Now jester minute here! Did I really slay that? Last Sunday we visited the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, a festival glorifying the middle ages. I may or may not be a Renaissance man, but I’m definitely in my middle-ages, especially if I live to be 120, so I felt right at home. The theme is a curious melange, one-third medieval Europe, one-third fantasy, one-third Dungeons and Dragons, one-third Robin Hood, and one-third inability to understand fractions. For a reasonably-priced all-inclusive admission ticket you can stay entertained by shows and performances for the entire day, but the folks who attend are the real show.
Last Sunday was “Pirate Weekend,” so I was fully prepared with some pirate jokes in case I had to create a distraction if someone tried to shiver my timber. A priest, a rabbi, a pirate and a parrot walk into a bar. I can’t remember what happened next, but my guess is neither can they. How did parrots get involved in the privateering game in the first place? Probably somebody with a Southern accent tried to say “pirate” and it came out “parrot,” and before you knew it there was one on every ship, repeating everything the captain said. “Avast, ye mateys, get down and SWAB the decks!” “YOU swab the decks.” “Who said that?” “YOU said that!” “Now cut that out!” “Go sit on a sea urchin!” By this time the crew is snickering down to the sternpost and the parrot has assumed command of the ship.
We went over to Roselawn Field, where the Joust was ready to begin- it’s one of the highlights of the festival. Attended by an entire court of characters, and after much fanfare, the two principals face each other on horseback. There is some Anglo-Saxon trash talking, the contestants making disparaging remarks about each other and the horse they rode in on, the horses making some snide comments about each other and the knights who rode in on them. On command, they spur their mounts and raise their wooden lances to try and knock a wooden shield off of their opponent’s chest at a full gallop. It’s a test of skill and daring that I can fully appreciate, because every time I’ve ever been on a horse it’s been hard enough to get it to go, and once gone harder still to get it to stop.
We hung out at the Fortune Stage for a few songs with the Jackdaws, a trio in period costume singing Irish medieval-flavored songs. “Here’s a song about killing the English!” The lead singer cheerfully explained. Through mob incitement he got us all to agree that we would like to kill the English. I personally have nothing against the English, but I don’t like the way they spell “tyre” or “centre,” so I guess I could go along with it. If they’re talking about the English language, no one is killing it faster than Trump and his tweets. If I look at the writings of Trump for more than 20 seconds I start to feel as if I wasted a whole year by attending the fifth grade.
If you have a special skill you might be able to make some extra cash at the Renaissance Faire. Do you know how to play the autoharp? If it’s truly an autoharp it ought to be able to play itself. You know how to work a catapult? There’s plenty of time to learn for next year. I know the perfect cat you can pult into enemy territory, and believe me, for the one hour out of twenty-four that this cat is awake, it can do plenty of damage to their furniture. Can you swallow swords? If you can, as god is my witness, you’ll never go hungry again at the Renaissance Faire. Even little kids are armed to the teeth. Can you falcon? The practice was popular in medieval Europe as a means to control the rodent population. The falconer flies the falcon, who I’m assuming is the falconee. I’m not sure how the rest of us fit into the equation.
If you don’t know what to wear, just take out a deck of playing cards or a chess set and try to copy the wardrobe. You can buy everything you need right here. If your hourglass figure seems to be running out of time, a figure-flattering bodice can re-distribute the wealth better than a panel of Democrats at a House subcommittee meeting. Have you ever heard of anyone selling Elf Ears? Well you would have heard of it if you had elf ears. You can pick up a paire at the Faire. We browsed around the craft shops on Penny Lane. “Would you like chain mail?” One proprietor asked. No thank you, I have enough of that in my in-box, and I’ve been putting off not replying to it so I don’t get two weeks of bad luck. Do you need an extra skull? Buy a thinner one here if you can’t get anything though your thick one.
All flavors of the rainbow are represented at the Renaissance Faire. Whether you’re a swashbuckler or a swish-buckler, whether you’re a cis-wench or a trans-wench, you can find a home here. If you’re legendary, military, super-scary, really hairy or a day-to-day fairy, nobody will judge you too harshly. Even if you are a heterosexual male you can meet a lovely damsel here, if you don’t mind that she has horns coming out of her head. For the Faire is like a Halloween party that goes on for six weekends. You get the feeling that many of the people here are just barely existing for the 44 weeks leading up to it, because they look like they’ve been living a secret fantasy life for years.
Alas, the knight was getting long, it was hot and I knew we had a long walk back to the car. I couldn’t remember where the car was, but I had taken the precaution of leaving a trail of ice cubes from my soft drink to guide us back to the parking lot, and I was just looking for the first one. Hey, the same kind of thing worked for Hansel and Gretel, and they found their way back to the cottage AND came up with a couple new recipes on the same day.
Join Rick and Trillium for some love and harmony, Sunday morning, Oct. 6, 9 a.m. for the Annual Ovarian and Breast Cancer Support-A-Walk at FDR Park in Yorktown.
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