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 Nutt 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.