Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Renaissance Faire

Posted by Gerald on November 18, 2007

I’m enjoying a quiet day at home today and have been feeling a bit nostalgic.

Yesterday I went with two other teachers to take members of the History Club to the NC Renaissance Faire.  My newly hired colleague at the college started the club this year.  I had never really though there would be much interest in such a thing at the college.  To an extent I was right.  All of the members are actually enrolled in the Early College, so they are high school kids.  Thus this had less the air of an expedition with college students and more the air of a field trip – permission slips, parental contacts, etc…  One of the instructors from the Early College joined my colleague and myself for the trip to the site near Kannapolis.  We also had the mother of one of the students.  She is also an art teacher.

I went to the faire several years ago with some friends.  It is bigger now, but still basically the same – jugglers, belly-dancers, strolling entertainers, jousting, roasted turkey legs, jarring anachronisms for those with eyes to see…  The kids seem to have had fun.  They immediately split into two groups – mostly along gender lines – and took off which left the four adults to fend for ourselves.  It was a mostly relaxing and fun day.  We chatted as we strolled around, looked at the overpriced goods, and even bought a few.  I got my usual souvenir – a coffee mug.  It is a really nice glazed pottery mug but was not worth the $17 I paid for it, save as a marker for the day.  My colleague rode an elephant.  I watched a very cool presentation by a group that works with raptors.  We gathered everybody for the last big joust of the day – a highly choreographed morality play in which virtue triumphed over evil.  Then we came back.  It was very pleasant and a bit exhausting.

I’ve been pretty busy during the last couple of weeks.  Despite that, I’ve found a bit of time to watch some DVDs I bought of a TV series that ran here, on Showtime I believe, for a couple of seasons in the 1980s called “Robin of Sherwood.”  It was a sort of dark and mystical version of the Robin Hood stories with a lot of misty camera work and haunting music by Clannad for a score.

These two things really account for my nostalgia today.  From about 1982 to 1989 I was heavily involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism – a kind of medieval historical re-enactment groups.  The SCA does lots of things and has people in it who are very committed to historicity, but unlike Civil War or Revolutionary War reenactors there was always a heavy sort of fantasy-literature element to the whole thing (two of the founding members of the SCA were noted fantasy authors – Poul Anderson and Katherine Kurtz).  Life at the SCA events I spent my college years going to was not that dissimilar from a Renaissance Faire – but without an audience.  Going to the faire was like a flashback to those days in my life.  Everyone I knew in the SCA in the early 80s watched that “Robin of Sherwood” series and so many of them listened to Clannad that I cannot hear that music without remembering that time in my life.

I remember myself at that time as being a big awkward kid.  I had been pretty isolated through my high school years.  I went to school, I worked, and I spent my weekends alone reading science fiction and fantasy books.  The first thing to really bring me out of that shell was playing Dungeons and Dragons my senior year, but that ended with graduation.  Then I started at our local community college – where I now teach.  My high school friends had scattered and I was alone again.  Then I read an article in Smithsonian about the SCA.  I searched out the local group and there it began.  I found people who were like me.

I remember my first event – watching the fighting (in which I would later participate), attending the feast, watching a royal court – I felt swept up in the romance of it.  As years passed, the romance faded.  I grew up.  I saw petty factionalism and all the other things you will find in any given club.  Some people were serious about trying to learn something – skills or gaining an insight into history – but lot of it was silliness, and not always the good kind.  So, eventually, I drifted away from all that.  I got involved in things like Amnesty International.  Still, I wouldn’t give that time up for anything.  I made friends who are still with me today and I found people who were willing to help a painfully shy 18-year-old kid find a way out of his shell.  I tried going to an event a few years ago.  I saw some old friends.  I watched the fighting.  I attended the feast.  I watched the court.  The romance was gone, and I missed it.  I miss the kid who was moved by such things.  I do still find him at times – especially during movies – but I don’t see him as much as I used to.

That was what I was remembering as I watched those DVDs this week.  That was what I was remembering as I walked around the Renaissance Faire.  Obviously, that is what I am reflecting upon today.

It has been nice.  I think I’ll watch another episode of “Robin” before I get back to grading.

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One Response to “Renaissance Faire”

  1. Steve said

    Two observations:
    1. For some reason (even though we talked about this this afternoon), when I got to the bit about being swept up by the romance, I thought of my experiences with strip clubs. Bear with me. There’s something very titilating (yeah, yeah) about the prospect of going to a strip club. It’s the experience of the taboo– or rather, it’s the sanitized (well…) version of the taboo (close enough without actually becoming besotted). But every man has felt it: The rush, exhilariation, at the prospect of seeing naked flesh. Despite everything else, this is primal romance. And so, there we are, shelling out the big bucks, to get a glimpse, to see what’s behind the door. And there’s a rush to it– because, afterall, it’s naked chicks… But it’s all a lie. The whole thing is an elaborate set up, layers upon layers of conditions. In the end, the situation is completely and utterly inauthentic. Every time I’ve been to a strip club (we won’t count…), I’ve had the same reaction: After all the smoke and mirrors, it’s just a cheap carny trick. Granted, I always fall for it, but…
    2. So how do I save this connection? Here you are, happy (if not a bit sad) in the aftermath of nostalgia and I’m talking strip clubs! I think it all cycles back to our on-going conversation: authenticity. As great lovers of life and the human condition, we ever search for authentic experiences. This, of course, stems from… a point at which we experienced the authentic. You can’t get to authentic without passing go. And so, we find bits of the authentic even in the most inauthentic experience. Sense-memory is the key. Even if it only lasts for a moment…

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