Why I Love Star Trek

I watch Star Trek pretty much every day. That probably sounds totally weird, and maybe it is. But Star Trek and I have a long history together. We’ve been through a lot.

My earliest memories of watching Star Trek were watching The Next Generation in the basement of my childhood home. We’d watch it while eating pizza and playing board games on family game night. I don’t know if I had strong feelings either way about it back then, but I have very fond memories of those moments, now. And I always held onto a love for the series and the values it espoused. Indeed, I attribute much of my commitment to equity and diversity to things I learned from Star Trek: coexistence, tolerance, not imposing your own values on other cultures, and appreciation of difference.

After college when I landed my first real job, I moved to the city, and discovered a nearby video rental establishment that had ALL of the complete Star Trek series on DVD. Heaven! I started watching them in order, starting with The Next Generation, then Deep Space Nine, and then Voyager (I’ve never been able to get into the Original Series). At the same time, I was struggling with a lot of anxiety: my beloved grandma was sick with cancer, which just happens to be one of my mortal fears. That fear is pretty well controlled with medication now, but at the time, I was having pretty regular panic attacks. Because I had/have panic attacks almost exclusively at night, I was also having a lot of trouble sleeping. So I took to just leaving Star Trek on until I fell asleep. I would often start the next episode on the disk when I was already dozing, and many times I drifted off to sleep to the opening them. The opening theme I associate most with those times is that of Deep Space Nine; to this day, that lovely, calm horn intro, followed by the same theme in the solo trumpet, played so mellowly and soothingly, it is very comforting.

I don’t have panic attacks very often anymore, thankfully. When I do, I now have Xanax for breakthrough anxiety, in addition to the Zoloft I take daily. But even when I take a Xanax, it often takes it awhile to kick in before I feel calm; in the meantime, the only things that can help calm me are lying on the cold bathroom tile floor and watching Star Trek. The latter is much more pleasant, and the soothing lullaby of DS9’s opening and closing themes never fails.

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2015 Ren Fest Recap

Another successful year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival has come to an end. This was a really, really great year– the weather was lovely (only one really hot weekend), and internal drama (the bad sort) was virtually non-existant (and usually there is a LOT of internal drama).

It was also a great year for me. This year, after 11 years as a participant (5 of those on cast), I finally got up the courage to implement my very first idea for something to do at Fest, which was performing as a solo flautist. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the (several) other ways I’ve been part of Fest, but I really, really enjoyed doing the solo thing.

There are two was by which I measure success at Fest– audience engagement (measured partly, but not entirely, by tips) and how much I personally engage with fellow participants. I wasn’t sure how the crowds would receive a solo flautist. I honestly didn’t go into it expecting to make much in the way of tips, but I think I did fairly well. (I set a goal for myself to do a $100 hat the last weekend, and I’m proud to say I achieved that goal. That may not sound like a lot to some performers, but I was quite happy with it.) And I had many, many people indicate their appreciation in ways besides putting a tip in my basket, which is completely fine– in some instances, a kind comment or smile from a child can mean more than a tip.

The other way in which I measure a successful Fest season is how much I interact/connect with my fellow cast members and participants. It was a great year on that front, as well. One of the main reasons I had been reluctant to be a solo act in the past is that I worried that if I wasn’t part of a group, I wouldn’t talk to anyone and would just be alone all the time. And even after working/performing at Fest for 11 previous years and knowing plenty of people, I was still worried about that this year.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  I’ve noticed in other situations that if I go to things (like receptions at international education conferences, for example) alone, I actually do somehow step up to the challenge and talk to people I don’t know, or don’t know as well. That proved to be the case at Fest this year, too. I talked to several people I didn’t know or know very well (Jennifer, Marco, some of the Scots, new Terps, Peter, Anita, Manna and Manna, Dennis, Saskia, Stephanie, Penn, Cornelius, random people on the Fest bus) and reconnected with lots of people I did know (Jon, Chris, “old” Terps, some Scots, Randy, the Alein’ Whalers, Too Broke Blokes, Kate, etc). Of course, it seems every year that somehow I don’t get around to seeing all the people (or shows!) I intend to–notably Jamie (I barely made it to Queen’s Gate this year!) and the Bloodwake (whom I never seem to get over to visit any more). I only made it to like 1/2 of a Four Pints Shy show this year. Doing my own thing, I feel, for some reason, a lot more pressure to be performing all the time between my scheduled sets.

This year, I took a few days off – three Sundays and Fest Friday. One of the Sundays I attended with Gerard and the brother who were visiting, and I brought the kiddo out for a couple of hours Fest Friday afternoon, but I had two Sundays completely off. I also ended up working at the Fest booth at the State Fair on the Saturday of Labor Day (because they really needed people and I can’t sit around while someone needs help that I can give), so that’s three Fest days I wasn’t there at all and 2 others I wasn’t working. Consequently, I’m not really burnt out this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I probably enjoyed Fest more because I had a few days off, even though the days I was off, I missed it. But now I’m not really ready for it to be over, whereas when I’m burnt out by the end of the season, I’m really ready for it to be over for awhile. I’m not sure which is better– to want it to be over before it is, or not want it to be over when it is!

I’m already looking forward to next year, of course, which will probably be the last year on the current site. That will be bittersweet as well. There is a lot of history imbued into that site, and a lot of magic that lives in its walls. I feel a great attachment to many of the physical spaces themselves, especially the Bakery stage area where I spent my first 5 years at Fest, Mac’s Pub, and The Estate (Terp’s green room area). I will truly miss the actual, physical space when the Festival moves.

But, as many have said, it is really we who make the Festival– the performers and participants and patrons who love the Festival, who created the magic that has seeped into the Festival grounds and structures. We will create new magic and memories at the new site. And the new site brings opportunity, as well– better parking and traffic arrangements, up-to-code buildings, flush toilets (maybe), ample camping (maybe), electricity (maybe) and less dust. I will miss the current site, but I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of building and baptizing the new one.

I also look forward to bringing my son out with me more regularly next year, when I think he’ll be old enough to mind and stay near me while I perform. I often envy those who were raised at Fest (and those whose spouses are Festies, too), and I look forward to giving my son the experience of being raised in the Fest family, with the help of, literally, a village.

 

2014 Ren Fest Recap

Fest has come and gone, without so much as one blog post on the topic for me. Time for a recap!

Overall, it was a pretty good year at Fest. There was a little bit more strife within the band than last year, due in part to the fact that we had made the decision, prior to Fest opening, that this would be our last year together as Hardtack Jack. It was an amicable decision, no hurt feelings or anything, but I the fact that we knew we wouldn’t be together as a group next year led to, I think, a bit of apathy and lack of musical energy, as well as some conflict and tension around people feeling out options for next year. But all in all, we still got along fairly well, and I had a pretty good season.

It’s hard to write about Fest in retrospect, especially almost a month after closing weekend. There were some huge parking snafus due to increased mining. I didn’t get caught in the worst of them, and the lesser snafus don’t seem important now. I do worry for what will happen next year, as a lot of patrons were genuinely and understandably pissed off about the parking this year. My understanding is that next year they plan to work with a trained traffic specialist to get things organized better. If they do that, I think things will be fine.

Next year may be the last year on the current site. We’ll see. While I would be really sad to see the current site go, as I have lots of good memories of the space and structures themselves, it would be nice to have a fresh start on a new site where they could plan for things like parking, building to code, etc.

As to what I’ll do next year, I have had a couple of offers to join different musical groups, but I think I am going to audition as a solo flute player. That will allow me to be part time– like only Saturdays– and also to rehearse on my own time. Both of those things will make Fest a lot more compatible with parenthood. And while I really, really had fun being with a band, I kind of miss being able to play more flutey things instead of mainly fairly simple breaks and intros and the like. I will miss singing, and I do worry that, being a solo act and an introvert, I’ll be lonely and won’t feel like a part of the community. But I think (I hope) that being with groups for the last 5 years has given me enough of a foundation that I know enough people in the community well enough to feel a part of it without my own little “family” to belong to.

Some memorable moments from this year’s run:

-Getting to know a few people a bit at Fest Friends. I joined because I needed somewhere private to pump (joy of joys), but it had the added perks of: somewhere to stow my crap besides the upstairs of Bad Manor, free lemonade and sometimes treats, a lovely privy with a FAN in it (awesome on hot days!) and a warm-water sink, and oh yeah, camaraderie.

-When the Musical Blades came over after their show opposite us on Treetop Stage, and sang “Until We Meet Again” on our stage during our show.

-Being a part of the morning Queen’s Gate musician brigade. We always have fun. If next year there are still 2 gates, I would like to play with those folks again even though I won’t be in a band.

-Playing “Hanging With the Bard.” I’ve always thought that game/act was super clever, so finally I went and played the game. It was quite fun.

-Musician’s Jam at Troubador Stage, and even leading a song (“Raglan Road”) on my brand new wooden flute. (Though really only Gabe played along; it’s hard to jam to instrumental-led pieces.)

-Meeting/getting to know some Festies that I didn’t previously know.

-Dancing and playing with Terpsichory a few times.

-Playing for a rained-in crowd at Folkstone Pub about 6 times in the first 5 weeks (and playing at Folkstone in general).

But my favorite memory of all was bringing my son out on Fest Friday. I took the day off of work and since our band hadn’t committed to performing on Friday, I entered on a ticket and just hung out. L and I listened to some of my friends jamming at the wine booth, then played along with Allen-a-Dale with a maraca. L was fascinated by the guys playing guitar, etc. He was more interested in putting the maraca in his mouth than shaking it. 😀 Then we went and saw the elephants, petted goats and looked at other animals, then hung out in Irish Cottage for a bit. Then we found a nice shady spot to just chill for awhile, then ate lunch (me, then him) and then he fell asleep and slept in his stroller while I hung out at Fest Friends. We watched SkyVault Theater’s full show, wandered around a bit more, and then headed out. Great day! It was so fun hanging out with him at one of my favorite places in the world, that means so much to me, and showing it all to him for the first time.

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Ye Olde Selfie

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Cutest baby at the Festival

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Photo by Larry Edwards

2013 in Review

I’ve seen several posts on Facebook about how terrible 2013 was for many people. I’m very sorry for everyone who had a rough year… but mine has been great! 2012 was more difficult for me, and I guess the first half of 2013 was a bit trying as well, but oeverall, the good definitely outweighs the bad.

January

On New Year’s Day, I turned 32. At that time I was undergoing fertility testing after 2+ years of trying to get pregnant with no luck. This was not very enjoyable. Fertility testing is painful, both physically and emotionally.

A good thing that happened in January was that we got the band together! I’d been wanting to try to form this group since Fest of 2012, and in January it finally came together, and I’m very happy it did!

February

In February we had our first practices with the band, and Rob and I took a trip to Mexico.

Being romanced by a pirate in Mexico

Being romanced by a pirate in Mexico

March

In March, Rob had a surgery that was designed to improve our fertility. I was pretty optimistic about the success of the surgery, but it was also difficult because it definitely was not guaranteed to help, and both of our doctors were already implying that IVF might be our best hope, which made it difficult to maintain my optimism. I was so proud of Rob though– he underwent the surgery very willingly and without any complaint.

In March my BFF also revealed to me that she was pregnant. Although I was of course really happy for her, I couldn’t help feeling simultaneously sad for myself– a most unpleasant state of affairs.

April

In April, we adopted our second dog, Gilly. I’m happy to report that things are still going great with him! Trip was jealous at first of his new little brother, and he still gets jealous over toys and cuddle time with us, but every day they are becoming more and more like a pack. They haven’t quite reached the point where they will cuddle together, but Trip will now tolerate Gilly being right next to him on the couch. He also gives Gilly kisses on the nose, which is pretty sweet. We’re still working with Gilly on his mouthing and jumping, but overall he’s a pretty well-behaved pup, and he is only 2, so he’s still a young thing.
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Festing Through The Ages

This is an exciting year at Fest for me. Not only am I part of a brand new musical group, Hardtack Jack, but it’s also my 10th year as a participant! That means I’ll get my first service award– pretty cool! So I thought it might be appropriate to take a look at how I got into Fest in the first place, how I started working there, and what I’ve been doing all these years. Fest is a family tradition. Not in the way that it’s a tradition in some families, who participate together, in which the children grow up at Fest. But my parents started the tradition of taking my brother and me there once a year, starting I think in 1986. It was always my favorite summer/fall activity and I remember looking forward to our trip to Fest every year.

Early Fest experience… 1991Image

In 2002 or so, my brother started working at the chocolate booth at Fest. He got the job through a friend of his who worked for the chocolate vendors outside of (and at) Fest. In 2004, I started working at the chocolate booth, too. I worked there through 2008.

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Aside from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (MNRF), I’ve been to a few other faires.  Here’s me with my dad in 2006, when the Olde World Ren Faire in Twig, MN was still open. I’ve also visited the Bay Area Ren Fest (BARF, haha) in Tampa, FL, and the Iowa Renaissance Festival in the Amana Colonies.

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Luckily my spouse enjoys Fest too– not as much as I do, but he comes out a couple of times a year, sometime in garb. This is 2008.

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Somewhere along the line while working at the chocolate cart, I started playing Charlotte Rowan, my pirate persona. But after 5 years selling chocolate, I decided it was time to try something new. In 2009, I worked as a beer wench at Mac’s Pub through the Shakopee Jaycees. Mac’s is known as the pirate pub, so we usually hold our annual pirate invasion photo outside of it:

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(Photo Credit above and below:Jamie Piekkola)

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Slinging beer didn’t really turn out to be my thing, so in 2010 I joined Terpsichory Courtly Dance Troupe as a musician to provide music for the dancing. I had to curtail my piratical nature a bit, as with courtly dancers it didn’t make sense for me to be a pirate… but I was still a pirate at heart! I was with Terpsichory for 3 years. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of who took the following photo… I know it was one of the pros. I love it though! Image

On days off I got to be incognito!

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2011: Still with Terp, slight costume change.

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Cool HDR photo by Majikboxman:

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Pirates in 2011: Image

Terpsichory, again by Majikboxman: Image

2012: My brother came to visit, all the way from Vegas! (It was also my parents’ 40th anniversary.)Image

Now, in 2013 I’m back to at least being a sailor. Under a new name, Callista Seaborne, with my band, Hardtack Jack. (Sadly in this pic we’re missing one member.) Image

Hardtack Jack’s Debut Performance; or, Mudpocalypse

This weekend, my band, Hardtack Jack, had our debut performance and gig at the Iowa Renaissance Festival in the Amana Colonies. It was simultaneously a great time and probably the worst fest experience I’ve ever had. Allow me to explain.

The bad part was mainly the weather. It was really, really bad. Saturday it rained pretty much all day, not all that heavily, but enough to basically restrict us to our covered stage area and the trailer. It was also chilly, and the combination of the two seemed to keep patrons away (and I can’t blame them).

Our first few sets were a little rocky—I screwed up notes several times, partly due to nerves and partly due to cold fingers. I also sang one of my shanties in the wrong key. 😛 For that reason it was probably good that our audiences were pretty small, especially on Saturday morning. But by the end of the day, we were getting in to the groove a bit more, and we were asked to do a song at the closing gate show. We did “Whale of a Tale,” which everyone seemed to enjoy, and then we all sang “Health to the Company” and it was very nice.

That evening we went to dinner in the Amana Colonies, at a place called the Colony Inn that had delicious German food and fruit wine. I should have brought some of the wine back, but I kind of forgot about it in all the chaos that ensued over the rest of the weekend…

Sunday it rained most of the day again. We had a bit of a break when we were able to play a few songs outside of our stage. We acquired a fan who listened to us for quite awhile and requested a few songs and sang along. He actually stood uncomfortably close to us, but he was a nice enough guy. At about 4:30 the torrential rain hit—it rained so hard that we couldn’t even really do our last show, because the rain on the roof was so loud we couldn’t even hear each other. This went on until around 6, and flooding ensued. Everyone’s cars were near to flooding, getting stuck in the parking area, and my bandmates S & J’s trailer that we were using as our home base got seriously stuck.

For dinner, S & J planned to stay in, but they were kind enough to let me drive the Suburban so I could accompany C & JP back to the hotel they were staying at and eat at the Ox Yoke, which was nearby. There we encountered a woman who had been at a couple of our shows on Sunday. She had requested “something by Gaelic Storm” right when we were already about to play a Gaelic Storm song, “Lover’s Wreck.” Strange coincidence! Anyway, we had an interesting conversation with her and she told us she took some pictures of us, and she exchanged cards with C so hopefully we can get copies of some of them.

Fest 2012: Final 2 Weekends

6th Weekend:
This was a one-day weekend for me, as I had a band concert on Sunday. That was good. I needed a break, as the Fifth Weekend Effect was still upon me. Saturday was chilly but not too bad. Not too much else to say about that.

Closing weekend:
It was excellent this year. I rested up on Friday (had the day off work) and planned to hit it hard on the last weekend and go out with a bang, and so I did. I participated in some of the social dances both Saturday and Sunday (dances where I don’t like the music—I stuck our violinist with it, since she’s big on playing melody for everything, she can play the crappy ones, too). I “talked” with Twig, our lovely famous fairy who communicates only through gesture, facial expression, and a pan flute. We did a repeat of the Butt Percussion bit with I Arroganti, except with double butts this time. All good times.

Closing day was great. Every year, the closing gate show on closing day is really more for the “inhabitants” of the realm than the patrons. There are special performances, lots of singing, and of course crying and hugging. Usually, my group and I don’t participate much in the closing gate show, and last year I even missed all the emotional stuff because we were off on the side doing our own thing. I didn’t like that—it made me feel like I lacked closure for the year.

This year was different. Our director got us into the closing gate show (!!) to perform the French sword dance, Buffens. I was a bit sad that I didn’t get to play flute for it (in front of the King and Queen and everyone else), but I had to provide rhythm. So I performed a vital but unglamorous function. Still, everyone seemed to be impressed with the sword dance, so that was fun and awesome for the group.