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“Dracula” – Old School Vamp Still Rocks

I’ve read Twilight, some of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and a few other vampire novels, but the student in me wanted to know where this all came from. In school, my emphasis was on mediaeval source texts and how stories changed over the years. So, naturally, I had to read the original vampire novel: Dracula. Today, in honor of the release of the DVD version of Eclipse (Team Switzerland!), I offer you my vampire review.

And wow, if you haven’t read Dracula, you are depriving yourself of some crazy creative and creepy writing.  The format of the novel is a little tough to figure out at first, but once you get into the story, it is difficult to put it down, even with the slower pacing (which is very common for novels in the late 1800’s).  Bram Stoker knew how to make and maintain suspense, and his vampire is terrifying!

The format is an epistolary novel, meaning that each chapter is composed of journal entries, letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings.  However, the dialogue is masterfully maintained throughout, because the characters are (conveniently) able to recall in amazing detail all the conversations they have in a day (which, if they could, and they were writing by hand, they must have written for HOURS every night!).

Jonathan Harker is a junior laywer, engaged to be married to Mina, who has been a companion for the lovely young Lucy.  Harker is sent to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula and to teach him about English culture and life, as the Count plans on moving to London. While there, however, Harker realizes that Dracula is a fiend of the worst kind, and Harker escapes the castle and makes his way back to England alone.

Dracula continues with his plans to move to London, and organizes his own passage on a ship, which, according to the captain’s log, sails through a terrifying journey where, at the last, all the crew are dead.  The ship runs aground in a fierce storm on the shores of Whitby, where, as chance may have it, Mina and Lucy are staying. Lucy is proposed to by three men, Dr. Seward, Morris, and Holmwood, and she accepts Holmwood (who later in the novel inherits the title Lord Godalming). Oddly (but helpful in this novel), all three of Lucy’s suitors remain good friends.

In the days following the shipwreck, Lucy begins sleepwalking outside and becomes strangely ill. Mina fears to tell Lucy’s mother, who is in poor health, but she wonders about the puncture wounds on Lucy’s throat, so she calls on Dr. Seward.  Seward is at a loss, and sends for his professor, Dr. Van Helsing.  Despite the best efforts of Mina, Van Helsing and all three of her suitors, Lucy “dies”, but soon begins preying on small children as a beautiful vampire herself. Van Helsing tells the men that they must stake her and cut off her head. If you feel like delving into a really bizarre world, do some research on Lucy the Vampire’s death scene — it’s chilling what some literary scholars have come up with!

Meanwhile, Harker returns to England and marries Mina and they join with the others in hunting down Dracula in the streets of London. When Dracula realizes that he is found out, he begins feinting about their defenses and eventually gets to Mina in a super-creepy way: crawling through her window, taking her out of her bed and biting her. From then on, Mina is under his spell, and feels pulled to join him as his bride. This guy is no Edward Cullen. He’s every girl’s worst nightmare.  Eventually, the brave men are triumphant and Mina is set free from Dracula’s enchantment, but not after several chapters of suspense and excitement.

I was really impressed by the scope and entertainment this novel has to offer, but especially how this vampire was SO different from the modern vampire stories I’ve enjoyed.  There wasn’t a single time in Dracula where I felt bad for the Count or had any sympathy or compassion for him. He is evil, through and through. The good guys were very very good, and the bad guy was very very bad, and the entertainment value of this novel was very very awesome.

Now it’s your turn: what was the last vampire novel/movie you watched and what did you think?

Evanescence – Bring Me To Life


Hotel San Carlos – A Review

As newlyweds, Anthony and I honeymooned at the historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, an opulent mecca for the stars and fat cats of the 1920’s, and the setting for the classic film “Some Like it Hot”, starring Marilyn Monroe. We returned home to Paso Robles where we had our own taste of Hollywood history: our apartment was formerly the hotel room where Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio spent their own honeymoon.  Keeping with the theme, we have always tried to stay in vintage hotels whenever we travel (which is hardly ever).  This year, for our seventh anniversary, we were excited to stay at the Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix, where, you guessed it!  Marilyn Monroe was once a guest.

There are certain things that you must understand about visiting a vintage hotel.  It’s not for everyone.  Usually, vintage hotels smell a little old, because they are old!  The San Carlos was built in 1927 and the building has many of the original fixtures today.  The elevators were updated in the 1970’s but you can still see the hand operated controls in the car alongside the modern buttons.  Most of the furnishings and light fixtures are glamorously ornate, but we certainly appreciated the soft modern bed (with ample fluffy pillows) and the plumbing!

Hotel San Carlos is home to a small restaurant and a swinging bar where people seemed to be having lots of fun late into the night.  We had dinner right next door at the fantastically charming Séamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub and could have walked right across the street to have our shoes fixed by a cobbler (!) or a shave and haircut at the traditional barber shop.

After dinner (Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and a few pints of Guinness), we hired a talkative pedicab driver to take us to the local movie theater (we’re cheap and couldn’t afford the “real” Orpheum theater that was two blocks away).  Riding through downtown we were really surprised at how quiet and empty it was for a Friday night.  Our driver informed us that Phoenicians (yes, isn’t that a cool term for people from Phoenix?) usually go to Tempe for the nightlife.  At least we didn’t have to fight anyone for seats!  Properly laden with coke, popcorn and Whoppers, we watched “Eclipse” (yes, at last, we have kids and never see things opening night anymore).  After the movie, we  were able to call our same pedicab guy to pick us (and sleeping baby Josh) up and take us back to the San Carlos.

We returned to our room and settled in for the night. Our little room had a walk-in closet opposite a small bathroom.  The bathroom had most fixtures updated, but the pedestal sink didn’t have a place to set anything, so we had to make do with a little ledge under the mirror to balance our toothbrushes.  There was a desk with a chair, an armoire for the TV, two chairs and a round table by the window, and a bedside table.  I had reserved an “outside” room with a view to the street online, but when we checked in, they said they had the air conditioning go out on the floor we had reserved, so we were given an “inside” room with a view to the 3rd floor roof-top pool (and $$ off our total).  The view was not very exciting, since we could also see the back entry to the downstairs bar, complete with trash cans and stained concrete. Anthony was happy that the TV had ESPN, and he was able to check his teams before we turned off the light.

Here is where the vintage aspect of hotels just sucks.  For whatever reason, the Hotel San Carlos was built with vents both in and above the door leading out into the hallway, so we had yellow stripes of light shining onto the bed.  We were able to fall asleep fine, but around midnight, people near us (we never quite figured out if they were above, below, beside or across from us) got into a screaming argument that woke us up and went on for 20 minutes. Just as we were about to call the front desk, they stopped and we drifted back into a restless sleep.

I would like to say that we were woken by ghosts or something else romantically terrifying (the San Carlos is a “proven” haunted hotel), but nothing so paranormally awesome ever happens to us (I strongly suspect it’s because we have some mighty angels guarding our every move–not that I’m complaining).  No, we get stupid humans.  At 3 in the morning, the bar must have closed because we were suddenly surrounded by laughing, talking, arguing, drunk humans.  Because of the vents in the door and the uninsulated air ducts, it sounded like they were all in the room with us.  We called down to complain about the noise from (what we thought was) our neighbors, but because of the ease of sound traveling, it took security almost an hour to discover that the culprits occupied the room BELOW ours and we were hearing them through the air duct.  Amazingly, Joshua woke up for his usual 1am feeding and went right back to sleep and hardly even twitched through all the noise!

By the time we checked out in the morning, we were exhausted from the interrupted night’s sleep.  I’d like to think that, without the noise issues, it would have been a wonderful stay, but the only way to find out would be to go again, and we’re out of special occasions until next August.

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