Monday, September 26, 2005

Jousting: The Monster Truck Rallies of the Middle Ages

Medieval Trivia:
Q: Why is beer so expensive at Renaissance Fairs?
A: To prevent you from getting drunk enough to punch out the “actors”.

That’s my favorite Renaissance Fair joke. I made it up all by myself.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend. It started Friday with a viewing of the Corpse Bride (See it! See it now!).

Saturday was a 22-mile trail ride out at Potowatomi. I was a little nervous about how my training for Iceman was coming, but after Saturday’s ride, I’m not worried. I will need to keep up with the training right until the race, obviously, but I walked away from Saturday’s ride feeling so good that I’m pretty confidant that Team Angry Monkey will show up solid to represent at the Iceman.

As for Sunday, if you haven’t figured it out by the beginning of the post, we went to the Michigan Renaissance Festival on Sunday. I don’t go out of my way to go to these things for several reasons, but I seem to make it here about every other year, for other multiple reasons. This year it was free tickets (Thanks, Mike and Erika!).

Now, I realize that I am a cynical bastard, and that leads to my bit of disdain for these things. But I have a bit of historical context as well: in college, I was a theater major for a bit. Most of my “colleagues” at the time worked these things all summer, and then spent the rest of the time either telling everyone they worked them, and that counted as a paid acting gig, or quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a bad English accent. Add to that the fact that I had a roommate who sold swords and armor at these fairs and you’ll realize that I’ve had my fill of these things.

My wife’s criticism of these festivals is a semantic one; she has a degree in art, and her beef is that they need to be called medieval fests or some such, because they have very little to do with the Renaissance. That angers her a bit.

Now that I have said that bit, I have to add that there are things I do love about these fairs, things I actually get excited about. These include the food (most notably the giant turkey legs), the shopping, the entertainment, and the people watching.

As far as people watching goes, these fairs bring out a large contingency of white trash, geeks, and Hot Topic punks; there are even more people who blur the lines between each of those groups. It’s like the crowd at Hamtramck Festival, but carrying swords and wearing corsets that are way too small.

This year we also had the benefit of attending with my friend’s seven-year-old daughter. There’s nothing like bringing a child to something like this to knock that cynical chip off your shoulder. She seemed pretty amazed by a lot of the stuff we saw and did, and she spent a half hour watching the glassblower, until we dragged her off to see the joust.

I love the joust; even though it’s all scripted and comically camped out, there is so much excitement in the air watching these guys charge each other on horseback. The crowd is cheering, the horses are thundering across the field, and you know that even those these guys are old hats at this thing, nothing is entirely safe when horses and pointy sticks are involved.

I believe that my friend’s daughter is more of an intellectual than I am, or maybe it’s her manifesting feminine sensibilities. Either way, this kid, who was sucked in by watching a guy make a bottle for a half hour, became visibly bored with just a few minutes of the warfare. Ah well, to each his own. Maybe she was so enraptured because he had a blowtorch, too. That I can relate to.

So to sum up, regardless of what I say to make fun of the fair as a phenomenon, I had a great day. And I owe some of that to that little girl that reminded me that sometimes the best way to appreciate something is to pretend that you're seeing it for the first time.

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