Editor's Note: As a newspaper that majors in entertainment, we're happy to wade through a mountain of press releases in order to curate a weekly list of the most fun local events for you to attend. (See My, What a Busy Week!.) HOWEVER. What happens to the events that don't dovetail with our personal interests? Don't they deserve a shot at publication, too? That's how our annual Blogtown summer series Worst. Night. Ever! was born. Each week an editorial staff member is presented with three event possibilities that don't match their personalities or interests... like... AT ALL. Then Blogtown readers pick one of the three events (via an online poll) that our unlucky staffer must attend, and afterward, write about.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Everyone's taste is different, right? So while Erik Henriksen might enjoy nothing more than a sensual night of interactive erotic puppetry/slam poetry, Denis C. Theriault might hate it! In other words, one person's "Worst. Night. Ever!" could easily be another person's "Best." Also, the writer in question must stay at their assigned event for at least two hours (or until the event is over, whichever comes first). They are not allowed to get drunk, or use any substances (drugs) or distractions (phone/reading material) that may dull the pain they experience.
What follows are just two of this summer's Worst. Night. Ever! experiences... read them all in their hilarious entirety (including Ned Lannamann's visit to a laughing yoga class, Erik's journey on a Mormon singles' cruise, Alison Hallett trying to fit in with teenagers at the Warped Tour, and more) at portlandmercury.com/worst-night-ever.
EDITOR WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY'S WORST. NIGHT. EVER!: THE CANTERBURY RENAISSANCE FAIRE (where he was forced to attend dressed as a "flamboyant wizard"—tee hee)
WORSETH NIGHT: A TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS
ACT I, SCENE ONE: A Renaissance Faire in Silverton, Oregon
Enter a blacksmith and a flamboyant wizard.
BLACKSMITH: Good morrow to you, sir.
WIZARD: What? ...Oh, yeah. Umm... "and I bid thee the same, gentle sir?"
BLACKSMITH: Is this thy first visit to our fine faire?
WIZARD: Yeaahhh... I mean, "in truth, verily."
BLACKSMITH: And, magical wizard... what thinkest thou thus far?
WIZARD: Well... ummm... it's kind of... challenging.
BLACKSMITH: "Challenging," you say?
WIZARD: More "confusing" than "challenging," actually.
BLACKSMITH: (pause) What?
WIZARD: Don't get me wrong. It's got entertainment value... but frankly I just don't understand why anyone would do this.
BLACKSMITH: (pause) What?
WIZARD: I mean... why the English renaissance? Right? It's like the worst renaissance. There were a bunch of renaissances all over Europe. Yet all England produced was, like, Shakespeare and Marlowe. Now the Italian renaissance? That was a kick-ass renaissance. You had your da Vinci, your Michelangelo, your Galileo... I mean, c'mon! Even Poland had a better renaissance! At least they had Copernicus! So Shakespeare wrote some plays... big whoop. Copernicus figured out the earth revolved around the sun! Now that's a big freaking deal!
(The Blacksmith stares long and hard at the Wizard.)
WIZARD: But... I hear you guys have jousting? Soooo... that's cool. Right?
(The Blacksmith stares long and hard at the Wizard.)
WIZARD: Ahem. Okay, well... umm... Forsooth! Enough dallying. Hie away with me thither, your worship!
(The Wizard scuttles off in fear, bumping into and nearly upending a table of handmade scented skull candles.)
ACT I, SCENE TWO: Examining the Cut of My Gib
It wasn't difficult for Blogtown readers to choose a suitable Worst. Night. Ever! event, because they all know I violently despise the following things: fantasy fiction (especially that Hobbit crap), the Beatles (they're overrated and British), and "theater folk" (egotistical shitheads). The Canterbury Renaissance Faire contains variations of all these things, and so off I went on the one-hour drive to Silverton, Oregon, to spend a beautiful afternoon having my psyche jabbed with metaphorical needles. OH, WHILE DRESSED UP LIKE A "FLAMBOYANT WIZARD."
I have to admit my flamboyant wizard costume was pretty boss. My polyester electric blue cloak perfectly matched my pointy wizard hat (embossed with moons and stars), which in turn went nicely with my shockingly pale legs and Nike sneakers. Even my $2.99 polyester wizard beard looked pretty freaking great—though if torturing me was the sole purpose of this exercise, you could've just assigned me the job of spending an entire afternoon picking stray hairs out of my mouth. BTW, at the last minute I remembered I didn't have a wizard staff, so I stopped by Goodwill—and the only thing I could find was a sparkly pink star wand embossed with real feathers. Flamboyance achieved!
The faire was held in a wooded area of a farm deep in the boonies of Oregon—seriously, there was not a Jamba Juice for, like, 20 miles—and my poor low-riding car had to bounce across 200 yards of pothole-laden field just to reach the parking area. I stepped out of the car, checked my reflection in the window, and muttered, "Wow. Look at the asshole in the wizard costume."
This was going to be terrible—primarily because the people visiting the faire would logically conclude I was EMPLOYED BY the faire, and expect me to talk all Elizabethan-like. Luckily I'd studied a bunch of that hack Shakespeare in college... but I still needed a backstory. Here's what I decided to say, if asked: "Good morrow, fair maiden! Forsooth, I am known as Gryffindore the Wizard! Magical powers? Alas, I have none... for they were stolen! By an evil enchantress by the name of... of... 'Karen'?"
Now I didn't know this, but renaissance faires are basically just Elizabethan-styled "Malls of America." So if you're down with paying $14 to walk around a mall inside the woods that doesn't even have a Hot Topic or Hot Dog on a Stick—then maybe a renaissance faire is for you. Roughly 45 booths are crammed into a three-acre forest, each selling a very particular thing no one in their right mind should ever own. Handmade rings made out of colored wire. Incense. Crocheted chainmail. Fingerless gloves. Crude paintings of wolves howling. Flogging sticks. Hand-crafted pick-axes. Wizarding staffs with crystal balls glued to the top. Leather bodices. Leather collars. Leather armor. Leather pants. Glue-on elf ears. And enough swords to outfit an army of skirt-wearing Bravehearts.
HOWEVER! There was one item that caught my eye, and every hour of every day since I've left, I've been kicking myself for not buying it: BEHOLD! A wood-burned portrait of Star Trek: Next Generation's Data meeting C-3PO.
Are you kidding me??? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? This is the most amazing piece of art EVARRRRR!! Though I was originally put off by the $40 asking price, my ass is bruised from kicking myself over not buying it. IT'S SO WORTH IT.
Anyway, that alone makes this the Worst. Night. Ever! But get this—despite the jillions of trinket junk booths, there were only three tiny entertainment stages, and a single jousting field. And before you say, "WHAT?? JOUSTING IS THE BEST THING EVARRRR!!"—it's kind of NOT. Jousting is just the sort of bullshit thing people did before the internet came along and made everybody say, "Jesus. Why were we wasting all that time jousting?"
ACT II, SCENE ONE: On the Jousting Field
For jousting newbies, here are the basics: Two knights ride on horseback and try to stab each other with long sticks. Like most professional sports, I DON'T GET IT. However, the gathering crowd was super excited to see this, and jousting is the single biggest attraction at these types of faires. Unfortunately this part of the event consisted of 40 minutes of deathly uninteresting pre-show: long laborious introduction of knights, how to correctly cheer for knights, knights insulting each other, knights throwing javelins at hay bales, knights trying to catch small rings on the ends of their lances—which, by the way, is a metaphor for STICKING THEIR PENIS INTO A VAGINA IN CASE YOU MISSED THAT AND IF YOU DID, DON'T WORRY THE ANNOUNCER WILL RAM THAT POINT HOME LIKE 1,000 TIMES. Then they pick three kids out of the audience to compete in a dance contest to the tune of the surf song "Wipeout" and JESUS CHRIST CAN WE JUST GET TO THE KNIGHTS STABBING EACH OTHER ALREADY??
Admittedly the first joust was kind of cool—especially when one of the lances struck the opposing knight's shield and shattered into 1,000 splinters, and Sir Dorkalot found himself on his royal ass. But after that, if you've seen one joust, you've seen them all, and the only thing saving the performance was a fairly impressive axe fight where the Black Knight beat the ever-loving shit out of the Green Knight with a flaming mace. (That's the metal ball with spikes, which is attached to a chain on a stick. I might buy one of those for the office!)
ACT II, SCENE TWO: The Bawdy Juggler
As you know, I suffer from low blood sugar—if I don't have food inside my mouth at a certain time, woe be unto the world. And while LBS was starting to rear its ugly head, I certainly didn't want to miss a performance by someone called, "The Bawdy Juggler." And while I can say with certainty this person is definitely a "juggler"—he and I have an extreme difference of opinion on what constitutes "bawdy." I suppose in the strictest definition, he was "humorously indecent or raunchy"—because he referred to his penis and/or testicles at least three times per minute. However he also spent much of his performance groping and sticking his hand down the shirt of his perhaps 19-year-old volunteer assistant from the audience (who gamely played along, but was outwardly seething). Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's not "bawdy"... that's sexual harassment that's a tiptoe away from assault. Where's a knight in shining armor when you need one? (Oh, there's one right over there eating a gyro.)
ACT II, SCENE THREE: The Royal Food Court
My LBS at a fever pitch, I dashed over to the "Royal Food Court," where I intended to eat the shit out of some historically accurate Elizabethan food, and... WHAAAAAAA?
Yes, excuse me? Crêpes and gyros weren't invented until the turn of the 20th century—so I'm calling a "pox" on this bullshit! However, they did have deep-fried turkey legs (which I'm given to understand was a favorite dish of Sir Christopher Hatton, Queen Elizabeth's lord chancellor). Here's a conversation I had at the turkey leg booth:
TURKEY LEG KNAVE: Ah, how may I serve thee, Blue Wizard?
WIZARD: I'll have your finest deep-fried turkey leg.
TURKEY LEG KNAVE: "BLUE WIZARD NEEDS FOOD BADLY!"
WIZARD: I'm sorry... what?
TURKEY LEG KNAVE: "BLUE WIZARD NEEDS FOOD BADLY!"
WIZARD: I... yes... a turkey leg? What?
TURKEY LEG KNAVE: You know... the "Blue Wizard?" On a quest to collect 13 runestones? Restoring order to Sumner Castle? Friend to the Yellow Valkyrie? FORGET IT. IT'S NOT FUNNY WHEN YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT. Nine dollars, please.
I still don't have the fucking slightest idea what that nerd was talking about. Here's a picture of me standing beside the port-o-potties eating a turkey leg.
ACT III, SCENE ONE: In the Company of Wizards
All in all, people at the Canterbury Renaissance Faire were pretty nice. Though I did get a lot of weird stares for being almost the only wizard there. The only other one I spotted was this guy: balloon artist named "Professor Laffmoore."
For somebody named "Professor Laffmoore" he seemed really sad. Maybe he hasn't gotten tenure yet? Hey, that's a funny joke. Here's another one I told: When one of the booth operators saw me taking pics with my iPhone he asked, "What is that magical device you have there, wizard?" To which I responded, "It's my 'Thy' Phone."
BOOM!! I killed with that joke.
And while I might not have been a hit with certain faire employees who disliked my views on rankings of certain European renaissances (see ACT I, SCENE ONE), the kids at the faire loved me! Or at least I think they did. They kept staring and waving, and asking "May I have a wand?" (I later learned there was a different wizard handing out wands to kids, so I felt like the biggest carpetbagger asshole ever for not bringing enough wands to share—but how was I supposed to know??) Before I left, I ended up giving my only wand—the pink sparkly one with feathers—to a little girl whose face lit up like a Christmas tree. Her father, on the other hand, looked at me like I was a barelegged pedophile who may or may not be wearing underpants underneath that gown... so I took off.
ACT III, SCENE TWO: The Journey Home
Obviously I'm predisposed not to like things like renaissance faires, so surprise! I didn't like this one. Was it a Worst. Night. Ever!? No, but it was akin to being tied down and having lemon juice drip into your eye for an hour. So, pretty bad. You might like it, though! The kids there were having a hoot, there were tons of gals with their breasts pushed up to their chins, and guys dressed up like leather Peter Pans—and they seemed to be having fun, too. I still think Italian renaissance would be a much better subject for a faire... and just think, maybe in 200 years people will be attending the "Internet Renaissance Faire"—and they'll think it's the most awesome thing ever.
Because it was actually kind of comfortable, I kept my wizard hat on for the ride home, and after driving over the insanely bumpy field and finding my way back to I-5 pointed toward Portland, I noticed people were starting to stare. "Probably never seen a wizard before!" I laughed to myself. Suddenly a guy drove by yelling, "HEY WIZARD! YOUR BUMPER IS FALLING OFF YOUR CAR!!" I quickly pulled over and... yep. That goddamn bumpy renaissance field had knocked my bumper loose, and to fix it will cost around $300.
Nice renaissance, Shakespeare! So maybe after writing your next play, HOW ABOUT FIXING YOUR GODDAMN ROADS??
NEWS EDITOR DENIS THERIAULT'S WORST. NIGHT. EVER!: KINK NIGHT
Editor's Note: Denis was instructed by Blogtown readers to attend a "Kink Night Foam Party" with a "Unicorn" theme (which meant he also had to wear a horn on his forehead). However, Denis went the extra mile by also subjecting himself to the onsite "BDSM Dungeon"... and here's what happened.
A Physical Inventory
This was the state of my body early Sunday morning. It's just one way to describe the experience.
• Red marks on my back, where the flog kept taking "love bites." They flared brightly for a few days but never actually hurt.
• Tender ass cheeks, smacked HARD with a paddle. Happily, they didn't complain when I got on a bike the next day for Sunday Parkways.
• An angry right nipple. It still twinges every time my T-shirt scrapes over it. Both nipples were clamped for a while, but the right one chafes the most after repeatedly taking abuse from a handheld electric prod.
• Teensy red dots on my chest and belly, charting the incessant meanderings, like some strange atlas, of an electrified wheel. The itching, as the marks healed, kept me awake at night.
I also learned some things.
I have stamina enough to endure at least modest physical abuse. It really hurts when someone strikes you repeatedly in the same place. I don't like the smell of burning hair or electricity. The absence of pain is a profound and wondrous thing. I don't think I'm wired to enjoy BDSM play in the way that its devotees are, even though I RESPECT the shit out of anyone who does.
The roped-off "dungeon" at the back of the Bossanova was never not in use. Couples were encouraged to try out the equipment, and several did. Two rope-suspension performers lingered at a device resembling a padded picnic bench. It was meant for a long, comfortable session of paddling and the lurid display of someone's bent-over haunches.
But the main attraction, for the more curious attendees, was the choice of two experts trained in the art of BDSM, one male, one female. I signed a waiver and was presented with a menu and some basic rules (because we were in a bar, for example, terrifying things like cock-and-ball torture and wax play simply wouldn't be allowed). And then I waited to be walked over to whoever was free first.
The woman was busy adding more clothespins to the nipples of a reveler who was simultaneously wrapped in a lover's embrace, so it fell to the man. The intake volunteer told me not to feel weird about it, because this wasn't about sex. I agreed, and when my name was called, I stepped toward his massage table completely unsure about what to expect.
He gave me his name but made me promise, after I told him I'd be writing this for the paper, not to print it. We agreed he would be known just as the Angel, in light of his white shirt and britches, furry white wings, and high-standing mohawk. He showed me his array of implements—canes, flogs, paddles, the electric prod—and I struggled to articulate what I wanted because I really didn't know. Maybe a spanking? That seemed tame enough.
"Can I touch you?" he asked, deftly executing the principle of obvious consent.
"Yes," I replied. "And thank you for asking."
He took his fingertips and raked them intently down my chest. He did the same thing with a flog. We talked about how his implements are really just extensions of his hands and how he applies them the same way he'd use his hands. The goal, he then explained, is to take something from his heart, send it through his arm and into his subject's body—and maybe even into their heart, too. I nodded back and said "ah," not quite sure what an appropriate reply might be.
Then he had me take my shirt off and lie down on his massage table. He promised a light smorgasbord and the first course, I found out, was electricity.
It's Hard to Keep Smiling
The Angel put a grounding plate in the waistband of my shorts and turned on his prod. At first, the electricity ran through his fingers. If you can imagine a static electricity shock, that's exactly what it felt like. But over and over again. I writhed almost as much as from the ticklishness of it all as from the tiny little jolts. The absurdity had me smiling, except for when I winced. Which was quite often, especially when he started focusing on my right nipple, the one closest to him.
Once in a while, he'd run his fingers down my belly. Even more occasionally, he'd slap my chest.
He paused after a few minutes and told me he'd been watching my face to monitor how I reacted and that I could always tell him to stop if something hurt too much—but that I also seemed to be enduring things reasonably well.
So of course, he stepped things up. He opened a medical kit full of scalpels and pokers. Or, as he put it, "my tools." He inherited them from his mother, he said. She was a biologist who did some of the first research on AIDS. I was moved.
That is, until he hooked a cutting wheel to his electrical prod and started running it up and down my flesh. And then all I wanted was for it to stop. It was sharp and electroshocky. I could smell burning hair. And even that wasn't the worst. When he put the wheel away, he ran the prod directly over my chest—blue electricity arcing between my skin and the tip of the thing. That was also when he put clamps my nipples, connected by a chain that he later tugged at mercilessly when it was time to take the thing off.
The Back End of Things
The Angel decided it was time for the rest of my treatment, and he rolled me over but let me keep on my shorts. He placed a paddle in his right hand and gave me a big ol' swat on my left ass cheek. He alternated cheeks for a bit, but it didn't matter. Both stung like hell pretty soon, and each fresh whack—he was not gentle—turned the flames up even higher.
He used his hand, too, switching off so I could feel the difference. It turns out both hurt. Surprise!
Before all this, I worried a bit about how awkward it might be if I got... aroused. Because you hear stories! Some people really like it! I didn't have to worry. A few seconds in, and the only feeling I wanted was the feeling of not having a piece of lacquered hardwood crashing into my aggrieved glutes.
Finally he relented and got out his flog. The first swipe made me laugh. The second one had me sharply sucking in air. Flogging, I now understand, hurts way worse than spanking. The back isn't nearly as tough as the ass, and the straps cut. A few minutes of that—wondering why he had to keep hitting the same wounded places, even if that's the whole point—and I calmly indicated that I'd had the experience I'd signed up to have. My safe word turned out to be a safe phrase, stuttered and gasped out somewhat embarrassingly: "I think I'm, uh... maxed out."
He sat me up. He put a hand on my chest and made me wait a few seconds in silence before getting up. I said thanks and got my things.
I wasn't sure if he'd been harder or easier on me because it was my first time. I saw him a while later flogging the shit out of some woman whom he'd stood up against the wall. I had my answer. He cut me a lot of slack.
I left a little after 4 am. I drove through a Jack in the Box and ate furiously in the car. The seatbelt hurt my nipples. When I got home, I fell into bed, exhausted.
And then guess what? At 9 am, my kids woke me up. They didn't care I was up all night at a kink fest. They wanted pancakes. And they wanted 'em now. And I realized, in my sleep-deprived blear, something rather profound: The spatula was an extension of my hand. I smacked those pancakes pretty good, too.
Read all of our Worst. Night. Ever! adventures here.