Archive for the ‘Renassaince’ Category

My newest bestest friends…

November 5, 2008

The festival was an excellent chance to mingle with all sorts of exciting folks and Connie and I made sure to take advantage of the opportunity. If you’ve never been, you may believe that the renaissance festival is simply an event for people to play out their medieval fantasies by dressing as knights, court jesters and fair maidens. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, it’s a forum for people of all orientations to express their creative, often bizarre, taste for the arcane.

As I stated, Connie and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, so we made sure to introduce ourselves to as many different people as we could. Admittedly, we were a bit timid at first, but as the day wore on (and the beer took effect), our willingness to approach people and discuss their apparel choices became much easier.

Meet Ed!

So where do I begin?  Let’s start with the older gentleman who decided that the Renaissance Festival was the ideal locale to sport his bright new rubber boobs. When Connie and I saw him we knew we had to meet the guy. Both of us were curious about the motivation that drove this gentleman’s garment selection. Did he wake up that morning, open his closet, and discover that the only items not in the wash were a pair of big rubber boobs and his svelte Scottish cap? Did he wear the boobs to other festivals, shopping, to his job? Where does one store fake rubber boobs when not in use? Is this an item that one would place in a curio cabinet next to a grouping of Hummel figurines? Can you rent rubber boobs or is this an item that you need to invest in for long term use? We had a lot of important questions that needed answering so we engaged him and pumped him for some info. It turned out that Ed was super friendly and also super drunk. All that he could tell us about his boobs was that he “waited to break them out until late in the day for the sake of the kids at the festival.” Note- we took the picture at approximately 5pm, not sure what kids the guy was talking about? Truth be told, I witnessed several toddlers trying to breastfeed off the old guy later that afternoon. In case you’re wondering, I did give Ed’s boobs a squeeze; I heard fake boobs felt different than the real thing so I gave him a quick groping and moved along.  I thought his boobs felt fine, but his beard creeped me out.

Meet Frank!

Connie and I spoke to Frank while waiting in line to wash our hands after fondling Ed’s fake boobs. You really can’t tell by the photo but Frank has some pretty high-end vampire teeth affixed to his bicuspids. He was more than happy to tell us about them, in fact he was downright proud of the fact that he painlessly entered the realm of immortality by visiting his local dentist on a lazy Saturday afternoon. According to Frank, anyone off the street can get their vampire on for the measly cost of about $200. He further went on to explain that they were not permanent, you could easily remove them for brushing purposes. To prove his point he demonstrated how easily they popped out. He must not have seen us squeezing Ed’s fake boobs because he offered to let me hold his fake teeth. GROSS! I declined his offer and went back and washed my hands again because the thought of holding Frank’s teeth was a bit much to stomach. Frank was a good guy and he left us with this thought about the Renaissance Festival, “If it makes you happy you gotta do it, man, and this is the place to be when you’re happy.” Frank was the happiest vampire I’ve ever met. We can all learn something about life from his personal philosophy.

Meet Sally!

Sally had the most gi-normous boobs Connie and I had ever seen in real life.They were so large and unruly that Connie refused to get any closer than the photo illustrates. Sally was more in line with the Renaissance theme. Most of the women dressed in authentic era costumes were sporting large amounts of cleavage, but Sally outdid them all. Not sure what the pirate hat’s about? In all honesty, Connie and I are probably the only ones that noticed she was wearing a hat. In fact, Connie and I are probably the only Renaissance-goers that realized that Sally had a head at all.

Meet Juan!

Juan was my most favorite Renaissance participant of the day. Though the rubber suit and gas mask may have intimidated some people, I felt more than comfortable walking up and introducing myself. He was super friendly and more than happy to pose for a photo op. I guess it comes with the territory- when you go out in public dressed as a sadomasochistic superhero, people are going to be curious.He never really explained

why he was dressed as he was, but does he really need to? I think Juan is just a tad bit freaky-deaky and the Renaissance festival may have afforded him the one venue where he could openly display his eccentric nature without getting the snot stomped out of him by a group of less than tolerant bikers.

At the end of the day, Connie and I met some wonderful people.  We went there with an open, non-judgemental attitude and everyone we met was super cool. I won’t be hanging out with Frank, Ed, Juan or Sally on the weekends, but their perspectives were fresh and their insight was interesting and, really, what more can you ask for on a warm autumn day?

More about our adventure at the Maryland Renaissance Festival-

Connie and I had a great time meandering through the festival meeting strange and exciting folks, sampling the local cuisine and participating in some no-kidding renaissance activities. I think the activity that we liked the most that day was drinking beer, but we did other things as well. At one point in the day, we found a whole row of stalls set up where you could pay money to throw any number of extremely sharp objects. The goal was to get your sharp object of choice to stick into a wall that had a painted target on it. I’ve seen things of this nature before. For example, at most amusement parks you can cough up a couple of bucks to throw darts at some balloons or you can play around in the shooting gallery. Some would consider these activities dangerous, but well-established amusement parks do an excellent job of creating safety controls and regulating what you can and can’t do. For example, in most shooting gallerias, the only thing that comes out of the end of your high speed rifle is a beam of light, not to mention they are chained to the table, making it impossible to turn your beam of light onto your fellow park patrons.

News flash: The Renaissance festival doesn’t believe nor endorse “Namby-Pamby” safety regulations.  At the Renaissance festival, you better bring your gonuts because they believe in doing things the old fashioned way (i.e. someone is going to lose an eye before the sun goes down).

So, let me set the stage for the booth that we saddled up next to. We found a row of stalls, like I mentioned above. Each of these stalls had its own particular edged weapon that you could pay to throw. For example, you could throw axes, knives, ninja throwing stars, old lawn mower blades, scissors- if it could be sharpened to a razor’s edge, then you could pay to throw it. Connie was the test subject for this event and she selected throwing knives, which honestly seemed liked the most reasonable sharp object in the lot.

She paid her $2.00, was handed a gob of well-used, but really sharp throwing knives and took her place along the counter.  The goal of these booths is to make a lot of money, so Connie was shoulder to shoulder with about 10 other renaissance goers. I found it interesting that Connie was the only person not dressed in chain mail or sporting a John Deer baseball hat. She was also about half the size of the next smallest person in her group. The only similarity between Connie and the rest of her group was the beer she was using to hold down her wad of cash. It seemed everyone had a beer in one hand and a sharp object in the other. This should have sent off some internal safety alarms for me, but I was busy holding a camera in one hand and my beer in the other, so who was I to criticize?

The counter was about 12 feet from a large wooden wall which had a painted heart for each person at the counter. The heart was the intended target. When everyone had paid their fee, the stall administrator stepped cautiously behind a protective barrier (again warning sirens should have been going off) and gave these commands: Make Ready (pause), Aim (pause), Throw!

Make Ready!

Make Ready!

Throw!!!

Throw!!!

What happened next could have been considered terrifying, but thanks to the cheap beer it was more exciting and funny than anything else. The minute the group was given the command to throw they went bananas. I’ve never seen a group of people display such a flagrant disregard for their own personal safety. Each of them threw the knives so fast that you would have thought that the contest was to see how quickly you could get the knives down range.

Of all the people throwing, I saw one guy who actually made his knife stick into the wall. The rest of the group’s knives either didn’t make it the distance (12 ft) or the knives bounced pathetically off the wall. The lack of successful attempts perplexed the throwers, so they threw the knives harder and faster. Made sense to me, if at first you don’t succeed try harder, right? Now what I saw was a bunch of beer-fueled, embarrassed men hurling their razor sharp knives toward the target with all their might. Of course my wife was not in this category. Connie was not embarrassed at all, every time she came even remotely close to hitting the wall she looked over at me laughed, smiled and took another sip of her beer. I thought her technique was much more effective.

The rest of the throwers were embarrassed. These feelings were reinforced by the mob of bystanders who decided to heckle the group for their substandard knife throwing performance. Does this make sense to you? I personally make it a point not to insult well-armed intoxicated people, but obviously my train of logic was not a shared standard of behavior. By the end of the round of knife throwing, the knives were hitting the wall so hard that they actually came dangerously close to boomeranging back past the counter and into the unsuspecting crowd of drunken hecklers. No one seemed to notice.
So that’s how it ended, no one was seriously injured, but I believe that our knife throwing experience was an anomaly. At some point during the month long Renaissance celebration, I guarantee someone walked away with a sharp object embedded in some part of their body. The law of averages suggests that this would be a very safe bet. Here is my final observation regarding this outing, what moral high ground do I now possess when encouraging my boys to not participate in dangerous activities? Haven’t I just raised the mark for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior? I can only imagine my boys reading this post and using it against Connie and I when one of their hair-brained schemes is hatched:
“Dad, Cayden and I are going to parachute off the bay bridge with our superhero bed sheets, we’ll be back in time for lunch, see ya”.
Followed by:
“Come on Dad it’s not like were going to drink beer and throw razor sharp objects into a crowd of rowdy middle-aged dudes dressed up in weird costumes”.
I see trouble brewing…

Connie and I recently attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and if you have never been, I highly suggest it; we had a most excellent adventure (“Bill & Ted” shout out). I’ve always been interested in this period, but probably for all the wrong reasons. As a kid, I always associated the renaissance period with knights and swords, guillotines, the Black Plague, damsels in distress and chivalrous heroics. My adolescent perception of the period was questionable, so prior to heading to the festival I did a bit of research. I felt it important to be able to intelligently discuss the substantive topics of the period. After all, I didn’t want to look like an idiot (there is more irony in that statement than I can begin to explain).

So I pulled up the period on my computer and went directly to Wikipedia (all knowing internet deity) and submerged myself in renaissance knowledge. Here is an excerpt of what I found:

Renaissance- “As a cultural movement, it encompassed a revival of learning based on classical sources, the development of linear perspective in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform. Traditionally, this intellectual transformation has resulted in the Renaissance being viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. Although the Renaissance saw revolutions in many intellectual pursuits, as well as social and political upheaval, it is perhaps best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who inspired the term “Renaissance men”.”(Wikipedia)

That’s about as far as I got; my thirst for knowledge had been satisfied (what can I say I’m a bit shallow). I would fill in the missing pieces by interfacing with all of the Renaissance regulars, the guys who make dungeons and dragons a reality.  Besides, how difficult could it possibly be? Even I could figure out that the Renaissance was all about reading, painting and sculpting stuff. Sounded a bit boring to me, hopefully there would be at least one guillotine (fingers crossed).

Boring?  Ha, not a chance, the festival proved to be a target-rich blog environment- so much so that I’ll probably have to write about it in several installments. After all, I have much to teach you about what really went down during the Renaissance.  So sit back, fill your “Holy Grail” with the honorable Mr. Rossi and enjoy. I only hope to do this brave band of Renaissance warriors justice with my simple narrative.

Connie and I were in such a rush to get away from the boys for an afternoon that we neglected to eat prior to leaving the house.  In fact, we were in such a rush to escape that Connie neglected to come to a complete stop when we pushed the kids and babysitter from our minivan. “Tuck and roll kids! Love you! Be good.”  Needless to say, by the time we got there we were famished (that’s a fancy word for hungry- it’s how Renaissance people talk) so off we went to find some authentic era cuisine.  The Renaissance took place largely in France and when you think of France two things should come to mind, rude people and fine dining. Our hopes were high that we would enjoy an extraordinary dining experience. We were not disappointed.
 
From what I observed at the festival, evidence suggests that people of the 16th Century subsisted largely on food that could be placed on a stick and dunked into a vat of boiling hot vegetable oil. Apparently nothing in the King’s vending machine was exempt from this preparation method (e.g. Snickers, Twinkies, Oreos); you name it, they deep fried it. Connie and I learned a lot about the unusual dining habits of the period from an extremely helpful gentlemen who appeared to know all there is to know about morphing unhealthy food into artery clogging morsels of death. As we spoke with him, I was awestruck by his ability to toss back fried Oreos like a 6-year old boy mowing down Flintstone chewables. On top of that, he was an encyclopedia of fried food information. He knew the correct temperature of a properly prepared fried Snickers, he could list every Little Debbie snack ever made (in alphabetical order), and he was personally responsible for the advent of the fried ”Slim Jim”; the guy was ahead of his time. We learned much from our new friend such as the Renaissance was the birthplace of the Pork Rind (see photo) which, come to find out, is the forefather of the modern day Funion.  I like France a whole lot more now that I know they gave the world the gift of Funions. I wonder if they invented Cheetos as well?
The only thing I found more endearing than the shameless act of deep frying an Oreo was the amount of effort and intelligence it must have taken to fasten cheesecake to a stick. 
But alas, that was not the only nontraditional skewered food item.  While Michelangelo may have created ”David”, his fellow artisans busied themselves with designing such Renaissance marvels as “Macaroni and Cheese on a stick”, “Steak on a Stake”, “Chicken on a Lance” and “Beef Stew on a skewer”.  Obviously forks were a post-renaissance luxury which probably made their first appearance during the industrial revolution. As my pictures suggest, Connie and I did follow the “while in Rome” approach to our Renaissance experience. I did in fact eat a fried Oreo and am happy to report the ensuing cardiac arrest that I experienced was mild and the damage I incurred is reversible with the help of a pace maker. Furthermore, doctors believe the 11 pounds I gained in 6 seconds can be worked off if I employ a personal trainer and do no less than 3 hours of strict cardio per day. Well worth the pain if you ask me.
As if all this fried goodness wasn’t enough, they had adult refreshment stands as far as the eye could see. Renaissance folks did not drink fine French wine, oh no, they washed down their daily bread (or daily breaded, deep fried food item) with frosty mugs of ale. The novice Renaissance goers drank from plastic keg cups, but if you were a sword carrying, chain mail sporting regular you most likely owned your very own beer chalice. This was an extremely classy touch (it’s all in attention to detail). I must admit I was a tad bit jealous of the 50 year old dude in drag who came to the party with his own custom cup, righteous. The best part of the whole thing was the beer was cheaper than the bottled water. Go figure, how authentic is that? Connie and I were able to rationalize our amount of beer consumption on that premise alone, but that is a story for another evening….