A Ghost’s Perspective

In the piece below I imagine hearing the perspective of a ghost.

I’m still not ready to talk about how I died. I’ve barely begun to accept that I have. Everyone acts like you’ll somehow fully understand it the instant it happens. One second you’re alive, the next you’re dead, and you’re just supposed to wrap your head around that jarring fact immediately. The same people who live their lives in denial about everything, including that they’re ever going to die in the first place, think you die and BOOM, you have closure. How many of you truly accepted turning forty or fifty? C’mon. Yeah, you went through the motions and you talked the talk, but how many times did you feel like you were looking at a stranger when looking in the mirror. In your mind you were forever 29, and it was constantly shocking to see you in fact weren’t.

But the thought is when you die there’s a beautiful white light and all you have to do is go into it. Well, that’s like telling an insomniac how simple going to sleep is. Going into the light is much like going to sleep in that it involves a process of peaceful surrender. In the same way sleep eludes many of the living, the white light eludes many of the dead.

I remember living in New York and reviling all of the gentrification going on around me. People with no reverence for who or what was there before just taking over the city. I got to go through those feeling times a thousand when I died. The first thing that happens is people barge in your house and just start ripping it apart, robbing you blind. Man, they go through everything, they’ve got opinions about everything, and then they throw half of it away.

My dog, he didn’t even understand what was happening and I was powerless to comfort him. His water bowl was too low, and he likes it refilled with fresh water a couple of times a day but nobody was paying attention. This house and all that’s in it is mine. I paid for it over thirty God damn years and it’s just taken from me by some young privileged fucks who decide my taste was horrible and they’re going to change everything about it. Picture sitting on your sofa one day and someone comes in and happily decides your house now belongs to them. That’s how it feels.

In retrospect it’s amazing how much the living take for granted. Being alive is like being a god, I mean the power you have is extraordinary. Do you realize how much energy it takes me to so much as make a floor creak? You can make someone happy or sad in an instant. You can displace water. You can inspire or horrify. You can use your hands to build something, or heaven forbid blow something up. The world cares about and bends to your needs. You can set boundaries and claim space.

I miss the tactile. Being able to touch another person, and being touched. I miss my body – what an amazing thing to have a physical body. I miss feeling the wind. I really miss hugging my friends and family, and being able to care for my dog. I miss people seeing me. I miss companionship.

I remember walking through nursing homes and seeing so many lonely people all in the same place, and wondering why they couldn’t provide one another companionship. That’s what it’s like being dead, only worse. I see other spirits, but we’re incapable of offering one another companionship. Unfortunately we’re not incapable of making one another miserable, though. Most chill, peaceful people quickly move on, so those of us lingering aren’t really a pleasant lot.

Every bit of unfinished business is like a rope tethering you to this life. If I could do it all over again I’d make sure to say everything that needed to be said, and I’d always forgive. When I was alive I never bought the saying that forgiveness is more for yourself than the other person, but now I know that forgiveness is a knife cutting you free. Here’s a tip: If you can’t let go in life, you won’t be able to let go in death.

I would never wish time away. I would spend less time worried about money and status. I’d take better care of my body and get more enjoyment out of it. I’d use my tremendous power to make a difference, knowing I only had a brief moment to do so.

I don’t want to cut this short, but I mentioned how other spirits can be a pain in the ass. Imagine spotting a celebrity on the street and having them actually talk to you. You as a living person are that celebrity, and when other spirits spot you actually focusing on one of us they mob the scene trying to get your attention for themselves.

You’ve got to …[inaudible due to static and background noise]… while it’s your turn.

I’m getting pushed, shoved, and drowned out by [inaudible].

Have to go.

The Mad Beader of Mardi Gras

Auntie M in the Emperor’s Opera Box. Photo credit: RFT

Interviewing the Cheshire Cat

I’ve known Auntie M for a hundred years. I’ve been his sidekick in several parades. I’ve foraged through big faraway cities in search of hidden bead stores with irregular hours, and have escorted him through through the streets and subways of San Francisco en route to Folsom Street Fair while he was dressed in nothing but skimpy shorts and a rope tied in knots.  Yet, I find interviewing him to be a challenge.

Discussing his vast collection of beads, which delighted desert dwellers at Burning Man and have adorned drag diva Varla Jean, I began by asking about some of his most precious and unique strands.

“Well it’s not like I have some in some locked up case that I consider the most precious, you know? Do you mean the ones that are glass?” he asks.

“You scour the world for beads. What are some of your most prized pieces? I’d like to get the beaded backstory.” I continue.

“You do love your alliteration! You’re like some weird super villain of journalism. I do not have a most prized.”

We’re conducting part of the interview over text when he begins to tell me about getting mobbed for beads while riding a bike in the Mardi Gras parade. When I push for more details Auntie M says we’ll talk about it another time.

“I’m tired of texting and I’m bored.”

After all these years I would think it would be easy to reduce him to words, but I’m stumped by the task.  When I think of characters to compare him with none quite fit the bill. He has a love of costumes on par with American Dad’s Roger, and an intellectual sensibility like Dr. Frasier Crane.  In large crowds he moves like a bumble bee pollinating flowers. Or maybe it’s some kind of LSD Alice in Wonderland version where the flower (Auntie) approaches the bees, and his beads are the pollen.

Holding Auntie M’s bead box. St. Louis Pride 2009

A Coveted Collection 

“C’mon, just flash it,” a woman says to her boyfriend while lusting after a luscious strand of unique, hand strung beads. With very little prodding the sculpted man complies, the gallery is impressed, the beads are awarded, and the Mad Beader moves along to find the next lively exchange.

Beads are everything during Mardi Gras, from currency to status symbols, and while Historic Soulard is awash in bead vendors, the most coveted strands are typically those that cannot be purchased.

Auntie’s baby beads, pictured, are among his most well known and sought after. Strands come with brown babies, white babies, and interracial pairings of babies.

New for 2017 is the Porn Star strand, which is guaranteed to be a hit with those who like to put on a show.

Auntie M & the Krewe of the Tawdry Turret have a thousand disco ball beads to toss from the Emperor’s Opera Box at Russell and Menard

While Auntie rarely tosses his handmade strands to the crowd (you must find a way to delight Auntie in person for those), Auntie M will be tossing beads from the Emperor’s Opera Box, along with the Krewe of the Tawdry Turret, across from Bastille and above our gracious host, Remember Me Vintage & Costumes at the big gay intersection of Russell & Menard.

You’ll also find Auntie at Nadine’s during the High Heel Drag Race events, and working the crowd near the Bastille drag stage.

Finally, A Few Do’s and Don’ts                                      

High Heel Drag Race beads

I may not be able to interview Auntie M worth a damn, but after seeing him bestow beads since before some of you were born I have some advice.

Auntie M works year round amassing the finest beads to share with Soulard’s most bold and colorful characters, so don’t be shy.

Do engage in conversation. Do be fun and entertaining.

Don’t be grabby and don’t be greedy. Otherwise there will be no beads for you.


For more on LGBT Soulard Mardi Gras, check out Karla Templeton’s piece in the Vital VOICE.