04 October 2012

Pax Interruptus XXXVI

Tomorrow I get to fly north for the girlie's Fall Break, north to the land of shortened vowels, of brisk and crisp October air and of trees that understand how to do fall foliage properly with their flaming swath of reds, oranges, golds and yellows.  Fall is one of the things I miss most about the Midwest; in both Memphis and Georgia fall seems to last approximately ten minutes and the trees go pretty much from green to dead with  little color change in between.  To be fair, Georgia does display marginally more color than Memphis did, but that's not saying much considering the change still only lasts a few days at best.

Fall in Rochester.

Now that the girlie's SCA knight has been crowned king (and the whole time he was heir too, really), she is at an event almost every weekend.  As a result, this means we'll be going to the Crown Tournament his weekend with her since it's virtually impossible to pry her away from the SCA even to visit with us.  Sometimes I worry that she spends far too much time focusing on her SCA stuff and friends at the cost of giving a full 100% to her studies, particularly since that's what's she's actually there for and it ain't cheap.  The travel back and forth alone costs a small fortune.  Ah well...once a parent, always a parent--the worrying never ends.  Still, she's an adult now and has to make her own decisions as well as live with the consequences of those decisions, both good and bad.  But she's a good kid.  And, near as I can tell, she still manages to do quite well with both things, but then her 80% has always been more akin to everyone else's 100%.  While frustrating, it's hard to argue with someone for not giving it their all when they get those kinds of results without trying.  Sigh.

But I digress.  Anyway, I figured since we'd be in NY for another of her events, I should probably catch up with my delinquent write up of the previous event.  In early July I flew up to visit the girlie during her research internship and spent a couple of days attending Thescorre's Pax Interruptus event.  A couple of days before I flew out I had minor surgery done on my toe; that's when I unknowingly received the staph infection that tortured my poor digit for the next two months.  (After six weeks of antibiotics, it's finally doing much better and once again looks almost normal.  Almost.)  So you can imagine what I looked like trucking through the Atlanta airport with a giant Q-tip for a toe and while carrying 7 dozen snickerdoodles for the girlie and her SCA peeps.  I fully expected to have the cookies confiscated on some trumped-up charge by hungry TSA agents, but I was miraculously passed through security without incident.


When I arrived Thursday night, the girlie picked me up at the airport (nothing like a little surreal role-reversal to liven up the weekend) and we headed to the hotel to drop my things, after which we grabbed some dinner at Outback then went to her fighter practice so I could see her in action.  Afterwards we went back to the hotel to chill.   I purchased some drinks for the evening's TV watching and the girlie picked out a snack.   She inexplicably chose to get chocolate chip cookies, in spite of the fact that there were DOZENS of snickerdoodles sitting upstairs in my room.  Silly child.

Because everyone should be able to do the Worm in armor at practice.

Friday I occupied myself in the hotel while the girlie was at work, after which we "suited up" in our garb to head to the event's Friday night festivities.  I know she does this in part to save time, but also because she likes to see the looks on everyone's faces as we walk by all decked out like refugees from a Ren faire.  I have to admit, some of it's entertaining, like when a little girl gaped at us and asked her mommy if we were real princesses. Priceless.

Once at Pax, we hung out with Arsalan's (the girlie's SCA name) household and I learned all about the "chili chair," which was apparently a fold-up camping chair on which Sir Khalek's young daughter Siri had spilled some of the evening meal.  As I looked around, I could totally see where the whole "anachronism" thing comes in.  On one end of the campground was Khalek's ger (which is more or less a Mongolian yurt), while on the other end were assorted pavilions and period tents intermingled with LL Bean and Coleman's finest.  I took great pride in contributing to the anachronisms of the weekend by gifting Khalek's older daughter Talia with one of those drawstring backpacks made out of Doctor Who fabric (she's apparently a big Who fan too).  Inside was a small Lego-like figurine of the 11th Doctor, which Arsalan later told me Talia kept taking apart and putting back together, squealing with glee because the "Doctor comes apart!" and because she could "Decapitate the Doctor!!"  Talia wandered around all weekend with that backpack slung over her Medieval garb.  It made me giggle every time I saw her.  Anachronism indeed.  And yet, it seemed somehow appropriate, not the least because some of the port-o-johns were blue and looked suspiciously like Tardises.

Anachronisms FTW.

Later that evening, we went down to a Torchlight Tournament marshalled by Khalek.  All of the fighters had to battle each other in an area set off by torches, with the fighting to continue till all the lights had extinguished or till all the fighters wandered off, whichever came first.  Khalek's wife Branwyn was press-ganged into service as the MOL (Mistress of the Lists); you can only imagine how difficult it was to keep up with who was winning when you could barely see the fighters.  I sat beside her and helped.  And by "helped," I mean "frequently told her the wrong person because several of them looked alike in the dark, using vaguely descriptive terms like 'the skinny dude won.'"  She was very patient and gracious with my ineptitude, however, and we had a pretty good time.  I really like her; she's quiet, but very sharp and very funny, and she patently ignores the fact that I'm incapable of remembering to bow and say things like, "Hello, your Highness."  I also particularly enjoy the bemused but knowing look I've often seen on her face when people are getting silly around her.  As for Khalek, I've gotta give him major props for taking his chivalry seriously; I would have been content to sit on the ground beside Branwyn since there was not enough room for us both at her little camp table, but after a whispered word to Arsalan, my girlie went scampering mysteriously back through the dark, returning with a camp chair for me.  Score!

Arsalan, Fabulous daughter and Squire Exraordinaire

Armored up and ready to fight.

Arsalan fought till the bitter end of the tournament (because she's wildly and weirdly enthusiastic like that), even winning several matches.  The ultimate winner, however was Thorsall (which I am probably misspelling), an epically polite and gracious fighter who won by easily 60 points over his nearest competitor.  After the fighting, we cleared up and headed back to hang out at camp, where I got to watch my girlie act all punch drunk on Dr. Pepper and her fighting high.  We were also treated to rousing frat choruses of "My camp is louder than yours!" by the drunken household next to us, which escalated shortly afterwards when the campers started bellowing "My dick is bigger than yours...my dick is bigger than yours--hey, camp next door--tell us about your dick!!"  Randall (Dave) handily replied, "It likes poetry and long walks on the beach!"  Raucous laughter ensued.  At some point that evening I made a comment about something, though I can't remember entirely what.  It had to do with the me teasing the others about using some modern conveniences or something, to which Khalek promptly asked (speaking of anachronisms), "Am I harshing your medieval mellow??"  Yup.  The guy's quick, I'll give him that.

Eventually I went back to the hotel, since it's rather hard to pack a tent in one's plane carry-on.   The girlie opted to spend the night at the camp since she had the first shift of retainer duty the next day.  She didn't plan ahead very well, however, and had not packed clothes, a blanket, a sleeping bag, toiletries or anything else and so she spent the rest of the evening bumming the required items from others.

The next morning was it was pouring down rain, so I admit I took my sweet time getting ready to head back over to the event site.  I even planned ahead by asking the breakfast lady if I could get a small piece of saran wrap.  She looked at me like I'd grown two heads, so clearly this is not a request she hears often.  I told her I wanted it to wrap around my toe to protect it from the rain since I couldn't yet wear regular shoes.  She was horrified that I might suffocate my toe and that it would fall off from lack of oxygen as though it were a dog in a box or something.  I assured her I would leave an opening for it to breathe and she finally complied.  Garbed and armed with my toe's cling-wrap condom, I headed back to the campground for the days festivities, though not before flipping out that I'd lost my phone (I needed it for the GPS), only to discover I'd shoved it in my bra while carrying everything else since I lacked pockets.  Smooth move, Ex-lax.

I pulled into a parking spot on-site and watched in amusement as another garbed lady zipped by in a little Smart car.  ("One of these things is NOT like the other...one of these things just doesn't belong...")  It took a little while for the fighting to begin, so I coated myself in sunscreen since the sun had come out and headed over to the field with the chili chair to find a good spot from which to watch the action.  As I sat there in my shades holding a drink, I had a sudden flashback to doing the same thing while hanging out at the girlie's sporting events and thought how bizarre it would be to sit in my modern chair with my modern sunglasses and wearing medieval garb while sporting one of those beer hats with the straws that go down to your mouth, only swapping out the requisite beer cans for goblets of ale.  Rabid fans partying SCA-style...with my ale hat and a pot of woad with which to paint myself, I'd be all set.  Yeah.  These are the weird sorts of things that pop unbidden into my head on a regular basis. 

Obviously I'm gonna be needing this.

Most of the fighting that day was practice for the Pennsic wars so I got to see several different types of battle instead of just the one-on-one bear pit sort of fighting I've seen thus far.  It was most educational, both on and off the field.  First I got to see guys dropping trou right and left as they armored up, but that wasn't a big deal...I used to do a lot of theater and after watching 12 guys in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" bent over in their tighty whiteys to pull up their pants, nothing much fazes me anymore.  Incidentally?  Tighty whiteys??  LEAST sexy garment on the planet, especially if paired with black socks.  I'm just sayin'.  I also saw an unfortunate amount of side boob as women with slightly too loose garb wandered around braless as per the custom of the times.  Sorry, I'm not yet quite that dedicated to the dream.  I'm sewing loose armholes shut and hoisting these suckers up with steel and hydraulics and you can't stop me, garb or not, at least not till I find someone who can teach me how to properly fit medieval garments. 

While sitting on the sidelines, I got to watch some "mundane" campers wander in with cameras to take pictures of the action.  I also got to see some guy walking around with silver duct tape on his crotch which, while no doubt handy, made for a rather shiny and flagrantly obvious wardrobe malfunction repair.  I  saw a lady in garb that reminded me of Charlie Brown's shirt, as well as someone with a giant wooden spoon who looked like an aging Miss Muffet.  At one point the guy next to me asked for my assistance in duct taping his armor on because one of his clasps had broken.  Sure, buddy, I'll strap you in.  I'm not doing anything...just chillin' in the middle ages with my anachronistic camera and my water bottle.    But nothing topped this one chick decked out in a gambeson made in the back to look like a naked woman wearing nothing but a red thong up her butt.  Long yellow braids streamed down her back and she had metal Madonna cones on her chest.  My first thought was "Wow.  Okay then."  But after a couple minutes I thought to myself, "Good on you, lady--wear your fighter femininity loud and proud!"  Then I found out that Madonna was really a GUY who likes to wear his alter-ego "Helga's" attire to make some sort of point about things he doesn't like.  Or something.  Okaaaaay.  Suddenly I was a whole lot less impressed.  But hey--whatever rocks your world, Helga.  I'm in no position to judge someone else's quirks when I have enough of my own to fill up Montana.


In spite of some of the more unusual sights, everyone I talked to seemed really nice and I really enjoyed looking at all the bright colors of everyone's clothing and/or armor, as well as all the flags and pennants wafting aloft in the breeze over the period pavilions.  I could see how people get caught up in the pageantry of it all, especially after watching Khalek himself on the field.  I must say, he looked very impressive and striking as he strode across the field with purpose, all tall and straight and carrying himself as if he really were royal.  I've seen him do the same thing off the field.  There's just something about the way he holds himself that seems to draw people to him.  But then I don't suppose it hurts that he's also pretty easy on the eyes; apparently one of his nicknames is "Sir Hottie."  Nor does it hurt that he always looks very put-together.  He clearly looks after his armor and has been doing this long enough to have amassed a good bit of spiffy garb some of which is presumably from his previous stint on the throne, so he never appears as tattered as some of those forced to create garb or armor out of a mixture of mundane clothes and plastic or whatever else they can cobble together with the funds available to them.  Not that I can talk, mind you, considering I wore trumped-up bedsheets to my first event.  I can see why Khalek's so well-respected...he doesn't just look the part, he is the part.    Admittedly, it's sometimes difficult not to get jealous that he and his wife get to spend so much time with my girlie every week while I have to be satisfied with maybe 2-3 hours every Sunday on a grainy Skype screen and not seeing her in person for months at a time.  Still, I can't really be upset about it because Khalek and his wife are awesome people both in and out of the SCA and they have become a second family for my daughter.  Knowing that she has good people to whom she can turn if she ever has any difficulties while so far from home is an amazing gift, and almost as good as if I could be there myself to help her when she needs it.  Almost.  But they love my girl and they look after her and encourage her, and for that I will be forever grateful.  What mom could ask for more?

Khalek observes the battle.

Anyway, while I watched the battles I got to see people waling on each other in melee battles, on bridges and in little skirmishes elsewhere.  I saw "maces" flying through the air like Olympic hammers and weird projectiles that looked not unlike juggling pins shooting all about for some unknown reason.  I later discovered that these were "arrows" shot by the combat archers.  It was all very fascinating until some dude in red and with a peeling imperial eagle on his shield started yelling at some other guy to "step it up and hit harder."  Two or three of the guys started acting very childishly and began baiting each other, causing tension to escalate rapidly.  Drama!  Eventually it all got sorted out, but I remember thinking at the time how appropriate an event name like "Pax Interruptus" was considering all chaos caused by the testosterone poisoning of those 2-3 guys during the battles that afternoon.

Melee battle.

When the fighting was mostly over, or at least devolving into conflict, I wandered back to the camp.  It's highly entertaining to sit around listening to people randomly spouting bits of history, and very accurate history at that, in much the same way other people might chat about brands of coffee or the school board.  And that's pretty awesome when you think about it.  I still feel kind of awkward sitting around hanging out without doing anything to help, though, but every time I asked everyone said they were good.  It kinda made me feel like a guest, like when everyone is really nice and polite but not entirely sure what to do with you.  Funny--my kid turns 20 and is off at college and still I'm "Arsalan's Mom" instead of Ginger, instead of a person in my own right.  Heck, it happens down here, too.  Like I said, once a parent, always a parent.  I sometimes think you surrender your identity with your placenta during childbirth.  Par for the course, I suppose.  Don't get me wrong--everyone was perfectly nice, it's just that they just don't really know me as anything other than Arsalan's mom yet.

Not long after I went back to camp, court started.  I made sure to get a seat up front (on the ground, since I had no chair of my own) so I could actually see and hear what was going on since I couldn't the last time.  By the time court stated, the blazing sun had gone down just enough to cool things a little, aided by a lovely breeze.  In spite of slicing open yet another toe on some bit of twig on the ground, I was quite comfortable sitting there and proceeded to work on the hem of one of the girlie's garments while court continued.  Court lasted quite a while, though, and eventually my back started to hurt from hunching over my hemming while sitting there on the hard ground.

Court was very interesting, though.  I got to watch the local Baron and Baroness conduct their business, then the King and Queen conducted theirs.  Khalek and Branwyn, as the heirs still at that time, mostly just sat around and looked important (or bored).  Meanwhile, I watched as different retainers kept popping up behind them like there was a revolving door behind their thrones.  It was almost as amusing as watching the off-duty retainers loll about in the grass behind the royal pavilion like a bunch of drunken Romans while awaiting their next turn at retaining.  I also got to see three people elevated to the peerage.  While long, it was an intriguing process.  Someone from each of the orders had to speak up on their behalf, as well as someone royal.  I think there was a fifth person as well, but I can't remember.  The last guy to go did a whole lawyer-up schtick, saying he'd been accused of acting like a peer when he really hadn't been, so they ended up elevating him to solve the problem.  Ba dum bum.  It was pretty funny at first, but he had more than the normal number of people to speak for him, so it did drag on a bit.  It was still interesting, though.

HRH Khalek

HRH Branwyn

After court Arsalan and I went back to camp and got to eat Dave's delicious KC-rubbed steak.  Seriously--it was amazing.  (I snuck a second piece.)  Khalek and Branwyn were detained by business relating to the afternoon's drama but eventually made it back to camp and their dinner.  Later that night, we sat out under the stars listening to the sounds of a racetrack in the distance and guns and fireworks nearby.  Slowly people started pulling out assorted instruments, including assorted drums and bodhrans, an Irish flute, an Irish harp, and Khalek's oud, which is a lute-like stringed instrument.  He's quite good, actually.  Eventually a couple of other drummers from another camp stopped by and joined in the music.  It made me really wish I knew some appropriate medieval (or even Mongolian) songs to sing, since I can't really play any instruments.  Sadly, since I didn't know any songs, I couldn't share the one thing I can do.  Perhaps another time.

During the music, one member of the household started belly dancing (she was also quite good) and we even had a few passersby take turns jumping over our firepit.  Jokes and stories were told, and at one point I laughed so hard that my tears almost ran down my leg.  While court was perhaps the most interesting and educational part of the weekend for me, sitting out under the stars surrounded by laughter and music was by far the best part.  Since I had no songs to contribute, I sat gazing skyward much of the evening, or into the dancing flames and thinking to myself, "I get it...THIS is why they do this."  And you've gotta love a Society that fosters such tolerance and diversity among its members.  So maybe my "medieval mellow" wasn't entirely harshed after all.

Arsalan and I left later that night, somewhere between midnight and 1 am.  Back at the hotel I discovered I'd gotten more sunburned than I thought; in fact, one of the disadvantages to wearing modern undergarments under one's medieval garb became readily apparent when I was changing into my pajamas.  As soon as I peeled off my bra and gravity reasserted itself, I discovered that the red "V" down my neck and cleavage, courtesy of my dress' neckline, turned into a forked red snake tongue trailing down my chest.  Awkward.

I spent the rest of the night trying to think up interesting SCA names for myself, but the best I could come up with at the time were "Ginger the Red-Necked" (no way I'm going with "Ginger the Snake Tongue-Breasted") or "Gingaire the Woefully Uncoordinated."  (It's more medieval spelled that way, doncha know.) Clearly I'm gonna have to work on that some more.

That was all in July, and this Saturday I get to do it all over again, though we'll all be day-tripping instead of camping so no music by starlight.  Boo.  And I'll also have the anti-social Aspie boy in tow, so that should make things more interesting.  On the other hand, I'll get to feel like a queen because he'll be perpetually following some three steps behind us, waiting to see what we tell him to do.  I think I'd rather have a real pointy hat instead of Prince Phillip.  But whatever.  In preparation for our visit, I made B a shirt to go with his kilt, since the polo shirt he normally uses might be rather pushing it.  And I'd hoped to make myself some new garb today as well since I'm getting a little tired of wearing the same dress up up to New York all the time.  I doubt I'll have time, though, because I've been dutifully writing all day instead and I have a few chores to finish before we leave.  (And the Procrastination Express once again rears its tardy head.)  Oh, well.  I don't really want to make lots of garb anyway till I figure out who I'm gonna be so I don't have stuff from several different eras and besides, while I'm losing weight it would be a pain to make new stuff only to take it all back up again.  Maybe I'll just spiff up the old dress with some new trim instead.  We'll see.

Regardless of my clothing issues, I'm looking forward to seeing all the girlie's peeps again and hanging out with them and with their adorable toddler, who reminds me very much of my own girlie at the same age.  (They have my sympathies...heh.)  Now, off to sew for what's left of today, then tomorrow I get to hug my girlie in person!  And after that, I get to see a future king crowned.  Not a bad way to blow a couple of days.

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