Friday, January 17, 2014

Tips for First Time Ren Faire Goers

*This is based on my opinion, which is based on my experience. Your experience may have been different. Positive suggestions for additions are welcome.*

I went to my first Renaissance Faire in 2002, and have been going 4-16 weekends a year ever since. I've been a patron, a guildie, a boothie, a circuit act, and I've worked behind the scenes on staff. While I am by no means an expert, I am both seasoned enough that I have a good idea of how Faires work, and yet removed enough to understand how to translate "Rennie" to "Normal People."

Because of this, I get asked a lot for tips for "Ren Faire Virgins" or more simply, people who have never been to a Renaissance Faire. And so, thinking perhaps I could a) help people I don't know and b) save myself some time typing it here, I present:

Tips for First Time Ren Faire Goers

1) Don't Dress Up
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, and in fact it goes against what a lot of other sites and similar articles say. Hear me out.

As a Faire worker, we're often directed to give our best show to people not in costume. Why? Because people who dressed up have already drunk the Kool-Aid. They are invested and ready to be a part of the show. People who aren't in costume are new. They need to be shown the wonder that is Renaissance Faire so they keep coming back.

Also, every Faire has its own culture when it comes to costumes. Some are more historical, others tend towards Fantasy, while still more look like Tortuga from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. If it's your first time going to a new Faire, its often more fun to go in street clothes and buy something fun that you like there. Plus, you'll be supporting local small business owners, which makes you awesome.

2) You WILL Be Outside in the Hot Sun
Many people seem very unprepared for this. Don't be one of them. Wear Sunscreen. Bring a Hat and Sunglasses. Bring a Parasol if you have one. BRING WATER! Pretty much every Faire will let you bring in water, and most will also let you bring in snacks or food, especially if you have special dietary requirements. Remember to listen to your body, and go sit down if you feel tired or very hot. The stage shows are fun and free!

3) Bring Cash
Many vendors accept credit cards, however I have never seen a Food Vendor or Ale Stand that did. There are usually mobile ATMs, but they charge as much as $5 per transaction. Plus, a lot of vendors will drop the tax or give you a discount if you pay them cash. Don't bring more than you can afford to spend, but for a first-time couple, I recommend at least $100.

4) Ask Questions
Most of the people who do Renaissance Faire do so because they love creating a part of history. Ask the woman at the spinning wheel about her yarn. Ask the glassblower about his sculptures. Ask the Food Vendor what's in his meat pies. Renaissance Faire is one of the biggest collections of Historians and Artisans in the world. You'd be amazed what you can learn.

5) Have a Beer
If you're able to, have something from the Ale Stand (they often serve Cider and Wine, too). Again, Renaissance Faire is often home to specially crafted microbrews that you can't get anywhere else. Don't overdo it, though, especially on your first day. I recommend drinking one glass of water after each alcoholic beverage. 

6) Prices are High
One of the most common comments I get from newbies is shock at how expensive many of the items for sale are. Remember that much of what you see is handmade, quite often by the people selling it. In addition to covering the costs of materials, which are often locally sourced and high quality, they also have to pay for the labor to create it, the packaging, and most Faires charge a booth fee AND a percentage of sales to each merchant that attends. The food you see is typically prepared from scratch on site, often made to order. If you're really questioning a price, ask the merchant about the item, you might find out something amazing about it.

7) Wear Comfortable Shoes
I can't tell you how many unfortunate ladies I've seen proudly prancing in their platforms at 10am who are miserable and ready to go home by 2pm. There are rocks, there is dirt, there is grass, and there's often hills and uneven terrain. Don't be a hero. Wear comfy shoes.

8) Some of the Shows are Not Kid-Friendly
If you have kids with you, be warned that some of the shows are on the naughty side. If you're unsure whether a show is safe for your kids, most performers will be happy to tell you if you ask them. If your kids are particularly sensitive or have special needs, it might be a good idea to take an adults-only trip first to see if it's something they can handle.

9) Be Aware
There are jousters, parades, mounted riders, jugglers, fire-eaters, musicians and hundreds of other performers that can injure you or can become seriously injured by a collision. Get out of the way of parades and keep clear of stages and performance areas.

10) It's An Interactive Show
Many participants will try to include you in their games, their shows, or their "lives" at the Faire. You are free to play along, but you are also free to politely decline, and you are ALWAYS free to set boundaries. We want you to have fun and play, not be embarrassed and uncomfortable.

And now for the bad news....

First Time "Don'ts"...

-Don't touch anyone anywhere unless you're invited to.
There's a lot of cleavage and a lot of sexual innuendo, but we are not Sex Workers and you may not treat us as such.

-Don't touch anyone's weapons without being invited. Many of the weapons are museum quality replicas, and still more are functional tools that are well oiled, sharp, and dangerous. This should also be expanded to include instruments, tools, and animals.

-Don't let your kids wander off. At least not on your first visit. We will protect wandering kids as best we can, but there are lots of ways for them to get injured if they're left unattended.


But the biggest and most important piece of advice I can give a first-time Faire-Goer: Have Fun. For those of us who have been doing Faire a while, this is our playground, and we can't wait to share it with you.



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On Falling In Love - My Wedding Toast

Well, Scruffy and I got married last Saturday. We decided to spend about 5 minutes during the toasts thanking our guests for coming, so we split the time evenly (as California Law dictactes) and each wrote about 2.5 minutes of material. Scruffy, being his kind and generous self, wrote a long list of thank yous and heartfelt thoughts, and I being myself, wrote a treatise on the nature of love.

I've been asked if I will publish this. I'm starting here, and we'll see if anything else comes of it.

"It’s a strange and dangerous business, falling in love. It’s one of the few adventures that happens both completely separate and yet totally entwined. There you are, in your life, with your family, your friends, your home, and your plans. Your heart, walled up in its own safe haven. Maybe you’re happy, maybe you’re not, but you’re you, and you’re there, contained within yourself.

Then, all of a sudden, because it’s always sudden, you meet someone. A smile. A conversation. A sweet gesture. And the walls around your heart begin to crack. And if you’re both very lucky, their walls are cracking too.

And so you go along with your daily life, seeing that someone more and more, watching your defenses crumble, wondering what’s on the other side. At some point you stop caring that your carefully built walls are falling to dust. Even later, you start helping, because you’re tired of being safe at the cost of not knowing what’s on the other side.

And then, if you’re both very lucky, the walls give way, and you see that someone, your someone, who quietly owns your heart, standing in the rubble of their own shattered castle. You realize that the thing on the other side was them all along. Your hearts have always shared a wall, because that’s how you two were designed.

Slowly, wonderfully, everything changes while kind of staying the same. Plans become Our Plans, home becomes Our Home. Your friends and my friends, Our Friends. And then, if you’re both very lucky, your family and my family, become Our Family.

It’s a strange and dangerous business, falling in love. There are fantastic failures and terrifying triumphs. And there are moments when it can’t possibly ever, ever work. But if you’re both very lucky, sometimes it does.

As I look around the room today, I think back on our own journey, the story that couldn’t have a happy ending but did. And I look at the people who love us, Our Friends, and Our Family, there is one thing I know without question: we have both been very lucky."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Passing Thoughts

My grandmother is in her last days, and I fear I've begun the grieving process already. She recently moved closer to my mother and I, after having been 1500 miles away for the past 20 years, and I find that what I most regret is those 20 years.

Because of the distance, and budget, I haven't really been around her much. When I learned that she would be moving down here, I got very excited, as to me, it meant a chance to bond with this woman whom I have always loved but never known well.

Sadly, this was not to be. About a week after she moved here, she entered the hospital with pneumonia, and it seems she will not be returning to her home.

I'm angry, I'm heartbroken, I feel guilty, and I'm a t total loss for what to say to her, or how to help my mom.

But beyond my feelings, which while justified and important are not particularly helpful, I have come to know something about myself.

You see, two days before I learned that my grandmother would be leaving us soon, I also learned that in 60 days, I would no longer have a job. Massive lay-offs. And I blinked, took a deep breath, and started updating my resume. That was it. No tears, no panic, not even anger, just acceptance and action.

Five days after the news about my Gram, and I'm a bigger basket case today than I was on day one. Stay with me here, because this isn't about my feelings.

The most important thing in my life is the people in it. This message has finally been driven home in such a way that it is absolutely unmistakable. No job, no salary, no dream, nothing is more important than my family and chosen family.

I'm not sure what this means for my job search, but I know that nothing is going to get me out of Southern California and away from my parents and close friends.

I do know that many of my friends and family will probably have to endure a lot of clinginess in the coming months, as I try to make sure they know exactly how much they mean to me.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

In Defense of Ben Affleck

None of the intellectual properties discussed below are mine, I have no ownership, claim or sponsorship and retain no rights beyond my own commentary.

"The Internet" exploded yesterday when Warner Brothers announced that the co-star of the next Superman/Man of Steel franchise would be none other than Wing Wearin', Argo-Directin', Lesbian Lovin' Ben Affleck. Hashtags like #betterthanbenaffleck and #benaffleck are still top trending this morning, and with good reason.

Batman and Superman have 75 years of portrayal behind them. Even with the top grossing film not made by James Cameron of all time coming out last summer, many would be pressed to tell you who Black Widow and Hawkeye are, however every kid who's ever seen a television knows what black ears and a cape, or blue tights and red briefs mean. Everyone loves Batman and Superman, and every fan, geek, nerd, and cosplayer has a very specific and meaningful (to them) opinion about their story and franchise. As someone who has at one time been all of the above, I fall into this category myself.

But here's the thing guys, and I want you to hear me out on this: We. Don't Get. A Vote.

Remember when this guy:
Got cast to be this guy:

And won the freaking Oscar?

Do you also remember when this happened?

For those not motivated to click, that link shows a fairly comprehensive collage of (pun intended) everyone loosing their minds. People HATED the idea that the pretty-boy star of Knight's Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Brokeback Mountain would be touching their precious fandom and ruining The Joker. One blogger suggests "Johnny Deep," which, Porn Industry - if this hasn't happened yet, take note.  Point being, Heath Ledger shocked the world with how incredible his performance was. Honestly, there are days when I'm still pissed for hours that he died and can't make more movies.

But Claire, you say. Heath Ledger was a good actor. I mean, c'mon, Ben Affleck was DareDevil!!! Have you SEEN Surviving Christmas?

He loves that people remember this, by the way.

Yes. And Tom Hanks starred in Splash, James Earl Jones narrated Judge Dredd, and Robert DeNiro's work before the first Godfather movie was... well, it wasn't the The Godfather. Do you think any of those actors should have been limited by their early work?

Seriously. Look at the big climactic scene from splash, and tell me you can see him losing it over a volleyball 16 years later.


what's mermaid for "your hair's in my face?"

Moreover, anyone who thinks Ben Affleck isn't good actor has clearly never seen Chasing Amy, a fantastic film written and directed by Kevin Smith (and if you haven't seen it, go. Go now. Stop reading this blog, and go see that movie, because oh my god what are you doing with your life?). The film is also a good argument for Joey Laure Adams, Jason Lee - basically everyone in the film because Kevin Smith is amazing.

And since we're talking about amazing directors, let me point out that the man himself, Joss Whedon has endorsed Affleck as Batman, as has Kevin Smith. There are not bigger geeks in this world than those two, I checked. If they can get behind him, maybe give him a chance why not?

Incidentally, if anyone who reads this happens to know either or both of them, they should totally work together on something because it would make all the money ever. Just... all of it.

But there's a deeper issue here, one as old as reboots and franchise resets themselves, and that is the rabid, viral nature of fan ownership. Those of us who have followed a story or character for years, in some cases our whole lives, well, we're a little entitled. We feel like since we have such a personal stake in these characters that the franchise owners owe us, and are obligated to make us happy.

And now comes the part where I make the really unpopular point I've been heading towards: They're not.

So while I'm at it, let me say a few more unpopular things:

1) They're not making Firefly again, stop asking.
2) Man of Steel, judged on it's own merits, was quite good.
3) George Lucas has every right to do whatever he wants with his own intellectual property, and if you don't like it, don't buy it.



For anyone still with me, let me repeat that filmmakers, writers, and content creators are IN NO WAY obligated to make you happy. Tell me this: did you watch every episode of Buffy because you were laughing the whole time? Are you eagerly awaiting this year's Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special because you can't wait to see how the Tenth Doctor's Happy Ending is treating him? Did you see Revenge of the Sith because Attack of the Clones was such a stellar and fantastic film?

"Around the Survivors a perimeter create"? Come on.

But Claire, you say (again). These are good franchises! Their writers are amazing! Except Star Wars, but c'mon, it's freaking Star Wars!

Yeah, and this is freaking Batman vs. mofoin' SUPERMAN!!! And rumor has it they will be following this storyline, wherein hate on Affleck will be well deserved, but not because he's Ben Affleck. Actually, in a way, the casting was brilliant, because you're (spoiler alert) kinda supposed to hate him, at least if they follow the story above.

Maybe I will be proved wrong, and in 2015, I'll be writing about how much I hated this choice. But in the meantime, I'm going to wait, accept that this decision isn't about me, and well, just kinda move on with my life. Because seriously, new Doctor this Christmas. EPIC!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Say Yes to the... wait, what?

I have begun and abandoned several entries about Wedding Dress shopping, mostly because they started getting very preachy, and that's not what I want to do here.

Suffice it today, I went shopping at two different places, and my experiences were very different. The first place I went to was a large national chain, like Shmavids Cridal or Blalfred Blangelo. Only real, and not ridiculous. My mom and I made an appointment about a month in advance, and showed up early, with an iPad and a Pinterest Account full of dress ideas, all pinned directly from their website.

We had to wait about 20 minutes for a consultant, who ended up being the person who greeted us in the first place. She asked me about the dress I pictured. I mentioned that I had gone through their website and pinned every dress I liked in their collection. She glanced at what I had, asked me more questions, and took off to find my dress.

A couple of caveats that should be mentioned:1) I'm a costumer, and a picky one.
2) I'm a big gal (I range betwee 12 and 16, depending on how much I work at it)
3) I'm a people pleaser

When our consultant came back, she carried three dresses, none of which were on the pinboard I had showed her. Remember the part where I said I'm picky? Well that goes double for my wedding dress. Even when I was single, I always researched wedding dresses. Because of reasons. Important not-at-all girly reasons.

Long story short, I hated every dress she brought me, and eventually settled on maybe liking one that I kind of didn't like at all. I told her I'd think about and we left. After thinking about it some more, my mom and I decided it was not a good experience overall. We felt rushed, they asked my mom to move several times while I was dressing, and the fact that we had to wait 20 minutes when we had made an appointment was frustrating.

Contrast to the place I ended up buying my dress: Jinny's Bridalin Huntington Beach.
I am not in the employ of or being compensated by Jinny's Bridal or any of its affiliates
First, if you weren't absolutely certain there was a bridal shop in the stripmall down and across the street from Bella Terra, you'd probably miss it. And from the outside, it's not quite as glamorous looking as some of the salons I've seen in Pasadena and Los Angeles, or even Downtown Fullerton. However. I arrived, and was immediately greeted by a friendly associate. Every person in the store made it their business to assist me however they could.

My consultant was an adorbable recent High School grad who was practically dwarfed by the dresses she carried, but she was helpful and thorough, and showed no signs of irritation when I asked to try two dresses on a second time.

My mom found my dress, and I'm kind of mad about it. I had this picture in my head of the dress I wanted to wear, and my mom picked something completely the opposite. Wanting to make her happy (people pleaser!), I tried it on. And I cried. This dress was so beautiful, and I felt beautiful in it. We both turned a little paler when we looked at the price tag, but we gulped and put down a deposit. I was so happy and pleased that this piece was done.

---

About a month later, I got a call. It was Jinny herself, the owner of the store. My dress had been discontinued. I was heartbroken. Not just because I had loved that dress so intensely, but also because darnit, I thought I was done! She offered to help me find a similar dress, and I told her I understood, having worked at a Bridal Salon years previous.

After I hung up, I cried. I called my mom. I called Scruffy. I thought some more. I called Jinny back. Would she sell me the floor model at a discount? Why yes, yes she would, I just needed to come back and make sure it fits.

I went back with most of my girls this time. We put me in the dress, we tried on veils and tiaras and all manner of things. And at the end, we got a $1300 wedding dress for about $800, and the store will split alterations with us. I was elated, not only to be done, but to have such a beautiful dress, at a great price, and to purchase it from such an awesome store.

The moral of the story (for me): 1) Shop Local
2) Try the weird dress your mom picks out
3) Be Flexible. Stuff happens with Weddings, sometimes you gotta roll with it.

So there you have it, my first in-depth planning entry. How'd I do?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Glorious Purpose

I have been filled with purpose lately. I'm not sure if it's because I've finally settled into my new routine, or because I'm bored.

Don't get me wrong, my job is awesome. But much of it has ceased to be challenging. I've been here almost six months, and while I will always be learning how to be better any anything I do, I've gotten pretty darn good at processing loans for {REDACTED} Bank.

I'm itching to create. To write. To stretch.  And the weirdest thing is this comes on the heels of some stressful changes. Scruffy just got laid off, and Scruffy Jr. and the Scruffette are leaving next Monday to spend the summer with their mom.

Still, rather than being depressed, I'm filled with this anxious desire to create, as though my brain is a hot fire that will burn up if I don't make something.

It's kind of exciting, actually. While it might not necessarily indicate that I'm more emotionally stable, it's certainly more productive than the last time I was nervous and anxious, where I elected to do exactly nothing.

The problem isn't lack of creativity or even really lack of time. It's a Blue Sky issue: I'm staring at a blank page with no restrictions on what to make and the options are endless. And of course, to choose one project is to deny others...

For now. 

I think that's the thing I need to remember when I'm in this particular place at all times. To fully execute one project is not to deny every completing another one.  It's just to say, "this is the thing I am doing now," not "and this is all I will ever do."

Huh.  I guess my friend Mai has a point with this whole writing meditation thing.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Un-Single

Being engaged is a weird place to be sometimes.

I am decidedly not married. I slipped and referred to Scruffy as my Husband and got an well-intended earful. I can't file taxes as married. I have no legal say in anything Scruffy does, and no rights to his property. And while we are *planning* to make a life-long commitment to each other, it has not yet been made.

It's weird, when you're looking for someone, dating someone, or committed to someone, you think of getting engaged as having a certain finality. Not so, I am discovering from many a married friend. I've gotten lots of Free Advice over the past months about what it's like to be married, what I should do at the wedding, and of course, horror stories about marriages and engagements gone wrong. But the upshot is that being engaged and being married are very different.

No, I am not married. Not until I walk down the aisle and say, "I do."  Presumably Scruffy will say the same. Otherwise I'ma look really dumb.

But I'm also decidedly not single. This was driven home at a wedding I attended recently. When the bride went to throw the bouquet, I caught myself starting to shuffle to the clump of single women. I realized I had already achieved the "goal" of that little exercise: I was engaged to be married. It was an odd feeling, sitting with my married friends, watching a ritual of which I was no longer a part, not really being a part of either group.

But the weirdest thing for me is day-to-day stuff. Saying, "my fiance," which sounds pretentious to me, but saying anything else is inaccurate. Realizing Girls Night will now actually mean a night out with the girls, instead of an attempt to find a man. Coming home to kids that are not legally my step kids, and certainly not my genetic issue*, but still look to me for guidance and tutelage.

There's good stuff, too. Planning the wedding with my Mom has been an excuse for us to talk on the phone every day, and its brought us so much closer. Planning things with Scruffy is awesome too, because every time we think about it, we get happy. And stressed. But mostly happy.

This is a transitional period, and I suppose its meant to be. It's just weird sometimes.



*I use this term here it's archaic sense, meaning "to issue forth". They aren't issues. They're adorable.