Sunday, August 24, 2003
Somebody light the corners of my mind
Or, Between Pennsic and Autumn Rose

This weekend was my at-home interval between Pennsic and Autumn Rose. You might think I'm a little nuts to go to Pennsic every year when my local group does a Labor Day weekend event. It doesn't leave a lot of time to recover between the two. But I don't think I'd want to do without either.

Yesterday we gathered at Giles' apartment building to do prep work for Autumn Rose. Sarra and assorted others made 400 little almond cardamon cookies, plus several hundred brown-sugar shortcake bars (YUM), and several people prepared fabric squares and ribbon pieces to wrap the dessert items in. The idea is that by the end of feast, most of the time, the revelers are too full to even think about dessert--especially if it's "period food", the derogatory term some people use for anything that doesn't resemble something on the dessert menu at Perkins.

Sarra has forestalled that problem by individually wrapping the dessert items into bundles (insulating the cookies inside baggies, of course) so each person gets a bundle and they can eat it then, later, or take it home. I think it's a brilliant idea. Only problem is, no leftovers the next morning. But I think that's part of the point...!

In the evening Sarra took the orange rinds that volunteers had prepared in the afternoon, and boiled them to soften them, then cooked them in sugar water until it reduced itself to thick syrup and the rinds had thoroughly absorbed the sugar. Then we removed the rinds from the syrup and rolled them in powdered sugar. End result: Giles' kitchen is covered alternately with orange syrup and powdered sugar. More importantly, Sarra has two gallon ziploc bags of candied orange peels. I am so impressed, even more so because they're so delicious. I need to look into whether other fruits were candied in period (orange isn't my favorite).

After going to bed late-ish last night, and knowing the heat index today would be above 100 degrees, I decided not to march in the Ettrick Fun Days parade today with other Shire members. Instead, I slept in, did some reading, did some laundry, cut out the gown I'm making for the Autumn Rose raffle (we'll see if I actually get it done by next Saturday...), went to China Buffet for dinner, and came back to start the gown. It's a whole lot of straight seams, so hopefully it won't take too long. If it isn't hemmed by Saturday I'm sure the winner won't mind my hanging onto it in order to hem it, especially if I offer to hem it to their measurements.

I haven't really talked too much about Pennsic this year, I realize. For some reason, specific stories about Pennsic haven't really stuck in my mind this year. So I'll give the kind of report I usually give about events: what I bought, where I performed, memorable bardic circles.

Not too much shopping this year--not for any lack of merchants, just a lack of enthusiasm on my part. I did get a bunch of pewter pins and such at Billy and Charlie's, which is the place on the corner of the little merchant's building by the food court. At Carolina Calicoes I found a mysterious 4-yard length of gorgeous sanded fabric in a dark chocolaty taupe; it looks like linen but feels like silk. On inquiring, I was told that they don't carry silk-linen blends so it must just be washed linen. I bought it on a whim. I have no idea what I'll do with it. Maybe just admire it for awhile. It's possibly the most gorgeous fabric I've ever owned.

I also picked up some stuff for friends, then got a copy of Jacqui Carey's Samurai Undressed at an interesting little shop carrying supplies for bobbin lace and embroidery. There seems to be more in the way of kumihimo going on at Pennsic these days, with several beginners' classes, books on sale at various merchants, and even one loom-maker's booth where you could order a marudai. (Master Garraed's lady, Gwendion, who I met up with last Pennsic when we spotted each other doing kumihimo at one of the Bardic Symposia, has her own marudai now, and was using it while she was at war. Unfortunately I didn't find this out until Saturday night when a bunch of bardic folk piled into their pavilion to escape the rain, and I didn't really feel right about trying out her marudai while still wet all over. How'd I get so wet? I sat in a puddle in the back of Ivhon's truck. Don't ask.)

I took two classes: one in the history of the Gypsies, which told me little I didn't already know but did give me shelter during one of the downpours on Sunday before War Week, and one on medieval music theory. That last gave me some concepts I haven't encountered before in any detail, such as hexachord theory and the Guidonian hand--things I don't need to understand to make music in the SCA, but I'd like to. Unfortunately I think I'd need more than an hour to really understand it.

Remember me? I'm the kid who never really understood the relationships between the keys during piano lessons. Where other people can look at a splatter of sharp or flat signs at the beginning of a staff and say, "Oh yes, that's in E", I am hopeless at this. F major has a B flat; that's all I can remember. I do everything by intervals; for singing and psaltery-ing medieval music, it works pretty well for me to think modally, but of course everything in modern notation expects you to decipher key signatures and understand where the accidentals are without being told. Thank goodness for my music writing program, where I can enter the music the way it looks on the page and then click on 'play' and it gives me what I really understand: the musical tones for my ear to absorb.

As always, the bardic activities at Pennsic are really primo. There is talk for weeks on the bardic listservs about where & when the big circles will be. As usual, the traditional "welcome" bardic circle was Sunday night at the Barony Marche of the Debatable Lands encampment; this is the local group on whose land Pennsic is held, which we fondly refer to as BMDL (as in, "BMDL--you're soaking in it", the current joke at about that time). We tried to have bardic stuff in the Northshield encampment just about every night from 7-9 or so; this went by the wayside later on in the week, when various kingdom courts and special events cut into this time period. But we definitely did better than last year at hosting bardic stuff in Northshield, overall. People felt like they could congregate under the Pavilion and, if there wasn't any singing going on right then, there was probably someone nearby who knew where the bards were going that night.

Among many good bardic experiences, the Midlands circle on Tuesday night was particularly interesting. Cerian, Avery and Arriene were the main "local bards" there; Dahrien, Mateo, and I were the visitors. I did "Three Words" to the accompaniment of half-a-dozen excellent drummers, but I also learned that the Midlands folk are excellent audience members but don't really get the sing-a-long concept yet. (Play-a-long, they're fine with. But anyone singing is doomed to a solo.) Mateo did some great stuff. He had just finished a romantic song he wrote for his Lady, Rosa, when she showed up along with a bunch of their rapier friends (it was Goldschlager night, and they were all a little squiffy). She went around to hug him, they sang a song together, and then he got up and said, "I wasn't going to do this here...and I don't have a ring...but..." and proceeded to get down on one knee and propose to her! It was a lovely moment.

The Northshield party (as usual) rather eclipsed the big bardic circle which is supposed to take place at the same time. One of these years we'll have to work out an alternative night for our big bardic circle. Anyway, Leif and Astrid, our current Prince and Princess, endeared themselves to me forever by insisting on some bardic performances at the party itself, in the pavilion. Alexander de Seton debuted his "Farewell to the Northshield" song, three Viking ladies said they thought they might possibly know a song that someone had told them was from the Northshield (and then they launched into a gorgeous rendition of "My Mother's Savage Daughter"), a rather odd Baroness from Trimaris sang "Vivat the Dream", and Owen got up on a bench (with strong men holding down the ends; those benches are tippy--witness a bruise I still have on my shin) to do Row, Men, Row, including the new verse for L&A, which made both of them cry. (I helped with this verse Wednesday morning!)

I told Astrid the next morning that I had never seen Northshield and guests singing all together like that, not just bards around the circle or one performer entertaining during Court, but everyone singing together. "And it happened because you wanted it," I said. She laughed. "Yes, and what I want, I get!" I replied, utterly serious, "What you want seems to be good for the Northshield." I think that's what makes her a great Princess. That and the endless enthusiasm.

The Thursday afternoon bardic exhibition was very nice, as usual. There were a few relatively new bards who really perked up everyone with their talent. I gave away three rings. I had caught a cold Wednesday, but picked out a couple of pieces that weren't that hard on my voice: "Polorum Regina" and "Home Away from Home (the N19 song)". I even performed the former with simple chordal accompaniment on my new plucked psaltery, and I think I sounded good.

As I finished "Polorum Regina", it occurred to me that that was the first time I had performed with an instrument, except the tambourine, since that ill-starred piano recital nearly 20 years ago. That was the one where I froze in the middle of the performance, did four or five vaguely convincing chords in the right key, got up, and ran out of the room. That ended my piano career after a scant two years of lessons. But I may have found another instrument I can learn to play--or at least the right venue in which to play it.

The Friday night Apprentices' Bardic Circle (which became known as the Anti-Bardic-Laurels circle after people showed confusion over who exactly could or could not attend), was a lot of fun. Several bardic Laurels showed up in creative costumes. Owen fooled me for an entire half hour, sitting demurely off to the side of the circle in a toga and long dark wig (and this after I had bragged to the Known World on one of the bardic listservs that I might be fooled by Hector or Garraed in drag, but never by Owen!). Marian of Heatherdale wore late period men's garb and stayed in persona as "Guillaume" for the entire evening, even after most people had gone home and 6 or 8 of us were sitting around talking and helping Ivhon evaluate the circle's success. We all thought it had gone well. Aside from a couple of practitioners of the "long slow story, told in a drawl" school of the bardic arts, the talent of the attendees was continually in evidence, and the enthusiasm level was high.

I've come to the end of what I wanted to set down before I forget it. (Not a moment too soon; this entry is starting to rival my longest ever.) I'm sure more stories will come to mind, and I'll try to put them down here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Home away from home
Or, Broad and grassy, just a little sassy

I'm back. And I'm not too disoriented. I had many wonderful moments and only a few awful ones. I discovered that I do not melt in rain and that my tent is watertight in normal downpours. People loved my N-19 song and I can finally do Three Words reliably from memory. (That only took a year and a half. Hmph.) I'm going to sleep now (7 am meeting tomorrow morning) but will post more soon. At the very least I want to post a list of a few magic moments.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Countdown two days
Or, Wagons roll to war

Heave ho, and away we go... I'm leaving Friday night for Pennsic and I think I may actually be close to being ready. It was the right thing to do, to start preparing weeks ago. The Rubbermaids are full, the food and supply shopping is done, the laundry is finished, the sewing projects completed (except for the two I need to have done by Autumn Rose...well, I've got two weeks when I get home, right?), the garb collected (I'm going to need to buy a chemise at some point while I'm there, but those aren't very expensive), the car cleaned and serviced, the audiocassettes selected, and the apartment...well, quite frankly, my apartment is torn to pieces. It looks like I've been robbed, except the TV is still there...! I've never been one of those people who needs to come back from a vacation to a clean house. Lucky thing too.

Some of the sewing projects: Now that I have finished my very own griffin tabard to wear at Pennsic, I must say, I feel like I've accomplished something this week besides just packing. Oh, and my friends will be pleased--I tightened up the buttonholes on my purple cotehardie, so it won't be always in the process of becoming unbuttoned!

I just updated my Books Page with a review of yet another historical-novel-set-in-Portugal-in-SCA-period (I can't get enough of those, and this one was pretty good), plus my current reading, which is currently four days overdue from the LaXPL and on its way back tomorrow evening. In exchange, I have an MFK Fischer book on Provence on hold for me. That'll be my leisure reading during the trip.

If I don't write again before I leave, don't worry about me. The vortex that is Pennsic will have hold of me for awhile. I will be fine. I will!

Monday, August 04, 2003
Will you be my friend?
Or, Never could resist a new toy

If you have an account on Friendster, and you want to be my Friend, send me an invite at my regular e-mail address (jfriedmn AT If you're reading this, you're probably already my friend with a lower-case F, but Friendster allows you to become my Friend. Which means that when people go to my Friendster page, they see that you are my Friend. When people go to your Friendster page, they see that I am your Friend. What good does this do either of us, or the world at large? Not much. But I have several friends who are into it and dragged me in. Now they are my Friends. Woohoo.

It's not a cult, I swear to you. It's also not as much fun as LiveJournal, and there are ad links on each page, but it's still sort of cool to be able to put together a virtual community of friends.


That was all I had to say tonight. I need to go clear stuff out of my car so it can be serviced/cleaned tomorrow, but I waited long enough that now it's dark, so I don't want to do it in the parking lot in the dark, where I left my car. So, I will go pull it into the garage-that's-slightly-too-small-for-the-car, and see if I can keep from bruising myself trying to get around the doors and bumpers as I clean.

Sunday, August 03, 2003
Countdown six days
Or, How do you drive around Chicago again?

I have this growing sheaf of paper consisting of printouts of e-mail messages, in which various acquaintances try to outline things one needs to know in order NOT to get stuck in traffic in/around Chicago in the summer. I'm serious, it's up to about 15 pages, all messages posted to various SCA listservs I'm on. One even outlines the meaning of all those cryptic names they give to the various routes (Edens, Tri-State, Dan Ryan, Kennedy, etc.). I am going to three-hole-punch them and put them in a handy binder to keep in the front seat with me. Not that any of it will help in the middle of 80 mph bumper-to-bumper traffic. I expect to get confused and lost and frustrated, and possibly delayed by a matter of hours, around Chicago next Saturday on the way to Pennsic.

Ah, well, I said I was going to do this trip alone, and that's what I'm going to do. I think it'll be good for me in the end.

I day-tripped to Poor Man's Pennsic yesterday, and had a very nice event. I ran into a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time, met some of the new Falcon's Keep people, dropped off all the items I had agreed to transport to people there, and had some very good conversations. It drizzled on-and-off, but not hard enough to get anyone seriously wet. Colleen got to show off her new blue hood to a whole new set of people, and she even got a poem written about her (thanks Will!). After a nice Northshield Choir rehearsal down by the stream, I got to sing with the Jararvellir Music Guild, which has some great new repertoire including things I have never gotten to sing before, but have recordings of, like "Mille Regretz" and "Todo Los Bienes".

Went with a large group of people into Marshfield for dinner at Cafe China, then for the first time ever, I missed part of Court because we were so leisurely in our return. That's not at all like me...! But I'm not going to beat myself up. Just hope Sarra wasn't counting on me for a complete Court report!

After Court I hung around for a bit hoping to form a bardic circle; it took an hour or so to coalesce, but finally it did. About ten people hung out in the A&S tent for a few hours singing and telling stories. It was mostly funny stuff, which I must admit was a nice change from the normal mix--not that Northshield songs are depressing, quite the contrary, but sometimes it's nice to go in another direction.

I probably needed to leave earlier; it was maybe 11:15 by the time I got on the road back to La Crosse. I got quite a bit sleepier than I think I should have, at various points. But I did make it back okay, and was in bed by 2.

Today is not going anywhere near as well. I woke up at 5:30, 7, 7:30, 8:30, 9:15, and finally got out of bed at 9:49 grumbling, "Close enough". It wasn't from any noise, having to pee, etc., just from being unable to sleep. My suspicion is that some medication I'm taking is disrupting my sleep patterns. In fact, since I have never had the slightest problem sleeping, the problems started the day I started taking it and haven't let up since, I'm pretty certain that's the problem.

When I got out of bed, I had a screaming headache and my throat sort of hurt. The headache is from allergies (I always have a reaction to the Poor Man's site) and the throat is from singing too much and too high yesterday. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. I am NOT getting sick the week before Pennsic. I'm just not.

I had something to eat, took a shower, listened to the radio for awhile, got back into bed to read, and promptly fell asleep for another three hours. There went my afternoon. I would wake up every so often and think, "I could still make it to the fabric store", "I ought to stop at Target for more bicycle shorts", or the like. Things I dreamed about in short bursts:

  • An issue of Beadwork Magazine that had a project where you could make beads or rings out of parts of vegetables, for example, corn kernels, pumpkin seeds, or those knobby things on the end of zucchini.
  • I was arriving in Paris alone without having made any plans for lodging, touring, etc. (I can't say this was entirely a bad dream. ;) )
  • I was reading professional magazines at work and ran across a letter to the editor in my name, which I couldn't remember writing. (Luckily it was quite well-written and I agreed with all of it!)

And those are just the ones I remember.

Tonight, I guess I'll continue packing, perhaps cut out the remaining loon hoods I want to make before Pennsic, go check my mailbox (I'm noticing the August/Sept. Beadwork is out; maybe it came on Saturday), maybe start some Northshield tokens, cook some sweet corn for dinner, and idly berate myself for sleeping so much. Especially when the headache comes back. (I am now officially 100% out of ibuprofen. A trip to the grocery store might be warranted.)

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