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Posts Tagged ‘booth job’

After four months on the Ren faire circuit, I’m finally home.

It’s been a while since my last post because, frankly, I haven’t had anything nice to say. Living in a tent at the Colorado faire was much harder and more frustrating than I could have imagined. Everything was inconvenient. Take the shower, for example. It was pretty far away from our camp. You could walk to it — but by the time you walked back, you’d be covered in dust from the road. Or you could drive to it — and risk losing your parking place. I kept making the same stupid mistake over and over again: once I arrived at the shower, I’d drop my loofah in the dirt. Or I’d realize I’d forgotten my shower shoes and have to stand barefoot in the slimy grey-green shower stall. And then I’d lose my temper and spend the rest of my day trying to make everyone else miserable.

I’m pretty small and usually sweet, so my family thinks it’s kind of funny when I lose my temper. They call it “Hannah SMASH!” because I basically transform into the Hulk and wreak havoc upon the streets of New York. I used to be proud of my temper, as if it were a mark of strength or something. I’d think, I may be small and weak-looking, but you sure as hell don’t want to make me mad! This summer, though, I realized how exhausting it is to hulk out all the time. It’s not funny or endearing. I got tired of being constantly angry over ultimately small things, like buying canned soup but no can opener. I realized that everything was going to suck and be difficult and inconvenient for the next two months, and I could choose to get righteously furious about it or try to make peace with it. It’s more fun and more gratifying to hulk out, but I learned I have to let that go if I want my life to be easier.

But before I get carried away recounting all of the different things I hated about living at the faire and how I learned to deal with them, let me tell you about one thing that kept pissing me off over and over again at my job at the costume booth. My job was to help women dress up in corsets and skirts and feel totally fabulous. So what made me mad? Here’s what would happen: the lady would get all dressed up, look in the mirror and fall in love with the outfit, and then step out of the dressing room to show her husband. She’d ask what he thought, and he’d invariably reply, “Um… I like it!”

Then she’d say, “That’s it? You like it?!”

And he’d say, “Yeah, it’s… great!”

“Well, what is it you don’t like about it?”

“What? I just said I liked it! I like the way it makes your waist… and your boobs…”

“Well, but you don’t love it. I can tell.”

You see where this is going. I got so mad at this whole situation. First, I got mad that so many grown women needed man-approval before they felt like they could buy something for themselves. I’m totally in favor of collaborating with your partner before dropping a bunch of money — but it was like these women thought the outfit was only worthwhile if it got their man really excited. As if it wasn’t enough to just love the outfit and buy it. And here’s the thing — the men always did get really excited. (I can tell because I speak Man.) They’re just not usually equipped with the vocabulary to express what they love about the corset. I could say something like, “I think the warm hues in the outfit make your skin tones look golden, and the cut of the corset frames your bust without compressing it.” But Average Joe just gets a little flabbergasted when he sees his woman walking around in a garment that looks like it belongs in the boudoir. Then, of course, she takes his hesitation to mean that he thinks it’s ugly or silly or something. And then none of his backtracking or explaining can change her mind — she’s convinced she’s made a fool of herself by even trying the damn thing on and we are certainly not buying it now!

[sigh]

I started asking the women, before letting them out of the dressing room, if they felt fabulous. Then I told them that if you feel fabulous, you’re going to act fabulous, and your man is going to love it, whether he knows anything about corsets or not.

Gents, am I wrong? Isn’t confidence the sexiest garment?

I got so mad at the women who wouldn’t let themselves feel fabulous, and the women who picked a fight with their man over their own insecurities, and the women who dug their heels in and told everyone that they look fat and stupid and no corset or salesgirl in the world can change their mind. Ladies, if you’re one of those people who does shit like this, let me be undeniably clear: being a strong woman doesn’t mean stubbornly beating yourself up, and it doesn’t mean passive-aggressively bullying men. Why don’t we try loving ourselves, and seeing if that makes it easier to love our partners.

Ahem. So that’s how I feel about that.

I spent most of my summer finding ways to deal with being angry, which amounted to spending all of my time daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to have a refrigerator again. Amidst the record-breaking heat, the bears wandering into camp, and the hippies sing-shouting into the wee hours, I would take a deep breath and remember that I’m going back home to live in civilization. And now that I’m back, I have to say, it’s glorious to have a bathroom that’s inside the house, and a stove that works, and a real bed and a vacuum cleaner…

After all of the adventures I’ve had this year, I’m not keen on going back on the road any time soon. I’ve had a lot of fun, seen some beautiful new places, and made new friends, but for the foreseeable future, Lacewing Costumes is going to be a stationary enterprise and I’ll adjust to my new role as a non-traveling seamstress. Farewell, Ren faire circuit, and thanks for teaching me all of these crappy lessons.

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Now that I have a clean, peaceful space to live and work in, my perspective on faire living has shifted a bit. I’m not quite as worried about falling through the floor or turning into a giant bug as I was last week, so I’ve had some time to notice the magical things that drew me here in the first place. I have a bit of an obsession with magic, both of the wizard-y variety and the more mundane, small-moments-with-a-big-impact type. That’s why I want to be involved in the Renaissance faire: it’s a place where magic happens. Sure, it’s magic in that it’s an escape (for the participants and the patrons) from an office job, traffic, responsibility, whatnot. And it’s a place where little kids can see the queen and pirates and fairies and strange men on stilts. But it’s also a place where people do whatever it is that makes them come alive: fire swallowing, jousting, costuming… No one’s in this to make a lot of money or to impress their dad. People are here because they want to be, and all of that creative energy charges the environment.

I walk the adventure dog every morning and evening in the outlying areas of the fairegrounds. We pass a bunch of trailers and tents on our walk, including one big red trailer in particular that is parked a little farther out than all the others. This week I found out why: it’s an elephant trailer! I got to watch the elephant tromp around in his little pen behind the trailer, doing whatever it is that elephants do when they’re in little pens. And for a moment I was utterly amazed that I get to be a part of this community of artisans and jugglers and dancers and people who own a freaking elephant. That’s MAGIC! I spent a lot of my childhood daydreaming and writing stories about exotic lands and people with unusual powers and bright colors and the scent of spices everywhere. And here I am with a freaking elephant in my backyard! So cool!

Of course, lest I get too excited, I got a healthy dose of the not-magic, too. My job in the booth continued to suck. I made only one sale again this weekend, which meant I worked for four days and made only $100. I also got a little disillusioned talking to some of the vendors and performers at the faire. A lot of folks with bad attitudes think that having a bad attitude makes them smarter than everyone else and therefore qualified to be rude to other people. An actual quote from an anonymous former faire employee: “I loved my job at the faire. I just got to insult patrons in Old English all day and they were all too stupid to even know it!” (The irony here being, if you didn’t already catch it, is that Old English wasn’t spoken during the Renaissance. It wasn’t even spoken in Chaucer’s time. The Shakespearean English that we try to use at the faire is in fact early Modern English. And someone’s just too stupid to know it!)

On the other hand, some of the faire folk are so lovely you can’t help but feel like the universe is a friendly place when they’re around. I watched as a clown named Ima NuttĀ  bent down to look a four-year-old girl dressed as a fairy princess in the eye and have a very sincere conversation with her about stars and sparkles and magic wands and puppies. And I’m certain that little girl left the faire feeling like the things she cared about really mattered and the world wasn’t just full of boring grown-up stuff. Oooh, magic again!

I got to watch the joust on Saturday. That always feels magic for me because Travis was jousting when I met and fell in love with him. So every time he rides out onto the field all armored and majestic, I get the butterflies in the stomach all over again. Sappy, I know, but it’s a conditioned response and I can’t help it. So I sat in the stands with a favor (that’s a ribbon-y thing you give to the knight you’re cheering for) in his colors, and these three young Marines sitting behind me started giving me a hard time. “What’s that thing? Why are you giving it to that guy?” Well, that’s my husband, and I’m rooting for him to win. “Aw, is he actually gonna get stabbed? Your husband’s gonna die!” And so on, throughout the joust, until at some point the swordfighting and explosions became more interesting for them than teasing the married girl. I got to see the magic take over and suddenly they were all standing on their feet, fists pumping in the air, shouting for Travis, “BAD-ASS! BAD-ASS!” Ah, Renaissance faires. Capturing the imaginations of grown men with buzz cuts.

On Sunday it rained again. The wind blew the rain into the booth from the front so that even if you were standing at the back you got drenched. Patrons/potential customers left the faire in droves. I made up my mind to quit the booth job because if I’m not making any money either way, I may as well be able to stay inside when it’s raining, right? Still, I felt nervous and guilty because I didn’t want anyone to take it personally that I was quitting and I certainly didn’t want to make any enemies at the faire. So once the day was over, I slogged my way back to the barn to change into regular clothes before giving the manager my resignation. I peeled off my soggy boots in the hallway and opened the bedroom door to find soft lights, Simon and Garfunkel music playing, a towel and a set of clean, dry, matching clothes laid out for me. My knight in shining armor spent his day trudging through mud and falling off horses in the rain but still took the time to make my day better. MAGIC!

Feeling much drier and happier, I returned to the booth, quit my job without hurting anyone’s feelings, and got a hot plate of food and a pint of the faire’s craft-brewed amber ale to celebrate.

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In the merde

I am an incorrigible optimist — to the point of stupidity sometimes. As in, wow, the thing I was so excited about REALLY SUCKED. But that’s okay, maybe it’ll be better next time! I can go ahead and get excited again!

That said, the first week at the faire REALLY SUCKED. We arrived to find the barn apartment in crumbling, rotting disrepair. The stairs leading up to the back door are rickety and precarious, and it is nearly impossible to climb them without envisioning yourself falling through them and breaking both legs. The living room had an odor of human urine that persisted even after pouring a gallon jug of upholstery cleaner on the carpet. The couch cushions were home to a variety of colors of mold. The kitchen had clumps of mold the size of cotton balls living under the sink as well as some sort of brown sticky resin all over the inside of the microwave that couldn’t be wiped off or washed off, but had to be scraped off with a spoon. The dishes were stuck to each other and the cabinets with the same brown sticky mystery substance. The toilet had a discolored, cracked foam seat and the water heater didn’t work. The ceiling tiles were sagging and had water damage stains, giving us very little confidence about how our ceiling would fare in a heavy rain.

wants to die in your kitchenAnd that’s not to mention anything of the bugs. There were dead stinkbugs everywhere. There were spiders, flies, mosquitoes, and ants on the porch and in the showers downstairs. If you leave a glass of water sitting out and return to it later, you will find a dead moth floating at the top. The bugs here don’t seem to want to bite or sting or take your food or anything else buglike as far as I can tell. They just want to die in inconvenient places. Bugs don’t normally bother me much, but having so many shriveled exoskeletons decaying in my living quarters got inside my head so badly that I had nightmares and foul daydreams of turning into a bug, which dampened my mood severely for several days.

So we went to K-Mart and bought $150 worth of cleaning supplies and spent two days cleaning like maniacs to turn this into a livable space. We chucked the moldy couch off the balcony, ripped up and threw out the piss-smelling carpet, scrubbed years of fecal residue out of the toilet and put a more sanitary seat on it, shoveled mold out of the kitchen, and bleached the hell out of everything. We scrubbed all the dishes by hand, brought someone in to fix our water heater, replaced the soggy ceiling tiles, and swept all the bug corpses out into the woods. By the time the weekend rolled around, we had a clean space with clothes neatly put away, sewing table set up, and scented candles burning. Amber Woods-scented candles.

Then it rained.

During the week, my job is to sew and work on building my skills and inventory so that I can open a Lacewing Costumes online shop this winter. But I also picked up a weekend job working at a booth at the faire. Unfortunately, this job pays commission only (7% at that) and has no items for sale under $369, which price greatly dissuades your average faire-goer. I didn’t get any training whatsoever until the faire opened. And I only made one sale this weekend. And that was to a friend. And I think it was because he felt sorry for me. It could be that our sales were so poor because of the torrential downpours that were driving patrons away from the faire. And the fact that the faire had to shut down early both days because of lightning. But I felt slightly gypped that I spent my weekend touching people’s feet, smiling nonstop and tolerating flirting from overweight, sparsely-bearded men in kilts and only came out $50 richer than before.

And the mud was everywhere. In my hair. In my socks. In the hall. On the dog. On things that stayed inside the whole time.

I expect this week will be better. (Optimism!) Hopefully we won’t have as much rain. I now know important things about my booth job such as the name of the company and how to fill out the order form! Our barn apartment is in working order and feels like home, more or less. I’ve gotten a bit of sewing done and feel passably productive. I’ve met some great people at the faire. And I bought a pair of rain boots. So now, expecting the best as always, I’ll leave you with a picture of my home on a not-terrible day!

that's where i live

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