by Wm. Steven Humphrey
ACT I, SCENE i: 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... its 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... Foorsooth! 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 ii: Examining the Cut of My Gib
It wasn't difficult for Blogtown readers to choose a suitable "Worst. Night. Ever." event—where the Mercury staff picks three events they know will annoy the shit out of me, followed by Blogtown choosing the worst one for me to attend—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, AND DID I HAPPEN TO MENTION I WAS INSTRUCTED TO DRESS UP LIKE A "FLAMBOYANT WIZARD"?
Read the gruesome details after the jump.
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. OH! And 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 step out of the car, check my reflection in the window, and mutter, "Wow. Look at the asshole in the wizard costume."
This was going to be terrible—primarily because the people visiting the faire would logically come to the conclusion 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 I was 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'! But mayhap i shall find them again within one of yonder renaissance faire boothes! One possibly named, 'Ye Merry Olde Lotions and Trinkets.'"
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. Flagons. Crude paintings of wolves howling. Flogging sticks. Hand crafted bows and arrows. Hand crafted pick axes. Hand carved 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 woodburned 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 on site, 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 I: 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 ONE THOUSAND 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 a thousand 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 ii: 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 of the term, he was "humorously indecent or raunchy"—because he referred to his penis and/or his 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 iii: 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? Crepes 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. $9, 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 i: In the Company of Wizards
All in all, people at the 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: A balloon artist named "Professor Laffmoor."
For somebody named "Professor Laffmore" 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 i), 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 bare-legged pedophile who may or may not be wearing underpants underneath that gown... so I took off.
ACT III, SCENE ii: 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 Pan—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??