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Today I got something in a FedEx “Extremely Urgent” envelope.

I love all these words they come up with. Overnight. Priority. Express. Urgent. Extremely Urgent.

I think the next one should be “gonna wet myself” – because really, nothing conveys urgency like toilet desperation.

“Now introducing FedEx I’m Gonna Wet Myself® service – for when Extremely Urgent just doesn’t cover it!”
Final Weekend… and in the true spirit of things, I think I got about six hours of total sleep. But it was awesome, and there was coffee – and as I’ve been off the bean for months (except for the very occasional treat) the coffee was well and truly effective. Goddess bless the Tassimo that lives next to the toaster, as it requires no skill. Machine on, disc in, mug under, push button – WHAMO! Coffee! It’s a miracle. Sure Jesus turned water to wine – but this turns water to caffeine, which I find infinitely more useful.

The weather was perfect – chill and awesome. I really have to thank Ma Nature for blessing us with a wonderful run, then giving us such a lovely sendoff. The leaves crunch in drifts underfoot, the light fades fast, and it is undeniably autumn.

Of course all the non-Fest people make the same comments: “Wow, last weekend, huh? Bet you’re glad it’s over!”

It always seems like such an odd statement. If it was a chore I hated, I wouldn’t be out there doing it. Yes, I’ll be glad to have a day my alarm clock doesn’t go off. I’ll have two extra days to do things and far fewer things that need to be done (once all the “Hey! Fest’s over! Come to my gathering!” parties die down). I’ll have room in my trunk for groceries again, and perhaps within the next two weeks I’ll be able to cough up all the dirt that has lodged in my lungs (though I suspect the glitter will be there forever).

But there will be no more “Swing Low” in the mornings, no more light dappling through the trees and slanting across the grounds in the afternoons. I’ll have to resist the urge to chat with every kid in a stroller just to see them smile. I won’t duck through the backstage curtain right smack into conversation of epically weird and deranged proportions. No more random live music or warm welcomes from people I barely know; no more lovely hearth-cooked food or spinach pie. Life goes back to boring. How can I be glad that the most interesting thing I will be able to say about my weekends is that I did five loads of dishes?

I usually hit a wretched depression in October when my Brigadoon disappears for ten months. I’m hoping to fend it off this year; there are lovely things in the works for Irish Cottage. I have some fantastic ideas for Following the Desert Sun and plan to dive into that right away. There are plans to get together with a few of my closest Fest family in the off-season. It’s just – right now it’s hard to believe it’s over.

I can’t even really come up with highlights; the last weekend is always such a blur of last minute shopping, hugs farewell, and frantically soaking up wonderment to brandish against the coming dark of winter. I had two pieces of spinach pie. I caught Final Vilification Tennis (though much tamer than in years past). I stood on a bridge-rail with Taffy and greeted patrons in the chill of morning. I huddled in front of the hearthfire with Christine, Ann, and BJ, chatting and laughing and plotting as an excessive amount of Lady Gaga blared from the DJ in the special events tent. (Oh, I miss the Blue Barn! At least then the music was far away and those of us who wanted to have a quiet Cast Party could do so!) I spent twenty minutes trying to find my car in the pit – and had to wait for the ice on the windshield to melt so I could drive home. I had my fortune read, indulged in one more pretty hair toy, and put war braids in BJ’s hair to complete the Mel Gibson/Reaver/Uruk-hai look he was doing for Vil. (Burlap kilt and a blue handprint across his face – mark of the privy monster!! Hammed it up in the privies a bit later as he and I were trying to get it back off him…) I ripped a metric ton of tickets from patrons coming in at the last minute – and cried when Master Shakespeare said that we are such stuff as dreams are made on. I composed a song about holiday lights on a privy roof (oooh! You can see what you’re doing! Even better than breaking the seal on the roll of privy paper in the morning) and laughed at Jac’s final announcement and the choice of song he put on the stereo after:

Closing time
Every new beginning
Come from some other beginning’s end

Had a lovely post-run dinner with Bill and Autumn, toasted a successful year, returned to site for camaraderie and music, and got into a severe attack of the giggles with Autumn over “juicy porn – now with midgets and bacon!”, the true definition of a BLT, and the ineffectiveness of caffeine-laden ass-flavored berry juice. (I did mention I’ll miss all the epically weird conversations, right?)

And then, with Orion low over the horizon, drove back to a world of mortal concerns and dreams of August.

Good night, sweet Festival.

Renaissance Festival: Sixth Weekend 2010

I'm desperately sick of hearing management complain about how attendance is down (is it? dude, the place was PACKED, and the number read at Talent Show for Saturday's attendance was hardly a record low) because of the entertainers. Apparently every week there are a handful of letters that come in from parents enraged that the entire world isn't G-rated for their kids. Obviously this means we all suck. Never mind all the people walking out the gate at the end of the day with huge smiles on their faces, saying they can't wait to come back next year or next weekend. Never mind the kids that are wheeled out crying or cling to my legs, all protesting that they don't want to leave. Here's a lesson: people who have a complaint are far more likely to pick up a pen (or type an email) than people who are happy. They bought a ticket with the expectation that they would be entertained. If they are entertained, they got what they expected, and don't figure that merits a letter congratulating us on doing our jobs. (Much like management often doesn't notice when we do good things unless we're a select few people - hint, hint.) I even observed part of an exchange from my post at intake gate where a patron was thanking every single cast member on his way out. One of them encouraged him to write the office and tell them how much fun he had, and he said, "No, man, I don't need to - they KNOW you're awesome!"

No, no, sadly, they don't. But what are we supposed to do, beg every patron to write, with tales of woe of how all we hear at Cast Call every morning are complaints? Oh, yeah, THAT leaves a good impression!

So, for humble consideration, a few other things that might cause a drop in attendance:

- People are broke. The number of households down to one (or no) income is staggering. Let's face it - Fest is expensive. Tickets are $20-ish for an adult (no matter what time you come in) - just to get in the gate. If you're there all day to get your money's worth of entrance fee, you'll need food - which is expensive and there isn't much of it in an order. Rides cost money. Shows pass hat. Most of the crafts are expensive. My own parents haven't been out in years because even when I still had comp tickets in my contract to get them in the door, they felt bad not having the money to tip the entertainers they know aren't getting paid much (if anything) or buy from the shops instead of just browse.

- Management/ownership doesn't show much respect for the site. Hall of Masters has been boarded up how many years, now? The roof is missing in places, it's a huge building, and it's right at a prominent crossroads. All of the chainsaw carved statues are gone; same with the Meeting Crosses. Queen's Tea Tent. Big Corporate Tent that took up the entire Shepherd's Green this weekend. Seriously - they couldn't replace the Chapel (why should they, I suppose, when people will still pay to get married in a vinyl tent), but they could afford to build the King's Dungeon? (Oh, that costs money to enter, too.)

- For a large portion of the population, telling people they suck doesn't inspire them to greatness. It inspires them to depression and hopelessness, especially when delivered in a mass format like Cast Call. You feel like no matter how much you do, it's not good enough and you'll be scolded anyway, so why try? You create what you envision - so if you tell a cast that they rock and encourage them to go out and kick butt in their own awesome way... guess what they'll do? I'm not saying all entertainers are awesome... and yes, some people will slack. But those are the ones who will slack no matter what, and maybe they ought to be reprimanded in person instead of punishing the entire class.

Thus endeth my rant.

On to fun stuff.


- The weather was awesome. Rained a bit on Saturday morning, but quit right around Cannon and did not return despite predictions to the contrary.

- Picked up two extra readings on Saturday at Troubadour Stage. They had a couple grid spot openings and kindly invited me down. I find it works well as a reading venue, and for the second spot I had a lovely conversation with a couple whose son is in college and highly inclined towards the creative bent. Another couple from the second reading tracked me down for my 3:00 at Irish Cottage, which was flattering to say the least.

- Front Gate shifts both days. It's fun to chat a bit with people on their way in - especially since my shift starts about two hours before the show ends, frequently people want to get the most bang for their buck and are looking for suggestions on where the fun is at that time of the day. The only exreme challenge of intake gate is that people keep sneaking up behind you trying to go out the in door. My favorite excuses:

- But I'm coming right back!
- But I'm not coming back!
- But the exit line is long and I don't want to wait! (it really wasn't - and it was moving quickly)
And, best of all:
- But they won't let me go out the other door with my beer!

(At least that one I can blame on extreme inebriation, as the couple in question was too drunk to even hold their half-full cups level. Gods help the people on the road with them...)

- A cup of ramen noodles in the dark of Pavilion while waiting for Talent Show to start. Extra cool points that Erin sat down to have her dinner and keep me company. This had the happy side effect of learning that there's a booth in Cartwheel Cove that does amazing salads and wraps for about $5. Bonus points: it's an independent. Guess I know where I'm sending everyone now...

- Talent Show. You never know what you'll get, and this year was a pretty good batch. Most people kept their intros short. Although a couple acts went on a bit long (especially interpretive bunny dance, which stopped being funny years ago; last year the guy nearly got booed off the stage by the greater part of the cast, but he just won't let the bit die), most people went by the adage about leaving the audience wanting more. I especially loved the song the young lady who had been gifted the guitar wrote and performed for her benefactors. It sounded like it should've been ont he radio - and she's 12! WOW! Also - there's always one person/group each year doing something I've never seen up there before. This year it was a lady with nunchucks. Smokin'!

- Watering parade. Most of the crew was busy with the corporate party on Sunday, but towards the end of the run we're not in high demand anyway. Two people, six pitchers, and we wound up with half of one left (pitcher, not person). And that was the warmer of the two days.

- Brother Seamus concert in Cottage on Sunday. . Dee and Corwin were part of the band I schilled for my rookie year, so it was a nice bit of nostalgia to see them tucked in the corner to the right of the hearth. The more things change...

- The patron who came into Irish Cottage on Saturday and was intensely interested in the historic aspects of life and the building itself. We get a number of those - it's one of the perks of the place - but this one asked before he left where else on site he could go and find out more about the Renaissance. We encouraged him to talk to crafters about their art, and hopefully he did. It's always nice to find people who appreciate the nuances and aren't just there for alcohol and a themed shopping experience. Don't get me wrong - shopping is great. Supporting crafters is great. But with all the mass produced stuff out there now, I wonder if a lot of people no longer realize that the people owning the shops make the stuff in them?

- Scrubbing pots. I know helping clean up is not a glorious task. However, no pot could be as bad as the one I was told to clean at my last Clann Tartan event where some genius decided that leaving leftover oatmeal over the fire all day would turn it into bread - yet somehow was not rewarded for her genuis by having to deal with the fruits of her labors. (I mentioned it was my LAST event, right? Yeah.) Also, there is a period-looking scrub brush. With a handle. And Molly had been soaking the pots for quite a while already, so the whole thing can hardly be considered work. (Maybe that's why I enjoy cleaning pots this year... it seems so pleasant by comparison...)

- Ian McFarlan. He's a musician friend from years past - didn't get to chat long, but it was nice to see him in the lanes again and have a chance to say hello.

- The Bloody Big Corporate Tent - though not a highlight in a good way. Dude. Seriously. They complain that entertainment isn't visible enough, and then they do THAT? Fawna had to re-do part of her show, and the sheep herding demonstrations were cancelled entirely. Not to mention, damn thing was just unsightly. They go on and on about the need for us to be authentic, evict modern slang from our language, and hide anachronisms, but the multi-tent complex with the fake translucent windows is obviously okay. I say again: dude.

- Furries - omgwtf. Full-body furry suits and everything. One was a cheetah; one was (I think) a fox – though the fur was all bright cartoony colors, so it was a bit difficult to tell. I'm not here to judge - as long as everybody involved is a consenting adult, I don't care. But let's just think about the practicality issue. This is a Renaissance festival. It's packed with people, irregular terrain, and low obstacles like hay bales, trash can frames, and small dogs – and overhanging tree branches (which I know from personal and painful experience can flip you ass over teakettle if you run into them at a velocity). I've never worn a furry suit, but I imagine one's peripheral vision must be absolute shit in those things. Can't really go in a store - those tails would knock EVERYTHING over. Sitting down at a show would be rude – anything that bright would detract attention from the actual act, who are trying to make a living. The ONLY reason to show up dressed like that is so you can walk around and have people stare at you and have your picture taken with kids. Or something. And if that's your thing, hey, you paid your $20 at the gate - have fun. But in the meantime, I hope you don't feel the need to eat, drink, or pee...

Morris Blessing Ritual

For those who haven't been fortunate enough to watch the Morris site-blessing, I have rounded up a few videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXe0QL2t6Bk - video's shaky on this one, but the sound is clear and lovely (once you get past the initial airplane noise...)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCCM7zsNYLg - better view of the actual dance, and I love that it's right next to this street with cars going down it

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abewt3EWE-c - sound's pretty well crap on this one, and the video's a bit fuzzy - but as it's shot in a forest (or, at least, a lot of trees) it gives a better feel for the eerie beauty of the ritual.

Renaissance Festival: Fifth Weekend 2010

A weekend of absolutely delightful weather. Saturday started off a little on the too-chill side, even with my coat, but it soon warmed to perfection. Didn’t have to take my coat off either day. Oh, bliss. Maybe if I’m very lucky, it’ll stay like this for the last two weekends of the run.

Highlights –

- Glorious music abound. Lorelei was visiting on Saturday and kindly sang the “Meadowlark” song for me – my Fest season is now complete. (In general it was wonderful catching up with her; I miss having her around the Cottage twice daily.) The Canterbury Travelers came in to serenade the Cottage as well, and I must say I miss the transcendent harmonies of proper madrigal songs. On Sunday a couple of Molly and Da’s friends were visiting, which also filled the house with lovely music.

- Dregs in the Dark. I know this falls under the “glorious music abound” category, but as they were kind enough to put on a more-than-two-hour show for their devoted Ren family, I feel I ought to call it out separately. I sat in the window facing Upson Downs, BJ and Hawkins on the bench below me, and reveled in not only the music, but the sense of community that filled Mac’s Pub. (Also, the lovely 12-year Bowmore that Hawkins kindly shared from his flask. Mmmmm my favorite.) Their new fiddler is awesome, and I can’t wait to hear more of her. Their set list spanned from what Tim so frighteningly dubbed “blowing our zombie wad all at once”, to originals (which includes the zombie wad), to more traditional stuff like “Lukey’s Boat” (“Lukey’s boat is painted gold – happy birthday, Tim, you’re fucking old!” would’ve put us all on the floor laughing if we hadn’t been squished together like very happy sardines) to more modern stuff like “Hotel California”, to traditional mixed with modern (I’m still not fond of “Old Dunn Cow” – but it’s much better with the addition of “Eye of the Tiger,” some of the score to Star Wars and the theme to Inspector Gadget - you know you’re among geeks when the whole crowd chimes in with the “oo oo!” at the appropriate time). I still haven’t seen the actual Firefly series (just the movie), but my goosebumps get goosebumps listening to everyone sing “Burn the land and boil the sea – you can’t take the sky from me!” With the quarry expanding to slowly eat our parking lot (and who knows what after that), buildings falling to age and neglect and being replaced by tents, and people we’ve called family for years leaving our ranks through death or disillusionment or circumstance… it felt like an anthem as we huddled in that stone building amid candlelight, packed too tight to feel the night’s chill. I saw people with camcorders, so I’m hoping this gets put either on a CD (because I’d totally buy one) or offered free on their website they did with Angelina’s farewell concert (we miss you, lady!!).

- Good food. Molly made beef barley stew on Saturday and Ulster stew (contains beets, turns your hand red – hence the name) on Sunday. Nom Cottage food nom. And perhaps it says sad things, but I enjoyed the hell out of scrubbing the pots after.

- Watering parade. It’s cool, we didn’t go through much – but hey! We’re there to serve!

- Entrance gate in the evenings. It’s slow, sure, but I like slow. Exit gate makes my head explode.

- Contact juggling. I’m starting to suck less. Marginally. Brilliance will not happen by the end of the year – but in the meantime I’m apparently one hell of an awesome advertisement for the stained glass booth on the corner where I got my marble. Each day I get at least half a dozen people asking where they can get one.

- Unlosting patrons. I still did a decent bit of this, though I spent most of my time entertaining folks in Cottage.

- Shopping. I finished off my list. GO ME!

- Full moon site wander. ‘Nuff said.

The only downside is that I started coming down with the ick on Sunday – everyone was going a bit slower and sounding a bit lower, and by the end of the day I was getting that feeling like I’d swallowed crushed glass.

Fest crud. Boo. Not as if I’m surprised – but still. Boo.

Writing Questions Meme

The extremely awesome K.V.Taylor had this on her blog and wanted other authors to come out and play. Since she was kind enough to endure not one but TWO early drafts of Towards the Fates, I owe her big. So, here goes...

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.
I love the whole Renaissance Faire world (obviously!) because it challenges me to look more closely at things I've come to take for granted over the years. Every time I'm at Festival I notice another tiny detail and think, "Oh, crap, why didn't I put that in somewhere??"

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?
I'm scared to count. Not all of them live in my head (thank goodness!) but enough do that it's getting crowded up there...

I used to think I liked writing girls best - but I've been doing some stuff from Tanek's point of view lately and enjoying it quite a bit, so now I think I'm about equal. I just have more experience with girls.

3. How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?
Most of them show up and announce themselves. For the rare times they don't, I have about ten baby name books to leaf through until something sounds right. (I got my first book when I was still in junior high. My mother forbade me from taking it with us to public places, which I didn't understand until many years later.)

Renaissance Festival: Fourth Weekend 2010

Anniversary of the kitties coming to live with us on Saturday. Yay kitties! I made sure to give Barb and Randy both hugs and thank them for trusting us to care for two of their little furry blessings.

Weather Report: Beautiful and cool on Saturday – a bit warmer on Sunday; the sun baked my brain a bit by the end, but I wasn’t sweating oceans, so I’ll take it. The site was still soft and a bit puddly from the week’s rains, but nothing that would eat a small child.


- Guitar Karma. One of the brilliant things about the musicians at Fest is how supportive they are, not only of each other, but of anyone who shows a musical aptitude. For example, the Fandazzi fiddler has been in Cottage several days to give fiddle lessons to a couple of the young lads from the Fawna show. The idea behind Guitar Karma is that a lot of musicians have been on the receiving end of that sort of kindess at one point or another – and, also, possibly on the receiving end of a gifted instrument. Jay (who has been around damn near since the dirt was new), in his Old Skool Awesomeness, took up a collection from folks (not limited to musicians) and presented a gorgeous twelve-string guitar to one of the young ladies of the Fawna show, who shows quite an aptitude and talent, but has been playing on a kid-size guitar. It was sweet to hear her getting to know her new friend up in Cottage’s loft. I just wish I’d known about the collection in time to kick in a few bucks.

- Moonie. I’ve heard about his show from a number of people, but he hasn’t been at any of the festivals I’ve visited. How convenient that he should come spend a weekend at mine! His reputation is entirely justified – to the point that I actually bought his DVD, which I can’t say for any other show I’ve seen.

- Contact juggling. I’ve always wanted to learn to do this but had lousy luck with my acrylic ball. On a whim I bought an oversized marble (roughly the size of a golf ball, maybe a little bigger) and started practicing with that. I have to say it works much better for me. I spent a big chunk of the weekend practicing as I walked from Point A to Point B, in between escorting patrons to wherever they were trying to find. (The majority of them this weekend had misplaced the Jousting Track. Huh.) By the end of Sunday I could usually get it to roll from the palm of my hand to the back of my hand and back – almost all the time without dropping it on my right hand, and about half the time with my left. I’m okay with dropping it a bunch – I realize this is part of the learning process – but my backside and thighs are a little displeased at the number of times I squatted down to retrieve it. Ow. It was cool how many people were encouraging of my very beginner efforts – rennies and patrons alike. One fellow who is quite good at it himself was kind enough to give me a few pointers, so we’ll see if that helps next weekend.

- Front Gate Shifts. I was on entrance gate, which I find I like much better than exit. Yay for people who breeze by to chat while I’m standing around with a lack of incoming patrons. Double yay for the ones who bring (or drop) cookies. The slow pace of incoming gate at the end of the day is largely responsible for my progress in contact juggling.

- Vilification Tennis on Sign Language Saturday. There are few things funnier than watching a really good interpreter sign some of the stuff those people say. Wow. Really, really makes me wish I’d stuck with my classes and gotten my degree/certification/whatever in sign interpreting. (Wish I’d stuck with the public school violin lessons, too… que sirrah.)

- Watering parade. Nothing real exciting there, but I still like doing it.

- Readings. They went well both days – on the second I had a nice conversation with the mother of one of our rookies. It’s always fun hearing a different perspective on our show.

- Shopping. I experienced much shopping excellence. Even better, it was all on behalf of other people, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about coming home with a bunch of stuff. I’m especially proud of the T-shirt I scored… one of my writer buddies has a character who is a king and a womanizer (although oddly lovable despite it) and absolutely needed the shirt that says “Once a King, always a King, but once a Knight is never enough.” The ones I've seen so far have been simple white lettering on a dark blue shirt - but they changed the design this year to be this calligraphy stuff that's harder to read at a glance and has a distracting grey crest in the background (maybe overall cooler, but definitely not appropriate to this particular character). I asked last weekend if there were any of the old ones left, and the booth worker I talked to said there weren't. Nevertheless, I found two in a large at a different booth. Hopefully she won't mind the slightly roomier size, but if she does I can always nab one of the new ones in a medium (supposing I can find a medium as I was having trouble finding those too).

- Fandazzi show. Caught the last half of their show with Autumn, who hadn't seen it. I like the new three-man bit they've added with the flaming quarterstaff-type poles. Very cool.

- Community Kitchen. Alice the Cook at the Guard Encampment runs the Community Kitchen - basically she does cooking demos with the intent to feed as much of the cast as she can. Those who can do so chip in ingredients and/or cash, and any cash left over at the end is donated to a food shelf. Good karma all around - and good food. I generally eat at Irish Cottage and leave the Community Kitchen stuff for others, but BJ couldn't quite finish his, so I helped out. Yum. (I'm doubly grateful that they exist because I was gifted an incredible number of enormous cucumbers from a coworker and don't have the jars to pickle them all. This meant the remainder could fill hungry rennie tummies instead of going bad.)

- Foxtail with Hugs. On Sunday BJ and I played foxtail for half an hour or so on Shepherd's Green. It was a good time-fill before my reading, as I didn't want to get involved in something and have to extricate myself and hurry back. This game became extra fun when Miss Fiona decided that she was going to try to race the foxtail every time we threw it. No way little four-year-old legs are going to outpace a thrown rock, but she gave it her all - and gave a big hug to whomever was on the receiving end. Fiona hugs are some of the best hugs on the planet... and hopefully all the running caused her to sleep well when she got home.

- Hugs in general. I'm not a huge huggy person - more than some, for certain, but mostly just with people I know to a decent extent. (Not that there's anything wrong with being a hug slut, of course.) One of the many lovely things about Festival is that there are a lot of people I know to a decent extent out there, and they're all excellent huggers. I think the world would be a better place if there were more hugs and cookies. (This reinforces my intent to turn four at my next birthday.)

- Morris site-blessing ritual. I haven't caught their site-blessing every year, but it humbles me every year that I do. Time drops away and my soul stills, and a distant part of me is sad that I will never, ever be able to capture the full beauty of their dance with prose. They walk by like a line of ghosts, and those following fall into step with the music's rhythm, and my heart breaks for all the people shut tight in their shops, talking and blaring music, oblivious to the miracle beyond their doors. It's strange watching them dance the next day (from the middle of the circle - thank you Morris Men for your lovely mojo!!)... like talking with a selkie after seeing them in seal-form. Their tune will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life.
The weather gods took pity on us this weekend and granted us three days of cool temperatures. I never took my wrap off on Saturday; I’m not sure it even hit 70 degrees. Oh, bliss! Sunday and Monday were good as well – low 70’s. It sprinkled occasionally on Monday, but the serious rain held off until after Cannon had blown and folks were packing up. My only complaint is that the weather didn’t even slow the mosquitoes down. I have fewer bites than last weekend – but that’s probably because I didn’t stay after, so more of me had multiple layers that a mosquito could not penetrate. Still, the little suckers are just vicious this year!


- Un-losting people. I say it every week, but the maps suck. Chances are in any stroll from Point A to Point B I’ll run into at least three people who need directions. If they look really confused, I just take them wherever they’re going and chat them up on the way. It’s not the big or flashy brand of entertainment, but I flatter myself to think it’s just as important. (Personal soapbox: not everyone out there loves big and flashy, dammit. We quiet people have our place, too.)

- Morning gate. I tried something different and played out front instead of joining the musicians. Not sure if I would’ve thought to try it if I hadn’t forgotten my recorder (all three days – I suck), but it was fun. I got to pull out some of the lines I used to use when I was staked out in the Secret Garden back in the days of Neighborhood scheduling – they’re best for people who won’t stop to play. I found it amazing how many people will take a picture of you just because you’re standing on the railing of a bridge. Or who ask what would happen if they pushed you in. (You’d fall and hit the rocks – DUH.) Also interesting – not one person threatened to push me off the bridge, but Taffy got it repeatedly. As I find it unlikely that they were more frightened of me than him, I can only concluded that chivalry isn’t dead after all. Hooray for that, at least. Next time someone asks, I’m going to say, “He’ll flail and pull me down too, and that would just make me cranky.”

- Drinking straw! Yay! Elandah leather had them in again, and there was even one wrapped with grey thread that had a unicorn charm on it. I match myself. I am so cool.

- The Bronze Jeweler’s booth. I adore their stuff, so when I’m there it’s always fun to stop and ogle – and point out to anyone browsing that really, they can’t live without one.

- Post-parade water distribution. We’re a little obsolete on the chillier days, but I still like playing my part to keep people upright, hydrated, and ready to play. We don’t go through nearly all of the ice, but Cottage always seems to need more in the outdoor water tank, so I’ve taken to just hauling it over and dumping it in when we’re finished.

- The Ratcatcher’s wooing of the Queen Mum. I love watching good improv actors at work, and that bit was very well played out. They knew where they were going, they had a basic idea of how they were going to get there, but the middle was too spontaneous to have been heavily scripted. It kept the audience giggling and drawing closer to see what crazy thing these people would do next – no awkward dragging lulls in the plot, no one looking around as if to say “oh, crap, what next?”, everyone playing into whatever the others were doing. I really miss having a good entourage with whom I could do that stuff. (Oh for the Cottage of my youth! – though I do love this incarnation to pieces, I’ll always miss having a pack of sisters to play with.)

- Helping around Cottage – cooking, carrying, watching the place, and other such stuff. BJ and I washed the dishes on Monday, which made me silly amounts of happy. Emily came in and played, and it was lovely to hear harp music in Cottage again. (Side note: I know exactly two people named Emily, and both of them play the harp. Not sure if that’s an odd coincidence or just Fest. After all, how many people in the regular world do you run into that play harp?)

- Sitting net at Vilification Tennis. Autumn hadn’t been to one of their shows in a very, very long time, and as we found ourselves child-free for a bit of time, I dragged her over. Favorite insults for the weekend: “Your mom’s so fat that not even Dora could explore her!” “Your mom’s so fat she IS the Adipose breeding planet!” and “Your mom’s so fat that when she went to Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat put her in the House of PANCAKES.” (Disturbingly enough, the first and third came from the new member, who is the ripe old age of fourteen. I nearly peed myself over the Sorting Hat insult. The second, for those keeping score, is Chrysto’s.)

- Catching a Dregs show – again, Autumn hadn’t been, and obviously this needed to be rectified.

- Having an adorable four-year-old with curly blonde hair come running from forty feet off, arms spread wide for a hug. Repeatedly. It’s really hard to think anything’s wrong with the world when there’s a kid who’s that happy to see you. Bonus cute points when she did it in a slightly-too-large wool cloak, and her black hat (also a bit on the big side) fell off half-way to me. Miss Fiona is one hell of an awesome ego boost. (Side cute: the last time she did this was at Front Gate. She had some little gold junk jewelry rings, and I asked where she got them. “Someone gave them to me.” “Who?” “Oh, just a human.” Then, with a mischievous grin, she held out a little glass pebble that could only have come from Twig. I oohed appropriately, despite trying very hard not to crack up about the human remark.

- After hours at Cottage. Good company, good chat, laughter, and candlelight. And pizza.

- Festival weather warning system. On Monday evening I got a warning that there was a storm a-comin’, and to pass the word that it was supposed to be a bad one. I love the ripple effect of that – even with cell phones and all that fancy gadgetry, there were still lots of people that didn’t have a clue until they were told.

- Chatting with a Morris dancer during one of my readings. I pulled out the Morris bit from Towards the Fates in his honor, and it was neat getting his take on what it was like to do the Fest-blessing ritual.

- Closing Gate all three days. The second two, blessedly, I only had to watch one gate and there was someone else watching the second. I think it might be because two people slipped by me with alcohol in their mugs on Saturday – but really, when the crowd is thick, it’s impossible two watch two gates AND give hand stamps. It’s entirely likely that the offenders slipped out while I was telling someone else that they couldn’t take theirs beyond the exit. It does amaze me how many people, when told that they can’t take alcohol outside, promise that they’ll finish it by the time they hit their car. Um, yes, you will. Before you leave the premises, even. Because your car is beyond the gates, and I just told you that you couldn’t leave with stuff in your mug. DUH! But it’s also lovely how many people smile and thank us for the lovely day – and how many kids stomp out complaining that they don’t want to leave yet. Means we must’ve done something right…

- The fellow standing next to his lady (who was finishing her booze before leaving – given how much people pay for it, I’m amazed anyone dumps it). He was dressed in a brown pinstripe suit, a tie, a brown trenchcoat, and red converse. I wished him a good journey to his TARDIS, and the smile on his face could’ve lit up Times Square. The hair and face weren’t even close, and it’s a subtle outfit… most people would just think he was odd for wearing a suit to somewhere with so much muck. Those red converse really made it, though, and if someone is going to take the effort to do more than just throw on a T-shirt and jeans, they deserve to be treated as whomever the hell they choose to portray. I wish I’d seen him earlier – it would’ve been fun to see if he’d actually play or if he’d just worn the outfit. (Wish I’d looked at his companion more closely, too – I think she might’ve been blonde, but I’m not sure if she was geeky enough to wear something Rose-esque.)

Renaissance Festival: Second Weekend 2010

Rookie Year: Oh no! My sleeve has a rip! I must patch it immediately!!
17th Year: Oh, hell. My pants split up the crotch. Well, if I wear dark underwear and watch how I sit, they’ll make it another weekend… I can sew them up when I go to Mom & Dad’s on Thursday.

Conditions Report:

The weekend was hot. Nasty, icky, wiltingly hot – although at least the humidity wasn’t too bad. And there was a decent breeze. On the other hand, it hadn’t rained in a really long time, so the breeze made the place a dust bowl. Also, the mosquito population is horrific this year. The vicious little mutants are usually only a problem after the sun goes down and the patrons clear out, but the bloodsucking beasts were attacking in broad daylight. I have sixty-seven mosquito bites and would like very much to crawl out of my skin.

The highlights:

- Foxtail with BJ on Sunday. My aim has improved. Drastically. Yay me. Also, BJ scored a field goal while tossing from under his leg. I am not nearly that cool.

- Rescued a damsel in distress. A lovely bellydancer (though I’ve yet to meet one that wasn’t) came up to BJ and me as we were parting ways after our game of foxtail and asked if I was a musician. Recorder at my belt, I had to admit occasional bursts of musical aptitude. BJ admitted to being a drummer. Apparently her musicians had flaked on her, and she needed to perform for Queen’s Tea – so BJ and I agreed to provide some improv backdrop for her routine. Thankfully she was cool with punting – BJ drums for dancers on a regular basis, but it’s been a long damn time since I had to play something that wasn’t from the British Isles. It was fun in any event, and when we’d finished she suggested jamming sometime. I find myself looking forward to the prospect.

- Gate shifts both days. I’ve never done Gate before in an official capacity, so I thought I ought to give it a shot in case I need to write realistically about it. Plus, it’s a paid gig, and a little extra cash doesn’t go amiss now that I’m not part of a musical act that passes hat. I was on the exit gate both days – first day was a bit more dull, just wishing people safe travels, thanking them for coming, and making sure no one left with booze in their mugs. Sunday was more chaotic – I was the only one for two gates, so it’s a bit of a trick to keep an eye on both of them. Thankfully Sofia Panini and the Concierge were there doing stuff as well, so they could lend an extra set of eyes - and some backup when people would decide that it wasn’t actually necessary to listen to the short chick no matter how firmly she put her foot down. Though, to be fair, most people are tremendously cool about proving their mugs are empty, letting someone sniff to be sure the contents aren’t alcohol, or chugging/dumping the remainder of their beer. On Sunday I was also Keeper of the Hand Stamp, which happened to be three flamingoes. Apparently Trinket likes flamingoes – or, at least, finds them amusing. Or just likes to say “Flamingoes for everyone!”

- Readings both days went well. I experimented with a few scenes I don’t usually use on Saturday and was pleased with the results, so I might add them to the list of stuff to use. On Sunday I got into a lovely conversation with a young lady who wants to start writing stuff. As much as for me writing has always been a compulsion – do it or go mad – over the years it’s gotten to be just part of what I do an who I am. I love it. I have days where I feel brilliant and days where I feel like a complete hack, but I’ve gotten used to those swings. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing or telling stories, but I do remember the point at which I decided to be serious about the whole thing. (Fifth or sixth grade – I was the dork on the side of the playground with a notebook and a pen.) It’s so cool to be reminded of the energy and enthusiasm that sets us all on that path in the first place – when things are new and you have no idea if you can pull it off, but by the gods you’re going to try!

- Watering parade. I’ve discovered that I can two-fist the pitchers, which is handy when people are filing in from parade and don’t have time to wait in line on their way to the Royal Reception. Unfortunately we’re down to five pitchers from the seven with which we started… I’m hoping it was an opportunistic patron because the thought of a rennie who knows what they’re used for running off with the things is just unconscionable. Not that stealing is good in general, but bonus loss of karma points if you know it’s endangering someone’s health in the process. A bunch of stuff is missing from Cottage, too – including the big yellow cooler thing that used to hold the water jug. And the bellows for the fire. And a bunch of the drinkware. And granted, it was all missing last year, too, but it still pisses me off.

- A bit of photographic serendipity. Amber Moon (shop by Front Gate, carvings of amber and bone – beautiful stuff) has a bin of art prints in the back, and out of curiosity I flipped through them. Imagine my surprise when I ran into a lovely framed photo of a couple of kids I know. They’re the sons of a couple former rennies with whom I am friends. I inquired as to who had taken it and the fellow behind the counter said that he had. I said it was extra neat because I knew the kids, and it was a perfect picture of them. He said that was great, as he’d snapped it last year and didn’t know who they were, but had hoped that if he put it in the bin that someone would recognize them and be able to deliver it for him. I happily volunteered. What are the odds? I love it when the universe clicks together like that.

- Watching ducks eat while I put on my morning dose of sunscreen. They’re Peking ducks, so they’re white, but Trinket adores ducks and so this entertained her vastly.

- Un-losting many patrons. It might seem like a small thing, but those maps really do suck, and I remember what it was like to get completely turned around when I was first out there. Being able to remove that sort of hitch in someone’s day so they can get on with the business of having fun (or make it to their show on time) gives me a happy, glowy feeling. Plus, my sense of direction sucks, so it’s nice to be the one on the giving end of the directions for a change.

- Helping cook around Cottage. Meat pies – yum. And, of course, while there, good stories and playing with patrons who walked through. It’s fun to hear what their favorite parts of their days were. There was one couple from Hungary who was visiting their daughter (who played translator). It always amazes me when people come from distances like that and choose to spend one of their days at Fest. (One group of people from my gate shift were from Nebraska and had spent Saturday at Bristol in Wisconsin and Sunday with us. Which was hardcore in its own awesome way.)

- Wine and cheese party after hours at Pagan Oaks. Alcohol is one of those expenses one can easily do without, so we’ve been doing without it… but it was fun to sample a bunch of stuff and get mildly tipsy on it (BJ brought some sort of pumpkin wine – odd and delightful and did not, thankfully, taste a thing like pumpkin). The cheeses were also lovely – although, as a pity, I don’t know what most of them were. I was chatting with Autumn and Bill (the Younger) when from across the camp I hear a fellow call, “Hey, Meghan, are you a vegetarian?” – apparently Miss Fiona had decided that I needed a plate like everyone else had, and so had enlisted the aid of a nearby adult to assemble one. And thought that sausage should be part of it. I’m not a vegetarian (largely because I’m far too fond of bacon), but I love that people think to ask stuff like that at Fest. The company, of course, was even better than the edibles, and Bill, Autumn, and I capped the night with a ramble around site while we chatted about geeky stuff and days gone by. Also, I managed not to fall headlong over any of the trash can frames – though I maintain that the one sitting right in the middle of the patch of bright full-moonlight was only attempting to appear innocent and would’ve leapt at me if I’d gotten any closer than I did.

Still, I had fun. Lots of it. Enough that despite the infernal itching, I’d happily go back and do it all again -- although this time I wouldn’t trust those stinking all-natural mosquito repellant bracelets. I wore two and they did NOTHING.

Renaissance Festival: First Weekend 2010

It’s been a long year.

It’s been a poorly-written soap opera of a year, actually – though I won’t inflict the details on those fortunate enough not to have lived them. Plus – I think I’m a little old-school in that it weirds me out to go into great detail about my personal life on the internet. (The joys of homeownership are exempt as they are funny, and funny should be shared.)

I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel about Fest. I walked through the last half of last year in a blind haze. I did the best I could to entertain folks and pretend reality didn’t exist, but I don’t actually remember much of it. I wanted this to be a good year, but people can be strange around you once Bad Stuff Happens (many were last year, although I discovered some friends I didn’t even know I had, which was awesome) and I didn’t like the thought of that stuff intruding on my happy place.

Still, I was offered my contract to do book readings/signings again, and there is a force of inertia behind my participation… and, honestly, I really, really needed to be surrounded by wonder and beauty. Hugging a friend, making a patron smile… I needed a purpose beyond the corporate grind.

And so I found myself on Opening Day packaging copies of the short story CD twenty minutes before I needed to leave. And still wasn’t in costume. At least I hadn’t needed to make a new one, but obviously that meant something else had to get finished at the last minute.

A wall of fog waited for me when I opened the garage door, and I cheered. I just wanted to run into the driveway to give it a big hug – except of course that hugging fog doesn’t work so well. I drove to Fest with a huge grin on my face, and given the day’s start, I found myself playing the Now Vs. Then game.

Rookie year: Contract signed and turned in during Academy. It’s one page, front and back, and basically says “Show up, do your thing, don’t hurt people, don’t be dumb and get yourself killed, and if you are dumb and get yourself killed, it’s not our fault.”
17th year: Contract signed and turned in on Opening Day. It’s ten pages of legal jargon I have to read twice to understand. Then there’s the Harassment Policy, the Insurance Waiver, the Rules and Regulations, the Costuming Guidelines…

Rookie year:Pass picture is taken in Academy. They splice it together with a little piece of paper with year numbers on it and laminate the whole thing to a chunk of yellow plastic and hand it to me. I’m grinning from ear to ear in the photo even though I’m sweating to death -- the Student Union where Academy is held has no air conditioning. I’m wearing my peasant-ish shirt because I thought it would be appropriate.
17th year: I realize a week before Fest opens that I ran out of punches on my pass. I browse though my .jpg files from last year trying to find one where I don’t have an idiotic look on my face. I email it to the offices; they’ll print it on a piece of plastic and hand it to me at Cast Call. In the picture I’m wearing a flannel shirt because it was comfortable.

Rookie year:I pack a cooler full of pasta salad and all sorts of other things to eat, even though I know I’ll get fed at Irish Cottage. I’ll be running around, and I’ll need the energy!
17th year: I boil two eggs on the way out the door. I’ve got a few granola bars in the car. I know I’ll get fed at Irish Cottage, but really, if I run around a little extra and don’t have time to grab a lot of food, it wouldn’t be a bad thing and maybe I could drop a pants size by the end of the season…

Rookie year:I iron my brand new costume bits before packing them carefully so they don’t wrinkle too badly. While I iron, I listen to Fest tapes and sing along with the songs I know.
17th year: I pull my costume bits out of a trunk where they’ve been wadded since last October. I give profound thanks that not only can I find all of them (well, except the wineskin… where DID that go??), but they all fit. More or less. They’re completely wrinkled and the stains stopped coming out a couple years ago – but that just adds to the look, right?

Rookie year: I ride to Fest the night before in my friend’s powder-blue station wagon, which is held together by the faith of youth. Of course it’ll get us there! Betsy’s a good old car, and she always gets us there! Fog is beautiful and abundant; we take the back way and watch it tumble across the road.
17th year: I drive to Fest the morning of, riding in my (reasonably new) car, praying nothing under the hood suddenly fails because I really can’t afford repairs. The back way is all suburban sprawl, now, so I take the new(ish) freeway – which is largely through countryside. Fog is beautiful and abundant.

Rookie year:Oh, crap, gas went up to $1.05 a gallon! Well, we still need to fill up. Hey, put in that new Loreena McKennitt cassette – “The Visit”!
17th year: YAY! Gas went down to $2.65! Good thing I hadn’t filled up yet! While it pumps I’ll click down to the Loreena McKennitt mix (seven albums total) on my iPod (which is smaller than a cassette – and you don’t have to flip).

Rookie year: We park in the field behind C-gate and sprawl on the top of the station wagon to star-gaze with friends. I am amazed by how many stars you can see out in the country where there aren’t many lights. Our parking spot was a long way from anywhere, but I don’t care.
17th year: The field behind C-gate is a hole being mined for rock. We’re supposed to park in the pit – but we don’t have parking passes, so the traffic director won’t let me. I wind up parking by Front Gate, which I haven’t done since before I was a rookie (and the spot was much farther out then) – but am glad it’s close. No chance to look at the stars – but the casino’s lights bleach a lot of them out anyway.

Rookie year:I’m here! It’s Cast Call! Yay! I made it on time! Wow – look at all those people; I bet they’ve been here forever! How will I ever learn all their names? I wonder if they’ll play with me…?
17th year: Yay! I’m here! Ten minutes late, but it hasn’t started yet anyway. Wow – look at all those people! And – her! That lady! And that guy over there! I still don’t know what their names are! And – oh, those must be the rookies! I wonder if they’ll play with me…?

Yes, the fog put me in an awesome mood, but as soon as I saw everyone in costume chatting away, I almost did a little dance. Fest was here – a year full of possibility and hope. No matter what happens, some things are constant as the tide. Yeah, Fest changes. A LOT about Fest changes. The guy who is the boss of all of us is even wanting to change “Swing Low” to some other song because we’ve been singing it thirty years and he thinks it’s time to freshen things up. But the benches are still shitty and uncomfortable, and the hugs are still warm and welcoming. Despite everything, my Brigadoon is back, and all is right with the world.

Amusements from Cast Call:

Most people didn’t have their passes punched. Or their packets of stuff (comps, food books, parking pass). The Boss Of Us made everyone who needed something stand up and number off to four, then split office hours into four sections and assigned one to each number so everyone wouldn’t be there at once. The disorganization wasn’t surprising. What was funny was that for a bit everyone thought he was kidding about counting off by numbers. And then BJ started cracking jokes about the number game from Storm. I’m vain enough to find that flattering and funny.

All the assistant office people are in red shirts. So are all three people in the knife-throwing act. You’d think at a Renaissance festival you’d run into enough Trekkies that SOMEONE would’ve told them this might not be such a great idea…

The rest of the weekend was fast and wonderful. Some highlights:

– Front Gate song went for half an hour the first day (the pain! THE PAIN!), though less the second. The Muppet hands still make me giggle.

- I signed up to be one of the water bearers at the end of Parade. The plastic pitchers are sooo much lighter than what we used to use at Cottage when post-parade was still on the Green. They hold more water, too! People are still just as grateful, which is almost sad… after all, I’ve got the easy job. They’re the ones that just walked the entire site in the blazing sun.

- Re-discovered that Gypsy belts are magnets for little girls. On several occasions I wound up captive to a small child making the bells jingle, then watching them burst into fits of glee when I’d shimmy and make the whole thing go off at once. It inspired one child to run in circles singing the spontaneously created “Ding Dong” song, after which she segued into her ABC’s. I can see why Twig the Fairy loves what she does.

- Discovered that the broadsheets are actually inside the programs this year. I like it – very slick looking, and it means the patrons only have to carry one thing. Usually you’d get one member of the group with the map, one with the broadsheet, and about half the time they’d get separated so you couldn’t refer to the map (crappy and inaccurate as it is) when trying to explain where someone was going. The program itself is slim – much moreso than in years past, but at least there is one this year. For the last couple seasons they’ve just handed out the brochure. I assume this was intended to save money, but to me brochures seem more like a promotional item you’d get at a hotel’s Local Attractions stand. I thought it looked half-assed and unprofessional to hand them out at the gate, though I never heard anyone actually say anything about it, so maybe it was just me. In any event – love the new format and hoping they do it again next year.

- Helped around Irish Cottage – cooking, chatting with patrons, joking with other cast-members. Knocked the rust off my historical knowledge of Our Irish Cottage vs. The Real Thing (I love it when patrons get curious). At one point a lady (in costume; don’t know if she was cast or playtron) poked her head in to ask if those were our kittens trying to escape from the picnic basket. They belonged to the show on the front lawn, but as everyone from the show had gone on a wondander, we were the closest thing to Responsible People In Charge Of Stuff. Investigation turned up three small black-and-white fuzzballs in the picnic basket (lid had been bungee-corded shut; one kitten was trying to squeeze through a hole in the wicker that was only big enough for his muzzle). The kittens were in the state one would imagine them in, given the excessive heat and the not excessive air circulation of a picnic basket. We fetched some water and spent the next while wetting them down and trying to get them to drink. One of the three had to have the water taken away before he glutted himself and barfed; the other two required coaxing, but by the end all three were doing well by the time their owners returned. We wetted down the rabbits, too, but they weren’t interested in drinking from the cup, so we could only hope that if we got them wet enough they’d lick some of it off themselves. They, too, were looking a bit more lively by the time their owner came back. I’m very grateful to that person (didn’t learn her name) who came up and asked us… I’d never thought to check in on the animals since they weren’t mine. I guess the universe does make sure the right people come together to take care of the helpless, sometimes, though I feel bad that they were suffering and I was twenty feet away and oblivious. Guess that’s a lesson to me to open my eyes more…

- Played local guide for a many families of patrons trying to find one place or another. I think I need to check out a few minutes of the new acts, as I got broadsided with a couple of the questions.

- Sat as part of the peasant net for Vilification Tennis. Lots of fun new insults, some of them from a fourteen-year-old girl who had commendable projection and delivery. She adds a fun dimension to the show – proves that it’s not just us jaded grown-ups that are warped!

- Reading/signing spots went well. It took me a bit to get my groove on, and I think I need to make a sign that says the CD offerings are NOT audio-books. I’d figured that marketing the three novels on one CD would make that obvious (every audio-book I’ve encountered is a several CD pack for ONE book) but maybe people thought I had the rest of the set in the back somewhere.

- Happened by Vagabond as Finn was singing “Mystic Lady” (one of his originals from back when I was a rookie) at the stained glass shop across from Cottage. This is awesome because the guy who owns the shop plays fiddle beautifully; I close my eyes and pretend it’s Tremayne. (Style’s not quite the same, but still.)

- Caught a bit of the Robin Hood/Sheriff of Nottingham show-down at the end of the day. I’m still getting used to the new cast (my brain keeps insisting that the Sheriff ought to look like the old Sheriff; Sir Guy ought to look like the one we mugged back by C-gate, etc.) but I enjoyed the show, stage combat included.

- Played foxtail with BJ in one of the open areas near Bad Manor… awesome end to the weekend. I will say, in all fairness, that he is a billion times better at throwing than I am.

- After Cannon a while we wound up plopping in the shade of the Information Booth and chatting about random stuff while people would come, join the conversation for a bit, and drift off. I love the winding-down feel of the end of the day. Eventually hefted myself to my feet, gave BJ a hand up, and we wandered with Jim down to C-gate. BJ headed to the campground, and Jim and I just about got down on our knees and worshipped the bus that meant we didn’t have to walk the rest of the way to the pit. Except then we would’ve had to get back up, and neither of us were sure we could.

- Drove home, took a glorious shower, and fell into bed.

Overall, the weekend was a complete raving success. For most of it I was grinning so hard that it’s amazing my face didn’t crack in half and fall off. And you know it’s good when you don’t even mind that you’re sweating to death.