City of the Angels Part 2: Beauty in the land of the dead

Last Thursday 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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A Vampire of Little Consequence

I received a call that Uncle Rico had gone into a coma. It wasn’t expected. These things happen. He’d slowed down for no apparent reason. In the old days someone might have put him in a crypt or a box under the floor boards or in the attic. Or do what the family was doing now and just wait.

My brothers Aaron and Val came over to my house. We’d spoken to our parents who gave us the usual emotionless responses. They’re matter of fact about these things. My father is uncomfortable. My mother unemotional.

We didn’t call my other two brothers. Maybe later. They’ll be at my parent’s house. They live close to them.

Later this week I have a grave side service to attend to support a friend. These things are important but not in the traditions of my immediate family. My parents don’t do funerals. They’re a couple of Vampires who don’t acknowledge death. They choose, because they say they are Modern, to deal with, or not deal with things their own way. I have yet to figure out what way that is. More or less it is not dealing with it. But I need to be there, to give support. To let them know that my heart is not as cold as my skin.

So we don’t deal with a lot of things in our own families, because we’re Vampires. We’re already considered dead, but I have to say that we’re not. We’re just different. Some of us are just transformed. Some of us have always been like this. Some of us are undead, but that is an entirely different post (deal with it.)

It has been a busy week, and we’re only into Tuesday. I’ve had a tiny bout of blood poisoning. You know, people get colds, we get this shit.

So I’m here with my brothers, talking about our family. It is what we do. We always talk about the same things. We tell the same stories. Sometimes we have new stories, but today it is mostly old stories. We don’t talk much about Rico. Then we don’t talk about any of it and talk about movies. Then we talk about where the best fall leaves will be, and wonder if it will rain this winter.

My husband Teddy and sister-in-law Verity join us on the deck with wine, and glasses for everyone. Verity and I stress out slightly about parenting. Then we stop because our kids are great. We just worry about them. It is a weird world out there.

All day I was busy but feeling like a Vampire of little consequence. Then it sort of turns around. I get out of my own head, and get more into my heart, and into the cold sweet embrace of my Vampire family.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Death, Ghosts, and Pokemon Go

Like everyone else, my kids are playing Pokemon Go. In case you’ve been somewhere else, like on another planet or Albania, Pokemon Go is an application you download to your phone. Thanks to a partnership of some sorts with Google Maps, you can find Pokemon critters everywhere. There are hot spots to collect goodies and balls to capture the creatures. There are gyms where they can fight each other. Parks, schools, churches, and murals are all hot spots for a lot of activity. We even found one in our house yesterday.

Of course there are going to be snarky critics who don’t understand the attraction to this game. Screw em. It is a GAME. It is FUN. I’ve had fun watching it bring parents and their teens together.

This is the link to the official web site: http://www.pokemongo.com/en-us/explore/

A quote from the site:

Get up, get out, and explore!

Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokemon. Explore cities and towns where you live – and even around the globe  – to capture as many Pokemon as you can. As you walk through the real world, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you’re near a Pokemon. 

It goes on to tell the players that there is a lot of activity in public sites. One place where there is a lot of activity is cemeteries.

As you know, my kids and I like to visit old cemeteries for various reasons. It isn’t because we’re Vampires. Contrary to popular horror movie culture we don’t live in crypts or in rotting coffins under the ground. Yes, occasionally someone ends up there, but not too often anymore. But that isn’t what this post is about.

Yesterday I was out and about with my kids (ages 17 and 20) when one of them mentioned we were near a cemetery with a lot of activity. So of course at the light I pulled into the parking lot.

I have to admit that I had never been to this particular grave yard, only minutes from my home. It was founded in 1855, four years before I was born. Most of the old grave markers are now flat on the ground, having been broken over the years, and then repaired by no doubt loving hands. Several of the markers and statues are marked by Pokemon activity.

As we walked along exploring the stones we forgot about the game, and started to speculate on the names and the stories.

Unlike many modern cemeteries this one had a mix of flat markers, and traditional larger tombstones. Many had images of hobbies, activities, and occupations. Old and new were mixed together with no real pattern.

Less than a mile away in the old Catholic cemetery we once found a marker for a child who passed away at the age of eight. She would have been forty this year had she been alive. Her stone was in the back by a fence, alone, dusty, all alone. I still wonder about her. No ghost sits on her grave to give us answers.

In this cemetery by the lake, the same lake that borders my neighborhood, there are few ghosts out during the day. It was quieter there than most places of rest.

Anyway, to make a short story even longer…

In the back, near the back fence border, I was attracted to a stone with a portrait on it, and the colorful large headstones near it. I found myself in an entire section of young people. Not babies, but people who’d been in their teens and early twenties. They were Millennials. These were all recent, in the past few years.

One stone, the one that first attracted me, had a message from a twenty year old man’s parents. It said, We will never forgive ourselves for not being able to save you. It broke my heart.

All of the stones had pictures on the headstones of sports, animals, and hobbies, and stories, and portraits and photos of the kids. It was the saddest place in the world. Teens aren’t supposed to die. And here I was with my children, who are in the same age group. It was so random. So sad. They were all there together in the back, near the edge of the lake, where young people hang out.

If was as if they were calling us over to say, “don’t forget us.”

It was odd how a game that is played by young people brought us to such a place.

On the way back across to where I’d parked we saw other stones and speculated on lives that once were. The place was dotted with tiny stones of children who’d come and gone before their first birthday, or first day of school. Yet none of them seemed alone, between the larger graves.

In Chico there is a cemetery with a large children’s area. It is a sad wasteland with no grass or trees, slapped in a sunken area that nobody else would want. Tiny markers with lonely lambs sit in the hot sun, and the cold rain, all alone.

Some say that Vampire infants, those tiny beings born to Vampires parents, steal the souls of dead children. Rest assured it isn’t true.

Last night we had a boisterous night at home with a lot of laughing and joking around. Today there was more searching for tiny creatures in our smartphones.

My brother Andy was over and smiled at our adventures. His strong distaste for ghosts keeps him out of cemeteries, and he doesn’t use his smartphone for anything but phone calls and the occasional text, but he did have some suggestions for an app my son and his friends are developing. It is for Vampires looking for good places to dine. It sounds like a great idea, but for this summer I think I’ll stick to finding tiny imaginary Japanese creatures with my phone, but not without a touch of sadness.

 

~ 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 worlds, beyond sorrow and beyond grief.

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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

 

Sweet Sixteen in the Land of Ghosts

11402776_788677647915951_3202576563265530011_n“I suppose the monuments and stones give some measure of comfort to those who are left behind,” said my husband Teddy as we walked along the pathways and trees under which the monuments and stones stood as silent reminders of those buried beneath them.

It was July 5th, our daughter Clara’s 16th birthday. She and her friends wanted to explore the Old City Cemetery. It was founded in 1849, the year of the California Gold Rush. The population of those interned grew by over 600 in 1850 due to a cholera epidemic. Wars and illness, childbirth and accidents added to it over the years, along with old age. Not that many in old age as so many are so young.

The famous are there as well as those less known. All are remembered in some way today even if it only a stone that can be admired by strangers in our strange modern world.

Teddy wandered over to where a few of his siblings rested their bones. There are many there we were acquainted with at one time.

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One learns to thinks of happy memories. Well sometimes. Today I wondered if a dear friend had died in an accident long ago or by his own hand. I wondered if another would be alive today with modern medicine. And there are those times when I wonder if only we had changed a long-lost friend to be one of us, a Vampire, who is considered dead by those who don’t understand.

Teddy called my daughter and her three friends over to a small marker in the sun among many military markers there. There were flowers on it, no doubt from a sister or old friend. My heart broke. He was nineteen years old. He died on June 6, 1944 in Normandy. D-Day. Only minutes before I’d mentioned how horrible and tragic war was and how insane it was that humans would waste so many young lives. I didn’t take a picture of the stone or remember the name. I just thought of a man who would now be in his 80’s. I thought of a man who might have had a life with a woman who loved him and surrounded by grandchildren. A man who would have gone to college with the GI bill and found the cure to cancer, or won an Oscar, or been a High School teacher.

11695844_788677607915955_517776853930036767_nThere is a beauty to the grave markers. Lambs show us where small children sleep forever. Flowers carved in stone bloom in the cold winter nights. Books are piled for a young lawyer who will now have an eternity to read and ponder the universe. Monuments are inscribed with messages of love, loss and accomplishments.

I watched the four teens we were with talking and exploring. And odd way to spend a Sweet Sixteen. Or at least the beginning of the day. Thank goodness for a cool breeze.

11705101_788677614582621_6963382646916935474_nA few ghosts stood under the trees watching us with soulful black eyes. We stayed away and left them alone to their own kind. Most of us can only see the ghosts that haunt our own hearts, the ghosts we allow into our lives and memories.

I’ve shared photos of this place before (CLICK HERE to see them) but this time I spent more time just walking with my husband among the flowers and stones, and quiet statues.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Passings in the Night

 

Today I thought about two people I’ve loved and lost… this was first posted in December, 2013.

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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 27 years ago as of 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.”

Then he stood up and looked up at the stars, l 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 worlds, beyond sorrow and beyond grief.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman