Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When mechanics laugh my wallet cries

Yesterday the husbeast called me on his way to the office to tell me the check engine light in his car had come on and that he was fairly certain there was something very wrong with the car. This really was not the conversation I wanted to be having yesterday morning, or any morning for that matter. Our history with car repairs is not exactly stellar.

No matter how much I disliked the idea, I had to take his car to the shop. Luckily for me our mechanic is right across the street from my office and I could just drop the thing off on the way to work and walk to the office. The walking would be good for me after all.

I asked the husbeast to tell me what was wrong with the car so I could relay it to the mechanic. I am fairly well a typical female when it comes to cars. I refer to problems in words like 'The thingy is making a weird noise' and describing noises as 'scratchy' 'grindy' and 'clunky'. I am told that none of this is actually useful. He told me I wouldn't be able to miss the problem.

I finally convinced him that even if I recognized there was a problem I probably still could not articulate it to the mechanic when the time came. He told me he thought the timing was off or there was a cylinder miss firing. These are all things that would have never come out of my mouth. I am still not even sure what the timing is exactly, even after he explained it to me twice.

He was right in one thing though; after driving the car I knew there was a huge problem. When the car was idling at say a red light, the entire car would shake. When I say shake, I mean it was significant. It sort of looked like my car had one of those stupid huge sound systems that cause the base to rattle the windows. Only there was no base coming out of my car.

When I got the car to the shop I told the mechanic that my engine light had come on and the car was shaking something awful when it idled. I don't know if I actually managed to say the words 'timing' or 'miss firing' when talking to the man. He didn't seem to notice though and told me he would call me when they found the problem.

A few hours passed before I got the call. This worried me more than a little. I mean if it was something simple and easy you would think he would call me right away. If it was taking this long perhaps they were having to go to all manner of lengths just to diagnose the problem. Perhaps this was going to be a huge issue.

As soon as he started talking to me on the phone I knew I was worrying for nothing. I knew this because he was trying his damndest not to laugh as he was telling me what the problem was. Normally I would frown upon a laughing mechanic, but I like this guy so I was alright with it.

What was the problem you ask?


No seriously, the problem was squirrels. I can't make this stuff up.

Apparently some of the tree rats that are so numerous around our house have been trying to nest in the engine. He told me there were so many acorns on the engine that he couldn't see the wiring. He had to take a blower to it in order to find what the problem was.

The problem was that the damn squirrel had chewed through the wires. It had cut the wire that operated the check engine light and a wire that was causing the engine to miss fire. I didn't ask for specifics on how exactly that worked because it would have gone in one ear and out the other honestly.

He managed to replace the wire and plug that was damaged and get everything working again. He did tell me that I was damn lucky. He could only really fix it because it was just the one wire. If it had been any worse they would have had to replace the entire electrical harness. I was told that what was a $100 repair today would have been close to a $4000 repair if it had gotten any worse.

So the car is now in working condition again and I am only out $100 for the repairs. Considering what I was told this could have been a lot worse. A whole lot worse.

Now I have to go home and figure out how to keep the squirrels from nesting in my engine. I have already gotten a ton of helpful suggestions including fox urine, black chai tea, and vaseline with cayenne pepper applied to the wires.

Who wants a simple life?

Friday, April 26, 2013


Somewhere in my head I think I have written something like this before, but just by skimming post titles I have come up with nothing. I may want to look into the use of tags in my posts. I think that is more effort than I am capable of just now. We shall see.

Anyways, some quirky things about me:

- I am a sock sock, shoe shoe, sort of person. If socks are involved with my shoe choice, and being a girl they so are not always in the mix, I have to put on both socks before I put on my shoes. The husbeast is a sock shoe, sock shoe, person most of the time. Actually I don't really think he has that much of a routine, but I have noted him doing it more often than not.

I think it is weird.

- Speaking of socks, I can not wear my socks inside out. I know no one can see them, and they don't so much feel different, but I just can not do it. I will take all the extra time in the world to turn my socks right side out before I put them on even if it means I will run late.

- If I choose to put a condiment such as ketchup on my plate for the purpose of dipping my food in it, such as for fries, I will always put less than what I need so there will not be leftovers. If there is say ketchup left on the plate after the fries are gone I feel the need to still eat the ketchup. I like ketchup but I don't like the looks I get from other diners.

- I can not sleep in a bed if the covers are not straight. I have actually gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to fix the covers so I could sleep. I also can not sleep if I am sharing the bed with someone and they are not laying properly in the bed.

Sometimes to annoy me the husbeast will slide himself and his pillow about a foot down in the bed so our heads are no longer even. I think he just likes to see how worked up I get by this action. I mean I get really worked up and I admit it is probably funny to watch.

- I can not listen to people talking on the radio when I am in a car. It doesn't matter how interesting or informative it is, if it is not music I can not stand it. Making myself listen to a traffic report is almost painful. I will listen to music I hate over listening to a commercial. Morning shows are so horrible. I typically keep a CD in my cars stereo or my iPod plugged in ready to go in case all of my presets hit a commercial break at the same time. When I ride with other people and they are talk radio listeners I have to restrain myself from asking them to turn it off.

- I have a fear of heights that is so bad that I have panic attacks watching shows with people doing things like rock climbing. I have been known to freak out at people telling stories of doing something involving heights. I have some difficulty standing at the railing on the second floor. I have however started to master standing on chairs and small step ladders.

- I memorize Trivial Pursuit cards for fun. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: The Reveal

When last we left our story the coat was finally completed and all that was left was to present it to Shado. Of course since the making of the coat had been such an elaborate experience, the reveal had to be appropriately spectacular. Thankfully I had a plan.

At the end of the workshop process we always have a costume parade. We clump everyone together by looks, assign them some fun modern music, and have them introduced on stage in a sort of fashion show so they can show off their new costuming. It is a really fun event for us. In the past people have done big reveals of new costumes, but this was going to be the best reveal of all because he didn't know it was coming.

I talked to our emcee and the music guy as well as all the other gypsies. Gypsies are always the first group to be presented which meant we could start the show with the reveal. The plan was to keep things as seemingly normal as possible. They would go first. They would get to spin and twirl and do their thing like they always did. Then the plan would be enacted.

I told the emcee to call Shado first. Once he got to the front of the stage he was to stop him and the music. I told him to chastise him about looking scruffy and from there the gypsies would grab him and drag him off to be changed. Once he was done the music should restart and everyone could ohh and aww over the new coat.

Of course before we even got started it looked like the plan would be ruined. Mother nature decided to throw a bit of a fit that morning. There was rain falling when we got to faire that morning and a radar full of dark clouds. We would be unable to do the parade as planned if the rain didn't stop. It would mean a change of venue as well as most likely no music and no mic and really limited visibility. I was less than pleased.

After checking the radar more thoroughly and consulting the schedule it was decided we should switch morning events around to move costume parade back to later in the morning. The hope was that the rain would pass quickly and we would be allowed to proceed as planned.

A few hours later the skies had cleared, the stage had dried, and everything was good to go. It was time.

Our emcee did just what we had asked of him. I should note that one should be careful how much free reign you give to improv actors. He stopped the show and began to chastise Shado mercilessly. He got pretty into the moment. For a while I was pretty sure that Shado was going to punch him. Thankfully our target trusted that our emcee had a reason for this strange behavior and just rolled with it instead of actually getting mad.

Big skirts are good for something
It wasn't until he had been dragged to the back of the stage and the gypsy girls had made a wall with their skirts that he realized what was going on. His old coat was stripped off and I handed over his new coat before running back to my seat in the audience. I am told as they were buttoning it up his eyes began to water. He suddenly realized he had been had. It was the best moment ever.

Now clad in his shiny new coat the other gypsies scattered and the music kicked back on. With a cheshire cat grin on his face he strutted to the front of the stage. He struck a pose and then he spun about. The coat panels flared out, the skirting expanded, and he was a whirling mass of shining color.
He is so crying.

It was perfect. It was the amazing technicolor dreamcoat.


The task was daunting, and the journey was at times rough, and more than once I had to ask myself if I really liked him enough to be going to all of this trouble. In the end though, seeing his face, watching him spin, knowing how happy it made him, I knew it was all worth it. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: The Making Of

When last we met I had decided to take on the Herculean effort of making the dreamcoat myself.  

With this knowledge in my mind I took my costuming partner and headed down to the fabric district in search of the perfect material for the coat. She kept asking what it was I wanted as we were strolling up and down aisle after aisle of material but I couldn't answer her. I told her I just would know it when I saw it. Not the most helpful of answers.

Three hours and three shops later we walked into one of my favorite stores. I had a bag full of swatches that were alright, but had seen nothing that was perfect yet. I hadn't found that thing that was bright and exotic and screamed king of the gypsies. I was actually starting to think I would have to settle.

It's a lovely velvet and the gold is painted on.
I took two steps in the door and there it was. The perfect material. We stood staring at it in awe. We both knew it was the right one. Not only the right material for the outside but the right material for the lining as well (stripes for lining and the other for the outside). I texted a picture to his wife and she immediately said he would love it. It was as though it was meant to be.

I was ready to go. Well almost ready. I still did not have a pattern. I looked for a pattern everywhere and it turns out that one does not exist. You see the coat is not just any coat. If you have ever seen a production of the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat you know that when the actor spins the coat opens  up and there is a multi colored skirt underneath that flares out. This was the main thing Shado wanted in his coat.

He would want something that only existed in the mind of the designers. From what I could tell everyone pretty much made up the pattern on their own. In all the blogs I had read there was no reference to how they did it. They all glossed over that step. Any reference to a bathrobe of period pattern would have been nice, but alas there was nothing.

So if you are reading this blog in  hopes that I am going to give you some useful advice you are in luck.

I decided I was going to use the pattern I had made for his original long vest. I was simply going to make the slits in the coat up to his waist and then attach a circle skirt underneath so that when he spun it would flare out. It was the best I could figure out from the pictures I had seen. This may not be incredibly helpful but it is the best I can do.

Of course this plan would have worked better if I had had the pattern. It turns out I no longer possessed the original pattern I had made. I also did not have the long vest to pattern off of. I was sort of in a pickle. I could have called  his wife and asked to borrow the vest, but I was in a bit of a time crunch and that wasn't my best option.

Instead I took a normal vest pattern and elongated it. I took the handy measurements I had taken in January and made sure it would fit him in theory. To say I was panicking might be an understatement. I mean this was a lot of guess work as far as I was concerned.

Measure twice cut once
I made a mockup but that wasn't going to do me a lot of good since I couldn't fit it to him. I had to go to a friend who was roughly the same size and shape and try it on him. The fit was surprisingly good. I took into mind that this friend was more barrel chested and made adjustments in my head accordingly.

I was reluctantly ready to cut out the coat from the real material. Can I just say that this is the part I hate the most. This material was expensive. If I screw it up I am totally screwed. I can't afford to go buy more material. I get one chance to get this right. No pressure. I think I said a couple of prayers before I actually put my scissors to the material.

But I don't want to cut it.
Pretty much the entire sewing process was me texting my costuming partner in a panic and doubting myself every step of the way. I lost several hours to seam ripping and being overly cautious. I turned the damn coat three times before I was ready to close it and edge stitch it. I had to alter the shoulders twice. There was not end to the cursing coming out of my sewing room.

The worst part for me was cutting the slits in the coat for the skirting to show through. The coat itself was so very lovely that I didn't want to put the slits in. I was again terrified that I would screw it up. What if the slits were too long or not long enough? What if they didn't turn well? What if I just screw it all up?

Adding the trim was surprisingly easy.
Two days of intense sewing later I had completed the outside of the coat and it was gorgeous. I have been pleased with things I have made in the past, but this was by far one of my favorite things ever. This coat said King to me.

All that was left was to make the circle skirt to go underneath. Now I had bought some very pretty bright material to make the skirt out of. The thing is so did he. While he was in India he had bought a whole bunch of silk with the plans to turn it into the skirt someday. How could I pass that up?

He arrived back in the states one week before the costume had to be finished for faire. I had exactly five days I could work on the coat before I had to give it to him. This meant I had four days to somehow steal the fabric from his house so I could have at least one whole day to make the skirt.

I was so happy I had enlisted his wife in the scheme. Under pretenses of working on our fight choreography we went to their house on Wednesday. I was planning on grabbing the material and tossing it in the car while he was doing sword work with the husbeast, but he insisted he wanted to show me the material after dinner. I had to grudgingly agree.

Ill gotten goods
We were ready to leave and he still had not walked away from the silk long enough for me to grab it. Thankfully his wife stepped in. She scooped it up saying she was going to go put it in her fabric bin to be safe from the cats. I offered to help while the husbeast dragged Shado to the game room to look at gaming books. As soon as he was out of the room I ran to the car to stash the fabric. Mission accomplished.

I did have a pattern for this.
It took me an entire day to put the silk skirt together. Eight hours of doing nothing but that one item for the coat. Can I just say that rolling hems on silk is stupid. No getting around it though, it had to be done. I also french seamed the entire thing so there would be no ugly raw edges showing when he spun.

I installed snaps on the waistline and on the inside of the coat in order to attach it. The idea was it would be easier to clean that way, and he could change out the skirting if he wanted to.

Spinny spinny
I of course had no way of knowing if it would fit or look right on him. I had no one to try the final product on. The husbeast is far too broad in the shoulder and I am not shaped anything like Shado. I was just praying it would look right. I did try it on myself just to make sure the panels would open correctly when he spun. Also it is just fun to spin. Don't judge.

Finally the coat was ready. All we had to do was give it to him, and I had the perfect place to do it.

Tune in Monday for the final part of our tale where we do the big reveal and I make a friend cry.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: The Plan

One of my love languages is giving of gifts, and I am really good at it. Nothing delights me more than giving someone something they truly desire for no other reason than to see them happy and smiling. I have been known to go to some great lengths and expenses to get the perfect gift to someone I care about. Recently though I think I outdid myself.

Several years ago one of my good friends Shado started playing the Gypsy King out at faire. When he needed his costume made he came to me. He needed a long vest of sorts according to the costuming guidelines. As we sat discussing his ideal costume he kept saying how much he would love to have something like a coat like the one in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Now I am a good seamstress. I am not the greatest in the world, but my work is pretty nice. After doing a little research and finding a metric ton of images online I made him a couple of sketches as to what I thought he would like. He loved them and I was ridiculously intimidated by them. I did not want to make this coat.

As it turned out he could not really afford to have this coat made by me or anyone else at the time. He was sad. I was relieved. I mean I wanted him to have the costume he wanted, but I really was afraid I couldn't produce the thing for him. Instead we made him a simple long vest.

He liked the vest and it worked well. It just really was not what he wanted. Honestly as his costumer it was not what I wanted. It was not bright enough nor regal enough. I mean he was supposed to be the gypsy King for crying out loud.

As the years have passed he has spoken often about how someday he will have the Iosef coat made (his characters name is Iosef). He would speak of it longingly with a wistful smile on his lips. It was however mostly a pipe dream and he knew it. Getting the money and a seamstress that could do it at the same time was unlikely to happen before he stopped playing this character.

So I decided to gift the coat to him. Of course I didn't tell him this. Heavens no. Half the fun is in the surprise. If he knew it was coming I couldn't make him cry and that just would not do. So I put on my best Secret Squirrel impersonation, and began to plot how to make this happen.

The first thing I had to do was to enlist the help of some other people to help pay for this thing. It was going to be expensive and I knew that. I contacted all the other gypsies on cast at faire and they thought it was a great idea. Everyone was more than happy to throw in some money on the project.

Next I had to enlist the help of his wife. I needed her to make sure he didn't go and do something dumb like commission the coat to be made on his own. I was pretty certain that wasn't going to happen, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Besides having a co conspirator that close to the mark is always a good thing.

This is when the first snag came about, because when is there not a snag or 12? In December his company decided to send him to India for six weeks in the spring. He was going to be gone for all of the workshop process. I wasn't going to be able to do things like fittings anyways, but I would have at least been able to figure out a way to get measurements and sizing off of him if he was here.  Now I was going to have to find a way to get them before he left.

I concocted some story about wanting to reverse engineer the shirts I had made him for a patterning project. If he had thought about this he would have realized I was full of it. I loath math. If I wanted a pattern of his shirts I would have just taken an old shirt and patterned it. Thankfully he didn't think about it and I was able to get all the measurements I needed. I just had to hope he didn't eat too much curry while in India.

The next task at hand was to find a seamstress. The coat is complicated and I still really didn't feel confident enough to make it on my own. Unfortunately most of my candidates were either busy with other faire commissions or were busy with new born babies. My options were very slim. I spent months trying to find someone I felt comfortable handing this project over to. I was finally pointed to a friends mother and decided to use her. She does good work and given enough time she should be able to get it done in time.

The thing was though, this was my baby. This was my idea. This was something I knew I should be doing no  matter how afraid of it I was. Every time I went to call her to get the ball rolling I would freeze up.

So I caved. I appreciated all the offers I had gotten, but it was just something I was going to have to do on my own. I would just have to deal with my own fears face on like a big girl. I was going to make the coat.

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting next part of our story in which I sew and pray a lot.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Remember back in early December when I had a terrible dusting accident and slit my wrist open? No you skipped that post? What do you mean you have slept since then? Fine. Go click the link and I will give you a moment to refresh your memory.

Are we all on the same page now? Fabulous.

It has been almost five months since I tried to kill myself while dusting. It really was one of my more impressive moments of absurd klutzyness. I can hopefully not top it later on. I've already lost a small portion of my pinky and slit my wrist open. I am all for not playing the escalation game here.

I do have a lovely scar to remind me of how accident prone I can be.

Random side note: Did you know that the adhesive bandage we use now for little cuts and scrapes was invented by a man for his incredibly accident prone wife? She was always getting little cuts and scrapes and he wanted a way for her to be able to quickly and easily bandage herself without all the fuss of gauze and tape. Thus bandaids as we think of them were born.

The scar is pretty impressive. It is thankfully off center enough that it doesn't look like a failed suicide attempt. It doesn't really look to me like it is going to fade anytime soon. The husbeast disagrees with me saying it is the right color to fade nicely. I think he knows way too much about scars or is totally full of it. Guess which way I am leaning.

The weird thing though is that the scar still hurts and itches on a fairly regular basis. I only have had one other significant scar, from an appendectomy, and it never felt like this. I sometimes get phantom pains in the appendectomy scar region, but nothing like this.

My wrist scar itches and hurts the way the wound did in that first month of healing. There really isn't anything I can do for it either. I spend a lot of time putting pressure on the scar in hopes that the sensation will go away quickly.

It sort of makes me wonder if there isn't something wrong with it. Like maybe it didn't heal right. Maybe the inner portion of the cut healed up wonky. Maybe I should have gone and let a doctor ffix me up instead of relying on super glue to fix me.

Or more likely this is perfectly normal and I am just being paranoid and should suck it up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Optical illusions

I have come to the conclusion that I am living in a lie. I have turned to many different sources for the truth, and yet not one can give me the same answer. In fact the answers I get directly contradict one another. It comes down to only one answer that can be true; I am being lied to.

Monday morning I woke up and was immediately greeted with a rather dull yet persistent pain in my everything. I was being very notably reminded that I am not as young as I once was. Although every time I watch the under 18 cast members run around with seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm I have to question if I was ever actually that young.

It was clear to me that simply taking a handful of pain killers and drinking a few gallons of water was not really going to do the trick. I was going to have to do something more for the radiating ache that filled my body. I was going to have to do something a little kinder to myself. I decided going to the gym and soaking in the jacuzzi was a fabulous solution to my problem.

That evening as I was standing in the locker room changing my eyes fell on the scale in the corner. My nemesis. It sat there staring at me. Mocking me. I haven't stepped on it since before workshops began. It had nothing nice to say to me two months ago and I was certain it would say something discouraging to me now. It always seems to.

Of course I have no one to blame but myself. I have been less than good of late. My diet has been full of things that are in no way good for me. Most of the things I have been eating fall into the 'easy' and 'convenient' categories. Nothing good comes from those two food groups, mostly just things that involve drive thru windows and more calories than I should ever eat.

I have also been incredibly sedentary during the week. Weekends I am insanely active. Monday through Friday I am in recovery mode. There is a lot of sitting still. There is a lot of not wanting to do anything at all. Or having too much to do, all of which involves sitting still for hours at a time.

Add in that some nice high stress levels and it is a recipe for weight gain. I knew that the scale would say ugly things because I knew I had gained weight. All of my clothes are fitting tighter. My fat jeans are feeling tight, my shirts are starting to pull a little around the stomach, my rings are becoming more difficult to remove in the evenings.

I also can see myself in the mirror. I can see that my face is a little rounder these days than it has been in a while. I catch myself in profile in the mirror and just cringe. There seems to be a greater circumference than I have been sporting in the last year.

Then faire pictures start popping up and I just cringe. I can't help but to want to delete them all. My neck looks as thick as a linebackers in some of these shots. I swear I look like Gypsy the Hut. It is not attractive in any way. It is very discouraging.

Of course I have people constantly telling me that I look wonderful. I am told on a weekly basis by someone how great I am looking. They make comments about how I am shrinking. They talk about how I am starting to look thinner. I have sort of come to the conclusion that they just aren't really  looking at me, or keep forgetting what I look like now and are thinking of what I looked like two years ago.

So there I stood in the locker room staring at the scale. I knew what it was going to say so I didn't see a reason to actually go and depress myself with a number that would make me want to cry. I could just be happy with the evidence I already had that it was true.

Of course I am a glutton for punishment. Also I need a number to know how far I have slipped and how far I have to go to get back to where I was. I told myself now is as good a time as any. Besides I will weigh more with my bathing suit full of water in an hour so I might as well get it over with.

I stepped up on the scale and began fidgeting with the slider pushing it past where I was in early February. I jumped it up ten pounds hoping that was as far as I would have to go. If it was more than ten I think I might have just cried and gotten off the scale.

To my happy surprise the bar dropped telling me I had put too much weight on the slider. I slowly began to nudge it back toward the lower weights. It didn't budge. I nudged it some more, and then some more, and then even more.

Finally it began to even out. When the bar came to a stop at last I was a little shocked by what I was looking at. I had to check the numbers three times to make sure I was reading it right. I have a bad habit of reading the scale ten pounds heavier or lighter than it really is on first glance. I had to accept in the end that the scale said what I thought it did.

I have not gained a single pound in the last two months. I have also not lost a single pound in the last two months. I was exactly the same weight I was when I weighted myself last. All the bad eating and stressing and sedentary weeks have come out to no change whatsoever.

I am the same weight and yet I have proof I am fatter. Perhaps I am just fluffier that I was two months ago. Perhaps my clothes have all shrunk. Perhaps my mirror has warped. Perhaps I  need glasses more desperately than I thought I did.

I really have no explanation for it. I just have frustration and tight jeans, and not in a flattering way. I suppose all I can really do is eat a salad and do some squats until I am happy with  myself, and my jeans.

Monday, April 8, 2013

We are the dreamers of dreams

I am part of the performance company for Scarborough Renaissance Festival, Scarborough Academy of Performing Arts (SAPA). What this means is I dress up and portray a character from the 16th century out in the streets of the festival. I do a lot of improvisational acting up close and personal with strangers trying to make them for a moment believe we are a real place and not just an amusement park or themed shopping mall.
This is hard work on so many levels. No one really understands what it is that the performance company goes through in order to be what we are, which is one of the top performance companies for renaissance festivals in the country. It may not seem like a lot to some folks, but it is really kind of amazing for us.

I mean think about it. Sure you may not be into this sort of thing and think it is silly, but think about something you do enjoy. Think of something you have been part of and were proud of. Think of what it would mean to you to be recognized as one of the best in that thing. No matter if anyone outside your little world cares or not, it is your thing and you care. This is my thing and I care.

We go through two months of workshops before we ever see a single patron. We spend seven to ten hours every single Saturday and Sunday going through classes in improvisational acting, guerilla theater, character and dialect, and history customs and manners. We do hours of event rehearsals for stage combat, country and court dancing, English wrestling, music, and other stage shows we perform in.

We also spend countless hours outside of those weekend rehearsals working on this. Whether we are polishing our fights, polishing our dialects, sewing our costumes, working on stories for shows, taking outside improv classes, or just developing strong characters, we put in the extra time. I don't know of any performer that doesn't spend a good amount of their 'free time' working on something for faire.

Have I mentioned also that we do all of this in less than savory conditions. We are always outside no matter what the weather is. During our workshops this normally means it is pretty cold outside. We are Texans. Cold is not our friend. Also the faire sight, which is pretty much a cow pasture with a village worth of shops and stages built on it, is like a giant wind tunnel. We get strong biting winds blowing down through the main portion of the site all the time causing all kinds of trouble.

If it is not cold it is most likely uncomfortably hot. Even with all that lovely wind the temperatures can spike up into ridiculous highs. Mostly we see the deadly heat during the run of the show, but sometimes we have freak hot spells in mid March.

Then of course there is the rain and hail we occasionally suffer through.  Yes I have stood outside in workshops being pelted by pea sized hail. I have stood outside and worked in torrential downpours. I have worked in sauna like conditions. There is no calling faire for weather, we just work through it.

The site itself is well developed but it is still an outdoor arena. The ground is covered in rocks that seem to have been created to do nothing more than trip you or gouge into the sole of your foot. They seem to sneak out of nowhere and jump under your boot and send you falling to the ground. There are also the lovely bees that are everywhere. I can't tell you the number of people who have been stung in the mouth and throat from swallowing the bees. I've personally drank three.

Now add on top of all this lovely weather and terrain the fact that we are wearing 16th century inspired costuming. We do try and remain historically accurate as much as possible. The fabrics we use are mostly natural fibers, but there are layers upon layers of them. The women are almost all in corseting or heavily boned bodices. When I say boned I mean there are flat steal bones running along the bodices holding them in. I swear we are bullet proof in those things.

None of it is really completely comfortable. Bodices and corsets are tight. They can rub in weird places and cause blisters and painful bruising. The weight of our skirts can leave bruises. The men suffer similar discomforts from their costumes as well. We all suffer from the threat of extreme chafing as well. Honestly it is a serious issue. We have entire classes devoted to the prevention of this.

Next you add in the fact that a lot of what we do is dangerous. We do stage combat which is just an accident waiting to happen no matter how safe we try to be. In my time at faire I have seen peoples heads and faces cut open with swords. I have seen at least one person almost lose part of an ear to a sword. I have seen black eyes from taking quarter staffs to the face. I have seen a guy take a bad punch and break his ocular socket to the point his eye popped out when he sneezed. I have seen so many broken ankles, legs, wrists, and fingers. There are countless sprained and dislocated shoulders. Sprained knees are rampant. One person got hit with a weight for distance* and his wrist bones were turned to dust.

Then there are all the little injuries like getting rapped across the knuckles fighting with wooden swords, bruises from fights and wrestling, cuts and scrapes from climbing walls and trees and rolling down hills, and all sorts of weird injuries and bruises you can not actually identify when they turn up. The amount of bandages and ibuprofen we go through in a season is a little obscene. Also the amount of aloe we go through for the sunburns is pretty crazy.

Other things we worry about include dehydration, heat stroke, severe allergy attacks due to the excessive amounts of pollen in the area in the spring, our own selves. That last one can be an issue. I know a guy who broke his leg climbing a pretend mountain, or was it a pretend ladder? Either way he was climbing an object that wasn't real and still broke his leg when he 'fell' off of it. Needless to say the local ER is sort of used to us showing up broken in costume.

So why the hell do any of us do this? It is painful and uncomfortable and dangerous and a huge time suck. We are constantly fatigued and sore. Our homes are always a mess for the entirety of spring, we have no free time, we most all work seven days a week for this, some of us aren't even paid to do this at all. There is no logical reason anyone should want to do this with all of those things against it.

It is simple though. The reason we do this is so simple and so beautiful. We do this because it is magic. We do this because it is the way that we can bring joy and happiness and magic into the world. We can take the world for a few hours and make it someplace happy and carefree. We create our own world and get to play there every weekend during the spring.

The magic is not just for us, it is for our patrons. I get the pleasure, no the honor, of entertaining the people who walk in our gates. I get to make children smile, women feel beautiful, men feel brave, adults remember to dream, and bring laughter to the souls of people who are a lot like me. People who lead hard working tiring dull grey lives in the real world. For just a brief moment I get to bring them to my playground and show them all the colors that still exist and they had forgotten about.

I get to do this every weekend, and I get to do it with 120 other people who are there to make the magic with me. I get the pleasure and honor of working with some amazingly talented and incredibly dedicated performers. Each and every one of them tries their damndest to make the magic every day.

Sometimes we fail spectacularly. Sometimes we flail and fall flat on our faces in the mud (literally). Sometimes the patrons just look at us with blank fish faces. Sometimes we get tired and frustrated and cry in the keep because we just can't do it. Then we dust ourselves off, wipe away the mud and tears, find a friend and go do it again until we succeed.

Improvisational acting, especially when you are doing it in the streets in the guerilla theater fashion, is possibly the hardest type of acting there is. We have no scripts. We barely have boundaries. We have characters we have developed, history we have learned, and basic theories and techniques in our brains, but the rest is up to courage and perseverance and trust in our fellow actors to help keep us floating.

It is a labor of love like no other being involved in this organization. It is a lesson in trust and patience. It is a trial every single day to do more, work harder, play bigger, and make the magic more realistic for our audience.

I know a lot of people that wouldn't even try this. They think we are sort of insane for doing it at all. I know  people who would look at us and judge us on one performance or one small portion of what they see. It is impossible to see all of us doing all the amazing things we are doing at once because we are spread over 35 acres. While I am choking out a sailor on one side of the festival there is a beggar getting people to cover themselves in mud on the far side of the festival and at the same time there are thirty people putting on a live full combat human chess match on another side of the festival. If you see me sitting at a bench breathing and doing nothing you don't realize that I just got six little girls to play follow the leader with me crawling under picnic tables for 10 minutes. Or you don't realize I just had a 45 minute intimate discussion with an older couple about life in the renaissance.

It is sort of impossible to see the brilliance and all the work that we do. There are people who would nay say us, and to them I say, who are you to judge us? Until you are here standing beside me, having suffered through the last few months of pain and exhaustion, you can't judge me or my people. I don't care if you have done this before, you are not doing it now, and you have no idea what we have been struggling through or how far we have come.

I am so very proud of the people I work with. I may not always like all of them. I may complain about some more than others. At the end of the day though they are all still sitting there, hot, sweaty, sore, and exhausted, and every one of them has a war story about how they watched the magic spark in someones eyes. For that alone I am proud and happy to work with every one of them.

We suffer and we shine. We make merriment and magic from nothing. We bring joy and laughter. We are SAPA.

*Weight for distance is an event in Highland Games. Pretty much you take a 20 some odd pound cannon ball and put it on the end of a chain. You then spin around and lob it as hard as you can to see how far it will go. The guy throwing the weight at the time was very good, and he could throw it very hard and very far. He lost control and the weight flew into a crowd of us watching. It almost caught my head, but I was pulled back out to the way and a friend of mine 'caught' it with his hand. It could have been a lot worse, though it was pretty bad still.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Another year passes

Yesterday was my second blogoversary. In some ways it feels like I have been writing this blog a lot longer and in others it feels like I have only just started. Time is a very strange thing in my head. Nothing ever seems to sync up for me.

This is such a great thing for me. I still love writing it. I think I actually enjoy it now more than I did when I started. At first I was unsure of what I was doing and incredibly nervous. Now it seems very natural to me. Of course writing has always seemed pretty natural to me.

I have more readers now than I did even a year ago. I rarely ever get comments on the blog but I get comments on my Facebook and G+ and in person all the time. I know you are all out there pondering your minionship with me.

I am often amazed by my stats. I know they are mostly useless, but I like to pretend like they are even a little accurate sometimes. It is good for my ego to think that they are actually what they say they are. Seriously though if they are even half of what they say I am happy.

I have a lot of writing in me still and have some posts rumbling around in my head just now. I get to share my big Secret Squirrel sewing mission, and my faire adventures, and my thoughts on friendship, and bravery coming up here in the next few weeks. I am sure I will also be struck by inspiration along the way and post about something cool and random.

So I am glad you all have stuck around this long and really hope that you continue on with me in the future. Thanks, and I hope you keep enjoying the ride.