Three years after my father passed away, Gentle Reader, my mother finally decided that she was ready to scatter his ashes. He had always dreamed of being a mountain man, and there was a spot in the mountains where he and my uncle had used to go hunting. Thus it was that we set out for Port Townsend, where that branch of the family lives, to scatter him. When we arrived, it turned out that we couldn’t get access; the roads and trails were still closed for the winter. Port Townsend is several hours from home, for us; we decided to stay the night, and visit the relatives.
In this case, of course, that didn’t mean stay with them. My aunt and cousins were living in a beautiful, tiny house – crazy pinks and sea-foam greens and oranges, inside and out, with ceilings only barely six-foot high, and while cozy, there are larger studio apartments. My uncle was unavailable, as well, and even if he were available, he was living with his twenty-six year old ex-girlfriend, her husband, and a couple of babies. Maman and I noticed the castle on the hill, laughed, and discovered that it was a hotel.
Not only was Manresa Castle a hotel, it was purportedly haunted. There was some girl who thought that her fiance was lost at sea, so she committed suicide, and a priest hanged himself in one of the towers. I stopped reading the brochure at that point, because we were about to meet Auntie L. and my cousins for cocktails in the castle’s lounge. Which looks like this:
The cousins come and go quickly, but promise to meet up with us later on, downtown: one of them has a gig with his fairly successful band, and the other has to pick his girlfriend up from work. My aunt and her best friend – who is gay, incidentally, and with whom she was trying to set me up – stay, and we’re having quite a pleasant time of it. Well, we were, but after six Manhattans, Maman is a little less charming than usual. Just about exactly when I was about to disappear for a stroll with my aunt’s friend, Maman falls off of her bar stool, ensuring that she gets cut off – especially when she tried to blame the ghosts.
While I was carrying my drunk mother up three flights of stairs, in a considerable hurry because her bad hip was acting up†, she was threatening to vomit, and she was still talking about how the ghosts were responsible, the friend slipped away himself. He did not leave contact information; as I later discovered, my mother was a little too intense for him.
Auntie L. was still waiting for me; it had been among my fondest desires to get right royally plastered with my eccentric, bohemian, English, artist aunt, and she was determined not to disappoint. Neither of us drive, but that’s for the best, considering our plans; no matter. My aunt determinedly hit on an elderly lesbian couple until they agreed to give us a lift down to the under-city.
Did I mention that there’s an under-city in Port Townsend? On this occasion we didn’t go exploring it, but it exists, and there’s a bar in one of the safer bits of it, where there was some sort of festival‡ going on. That’s how we gave those kindly lesbians the slip – we got separated from them in the crowd, and I had to stick close to Auntie L.’s heels or get lost in the press. After a brief stop at her studio, we met my other cousin and his girlfriend at a different bar, where Auntie L. confronted me on my sex life. She’s very sex-positive – and so am I, where other people are concerned. She kept pressing the issue, and plying me with gin, until she got to the bottom of the matter. It was, briefly, ugly – I am haunted by aspects of my past, if you will. She packed it in for the evening, and my cousin, his girlfriend, and I, hit the only remaining bar in Port Townsend, having a wonderful time.
A cab ride home, slipping into the hotel room (not quite silently – as Maman said, “If it’s the ghost, just leave me alone!”), and bed. In the morning, Maman was chock full of talk about the ghost waking her in her sleep, and how, evidently, the ghost had vomited in her bed before she’d reached it. We tipped heavily, and explained about the ghost-vomit. The staff was not amused.
Piling into her little red VW convertible, Dottie, we turned down my aunt’s breakfast invitation, both feeling a little haunted by our actions of the night before. As soon as we were out of town, after stopping for Bloody Marys, we laughed until we were exorcised, absolved.
† I can’t imagine why, at that point, her hip would have been acting up.
‡ The festival was where my cousin was playing in his band.