Note: This is the foreword of a novel I am halfway

through. It is the tale of a 1200 year old vampire who

is weary of his long “life” and who is in the

midst of an endless, fruitless search for

unrequited love. One. True.  Reciprocal. Love.

Priscilla is his objet du désir.

The Story….

     Priscilla. What can I say about my precious Priscilla? Perhaps, the loveliest creature I have ever laid my world-weary, cynical and hungry eyes upon. Words cannot describe the vision of purity and innocence that is my dear, sweet Priscilla. Mere words really do fail to capture the quite unearthly combination of wholesome goodness, soul-searing sensuality and incandescent beauty that reside so seamlessly in the sweet girl. How can it be that one so pure and beautiful can strike such terror and hopelessness in one such as I, the utter quintessence of evil. That the grotesqueness inherent in such a pathetic state would enslave my every thought and action whenever I contemplated my difficult, desperate relationship with the beauteous Priscilla was a sick, cruel jest of the first order. It was beyond jest…beyond cruelty and despair. Simply…it was wrenching beyond my experience in a career long on rapacious hunger and evil-doing, and even longer in years.

I am Renaud D’Avignon. A name few know, or admit to knowing, in this most soulless of worlds. And those that do know, never, ever utter it in the dark of night. They fear to whisper it even among the cognoscenti. For they truly understand. The night is mine. It is my fortress of fear…the bloody palette upon which I sketch my greatest horrors. When you enter my dark realm, you become fodder to my feast. Innocent or no…lamb or lion…saint or sinner…merciful or malefactor…if you dare to challenge me in my deadly arena you cannot win. Your blood will be my blood and you will be in thrall to me for a thousand lifetimes of pain, suffering and soul-crushing, eternal loneliness.

I am Renaud D’Avignon. The greatest vampire that has yet been!

The latest and longest in a lineage that harkens back to ancient Babylonia and the great god, Baal! My forebears have encompassed every facet of the human condition and every walk of life from high priestess to atheist…from the blood of kings to the lowliest, meanest commoners. I, myself, was a gifted, if under-appreciated, poorly compensated court musician in the employ of the mercurial, magnificent Charlemagne the Great, perhaps the greatest sovereign the French (or the Franks, as they were then regarded) have ever known. Perhaps, I will write more of that time in my life at a later date.

Certainly, my curious relationship with Roland, Charlemagne’s closest friend and greatest warrior, bears telling. It is with an amusement that borders on the perverse, that as the centuries tolled their inevitable way across history, I have come to regard the so-called epic poem, “The Song of Roland”, a paean to Roland’s heroic death in service to his irascible king, as beyond myth. It is, in fact, a bald-faced lie perpetrated and promoted by Charlemagne himself in an effort to paint his friend in a light better suited to his heroic, selfless reputation as a warrior and paragon of virtue, and which stands, unopposed, unaltered, to this day, some thirteen hundred years later.

I digress. My verbosity is a condition wrought of centuries upon centuries of an amalgam of experiences and relationships that feed me, endlessly, at the trough of human despair, and, ultimately, humanity’s greatest strength and weakness…it’s own mortality.

I first came upon the wondrous Priscilla in my then 20th century guise as a wealthy arts dilettante masquerading as a theater and dance critic for a prestigious, albeit relatively enigmatic fine arts publication that catered to a very select, very elite reader base. It was select and elite for a very good reason. I had founded the magazine, surreptitiously, under the aegis of one of my chief minions, Senora Agustína de Melian, to serve a narrow clientele….my fellow fraternity, if you will, of vampires, the world round. We utilize every known modern media technique and nascent technology to outreach our brothers and sisters wherever they may pursue their “true work”. Of course, like me, they also work at maintaining a cover occupation that masks their true pursuits and hungers.

To wit: my little magazine, ‘Artiste’. The concept was simple…effective, yet, rife with meaning and double entendre for those truly “in the know”.

Señora de Melian was a living throwback to the Old World aristocrat reminiscent of the arrogant Spanish mold indigenous to the era of the Spain of Queen Isabéla and the Inquisition. Quite a feat when you consider she was a peasant Curandéra, if somewhat cunning and gifted, from the mountainous Mexican state of San Luís Potosí when I enlisted her in the “cause”. She is a relative newcomer to my merry band of miscreants, having been with me only since Emiliano Zapáta was wreaking his revolutionary havoc in the North Central of Mexico, barely more than a hundred years ago. Agustína has become, however, a trusted and talented associate. The Señora is less rapacious than usual, of my kind, and quite able to operate in the light of day. I had not made her fully mine. Consequently, she functioned then, as she functions still, as my publisher figurehead and runs a tight, if somewhat unprofitable ship.

Money is hardly an issue, however. When one has lived as long as I have, one encounters myriad opportunities to create large fortunes many times over. Only I know how truly wealthy I am. I assure you that my accumulated riches would beggar even the Sultan of Brunei and his ilk or the common billions of Bill Gates (a most detestable and déclassé individual). But it is not money and its’ endless aggregation for which I lived so long, in a manner of speaking, and yet strive so mightily. It isn’t to slake my unholy thirsts or even to add to my unwieldy and growing “family”. Rather, with a single-mindedness associated only with the fanatic and perhaps the sociopathic, I pursue a goal destined only to endlessly tantalize me with its’ agonizing nearness and possibility of fulfillment…the quest for, and attainment of, reciprocal love. True love.

Chapter One

Los Angeles – 1996

Los Angeles…City of Angels. If you could but hear, I would be grunting in disdain. Hardly elegant, then again…little about this city aspires to the pursuit of true elegance. In Los Angeles, in this year, or any year, one would be hard-pressed to find a name less befitting a city where resided more pampered, physically obsessed, pompous Philistines per square mile than any other place on the planet. Angelic it most certainly is not. Quite to the contrary! Los Angeles is a veritable cesspool of man’s immorality towards men…and women. A haven like no other in this country for those looking to feed their innermost craven desires and rampant, unconscionable ambition with little fear of reprisal from legions of like-minded people, save perhaps the center of governance in Washington D.C.

Actually, for those reasons and more, I quite enjoy my sojourns in Tinseltown. In point of fact, and for many years now, L.A. has been my primary hunting ground. I own quite a lovely little secluded ranch tucked away in the Santa Monica mountains overlooking Malibu. Not a working ranch, mind you, but a gentleman’s ranch replete with horses, a modest stable, a riding ring and a tractor. All very rustic, I assure you.

I have long been an expert horseman dating from my days as a personage in Charlemagnes’ traveling court. When the great king was on campaign, he, of necessity, and like his fellow contemporary warrior brethren, friend and foe alike (as well as the odd Pope), dragged around an unwieldy throng that included family members, court personages and gadabouts, royal hostages, functionaries, merchants, tradesmen, soldiers’ families (licit and illicit), harlots, opportunists of every stripe and persuasion, hangers-on, and the like. Armies of the period were in actuality mobile cities, with all the attendant baggage, therein. One rode on horses, or one walked. Alas, walking hundreds of miles per week amongst the unwashed rabble appealed to me not at all, so I sought redress of this problem.

Most people, soldiers and civilians alike, were of the lower caste and therefore had no access to, or sufficient means of acquiring and caring for horses as a vehicle for transport. I was fortunate in that I had cultivated a friendship with the aforementioned Roland. His patronage, as my friend, assured me of proper equine transport in a tight market. With the horse came a handler cum page assigned to me by Roland, himself. The man, whose name I have forgotten these long years hence, was instrumental instructing me in the proper care, handling and riding of a horse. I may have forgotten his name, but not the service I rendered him in gratitude for his exemplary tutoring in the care of horses. I did not infect him and make him mine. Though I was sorely tempted to do so, prompted not only by his beauty and extraordinary physique, but as the usual punishment pursuant to someone with a penchant for raping little boys whenever he happened upon them in the course of the confusion and aftermath of a bloody and victorious battle. That happened often, considering Charlemagnes’ own love of warfare and his nearly unmatched record of victories.

Ah…forgive me. I digress, yet again. It’s such a distressing habit.

I, and Señora de Melian had decided to move our base of operations in the late Eighties from Mexico City to the United States, where I had lived since the days of Pancho Vílla and Zapáta. The only question was where we might move.

During my incessant travels over the centuries I resided, for a time, on nearly every continent, mastered a cornucopia of languages…both living and now dead…engaged in an endless variety of occupations, and, as I stated previously, had accumulated great wealth. My options were nearly limitless, based on my personal needs and desires.

I had, of course, in the past journeyed to Los Angeles dating from its humble beginnings as a Spanish then Mexican military outpost by the Pacific. I found I quite enjoyed the climate and the bracing Santa Ana breezes that blew over the California coastline much of the year. It was so much more invigorating then the fetid, dank, oppressive humidity that often blanketed Mexico City, a city built on massive tracts of marshland ringed by mountains. However, Ciudád de Los Ángeles was a village in that era not the cosmopolitan city it is today. Hence, I could not operate with near impunity in so modestly populated an area. There was too great a chance of being found out for the vampire I am. My hungers would, and have depopulated many small, rural, out-of-the-way villages and hamlets over my career. By the time I had tired of living in Mexico City, Los Angeles had become a world-class metropolis, with matching area size and population. Altogether, perfect for my needs.

In the winter of our discontent, there lie between us an unspoken, unplumbed gulf of pain and recrimination. The kind of pain that only two people can inflict who, at one time, loved one another without reserve.

The ice of Hannah’s habitual, perfunctory good morning kisses had for some months gradually frozen our ability to communicate with each other on any meaningful level. Odd, that so simple a gesture of affection was the first sign there was trouble amiss in our relationship. Odder still, that so natural and endearing a ritual should be a harbinger of the death of a marriage. Yet, there it is.

Who’s to say when the decline began…or why? In the midst of the demise, neither of us had spoken directly to the whys and wherefores. Nor had we sought, or participated in, any kind of marriage counseling. It’s as if we both understood implicitly that to do so would be a needless exercise in futility. Perhaps, even a breach of relational etiquette, if you will. You see, we are nothing at all, if not unfailingly polite with each other. That’s the way we’ve lived, side by side, throughout our life together. We are the only couple I know who have not ever really fought over anything substantial …hardly ever argued…and never said a recriminatory word to each other. Not once…ever…over anything.

I find that fact strangely compelling, and ultimately, disturbing.

On this morning, fresh snowfall coated the frozen ground, a patina of pure white glaze as yet unsullied by footprints, tire tracks or dirt. An early morning winter wonderland of unspoiled dreams lay before me as I gazed out the bedroom window. I was freshly showered, shaven, and mostly dressed. Shoeless, and sock-less, true, but I had always loved padding about the house in bare feet. It felt so …homey. Often, Hannah gently chastises me for doing so.

We have very old, but well crafted red oak floors throughout our home. The grain of the wood is magnificent and Hannah keeps the floors in a highly polished state. She keeps them that way because of her personal aesthetics, of course, but she is also afraid I would suffer a splinter in my bare feet. I used to think it was yet one more indication, however slight, of the depth of her love and caring for me.

Alas, it turned out not to be so.

So, here I sat with nowhere to be, even though it was a work day. I was sipping from my usual morning cup of lemon mint tea listening to one of my favorite songs on our bedroom CD player, “Folks Who Live On the Hill”, by Diana Krall. It was a standout cut from a collection of jazz songs I’d burned to CD. ‘Folks’ was a wistful, bluesy paean to the potential joys of family life with the right partner. It was evocative of the way Hannah and I had dreamed our life might be when first we married. Check out the lyrics, you’ll understand what I mean:

Someday we’ll build a home on a hilltop high
You and I, shiny and new
Cottage that two can fill
And we’ll be pleased to be called
The folks who live on the hill

Someday we may be adding a wing or two
A thing or two
We will make changes, as any family will
But we will always be called
The folks who live on the hill

Our verandah will command a view of meadows green
The sort of view that seems to want to be seen
And when our kids grow up and leave us
We sit and look at that same old view
Just we two, Darby and Joan
Who used to be Jack and Jill
The folks who like to be called
What they have always been called
The folks who live on the hill

I’d always wanted to be one of those people who were…”the folks who lived on the hill”. A lovely dream it was, but I no longer felt as if it was going to work out that way between Hannah and me, if it had ever been in the cards. We were at a definite impasse in our relationship. It seemed to me the reflective sentiments expressed in this song were destined to be only a sad, transitory reminder of what could have been. Especially, the lyrics that noted, “…we will make changes, as any family will”. Prophetic words, those. Listening to the song now left me in a contemplative and moody disposition, and even more depressed than I’ve been, of late.

I raised my head and looked out the window. A flurry of swirling snowflakes was falling, gently wafting a fresh coat of white on the still-pristine snow that blanketed the yard. It was in stark contrast to the gray, cloudy, sunless sky that seemed to be a backdrop to my despair. All in all, it was a funky, shitty, moody bitch of a day.

I’d felt out of sorts since the day before. I get that way sometimes. During the last several months, with all that’s been going on between Hannah and I underneath the surface, I would often find myself slipping darkly into a deep blue funk. Seemingly out of nowhere. You know the kind…a funk that melts your insides with wretchedness and woe, and overwhelms your emotional defenses while nearly always leading to a massive, bone-crushing headache. Which, in turn, can lead to uncounted miserable nights of insomnia, fitful tossing and turning, and the inevitable, insincere wifely refrain…“What’s wrong, honey? Can’t you sleep?”.

As someone recently thrust, kicking if not screaming, into the ranks of relationship-challenged singles, the subject of dating is timely for me. Having never actively dated in Memphis, where I now live, I find myself floundering on its mean streets of social intercourse.

Actually, I met my recent ex six years ago on a plane traveling from Las Vegas to Memphis where she lived and where I had a short layover on the way to my final destination of New Orleans. We dated long distance for about a year and a half until I finally bit the bullet and moved to Memphis to marry her. Suffice to say, when the end came I found myself at first truly uninterested in dating anyone, for any reason, I was that devastated. But, since I’m a healthy, heterosexual male my “natural” instincts began to reassert themselves (thank God) and I suddenly found myself in dire need of female companionship.

Thus, my Memphis quest began.

Lest you think my needs were strictly physical, I was actually looking to meet someone because I was lonely for the nurturing attention and consideration I missed that only a genuinely caring and nice woman can provide.

Ah … but where to find such a creature?

Therein, lies the rub, as dear old Willy Shakespeare had once famously written. Where was one to look for said companionship? Not at work … At the time I was a partner in a mobile software development company and also worked at my cherished avocation as a published freelance writer, from the solitude of my own home. Besides, it’s always dicey and potentially litigious to date someone with whom you work. Anyway, I spend more face time with my computer and telephone than any three telecommunications CEOs, combined. So…nothing there.

Hmmmm … one might say, based on my technical background and expertise, that perhaps I should patronize one of the many online relationship-oriented websites like Match.com, Yahoo Singles, Chemistry.com, SinglesNet, eHarmony, PerfectMatch.com (Hah!), Lavalife, and my favorite, the ironically named online dating service—PlentyofFish.com. Been there … done that … refused to buy the damn t-shirt.

A note: the only thing of value offered by PlentyofFish was its price—free! Which only suggested to me that the 1 million (give or take) purported members of the big Fish were doubtless déclassé cheapskates, further suggesting that the membership probably consisted mostly of men trying to get lucky on the cheap.

Ok! Let’s say the typical online dating services don’t pop your cork. You’re looking for something offbeat … daring … maybe even a little taboo.

Well, there’s always the “alternative” dating sites. And I use the term “dating”, somewhat advisedly. For those of you who like your potential dating partners swathed in black leather studded vests and gaucho pants or form-fitting rubber latex jumpsuits replete with six-inch-heeled thigh-high boots and wearing rhinestone-studded dog collars then perhaps sites like Alt.com, Bondage.com, AdultFriendFinders.com, etc., will positively jettison your corks.

What’s that you say? How could you possibly know about such things? Research, kiddies … it’s all in the research.

But seriously, online dating comes with one HUGE caveat. The phrase “big fat lie” comes to mind.

In my experience, where I had the experience, I found that most everyone’s profile, my own included (to a lesser degree, of course), was a pack of self-serving, ego-boosting, often truly audacious lies. And it’s easy to do, and even, in a twisted kind of logic, the thing TO DO if you hoped to meet someone … anyone, you might actually be attracted to, and vice versa—sad, but true. And while I’m not George Clooney, I’m not chopped liver, either. I could go on ad nauseam about this subject, but the fact is the chances of you meeting the love of your life online are slim indeed and potentially dangerous considering the sick, seething collection of wackos operating with near-impunity on the Internet.

Certainly, many of the more “traditional” dating sites claim any number of marriages as a result of meeting a partner online. But if one looks closely at the statistics, the figures are typically quite small compared to the number of people who are actually signed-up members of any given online dating service. So … conclusion … a big fat zero there, as well … at least for me.

So…back to the drawing board.

I’m past the age where I enjoy going to nightclubs or bars hoping to meet my “next great love”, or even to get “lucky”, as it were. I only attend clubs to watch live music or dance … mostly Salsa if I can find it. Even when I was a nightly habitué of the club scene, wherever I lived, I never came close to meeting a woman I harbored thoughts of marrying, or even dating seriously. For purposes of engaging in the horizontal mambo … yes (Told you I liked dancing). But dating with an eye to marriage or a long-lasting relationship? Nah! Hasn’t happened yet! And, I’m sure nothing has changed … here in Memphis, or anywhere else in this country, for that matter.

So, where does that leave the lovelorn and libido-challenged?

Alright … check this out. I have a buddy who met all three of his wives in the most unlikely of places … if you’re a man, that is. In fact, it’s so obviously a perfect place to meet an eligible woman … single or soon to be divorced, or thinking about divorce …that one wonders why more men don’t cop to that fact and storm this bastion of daily American life… lol!

You’ll never guess! Ok … maybe you did. And if you did, you said … the grocery store! That’s right.

Two women in a grocery aisle

When most single men are making one of their infrequent forays into a real, live grocery store to replenish the odd foodstuffs and staples like Rice-a-Roni, Ginger Snap cookies, Budweiser Light by the case, crunchy-style peanut butter, maybe some Legos, Rotini, and Velveeta cheese (the dip goes great with your Bud), and Wonder white bread, they enter into a world populated primarily, even in this day and age, with women of all stripes, ages and shapes shopping for their families or for themselves. I’m talking grocery stores like Krogers or Schnucks (a Memphis chain). You’ll find another male genus altogether shopping at Fresh Market, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. Typically, though not always. (Just CMA … lol.)

My next article will discuss in detail the do’s and don’ts, in’s and out’s of finding the partner of your dreams while cruising the dairy aisle in your favorite local food emporium.

Ciao! And remember what author, Ramtha, said in his book That Elixir Called Love—“Love is a many-splendored thing.” Hmmm … or was that “splintered?”

Hello world!

Posted: October 14, 2009 in Articles

Welcome to the blog. I’ll begin posting here shortly. I welcome all insightful, thoughtful comments.

Peace…

Daniel