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Posts Tagged ‘mud’

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.

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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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