Northside SF  

The Final Word
By Bruce Bellingham

Vampires are all the rage these days. There’s a whole batch of new, popular vampire books, movies and TV shows. Small wonder. Most of the world is wobbling from the effects of economic anemia, inflicted on us by insatiable children of the night who’ve drained us of practically everything we have. Stories about vampires only reflect what’s going on. While we were sleeping, someone was noshing on our necks, drinking the lifeblood from the collective body. 
With his cape and his Carpathian countenance, Bela Lugosi was the definitive vampire of cinema. Then movie vampires got younger, and prettier. Even the females. Vampires now come in every stripe. Oh, there are also vegetarian vampires. Did you know that? They’ll sink their teeth into your celery root when you’re not looking. Then, without warning, they’ll charge you $2.29 a pound for pinto beans. The real vampires in the world are robbing you of your energy, even your identity. Some people simply wear you down, even during a casual meeting. Others will nickel-and-dime you into paralyzing fatigue with credit card charges, sin taxes and parking tickets. Vegetarian vampires can be as wearying as the other kind. Perhaps they have even a little more smugness than their carnivorous counterparts.
Even the Night of the Ghouls is not safe anymore. The Grinch stole Halloween this year. He foreclosed on the holiday. There will be no big parties in the streets of San Francisco – too much money, too much trouble. Only the Big, Bad Bailed-Out Bankers can afford to throw parties these days. No matter. We’re all getting too old for parties anyway. Our party’s over. Besides, we have to be in good shape for All Saint’s Day, that pious day after the debauchery of Halloween. My favorite day is All Souls’ Day. It follows All Saints’ Day. Membership has its privileges. Ah, but let’s face it: saints and sinners alike, we’re all in the same boat. Some of us just get better cabins, that’s all. The difference between a saint and a sinner is a process called transfiguration. That’s the Catholic Church’s version of an extreme makeover. It makes for a dramatic change. For example, Sebastian looked pretty bad at one time, with about 135 arrows in him. Now, beatified, he looks terrific in that painting. 
“There are three phases of life,” says Charlie Mandel. “Youth, middle-age, and ‘Gee, you look great!’”
St. Augustine found beauty in proportion. So did Hugh Hefner, but I think that’s another story.
There’s a new movie for younger audiences about John Keats, who famously observed, “Truth, beauty. Beauty, truth – that is all.”
But looks are fleeting in a temporal world. That’s why the memories of people who were close to us are so valuable. We often recall them in their finer moments, remembering them with a simple beauty. These recollections transcend time, and push aside the nastiness of aging.
“Imagination is memory,” said James Joyce.
On All Souls’ Day, the departed are permitted to return to the world for the day. Just my luck. I probably owe them money. Nah, it’s a day for reconciliation and forgiveness. With all its religious overtones, it also smacks of a ghost story. We all love ghost stories. The storied vampires, with their legendary immortality, and their dark sexuality, take up a big place in the realm of spooky tales. 
Here, take the garlic, the crucifix – add them to your earthquake kit. We are certainly living in spooky times.

Bruce Bellingham, author of Bellingham by the Bay, is a big fan of classic horror films. But he finds nothing more terrifying these days than looking at the evening news. Tell him what you know:


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