8- 23-2006 Back from Pennsic

We got back late Monday night, and I am catching up on what I can before we head off again. I must admit that I am tired- and fear that the girls are more tired. Today I printed out the map to the event this weekend (East Coast Thing), and saw that it retraces the path we came up just yesterday for about five hours, and it makes me feel so tired I could weep. I think we must figure out some way to create more balance in this peculiar method of self support.
When last I wrote, you may recall that I had spent most of the week working on the booklets that were to accompany the workshops I was scheduled to teach at the war: Anglo-Saxon Pottery, Anglo-Saxon Jewelry, Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Charms, and Anglo-Saxon Runes. As I was thus occupied, Willow and Kat packed both van and trailer with little help from me, and we were able to leave Saturday afternoon. We’d hoped to pack Friday and leave Saturday morning, but several things were left undone- the printing (the booklets) we’d left at the copy shop wasn’t ready, I decided that the handmaiden’s of Frigga really did need another glaze firing Friday afternoon, etc. All was ready around noon, and it occurred to us that if we left in the morning, we would arrive in the evening (it being about a 12 hour journey) and we did not relish having to set up in the dark, so we decided to leave then, and stop along the way at a motel, thus arriving refreshed in the mid morning.
One thing we did not consider was that there would be “no room at the inn”, or any motel on I-80. I drove until the light failed, because my eyes aren’t that good after dark- and I realized that I’d been in such a hurry to get going in the morning, I’d only put in one contact- the near one. (I wear one focused for distance and one for close work, and when I got up we were still printing out the last cookbook for sale. Actually, Kat was doing it when I went to bed- she gave up around 3 when she was printing pages upside down. I woke and finished it around four, although we didn’t realize it until we were both up and compared notes. We stopped for supper at a nice truck stop. (There was a very amusing country song on the speaker- “I wanna talk about me”. Country does express very human sentiments well.) We are getting rather predictable- I tend to order the fish plate, Kat gets shrimp, and Willow gets beef.
After dark, Willow took over driving. Around one she was tired enough to stop driving, and we started looking for a room. To our surprise we found none. We started to pull off at every exit that showed signs for lodging- all were full. What ever happened to those “Vacancy-No Vacancy” signs? Now one must enter the lobby- wait for the clerk to show up (as they are often out performing some mysterious errand) and inquire- only to be told that they are full. At one exit we tried five motels! Finally, an hour out from Pennsic, we gave up and poor Willow drove on through. (We’d have taken much less time if we’d known that we were going to have to go straight through; the sun was coming up as we came through “troll”.)
We opened up the porch roofs on the stall, and spread out bedding and slept until nine- at which point we got up and started setting up. The theory is that this will be easy, but not if we are exhausted. Willow climbed in the window to pass out the roof supports- saw the pile of futons and just fell asleep. Kat saw this and told me that Willow had fallen down- we were worried, but she was just exhausted (and got up and tossed out futons for us). When I went to take my contact out, I was distressed to find no second contact in the case I had with me- I figured I’d left it home. So when we got up we called Star so that he could mail it to us, and he searched the house but couldn’t find it. Two days later I found the correct contact case- I’d tucked it into my pillow case when I packed my pillow. Ah, well.
At some point we will not have to unload lumber from the stall when we get there, and much will be easier. We must first unload everything that is IN the building, clean it, then move in the stuff we’ve taken down. And, as the last two years, we spent the first part of most of our weeks doing construction- trying to bring the beast to completion. The first thing that must be done is to jack it up and put cinder blocks under the frame so it won’t wiggle- which it will if only resting on the trailer legs. This process makes us really appreciate the good jack we got a couple of years ago- and Willow is quite good at it. Then we have to raise the roof. It seemed like such a clever idea at the time- but now we must seek help, and as I haven’t been helping others the way we used to- I feel badly about asking for so much help. It takes two strong men to lift while another puts in the supports. Vissivald offered to get some friends and do it, but we went off shopping, and Shane did it while we were out.
Since grocery stores are pretty much the same down there as up here, we generally only take anything we couldn’t get in a store (like rabbit or goat), and Sunday we went out for groceries, and more lumber (sigh). Sadly, monday, the new circular saw we bought last year spit fire and died (apparently it was a bargain store saw), so we had to go back into town to get a new one. Shane, the fellow who’d helped us with the roof the last two years, came by again, and when we came back from our town run, the center roof was up, which made us feel wonderful. Kat and I sleep in the loft on futons, and Willow tucked the bed into the corner under the stairs. I really love sleeping in the semi-open, although eventually we want to put up some sort of walls for the occasional rain storm. I’ll try to attach a picture of the shop if I can find the camera and download it.
Once again (maybe it will stick in my head this time), I discovered that while I keep thinking of the shop as 10×20 feet, it is actually only 8 foot 4 inches wide. What drove it home was trying to fit a 6 foot table along the end and not being able to sit at the ends of it. (“Is the table 8 feet long?”) So while we were at Lowes, we picked up a round table top and legs to put together so the three of us could eat suppers inside conveniently. As we bought MORE lumber, I decided to give up on the original plan of wooden porches all the way around the building (that would fold up and be stored inside), and to make the corners and back porch roofs canvas only. This should reduce the weight, which has grown considerably with the addition of the plywood underlayment on the porch roofs.
Last year we borrowed a tarp from Katrina from Medieval Miscellania which helped a lot, so we took a couple lengths of canvas and the sewing machine to create one for ourselves. However, after cutting the canvas, the sewing machine didn’t work. Argh! Honour arrived and loaned us hers- until she could get her house up. Having read that a storefront is not psychologically “visible” until it is at least 16 feet wide, she had made new modular pieces to expand the shop Ælfwine had made 12 feet wide. Now it has two front doors which should allow flow through as well, and it is incredible handsome. I can’t even tell which pieces are hers and which are Ælfwine’s- I am so impressed with the job she did with them. Sadly, as with our house, she misremembered. She’s using our loft pieces, and thought they were the logical 8 feet (one piece of plywood) wide, but they were 7.5 foot wide as our modular house was based on 3 and 6 foot panels, and our front was 15 feet wide- thus leaving her with a half foot gap in her lofts! Memory seems so untrustworthy! This also left her with roof modifications required. We were both so lucky that it only rained a couple of times! Next year we should have much better set up.
Eventually, after attempting to hand sew the heavy canvas, I disassembled the sewing machine and was able to fix it, and finish the corner tarps. Sadly, even though I measured twice and cut once, there is some discrepancy, and they are slightly short in one dimension- and the back roof still needs sewing.
Shane did get the front roof finished and up, although I wasn’t thrilled with his construction technique. Even though he called himself a “wood butcher”, Ælfwine was more finished. So I decided to make the corner supports myself, even though it required making lap joints. Dear Honour sent over one of the volunteers, Ken, who’d helped put up her house, and he helped me get the first one done. This consisted of setting the new circular saw at 1/2 inch depth, running lots of lines in the space I wanted gone, and then chiseling out what was left. Ælfwine always made it work, but it was really messy when I did it. Better when Ken did it, but he didn’t come back- while I was there.
Wednesday classes started, and every morning I was teaching RunValdr at 8 am, and something else at 9 (two classes on each of the 4 subjects). Willow walked me down to help carry my visual aides- although I gave up on carrying them after a few days and started leaving them in the tent. They’d set me up with all my classes in the same tent, so I just left the easels and portfolio with the charts down there, so all I had to carry was class handouts and samples. I needed help because I seem to have strained something during the packing or unloading, and was very uncomfortable except when I had a thick belt on. Willow however has become quite proficient with putting in rivets, and made me a wide leather belt which helped a great deal. I do worry that she’s working to hard to do everything Ælfwine used to do.
We’d made about two dozen hand-outs for each class, but sold out all or nearly all in the first run of classes, and had to go back into town mid-week to make more copies. This year I made three page handouts for all the classes, and then also had 20-22 page booklets which I sold to those who wanted them. I have a few left over, but put them out with my cookbooks, and I saw one of the people who’d gone to one class come by the shop to buy the others. This is very gratifying to my ego, although I do think they are quite good. If I can I want to generate one tomorrow for the Anglo-Saxon Medicine workshop I’ll be giving this weekend. I did the workshop a couple years ago, and didn’t have a handout then, but see that people like them (and we make about $2 each on them over the copying). The people in the RunValdr classes often said that there were others who wanted to come, but couldn’t make it at 8 am, so we added 3 evening classes at 7. However, the announcements didn’t get into the paper, so no one came to the first two evening classes. The Pennsic paper was not very reliable this year, and the cost is now a dollar an issue, which probably costs the urchins who sell it tips. It seems more likely that people would say “keep the change” from 75 cents than to dig out another coin after handing them a buck.
I should back up to Tuesday- because that’s when selling opened. We went into Butler to get a copy of the tax license to show Cindy. Yet AGAIN they had put the money into Ælfwine’s (supposedly closed) account. I cried (which bugged Willow) but they remembered me from last year (when it had happened before) and promised me that this time they’d get it fixed. We took the herbals down to Arwen’s spice shop, because she’s selling them for us, and went to the Basket Man to check out his new colors of stripy socks. This year we were set up across the front, and I really think it helps draw the customers in, even though it took us far too long to get the corner flies up. Willow put metal grommets into the first one, but they pulled out almost immediately- so she hand button holed the second set of holes.
After doing one porch section, we didn’t see Shane for a while. He says he was looking for more clapboards since many of the ones he was pulling off were damaged. As last year, there were none available. This is SO weird. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t enough people in western Pennsylvania with wooden clapboards on their houses to require that building supply houses don’t keep some on hand for repairs. They say not. “We can have them for you in three weeks.” Next year I’ll take 20 10 foot clapboards down with us to finish the other side of the stall. I think I may have nearly that many on hand because I tend to keep repair materials around.
Sadly, sales did not go well. I haven’t worked out expenses yet, but we didn’t make the sales we’d hoped to this year. We tried the money spell that worked so well at the Renn Faire, but it most emphatically did NOT work at the war. I’m pretty sure we broke even, but I’d hoped to make a lot of money to bring home against future expenses. Maybe we will do better at the Connecticut Renn Faire.
The big drama at this war was that the Mayor/autocrat shut down the Chiurgeons (at midnight the first Sunday night). Personally, I think it was because of some legal issue. There are so many requirements on people who provide medical care, and the “motivator” is generally that if you don’t follow procedure, you lose your license. I can certainly respect someone not wanting to lose his or her license. But still, the EMTs weren’t thrilled to be the “only” medical care for what really is a (however temporary) town of 12000 people. All EMTs are supposed to do is stabilize and transport, and that’s not what most of the people who go to the chiurgeons at the war need. Who knows what’s going to happen with that next year.
Sunday night we went to the Michael Longcor (Moonwolf) concert and I Sabastiani, which was lovely as usual. Moonwulf did do the Ballad of Pennsic Four, but didn’t change his tale to accommodate the corrections I made last year- he explained that singing to this audience was like telling bed time stories to little children, and he didn’t dare change the story- no matter what the truth was. He also sang a wonderful new song. It was a lullaby- about the monster under the bed who wants to “EAT YOU UP”. (My favorite line was “you used to have a sister…”.)
Willow was not feeling well on the second Monday- she was nauseous, weak and wobbly. I figured that she was just feeling the multiple stresses: lack of sleep, high temperatures (in the 90s and 100s), weird food…, and diarrhea (which also could be from eating from the cooler in that heat). I’d decided to mostly eat from the food vendors to save work, so we didn’t have our usual salt meat in a pickle, which I know is safe. I have to admit that mostly we ate from the closest vendor that makes an incredible- if too large- burger with everything you want on it. A few shops in the other direction is the Odyssey Coffee House, which sells incredible mocha slushies. We just gave them $30 and told them to tell us when it was used up. Forget the famous Pennsic Chocolate milk, this is better! At any rate, I figured she might have a touch of food poisoning, and didn’t worry. Then the next day I couldn’t stand up and had the same problem, and the next day Kat had it- with vomiting. If it was all at the same time, I’d say it was food poisoning, but serially- I figure we were passing some sort of bug around. It did play havoc with our trying to eat well to spare nutritional stress. When we were sick we pretty much stopped eating and just drank. I think we averaged about a gallon of water a day apiece- plus other drinks. It was hot. Sadly, the one thing the girls craved was the french fries at the Remember When- and greasy food isn’t good when you are nauseous.
Willow and Kat went up to give blood on Friday while I watched the shop, but the second day of the blood drive I wasn’t feeling well enough to go, so I guess I’ll be available the next time they have one here. The second Saturday we went on a town run for the copying and fresh food (and more 2x4s) and another leg for the table. My idea that three legs are always more stable (and would fit 3 people around it well) didn’t seem to work, but the screw on legs we bought didn’t seem to work much better with 4, so maybe the “easy” legs are just a bad idea.
Monday was the Arts exhibition. I’d planned to have done my version of the Girl with the Pearl Earring for it, and Willow had hoped to wood-burn celtic knotwork on the table and enter that- but we didn’t get to our projects. I did go look- and boy, did those displays make me feel inadequate. I suppose if you take thousands of creative people and just skim the cream you are going to have a lot of talent. Wow- it was incredible. I noticed a lot of people taking pictures, and even though I don’t think we should be so blatantly about using modern stuff (I REALLY hate the number of people who use cell phones publicly in garb) I couldn’t blame them. I just don’t understand why they have article after article about the battles (fighters fought, someone won- big deal) and don’t have page after page about the arts displays.
I think one of the best memories I have from the war was from my pottery class- I was talking about the lids on Anglo-Saxon pots and pointing out that rather than knobs they tended to have holes in the center of the lid- which would be convenient for letting off steam while cooking since you couldn’t just set the lid slightly off center since the suspended pots were held by lugs that wouldn’t allow that. Then I remembered that most Anglo-Saxon women wore something they call “girdle hangers” and theorize were symbolic of keys- yet they would be perfect for lifting a lid with a hole in the center. The joys of reenacting. Another good moment was when one of the people who’d come to that class told me that she’d gone off to the potter’s the next day and ordered a pot such as I’d described. We have so few times in our lives when we are sure we have touched other people and enhanced their lives- this was one of them.
Wednesday night was “midnight madness”. Midnight Madness was created years ago because by Tuesday sales had dropped because the people who buy things when they get in, because they are afraid that the item they want won’t be available later have made their purchases, and the people who are waiting until the end to make sure they’ve seen everything haven’t started yet. Tuesday and Wednesday used to be pretty dead. Now, however, merchants are required to not only be open until midnight, but have artificial lighting to do so- on pain of not being allowed to sell the next year. Because we have been forced to buy lights, (and, because there are many people who are busy with classes or battles or hiding from the heat prefer shopping in the evening, many of us stay open late in the evenings all week- so it’s not that special.) Since many merchants have special sales for Wednesday, there are people who wait for it, hoping for a bargain, so Monday and Tuesday are even lower in sales than they used to be. I find it irritating.
Tuesday we had the meeting of the Soothsayer’s Guild scheduled for 7, but no one showed up, probably because we hadn’t advertised. So Wednesday morning, we put an announcement in the paper for Thursday night, and three people showed up. Sadly, I’d been making marinade, and still had garlic on my hands, so when I gave the Soothsayers water and put ice in the glasses, I contaminated the ice water. One of the ladies was incredibly allergic to garlic, and had to break open a benadryl under her tongue to keep from a dangerous reaction. I was so embarrassed. This is the first time I’ve poisoned anyone- however unintentionally. She dozed through the meeting, and I walked her home afterwards. That will teach me!
Friday people started packing out, as rain was predicted for Sunday. It used to be that the War proper ended on Sunday. Now Sunday doesn’t even count. (You must be off site by 3, and if you aren’t, you get “demerits”.) Closing court is Friday (BTW, the East won- I find myself uninterested), and many of the merchants leave Friday night so they can get to “another” Renn Fair that weekend. So Saturday, which is, or was, “shopping day”, many of the merchants are gone, and just about everyone is packing all day. We did our best to get organized so we could pack fast in the morning- of course, I was trying to also finish the carpentry that hadn’t finished. This year I carefully counted up everything left we had to finish, and I put any wood we weren’t going to use over by the dumpsters. This included several sheets of luon- the ones that I had meant to be the back and corner roof sections, and some 1x3s (I’m not sure what I intended those for), a sheet of 1/2 inch plywood, and some extra ship-lap. I just don’t see any reason to keep it when I know I won’t use it. I hate having paid for it, but I was pleased to see most of it got taken away. Sadly, in my rush to not get out late, I forgot to pay for the next year of storage (I just realized)- I’ll have to call them tomorrow.
When we went to put down the roof we discovered that when Shane put it up he’d put dozens of nails through- something we’ve never done before, and shouldn’t be necessary. Some we were able to get out, others we had to use a saw blade and cut through because there was no way to get them out. I very much doubt we will be having Shane help again- although he said he knew how to install hydraulic lifts. I really do hope we can put some sort of mechanical lifts in to raise the roof- we are all aging, and the point was to have a way of “camping” that I’d be able to do when I am too old to set up a physical shop.
Saturday night Alex (Honour’s son) and Zon (who it turns out that we’d met before although we didn’t realize it) pledged their troth by the old willow tree. I don’t think they are going to have a civil ceremony, but they seem to take this personal one fairly seriously. It’s strange to see the next generation grow up and take the steps we still remember taking (we all sang “Sunrise, Sunset” as we waited for them to show up). I caught the brides bouquet, although I felt a bit set up. I told people that I wasn’t looking for “Prince Charming”, but “Prince Useful”. I guess such a joke indicates that you are “in the market”. Mrs. Cooper came, but it was a small ceremony. We didn’t get down to the ship burning, although there were a couple of friends who did die this year- Johan, and was Gyrth this year or last? I am so sick of friends dying. These were good, bright, knowledgeable, productive men. The world will miss them sorely. But as with Ælfwine, we will mourn, and they will be forgotten. It makes me wonder what, if anything I have done to leave behind- suddenly the fact that Charley (our mechanic) has been fixing people’s cars for some years seems far more important than anything I have done. (He’s been wasting away- he looked to me like he has cancer, although they’ve decided that what’s wrong with him is anemia, they don’t know why yet.) When we got home, an e-mail from Goody let me know that Patri du Chat Gris liver problems are probably going to catch up with him- fatally- this year. I don’t think that people should be dying in their fifties. It doesn’t seem right. Sixties seems like dying young to me now. I find myself wondering what I can do to honor their lives, and make the most of what’s left of my own.
There was good news this week though- Dan called to say that my father came through his back surgery well. I still haven’t gotten in touch with him yet- either he’s not home yet, or just not answering the phone before the answering machine yet.
We got off about 4, and found an open motel, then got in Monday night. Star seems to have come through alright- although he was glad to see us. And the washer seems to be broken, but we’ve called the repairman- and dropped Willows car down at the shop- and gotten an appointment for her at the dentist (she lost a filling Sunday) and one for Kat tomorrow before we leave again Thursday. When we get back I can start trying to get the roof done before winter. Busy, busy, busy. Dan says he’s doing great.
`Nuff for now. I’m foggy enough that I’m not sure I haven’t left something out- but I can add it later if I did. Love to all…


“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt