The Ren Faire and me: wrap-up

(This post is the last of a series of ruminations on why I’m leaving the New York Ren Faire after 14 seasons.)

You’ve gotten this far. You’ve read about the problems. Let’s talk about solutions.

I’ve discussed the issues I had with working at the Ren Faire. What might I have done?

One answer is the one I picked: Leave the hassle behind.

I mentioned another answer before: Find someone with whom I could share the venue. This would have eased the physical burdens, given me time during the day to get out of the booth, even allowed me to "take the day off" on Wiccan holidays and the like.

I looked for someone, but in vain. In retrospect, this is easy to understand: To do what I did at the Ren Faire, you have to be a Rennie at heart, to share the fantasy and be willing to live a piece of that dream, and pay the costs in both money and time. There are plenty of Rennies out there, but most of them have found their place at the Faire already.

In the final year, I met the mother of one of the drink-stand wenches. Two weeks before the Faire was to start, she walked by my booth while her daughter was setting up. We chatted, she helped me clean the booth, she expressed an interest in learning to become a reader. I offered her the job, but she had family and student obligations.

I only mention this to show how desparate I was to find someone. I was even willing to consider passing strangers!

Another solution: As I said in my last essay, the booth marked the transition in my Ren-Faire experience. So why not give up the booth? Sally offered me a chance to go back to working for her.

Maybe one day I’ll take her up on her offer. But not now. There are two reasons, and both are connected with my ego:

– After being a booth owner at the Faire, it would be a blow to go back to being a employee again. It’s definitely a lowering of status.

– Even if I were to consider Sally’s offer, I wouldn’t accept it before 2011. Her husband advised me not to come back to the Faire in 2010: I’d walk to up the site of my old booth and see what had been done to it; no matter what the change, I’d feel bad. He’s quite right.

So I won’t return to the Faire, even as a patron, before the summer of 2011. That’s only a year and half from now as I write this. Will I go back then? I don’t know.

The Ren Faire employs a professional photographer to take pictures and film the acts. For the past two years, he’s been kind enough to give DVDs of the performances to the vendors who don’t have a chance to see the Faire.

The first time I watched those DVDs, after the 2008 season, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. It was twenty years ago. I was a burgeoning Rennie, living in a world in which the plot of the Queen’s progress and Robin Hood’s adventures actually mattered, when you could not predict the outcome of the Living Chess Game. It was still possible to lose myself in the Faire… provided I didn’t have any responsibilities, and gave myself a chance to see it.

I’ve made my list of reasons why I felt I had to leave the Faire: the social network was gone, it had become a strain to do readings, I was ignoring my Craft obligations, the booth became too much to handle.

I tried to make a list of the opposite: Why I should stay working at the Faire. I could come up with only one reason: What the hell else am I going to do in the summer?

I don’t know. I’ll find out this summer. Perhaps all I’ll do is play World of Warcraft. Or perhaps I’ll finally go to some of the festivals I’ve missed, or get a chance to exercise on weekends, or organize an outdoor weekend with my Wiccan group.

Whatever it is, it’s got to be better than feeling my legs cramp up as I sit in that booth for hours on end.

I started out this series of essays with some negative images from working at the Faire. I want to end with positive images and opportunities that never would have happened if I hadn’t walked through the gates of the New York Renaissance Faire in 1988:

– Listening to waves lap up against in a pier in Nyack, snuggling together.

– A kiss in the chessboard, her face flooded with moonlight.

– The drum circles on Mystics Way. We started them in order to attract attention to the place, but they acquired a life of their own. You can see a video here. You may notice that we handed out musical instruments to the patrons so they could join in. In the video, Maria and Chris are being polite; when I did it, I’d show them how to play, then thrust the instrument in their hands. Don’t give them a choice about having fun!

– Reading the palms of identical twins. They didn’t look anything alike. (Their palms, that is…)

The road trip.

– For four years in a row, I did readings for a woman with terminal cancer. Finally, she asked the question I’d dreaded: she put her palm before me and asked how long she had left. I told her what her palm said; no, I did not charge her for it. The last I heard, my prediction was wrong. Thank the Goddess!

– A pentacle a year. Well, they weren’t actually made on a regular schedule, and the Hermes glass is not really a pentacle, but that’s more-or-less how it worked out.

– The sight of my first hummingbird.

– A comet, and my first view of the Andromeda Galaxy, in the skies over the Forest of Fear.

– Also from the Forest of Fear: Morticia and Gomez are really cool people when you get to know them.

– A magnificent double rainbow, after a thunderstorm that closed the Faire early.

– Plants grown from seeds I’d planted, flowering long after the store-bought plants had stopped.

– A laugh, when I needed one very badly.

– The little things that got hundreds of strangers to smile.

Anon to thee, and fair ye well my good friends! And shoulds’t thou see me, neglect not to smile and wave, for a parade doth pass thee by!

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  1. wgseligman

    Sep-2012: An observation.

    In 2010, I wouldn’t have been able to work at the Faire due to a foot injury. Since I wasn’t working at the Faire, I could be fully present to deal with the passing of Isaac Bonewits.

    In 2012, I wouldn’t have been able to work at the Faire due to my medical drama.

    In retrospect, I left at just the right time. It hurt then, and to some extent it still hurts now. But it would have just grown harder if I stayed.

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