El Carmelo Cemetery

There are lots of ghost stories about the Monterey Peninsula, which is made up of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Whether it’s the eerie feeling that comes in with the dense nighttime fog, the oddly shaped Monterey cypress trees that reach out to you from the sea or the many old shipwrecks at the bottom of Monterey Bay, it’s easy to find a creepy tale and an unabashed believer.

One evening when checking out at Trader Joe’s, the girl ringing us up mentioned her other job at a restaurant with a reputation for being haunted. I asked if she’d seen any ghosts there, and, while she hadn’t seen anything at the restaurant, she had experienced all sorts of things at Trader Joe’s. Most notably items flying off shelves at night when they were closing up. Whether those activities could be blamed on a pranky coworker or not, it was interesting to hear a stranger talk so openly about ghosts. And she’s not the only local I’ve run into with a story to tell. Ghosts and ghostly activity are just considered part of life around here.

There’s a cemetery not far from the path I walk on along the ocean. It’s called El Carmelo, and it’s been here since the late 1800s. I’ve heard stories about the cemetery–of course, since ghosts and cemeteries are like PB&J–so I decided to take a detour to check it out. It’s a peaceful place with a constant breeze off the Pacific. And there’s a lot of activity alright. But not ghosts. At least, not so far.

El Carmelo Cemetery
El Carmelo Cemetery, founded 1891
though my first visit occurred on a bright, beautiful day, the cemetery was cast in shadows and hard to photograph with my phone's camera
though my first visit occurred on a bright, beautiful day, my phone’s camera had a tough time with shadows
I saw the first deer out of the corner of my eye, sensing there was something alive on a plot to my left - soon I noticed half a dozen deer nearby, either grazing or lazing on top of someone's grave
I saw the first deer out of the corner of my eye, sensing there was something alive on a plot to my left – soon I noticed half a dozen nearby, either grazing or lazing on top of someone’s grave like this brave fellow who looks like he’s part of the cemetery, not an interloper like I am
the next time I visited El Carmelo, the fog was thick
the next time I visited El Carmelo, the fog was thick (this is looking back toward PG as I made my way south to Asilomar Beach)
it was hard to see the water  - looked like the world just faded into a gray mist
closer to Asilomar and the cemetery, it was hard to see the water – looked like the world just faded into a gray mist
dense fog + cemetery = atmosphere (my phone's camera did what it could, but you can't see how thick this stuff was - it felt like a light rain)
dense fog + cemetery = atmosphere (my phone’s camera did what it could, but you can’t see how thick this stuff was – it felt like a constant light rain)
all cemeteries should have so many trees - they add a sense of protection
all cemeteries should have so many trees – they add a nice sense of protection
the deer are fearless - they checked me out for a bit and then ignored me - at one point, two of them walked toward me and came within a few feet
the deer are fearless – they checked me out for a bit and then ignored me
as;dlkfj
this one walked within a few feet of me, then ambled over to this spot to take a load off
Punkin
Punkin
uh, thanks?
uh, thanks?
bahai
Baha’i
daughter
Daughter (the person buried between this stone and the next had his full name and military info)
grandma
Grandma (guessing she was also a mother, daughter and person with a name)
couldn't make out what this used to say - maybe it was an image? it looked like the outline of an animal
couldn’t make out what this used to say – maybe it was an image?
punkin
Tiny
as I stood there on that first visit feeling the ocean breeze and listening to the white noise it brought, I thought about how remarkably peaceful and at ease I was in that space - then I looked down and saw I was next to some Jacksons
as I stood there on that first visit feeling the ocean breeze and listening to the white noise it brought, I thought about how remarkably peaceful and at ease I was in that space – then I looked down and saw I was next to some Jacksons (and, yes, that was kind of creepy)

The Pukening

Or, the time I went on a four-hour whale watching trip and puked into the Pacific.

The signs were there that things might not go well.

"Don't mind me, just dropping off some souls."
“Don’t mind me, just dropping off some souls.”
our ride
Sea Wolf II, pride of Amity Island and also our ride
caCAW, motherfucker!
caCAW, motherfucker!
a;lkj
The fog and the sea seemed part of each other. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.* Eugene O’Neill, LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (* until the puking started – Crystal Jackson, THE PUKENING)
P1000533
beginning of JAWS
rough seas, that way
rough seas, that way
Seals and Crofts
Seals and Crofts
it was right about here when I realized my decision NOT to take Dramamine was, in fact, the wrong move
it was right about here when I realized my decision NOT to take Dramamine was, in fact, the wrong move
but, you know, DOLPHINS, so I kept my lips clamped shut and eyes on the prize
but, you know, DOLPHINS, so I tried to will the bad feeling away
at least the sun came out so we could go home with a souvenir sunburn (I brought sunblock, but it was in my bag and my hands
at least the sun came out so we could go home with a souvenir sunburn (I brought sunblock, but because my hands were firmly locked on the deck’s railing–except for the occasional picture–I couldn’t retrieve it)
whale tail
whale tail – this would have been more exciting had I not recently returned my breakfast to the sea from whence it came (assuming Trader Joe’s Kouigns Amann are fresh caught)
whale tail - zoomed in
my only consolation is that an estimated 25% of the passengers on Sea Wolf II also gave a gift to the ocean – most of us multiple times – we’d made a pact to keep it together, but then one chick let ‘er rip and that was all she wrote – it was like a disaster film, though my two traveling companions were untouched
my hump, my hump
my hump, my hump
asdf
wow, this is so amaz–and I just puked on my braid
asdfds
if some topless chick with a fish tail came up to the boat at the worst of my journey and offered to take me to her undersea city, I wouldn’t have asked about the wifi connection or whether they have Tex-Mex – anything to get off this lurching, rocking boat (which, by the way, one of the crew said experienced rougher waters than usual)
he knew, and he was disappointed
he knew what I did, and he was disappointed
at the end of the trip, my glorious consolation prize
at the end of the trip, my glorious, orderly consolation prize (look closely)

A final note: I’m absolutely going to go whale watching again–properly medicated. But if you come with me, just don’t stand too close.

that time I went sleepwalking

James was in the den watching TV. It was around 11:30PM, and I’d gone to bed an hour or so earlier. He heard the door to the laundry room open, the light switch flip and the door close, which was odd. The laundry room is so tiny you have to leave the door open in order to have enough room to get the clothes out of the dryer. But someone was in there. Creepy.

He opened the door, and I was standing in front of the washer with the lid up. Sort of pawing at the air inside the machine but not really making contact with anything. He asked if I was okay. I said, “I’m just so tired. I’m tired. So tired.” (Martyr.) My eyes were open but not awake, and he realized I was sleepwalking. He walked me back to bed, and I didn’t remember any of this the next morning.

The first thing I did was start googling to see what dread disease causes one to sleepwalk. Because, even though I’ve slept approximately 15,877 nights in my life and this was the first (only?) time I’d ever gone sleepwalking, I was sure it meant something horrible was coming. And maybe it is, but the “incident” was 10 months ago and hasn’t had a second appearance. As far as I know.

Sleepwalking is common in children but less so in adults–maybe 4% of the population. Almost half of adult sleepwalkers have an incident at least once a week, and 25% deal with it nightly (!). An isolated incident in adults, which is what I assume I experienced, is usually related to stress + sleep deprivation + alcohol or some other sedative. Hmmm. Those are three of the main ingredients of my life.

It happened last December when I was applying to grad school for fall of 2013. I’d been riding the fence about getting an MFA in playwriting for years and decided to stop talking and start doing. We regret the things in life we never tried, blah blah blah.

Applying to grad school is a bitch. It’s easy to spend a month or more just checking out programs, trying to find the ones that have the right mix of funding, location, programming and reputation. At the same time, you have to track down copies of your college transcripts, study for and take the GRE, write some bullshit  about why you’re applying to the program (and you’re not supposed to say, “because I’m having a midlife crisis”), wrangle recommendations from people who are really too busy to make up nice things about you, and pay $50 to $100 for each application. Oh, and there’s the writing sample, which, for an MFA program, would technically be the most important part.

I applied to four fully funded programs, being unwilling to go into debt for a graduate degree that doesn’t lead to a job at the end of the rainbow. Of the four programs, I got into two. Of the two, I was especially excited about the one that was in southern California. James and I went to check the area out. I’m pretty sure in a parallel universe we’re still stuck in traffic on I-10 outside of LA.

Since it’s now October and I’m writing this in Houston, I guess it’s obvious I decided not to go. It didn’t feel right. I think I really just want a change of scenery, and that can be accomplished much easier than by going back to school.

Meanwhile, every time I travel alone (most recently to Chicago this week), I worry that I’m going to get up and try to do laundry in the hallway of the hotel, only James won’t be there to guide me back. I wear a shirt and shorts to bed, just in case.