Our First Feast

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“I doubt if our parents care what we do, or anything about us at this point,” my brother Val told me. It was November of 1878. I had just turned nineteen and he was twenty. They’d moved to San Francisco, leaving us behind in Sacramento. The house they’d left for us was like a rabbit warren of rooms. Our brother Aaron, aged twenty five, was married and living a mile away in his own brand new Italianate mansion. The eldest two (Max and Andy) had long moved on and were now in San Francisco setting up their glorious careers.

They’d sold the big house we’d grown up in, which burned down as soon as we’d cleared out. I often wondered about that, considering we had been a large family of Vampires and didn’t always do things the same was as everyone else. Our (mine and Val’s) house was built in 1869 with a lot of rooms with no purpose and tall stairs from the sidewalk up to the front door in case it flooded. We had a front porch, a back yard with a few rose bushes, and not much else. It was plain and un-charming.

Val and I were determined to give this house charm. We decorated our modest home with used furnishings and a lot of green and cream colored paint.

After that we decided to do what most young people would do and have a party.

“Should it be all Vampires?” I had to ask.

Val shrugged, “No. We can invite others. We will have to warn our fanged friends to keep to themselves and only drink from bottles we planned to keep well hidden in our kitchen.

I told him not to invite all ladies and he started to argue with me.

“NO,” I said. “You are not going to turn my home into your own personal whore house.”

My brother looked at me as if I’d slapped him in the face. “I would never,” he said. “Never.”

I held my shoulders back and my head high. “Valentine, I will never judge you or be like some warm blooded prude, but I expect a certain amount of modesty and decorum from you.”

“Fine. I will allow you to see my guest list, as I expect you to show me your guest list.”

“Agreed,” I said. “What about food?”

“We need food?”

“Of course we do.”

“We don’t cook. We hardly eat. We don’t have domestics.”

“We could hire a cook,” I said.

“We could.”

“Where would we find one?”

“We could put out a post. Cook wanted for fashionable party. Or we could find Constantine. He knows everyone.”

“And he is always fashionable.”

Constantine was both a Vampire and extremely fashionable but he had just jumped on a train to travel east, then take a boat to Europe to buy art. So we put up our flyer and waited. Soon a small man named Orlando George St. Cloud came to our door. He said he had cooked for the royalty of Europe, the Emperors of China, and the highest of Sacramento high society. We didn’t really believe him but we hired him on the spot.

The night of our party Mr. St. Cloud fixed:

Stewed Eel

Filet of Sturgeon with brown butter and tarragon

Curried Crawdads with spinach

Roasted Capon with creamed trout sauce

Roasted potatoes

Rat tail soup

Onion and walnut tart

Fried chicken feet with olives

Orange milk pudding

Apple pie

Fried frog legs with smoked trout and fiddle head fern sauce.

Roast beef

Head cheese

Blood pudding

Wild lettuce salad

Tomales Bay Oysters on the half shell

Fried eggs with wild mushrooms and boiled wheat berries

Pears poached in wine and honey

Toast points with river clams and fresh butter

Meatballs with wild dill made with ingredients of unknown origin. 

Marrow bones with sage and sherry sauce.

We also managed to acquire copious amounts of alcohol.

Fifty four guests arrived. Nobody went hungry. Twenty were female. Thirty four were male. Twelve, including Val and I were Vampires.

Of course the party was a success. Val did not sleep alone. I watched the sunrise with a dozen people in my garden before going inside, drawing the curtains and sleeping for the next two days. Mr. St. Cloud brought in a crew to clean and lock up.

For the next thirty years Mr. St. Cloud cooked for us when we needed it. He also taught us to cook. He told us, “One day I shall be gone and you will be at a loss.”

I learned to cook everything except the rat tail soup. I never cared for eel. Many of the dishes made me sick but I learned to cook them anyway. Eventually Val also learned to cook, and he even attended classes. We both became experts in cooking for Vampires such as us. We don’t live on blood alone.

From then on Val and I have both welcomed guests of a wide variety to our homes to celebrate friendship and love.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and welcome in the holiday season (which started on Halloween.)

Cheers to all,

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Finding Beauty in the Old City Cemetery

Finding Beauty in the Old City Cemetery (Sacramento, California)

Back in 2012 when I’d first started writing this blog, my daughter and I took a walk in the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, CA. It was a beautiful day to be out among the flowers and stonework.

This is a large lovely space on the edge of downtown. One gets lost in the peaceful spaces.

Whenever I’m there I think of people I once knew, but I also think of the future.

I doubt if there are any ghosts there. It never feels like it and none have ever shown themselves to me. Just memories of life and love.

Clara was fascinated by the mausoleums. We both wondered at the beauty of the carvings and the stories the monuments told about those who were buried beneath them.

And there are no Vampires there. We don’t live in cemeteries unless forced to.

A complete listing of everyone buried there can be found on the web site along with other historic information, location and visiting hours, plus parking information etc.

It is a really lovely place and worth the time to take a significant bit of California history.

From the Sacramento Old City Cemetery Web Site:

City Cemetery History
Prior to the establishment of the City Cemetery in 1849, burials were conducted in an area not far from Sutter’s Fort, but its lower elevation and closeness to the American River caused it to flood frequently. These old grounds, however, continued as a privately operated cemetery, named New Helvetia, for some twenty-five years before reverting to the city.  Over the years, tombstones and monuments were removed, vandalized and even stolen. Eventually, in the 1950s, the city authorized the construction of Sutter Junior High School (now Sutter Middle School) on the site
Alhambra Boulevard to 32nd Street, I to J Streets. A historical marker can be found at the edge of the sidewalk along Alhambra Boulevard. Unclaimed remains were re-interred in special plots at both the City Cemetery and East Lawn Memorial Park on Folsom Boulevard.

The Sacramento City Cemetery was established in 1849 with a donation of 10 acres by Captain John Sutter. The cemetery follows the Victorian Garden style, popular throughout the mid and late 1800’s.

Among the first interments in the City Cemetery were over 600 victims of the 1850 Cholera Epidemic.  Today, the Old City Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 25,000 pioneers, immigrants, their families and descendants. Among the more notable are Captain John A. Sutter, Jr., Sacramento city founder; lawyer and art collector E. B. Crocker; storekeeper turned railroad mogul Mark Hopkins; William Stephen Hamilton, the son of Alexander Hamilton; three California governors and many of Sacramento’s earliest mayors.

Many changes have taken place over the last 150 years.  The cemetery continued to expand through 1880 when Margaret Crocker donated the final acreage on the hill, bringing the cemetery’s land holdings to nearly 60 acres.  At one time, a greenhouse built by Mrs. Crocker, the Bell Conservatory, overlooked the cemetery along what is now Broadway.  Today the cemetery covers approximately 44 acres and is the final resting place of over 25,000 individuals.

Thousands of early settlers are buried in the Historic City Cemetery. They represent the historical and cultural diversity of Sacramento. The monuments are symbolic of Victorian funeral customs. Numerous group plots honor members of the Pioneer Association, Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Volunteer Firemen, the Improved Order of Red Men, the state government, Donner Party survivors, Civil War and other military veterans.

Docent-guided walking tours are offered on some Saturdays (see calendar). Self-guided tours are encouraged at all open cemetery hours, during all seasons.  Maps and brochures, including Walking Tour of Medical Pioneer Grave Sites, are available at the Archives Mortuary Chapel.

Archives Photo Gallery

 

Short Story Sunday: Night Dogs

Tangled Tales

 

Night Dogs

Constantine Jones sat on the bottom of the museum steps wondering what just happened.

Earlier that evening he’d put on his best Armani suit, a Hermes silk tie, and was feeling good about the outcome of the evening. It was to be a charity event. Beautiful people would be there dressed up. Everyone would be relaxed, and happy, and it would be delightfully fun.

After discussing art and drinking champagne he’d lured a few well-heeled patrons to remote galleries to see some unusual modern art. There he took a few pints of blood from wrists and left his donors with no memories, except those of a delightful conversation with a well dressed, nice looking young art expert. Well, a 165 year old art expert, but that was besides the point.

Then in the main gallery, the California Room, he saw her standing in front of the Thomas Hill grand painting of Yosemite Valley. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the room but she was attractive in a cute sort of California girl way, and had that delightful look of both shyness and playfulness. Her olive green dress shimmered along the neckline with iridescent beads. As she turned her head towards him it was like a lightning bolt had hit his heart. First sight.

Second sight as well. A smallish dog of unknown breed stood next to her with a service dog vest on. A service dog. Why did she need a service dog?

With his usual ease, Constantine approached the woman. He asked if he could pet the dog. She said yes. She told him she’d had a head injury when she was in Afghanistan. She’d been in the Army. He would never guessed. The dog could detect seizures.

They talked for an hour about art, and life, and it seemed as if he’d met his soul mate. It was the best hour he’d ever spent. Then she was gone. He hadn’t even asked her name.

So like Prince Charming, he sat at the bottom of the stairs wondering where Cinderella had gone. All he had of her was one of her earrings he’d found on the steps. It was a gold strand with a single diamond on the end. The diamond was real.

I might as well walk home he thought. It was just a couple of miles. He’d clear out his mind. The full moon, and lights from late night downtown bars and restaurants lit the way.

Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a large dog wearing a back pack. A service dog? A smaller dog in a vest followed. Around the next corner, in an alley, he saw three more large dogs in the dark, all wearing packs.

Maybe it was a training exercise. The dogs could have been German Shepards looking for drugs or a missing person, or even bodies. It was weird, but at this point he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home. He was a Vampire so weird and unusual was over rated anyway.

Constantine thought about the woman he’d met. She’d been a nurse in a convoy, and there was a bomb. She didn’t say anything else except that her dog was named Tess. She liked Jazz music, indie films, and indie books. Of course she liked art too. She was a high school art teacher now, having moved on from nursing. But sometimes she helped out the school nurse. Weird how he got those details. He’d told her… what had he told her about himself? Not much. He was a Vampire so he never told much, at least not at first. He’d told her that he ran a philanthropic foundation that supported the arts, and other causes. He told her he had two cats and liked astronomy. She also was a watcher of the moon and stars. Then she kissed his cheek, excused herself, and a few minutes later he saw her walking out the front door of the museum.

As a Vampire he usually had a good feel for people but he couldn’t get a final read on her. Again, he thought about the fact that he didn’t even get her name. But the dog was named Tess. Tess the service dog.

Constantine thought about war. He could imagine the horrors she’d been through. He was a child during the Civil War or the War Between the States, whatever they wanted to call it. Those weren’t memories he cared to relive. He’d come out to California as soon as he was old enough to be on his own, as soon as he’d become a Vampire, and stayed there.

As he walked along the dogs with packs stayed in the alleys and shadows. Looking at the local news feeds and police scans from his iPhone he found nothing. One of his neighbors was a K-9 cop. Constantine would ask him about it tomorrow.

Arriving home at his craftsman style bungalow he noticed a few dogs in packs at the end of the street. This was getting weird. Odder, and a nice surprise, was that a woman in a slightly wrinkled olive green dress, and a single diamond and gold earring was standing on his front porch.

Tess the service dog stood beside her. Hanging off of her shoulder was a back pack.

No. It couldn’t be. She wasn’t Cinderella. She was a Werewolf.

They introduced themselves, again, but this time with names. Her name was Diana. Like the goddess of the moon.

“You have my earring,” she said smiling and holding out a hand.

“You have my heart,” he heard himself saying, much to his surprise.

Then he kissed her under the full moon, as Tess sat at attention and wagged her tail.

~ End

 

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Art (an extremely short Vampire story)

Counting down to Halloween!

Tangled Tales

Art (an extremely short Vampire story)

He never tried of looking at the Thomas Hill painting of Yosemite. Behind him he could hear the museum docent talking about the Guilded Age and the massive woodwork behind him.

As a child he’d come here for musical events, and even roller skating. Not exactly here, the new wing of the museum opened in 2010. He’d been in the original building and even in the private residence next door.

When you’re born in 1957 and still around in 2018 sometimes time seems to stand still.

A woman came up next to him and put her hand on his shoulder. He kissed her cheek.

“You look like a woman in a portrait I just saw,” he said.

“I am the woman in the portrait you saw,” she said. It was a long running joke with them.

“Glad you could make it Mom.”

“So am I. We need to do this more often.”

“October is almost here.”

“Indeed. Four of my children have birthday’s this month.”

“And Halloween.”

She gave a little snort. “It was easier to be a Vampire before Halloween was such a big deal.”

“Maybe.”

They roamed the galleries looking at both familiar and new art pieces.

She took her son’s arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I loved those times, when everything here was new. It was a new city. You were all children. So much was happening. I miss people, but I look forward. I don’t dwell on the past. That keeps us young. If you keep looking towards the future and live in the present it will keep you from being a Halloween Vampire. I shutter to think that any of my kids will be musty old beings who don’t have enough sense to keep their fangs in and blood off of their chins.”

“You’ll never have to worry about that,” said her son. “But I know what you mean.”

As they walked along they could see other in contemplation looking at the art, which like them, was timeless.

~ end

crocker-art-museum

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Bringing Down the House

Tonight Teddy and I went to the Crest Theater (a beautiful 1940’s theater) and saw 85 year old John Mayall bringing the house down with the blues.

I looked around at the audience and noticed all of the gray hair. At least 80% of the audience.

I over heard a man telling his companion that he saw John Mayall in 1972 opening for Eric Clapton.

I thought about all of the old people in the theater who used to be the young people who changed the world with their music, and tie dye, and radical ideas.

Now they’re ending or retired from professional careers but the music never dies.

These old ladies were the young women who sat on their boyfriend’s shoulders and lifted up their shirts and exposed their naked breasts to bands they liked.

They are now still listening to loud music, and signing along, and dancing, and feeling good vibes, and all is good, at least for a few hours at the Crest.

I’m not saying to tell your daughters to lift their shirts, or tell your kids to smoke wheel barrows full of pot and drop acid. I’m just saying that old folks were not always old, or wise. They were once wild and free. Wild abandon. Appreciate that when you see someone with gray hair.

Tell your kids that they’re cool, but they’ll have to try harder to be THAT cool. The cool that started it all. Also tell them to thank an old person for their music. Tell them to do it now, then share that music. Share it. We should all be so lucky to have someone to turn up the volume with no matter how old they are.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Innocenzio D’Antonio

First posted April 2, 2013

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Innocenzio D’Antonio

Innocenzio D’Antonio came to Sacramento in the 1850’s with a troupe of actors to make his fortune. He’d started as an opera singer in his native Italy and unfortunately did not make it into the famous opera houses in Europe, fell in love with an Austrian actress and ended up with her talking him into joining an American theater company touring California during the Gold Rush.

Innocenzio D’Antonio had the voice of an avenging angel, rich and strong. He could certainly sing the corset off of any woman but he was pure of heart and a true and honest lover to his dear Austrian maid. Well at least until she left him high and dry in San Francisco, leaving him for a dashing gambler.

Upon reaching Sacramento Innocenzio D’Antonio noticed a young man singing one night at a party held by a well-known business man. It was odd to him that a child so young should be up so late into the night. But that was put aside when he heard the child’s beautiful voice. The voice was precious beyond compare. It was the voice of heaven and the angels above. It was the voice of all that was good and pure in the world. It brought Innocenzio D’Antonio to tears. And yet, there was something strong and dark about the voice. There was something about the voice that brought the opera singer both to tears and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

A well dressed man stood next to Innocenzio D’Antonio and said “I noticed you were moved by the sound of the my son Andrew’s singing. Amazing considering he is only nine years old. However, my child could use formal music lessons from a master, such as you. If you’re interested I will pay you well. I have four other children as well. The eldest three could all benefit from your talents Mr. D’Antonio.”

The next evening Innocenzio (as we shall now call him by his first name only) showed up at the elegant home of the child Andrew. He was met warmly by the father and met the rest of the family. The oldest boy was 10-year-old Maxwell, followed by 9-year-old Andrew, then 7-year-old Aaron, then 16-month-old Valentine and the infant Juliette. Their mother was a vision of beauty and all that was good and pure. Such elegance in movement in style he had rarely encountered in his lifetime.

Over the next few months he came to look forward to music lessons for the three eldest boys. Maxwell and Aaron had uncommonly beautiful voice, but it was young Andrew who had the voice of an angel sent straight from heaven. Innocenzio thought of how many churches, even those in Rome would give anything to have this voice in their stables of singers. He thought of the great opera houses in Europe that would be mobbed with patrons trying to hear Andrew sing.

Before meeting this most wonderful family Innocenzio had suffered deep waves of melancholia. He’d blame it on heart-break, disappointment or even being cursed, but now, every time he left the home of Andrew’s family, Innocenzio felt as if he were the most content and happy man alive.

After a time the father announced that they would have a party and invite all of their closest friends. Andrew would sing at midnight. Innocenzio thought that was too late for such a young child but the parents brushed it off with a gentle smile. It was difficult for Innocenzio to disagree.

The night of the party was filled with excitement. The large mansion was filled with the most elegant people he’d ever seen. Some he’d met before while out in the evenings around the city and some were stranger. But they all had a certain quiet about them and calm that he had never seen anywhere else, not even in a church or monestary.

The mother, the beautiful mother who still took his breath away when he saw her, asked him to sing. Innocenzio was feeling happy and light so he sang the drinking song from the fairly new opera La Traviata and to his delight the group joined in. They all had good voices. Afterwards they gathered around Innocenzio and congratulated him on his success and welcomed him into their society.

While he was delighted and honored there was a certain sense of unease about him. Innocenzio had a sense that something was about to happen, as if he was a lamb facing the hungry jaws of a lion. A strong sense of fear started to creep into his soul. He was confused and ashamed. After all, he was in the home of people who had become dear friends, a second family almost.

The mother, pulled him aside and put her arm in his. “My dear Innocenzio, my love, do not fear. I know what is in your heart and soul. You know us so you sense that we are different. We are different you know. We’re very different from you.”

Her eyes were the color of a fantasy seascape, her lips perfect, her chestnut hair was loose around her shoulders. He lost himself and took her into his arms and kissed her. His head went light. She stepped back and smiled. It was as if he’d lost his entire heart and more so his soul to her.

“I could take your soul if I wished, but dear Innocenzio, I must tell you a story of my life and of my people.” Then she sat him down and told him the most fantastic and horrific tale he’d ever heard in his life. He was both seduced and repulsed. His senses were confused, his emotions out of control, his body yearning for everything she had to offer.

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2013

Sometimes being a mom is everything, but sometimes I like to have my time with my friends.  I heard the knock on my door and standing there was my dear friend  back from a trip to Europe.

“Juliette” he said with his gorgeous voice, “you are still more beautiful than Venus herself”.

“And you’re still full of crap Innocenzio D’Antonio ” I said with a smile.

“Never,” he said taking my hands and kissing my cheek.

We don’t keep many friends so long, but when we do it is worth it. Every time I see my mother I want to thank her for talking Innocenzio into being one of us.

As Vampires we don’t bring just anyone into our world, but when we do it is magic.

On the other hand, anytime a true friendship forms, even if nobody changes, it is magic and a true joy.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman (who felt like posting this today just because it is April 2, and a time to consider how lucky I am to have so many treasured friends.)