The Reviews!

Earlier in December I performed the role of Christian in Moulin Rouge for the press, followed by a one week preview.  Harry (the company’s first hire for the role of Christian) did, too. And because my husband is the sort who thrives on competition–and wishes I was the sort who thrived on competition–Marc collected the reviews and tallied the results.

Harry was ever just so slightly for the win.

I must be honest–I was relieved.  Marc scowled at me, but really, I was.  Harry trained for this in life.  He’s always been an actor.  He’s perfect for the role and he’s still young enough, and new enough, to need the validation.  I’m thrilled for him.

I’m also quite interested by the variation in our reviews.  I find myself learning about what it is I did well, and what it is I’m still missing, by reading about Harry’s triumphs on the stage.

Here’s one of my favourites I thought I’d share:

EJS plays naive so well, we almost believe he’s a nobody.  That makes his snap transformation into jealousy and manic anger in the second act all the more horrifyingly, wonderfully obscene.  We don’t expect a man with a grin that shy to engage in a game of ownership, and the question lurking there–but is he?–cuts deep.  We are touched by Christian’s grief, but uncomfortable in its oily origin.  Is this the tale of music and love, or of misogyny and lust?

Harry Jensen on the other hand plays the fragile arrogance of youth all the way through.  We see him falter along the way as he meets love, innuendo, and outright lies, and we watch him remake his facade over and over, overlapping versions of himself, one on the other.  We see the edges ripple and shimmer in his feverish eyes and vibrating energy.  We know the whole time he’s heading toward a pit, and that we can’t pull him back from the edge, as much as we want to.  And you’ll want to.

So, in the end, Smith is a consummate storyteller who is more dangerous than he seems, and Harry reads like a broken poem.  Both will rattle you, as the director intended, but if you can only see one, then here’s your choice: A man who loved and lost? or a man who lost his love.

This reviewer is narrowly for the latter.

It’s true–Harry is so coherent, and such a slow burn.   I felt itchy the first time I watched him in the role, and he brings out a special sort of panic in Char, who plays Satine, because she can see what she’s doing to him, and what he’s doing to himself.

With me, she plays a bit more startled, a bit more reactive, perhaps a bit more truculent, which she’s told me she finds equally interesting.  In fact, she said she’s enjoying having two Christians to play off of immensely, which is good.

But I will admit to the fact that my initial abrupt shift, although rewarded by the director, was a bit of a happy mistake on my part, haha.  I’ve enroled in acting courses for the spring so I can make more of my happy mistakes into brilliant intentions.

Also in 2018: More auditions! I’m loving this theatre business again, I really am.

And much more, but that’s for a different post.

For the moment–a Very Happy New Year, and now I’m off to the Toronto Drag Ball with my husband.

 

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Ludi Romani

Today’s post is a birthday present for Mr. Marcus, so a very many happy returns to him.  Felicem diem natalem, my love.  Ubi te gaius, ego gaius.

And, today’s post is a story, starring the aforementioned–his favourite kind of story.  In particular, this is the story of Marc’s appearance at the 2017 Ludi Romani.

For context: The Ludi Romani or “Roman Games” were/are about a week long set of festivals intended to praise Jupiter.  They are Marc’s favourite set of games, for the pure and dear reason that he loves Rome and its celebrations and its people to the point of tears.  He loves the dramas, and the memory of attending them with Porcia and then discussing them long into the night over vino.  He loves the sheer number of athletic contests and the feeling of surrounding himself with people who honour their bodies and so honour their city.  He loves the opening and closing ceremonies, over which he presides as a priest of the state.  And most of all, he loves the chariot races.

In his day, Marcus didn’t race in official games.  In fact, he was known as ‘that bloke what adores his horse too much to enter into contest,’ on account of the winning horses often being sacrificed to the gods.

But he’d race Nox in unofficial games.  And he’d win.  Of course he would.

So now, without the looming threat of sacrifice, Marc and Nox race at the Ludi Romani, filling out their triga–chariot of three–with Stella and Luna, two mares.

It’s quite the striking chariot team, must say.  Nox is inky black, hence the name, and he’s impressively large for a race horse.  In fact he’s technically not meant for the chariot–he’s for war.  But he loves running, and Marc loves running him.  Stella and Luna are starlight white, and they are races horses, sleek and lightning fast and team-oriented to offset Nox’s arrogance.

You might say to me that horses can’t be arrogant, and yet you haven’t met Nox.

And then, of course, there’s Marc.

It’s a birthday post…allow me to dote…

There are handsome men in the world.  And then there is Marcus, who just scoffs at handsome on his way into utterly riveting.  There’s not a person out there who doesn’t stop what they’re doing to regard him.  Might be on account of his stature–not especially tall, but bold as can be, with shoulders for days.  (Takes forty-odd kisses to cross them entirely.)  Or it might be his features–hooded eyes, overtly broken nose, challenging lips, top thin and bottom full, and pox scars in a traceable topography.

But I happen to think it’s his personhood what does it.  The way he exudes pride, confidence, humor, genius, and joy.  I’ve seen people literally reverse direction to follow him in a daze, like he might drop a scrap of personality for the pouncing, or they might gain something from seconds more proximity.

I’m not sure they don’t…

Oh, and he’s got a smile like a sideways tornado, crimped at one corner and all teeth after that, a little bit controulled and a little bit recklessly abandoned.

Being around him is being on the constant verge of a shiver.

Christ…anyway…

So, we’ve got this team of three, we’ve got this charioteer, and they, of course have a nemesis:  Bill.

That’s right, Marc’s nemesis is a ghost named Bill, who lives in South Carolina on a picturesque farm with his adorable wife, raggedy garden, shimmery little fish pond, and an unassuming, dappled race horse named Apples.  When we went to stay with them–it’s a hilariously love/hate relationship on Marc’s side, and nothing but love from Bill–I ate no fewer than five different kinds of pie, petted something like twenty rabbits, and fed Apples his namesake without him looking at me like I was swine.

But Bill’s sharp.  He’s one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to controulling his energy in tandem with that of his horses, and he’s inventive as hell with his ‘walling’–sort of engineering energy to stay in place and behave inanimately, which is excessively important if you’re going to do things like build chariots out of it.  Plus he’s redesigned things to be aerodynamic, rather than traditionally Roman, and he’s the right size for racing–about the size of Bilbo Baggins, with slightly less paunch (but not by much, recall the pies.)

So, Marc, my strapping, traditional, exuberant Roman, did truly and very well meet his match in this man.

In fact, Bill beat him in 2016.

We speak of this often in the Junius-Smith household, but only in very specific ways, usually laced with Latin that I chose not to translate.

Therefore, Marc was out for blood in 2017.  He arrived at the Ludi Romani in full Roman splendour, all toga and swagger and opening ceremonies pomp.  He spent the first days of the game allowing a posse to collect around him–you know the type–doing very little talking himself, but watching his reputation make its way through the grounds.

I, for my part, let him have this.  Rather, I want him to have this.  There’s no harm in it, not really.  Marc’s arrogance is always tempered by his quick memory for the accomplishments of others, and he spends as much time lecturing his groupies on what it means to be a Roman as he does letting them jockey for space at his side.  He shouts out praise to challengers as he goes, compliments artisans on their contributions to the state, and never, never loses track of me or the children.

Additionally, I think he’s glorious in his Roman element, and I enjoy having a few occasions in the year where I allow myself to be mesmerised.

He won the time trials.  Not by much, if you ask the referees, but you know, by leagues, all the same.

And then came the final race.

Marc competes in his other events–sword, mace, javelin–in soldier’s leathers.  You’re welcome for that image.  But for the chariot, he races in state, toga whipping behind him, crimson and white in alternation.

Bill races in something akin to an aviator’s jumpsuit, with goggles and light boots, and they nod to each other.

I see Marc survey the field of competitors–‘competitors’–and spare a bit of pause for this arsehole who insists on calling himself The Black Night and dressing like something out of Medieval Times, TM, but manages a good race, nonetheless.

And then he moves into his chariot stance, which somehow combines grace and fluidity with every scrap of power he holds, all the way down to his bones.  Nox does the same–it’s like they’re the same entity sometimes.  They take off with the trumpet.

The field is long, but the race itself is rather short.  Chariot horses aren’t built to run themselves into the ground at length, which is part of the edge Marc has with Nox.  He can let all the other triga run themselves down, and then bolt through the pack and hold steady at the front.

Bill’s advantage is that his chariot is sleek enough to cut through the wind, so he rests in second until Marc comes galloping past, and then takes second to him until he sees his opening to attempt a coup.

This year, The Black Night–yes, The–is up there at the front, too, but he’s racing on his own, off to the side of Marc and Bill.

Marc is just scarcely to win.

And then, on the other side of the track, so far to the back of the competitors that he’s nearly parallel to Marc across the way, a charioteer loses controul of his triga as his lead throws a shoe.  The whole thing was awful.  The horse sort of screamed as it went down on its own leg, and then the other horses tried to halt, only to have the chariot slam into them.  It went up on its nose, throwing the charioteer across the whole mess, rolling him down the track under the splinters of his chariot.

I’m completely transfixed on the sight, in all its flailing, scrambled energy.  Bloody memories unfold onto the track like a grotesque film.

Except…there’s Marc.

He’s let go his hold on his reins and taken off like a bolt across the green, shedding his toga along the way so he’s all tunica and muscle.  Nox, Stella, and Luna have slowed down and veered off to the side, kicking the chariot back off their heels as they come to a halt.  Bill’s right there with him.  He’s not nearly as fast as Marc, but he’s pumping across the green just as quick as he can, heading for the mess of horses while Marc goes for the man.  The Black Knight, behind them, hollers in dismay and crosses the finish line without quarry.  No one even begins to care.  The entire stadium is on their feet for Marc and Bill.

I know from video playback that the following things happened:

First of all, I went full on aggressively proud.  I’m right at the edge of the box seats shouting to anyone who will listen, ‘That’s my husband! That’s my love! That’s Rome, right there, that’s Rome’!!

And he says I’m a terrible hype-man…

Then, I’m over the edge of the box, rushing down the stairs and vaulting over the edge of the field.  Marc sees me coming, and calmly puts his hand to the fallen charioteer’s chest to finish the energy redistribution, takes a second to stop and put his forehead to Bill’s–the crowd goes wild for that, knowing Bill just won Roman equality–and then Marc’s striding toward me, just letting me fly at him from down the track.

I slam into him without even slowing down–he can certainly handle that, he’s built like a tree–and then I’ve got my hands on his face, just kissing the hell out of him, right there in front of all the whole stadium and all its horses.  I had no idea anyone was even there, at that point.  I was so blindingly proud of him.

I mean, you would expect, if a student of history, that Marcus Junius Brutus might very well espouse integrity, justice, and actions that benefit the greater good instead of self-elevation.  You would expect him to be grand on occasion–full of explosive chivalry on behalf of his beloved city and its citizens.  You would expect that.

But then you see it–you watch Marc discard all his trappings and bravado for intense concentration and sincere fellowship, and it just cuts you down.  You wonder if you would do the same, if you really do understand honour, and if you’re really quite sure you’ve a firm grasp on your beliefs.  That’s the humbling bit.

I’m just completely undone, in awe, and if the children hadn’t slammed into Marc next I might have done any number of other things I’d later see on camera.

He hugs them up, and buries his face in Mira’s wild hair, and I’m hit with yet another wave of emotion, watching them restore him after his gesture and telling him they love him for it.  I’m amazed, in that moment, that I’m his husband, and that he’s the father to our children.

I know this is going to sound terribly self-satisfied, but I imagine any blissfully married couple has felt similarly, so we’re all in good company here…

Sometimes I look at Marc, and I try to imagine what it would be like to not be married to him, or to even be friends with him.  To not have Marc in your life in any way.  And it’s bleak.  God, it’s the worst thing.  The idea of being exterior to his light, instead of filled with it?  It’s the loneliest thing I’ve ever thought of.

I digress…

You can see, on camera, the exact moment where I pull myself together and realize that I’ve vaulted the edge of a box seat, run out into the middle of a stadium, and landed in a Hollywood-level snog-fest before a sea of strangers.  My British takes over, and I’m all, giving the crowd a little wave, straightening my hair, tugging my toga back into place, blushing like mad.  I’m also glaring sternly at Marc over the tops of our children’s head, because he’s looking at me like he’s onto me–he’s so onto me–and he’s going to give me a very particular sort of hell for ever pretending I was above Roman spectacle and ancient acts of valour.

I am going to like this hell he gives me, but I don’t need the entire stadium to know it…

And everything after that is just pure, and dear, and Roman–like I said, exactly why Marc loves the Ludi Romani.  He refused to redo the race so The Black Knight could have a ‘fair’ win, on account of it would be cruel to the horses.  He seated Bill across from him at the closing ceremonies and created him as a honourary citizen of Rome, whilst Bill clutched his wife’s hand and tried not to cry.  He fulfilled all the donation requests that attendees scratched into lead sheets and tossed in the fountain.  He handed out medals for the events, checked in on the fallen charioteer and offered lessons, and accepted gifts from the artisans and food from the farmers.

Since the event…well, he’s back to his more modern self.  T-shirts with absurd proclamations, hoodies with dino-stego-croco-shark spikes on them, behaviour casual, suppers cooked, children snuggled.

But I find I am more aware than I was prior of the actual, tangible strength of his convictions.  More aware that his niceties and joys and absurdities are gifts he gives to me, to foil the intense sincerity with which he rules his inner life.

More in love with him than ever.

A Brief Halloween Q&A

Q: Is Halloween actually popular in Ghost World, or is that just a stereotype?

In Ghost World, Halloween is high holidays.  More ghosts celebrate Halloween than Christmas–some 75-80% of ghosts.  And we have the accompanying to-dos that precede any major holiday: consumerism, dinners, costume parties, the like.

We also have a massive spike in Haunting Club recruitment September-November.

Not that you need to be a registered member to go haunting on Halloween—it’s the one night of the year that anyone can go out to haunt passersby without a licence.  But if you want to enter someone’s home to watch an advanced member of Haunting Club enact their grand finale on a groomed target, then you have to have passed a bystander exam, which takes at least a month of study.  And when you are inevitably smitten by the performance, you end up plodding through another month of paperwork to win a sponsor and start your haunting coursework.  Hence, the three month upsurge.

Q: How do ghosts celebrate?

It’s culturally specific in the same way that alively Halloween is.  And it also varies by generation and received family tradition.  But there are a few tendencies that seem to cross the board.

For instance, there is plenty of ‘candy’ a.k.a. colourful nodules of bright, pulsing, riveting energy that are specially formed to remind ghost children of the sugary tastes of alively candy and activate positive, exuberant emotions.

And almost all of us go haunting in some form.

Q: Are the veils truly thin on Halloween?

So, as you may have gathered by now, yes.  Yes, they are.

On the one hand, you have all these little ghostlings flailing about full of ‘candy’, their outlines and energies heightened by the experience, sparking through the veils.

And on the other hand, you have adult ghosts who have either trained to haunt targets, or who plan to take advantage of the open season.  The combination of intention turns the veil to nothing more than mesh for about three hours on either side of midnight as October passes into November.

Q: Will we haunt you, specifically?

That depends.  But in short…

If you are out and about for Halloween and in a public space, then you’re fair game, but unlikely to be much bothered–haunting is difficult work and the unlicenced are also the unpracticed.

If you’re out in a cemetery or battleground or whathaveyou, then you might witness a haunting, generally with some visuals or a sense of heightened energy brought on by the collective locale.

If you live in or visit a home with a co-habitant ghost–a ghost that shares space but does not intentionally haunt, and therefore does not require a licence–you might see an uptick in their activity because of the circulating energies.  It’ll pass.

If you’ve been targeted, oh you better believe we will haunt the shit out of you.  What is Halloween even for if not that?

Q: Is Halloween evil or demonic?

No.  Absolutely not.  I cannot say this enough.

Halloween, for ghosts, is one part joy and one part nostalgia–a time to play and a time to remember how we played on the other side.  It’s about connecting, to each other and to willing alivlies.  It’s about silly costumes and happy (or tearfully candy-crashed) children.  It’s lovely.

 

In Which I Return to the Stage

As a Victorian, I worked two rather dissimilar jobs: as a subscription solicitor and contributing editor for Fraser’s Magazine, a general and literary journal; as a bloody opera singer.

You might say I preferred one over the other.

Now, to be fair, there were things I didn’t like about my job at Fraser’s.  Soliciting the upper-crust was always tinged in aggravation and condescension. Chasing down contributors hours before deadline wasn’t much more fun.  (I had to shoulder a door at one point, only to find our prestigious essayist half-naked and blissed on opium.  Another time I watched a perfectionist set fire to his pages in a fit of manic tears.)

And there were things I loved about the opera, too.  Her Majesty’s may only put up one show these days, but in my time, we were known as the “Italian Opera House” and did valiant battle with Covent Garden.  We had ballet at intermission, strong ensembles (which reflected well on me as the choir-master), and star-power, all of which could be quite creatively intoxicating.

But on the whole, the journal felt like home.  It reminded me that I had worked my way up from nothing, from press boy to apprenticed mechanic to clerk to co-owner.  My employer, ‘Oliver Yorke’ aka ‘Father Prout’ was more like my Da.  He brought me in from the cold, co-sponsored my uni scholarships, bequeathed me his liquor cabinet, and loved me dearly.

Mr. Yorke

A saint among men.

Meanwhile, the opera house continually grated.

I had to perform under a false Italianate name to further disguise my heritage, despite the fact that our opera manager was as much Benjamin “Lumley” as I was Elliot “Smith” and understood exactly why it irritated me so.

BenjaminLumley

Ben in profile, because of course he was sketched in profile, because Victorians.

My voice ‘teacher’, the Michael Costa, was an exacting, conservative arsehole, with zero patience.  I was functionally illiterate when I signed on at sixteen, and had I not met Geoffrey, and had he not spent ever so many patient hours teaching me musical symbols and carefully modelling phrases of foreign language (no recording devices, you know), I would have been canned, because god-forbid Costa should make a single explanation.  Costa was also a failed tenor and despised me for my voice, and for the fact that he had to mould it and feature it and watch me receive his applause.

Michael Costa

A failed tenor.

Add to that a baritone lead who was a serial sexual abuser and constantly at my knickers, ghastly hours, a slowly disintegrating relationship between Ben and Costa, and the constant disapproval of my in-laws, who insisted on calling the opera house a music hall, and…well the day I quit the opera, I walked out the front door and suffered a sort of reverse-panic-attack.  I felt so relieved I couldn’t breathe, as though all the exhaustion I’d been putting off tried to exit my body at once.  I vividly remember a near-faint and some passing Samaritan offering me a dram of whiskey.

So…all this to say…

I was not immediately chuffed about the musical opportunity that presented itself to me this last September.

It was a bit odd, actually.  My assistant, Danny, came to my office to inform me that he had just fielded a cold call from The Toronto–our local ghost theatre–soliciting me as an understudy for their upcoming musical production.  It’d been an intern calling–some bloke who found a Bootube video of my performance at a friend’s wedding and my old listing at Afterlife Magazine and Modelling Agency and put two and two together and come up with seven.  He thought I was fresh-faced, starting out, dying to make it big.

Danny and I chuckled.

And then Marc found out.  ‘You are need call back,’ he says to me.  He says this to me about eighty times between that first call and the next.

The next call came from the Artistic Director of The Toronto.  Danny transferred him directly, and he spent a solid five minutes apologising profusely for the assumptions on the part of his intern, obviously edging closer and closer to…but while I have you on the phone anyway…

He eventually got there, which is how I ended up, at Marc’s absolute insistence, in one of those dingy offices above a theatre.  The Toronto is extraordinarily well-funded, and still.  Dingy.  I’m nervous as hell, wrestling with all these competing feelings about the possibility of signing on for a set of rehearsals, a holiday preview, and a star-run in January.

I honestly felt ill.  But that sort of illness that might be part excited butterflies.  You know?

So, I said I would think about it, and then director of the musical–this very firmly Russian bloke named Serge–calls me and tells me he wants me to meet the soprano lead and see about chemistry.  And can I show up to the meeting at about twenty-one-years-old, because that’s the age of the character I’d play–potentially, just potentially–and it’s quite clear I’m being vetted.

Chartruese–Char for short–is just stunningly effervescent and quintessentially ‘actress’ but also totally real, unlike any soprano I’ve ever worked with.  I’m a blushing mess, but also completely fascinated, and we end up friends in a matter of minutes.  She thinks I’m charming, and just a hint sly.  I find myself wondering, in this meeting, if those aren’t more excited butterflies than nerves, after all.

In fact, I’m wondering if this might be exactly what I need–the opportunity to untie all the different cords that I’ve bound around my voice.  Here’s a rock-solid, healthy theatre, wonderful co-stars, a brilliant director, a role I was essentially made for.

Also, I have Marcus, who is just pure and utter joy about the whole thing.  Not that he disregards my concerns, or devalues them.  He hears me, he knows my fears.  I know he does, because when I falter, he’s there with the exact reassurance I require.  But in lieu of advising or hashing things out or making promises on the front end, he just goes absolutely wild for my possibilities, pushes me out onto the tracks, and trusts I’ll evade my incoming insecurities.  If I’m going to do this thing–go back to the stage–I will never have a better partner at my side while I take that leap.  I will never feel more capable than I do with him.

So…I leap.

At the end of September I signed a contract with The Toronto, and found myself cast as Christian in Moulin Rouge.

And it has, for the most part, been just ragingly brilliant.  Marc is beside himself, like it’s Christmas every day.  The rehearsal schedule works around my time with the children, who are also rather excited for me.  The cast is supportive and warm, especially after I proved myself more than a celebrity hire.  The other Christian–Harry Jensen–put on a tough act but melted like sugar in snow as soon as he found out I’d argued for all the promotional materials to feature him instead of me.  The show is beautiful–gothic and magical, with plenty of stage-craft that can only happen when you are a ghost with the possibility of bending dimension.

I’m also singing, you know, and quite well.  I have a new voice coach, who is both adept and responsive.  I’m recovering that particular energy that fuels a confident prance across the stage.  I’m remembering the familial delight that comes with sharing the quirkiness of theatre with those in the know.  I’m making friends, dancing, groaning over production notes, playing tricks, bringing yet another portion of myself back to life.

I’m having fun.

Eat your heart out, Costa.

Ghost Baseball

Earlier in the summer, the Toronto branch of Haunting Club made with a few new members from the states.  Among them was this freckled, tan, blonde, too-cute-to-be-straight, dripping-in-a-southern-drawl, tall cowboy version of my first husband.  The new bloke’s name?  Kanga.

Well, he’s not really named Kanga, but we call him that on account of his name is Joey, and he bounds about with excessive energy as Americans often do.  (Whoever happens to be his girlfriend takes on the moniker Roo….)

Anyway, I immediately developed a crush, because of course I did.  And while I was head over heels, I allowed Kanga to cajole me into playing the most absurdly boring game in the entire world.

Baseball.

Fuck me.

Just to be clear, ghost baseball is not at all like vampyre baseball.  There are no excessively powerful swings, no waiting for thunder claps to hide our strikes, no climbing of trees to catch balls.

There was however a pinched-faced, grumpy British bloke pretending to be an American for a while, and it wasn’t R-Patz, this time.

baseball

That is the face of a man who regrets the majority of his most recent decisions.

Now, imagine my dismay when I figured out the mechanics and hit a home run at our first…bout?  Game?  Go-round?

It’s really not even that hard.  I mean, you just swing a bat until you hit a ball.  If you have properly aligned your ghostly form so that it mirrors accurate alively musculature, (as opposed to presenting a good facade with an amorphous internal composition), then everything works as it would in life.  Your shoulders torque, you connect with the little balled-up energy projectile, and it obeys the laws of physics, in accordance with the by-laws of ghost league baseball.  No shenanigans.

To my horror, Kanga presented me with a “Toronto Taps” t-shirt—bearing a maple leaf so unfortunately dripping in syrup—thereby inducting me onto the team.

Hideous all around.

Excepting I do look cute in a baseball uniform with the ¾ sleeves and cap with my curls poking around it.  Marc thinks I’m adorable, and loves watching me swing the bat.

So, I went with it.  I joined the damn team.

I had to meet them all, of course.  Marc and I were a little suspicious of the event—drinks at a sports bar on a Friday, and not a single other gay bloke on the team.   What do you even wear to that?

But it went well.  I fell back on my days as a boxer and had a few pints and a few laughs.  Marc, who hates beer, bought top-shelf wine and bonded with two of the player’s wives—Himiko and Didi—because they all cried at Wonder Woman.  Everyone was completely dear, and rather fun, to be honest.

By the end of the night, Marc and I realised this was actually about the best thing that’s ever happened to us, as far as team sports go.

All of our attempts to play sports together have ended in disaster.  Either, one of us fails to comprehend the parameters of the sport—Marc can’t ice skate worth a damn, which is, it turns out, rather necessary for hockey; I refuse to get on a horse to play polo.  Or Marc…um…over-participates.  Like that time he tackled a bloke a bit too hard and accidentally scrambled his energy to the point that we were ejected from the rugby league.

This baseball thing, though…

Well, it’s still the worst game ever invented, but I’m good at it.  Marc likes watching me be good at it, without any impulse on his part to join in.  Rather like when I watch him race chariots.  And that works for us.

He gets to be the rich husband who shows up with a jug of margaritas and does the player’s wives nails while he shouts encouragements and makes thumbs up and down motions.  I get to strut around looking hot for him and then smash pints with cute bros.

Wins all around.

Mostly.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle when Marc tried to leave the house in two extra gold chains, a t-shirt so tight it could be a tourniquet, and a pair of trophy-husband, bright-white jeans, which I burned in the kitchen fireplace.

[He thought it was hilarious.  He happily proclaimed he would wear a toga instead, like he was attending a gladiatorial battle, adorned with all the things he’d stolen from Egypt and Gaul.  ‘I am wear thing I am steal from Eeeeegypt. I am wear thing I am steal from Gaaaaul, I am wear all of thing I am steal.’ ]

[Consequent that conversation, I asked if the ring he gave me for our engagement was stolen.  ‘I am non know where Uncle Cato is get ring. Is ruby, babe, just enjoy have ruby.’]

[Consequent both conversations, Marc has promised me he doesn’t plunder things anymore, and that he was actually more respectful of conquered souls than his devil-may-care attitude would imply.]

[I digress.]

I’m also still growing used to the appalling method of Canadian-American celebration.  I hit a tri-run-thing and everyone shouted at me.  It was alarming.  Very ‘FUCK YEAH YOU HIT THAT BALL’ and less ‘good show chap’.

Oh, and I called a practise a ‘rehearsal’ once, so now that’s a thing…

But yes, overall, a good time.

Scene Cards

Just wanted to briefly celebrate the fact that I’ve finished all the scene cards for my first romance novel!

scene cards

There they are. Graciously transferred from word processing lists to actual note cards by my host, Alexander, who, unlike me, has legible penmanship.

I have two hopes for the project.  I’d like to a) finish it, and b) manage to make Geoffrey and I look, as dramatic adolescents, even marginally sympathetic.   Had I a time machine, I’d flick us both on the ear.

 

Roman Escapades

Alex’s guest post makes it sound as though I spent two weeks gallivanting through Rome with nary a care.

That’s not entirely true.

I spent two weeks gallivanting through Rome with precisely one care, namely, the dearth of tea in Italy.  I was nearly forced to drink a cappuccino, the horror.

No, but really, it was a rollicking good time.  And I suppose I should explain a bit more fully what I was up to.

You might recall my mentioning, earlier in the summer, that I was slated to appear in a fashion film for Richard’s line, Cavalier.  Normally, we advertise by dressing as piratical gentleman and commandeering pleasure yachts in the Mediterranean.  (No, I know.) But Richard decided he would like to try his hand at land-based conquests, and so this film was born.

The script was…well there wasn’t really a script.  There was merely a scenario: two Lotharios, one gay, one straight, go to a party as each other’s wingmen where they end up meeting their objects of pursuit and proceed to chase them across the gorgeous Italian countryside until conquests are made and everyone falls in love.

The bloke playing the straight lead–this sort of vaguely rakish Ken-doll who insisted upon calling himself ‘Britain’–thought it was charming.

His counterpart–a spunky American model named Molly with hair straight from the 1930s and a queer girlfriend named Lamplight–thought it was horseshit.

And I, as well as my counterpart Fox, saw it for what it was–the absurdist theatre of Richard’s most tongue-in-cheek dreams.  We were able to convince Molly of this, with Lam’s help, and so filming began.

The first day of filming was a bit stressful, I must say.  I’m quite used to being dressed up and paraded about at this point, but moving cameras are quite different from stationary ones, and the pace was arduous.  Then there was the lack of tea.  And the fact that I can’t ride a damn bike let alone a Moped.  And the sheer weight of performing ‘macho’ all day, as Fox played the more effeminate role on account of his delightfully elfin appearance.

But I hit my stride fairly quickly, and ended up rather enjoying myself.  The countryside is truly magical, with all its rolling hills and climbing cypress.

roman countryside

Now imagine a warm breeze ruffling your hair…

Marc joined me on set at least once a day, as well, to giggle at my ‘sexy face’ and make eyes at me whilst I marched around in jodhpurs and jackets.  And Fox was a delightful companion once he overcame his nerves about playing opposite ‘Mr. Brutus’, as I’m known throughout ghost Italy.

Meanwhile, the kiddos took to Rome with renewed fervor.

J went about everywhere in his little tunica and bulla, accepting parcels from townsfolk with the seriousness of mind that becomes the son of a Roman priest.  He also quite bonded quite with Claudius this visit and spent a great deal of time in the barnyard, learning to corral animals and read weather.

Mira did a bit of solo wandering, getting to know the land and the landscapes.  She also spent some time on horseback, introducing Nox around–Marc’s sneaky method of drawing her out into the town and forcing her to socialise.

And in all, we managed to use the time away to check in with a number of other friends.

Marie and Girafe came down from France for a ‘picnic’, which I should have known wouldn’t be a mere picnic.  They arrived with a boatload of lavish pillows, which Marie flung about a clearing in the countryside while Girafe made mysterious calls on his feather-covered mobile.  All of a sudden we had an oddly poofy, organic gazebo effect happening, and a vast array of food trucks from which to choose.

Delphi came out from the city no fewer than three times a week for afternoons that bled into suppers that bled into cocktails.  He and Claudius are no longer hiding their item-hood. They were as cozy as could be, and utterly sweet besides.  My favourite detail of their relationship: as Claudius is prone to forgetting to clean his spectacles, Delphi wears a soft cloth as a pocket square these days.  My heart!

And at the end of the trip, yes, we did go laze about in New Zealand with Matiu and Teddy and their son Miri.  I was quite ready for the time away from cameras and back in nail polish and loose tees.  Marc was ready to shed the immediate responsibility of representing Rome back to itself.  Mira and J were greedy for our time after all the excitement–quite gratifying, hehe–and I scarcely went ten minutes without a tiny hand in mine or a sleepy little face on my shoulder.

Now all that remains for the end of the summer is Marc’s participation in the war games.  He didn’t ‘play’ last year on account of the WWII theme, and he’s actually not leading any troops this year, either, to give other generals a chance to enjoy their moment in the sun.  But he will be providing live commentary from the stands this weekend, which is bound to be both enlightening and hilarious.  It’s a sea-battle, and he’s hoping they provided for ghost sharks to eat the fallen, because of course he’s hoping for that.

sea battle

Oh shit is ghost shark get out! – Marc

Oh, and I suppose I also have a birthday coming up, but I’m not terribly anticipatory.  It’s 199 this year, and I begged for a small gathering since I know for a fact I’m not escaping some monstrosity for my 200th.

Host Guest Post

This isn’t really much of a guest post.

What actually happened is that Elliot messaged me while he was off  filming a commercial in Ghost World Rome and said, “please won’t you post an update about where I’ve been?? I feel bad. I don’t think I’ve missed a month of posting before.”

Turns out he has–November 2016.  But I’ll go ahead and post an update anyway, because I’m nice like that.

Nice enough to let Elliot (and Marc) run off to the Mediterranean, where Elliot has been wearing designer suits, eating at fancy restaurants, and kissing male models, while getting PAID to do that, and Marc has been accepting gifts from townsfolk as though he’s some sort of demi-god (he’s not…he’s just a priest…but he’s still collected a full flock of thirty-eight chickens, as well as a cow, enough braided altar cakes to feed an army, and six silk shawls to wear when he conducts state-religion ceremonies).

Nice enough to let them run off to New Zealand after that, to go ghost off-roading with Teddy (much more dangerous without the consequences) swim around in tide pools, and adventure in primordial forests with their darling children.

Nice enough, overall, to even enjoy the fact that they’re enjoying themselves…sigh…I suppose they deserve it.

But I’ll be glad to see them come home.

New posts from E in August.

 

 

 

 

 

Hopeful Romantic

At one point, nearly…Christ, a decade ago, now, I attempted to write memoirs.

(Good god I’ve been a manifested ghost a long time.)

Initially, my host and I accumulated about 450 single-spaced pages, divided into sections regarding my childhood before I arrived in London, my young adult-hood as I approached marriage, my newly-wed years, and my years as a father.

It was all rather serious stuff—an accounting of a life, rather than the reliving of one.  This has largely to do with the fact that when I first manifested, I was rather a stick-in-the-mud, lacking in real personality and foisting this sort of agreeable, but utterly Victorian manner upon my host.

I understand now that ghosts long-dead and then suddenly manifested remember their public personas first, followed, often slowly, by their more poignant and complex memories.  Personalities fill back in over time.

Mine did, to be damn sure.  I flatter myself to think that my sense of humour is rather obvious, now.  I admit that my vices and penchants are equally as obvious.  And I’ve recovered my losses so that they might heal, my romance so that it might bloom, and my hobbies, interests, and tendency toward self-exploration so that I might grow.

The people who graced my life have become more real to me, as well.

Geoffrey, who I had thought to be my best mate, crawled into my bed and happily reminded me he was also my husband.  Marion, who I had remembered as my sweet wife, flew down off the mantle where I’d placed her and rightly berated me for idolizing her into inactivity, forgetting how far her radicalism went.  My friends, employers, and acquaintances exploded into colour and humour. And Jon, my darling boy, died again, forcing me to face my depression and to summon the courage to really, fully remember him—not only his giggles, his beauty, and his intellect, but also his stubbornness, his stark honesty, and his tendency to exhaust those around him with queries and challenges.

Naturally, I wanted to apply these correctives to my original memoirs, which had come to seem stagnant and false.  But by the time I had gathered enough of myself to consider such a task, Alex was deep into his graduate studies and fully immersed in the re-writing of his historical fantasy novel.  Oh, and I had, you know, remarried, become a father again, co-launched a fashion line, and taken on international modeling.

These things do quite fill a schedule, haha.

Then Alex finished his novel and sent it off for beta-editing.  He moved away from toxic environments to work on his dissertation in relative peace.  Marc and I settled into our business and charity, finding it all rather less bewildering.  Paces slowed.

I started thinking about those memoirs again…

Only now, I’ve been thinking…what if I wrote them as romances?

You see, one of the things Alex and I did have time for over the years was a shared love of m/m historical romance.  The plots!  The characters! The history and fashion!  It’s delicious, and sends me right back to my time in late-regency, early-Victorian London, curled up on a chaise, listening to Geoff read me poetry.  Hoping he’d put down the book and, um…well…

That’s rather the only problem with the idea.  Even just reading romance turns me into a fidgeting, blushing mess.  Not that I’m a prude—far from it, which is perhaps part of the hesitation to consider my amorous exploits in lush detail.

I mean, not far.  Far enough, though.  Oh, I don’t know…

But I’m determined to best the bashful, because in outline, the narrative thrust of the memories I want to share work so well for romance.  They’re funny, complex, lovely, sad, and triumphant.  And quite frankly, when I’m on my own, away from the fear of embarrassment, the stories fly out of my pen in such a way as to convince me of my need and ability to write them.

So, there it is.  I’m going to take a crack at romance novels.

On the site, that means you may be seeing a bit more of my Victorian life, as well as some recollections on the time—its politics, fashions, employment, operas, poetry, etc.  I hope that’s enjoyable.

You may also see new portraits from time to time, as Alex has agreed to sketch my loves, my friends, and their respective loves, who often became my friends, in turn.

And you might see bits of conversations, dialogue now, one supposes, as my compatriots and lovers were hilarious, lovely, sharply discerning folks who I’m convinced would like to be heard even now.

You will likely not see…um…saucy bits?  That sounds…anyway…

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

The Quiet Path to Peace

Father’s Day approaches, as it does every year, and as always, I am filled with both existential dread and riotous joy.

Rather odd how a greeting-card company creation can do that…

But I must say, this year, I’m more joy than dread.  And that has a great deal to do with my therapist, Jasmine, the task she set for me this last April, and the decision I came to as a result.

Jasmine, you see, asked me to celebrate Jon’s birthday in silence this year, to re-evaluate the depths of its meaning and his place in my life.  Her argument: To commemorate is sometimes to forget.  To speak at length is often to pull great loss into the shallows for public dissection.  She wanted to know how I felt about Jon when I was utterly alone with his memory.

At first, must say, I was a bit put off.  I’ve spent all this time reaching a point where I can talk about Jon without breaking down or, worse, fading out into vegetative depression consequent post-traumatic stress disorder.  And now I was supposed to be silent?  Had I not already adopted twice over?  Had I not conquered my guilt over Jon’s death to the extent that I perform well, and deservedly, as a father?  What was this?

But I did as she asked, because I knew she did not ask it lightly, and because I trust Jasmine immensely.  With both my life and my afterlife, quite frankly.

So, on Jon’s birthday—April 8th—I did not post to Facebook.  I did not decorate the house, buy a cake, go through my writings, or look at my recreated ‘photographic’ memories.  I sat, quietly, by myself, in my work shed, and about halfway through my day of silence I realised what Jasmine had wanted me to realise.

I am at peace with Jon.

I am at actual, quiet, exists-when-I-am-alone peace.

It’s not a peace without tears, without moments of crushing loss, without blips of fault.  It’s never perfect.  That’s not what peace is really about, is it? It’s not angels and trumpets; it’s acknowledging and turning down the devil.  It’s about hard emotional work becoming easier, and–for me–seeing that Jon would want me to have happiness.

My peace is Jon.

He is the constant tone—sometimes subtle and sometimes deafening—that underpins all the other melodies in my life.  A lynchpin in so many of my memories of Marion and Geoff.  A driving force in my own self-understanding and self-forgiveness.  A guide to my parenting.  A humbling reminder of what is important, what is superfluous, what is real, and what will pass.

At my next session, I walked straight into Jasmine’s office and right into her arms.  I didn’t know what to say, so I just hugged her for a while, hoping it would express gratitude.  She’s a let’s go running together, let’s have tea, let me hold your hand while you cry sort of therapist, so it worked.

We didn’t discuss it, really.  That was part of the exercise in quietude, the sharing of silent immensity.

I only talk about it now to share two things.

First, the exercise.  If you are in a similar place, do recommend.

Second, the decision.  The Junius-Smiths are going to actively pursue a third adoption.

Because, as it turns out, I am ready to do so.  I am prepared to process a shift in family dynamic.  I am prepared to welcome another little mind into my space, without feeling that I am pasting over Jon’s memory.  I am prepared for the search, the potential joys and heartbreaks, the possibility that this may take years, the necessary conversations.

The first conversation, of course, was with my husband.  If Jon is my pedal tone of peace, them Marc is my vibrant, dancing counterpoint. Yes, he said, of course he hasn’t changed his mind.  He wants another child.  He wants six hundred, with pets for all of them.

And then, of course, we talked to J and Mira, who’ve been asking for a sibling.  They were elated.  Serious about the process, but elated.

So, we begin our search this Sunday.  It’ll be a busy morning and afternoon with my administrative roles at JS Home for Children (always a popular visiting day).  But we’ve carved out time in our family supper and shindig for a slow start–familiarising J and Mira with traditional adoption processes, scheduling some visits at London- and Rome-based homes, planning our family video for adoption profiles.

God help us, three children…I already feel outnumbered.

But so excited.  So so so excited.