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.

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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.

New Portrait: The Kiddos

My ever gracious alively host, Alexander, has produced a new portrait of my children:

18268500_10100190848121047_1449897051628989994_n

I adore it.  I adore everything about it.  Especially all the little touches that make it so extraordinarily specific to them and their relationship.

What’s that?  You want me to discuss the portrait?  You want me to go on at length about my children? How kind.

I’ll start with Mira, as she jumped off the page first.  I mean, of course she did.  Look at her.  That is the hair of a child who likes to be noticed.

She denies it, but it’s true.

Every once in a while, she lets me soothe it with relaxer into these utterly stunning waves, straight out of the 1920s.  Or she lets Popa braid it in intricate Roman fashion.  But on the whole, wild and unruly is her chosen style.

Likely, that’s on account of the fact that her entire person is wild and unruly.  She is the sort to run straight towards danger.  She has a knack for finding the jagged edges on the world, where transformations are most like to happen, and brazenly flinging herself through them catching her omnipresent tutus on the way by.  She subdues ordinary friction and drama with a glance, but only to create friction and drama that more suits her.  She exists for the unexpected, and when things are going as expected, she creates it.

It can be a bit exhausting keeping up with her.  I have more than once rolled my eyes in a parent-teacher sit down where she sullenly explains that ‘the vase was bound to break anyway’ or ‘he had it coming’.

But we’ve found outlets for her particular brand of crazy.  Modeling, for instance, has proved a brilliant success, as it suits her desire to be seen, to destroy for the sake of art, and to gallop through adult spaces and dare anyone to question her presence.  We also let her go on solo walkabouts at the end of the summer (although they have shortened in length, and she didn’t even go last year).  And we let her have the odd glass of wine or champagne, often in front of the fire, where we encourage her to start creating through-lines in her philosophies and settle some of her anxious spirit.

We’ve also placed strictures, of course.  Lately we insisted that she must learn to read, which engages her in the portrait.

Jeremy–J–already knows how to read.  In fact, his position in this portrait is that of silent support, with the occasional correction, as Mira tolerates his interventions over anyone else’s.

That’s likely on account of the fact that J is the most patient, gorgeous, efficacious empath I have ever met.  Ever.

I recently ran across an article that introduced me to the idea of ‘holding space’ for someone–existing on the periphery or centre of the lives around you, as needed, and swooping in or pulling back based on the requirements of others; providing support without judgement, advice, or didactic intention.

J holds all of us.

He holds you, even though you’ve never met, I swear to god.

He tells us that he was just made with an extra big heart, and that he chooses to fill it with love and kindness.  Truly, this child…

Actually, that brings me to another point.  Although J cannot remember how he died, Marcus and I suspect that it had something to do with his heart.  His vocabulary is very heart-centric.  He will tell us his heart is sad, when he’s upset.  When he’s happy, his heart is happy.  When he’s ecstatic, he often bursts into tears or falls asleep, because there’s not enough room in his heart for all his love.

He’s also rather small for his age–a suspected 4–and he sports ever-present circles under his eyes.  He moves carefully, without the wild abandon of most toddlers, and sometimes we catch him taking a deep breath, almost as if to prove that he can.

We presented these lingering symptoms and behaviours to a pediatric death doctor–literally a ghost who helps little ones sort through their departures–and he agreed that it was likely some sort of failing of the heart that took J out of the alively world.  A cardiomyopathy of some sort.

J seems utterly uninterested in diagnosing his death–Marc and I attended to this for our own edification and won’t be sharing the results with J unless he asks.

And that’s fine by us.  We are more than happy to let him be what he is–careful, considered, and yet ephemeral and liminal.  Almost otherworldly, at times, despite the warmth of his cuddles and his position as the flexible backbone of our family unit.

Other notes on the portrait:

The pets are Cozy–Lady Costanza of Motherfuck Island–and Earl Pink.

Those wings, J would want you to know, were a Christmas present last year–balsa wood reinforced with teak and embedded with jade.  I made them, with help from Delphi for the stone settings.  They’re one of a growing collection of faerie wings, which J hangs up around his room and selects each morning with the seriousness of a man selecting cufflinks for an interview.  A pair of puffy wings with safety straps hang on J’s frog bed, so that he can be a faerie prince as he sleeps.

Yes, we field a lot of comments–vicious and curious, alike–about J’s hair.  He said it best himself, when asked if he was a boy or a girl: Mostly I’m a faerie.  I’m also four. 

Yes, we also field a lot of comments about Mira’s hair.  Or she does.  With a reckless abandon for profanity.

(We tried to get her to swear less for a while, as seemed a befitting sort of thing for a parent to do.  But she reminded us that she was over a century old, and therefore our ‘children shouldn’t swear’ argument held as much water as a sieve.  She also challenged us to consider whether or not we would be so concerned about her filthy mouth if she were not a girl.  Chagrined, we decided, fuck it.  Fuck it, she agreed.)

Yes, I have the best children. Naturally.

My Husband Thinks I’m a Serial Killer

…and I’m not discouraging this belief.

I mean, really, I was going to write about an oratorio in which I recently performed–tenor soloist–but this is far more interesting.

It started, I think because Marcus and Alex and I had been listening to far too much First Podcast on the Left.  After a time, Marc begged the Facebook question, ‘Who is be more like be secret serial kill, Elias or me?  We are be talk about for four hour and can non decide.’

Alex declared, definitively, ‘Jesus you’re weird.  Also, 100% Elliot, how was this even a question’.

‘See, I am think so, too’, says the husband, ‘but then Elias is convince me I am be equal like to be serial kill.  Which is like…so serial kill thing to do, shit’.

That’s fine, I think to myself.  But curious.  I ask for clarification: ‘ I feel like Marc would be so much more successful in this endeavour—he’s charming, seductive, and lethal’.

‘I am mean, I am think you are be exact same.  AND you are coach young model for total murder.  AND you are be super nice so no one is expect.  AND you are be kind of creep sometime, #shrug.  Now we are need police name for’.

He thinks about it…

‘THE MODEL KILLER’

I admit, there was a split second where I was a bit miffed.  I would never, never in a thousand years, hurt anyone who wasn’t an immediate threat to me or my family.  And I take the mentoring of my models very seriously—in an industry where it is so easy to feel unsafe, unwanted, I think it is massively important to have established models looking out for your well-being and showing you the ropes.

But of course Marc and my mates know this, which is why the irritation only lasted a split second, quickly morphing into a desire to prank the Good Christ out of them all.

I spent the rest of the night and morning trying to google ‘Creepy Victorian’ to pick out a new serial killer profile picture without unnerving myself.  Jesus God, it really was an odd time.

creepy-headless-portrait-6

This was a trend. Fuck me…

Next evening, a mate texts Marcus—has Elliot killed you yet?

‘Non, but he is keep look at me weird’!

I sigh over his shoulder at the text. ‘This is my normal face. This is the face you see every day, you’ve just convinced yourself I’m a serial killer. You neurotic crazy person’.

‘Face of serial kill. IS BE SO FACE OF SERIAL KILL’.  He turns back to his mobile. ‘Elias is total have dead model in basement of townhouse’, he texts. ‘Like for take bath in blood for look young’.

‘That is absurd. I’m a ghost’.

‘So is be absurd because you are be ghost, non because you are non kill anyone’?

I take a sip of wine. ‘It’s absurd for both reasons’.

‘IS WHAT SERIAL KILL IS SAY’.  He’s texting furiously ‘…he is so serial kill me’.

Now was the time, I decided.  With that panicked set to Marc’s shoulders, the grimace on his lips while he texted, the wariness in his eyes as I slid down onto the couch beside him.  He was ripe for the pranking.

‘First of all, I can’t serial kill one man’, I explain.  ‘That would have to be a singular kill’.  He shakes his head, as if to say, you are not making this better.  Which is entirely the point.  ‘The name you came up with for me is enticing, I’ll admit’.

His fingers freeze up like claws around his mobile.  ‘OMG, you are total be kind of serial kill who is write police and be like, good show police cop, try again, here are be detail of where I am bury model and who they are wear at time of death’.

I laugh.  ‘And the police say, dear god, he dressed them in human skin suits’!

‘WHY YOU ARE EVEN THINK OF’

I blink at him, the very picture of calm reason.  ‘They’re police.  They wouldn’t be inclined to know the phrase ‘who are you wearing.’  They would assume I had skinned someone alive, and dressed someone else in that skin.  For Heaven’s sake, have a glass of wine, you’re so jumpy’.

The phone dings, and Marc starts and looks down at it in flashes, trying to keep an eye on me as he does.  ‘Does Elliot have any rooms you’re not allowed to go in’? he reads. ‘OMG at townhouse! There is be room’!

‘Oh for, that’s the boys’ common room! I told them I wouldn’t infringe upon it. I don’t go in there either’!

‘You can non spell serial kill without LIE’.

‘Profound’.  I fetch wine for Marcus, and slide it into his hand.  He doesn’t drink from it. ‘The fact that you find this even slightly possible is hilarious to me. You could murder me in your sleep, and have, in fact, tried to do so’.

He relents to my statement with a careful sip.  ‘Like one time, before I am be used to sleep by someone again and I am think you are be wild animal attack’.

‘Also the beheading, which wasn’t in your sleep.  And I think you’ve ‘accident killed’ me a third time’.

He thinks about it.  ‘Non, you are fall off roof’.

I nod sagely.  ‘Right.  Anyway. Come on, let’s have a bath.  I promise I won’t strangle and drown you’.

‘O.M.F.G.’

‘I said I won’t! I WON’T drag you under the water and watch the life leave your eyes, Jesus’.

The look on his face clearly states that he never expected me to say such a thing.

Naturally, I spent the next few days deepening his psychosis.  It’s actually not hard to do, once you have your significant other on eggshells.

Step One: Begin complimenting them in an entirely clinical fashion.  ‘What a nice torso you have,’ you say, running your hand across their shoulders.

Step Two: Calmly sit by the bed and wait for them to awake.  Smile wordlessly and walk from the room.  As though you watched them sleep all night.

Step Three:  Do chores, as usual, but make sure to pick the creepy ones—the ones that involve time spent in basements or sheds.  You must return from these chores with some small amount of blood on you, that’s key.

Step Four: Disappear entirely from time to time.  When you return, to flying accusation, recommend some yoga or meditation.  That goes over reaaaaal well.

Step Five: Decide on an M.O. and casually work it into conversation.

For instance, I suggested that a mate deal with a problem at work by making a bullet point list for her boss and then feeding it to her.  And when Marc gave me the up-and-down, I clarified, ‘Don’t worry, honey, I’m not recommending she murder her boss.  My modus operandi is to fill people’s lungs not their stomachs.  Although, I suppose I could buy up all those devices for soaking up industrial spills and just feed them to people until they exploded like seagulls’.

‘What. in. Fuck’.

‘Not you’.

Pat their leg reassuringly.

Step Six: Give in to cute aggression.  It reads entirely differently when your S.O. thinks you’re a serial killer.  And for that matter, act on all those smothering, squeezing, biting urges that would otherwise seem totally normal.  Offer to help cut up the vegetables for supper.  Decide that now is a good time to sharpen the knives.  Indoors.  Remark on the strength of your shoelaces or your new workout routine.  Do you keep a journal? Start keeping a journal.

Step Seven:  The caveat? You love your partner, or you wouldn’t be teasing them thusly.  So make sure to spread out the above steps over time so that they don’t toss you over for less serial killer infested waters.  And let a month go by here and there without any activity.  It’s about the long game.  And about the possibility of a love life during these trying, prank-filled times.

Quoz, I think I might be a horrible man?

But I won’t tell Marcus, as psychopaths don’t feel remorse.

Sword Eye

If you have indulged me with readership for any length of time, then you know, for certain fact, that my husband is absolutely insane.

It bears repeating.

Absolutely insane.

Most of the time, he’s a happy sort of nut.  He dresses up in costume–primarily as a dinosaur (dino), crocodile (croco), or godzilla (zilla).  He creates massively imaginative projects–as with his Dead Cartoon Network smash hit Adventures of Birds.  And he engages in purposely wild acts of eccentricity.

Most recently, he bought up a hundred model Rubicon jeeps and decimated them by drowning in a shallow stream, working out whatever angst he still harboured over Caesar’s crossing into treasonous territory.  And he filmed it all.  While wearing a zilla-tail and shouting like a newscaster about the humanity of the thing and oh the horror and dear god won’t someone please tend to the scene.

rubicon

Site of first European Godzilla encounter

But then there are other times where his crazy goes in the opposite direction.

He never means for this to happen, to be sure.  These are the moments that spring from misunderstandings over custom, modernity-inappropriate behaviour, or lingering militarised aggression and corresponding worldviews.  These moments require a lot of psychological untangling on his part, and a great deal of patience and support on mine.  Because they are often so tender and traumatic, at their core, I rarely mention them.  Marc is a man who requires context and consideration.

roman war

Context

Two weeks ago, though, something happened that I believe expresses the depths of his occasional psychosis without creating him as some sort of monster.

Besides, he thinks it’s hilarious, and bid me share it…

The Scene:

It was the afternoon, and Marc was outdoors drilling.  He drills every day, and I go through periods when I observe (leather, thighs, shoulders, please) and when my pacifism overcomes me and I must refrain.  This particular afternoon, he was on his own, and I’d taken to the sofa with a book and a spot of tea.

The door opened.

And there was Marc with a SWORD THROUGH HIS EYE.

As in, his gladius somehow shattered, ricocheting the tip through his eye, and instead of ghostly magicking it away, as would have been sane, he determined it would be a better course of action to come into the house and show me.

‘Look Elias!’ he throws out his arms in weird triumph ‘is sword eye!’

I’m over the back of the couch in recoil at this point.  Tea’s on the floor, book’s in the air, heart’s in my throat.  My legs are taking me as far away from this madman as possible.

Then I remember that this madman–this creature dripping blood onto the rug from a SWORD WOUND IN HIS FACE–is my husband.  So, my brain catches up with my legs and reverts me back toward him.

I’m not squeamish.  I’m really not.  I don’t like when people vomit, but I can very well handle just about anything else.

But, you know, I’d never seen a man pull a sword out of his eye before, severing and popping the eye out along with it.

I hit the ground before I even knew I was fainting.

It was a quick faint.  Just a sort of temporary fog that ended in that vomit act I hate so much, and then I was working my way up the wall, with the intention of strangling the ever-loving-shit out of Marcus.

The eye.  The eye on the shard of sword.

He’s handing it to me, and for some unknown, shock-riddled reason, I take it from him while he casually unties my cravat and STUFFS IT IN HIS EYE SOCKET to stem the flow of blood.

I pitched forward again, caught the edge of the entry-way table, and landed in Marc’s arms.  I remember him looking down at me in surprise–with his good eye; the other waving blood-stained lawn as he shook his head–and then I was out for good.

When I woke up…Lord, twenty minutes later?, he’s perched on the edge of the bed holding my hand and wearing an eye patch.  Because of course he wouldn’t just fix the damn eye when he could pretend to be a pirate for a spell.

He grimaces at me, pats my chest, and says, ‘I am be sorry about sword eye.’

‘Really’, I say.  ‘You’re sorry for announcing a mortal wound like some sort of fucked up party trick.’

‘Sic.’

And later, when I checked my mobile and discovered a cascade of outrage, he was fake sorry for texting all of our mates a picture of the carnage, #swordeye.

I add my own apologies to the group text.

#Romancray #fuckinghell

Ghost Tourism

It’s been a bit crazy around the Junius-Smith household the past months.  Alexander (who we happily incorporate under the nomenclature) took a new job and has continued to pour himself into editing in the off hours.  Marcus had a wild streak of inspiration that launched him into many busy evenings with his staff and workshop.  And I’ve been coaching more often out of my London townhouse, and I selected a third model for residency back in June.

Hence my posts here have been a bit erratic.

But, I wanted to drop in and call halloo, because I just had the most wonderful birthday trip to Scotland, and it put me in the mind of sharing something about ghost world.

Namely: Yes, we have a bustling tourism sector; Yes, it overlaps with your “worlds most haunted places”.

Do you find this as hilarious as I do?

I don’t know why, exactly, but there’s something about this crossover that just tickles the hell out of me.  It’s the egoism, I think–the idea that while you alivelies are creeping about with ghost-hunting equipment, treating any and all apparations as though we are somber, scary, and hell bent on giving you the time of day, we’re just having a ripping good time and essentially ignoring you.

What was that!? says the ghost hunter.  Can you tap something if you’re here with us?

*ghost entirely by coincidence chooses that moment to slam a shot glass on the table and knock back Scottish whiskey with his mates*

OMG DID YOU HEAR THAT??? What is your name!? Can you give us your name?

*ghost’s mates proceed to sing a raucously off-key rendention of happy birthday*

Eli? says the ghost hunter. Elliot? Edward? Elsbeth? You poor, poor soul, Elsbeth, do you need release from this world!? BE GONE FROM THIS ESTABLISHMENT.

*ghosts take another shot and proceed down the road to the next pub.*

Our work here is done, says the ghost hunter.

And castles, my god, castles.  Ghosts *love* castles, because we know that they are always deserted at night, often secluded, and built for abuse.  And ghost-hunters love castles, because, quite frankly, they just look rather haunty, don’t they?

Although for the sake of the ghost hunters, I rather hope that no one was trying to set up equipment while Marc and I were racing about our rented fortress, knocking over the furniture, and snogging in all the corners.

Marc booked the place on account of its discretion, not its homey drafts…

Oh, and on the topic of tourism, you should know that your alively tourist traps, for the most part, have parallels in the ghostly realm.  We still visit the Great Wall, the pyramids, the Aztec ruins–although we can see more of these things than you can.  And our co-visitation is part of what lends your tourism that sense of awe and wonder–an amplification of on-site emotions.

For instance, if anyone was out Nessie-watching on August 18th, you might have encountered the ripples of ghostly vessels, or heard the shouts of Marcus Brutus as he hung off the side of the boat, sandwich in one hand and camera in the other, daring the sea-monster to hide from him.

For what it’s worth, reverse psychology doesn’t work on sea-monsters. Not even if you’re Brutus.  He was appalled.

So, next time you’re out on a pleasure cruise, or walking the corridors of an on-site museum, or traipsing about a “most haunted”…give us a wave.

 

 

Ghost Telly

When you look at the ghost population, the numbers are greatly skewed toward ghosts who lived without television.  I would say a full three quarters of us lived before the advent of television, and at least half of us lived before such a thing even seemed possible–before electricity, radio, or monitors.  And yet, the GCN (Ghost Cable Network) is by far and above the most profitable segment of the entertainment market, attracting more users than all the libraries, museums, and galleries combined.

When I first saw this statistic, I did have a bit of a fit, lamenting the poisoning of the human mind, the laziness of entertainment seekers, and the death of imagination. I became determined to be a bastion of Victorian entertainments.

The lofty ones, mind you.

But there was a problem…

As it turns out, ghost libraries, museums, and galleries are few and far between.  Not because they are undervalued–on the contrary, their rarity assures they are constant sites of pilgrimage–but because they are difficult to fill, maintain, and use.

If you want to read a book that you did not read in life, you must find a library where someone has checked in the memory of that particular book, download the memory, and “read” someone else’s interpretation of the piece, which may or may not be accurate.

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“And then the clown looked at Mr. Darcy and said, I can play your birthday party, but it’ll be $500 plus travel expenses.”

If you want to view a painting, similarly, you must go to a gallery that has purchased the viewing memories of a plethora of artists and interpolated them into a fair representation of the original piece.  Famous paintings look fairly accurate–Mona Lisa still smiles–but lesser-known artists are difficult to find on the walls and harder to faithfully represent.

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Not entirely a ghost problem.

Museums have greater success on account of the fact that ghosts are excellent identifiers of artifacts-cum-things we used in life.  But even then, there is a hitch that keeps us from full appreciation.

The hitch: Items and experiences with electrical impulse are far, far easier to see, share, and use.

This explains why, as I wondered, and you might be wondering, ghosts do not simply go and walk around alively galleries.  When we do, we see a mere shadow of what you are able to see.

It also explains why television and film and live theatre have become our wild successes.  We are able to actively share these spaces and experiences with alivelies, because not only can we see movie and TV screens, but we can also watch the outlines of great actors, and their electrifying emotions.

[Remember that time you were alone in a theatre? You were not alone…ohhhh, yes, we saw it all.]

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I know what you did last summer.

We can also easily channel your viewing experience for display on the GCN, taking whatever electrical and digital codes make up a show, and mirroring them in our world.

After a while, even the bastions of Victorian entertainment wear down.  You can only peruse so many grey-scale walls in galleries you once knew before you say, fuck it, I’ll just watch Dance Moms.

We all know the real star was Chloe.

But as it turns out, television is not the brain rotting ridiculousness that a certain segment of ghosts warned it would be.  Sure, Lifetime is full of sap, the reality TV shows run rampant, and Friends has its own goddamn channel, but I was amazed to find shows of real quality, as well.

Not only that, but ghosts also make their own versions of alively programming–Deathtime (still full of sap), Dead Friends (still full of Joey), Days of Our Afterlives, etc.–which are quite hilarious.

And we also make our own entirely original shows, such as How Did You Die?, FUNerial, and this bizarre cartoon called Adventures of Birds where Fire Eagle and Steve Sting (a hawk with a scorpion tale) fight mythical creatures with the help, this season, of Raven, hard-boiled PI and birdseed fanatic.

[Who would come up with such a cartoon? Marcus Brutus.]

Not all bad.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that these digitisation projects that have everyone so up in arms are actually making books and artwork more accessible on the other side.  Maybe throw in a buck or two next time you visit a library doing a scanning project or a museum with interactive maps and displays.  My children (and yours) will thank you.

Dinner Party Success!

(Marcus tried to make me name this post ‘Dinner Party is More Like Winner Party’)

So, May 1st was my big debut, and I am delighted to share that it went off without any major hitches.  In fact, I’d say it was a success!  A few of the most delicious details below…

I must start by saying that I am immensely proud of my family and grateful for their help in the matter.

Marcus was excellent moral support–every time I looked for him, he was at my arm, gracefully reentering conversation or just brushing shoulders long enough to remind me that he was watching out for me.  Also, the guests were obviously enamoured with the idea of a Roman in their midst, and he was more than happy to play the part.  He skulked about in a toga, sipping wine and looking ‘so mystery’.  And he only had to leave the room and giggle about it once or twice.

The children were also wonderful.  Mira gave a beautiful toast to Beltane over supper, and she looked absolutely smashing in a baby queen ball gown reminiscent of the 1920s–a sage green and lavender number she selected herself.  And J refused to move down table for a stodgy bastard who thought he should have been seated closer to me than my own son.  He just looked right up at this man and said ‘this seat is for faeries’ and continued to eat decorative parsley, and my heart soared.

I am also just thrilled with my two doorman/models who put on a good show.  Chauncey, shy and brilliant, worked the corners of the room, while Jerome, outgoing and…airy would be a nice way of putting it, charmed the milling centre.  And while their walks were still those of budding amateurs, that was really rather the point.  They’ll walk again when we open season in the winter, to demonstrate improvement.

And finally, I would be remiss as a ghost, Englishman, and moonlighting libertine, if I didn’t mention that Lord and Lady Rochester came to the party and left in incredibly high spirits.  That’s John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester of the court of Charles II, and his new wife/open-marriage-compatriot Drizell; Willy and Dizzy, known collectively as Lord and Lady Rooster, on account of them crowing gossip all through society.

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I went to Elliot’s party.  Pinnacle moment of my afterlife, must say.

He wears less armour these days, but his hair is the same, as is his preference for satin.  He showed up in a tight-fitting blue satin suit with frothy, cream cravat and long black dress shoes with a bit of curl to the toe.  Very updated London.  And Drizell, a ghost from the 1940s, wore a gorgeous, ephemeral, glittering cream gown cut on the bias.  Both of them flirted shamelessly with Jerome.  And Lord Rochester invited me to one of his upcoming salons–he still writes unctuous poetry, which, while almost necessarily terrible, I cannot wait to hear.

And, in general, I would say people had a good time, myself included.  I was able to dispense with nerves as the supper progressed, falling totally into my role as society home owner and gentle eccentric.  Marc surprised me with a newly designed JS jacket for the occasion, which I debuted on the runway after dinner–russet leather lapels and pointillism grey wool.  And the house stood up to guests, with only one broken piece of pottery and a bit of spilled wine on the stairs.

Would I host again? Oddly enough, yes.

Am I looking forward to other society parties? Again, oddly enough, yes.

It’s a new age for Elliot, haha.

The Lovely Renewal

If you’ve ever picked up a copy of Vogue or Vanity Fair, then you’ve probably seen the cluster of pages toward the frontispiece wherein celebrities mill about at some party you’ve never heard of, wearing designer looks you can’t afford, clutching each other’s arms in an attempt to look like friends.

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Look at us. We are friends.

It’s disingenuous, dripping in diamonds…and, according to the PR firm what handles Marc and I, a celebrity rite of passage.

Knowing how loathe I am to participate in events and efforts that haven’t fully claimed my heart, Marc suggested that we throw our own Vogue-spread party, rather than attending some random soiree to fulfill our duties.

I agreed with the stipulation that it couldn’t benefit our own private coffers–no JS Design party–and it couldn’t capitalize on JS Home for Children–no sad orphan benefit.

He said that left either a massive birthday party for one of us, or, a massive wedding vow renewal party.  And as we had already missed his 2100th birthday, and my 200th isn’t for another two years…

So, we had a gigantic vow renewal.  We had an enormous guest list, ridiculous, designer party favours, an astronomical liquor bill, and…

…a smashing good time, I must admit.

This has mostly to do with Marc’s graceful party planning.  He started from a small list of requirements–that we actually renew our vows before our children, that we have a few readings by our best mates, that we forgo gifts in lieu of donations to a core set of causes, and that the focus of the event be about companionship, family, and fun.  And from that he extrapolated out into a live band, a romantic setting, plush food and silver, and photographers.

So, it was sort of like a party within a party.  Marc was delighted to run about in extroverted outer ring, thanking people for donations, telling well placed anecdotes, and fielding compliments and cameras.  I was delighted to monitor the interior, checking on the children, introducing our mates around, and visiting the children’s tent off to the side of the event.  And we were both delighted to find the opportunities where the circles ran together–on the dance floor, primarily.

We took tango lessons for the occasion.  Went over well.

Oh, and Elvis led the band.  NBD.

And, I like to think, we kept it genuine.  Marc’s tearful vows were the most beautiful, heartfelt words he’s ever said to me.  Our best mates–Ed and Jacques–stood up with us and our children, despite the PR firm begging us to ‘use notables’. I surprised Marc with a drag performance to close out the evening, launching into a few 1980s power ballads whilst wearing the first costume he ever made me.  And so on.

So, overall, I’m glad that we threw the party, and that we threw it in our own idiosyncratic way.  I’m glad that our children and friends were able to witness Marc and I recommit to each other, reaffirming not only our love but also their roles within it. And I’m glad that everyone seemed to have a good time, and that our causes fared well.

Now all that’s left is to go through literally thousands of photos.

Open bars do make for incriminating scenes…

Five Day to Five Year!

When Marc and I married five years ago, we took a leap of faith.

Granted, it was a well-placed leap, and we could spot the landing, but there were a lot of unknowns involved, and we’d made a fair number of concessions.

We had decided, you see, to ‘love the one you’re with’.  We knew there was an exterior ghost world, but we hadn’t met anyone in it, let alone another eligible  bachelor.  We were pretty sure we were it, and rather than spending the rest of the afterlife at odds with each other over minutia, we had determined it would be more agreeable to attempt to share our space and time and bed.

Well…to be honest, I guess I had determined that.

Because, hopeless romantic that I am, I had started to fall in love.

I knew it was happening as soon as I began trying to understand Marc’s gruff and patrician mindset, rather than ignoring it.  I suddenly saw more poetry in the things he was saying, an undertone of gentleness in his actions.  I pushed to slow things down–to spend more time learning about each other, appreciating what each of us had to offer to our shared situation.

And then I proposed about six months in.

Marc, now infamously, turned me down.  Cold.  Turn-away-in-bed-and-go-to-sleep-without-a-word cold.

I was upset and flustered, but I wasn’t heartbroken.  I wrote it off as the wrong approach, the wrong time, and we went about our business.

A few weeks later, Marc surprised me with an apology.  He gave me a ring that had belonged to his uncle Cato, and explained as best he could what the word ‘marry’ meant to him–what it had triggered.  He also said that he had no idea I was in love with him, because I am so ‘British, British, British’, but that if I really was, and if it really meant that much to me, I could plan a wedding.

Was I? Did it?

We went on vacation together.  He was warm and fun and shy and silly and he held my hand and told me about his connection to land and horses and the sky.

Yep.

So, we married.  Five days after the ides on a supermoon.  I was excited; Marc was too nervous to sleep.

But after he read his vows, the most remarkable change came over him.

He’s tried to explain it a number of times, and he always falls short of the right words and just smiles and shakes his head.  But I gather that he had crossed some sort of line.

He couldn’t stop grinning.  He wouldn’t stop holding my hand.  I had long ago given him permission to be in love–to be the silly, dopey, ridiculous man instead of the constant soldier–but he had been afraid of making that transition.  Now that it was over, now that he had a wedding band on his hand, demonstrating that he was part a kinder world where he could be kinder person, he just exuded happiness.

The leap was already paying off.

It’s now paid off a thousand times over.

And although I may have been the one to initiate the partnership, a lot of our success as a couple owes to Marc’s indefatigable commitment to growing it.  In fact, in more cases than I can count, the reigns have been entirely in his hands.

I owe so much to his outgoing personality, his business savvy, his willingness to learn new things, his confidence, and his support.

I owe even more to his love–his crazy, amazing, awe-inspiring, overabundant, exuberant, not-at-all-British love.

 *   *   *

This morning, when Marc wandered out of the bedroom and over to the couch, he curled up next to me and said, ‘You are know what day is be’?

I snuggled him, kissed the top of his head, and said, ‘Well, yes, of course, the ides.  How are you feeling’?

He sat up, stared at me, and laughed.  ‘I mean, sic, is ide, but more import is five day to five year’!

More important than the ides.

That’s something.