Fest Recap – 4th Weekend 2017

Saturday – I went to see Stary Olsa a couple of times. My spouse and sister-in-law visited and brought L with them, in civvies in his stroller. We took L to see the lemurs at the Petting Zoo, which he loved.

Sunday – I watched Stary Olsa a couple more times. L was with me and I really wanted him to hear them play “Ob la di Ob la da” or “The Wall,” which are his favorites, but he couldn’t sit through a whole show and anyway, I don’t know if The Wall was in any of their sets. I never heard it. 😦 My parents also came to visit and came to our 11:30 set at Folkestone, which was nice. We went to see the lemurs and coatimundi and porcupine again. Then L took his first llama ride. At first he said he wanted me to ride with him, but when I said I was too big, he was fine and went by himself, with only a little nervousness. Afterwards he saw people riding the “war horses” and said he wouldn’t want to ride those because they don’t have a “blue safety thing” like the llama. ❤ Blue safety thing!

My parents left around 3:30 or 4 and offered to take L home with them, but I thought that was too early for him to leave. Supernanny B stayed until 5:30 to watch him during our 5:00 show at the Rock (which wasn’t rained out for once); she took him to the Fairywing Forest, which he loved so much they went through twice. Other L highlights were interacting with the Mechanical Man and Baby, the unicorn. We went to musician’s jam for a few minutes, but L wasn’t really having it so we left and went out front to say goodbye to people. Then it rained and we got wet.

A lot of people were feeling a little bit of a funk from the audience this weekend. Hopefully next weekend will be better!

 

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Fest Recap – 3rd Weekend 2017

I missed doing this last week because 3rd weekend– Labor Day weekend– is three days, with only 4 days in between to recover and get stuff done. Now unfortunately I am struggling to remember it. So here are some quick highlights:

Saturday – We were playing our afternoon (4pm) set at Queen’s Pub, which has been rather hit or miss in terms of audience engagement and tips, and a woman, seeing my bodhran, asked us to play a song with bodhran. I only play it on like 2 of our songs just to give me something to do when there’s no flute/whistle part, and I’m not great at it, but one such song was coming up in our set later so we told her so. When we reached that song, one of my bandmates said something to the effect of, “I have good news… the next song has bodhran in it!” And then I said, “But I also have bad news…. I’m not a very good bodhran player.” People laughed, as was the intention, and the woman said she didn’t care, she just likes the bodhran and wanted to hear/see me play it. It was a nice interaction.

Sunday – My neighbor, P, visited. P lives across the street in a group home. He had expressed interest in attending, so I gave him 2 tickets so he and one of his staff could attend. I was glad I was able to do that, but P also has a tendency to overstep boundaries and is sometimes not great at picking up on subtle cues, which made for some awkward moments. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Later that evening, as I was leaving, I happened across the proprietress of Queen of Sheba, who was dragging a box of succulents-in-glass thingies from her shop to B gate. It looked like it sucked and I wasn’t in a rush so I helped her carry it. We had a nice conversation and then she gifted me with a small succulent thingy. This was completely unexpected, but I was very touched.

thing

Monday – Everyone was tired. I drank a lot of coffee. It rained at about 5:00, so we skipped our 5pm set at Narrows Rock and hid out in a friend’s shop. The we tried to go to music jam but no one was feeling it so we gave up.

Fest Recap – 2nd Weekend 2017

Another great weekend of the 2017 Fest season! The biggest thing, of course, was that it was the first weekend my new band, Sycamore Gap, performed together. We’ve been rehearsing together for about a year, but that is definitely not the same as performing. It was a little rocky at times, but that’s to be expected, and for the most part people didn’t seem to notice or care. We got some really nice comments from several patrons and fellow performers, and in general things went well.

Because this is Minnesota, weather was another big thing. There was a lot of rain this week, and rain predicted for both Saturday and Sunday. That, combined with the State Fair, kept the patrons away on Saturday, but it actually turned out to be a fairly pleasant day. It was overcast and there were a couple of bouts of really light rain/mist, but nothing terrible, and the temperature was comfortable. Mosquitoes weren’t even too bad (this seems to be more of a bee year).

Our first show wasn’t until 11:30, so after opening gate we all took care of some things and eventually met up at the Leaping Frog Pub, which has a nice little place that musicians can play but for some reason isn’t gridded. It’s pretty quiet in the morning and the proprietors are kind, so it’s a decent place to get in some practice. We played through a few songs and then headed over to our first gig at Folkestone Pub. Which went pretty well. People laughed at my joke about learning “The Minstrel Boy” from Star Trek (which is true). Later I tried it out more subtly saying I learned it from Miles O’Brien, but only Trekkies will get that joke. Will have to work on it.

The rest of the gigs were fine too. Then I went to the music jam at Troubador in the evening, which I hadn’t attended since my days with Hardtack Jack. That was fun. Went outside to closing gate for a few minutes after that (jam didn’t end until 6:45) but came back in right after cannon to fix L’s wagon in preparation for Sunday. That was a pain in the butt, but I did it. And none of the wheels fell off Sunday, so I guess I did a decent job. 🙂 Had to wait awhile for the bus and didn’t make it to my parents’ house until after 8:30, but L was still awake! I snuck in and showered so as not to disrupt bedtime, and it was fine, and I went to bed by 10.

Sunday was really great. It was sunny and temperate for most of the day. I had to wake L up but he likes “the Festival,” so he was pretty cooperative when I was getting him dressed and ready. Got to site in plenty of time for Cast Call, at which he behaved pretty well, then we went to opening gate. He was still a little overwhelmed by it, I think, but he didn’t require that I hold the whole time like he did last year. He sat next to the tree and played in the mud, sulking a little, and maybe about 3/4 of the way through he started crying and I had to pick him up and just sing instead of play, but I’d already played “John Ryan’s Polka” a dozen times, so it was fine. 😀 I don’t know what set him off… I think just a lot of activity while he was still kind of tired. I think next weekend he’ll do better, though. After opening gate we met up with B, his nanny, and went to Fest Friends (after stopping at Ratcatcher’s for coffee and a scone), and then he felt better once he was eating a scone at FF. I hung out for awhile and then went to the Leaping Frog and left him with B, and he did fine. After our 11:30 show, I took him to get something to eat, let him pick out some marbles (5 for $1), and met B at the Troub for our 1:00 show. After that L and I ate pickles and got the wagon out, which he loved, and B said worked out really well for the rest of the afternoon, too.

Before our 5:00 show, I gave L some money to put in the Mechanical Man’s basket. L was a little scared at first, but once the Mechanical Man threw the ball to him and had him give it back, he was good. It was so fun! During our show, L was was… okay. He sat nicely behind me for a song or two, then wanted to “do something else now” and kept asking me. I told him we’ll have to work on that. But as it turns out, we did get to do something else… because at about 5:15 it started to rain. Hard. S and I grabbed instruments (and I grabbed L’s wagon) and ran for cover (G continued playing in the rain for one devoted patron). Once we had taken refuge in a shop, L decided he wanted to venture out into the rain, so I put his cloak on him, and he had fun running out into the rain and then coming back in and making wet footprints on the wood floor of the shop. The cloak kept him pretty dry from the thighs up, so even though it was a pain in the butt to make, it was worth it. (There was, of course, no hope for his shoes, socks, or pant cuffs, but that was okay. My shoes, socks, and skirts were just as muddy!)

After about 15 minutes or so, the rain abated and as it was approaching 6:00, I tried to convince L to come with me to see if the music jam was happening. He kept saying he wanted to go somewhere dry and without mud, though, so I decided not to push it. And since I’d planned on leaving at 5:30 anyway unless he was holding out pretty well, it didn’t alter plans much. So, we put away the wagon, collected our things from upstairs at Bad Manor, and headed to the bus. On the ride, I asked what he liked best about Fest this weekend. He said, “being with you.” ❤ ❤ After my heart was done melting, I asked him what was his favorite thing he saw or did, to which he responded, “riding on the school buses.” Haha! Of all the things. 😀

Once the bus reached the Green Lot, there was one more adventure in store: a woman with Safety Services offered us a ride to our car in the golf cart! Of course we accepted and L thought it was awesome. A great end to the day!

 

Fest Recap – Opening Weekend 2017

This weekend I began my 14th year working at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. For the first five years, I worked at Royale Sweets, a booth and associated cart that sell delicious chocolate treats. My sixth year, I slung beer at Mac’s Pub. The next three years, I was a musician in the Terpsichory Courtly Dance Troupe, then I helped found a band specializing in nautical-themed music, Hardtack Jack. We performed together for two years, and then I spent the next two years as a solo flautist. This year, I’ll be with a band again, joining forces with two other veteran Fest musicians. The new band’s name is Sycamore Gap.

This weekend, however, my two bandmates were out of town, so I opened this season as a soloist for one last weekend. Turns out I wasn’t put on the schedule, probably due to confusion about whether the band would be present or not, but it was fine. It gave me a chance to get all my affairs in order and say my hellos without a lot of other obligations on Saturday. I did take over one slot for a friend who had too many, and I found places here and there to play, but mostly I didn’t have to be anywhere specific at any given time.

The first cool thing that happened was that I sat next to a turtle on the bus. For those of you who don’t know, participant parking (the Green Lot) is pretty far away from the actual Festival grounds, so those of us who drive in daily instead of camping on site take a shuttle bus (okay, a school bus) from the Green Lot to the grounds and back. The bus is usually quite full, with people all arriving near the same time, so we pack as many people in as we can. Festies travel with all sorts of interesting things, including but not limited to sets of armer, swords, snakes, and other reptiles. Since it was opening day and I don’t camp, I had with me a large bin full of stuff I leave on site for the season– picnic blanket, music stand, bug spray, sunscreen, non-perishable snacks, Gatorade– which took up 3/4 of a seat. I occupied the other 1/4 of the seat. I happened to be first onto that particular bus (having passed on the previous bus when it reached the “standing room only” point), so I got a front seat. When this bus was nearing capacity, a woman from the Royal Herpetological Society got on, carrying her bag and a big bin containing a turtle. I offered for her to stack her turtle-bin on top of my bin, and she did, and that is how I ended up sitting next to a turtle on the bus.

The rest of the morning consisted of catching up with people at Cast Call, opening gate, and afterwards. Hot topics of conversation included the eclipse and how to integrate the cast patches we had been given at Cast Call that morning into our costumes. I played music here and there and it was cool and all, but I’m looking forward to playing with my band next weekend.

A high-level summary of Sunday is that it was effing humid and my son L was with me. In the morning, L and I met at B, the woman who will nanny for him at Fest this year, at a gas station near the grounds so I could give B her pass and show her how to get to the Green Lot. After a fairly uneventful bus ride, B and L settled in at Fest Friends, and they played, visited some of the animals, and sailed his wooden boat in Folkestone Well while I went to Cast Call and opening gate. After opening gate, I stopped at Ratcatcher Coffee since I had neither eaten nor had caffeine yet due to getting L ready and settled. I got a scone and ate it while they made my coffee… and when they gave my my coffee, I set it down momentarily on the counter of the wine booth next door… and it slid off. 😦 😦 😦 (PSA: That counter is curved!) So then I had to get another coffee and wait for it to be made, but in the end I had my caffeine and all’s well that ends well.

After that, since I wasn’t gridded anywhere in the morning (I had agreed to take over a friend’s schedule in the afternoon), I hung out with L so B could go say hello to people she knows and enjoy the Festival. Since it was so humid, we didn’t do much– first we went upstairs in Bad Manor and had an early lunch, then L said he was tired so we found a shady spot where he could lie down for awhile. He didn’t nap, but he got cooled of, which was important. Then we went to get his wagon, which he happily rode in for awhile, until one of the wheels started falling off (even though I’d JUST tightened the bolts on Saturday). Then he decided he wanted to watch a show– not a life, Fest show, but a TV show– and was not going to be talked out of it, so we went backstage and he watched an episode of Octonauts on my phone while I put the wagon away and stripped down to my bloomers and chemise to cool off for awhile. I will have to bring tools next weekend and fix that darn wagon better.

After that, we met up with B again, and she took him to get some ice cream while I played a set. They found me again after that set because L was getting sad and wanted to see me, so I went with them to Fest Friends for awhile and got him situated on his cloak so he could lie down and maybe nap. First I got him some Gatorade and he drank it all up, which was good, and then I snuck off to play a few more sets.

Typically, when I am playing by myself, the people who most often stop to listen are families with young girls, presumably because for some reason flute is seen as a “feminine” instrument and little girls are attracted to it. On Sunday, I was playing at the Wine Booth near the Bear Stage, and a family with a young girl stopped, listen, and tipped. When I ended the piece I was currently playing, I thanked them and asked the little girl, who was maybe around 5, if she had any requests. The first song she named was something I didn’t know, so I asked her if there were any other songs she liked. Her dad mentioned the Legend of Zelda, which is a tune I play out there, so I thought he’d heard me play it before and was naming options for her to request, so I said, “I do know that one.” Her reaction surprised me, partly because she’s a girl, but mostly because she was so young. “YES!” she said, “that’s my FAVORITE EVER!” So I played the Legend of Zelda for her and I could tell she was so happy. It was amazing! Little moments like that, when I can make a child smile in that way, make all the busing and heat and humidity worth it. ❤

I played one more set after that, and then went to meet B and L to get ready to leave. L had not napped, again, but that didn’t surprise me too much, since he doesn’t usually nap anymore and I never had luck getting him to nap at Fest even last year when he did nap at home. I was happy to hear from B that L had been really good for her, even letting her change his diaper nicely (which is usually a huge struggle with us). L was in a really good mood. On the shuttle back to the Green Lot, I asked L if he’d had fun. He said yes, but “the best part was coming here with you.” Awww! My little sweetheart.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful opening weekend. Even with the awful humidity I didn’t feel too beat. I had Monday off to rest a bit and recuperate, and now I am antsy for next weekend so we can do it again!

A letter to the editor, No. 2

Just submitted this to my local paper. They did post my letter from last week; I didn’t check to see if it was in the printed edition, but there were only 3 new letters posted online, so I’m assuming yes. Pretty sad that I had enough material for a completely new letter just one week later…

(edit: I previously accidentally posted an earlier draft instead of the final piece I sent to the paper. This is the final piece.)

Last week I wrote about several strange and disturbing occurrences that took place in the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency. Unfortunately, this week has brought several more such events to add to the list:

Four senior State Department officials were relieved of duty before successors were confirmed, leaving a gaping hole in the department’s senior management team.

President Trump signed an executive order adding Steve Bannon to the principals committee of the National Security Council. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national security were informed that they need no longer attend meetings that are not directly related to their areas of responsibility.

President Trump signed a rash and confusing executive order imposing a temporary limitation on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. This order was worded in such a manner as to include legal permanent residents (“green card holders”) in those barred from entering the country. It was enacted so quickly that there was no time to plan for its implementation or to make sure those tasked with implantation fully understood the order. The administration later said that the order did not include permanent residents, but the jury is still out on whether the order was simply misunderstood, or deliberately unclear.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates instructed Department of Justice lawyers not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration, citing it as unconstitutional. She was then fired, just days before the Senate was set to confirm her replacement.

This is definitely not normal.

A letter to the editor

I’m afraid this blog has morphed into a kind of action log lately (not that I’m posting everything I do here). I should get back to writing about other stuff, but my big introvert struggle right now really is activism.

I saw another good suggestion for introvert activism– writing letters to the editor of one’s local paper. The article I saw pointed out that though it seems like no one reads these, people do, often older people who tend to come down on the conservative side of the political spectrum. So, appealing to these people might not be a bad idea.

To that end, I submitted the following letter to the editor to my local paper today:

To the editor: Several disturbing events have taken place surrounding and in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

1. A group of eight people, two French nationals and six Canadians, were denied entry into the US when they revealed that their intent was to attend the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Border agents said that attending the march was not a valid reason to enter the United States. The Canadians were told they would be arrested if they tried again to cross during the weekend, and the two French citizens were told that they would be required to apply for a visa for any future visit to the US. France is a member of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows French citizens to enter the US without a visa unless there is a pretty good reason not to allow them entry. Even if turning them away on this instance were justified (a claim that is debatable), requiring them to obtain a visa in the future because they had once tried to cross the border to attend a lawful protest is ludicrous.

2. Six journalists were charged with felonies for covering the inauguration protests. They are facing a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

3. After the National Park Service re-tweeted photos of the small inauguration crowd, the Trump administration temporarily suspended the agency’s Twitter privileges, and imposed restrictions as to what could be posted on its official social media outlets.

4. The Trump administration has instructed the Environmental Protection agency to suspend its contract and grant programs, as well as all outgoing communication, immediately and until further notice.

These things are indicative of isolationism and an attempt to control the press, both of which are detrimental to a free and democratic society in a world that gets smaller with each technological advance.

This is not normal.

Introvert Activism… again

I haven’t written in quite a long time. Things have been busy. More on that later. For now, I am practicing introvert activism. Here is a letter I just wrote to Donald Trump:

***

Dear Mr. Trump:

Despite your instructions on 60 Minutes last week to those who would commit hate crimes in your name to “Stop it!” incidents are still on the rise. Recently, a white supremacist rally in Washington D.C. ‘hailed’ you as the president they’ve been waiting for. At Standing Rock, police used a water cannon in freezing conditions in an attempt to disperse crowds protesting a pipeline being built through their land without proper permission by a company in which you have substantial investment. All over our country, the demons of our worse nature are emboldened, and claim your victory as the reason.

In your victory speech, you said:

To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.

If you truly wish to be president for all Americans, you must seek to fairly represent the interests of Muslim-Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled people, women, and Mexican-Americans. You must seek to represent the Muslim man who was not a citizen last week, but got his citizenship this week, whose friends and family members may not yet be citizens. You must seek to represent the children of undocumented immigrants, who were born here, who are US citizens, and who should not be separated from their families. You must seek to represent the woman who chose to undergo a late-term abortion because her baby was deemed “incompatible with life,” who does not deserve to be demonized and criminalized for making likely the most heartbreaking decision she ever had to make. You must seek to represent people like me, who believe that ALL are created equal and deserve the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

In your victory speech, you also said:

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people… I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

If you truly seek the guidance of people (like me) who did not support your bid for president, you need only listen: we offer it freely. Here is what you can do to begin to earn our trust:

  • Publicly and forcefully denounce racism: Your transition team has released a statement indicating you oppose racism, but this is apparently also not enough to end the deplorable acts I mentioned at the beginning of this letter. Sound bites filtered through a press your supporters do not trust will not convince them. If you truly oppose these acts, it is time for you to make your position undeniably clear in an unfiltered speech directly to the American people.
  • Fire Steve Bannon. He is a known racist and anti-Semite, and people of color, Jewish people, liberals, and progressives will never truly support or trust you as long as you keep his counsel.
  • Mitigate your conflicts of interest; prove to us that you are willing to make true sacrifices in terms of your businesses in order to lead this nation.
  • Urge your supporters in Congress to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
  • Accept responsibility for, and apologize for, your inappropriate comments towards and about women. Pledge to do better.

I implore you to please, take the advice you say you seek, and do your utmost to live up to the promise you made to be a president for all Americans.

Most sincerely,

[me]

***

There have been a lot of calls for people to call their elected officials and other politicians. I can’t call. So I’ve been writing letters and emails and donating money and signing petitions. Today, I sent a thank you note to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi for charging the officer who killed Philando Castile. I also sent a note of thanks and encouragement to Governor Mark Dayton, who, with the state house and senate both going to Republican control in January, is going to have a hard job over the next two years (at least). I also wrote a letter to the chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee urging him to investigate Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest.