August 13th, 2014 (14th now)
We’re back from Pennsic. Actually, we got back Monday night (or you could call it Tuesday morning because it was 2 am, but we hadn’t slept yet, so I experienced it as Monday night). We have slept in the last three days, but may need to do it for a week to recover from a couple weeks of stress. It was good stress, but it was still stress, and we need to sleep a lot, eat well, and not think about problems. Sadly, when you get back from two weeks away, you have to play catch-up with all the things you haven’t done. I have not even looked at my email yet, and I’ve got two weeks to dig through!
Today it’s raining, although the weather has been wonderful and sunny for days! We’ve got white stock blooming, and I have meant to make a bouquet of it, queen anne’s lace, and goldenrod. Now that it’s raining though, I’m even hesitating going out after the cherry tomatoes and lettuce in the garden. I also need to transplant the “herb garden” we took to the war and were too cheap to ditch afterwards. Everyone was charmed by it though.
We left for Pennsic around 6 pm on Friday, with an hotel reservation about halfway there (in theory 6 hours), but I hadn’t taken into account how pulling a trailer slows things down. Oops. So we got in around 2 not midnight. This led to a late start- because I believe in sleep, and we didn’t pull up to the gate until around four in the afternoon. Sadly, just about everyone wanted to get there at noon, so the lines were long. We finished about six! We are very good at getting the building jacked up, and car and trailer unloaded, and always do a town run for groceries, but again, everything was a couple hours late, so we ate dinner at Kings. While lying under the house in the dirt, Willow decided that she needed a Frownie Sunday. (King’s signature dish is a brownie with a scowling face piped onto it in white icing.) Sadly, Kat continued to be unable to eat- we suspect her medications, and when we got back the Doctor took her off one to check if that’s what’s causing the digestive problems.
Oh, and I should mention the most exciting last-minute complication! The van was having it’s pre-long-trip check-up, and the hood flew up and broke the windshield Thursday night. Gary couldn’t find another anywhere in the state, so he loaned us his personal car. It’s (I think) a Town and Country, towed the trailer fine, and had the “remove the second back seat” option, so we could have just the one seat for Kat, and fit everything else in, even though it’s a smaller car. The air conditioning worked, but as we expected “I don’t know if the CD player works” translates to “it doesn’t”. Luckily, Willow was able to locate the last some gadget or other in the state that allows you to play CDs on your CD player through the car’s speakers, and it was in Keene, so we picked it up on the way out. Every year we make a “travel mix” of favorite songs to listen to on the long trip, and it would have been a pity to have missed that. Today I traded Gary back his car for mine. There was more work needed, but he didn’t call me on vacation, so I’ll have to bring it back next week. One of the leaf springs is broken. Gary understands that we keep a car going as long as we can, so it’s always a balance of spending as little as possible to keep it safely on the road.
Sunday we got pretty much set up, but we’d never gotten the copy of the tax license from PA, so Monday I drove down to Pittsburgh (with Honour) because the local office closed. When we got there the office was under construction and there was a sign on the door with an address for an alternate office, and phone number. When we called that number Honour was told “use the computer”. “But I don’t have one.” “Find a public one.” As for me, they told me that I could try to drive to Harrisburg and see if they could do anything, but they doubted it. The policy is to send it to the home address, and they are sent out once a week. This is almost the same as last year, and I DID try to make sure I had it settled back in June! I’m gonna have to try again next year- maybe starting in January! Luckily Cindy was willing to accept my effort, and even loaned Honour the use of her computer.
Another thing I want to do next year is get the Merchant Appreciation Award ballot and explanation in the Merchants booklet. For the last four years I’ve been giving out an award- a plaque saying “Merchant of the Year” and a purse of $50 to whoever got the most votes. More importantly, on the ballot everyone is allowed to write what it is they like about the merchant. The idea is that if you have to pick a favorite merchant, you’ll start thinking about how many great ones they are, and this should reduce the amount of lumping all merchants in with the occasional grumpy or annoying one. We got one ballot this year that said “there are too many good ones to choose!” We decided that was from “Sir doesn’t quite get the concept!” (a variation of what Willow calls the hornets and mice that invade the shop: “Sir Not invited to this Feast”). We’ve been putting ballots at shops scattered around the market place, and putting ads in the paper, but I think it would reach more people if we got it in the merchant booklet. This year the winner of “Arastorm’s Merchant Appreciation Award” was Auntie Arwen’s Spices. As usual, we got more votes than other shops, but it would be kind of bizarre to give ourselves the prize. I think most merchants have their own “fan clubs”. We are fond of Carolina Calicos, where you can get a wide range of Linens and linen/cotton blends starting at $5. Linen is SO comfortable! We also like District 29 (another fabric store, where they tie your parcel up with string). This year I also got some handwoven fabric from Whitewolf and Phoenix. I’ve wanted some for years, but this time used the excuse of my elevation to the Order of the Laurel to get some, even though it’s frightfully expensive. As with most artisan produced items, it may not be expensive considering the skill and time it takes to produce it.
I also got a hand blown glass from Historical Glassworks, and Willow got one too. I’m afraid they fall into the category of “SCA” rather than historical. Mine’s an Anglo-Saxon design- I have a copy of the blue cup from the Prittlewell Prince grave, and this is like it, only in red. It’s that whole SCA question of it’s not a duplicate, it’s something in the same style, and they would have if they had the materials. I’m not sure that they had access to a red glass at that time and place. But it’s mostly accurate, and my color. Willow’s is a Roman design, and it glows in the dark (although you probably couldn’t tell until it gets very dark). Someone told me that certain antique glasses DO glow in the dark, but mostly, it’s just really cool!
Kat had to leave about half her jewelry at home, and pack her shoes in with the power tools, so we got her a new “jewelry box. It’s got a built in mirror and is divided so she can keep both her shoes and jewelry in it- so she’s calling it the Fulla box- after the Norse Goddess of Shoes and Treasure. It looked smaller in the store, but every time I look at it, it seems to be bigger. The amazing growing treasure box! We also picked up some sheepskins (grown by our friend Flaxi) to go on their new cots. And more fabric. (I accidentally made an under=gown out of the blue that Willow had gotten for herself, but we were able to replace it, and get a piece of green as well.) I also got another piece of the bright gold linen. I made a gown of it three years ago and used a red fabric marker to put on a design, but didn’t like the way that worked and started couching red court over it. I finally finished couching on the interlace this year, and at the war realized that it’s gotten too stained to wear for anything but dirty work. Willow finished doing the embroidery on another gown of hers, and embroidered the neckline of a pink one with a pattern that matches the trim she put on the hem and sleeves.
This year she put in a couple of hours each day at Lost and Found again. The lady who had been running it retired (she’d asked Willow if she wanted to take over last year, but Willow’s too smart for that. This year it was being run by the Mayor of Pennsic’s mother. Apparently she’s usually the exchequer (treasurer) but worried that that might look bad, so switch to the Lost and Found. I hope next year she goes back. It may be that she’s new to the job, or that she’s trying to start using a computer database and that’s always hard during the set-up phase until it’s going, but everything seems to be slower (and she reduced the hours it’s open). One day I dropped off a hat someone had left at a friends shop, and they said “wait, you have to fill out the form!” “No, I don’t.” I said, embarrassing Kat, who was with me. I used to work Lost and Found, and we always filled out the forms- it makes sure the handwriting is legible, and they’re filled out right, and if you make it more work for people to ‘do the right thing’, they’re not going to do it as often. Willow found it less recharging than usual too work there this year, but went anyway, especially at the end where they REALLY need the help! It’s that last couple of days when people are packing that they confirm that what they hoped wasn’t lost is, and discover things they don’t recognize around the camp. The last day is the MOST important day. (I suppose any day you’ve lost your keys or wallet Lost and Found is important to you.)
While I was in Pittsburgh, the girls ripped off the wood and shingles on the front porch roof, and put up the cloth roofs. It’s lighter (weight-wise) and also lets in more light, which I think is a good thing. The roof still leaks between the sections of the roofs, but John from Three Bears Camp used spray foam to stop it. It’s really ugly, but mostly you can’t see it from below, and it does keep the rain from coming inside. (Willow uses it to fill any holes boring wasps are putting in the house.) Gawin brought over the jacks he’s made to raise the roof. We are cautiously optimistic about installing them next year. I would rather have automatic ones that we could just raise with a push button, but we need to keep the weight down. This year one of the wheels was pressing up through the floor and the tractor guys said that “something must be done”. We called the gentleman who had changed the tires, and he said he could lift the building up on the frame and make it all good- on Monday. I should probably call and find out if it’s done. John thinks if it’s got a bit more height, we can extend the roof tiles so it won’t leak- and we’d have more space under the roofs. I’d like that!
We’re a little concerned because Mattie (another fabric seller) is going back to school and was trying to sell her booth/trailer to Devera of Haunted Books. That’s the bookseller who has antique books, and of course, having a nice secure, dry place to keep books that sometimes run hundreds of dollars would be a good thing. Also, Devera couldn’t make it this year because just before the war she got an aneurism and heart surgery. So having a nice place to sleep would also be good for her. But there was a question the details to which I was not privy about how tall or heavy or how many axels the trailer had, which made all of us with trailers a bit worried for most of the war. Willow had nightmares about Cindy telling us we could never come back and had to burn ours. Luckily, before we left she assured me that we were fine- as long as the under carriage gets fixed.
We didn’t put my “studio” in the back this year, instead we put up the Heart of Oak (Julia’s) lampwork beads. She did very well, and we were glad to have been able to help. On the other hand, Denis de Dijon, who’s commissioned a portrait of himself and his lady did come by. Sadly, she wasn’t able to make it this year, but he came without her, and they will be sending more reference photos (to replace the ones lost in the computer wipe) so I can finish it this year. Perhaps if we had a bit more room we could keep having her beads in with us AND I could have my studio up. My artwork is the only part of selling I’m good at.
Willow has set up her “workshop” in the back where she makes the medallions for dolls and teddybears, and makes occasional jewelry. Not as much jewelry this year because she was busy doing other things. She made nearly a hundred doll medallions. She went to both the Children’s and Adult’s Doll meets, passed them out to people who brought their dolls by, and donated them to Hobbitronics who sell bears in garb. The basic rule is that dolls that weren’t at Pennsic don’t get a tag, and she gives the doll the same speech people get at the gate- don’t take this off, don’t lose it, if you lose it you don’t get another (and may have to wear the “bracelet of shame”). Actually, since little kids have to wear the bracelets anyway, she’s working on how to make a version to put on baby dolls. She probably spent two days writing postcards to her friends all over the world, and although they didn’t have a portable post-office this year, they still had Pennsic Postmarks- although Willow found out that if you want them, it slows down how soon the postcard gets there. I didn’t send any this year and felt a bit guilty.
Kat is our “shop girl” and “the lady in the window”. She mostly watches the shop from the window (which allows her to keep the cashbox, and whatever projects she’s working on inside. She hops out if someone needs help counting gems or settings or needs other help. She’s quite good at it. The only time I was watching the shop was when she and Willow went out shopping. (I’m not really good at it. I want to have conversations with people- even strangers.) I did take the west wing during Midnight Madness and handled the Heart of Oak stuff. (Because it’s not ours, we recorded every sale. Did I mention that she made glow in the dark Laurel Medallions, and beads that contain Pennsic Battlefield soil?) She also has a price sorting system that we hope to adapt to our stock. Since she generally is selling a bead at a time she can use egg cartons, and I think because we sell dozens we’ll need something bigger. Still, it’s a great idea.
I’ll try to keep my annual rant about Midnight Madness brief. It was started years ago because sales dried up in the middle of “war week”, and people wanted to generate more excitement. Sadly, now people are expecting deals on Midnight Madness and not only pass a shop by if there are no great discounts, but the sales dry up on the days before and after, so I see no advantage. The thing that really bugs me is that participation isn’t optional. All merchants are required to participate, and that means we have to put up lighting. This is not to say that electric lights (and mini-fridge) aren’t convenient, but they aren’t period, and I’d rather stick to our period illumination (which doesn’t let people see the gems well enough to buy them). Our special “deal” is that if you spend $5 you get a free Pirate Quote (and a chance to win a prize), and if you buy gems, you get to roll a die for each dozen and get that many more free. If I didn’t already know that telekinesis worked, the number of 5s and 6s that come up on Midnight madness (as opposed to the equally likely 1s and 2s) would be convincing.
Still, I understand there’s a plan afoot to create a similar Wednesday holiday for “Peace Week” next year since lots of people have to pick one or the other week to attend Pennsic. (Since the admission is still for two weeks even if you only come on the first week, I feel sorry for those people. Our friend Morgan Kuberry was one of them this year- he came with a “minion” and tried to do everything as authentically as possible, which is very cool. The other and more authentic “stimulant” they put in for Wednesday years ago is the Fools Parade, but I fear it doesn’t get as much attention as when they carry the 10 foot penis around in a reenactment of a shinto ceremony (sigh).
Our sales did pretty well at Midnight Madness- Kat/Ælfðryð wore Middle Eastern (something Ælfwyða brought back from her trip to the inland sea no doubt). We close at Midnight. I blew off my Wednesday New Normal podcast. I’d done the one (with Maryalyce Merrit- on sound healing) during Peace Week, only remembering when I got there that I’d scheduled 9 am and 7 pm classes nearly every day, which gave me no time to get from the 7 to 8 pm class to the Mystic Mail (Internet cafe) tent to do the show 8 to 9 pm. The students were very forgiving when I had to run out early, and Mystic Mail, which usually closes at 8:30, graciously stayed open for me. I didn’t cancel the 7 pm class that night, but decided not to run down to do the show just as the crowds started.
That was the same night that the East Kingdom had it’s Royal Court, and I heard it went five hours (although it may just have felt like it to the people on the benches- and the thrones). Brennan and Caoilfhionn (pronounced Kelin) have said that they don’t care how long courts are, if someone’s earned an award, they’re going to get it. I know that Æðylhawk (the marvelous cook at Panteria) got his, and Kenric also. I’d probably have hiked down to the court and tried to hit the elevations if there were a way to cherry pick the awards for which you want to be there. On the other hand, the pictures I’ve seen since make me think that it may have been done at another court that happened during the daytime. It’s hard to tell since I wasn’t there.
I’ve come up with a new idea- whichever kingdom loses the war has to have their court on Midnight Madness! Feh!
I did suggest that to Brennan and Caoilfhionn when they came by at about 11:45. It must have been a REALLY long night for them. The poor queen was stifling yawns and I just kept thinking “Get this poor little thing to bed!” (Maybe I’m getting old.) Anyway, that’s when they gave me the writ. A writ is an announcement that you are going to be offered elevation at a later date- in my case, September 20th in Bergental, and you should sit vigil and consider whether you’ll accept. I had spoken earlier with Eowyn who was brought into the Order of the Pelican last year. She agrees with me that when you’ve been in for over four decades, you’ve probably already thought about it, and she had a Reception to share the good news with friends instead. Some people would prefer to be surprised, and some would not, and the Crown has to depend upon the friends of the person to let them know which to do in any case. I was talking to Gavin earlier in the war and learned that he was the one who’d come up with the first vigil- for Siegfried, for whom it was really appropriate. I think he also said that during the vigil, Vissivald jumped out of a tree in his underwear (or was it Siegfried?) because everyone should get to wrestle with a monster during his vigil. He did express frustration because it has become something done for everyone, not just those for whom it would be appropriate.
I am thrilled that Marieke arranged that I’d get my writ at Pennsic because there are so many friends who wouldn’t be able to make it to the ceremony, and it is good to share the happiness with them. Admittedly, when the public announcement is at quarter to midnight on Wednesday, and there isn’t a “conspiracy” about pre-arranging the “vigil”, it’s hard to let people know. Willow told me that she heard that there were at least five vigils going on on Thursday, and all of the people worried that no one would show up, so I wasn’t alone. We had brewed 5 gallons of mead, and brought cookies. We set them up in the “teaching tent” behind the booth, hung up the “Ælfwine tapestry”, put furs on all the benches, suspended the hanging lamps around the edge, so we were as ready as we could be. We also put out some fruit, nuts, non-alcoholic drinks, and Arwen brought stuffed grape leaves and olives. Once again the lesson was re-enforced, one should not “cater” any event in which one is supposed to be the “focus”, whether wedding, coronation, or vigil. Bustling cheats the guests. I am glad that it occurred to me to send Corwin over to pick up a blank book from the Guild of Limners in which people could write. Because the end of the war is so busy we simply made it an “open house” from four to ten, only at seven Megan and I went over to the Eastern Battlefield Pavilion for the Memorial for El of the Two Knives. I stayed until the sun set, and that reminded me I might have well-wishers of my own, but the stories (from Eloi, Ian of Clan Mitchell, Isabella, Elspeth, and others) made it hard to tear myself away. When I got back I bumped into Jocelyn and Dorio who’d come to see me and nearly missed me. It was lovely chatting with folks who like me. I think the most fun was (2-3 year old?) Gideon who was perfectly willing to investigate the cookies and fruit. When it got dark people had to go over to the electric lights to write in the book. At least once they were lighted, people stopped bumping into the hanging lamps and dumping oil and water on themselves. (oops!)
Willow was right (again!), I did make too much mead. I worried that 3 gallons wouldn’t be enough because we had no idea how many people would show up. (How many people know about the big secret?) When I took the announcement to the Pennsic Independent, Bambi, a friend who was working there congratulated me, apparently someone who knew (Megan I think) had put it in the personals section of the paper. We did put the left-overs into empty seltzer bottles and sent them home with folks. Vissivald said that it was his “first and still favorite mead”, a compliment I’ll probably take with me to my grave.
It was very convenient to have the class tent in the back. As last year, they placed our trailer so that there was a wide swath of grass between our shop and the Dancing Pig Pottery. Ordinarily people are only allowed to teach 4 classes at the University because there are so many teachers and so many classes available. I taught 19 this year (which probably has something to do with why I’m getting a Laurel- Companions of the Laurel teach). However they let you teach more if you teach it in your own space. My clever plan was that I would teach the later Anglo-Saxon Pottery class and the Anglo-Saxon Herb Gardens class up here, so as not to have to carry pots or plants down to the Pennsic University tents. I also alternated RúnValdr and Rune classes every day, so people could get to them at their convenience. MY convenience was that they were held at 7 pm or at 9 am (after breakfast or after supper), and NOT in the heat of the day, when I tend to get stupid. So we brought a selection of Anglo-Saxon herbs and planted them in planters along the side of this path, bought a new 12×12 pop-up, and put a table and three benches under it. (We were dubious about the 12×12, it barely fit, but needed the space to fit in the seating.) Willow bought me a little slate and chalk because it’s a “one room schoolhouse” and needed one. Honour had her classes there too, and we left it there so all the teachers on the oval can use it. (We’ll have to organize our schedules before we send them into the Pennsic University, and hope the space for it is there every year.)
Honour had her “siege cooking” contest again this year. We were the recipients of some of the food she couldn’t get to eat including a lovely goat sausage. She also brought me some “turkey tails” (the smoked “pope’s noses) bit- tasty, but like bacon, how much can you eat? In theory I’d planned to cook lovely suppers, since I had my afternoons free, but we seemed to stay so busy that I didn’t get to it often, besides, Kat was having a very hard time eating, except for french fries, so we got those more often than I’d have expected. It’s a pity that the King John’s Burger isn’t still over in Old Market, they had that Canadian dish Poutine (fries with gravy and cheese) that might be a step healthier, but they’re gone. And now that the Fruity Cobbler is, also gone, we can’t get the sweet potato fries either. Oh well, I suppose Pagan Sisters and their funnel cakes are also a thing of Pennsic’s past. The “dragon” chicken wings we got were pretty good- but when I tucked a packet of them discreetly into my woolen carrying sack- and the flavored oil they drench them with got over everything inside (although the wool did it’s usual absorbing thing and saved my clothes).
My other classes were down at the University tents (actually, so was one pottery, and herb- we’d successfully put one in each war week and one as a morning and one as an evening class, and moved the class from Thursday evening to morning for the reception). Learning experience: no morning classes the day after Midnight Madness- no one is up! On the other hand, Honour noticed that when she does two of her “waste free garment cutting” the second class is always huge- she thinks people send their friends.
I didn’t see as much of friends as I feel I should. We’d get up in the morning between and eight, I expected to be able to have breakfast with the girls, but we tended not to get to it before I had to go off to do a class. They’d open the shop, and we’d stay open until it started to get dark (“because money”). During the day I’d usually put together some plates of bread, fruit and cheese that we could nibble while working, wherever we were.
As in previous years, I put my bed outside. This year I tacked up the curtains to keep from getting rained on, and after Tragg fell off one night, Willow attached a headboard to keep him and my pillows from falling out. I love my bed. Willow didn’t care for hers, and her futon had gotten damp, so we dried it in the sun and gave it away, and she picked up some couch cushions that made her bed as firm as she likes. (I prefer squishy- but then, I have a water bed at home.) Willow sleeps on a futon on the floor at home (as they do in Japan) and they looked at futons in the local stores. One store had taught their sales people that futons were what one called a couch cushion that folded, and many of theirs included springs. They didn’t have any real futons (feh). It’s very irritating when someone who is totally wrong is condescending in dispensing their ignorance! Kat sleeps upstairs and commented that perhaps keeping the feather-beds inside an iron maiden may not be a good idea. We still haven’t done anything about the screws that come in through the roof since putting the “tile” on last year. I really want to do that. It would make me nervous to sleep under them!
I had carefully left Monday open so I’d be able to go see the Arts and Sciences Display, but got the day wrong, so we were able to have breakfast together, I did get to the end of the display for my annual dose of humility. My goodness SCAers do some amazing stuff! Then in the evening we closed up early, ate at the food court in New Market, and went to the Theater. At seven Moonwolf/Michael Longcour (on stage, together!) sang his classic songs, and some new ones from his half-finished CD. I got a copy of Drunken Angel, the last one we didn’t have. At eight it was Efenwealt Wystle, another wonderful bard, talented and very funny. He alternated between old favorites- picked by rolling a huge 20 sided die, and songs from his new album (which we bought). My favorite humorous song was called “Best Game Ever“-(the link is to the original writer, but his rendition was even better). His song “Holding On” is the song I always wanted John Denver to write about the SCA, it inspires like “Calypso”. Beautiful! And if that wasn’t enough, it was followed by I Sabastiani, the Greatest Commedia del Arte Troop in the Entire World. This story had lots of mistaken identities, lovers, hair-brained plots, a real slapstick, halitosis, and more craziness. It was hilarious! A wonderful night, leaving us to wonder why we don’t go out more often because there are shows every night on the stage at Pennsic. Oh, wait, it’s because we like to actually sleep! Also, next year if we’re going to spend more than three hours in metal folding chairs, we need to bring sheepskins to line them!
This year wasn’t as early as last year, but we still celebrated our anniversary (we still have the fruit and blueberry muffins or cake on the morning of the 27th every year), and Willow’s Birthday there. Sadly, it was even less festive than usual, since it was the day I drove down to Pittsburgh. Honour and I picked up a pre-cooked chicken and a cake in Butler (the phone GPS ran out of charge and we escape Pittsburgh at rush hour mostly by luck, and drove up to Butler on Rte 8. It’s not a “backroad”, but it’s also not a highway, but we lacked an alternative.) Luckily, we are very fond of the Giant Eagle in Butler’s bakery and the cake was lovely. Willows friends suggested driving down and taking her to dinner and a movie, but I don’t think they quite get how far it is from New England to Pennsic!
It’s really good to see so many friends we only get to see once a year- better than never I suppose, and we keep hearing about friends dying. I suppose when you’re in your 60s you have to expect it, but I still feel too young for that! But my friends are SO cool! Katea, over on the corner of Bow Street, was alone this year, neither Kris nor Chris, the ladies who usually share her shop were there, so if she had to run to the privy, she had to ask a customer to watch her shop. I kept thinking what pathetic shape I’d be in without my girls. Across the street from her is the Magic Mirror where Thaddeus and Tristram sell. Thaddeus didn’t make it last year, and I missed the pond he always puts up, but this year he made it, although he’s lost a LOT (150 pounds) of weight. Galen (between Honour and Claus) turns out to be a backgammon shark, but he played a gentle, teaching game of it with me while the girls were doing laundry. We met some wonderful people from a barony in New Zealand there. We ran our usual tab at the Odyssey Coffee to keep us in mocha slushies. I saw them filling the machine once, putting in gallons of real milk- that’s reassuring. Apparently they do it by feel, which is why it’s sometimes more coffee heavy. Some days it was hot enough that the machine couldn’t keep it frozen, which made me sad. I hardly saw Megan, she didn’t have her flower pots this year, but Claus had his pigs- although they are becoming far more bizarrely decorated each year. His zombies leper dolls continue to be popular. Alizaunde sells them unpainted with the pitch “buy them before they catch leprosy from Claus”, which seems to work. She is pretty much out of the cape business, but has been selling hanging lamps (enhancing authenticity all over Pennsic). I guess I can’t cover everyone, but I want to mention that once when I went in the bath-house where the teenagers gather and game 24-7, they were actually playing hoodsman blind. (Another time Kat went into the bath house, and someone actually yelled at her for unclogging the toilets. They have plungers in each stall with signs requesting people use them, but some crazy woman yelled at her for doing it! People are nuts!) I also get rather cross because even though we have lots of signs around telling people that because of allergies to tobacco they MUST NOT SMOKE near our store, they keep doing it, which requires Kat to take benadryl, and is just not necessary! People, in theory, can read, and most care about each other!
So day by day, activity by activity, Pennsic went away. I remember watching the fingernail crescent setting at the beginning, and the full moon followed us all the way home. Thursday we went around and distributed the compliments to the Merchants that had come in. (I really need to get some good period shoes! My feet hurt!) On the last day we went out again to the Basket Man, which is where we get our striped stockings. He’s always suggested we come by at the end of the war and pick up socks, saving us
shipping, and him from having to bring them home. I always figured they’d be really picked-over, and yes, some of the cool colors I’d seen at the beginning of the war weren’t there, but we did find 27 dozen, and carried them home in our veils (which impressed him). I suppose if you consider that each bundle is about as big as me, that gives the impression of a lot of weight. I also stopped by and picked up more of Maya Heath’s Dragonscale jewelry, but I haven’t priced it yet. I also picked up another block of beeswax- just 11 pounds this time. I missed getting a bucket of the “brewers honey” at the Beefolk- it was too good a deal. Maybe next year. Their triplets are 6 this year and their father took them selling Pennsic Independents. We got our papers from them, and the girls tried to teach them to cry in harmony rather than dissonance. This year I got carrot honey, almond, cranberry, and 3 other flavors. Willow likes the Echinacea honey.
One day I thought I must have gotten sunburned on the back of my neck, but it turned out that I’d tried the longer hairpins and every time I looked up, they stuck me and scratched it raw, and it was so gradual I didn’t notice until it started to ache.
Then suddenly sales were over (7 on Friday) and we were packing up. We got all the dishes done- then had the Bow Street “leftovers” party- this time the main dish was loaded potatoes (with bacon, butter, sour cream, chives, and cheeses). Honour packed up and left Friday night (as did several other merchants). This may have been because she had hired help, and help is hard to come by on the last day. She was in a car accident two weeks ago and isn’t allowed to lift more than 15 pounds, so she has to have almost everything done for her- luckily the other guys insurance is covering that cost. In the morning we re-did the dishes (next year I think we’ll spring for paper plates for the last night), and laundry, put stuff in “in the van, in the building, in the trailer”, repotted the plants, and were done by six. I was really impressed. I won’t say I may not have been a little inspired by Alizaunde having gotten out the night before.
So off we went, changed into our “mundanes”, stopped for a nice dinner, and got to the hotel near Niagara Falls around 10 ready to shower and sleep- only to discover I had royally screwed up. I’d reserved the room for Sunday rather than Saturday. Worse, turns out that it costs $100 a night MORE on Saturdays than Sundays. (also they had no parking for the trailer) I was disgusted and figured we might do better at one of the other eight or so hotels we could see on the strip. Turns out that the place with bad parking (and rude staff) was the cheapest. We spent the next four hours calling and driving around looking for a room. The phone battery died and with it we lost the GPS. One hotel let us use the computer in their lobby. Hotels.com couldn’t find anything, and joked that they had some nice rooms in New Jersey. Not funny. We were already stressed to the max. Kat had finally admitted that her water phobia was really making her quite unable to deal with going on the Maid of the Mists, and maybe not even looking at the falls. Willow had been looking forward to it, and there was much crying and yelling going on. We were looking at heading east and just stopping at every exit until we found something (exactly why we get reservations, because that stinks). We did spot a sign that said to Niagra Falls- so we figured we’d go look it it (it’s probably lighted up at night). But we saw a sign for Scenic Overlook Parking and there was nothing but the river. And a sign that said “no parking after dark”. (If they’d LIGHTED the sign, perhaps we would have seen it when we pulled in!) More hysterical crying and shouting. That’s when the police showed up.
We told them we were lost- probably more of the whole sad story than they needed to hear. At one point the officer asked Willow “Ma’am are you crying?”, and she said: “Yes sir, I am. I am tired lost and I don’t know where I’m going or how to get there or how much longer it will take before I can stop”
“Ma’am have you been drinking?” “God no, I’m just hysterical”
They found it rather difficult to believe that in that area there were no rooms to be found and offered to take us to an hotel. (he told us to reverse direction, which is not particularly easy with a trailer on your car). Eventually we got turned around followed him to a hotel- not far away, and I went in with him. Rerun of previous exchanges, there are no rooms, then the officer and the desk clerk each made about three or four calls to try to find another. There are no rooms. Finally the clerk (probably realizing that it’s two in the flipping morning and no one is going to materialize to use it in the next couple of hours) admits that there’s a room that’s kept off the books (probably for emergencies, or visiting dignitaries) but it’s $499 a night. I pointed out that it took us two weeks to make $3000 (gross) and I wasn’t ready to spend that much of it on one nights bed. She offered to take off $200, and that’s still $300 I didn’t have, I don’t think I cried, but I am sure I looked tired. She whittled it down a bit more, and I thought about how tired the girls were and pulled out the credit card while she had security go check it out. The officer left, admitting to the girls that there were no rooms. (They’d been joking with black humor that he was really a serial killer and he was waiting for them to investigate one at a time. Willow thinks she’s been watching too many horror movies.)
OK- the room. First of all it was a suite- two big rooms, each with a freaking HUGE TV screen. The bathroom was probably 12×14, with a two headed shower, and a Jacuzzi, separate toilet facilities, and sinks, nearly full sized bottles of shampoo, “french milled soap” (whatever that is), lots of big fluffy towels. The windows between the huge tub and the bedroom slid back so you could watch TV from the tub. I don’t think I will ever be in such an expensive room again- and frankly, all we wanted to do was shower and go to sleep. We didn’t even soak in the Jacuzzi because we’d have fallen asleep and drowned at 2, and at 9:30 when we woke up, we wanted to get on the road. And, oh yes, the falls were right outside the hotel’s back door. Right there. This is the hotel that’s closest, so we didn’t need to change where we were parked, just walked on over.
We had recharged the phone, and used it to find a Bob Evans (we like their breakfasts) which was about two doors down from the original hotel. (I called them and and made sure they’d cancelled the room when I told them it was the wrong night- they hadn’t.) No boat ride or walk up and down wet stairs behind the falls, but there was a lovely rainbow, which, judging from the postcards, is always there unless it’s raining. Willow got a squished penny- even though the machines here are not a quarter and a penny, but a dollar and a penny. “What the market will bear!” I got postcards because my camera is not working too well. (These pictures are borrowed from the girls.)
We headed back east around 2, which, without a trailer should have gotten us home by midnight. I think there was an accident because we were almost stopped for about an hour right outside of Buffallo. Also had the light not change when we went through the tolls outside of Buffallo. Called EZ pass but they said to call back on a weekday. We’d been grooving on the fact that EZ pass works with a trailer. And some parking. I don’t know whether to be nervous because what happens when the machines make mistakes, or pleased about the convenience.
We planned to stop to eat again in Schenectady, but the phone ran out of battery again, and we were very nervous and lost, not quite sure how one got from I-90 over to Rt 9. My memory is that there is nothing restaurantish between Troy and home. We got the GPS to kick in briefly and find us a Chilis in Bennington, then headed over Hogback. When we hit 91, I figured we were in the home stretch, and was working on Willows latest embroidery when she admitted that she thought she’d missed the turn off for Keene. As she said, once you hit VT it’s nothing but “miles and miles of bloody Uberwald”. There was no where to get off 91 until we hit Bellows Falls. I remembered when Cyndar lived in Walpole and thought we might be able to cut straight down to Keene rather than back-tracking, but missed the turn for the bridge in the dark, and ended back-tracking anyway- but on dinky Rte 5 rather than 91. I didn’t feel too bright. That added an hour to the trip! Willow’s eyes were so sandy by the time we got to Dublin, I took over. My eyes don’t deal well with headlights, but at two in the morning, we only passed 7 cars in that last hour. Oh, so glad to get home! I’ll be honest- I did stay up to open the accumulated packages that had arrived in the mail while we were gone.
So we got in, and have been grooving on things like running water, convenient toilets, our own beds, and such. I’m trying to decide which is worse- playing catch-up after you have been sick, or after a vacation. In theory after a vacation you aren’t weaker and slower, but I’m not sure that that’s true in this case. Pennsic included a lot of heat, a little chill, not enough sleep, strange food, bottled water, and other stresses. We’ve been sleeping 10+ hours, and keep coming across things that NEED to be done now. We cleaned and returned Gary’s car. Took Kat to the doctor (she’s stopped one of the meds to see if that was what has been upsetting her stomach so badly- we’re hoping). Another thought I had was that it might be the gummy vitamins. We discovered gummy vitamins on the way and decided to experiment with them, maybe they’d be easier to incorporate into an irregular schedule. I was amazed, the gummy Cs are delicious, there’s gummy CoQ10, gummy fish oil that you can hardly tell contains any, and the gummy Bs are actually pleasant. I wonder if they actually have any b vitamins in them! But Willow says she remembers hearing that some of them upset people’s stomachs, so maybe that’s it. We’ll find out. I have yet to get to checking my email other than throwing out all the “junk”. I did a quick look for messages on fb, and have been doing stuff like laundry, and emptying chests. Despite my best intentions, the house is still covered with bags of stuff to sort, and the living room has two gross of socks exploded over it. (I’m actually looking forward to getting those neatly packed for Pagan Pride Days.)
I’ve been sending out proposals, and reservations, updating websites, and falling once more into the office-work routine of what would seem like the exotic job of running a conference and talk show on metaphysics. Last night Cathy Kane was talking about alternative methods of pain management- a useful and fascinating topic. I was thrilled to have her as a guest because I am still a bit foggy, but for the first time in a long while we got about 15-20 crank calls (although I think it was all from the same jackass). While I spent the day working on this letter, I didn’t get it finished, and that feels like a failure, even though I know I’m covering two weeks.
The day before we left I spent most of the day on the Changing Times-Changing Worlds Website cueing up posts of class and speaker spotlights. Now I’m back I have to start doing it again. I wonder if I have the time to invest in this any more. In theory I’m “doing everything right”, but it’s not working. My friend Kami started ConVocation 20 years ago in Michigan, and while it’s changed since she started it, it’s still going; and she’s toying with starting another one down in Florida. It may be that the idea of trying to get people from lots of different groups together is just one complication too many, and we should just let it be a pagan conference, at least we could target the advertising then. But I really did want to get everyone together from the new age to the parapsychologists, so we can communicate and build on each other’s accomplishments. Sigh. But wasting my time, energy and money seems like a very bad idea.
Oh yes, among the packages that came while we were out, was the skirt (can you tell it has images of the tardis on it?) and crinoline for Kat. I noticed that Market Basket, that was having problems as we left is still having problems with their management. A century ago people had all they could take of the super rich feeling they had the right to treat the workers like dirt and created unions. Yes, once the unions got some power, some people exploited that, but that doesn’t make unions intrinsically bad. People felt strongly enough to risk everything to get better hours, fair pay, and safe conditions. We may need to do that again. We certainly can’t say “I’ve got mine, so if someone else hasn’t, that’s their problem.
Tuesday night we didn’t feel up to cooking and ate out. During the meal the TV station was switched from sports to coverage of Robin Williams death. It’s sad, as all suicide is sad, but I am put off by the focus. The ebola epidemic seems to be continuing and has accumulated over a thousand deaths, and is over 50% fatal, where’s the coverage on that? What the heck is going on in the middle east? I was amazed to discover that the Republicans are STILL trying to sue the President. The Fergus riots should be bigger news, in my opinion (with the eye of an historian, I think they say more about our culture than about one dead teenager- we need to look at these things for greater meaning). I really don’t want to come back to the modern world. It’s not as much fun!
But I don’t want to whine. While I’m not sure it’s a terribly accurate description, going to Pennsic is about as close as I get to a vacation and I hope you can tell that I enjoyed it, chaos, work and all. I love seeing my friends. Getting elevated to the Laurel is something that I’ve been expecting for about 40 years, and while it won’t change the way I play in the SCA, it’s a bit of a vindication that I haven’t been wasting my time studying Anglo-Saxons. (Publishing a book about it would be a better vindication, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that- a CA about it first perhaps.)
I guess the short form of this letter is that Pennsic is a town that’s bigger than the town I normally live in. There are lots of people to see, and you can’t see all of them, lots of things going on, and you can’t get to all of them. The trick is to do what makes you the most satisfied, and I hope I did that. Also, I’m not the same person I was in earlier decades of the SCA, I’ve done the new member thing, the young mother thing, the organizing thing. We have to accept change, no matter how much fun the other periods of our life were.
“It’s all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back.”