Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘joust’

Immediately after I wrote about how awful the beginning of Scarborough was, things started to get better. The very next day, we got invited to a steak dinner at the home of a swordsmith who works at the faire. We spent the evening making new friends, enjoying an excellent meal, watching fireflies, and taking a tour of the workshop where he forges the swords. That week, I got a little faster and better at making the kids’ knight costumes, and I started feeling a little more like I am where I belong.

But then of course a lot of boring, mundane crap got me down again. I got a bit disillusioned with the faire for several reasons. Last year I thought that everyone who works at the faire is doing what they love, but I’ve since met a lot of people who aren’t inspired by their work; they just feel like they’re trapped in the lifestyle because they don’t know how to do anything else. There’s not as much camaraderie among the folks at Scarborough as there is at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. People keep to themselves a bit more, but rumors spread just as quickly. I hate gossip-mongering, but half of my brainpower is taken up with other folks’ interpersonal drama. And the faire bureaucracy is a bit of a downer, too. It seems like every decision, no matter how small, is a great political issue. Turns out Ren faires aren’t places of freedom, peace and love; they’re just corporations with costumes on.

Luckily, before I got too deep in existential crisis mode, Sunday happened.

On Sunday, I got hugs from two people I had never met before. The first one was from an artist who draws horses. She came to the faire to get some good source photos, and she liked the jousting knights’ costumes and started a conversation with me about costuming. She’s also a seamstress and wanted to know about costuming as a career and what life on the road was like, so I told her about how Travis and I met, my experience in school, and how we ended up back here. We only spoke for a few minutes, and she lives in Mexico, but we felt an affinity and when it was time for her to leave, she hugged me, said “God bless you”, and wished me well with my travels. I was so touched. I hope I’ll run into her again some day.

The second hug made me stop in my tracks and reevaluate everything.

Two boys came up to the booth after the joust to meet the knights. They were cheering for Sir Corwin (Travis), and they had gotten wooden swords and shields earlier that day at the faire. Travis signed the swords for them, and the older boy got a Sir Corwin costume. His mother told me that his birthday was this week, and he always gets to go to the faire and pick out a present for his birthday. I asked the boy, whose name was Brandon, if he went to the king’s knighting ceremony that was held that afternoon. With a stricken face, he looked up at me and said, “No, I missed it,” which may as well have meant, “and now I’ll never get to be a knight!”

Travis, without missing a beat, dashed backstage and grabbed an old broken lance piece, cut it down to size, and painted it is his colors. He returned with the lance and his sword, and asked Brandon and his younger cousin if they would like to be knighted. One by one, the boys knelt down and solemnly vowed to be honest, defend their family, stand up for those who are smaller than them. The ceremony ended with the accolade, a (very gentle) slap on the cheek to remind them that even if though it may be painful, a knight must always try to do what is right. As Travis described it, “I drew my sword and was overwhelmed with memories of seeing my father do this very thing when I was growing up. It is a strange alchemy to make a decision and when you act upon it to see your father’s hands carry it out. Thank you dad, for teaching me how to be a knight. I didn’t truly understand what that meant until today.” The family was so moved by the experience that when the boys rose as knights, Brandon’s mother cried and hugged us both and thanked us for giving her son such a meaningful birthday present.

The men of Noble Cause Productions pride themselves on being knights rather than just jousters. Anyone with enough physical strength, dexterity and a pinch of insanity can learn to fall off horses and fight with swords and shields, but it takes a person of extraordinary character to put aside his ego, pain, frustration, and exhaustion, and take the time to genuinely impact the life of a child. I am so proud and thankful to be married to a true knight.

On the drive home, I realized that all of the frustrations and doubts I had been harboring about the faire, the weather, the slow sales, and the depressing people pale in comparison to the impact we made on Sir Brandon’s family. I’m not in this to make a ton of money right away or to be comfortable all the time. I am slowly but surely building a business that will bring joy and magic to children and will remind adults of the value of play, and I’m learning a lot of important lessons in the meantime. This faire season is kind of like an internship: it’s a lot of work, all of the lessons are learned the hard way, and the pay isn’t great, but the experiences I’m gaining are the most valuable thing of all.

Read Full Post »

There are some days where I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be — doing positive work, building my career and my skills, connecting with family and friends, spending time outside.

Then there are days when I wonder what the hell I’m doing.

The opening of Scarborough is proving to be as much of an emotional challenge as the opening of the Pennsylvania Ren Faire was.

As it turns out, my costume booth is in possibly the worst location in the entire faire. It’s tucked away in the corner of the tilt yard, and no one walks past it. You can’t see it at all from the main path, and you can barely see it from the joust audience seats. It’s next to the petting zoo, so the bleating and braying of farm animals drown out all of the other sounds of the faire. It’s also next to a bush that spews pollen into your face every time the wind picks up.

We have had some pretty foul weather (including a tornado!), which means no one comes to the faire and I end up with mud all over my dress. On Saturday, fewer than two dozen people showed up to the first joust, the sheep got vociferously irritated at being wet, and I had to figure out how to use the port-a-potty without trailing my gown through any unsavory substances. At that point, I had a very strong desire to go home and rethink my life. I don’t know if I’m the type of person who can handle not knowing if the weather is going to completely sabotage my entire week’s income. Or, for that matter, if I can even handle being hot/cold/wet/windblown/dirty/stinky all the time. Why didn’t I choose a nice, clean, safe field like accounting or mail sorting? Why do I keep thinking this gypsy life is so rewarding and romantic anyway? I know I’m trying to use my passion and my skills to make the world a more magical place, but I have to wonder if sitting around in the rain with the sheep and the hippies is really the best way to accomplish that goal.

Selling my wares has been alternately rewarding and frustrating. Kids seem to really love the knight costumes. It’s great fun to watch them try on costumes and talk to them about the joust, the horses, the faire, Zombie Dice, dinosaurs, and whatever else their brains associate with polite conversation. I get really discouraged, though, when the sunburned, cigarette-smoking, bleach-blonde or buzz-cut parents snap, “You don’t need that!” (insert stereotypical NASCAR-crowd Texas accent* here) and drag the kid away by the wrist. I wonder why parents even take their kids to the Ren faire if they won’t let them get a souvenir. Isn’t that just a day-long cruel tease? But then there are the parents who walk into the booth saying, “My son loves the black knight. I want to buy EVERYTHING.” (Actual quote.) So I’m trying to focus on the customer interactions that end like this:

Another discouraging thing that I forgot about over the winter was the very odd, contentious communication style among the faire folk. A lot of people out here (not everyone, mind you) can’t have a conversation without trying to one-up you or belittle you. I walked in the first weekend carrying a big Rubbermaid tub of knight costumes, and one person asked me what was in the bin. When I told her it was full of costumes, she replied, “OH. I have THREE bins of costuming.” WTF? Lady, I’m not impressed. I’m not even the slightest bit interested in having a geek contest with you. I’m trying to sell these things because it’s my job. Yes, I’m proud of my work. Yes, I think what I do is pretty cool. But it’s just work — not my identity, not my insecurity-pacifier, and not something I’m trying to use to outdo anyone. And no matter what you do or how good you are at it — costuming, fencing, horseback riding, anything — somebody at the faire is going to try to prove that they’ve been doing it since before it was cool, and they’re much better than you’ll ever be. I’m just not interested in having that conversation. All I want is to make costumes and try to get along with everybody.

Last Sunday was more encouraging than the rest of the faire has been so far. The sun came out (symbolically!) and business picked up a bit. I finished the weekend by sending an awesome kid home dressed as his favorite knight, which, simple as it may be, reaffirmed my faith in my work and boosted my mood exponentially.

I think the two-week hump at the beginning of the faire is over, and I’m ready to see what the rest of the season will bring. It’s going to get better. I just have to keep going. Because:

*Texans, don’t get mad. I’m from Texas, and I illustrate this stereotype with all the bluebonnet, sweet tea, stars-at-night pride in my heart while acknowledging that most of us aren’t that way.

Read Full Post »