I’m trying to take photographs and the fall lighting is all off, then the cat barfed on the carpet. The other cat is asleep out on the deck. He never causes me problems aside from his yearly “I am an idiot and got myself gravely injured again,” vet visit. Today, I am also feeling a great sense of loss that has come over me in a wave.

A sense of loss and melancholy isn’t uncommon for Vampires. I just had to throw that out there.

I put on some sunscreen and decent clothes and went out in search of art supplies. I didn’t need any. I thought it might inspire me to try to put pen or pastel to paper. That is to put it to paper without fear of disappointing myself.

At the downtown art supply shop, the one that had been there for decades, I wandered the isles looking at brushes, textures, tools, and colors. I was drawn to all of the shades of gray, then got sort of perturbed that some asshole decided to write a bad porn book of that name that became oh so popular with bored middle aged women who didn’t date enough when they were single. Still I looked and imagined what I might create.

I felt a cold hand upon my arm, then looked to my left. “Connie,” I said upon seeing my old friend. Constantine Jones, the very one I wrote the story Night Dogs about. He’d told me about that night a few years back. I valued his friendship because he matched my love of art, both in creating it, and in studying it.

“Juliette. Pastels today?”

“Maybe,” I said.

We talked of art and our lives. He asked about my children. I asked him what he was up to. I purchased pastels and paper. He picked up a few brushes and oil paint. Then we walked down the tree lined street to a small independent coffee shop.

As we sat in the shade sipping our coffee nobody would have suspected that we were Vampires who’d know each other for over a century.

No, dear reader, this isn’t a story of fangs, dripping blood, or darkness. All creatures, even the most ardent predators, the lions, the hyenas, the wolves, and the wolverines, still need their times of peace. We are always aware, but sometimes we just need to take a break from what keeps our bodies alive and think about what keeps our passions alive.

Even more so it is the small things that matter. It is things we do for tangible reason like having coffee with an old friend. We talked about art, as kindred spirits do.

Connie touched took my hand in his. It was warm from holding the coffee. I thought how odd that was to have a warm touch from another Vampire.

“Your heart is heavy,” he said to me.

“I don’t know what it is right now,” I told him. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not.”

“It shall pass. I just have too much BS that I have to deal with.” That is true, but isn’t that the case for a lot of us.

Standing across the street I saw a lone figure with dark hair and a black suit with the tie loosened. Connie looked as well.

“A ghost,” he whispered. “Why is he looking over here?”

“I know him. He lives at my house most of the time, but he’s buried near here.” I motioned for my ghost, Nigel, who was an artist in life, to come join us.

I pulled up a chair for a friend that nobody but Constantine Jones and I could see. I ordered coffee for Nigel. He sat in the chair holding the cup and letting the aroma pass through him. He can’t drink it but he can smell it, which is a small comfort for a ghost.

We talked more of art, and the weather, and small things that friends talk about.

After two hours Connie went his own way and Nigel came home with me. As we drove down the freeway Nigel changed the radio station about thirty times. I finally yelled at him to stop it.

And now I’m home. I don’t know where Nigel got off to.

From my window I cans humming birds in the lemon and orange trees. The calico cat sits snoring in a chair. I can hear the other cat scratching a piece of wood outside.

I feel better. Sometimes we just need to get away from ourselves for a while, or at least get into a different place where we can be the selves we need to be, and deserve to be.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Halloween is Almost Here (more musings and random thoughts)

Halloween is almost here

Ghosts and Goblins yell and cheer,

Witches drink their Bat Eye Beer

Halloween is almost here.

 

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At the crack of dawn this morning, actually about an hour before, I looked out on my deck to find two ghosts holding coffee mugs and savoring the first stirrings of the woodland creatures who live in my yard and behind my house (along with the sounds of fire truck sirens, trucks and a random dog bark or two.) I watched my translucent friends put their heads together in close conversation, occasionally laughing or using hand gestures.

These ghosts have discarded any old ideas of white sheets and hollow eyed wails. They leave that for others. Sure they can haunt the crap out of anyone and show their form in death (a rather violent image, especially for the one called Mary) but they usually choose not to.

He has pale skin and dark, almost black glossy hair that layers around his face. She has long reddish brown hair that she lets blow in the ghostly winds that most of us can’t feel.

If it was any other pair of ghosts I would have chased them off, but these two are mine. At least mine because they live in my space. I usually don’t like ghosts or anything without a body, but there are always exceptions.

I didn’t interfere with their reveries. I’d pick up the cups later. That is the empty cups they fill with their phantom coffee. I had other things on my mind.

Earlier my husband Teddy had come home with a scratch across his handsome face. Three scratches from fingernails to be exact and bites in various places.

He’d been called to see about a rare pocket watch a client of his was looking for. When he arrived at the old Victorian he discovered that the apartment was below street level (the original street level.)

The door was answered by a woman of shocking appearance. She was bloated like a dead thing that had been out in the sun. Her eyes were sunken and rimmed with pale pinkish red. Despite her bony frame the fashionable black dress she wore strained at the seams. White blonde hair tangled around her face. Blood caked around the corners of her mouth and on the cuticles of her fingernails.

He recognized her, barely. In 1934 he’d spent two weeks with her on Catalina Island. People thought she was a film star with her Jean Harlow looks and beautiful clothes. So much for happy memories.

She told him that now she fed on transients and outcasts who wouldn’t be missed. Rather than taking a pint or a quart here and there she sucked them dry. Nobody would miss them or care. It always looked like natural causes anyway. Then she’d sleep it off for a week or two and start again.

Teddy, being the man he is and a Vampire with a social conscience tried to tell her that what she was doing was not acceptable. Bad move Teddy. She attacked him, screeching that she never asked to be a Vampire. She didn’t choose that life. She had become isolated as those she preyed upon.

As she fled into the night  The young man who made the nicely decorated basement apartment at home was in a deep sleep. He wasn’t someone off the grid but someone who’d left his bedroom window open and a Vampire climbed in. Teddy had the decency to erase any bad memories the young man might have had. Then Teddy called a Vampire Hunter to take care of his old friend. Teddy didn’t have the stomach to do it himself.

We talked about it for a while and like so many things it just seemed sad. Too many things seem sad.

Halloween is almost here but we’re already up to our eyeballs in scary shit, including a school shooting scare and other stupid stuff.

But then again like all families we’re busy to the point where we can’t stop and even think about anything much. It is like this all the time. Halloween brings a flood of activity. A party at my house on Friday. A party on Saturday. A skate meet on Sunday. A dozen other things including school and work are squeezed in between. Then we start all over again.

But I’ll make it a point to stop and sip my coffee and watch the sunrise.  And tomorrow we’ll carve those pumpkins I’ve been gathering on my front porch!

 

Halloween is almost here

Werewolves howling is so near,

Zombie looking for his ear,

Halloween is almost here.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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This little adventure was first posted here in 2014. I’ll be back with new stories and adventures shortly.  

Burning Question #62: Things that go bump in the night

From Ghoulies and Ghoosties, long-leggety Beasties, and Things that go Bump in the Night, Good Lord, deliver us!

Ghosts

You’re sleeping. You wake up in the wee hours of the morning. It is still dark outside. You hear something.

You’re home alone. You hear something. You don’t know what it is. Your cat growls under her breath. Your dog whimpers and curls by your side.

You hear music…

The wind howls outside, the rain pours own, stairs creek, doors slam without notice, it sounds like something or someone might be on your back porch, in your hallway, or maybe even running a bath.

Or you might hear a thump and then a voice saying “awwwww shit.” Something just went bump. What was it?

Halloween is coming soon, along with even more things to go bump in the night.

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Burning Question #62: What goes bump in your night?

 

 

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Please feel free to leave comments, observations, recipes, poems, jokes, your experiences with things that go bump, and whatever you feel like (but no short stories or novels, it just takes up too much space and annoys everyone.)

Happy October everyone and enjoy that Pumpkin Spice.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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I is a beastie. I go bump.