Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Abraham "Bran" Garcia
“When I was a young reporter, the great vice among journalists was whiskey. Today, it’s cynicism.”
“For me, a really radical position for journalism to take is to stop being cynical. Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.”
“What is there in truth? Where’s the money, the feel-goods? People want whatever makes them feel good. And they feel even better about feeling good if they can find ways to philosophically justify it. To turn their feelings into validation that they’re right about the world. People love feeling right as much as they love feeling good.”
Abraham Garcia is a slender, graceful man with just a bit of a pot belly suggesting a lifestyle of increasing indulgence. His deep brown eyes and thick black hair contrast sharply with his pale skin. There’s a few obviously gray strands in his hair that he was meticulous about plucking out while he was alive—it was especially maddening how they were so close to his bangs—but he eventually gave up. The gray strands always came back. Sometimes he plucks them out when he wants to look his best, but usually doesn’t. Being seen as older opens more doors than it closes among mortals anyway. His facial hair is closer to a twelve-o’-clock than five-o’-clock shadow, but is just short enough that it’s not quite a full beard. He sometimes shaves it off when he’s removing his gray hairs, but he rarely goes the extra mile—he knows he’s not going to win any beauty pageants, so why try? He’s not an ugly man, and after a few drinks his long nose and pudgy face can even seem attractive enough. Compared to other Toreador, though, he’s quite plain-looking.
Perhaps to compensate for his thoroughly average looks, Bran usually dresses stylishly and keeps up with all the latest trends. He favors clothes on the alternative side and had particular yens for the Beatnik fashion of the ‘50s, hippie fashion in the ’60s, grunge in the ’90s, and the hipster look in the 2000s and 2010s. (He was never quite able to get into flannel.) He’s been pleasantly surprised by how some of his favorite fashions have cycled back into vogue—kine these days seem obsessed with retro this and retro that. Regardless of what fashion he’s wearing, he keeps his clothes as casual as possible for whatever situation he’s in. He especially hates wearing ties and never does so at Elysium.
Name: Abraham Christopher Garcia
Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Date of Birth: June 17th, 1904 (New York City, New York)
Date of Embrace: May 29th, 1940 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Apparent Age: Mid-30s
Real Age: Approx. 100
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Black
Education: High school
Occupation: Photojournalist (1923—present)
Religion: Irreligious. Bran believed in God, once, and is at a loss for how else to explain the Kindred’s existence, but can’t bring himself to believe in an all-loving creator.
When Abraham Garcia was a kid in New York City, he loved to tell stories. He took up photography when he was 13, since he had already decided to be a journalist. His uncle, a muckracker during the Progressive Era, encouraged him in this.
Bran discovered that he had quite a talent for taking pictures and the camera soon became his favorite medium. He had a particular gift for how he incorporated light in his compositions and could endow even the most prosaic subject with grandeur. With his uncle’s help, he landed a job at the New York Times and was soon off across the country taking pictures and breaking stories.
Although the Depression was hard on everyone, Bran had grown up in a relatively affluent family of Puerto Rican immigrants who were light-skinned enough to pass as Spanish. The young reporter was shocked to find migrant Latino workers living in chicken coops, barns, portable wagons, and open fields. He listened to their stories of grueling work for pitiful pay, being shunned by locals, and being left out of New Deal programs that benefited white farm workers. Bran came to believe the government wanted to maintain a vulnerable, low-income workforce no matter who was president, and lost faith in the New Deal.
Bran tried to get his stories published at a variety of newspapers after the New York Times fired him for not giving up his crusade. Few news outlets were interested. Bran got by through selling photography and breaking stories about government corruption that harmed the white working and middle classes. He cared less about those stories, but they were what the publishers wanted, and he found himself growing increasingly cynical about his profession. The rise of fascism in Europe finally convinced him the world was going to Hell.
Bran spent a while drifting across the country, bouncing from newspaper to newspaper before his increasingly antisocial behaviors got him fired. It was easy for a man to reinvent himself in the ‘40s, so Bran started lying. First about his name (stories about him were spreading), then his personal habits (why mention the growing alcoholism?), then his opinions and beliefs (since his weren’t popular), and then finally his photography. He didn’t feel like taking as many pictures anymore, so he claimed the work of other photographers for his own. The newspaper companies were all corrupt anyway, so why try to be better?
Sometimes Bran would think to hell with it and publish an expose piece on government corruption, then tell the truth about himself and get fired. He eventually landed in New Orleans and lied through his teeth to get a job at the Times-Picayune. He idly considered immigrating to Cuba when this didn’t work out.
Bran was drinking at a bar when he ran into the most fascinating woman he’d met in years. Maybe it was the drink, or just a particular mood he was in, but she seemed to understand him like no one else. Before he knew it, he’d spilled his life story and invited her back to his place. The woman was stunned by the quality of the photos on display and rewarded him with the best sex he’d ever had. He was tired for days afterwards.
On their next meeting, the woman told him—no, showed him—that she was a vampire, and that her real name was Marguerite Defallier. She admitted that she’d fed on him and influenced his mind, but he’d shown he was something more. She told him about a vast conspiracy of vampires who ran the world and kept humanity ignorant through something called the Masquerade. She offered Bran a choice: join her in immortality, or forget all of this and go back to his old life.
Bran was horrified.
But the photojournalist wasn’t about to turn down an inside scoop.
With the help of Marguerite and his grandsire Accou, Bran took over the Times-Picayune. The city’s Kindred had encountered some trouble with yellow journalists in recent decades and Quentin Rivers, the Toreador who’d claimed domain over the newspaper, was proving less than dependable (and less than interested) in using it to maintain the Masquerade. The Invictus takeover involved just the right combination of deal-making and strong-arming that Rivers surrendered it for a few minor concessions without becoming a lasting enemy. It’s looked back upon as one of the finer examples of Accou’s leadership.
Marguerite was pleased by Bran’s management of the Picayune. His photography, however, won him little acclaim among the Toreador clan: they didn’t consider it a valid art form and treated Bran like a poseur. Frustrated, he withdrew to mortal circles. His pictures, published under a variety of pseudonyms, won numerous regional and even national awards over the decades. Many Kindred claim the Embrace destroys an artist’s creative spark, but Bran found he was taking more pictures than before. He no longer needed to earn a living, or had any incentive to plagiarize, so photography was something he could do purely for joy.
He also kept up with mortal affairs. The defeat of the Axis Powers in World War II briefly restored his faith in humanity, for all his belief in the Allied governments’ corruption. The Cold War soon returned him to his previous cynicism. He found something to admire in the Beatnik culture of the ‘50s and the antiwar movement of the ’60s, but was bitterly disappointed by Nixon’s win, Watergate, and the “greed is good” materialism of the ’80s.
He continued to run the Times-Picayune from behind the scenes. In his early years, he wanted to turn the Picayune into a headache for the city’s powerful and a true watchdog of democracy. His sire and grandsire made clear that he was to squash stories which threatened the Masquerade. If he couldn’t, the Guard de Ville under Donovan would. Bran told himself that his methods were a lesser evil. Then, disputes arose when the Picayune’s reporters exposed crimes and corruption linked to the pawns and aliases of other Kindred. Accou mediated and assured these vampires that the Picayune was only undergoing some “growing pains” and would cause them no trouble in the future. Then he told Bran to charge favors for that service. Bran thought about all of the stories brought forward by crusading, bright-eyed reporters he was going to kill. He had become the establishment.
Bran resigned himself to his role, some part of him rebelled at what he was. He used the Picayune to expose the illegal activities of assorted Kindred. Never to the mortal public, but always within Elysium. Sometimes these Kindred were guilty of Masquerade violations that Bran cleaned up, and taken appropriately to task by the harpies, but sometimes nothing would have come of their actions if Bran hadn’t dug up all the dirty details. He made sure to always target Kindred who couldn’t cause trouble for him or the Invictus… most of the time, anyway.
As a result, this kept Brain’s popularity with other vampires shifting around. While Kindred were confident that Bran would always protect the Masquerade, they could never be sure if he’d help cover up their own indiscretions or use the evidence to embarrass them. It seemed to depend on how “corrupt” he deemed their behavior (and what mood he was in). Elysium’s rumor mill held that he’d be on the Krewe of Janus if he was more reliable. At the same time, Bran never did anything quite egregious enough for Vidal or the Invictus to want him replaced. He ran the Picayune, and increasingly the broader local news media, better than anyone else probably could.
Bran stayed in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, notably against Vidal’s edict that all “nonessential” Kindred evacuate the city. There were too few kine remaining to support more than a handful of vampires. Bran, though, wanted to be there when the story of the century broke. There’d be pictures to take.
He had the good luck to be discovered by Jonathan North. He probably wouldn’t have survived meeting another archon, but Jon was friends with his sire and supposed that Marguerite would be distressed to learn that her childe was dead. He expelled the photographer from the city with a warning that the road to Baton Rouge would be less dangerous for him than staying in New Orleans.
As it happened, the trip was less dangerous for Bran than other “Katrina refugees.” The earlier convoy of vampires bound for the state capitol drew enormous attention from Loup-Garoux and other malign powers. One vampire was able to make the trip in greater secrecy, especially after the werewolves had suffered casualties of their own against the convoy; there seemed to be less appetite for hunting down more vampires. All in all, disobeying the prince worked out pretty well for Bran… apart from the archon took his camera.
He still grouses that those photos would’ve won a Pulitzer.
Bran did what he could to monitor the Picayune from a distance. As it happened, the storm proved a turning point for the local paper. Accurate information became a rare commodity as the news media often proved far more reliable than government agencies that were supposed to have answers for the citizens they served. The national media filed reports from scenic spots like the French Quarter that New Orleans had ducked the worst. It was Picayune staffers who called in that neighborhoods were flooding.
By Tuesday morning, water was lapping at the paper’s parking lot—a couple hundred staffers and relatives were evacuated—but reporters were deployed throughout the region. Bran, who’d been slow in adapting to modern forms of news media, found himself suddenly forced to. The Internet proved the most effective way to keep the Picayune publishing until it returned to print four days later.
Indeed, keeping the paper in circulation for every single one of those days proved vital. The Picayune delivered vital information to readers: where they could get food, water, clothes, ice, and where they could seek missing relatives. More than FEMA, more than City Hall, the Times-Picayune delivered vital information to readers. Communities of as many as 30 people would hunch over each other’s shoulders to read the paper at coffee houses.
The Picayune regularly printed stories about selflessness and sought out successes to highlight. But it also doggedly chronicled the multiple failures by federal and local officials that led to the breaching of the levees. It still remains an article of faith among journalists in the Times-Picayune’s newsroom that Katrina was an act of man, not God.
The paper suffered along with its city. Reporters didn’t live with their families for months. Marriages frayed. Two photographers attempted suicide. The paper lost money as advertisers and readers vanished, and dozens of journalists left town for good.
Bran was not one of them.
Later, Bran would admit, he’d forgotten just how much good journalism could do. Bran was humbled by the Picayune’s efforts to serve and inform New Orleans’ community. He pitched in as best he could. He used his powers to deliver inside scoops to reporters and expose mismanagement and corruption. He used those same powers to procure information on vital supplies and missing persons. He pumped his personal wealth into keeping the paper afloat and its staffers paid. He personally wrote numerous editorials debunking harmful myths and distortions (like the fact the levees overflowed, rather than failed due to disrepair). He even stopped a reporter from killing himself.
Bran knew he wasn’t a saint. He still drank blood every night. He still suppressed stories that threatened to expose the Kindred. But for the first time in a long time, since even before he died, he felt like he was doing actual good as a journalist.
It also made him one of the most important vampires in the city. The Picayune guided the rest of the national media in its reporting on New Orleans. At one point, as many as 17 executives and top editors at USA Today, The New York Times and other major outlets were receiving tours of the city and detailed briefings from Times-Picayune editors and reporters. Vidal and the Camarilla archons more or less had to bring Bran back to New Orleans at that point. It wasn’t even solely a question of the Masquerade anymore: Vidal and Savoy both wanted federal aid dollars to come rolling in. They got them, too, to the tune of $120 billion, of which $75 billion went towards immediate emergency relief.
No one, even Bran himself, claims he was solely responsible for that.
But he sure never gets tired of saying how much he helped.
Since the Storm
Business at the Times-Picayune has picked up in the years since Katrina. The paper is finally making a profit again and advertisers and readers have returned. Bran persists in much the same role as he always has: watching the paper and keeping a lid on the Masquerade.
It wasn’t long before his previous cynicism returned, too. Kindred and human corruption was as omnipresent as ever in the rebuilding city. Bran would be the first to tell anyone that some parts of it, like the Ninth Ward, simply never got rebuilt. But he hasn’t forgotten those shining moments during the storm when the Picayune showed what journalism could be at its finest. Katrina restored some measure of his faith in humanity, however tarnished that might remain—and perhaps even some measure of his own humanity.
Bran makes his domain around the offices of the Times-Picayune in the Central Business District. The traditionalist Creole base of the Invictus faintly looks down upon him for it, but Bran isn’t a native son of the city and doesn’t see the point in pretending as if his heart really lies in the Garden District. (Domain ••)
Bran masquerades as Joshua Martínez, a freelance photojournalist who was hired during Katrina. He’s one of the Picayune’s top reporters and has won a number of awards for his work in the years since 2005. He’s an irregular presence at the office and prefers to work on his own schedule.
Bran has extensive influence over the New Orleans media. He’s focused primarily on the Times-Picayune over the years, but he also has his fingers in smaller outlets like The Advocate. He had a tendency to concentrate on newspapers over TV and radio for a long time, and sometimes to his detriment. The national media storm surrounding Hurricane Katrina finally prompted him to get with the times. The 21st century finds him active on social media and online news sites. He appreciates how much easier they make it to maintain one’s personal Masquerade.
Bran’s actual hold over the news media is presumed to come from leverage (and perhaps ghouls) he maintains among key staff members, as his mortal alias isn’t in a position of executive authority.
Everyone knows how much Bran’s influence over the New Orleans news media has assisted the Masquerade. His popularity has swung up and down over the years, but he’s currently still riding goodwill from his activities during Katrina. It doesn’t hurt either that he’s descended from a well-respected sire, grandsire, and great-grandsire. (Camarilla Status ••)
Bran is held in moderately high regard among the Invictus for largely the same reasons. (Invictus Status ••)
Clan Toreador is another story: his fellow artistes regard him as a poseur for his chosen medium, although he’s been around long enough to gain some grudging degree of esteem for it. He’s gained enough over the years to be in the Guild of Aphrodite rather than Nemesis. (Toreador Status •)
• 5. Unknown sire
• 6. Pearl Chastain (e. centuries ago)
• 7. Accou Poincaré (e. mid 18th century)
• 8+. The Santiago brood (e. varies)
• 8. Avoyelles Desormeaux (e. mid 19th century)
• 9+. The Lafayette brood (e. varies)
• 8. Marguerite Defallier (e. late 19th century)
• 9. Abraham “Bram” Garcia (e. mid 20th century)
• 10. Maxzille “Max” “Zilly” “Zillah” Babineaux (e. mid 20th century)
Anne Sommers (e. late 20th century, d. 2005)
• 12. David Hansen (e. early 21st century)
• 9. Aniyah Bailey (e. early 21st century)
• 8. Veronica Alsten-Pirrie (e. early 20th century)
• 9. Jade Kalani (e. early 21st century)
• 9. Amaryllis DeCuir (e. early 21st century)
Bruno Courtet (e. late 18th century, d. early 20th century)
• 8. Katherine Beaumont (e. early 20th century)
Pablo Gallegro (e. early 20th century, d. late 20th century)
Rayisa Kostenko (e. late 20th century, d. 2005)
Barthélemy Lafon (e. early 19th century, d. 2005)
Valentine St. James (e. early 19th century, d. 2005)
• 9. Lisette Toussaint (e. mid 19th century)
• 8. Pietro Silvestri (e. early 20th century)
• 7. Adelais Seyrès (e. late 19th century)
Bran is childe to Marguerite Defallier, a harpy, influence broker in mortal politics, and escort madame. Marguerite is childe to Accou Poincaré, the former prince of Santiago, the regent of the Lower Garden District during Pearl Chastain’ torpor, the junior of their clan’s two primogen (though an elder in his own right), and the third-eldest of the Prima Invicta, the Invictus’ ruling body in New Orleans. Accou is the childe of * Pearl Chastain*, the matriarch and senior primogen for their clan in New Orleans, the regent of the Lower Garden District, and the eldest member of the Prima Invicta. Pearl has not publicly spoken of her sire, but is believed to be of the sixth generation and a great-grandchilde of Arikel.
Bran’s younger sister-in-blood Aniyah Bailey is a poet, rap artist, and follower of the Baron’s who didn’t mature into quite the model Invictus childe that Marguerite wanted. Still, the two remain on speaking terms.
Bran’s only childe Maxzille Babineaux is a folk singer and ‘60s political activist who reminded Bran of his youthful idealism. She’s found her way to the Anarchs and risen to become one of their senior members. Sire and childe remain on friendly terms.