Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adventures in dining out

Last Wednesday the husbeast and I decided we were entirely too tired (or possibly lazy) to cook dinner and opted to go out to eat instead. We try not to eat out too often, but during faire it happens more than I would like to admit. My energy and give-a-damn is often too low to cook on a weeknight.

Eating out is supposed to be a nice relaxing event. I don't have to cook, I don't have to clean, all I have to do is enjoy the food and the company of the husbeast. Of course if you have spent much time dining out in America you know that the experience is often anything but relaxing since you have to deal with humanity while dining out.

I knew the evening was going to be a long one when the hostess seated us in a mostly empty dining room next to the only other occupied table, which had a toddler sitting at it. I don't mind children in restaurants as long as they are not screaming or throwing things. We were at what is a family restaurant so kids are to be expected.

People who have children need to eat too, and deserve to eat out. I do not expect them to hide until their kids can be taught to sit quietly at a dinner table. I do however expect that they will be considerate enough to remove a screaming and disruptive child from a restaurant instead of ignoring or indulging them.

This child was not misbehaving. This child was not screaming and throwing things. This child was simply happy. Unfortunately happy translated into incredibly shrill squeals of glee that caused me to flinch each time it happened.

I was going to simply ask to be moved to a table on the other side of the dining room. The sound was only jarring because it was less than a foot from me. Really the hostess should have thought better than to seat us where she did.

Before I could do anything the husband hopped up and took his happy baby out of the restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised. It is always nice when the parent recognizes that their child is being too loud and takes them for a walk to calm down.

The next thing I know the wife has come over to our table to very earnestly apologize for having disturbed our dinner. We tried to tell her it was alright, but she was insistent that loud children were not acceptable. She told us that before she had a baby she always hated being in a restaurant with people who wouldn't do anything about loud children, and she wasn't going to be that person.

We thanked her for her consideration. It was only then that we realized that the husband had not just taken the kid out for a walk to calm down; they had their meals packed up, paid the bill, and were leaving entirely. I was a little shocked seeing as how they had just been served their food. If I had known that was what they were doing I would have bought their dinner for them.

It was so very nice of them to consider how others meals were being effected by their child. It was refreshing to know that there are parents out there like this. I felt bad that they did not get to enjoy their dinners at the restaurant. There is part of me that feels guilty that they left. At the same time I really am glad they did.

So dinner started out strange, though it did give me a little more faith in humanity.

I should have known that it wasn't going to go uphill from there.

Tune in next time to find out how my new found faith in humanity was dashed by some irreverent youths.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ode to a Best Friend

My Niki! - Photo by me!
This is my Niki, isn't she pretty? Niki is one of my best friends in the entire world. She also happens to be my partner in costuming out at faire. She and I have been doing this together for two years now, and honestly I don't know what I would do without her.

She is my rock and she is my sanity. When I am ready to scream and quit she is the one who calms me down. I am fairly certain I have not ripped all of my hair out yet because of her. I know no matter what I am not in this insanity alone, and that is often enough for me.

There are a lot of people who don't understand that Niki and I are partners in this whole costuming venture. Neither one of us is in charge and never have been. If you want to blame someone for being in charge you have to look to our director, as he is the one that makes all the real decisions. Our sole job is to make sure that the cast is wearing the correct things to help realize our directors vision for the faire.

We do this by working together and sharing equal responsibility for every decision made.  Neither of us make any decisions unless the other has been consulted. Whether it be as simple as color or fabric approvals or something more complicated like actual design aspects, we always consult one another. I spend more time carbon copying her on emails than just about anything else it seems.

We have both been doing costuming in some form or another for a very long time, so we know that the other knows what they are talking about. I know that she has researched our period of costuming just as much as I have so we never worry that the other is going to suddenly start to try and pull in non period aspects of dress. That alone is very important.

Matt (Thomas Cromwell)- Photo by Ariana Berdy
I tend to end up handling most of the paperwork and bureaucracy of the job. One of us has to make all of the announcements, posts to the e-groups, and be a main point of contact. It turns out I have a desk job where I sit in front of a computer all day and can easily draft emails and make lists and spreadsheets to my hearts delight. It allows me to be useful while I would otherwise not be able to contribute to the process.

Niki handles the lions share of the sewing that we are responsible for. She doesn't have a job outside sewing so she is able to dedicate large amounts of time to physically working on costuming. I will take in minor repair work and basic construction that I can squeeze into my evenings while Niki does all the heavy lifting.

Let me break it down a little more for you:
There are about 126 memebers of the cast.
32 of these people are wearing a costume made by Niki. (12 of those are bodices only)
Husbeast (Anne de Montmorency) - Photo by Bill McCurry
23 of those costumes she made this year.
3 of those costumes made this year were full mens court garb (one being the husbeast), including one great coat.
 4 of those costumes made this year were full womens court gowns (one being mine).

So she is doing a lot of work. We thankfully  have some other insanely talented seamstresses working with us also making beautiful costumes for us, because I honestly don't think Niki could do any more work. She started sewing for this season back in October, though she only got a few completed since most of the work was for new cast members.

Doing this job isn't simple. We don't just get to let everyone make something vaguely historically accurate that they like. If it were that simple my job wouldn't really be a job. There is making sure that the costuming is as historically accurate as we can manage while understanding this is theater and there are modern restrictions we have to account for.

Joe Baker (Jean-Pierre le Droit)- Photo by Bill McCurry
The harder part of this is the fact that this is an ensemble show with a directorial vision. Our performers have to in the end make that vision complete. We have to assure uniformity to a point so that our groups are recognizable and at the same time have to create a sense of identity and individuality for each character.

I love that we get to go through character class with all of our performers so that we can make costuming adjustments as is needed. I can look at our coffin maker and know that we need to make sure she is in darker muted colors with clean simple lines because it accentuates her characters personality. At the same time I can look at our nun and know that we need  to make sure that her habit has extra room in it because she is going to be fighting.

Me! - Photo By Ron Wheeler

Our work won't stop just because faire starts. Every day will start with us laying eyes on all of our actors to make sure they are still looking their best. Many times you will find us backstage patching pants, replacing buttons, and doing other last minute emergency repairs. Come the end of the weekend we will typically each have at least one item of costuming coming home with us to be fixed or altered. I spend far more of my day checking peoples crotches for holes than I ever should.

Every day from the first to the last Niki is there for me. We lean on one another so much that I am not sure we can stand on our own most days. I swear at this point we share a brain. We vent to one another, and laugh together, and work together, and I can't imagine it any other way.

Niki is the most important person in my faire world. I am not certain she realizes just how much she does for all of us. She would say that she is just doing what she does, which is just another reason she is so amazing.

Thank you for being my Niki. Thank you for holding me up when I want to fall down. Thank you for making me laugh when I want to cry. Thank you for slapping some sense into me when I need it. Thank you for making me beautiful, not to mention the rest of the cast. Thank you for being my sounding board. Thank you for standing by my side and holding my hand. Thank you for making all the pain and annoyance bearable. Thank you for letting me be your thumb. Thank you for being you. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Madness

March has sort of gotten away from me. I swear that it was just yesterday that February was still in my rear view mirror. Now all I can see it April looming in front of me and a jumble of March lying in my wake. Such is the way of time.

March is always a hard time of year for me because of faire prep. My days disappear in a blur of costuming, fight practice, rehearsals, and desperate attempts to keep the rest of my life in order between very small fits of sleep. It is a really damn thing that I love faire so much since chaos and exhaustion are my rewards for all my effort just now.

The end is in sight. We have our final dress this weekend which means two weeks from Saturday it will be time for faire again. I am not saying things won't still be hectic once faire actually starts, but they will be quite a  bit easier. In theory all the hard stuff that comes with preparing for faire ends once faire begins and then we are just left with a routine of no time to get the general maintenance done.

Hopefully I can find time to be less zombie like in my day to day life once the stress and worry of workshops are done. Once I am sure that all my cast members are dressed and that the husbeast and I have all of the things we need perhaps I can relax just a little. Perhaps then I can focus on some other things in my life like, oh say, my blog.

So basically what I am saying is that I am sorry for the radio silence of late. I have chosen to bead sleeve panels, and field costuming questions, and do character research, and occasionally sleep instead of blogging, and I don't regret that at all. Honestly all of that has left me pretty brain dead so I am not certain I could have written anything entertaining or interesting anyways.

Anyways, those are my excuses. Please stay tuned for us to return to our regular minion ways in April.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Yes I have a sword and I know how to use it

It is a Monday morning and I am limping into the office again. My boss gives me a strange look as I wince in pain just trying to type.

"You alright?" he asks politely.
"Yea, sword fighting." I answer with a painful shrug.

He just blinks at me a moment and then goes back to what he was doing. After 6 years he has simply stopped asking.

I sometimes forget that my hobbies are not what are considered normal. It doesn't really occur to me that my coworks are going to balk when I tell them I can't come to happy hour because I need to go home and work on fight choreography. I mean I would rather swing a sword at my friends than drink with my coworkers any day of the week, but they find that a little hard to grasp.

I remember I was working at a different job about 8 years ago and I was having a conversation with the husbeast about our evening plans which included going to a park with a bunch of friends and sword fighting.

"Did you pick up all the swords? Don't forget both scimitars and the short sword." I was saying to him trying to remember all the weapons he was likely to need since he is often forgetful. It was a very normal sort of conversation for me.

It was only as I was hanging up that I realized every coworker that was in earshot was now standing and staring at me with looks of utter confusion on their faces. I had to look around to make sure they were looking at me and not some sort of three headed monster lurking in my cube.

"Were you just talking to someone about swords?"
"Because we are going sword fighting tonight."

There again were those blank blinking stares before they sat down without questioning me. I am not sure if they were afraid to ask more or just didn't care enough to inquire. I do know that they never quite looked at me the same way again.

Every once in a while I get someone who thinks it is interesting or cool and will ask me a million questions about it, but really those are few and far between. We just live in a society where people who actually sword fight are considered weird.

They say weird, I say awesome. It is a damn good thing I stopped caring what most people think of me a long time ago. I am weird and do weird things with my weird friends and I love it. You can go have beers with the office all you like, I will be over here swinging a sword at the people I love.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cold flashes

Winter in Texas is dumb. On Saturday it was sunny and almost 80 outside making for an incredibly pleasant day. Sunday it was 15 degrees outside with snow flurries and thunder sleet making the city shut down. That means we experienced pretty much every season in less than 24 hours. That is dumb.

What makes this schizophrenic weather particularly annoying is the fact that it is already faire season for me. We are smack dab in the middle of our workshop process which means I am outside in a cow pasture from 8:30 in the morning until 6:00 at night all weekend long no matter what the weather is like. Do you have any idea how unpleasant a 60 degree temperature shift can be?

Thankfully our director is kind and wise and did not make us stay outside all day long on Sunday. We powered through the two classes that seemed most important and were in our cars headed home by noon. We are not actually dumb enough to think that faire is more important than our health or safety. We are however stubborn enough to try and get something done.

We are also some of the most dedicated and professional performers I have ever had the privilege of working with. Even though we were standing around outside in the freezing cold no one really complained about it. Oh sure people were shivering and commenting on the fact that they couldn't feel their toes/fingers/lips, or remarking on the pain that was setting in from the bitter cold that surrounded us, but no one was really whining about it.

In fact most everyone was smiling. Everyone was participating as much as they were physically capable despite being so incredibly uncomfortable. People were attentive during lecture and active during exercises. Everyone treated it like another day of workshops with some unfortunate weather.

I have always been proud to be a part of this performance company. I have always had nothing but glowing things to say about them. I am also always so pleasantly surprised to see how this cast pulls through difficult times and overcome obstacles with grace and professionalism.

Texas winters are dumb, but faire is not.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fear of disappointment

I was a fairly good kid growing up. I was pretty quiet, and pretty calm, and wasn't really one to get into too much trouble. This is not to say I was some sort of angel; I definitely wasn't. I was just a fairly mild kid. Of course when I was bad, as children tend to be, I was punished.

In my house punishments were pretty standard; picking your own switches to be spanked with, time out, denial of TV/games/time with friends, and other threats that parents make. Of all the punishments that my mother inflicted on me the one that I always feared most was her simply saying she was disappointed in me.

I could handle being spanked or denied luxuries, I just couldn't handle the idea that I had done something that disappointed her. Angering her was not pleasant but it was acceptable not disappointment. I am not sure she realized just how much the phrase "I am disappointed in you" could affect me.

It wasn't just my mother that I feared disappointing. It turns out that the idea of disappointing anyone that I respect or that looks up to me is positively terrifying. I want so badly to make the people I care about proud of me and to justify their faith in me that the idea of failing them makes me queasy.

Having this particular fear makes being in a position of authority over a large group of people that I have massive amounts of respect for incredibly difficult. I am placed in the position of teaching them and guiding them so that they can be successful in our art, which is a huge responsibility.

I sit there imparting knowledge on them and I can't help but wonder if they realize that I am as nervous and insecure as they are. Our first year students, and our vets too, are looking up to me and wanting to make me proud and not disappoint me while at the same time I am wanting to do the same for them.

I am always afraid that one day that I will fail so epically that they all stop and look at me and think that there was never any reason to have that respect for me. I fear that they will see me as some sort of charlatan who was just pretending to be knowledgeable. Living up to others expectations is really stressful.

I have to remind myself that I have been doing this for a long time and been very successful at it. I have to remind myself of the extensive training and practical application I have under my belt. I have to remind myself that people that are smarter and more talented than me that I have absolute faith in put me in this position and they had to believe that I could do this. I have to remember I am completely capable.

Still I don't think I will ever stop being shocked when everything turns out right. I don't think I will ever truly get used to being told that I have done a good job. I don't think I will ever stop worrying about disappointing people.

I just have to remember that the people I don't want to disappoint are just as afraid of disappointing me as I am of disappointing them. I have to remember that we are all going to fail at some point but we have each other there to help the other up to try again.

We are never alone.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Waking to genius

5am is where genius lives. At least that is where my genius lives, which if you think about it is more than a little inconvenient. I am not the sort of person who all that often will voluntarily haul my cookies out of bed before 7am, so 5am is normally right out. Still all my best ideas happen at 5am.

I have discovered through the years that when I have a problem I just can't solve or am in desperate need of a particularly clever solution to an issue, I will wake up and suddenly have the perfect answer. It is always a completely unexpected answer. When I roll over and look at the clock it is always 5am.

It is like the epiphany fairy visits me at night instead of the sandman and bestows upon me brilliance. Of course what with it being so damn early and me being mostly asleep I have to fight really hard to keep the brilliant clever solution in my head until I actually get up and can put it down on paper. This doesn't always happen unfortunately.

I have tried keeping pen and paper by my bed. That has never done me any good. If I can remember to write something down I will not be able to read it in the morning. The scrawl on the paper is more illegible than a doctors note. If I can make out any of the words they will be so out of context that I can't make sense of them. I mean what the hell does 'orange chipolte damask' mean?

Most of the time I employ the method of repeating the solution out loud repeatedly until I actually wake up. I will say the solution over and over again, to the point that I will be saying it in my dreams. Every time I wake up from a dream the first words out of my mouth will be the thought I am clinging to.

I have to imagine that this is strange for the husbeast. He is well accustomed to me being a sleep talker but when I keep saying the same two or three words over and over for several hours it has to be confusing. Me quacking like a duck in my sleep is totally normal. Me saying 'brown George' for three hours is a little odd.

Still I don't question the brilliance that is bestowed on me in the wee hours of the morning. My  mother always taught me to not look a gift horse in the mouth and I suppose that is true even when you are half asleep. We could all use a little genius in our lives and should be happy to take it whenever it comes along.

Where do you find your genius at?