A Long Day and Knights

May 30th, 2010

It’s been a massively long day, but for the most part it’s been rewarding. I accomplished quite a bit and most of it went pretty well. Oh, and Hey! Just imagine what an amazing event- for the first time in almost a year: new words at r-l-w.net

Before delving into the minutia of the day, picture me in a quite delightful environment- on the back porch in front of a nicely powered but not overwhelming fan (just enough to blow the bugs away and keep me the right temperature), in the glow of a venerable old fluorescent desk light on top of the boom box which is playing Rock Steady Ska music on the show Positive Vibrations from KDHX-FM watching adolescent cats (Galileo, Newton, and Cookie- yes, my boys who named them are science geeks) eat bugs while I type a post on the laptop via wifi.

Now roll the clock back about 16 hours. I drug my carcass out of bed about ten after six this morning. I had a large agenda and wanted to clear it all. I was fully conscious and dressed about ten minutes later and mere minutes after that I was out in the driveway putting the radiator and main cooling fan back into the engine bay of my 92 chevy corsica. It’s a long story, but I was hoping to have this car back in action after a long “operational hiatus”. I had gotten a good suggestion from a gearhead neighbor earlier in the week and had worked on replacing the fuel pressure regulator the evening previous until it was too dark (and I was too tired) to try to install the radiator.

I was surprised at how easily I got all the junk back where it belonged under the hood, but turning the key resulted in absolutely nothing. This due, presumably, to the fact that I had stupidly not disconnected the battery last time I worked on it some time ago. I put the battery in the back of the van and headed to the parts store which didn’t open till seven-thirty. It was about seven. I headed down the street to another part store which was open, but did not sell the brand of battery I had. They said it was too flat to charge and that I should take it across the street to the store that carried that brand- which also did not open till seven-thirty.

I bailed on that plan and proceeded to agenda item two execution. I went home, told the boys to wake up and get ready to go to the Sportsman’s Barber Shop for haircuts while I took a shower and changed clothes. Isaiah was pretty much ready when I was, but Gideon required motivational assistance as is typical with his morning arisal. I was greatly disappointed to see about five people already seated and waiting at the barber shop when we arrived minutes after it opened at eight. We were in luck, though. One of the two regular barbers was on vacation and there was a part-time fill-in man at the usually unmanned middle chair. Everybody already there was waiting for the owner and the fill-in man was doing nothing. All three of us had haircuts in just about an hour and we all look just fine. Well, the boys looked fine. My haircut looked fine but the rest of me didn’t look any better than it usually does.

We rolled back home and I told Ruth I was going to go mow my mom’s yard. Mowing Mom’s yard and my own was agenda item number three. I dropped the battery off at the right part store on the way to her house. The guy said it would be about an hour and a quarter. I had a good mow at Mom’s house. I actually greatly enjoy mowing. I can zone out in the physical work and think about things. It was a bit of a slog in the 88° weather at 44% humidity but I got it done. I’ve been mowing that yard for about twenty-five years now. I think what made it a bit of work this morning was that there was zero shade. The sun had cleared the eastern treeline and was hammering me the whole time, but I got it done. It took a bit longer than usual under the condition, but that was OK because that got me back by the part store perfectly on time to discover that my battery was shot but still under warranty FREE replacement!

Unfortunately the niceness of the batt replacement was mitigated by the fact that the car did not start. However, the pressure regulator was obviously a contributing factor that had been fixed as evidenced by the fact that there was fuel pressure on the rail and none gushing out of the throttle body as it had been before. I am thinking maybe replace spark plugs fouled by fuel probs when the regulator failed. I am hoping to not have to deal with the timing chain. Or something. Maybe the gas has gone bad, but I’m not sure of a good way to fix that, either.

Well, anyway, it was time to finish agenda item three by mowing my yard. I put all the tools and final assembly parts back in the trunk and yanked the rope on the mower. Again, it was a bit more work than it should have been. Perhaps because I was already a bit worn from the first yard, and perhaps a bit from the same brutal morning sun. I usually mow in the later afternoon where the harshness of the glare has worn off a bit. Against my inclination, but exhibiting prudence I was proud of, I took several water breaks during both mowing sessions which turned out to be wise. I still need to bag the front a bit, but didn’t have time to do it today. It looks OK (just OK to me), but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs and I was already further down in the day than I wanted to be.

Agenda item four was lunch, which was ready when I got out of the shower.

Agenda item five was the St. Louis Renaissance Festival in Wentzville, Mo about an hour from our home. We were all buckled in the van and mobile about two-thirty which was an hour and a half later than I’d wanted us to be going, but checking the website just before we left verified that the faire was open till six, not five and we should have plenty of time to see it all.

We arrived at about a quarter after three. I sincerely hoped that the main joust didn’t start till three-thirty, but when we’d paid for our tickets and instantaneously been transferred through time and space to the 16th century French village of Petit Lyon and handed the printed map/program I discovered that the joust wasn’t till four-thirty- we’d have plenty of time to experience the faire before we had to worry about getting decent seats.

The first destination of note was the German encampment where after watching a crossbow demonstration, Isaiah got rudimentary training as a pikeman. I must say, as a pikeman Isaiah could be a good swordsman. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the cast on his right arm that threw him off a bit. That and perhaps that the pike was twice as long as he is tall.

From there we made our way through the village noting the many sights to be seen- and the many not to be seen. Why is it that so many people that should not wear skimpy costumes have the desire to do so? And for that matter, what do skimpy outfits of any kind have to do with 16th Century France? Perhaps they should change the name to the “St. Louis Renaissance and Tangentially Related to The Fantasy Genre & People Who Want to Wear Costumes That Expose More of Themselves Than They Should Faire” because I saw a lot of rolls of snake-belly white abdomens and anachronistic, flat-out Dungeons & Dragons fantasy type junk that simply cannot pass muster for an historically accurate simulation. Camel rides? In 16th century France? Gimme a break… Though to be fair to the Faire, they have no control over the costumage and livery of attendees and actually it did seem that the participants mostly adhered to a consistent set of guidelines, generously interpreted as they may have been. The camel-master had a large purple feather in his tricorne hat and was wearing musketeer-style boots.

By the time we’d made our way around to the jousting grounds, it was time to start looking for a decent seat in the decidedly non-period, but accommodating aluminum bleachers that surrounded the lanes. We found some on the front row, though at the far corner of the grounds which proved good enough. The sun had crept out from behind the clouds and once again was casting its baleful gaze brutally down on our shadeless heads. The kids got grumpy and restless so Ruth took them to find something to drink while I kept the seats. They returned with $4 worth of strawberry sno-cones (no comment necessary on economic expediencies vs. historical accuracy- and they were quite welcome, I might add) just in time for the event to begin.

Last year we weren’t able to stay for the main joust event complete with mortal combat. We were only able to see the ring-jousting only demonstration which concluded with the man-at-arms regaling us with descriptions of flashing blades and spouting blood to be seen later in the day. This time the real deal was the only one we got to see, but it greatly fulfilled the gory advertisement.

The jousting began with the two participants individually galloping down the field to catch on their lances rings tossed skyward by squires, but this innocent exhibition of skill was not destined to last long with age-old enemies Sir Thomas and the dastardly Sir Duncan competing on the same lanes. Soon comments were made and insults exchanged and a challenge was called. The combatants galloped straight towards each other, lances clanging off shields until Sir Duncan was unhorsed and Sir Thomas, bound by the code of chivalry even when locked in conflict with a blackguard like Sir Duncan, jumped from his steed and took sword in hand.

The armored foes traded the clang of lances for the ring of swords and pressed close, each looking for a chance to pierce the others heart like the the pickles on the long fork of the roaming vendor selling “vegetarian sausages, a bill for a dill”. At one point things looked dark for the hero, Sir Thomas. There was a sharp gasp from the crowd as Thomas seemed stunned and soon to be finished by Duncan, but Duncan was wearied from the battle and as he retreated to gather his strength, Thomas also recovered heroically regaining his wits and his might to despatch the scurrilous Duncan to his fate in the afterworld.

After this show what was there to do but to visit the sword makers and sample their wares? To Gideon the Roman gladius crafted in the forge of Badger Blades was like a longsword but he wielded it valiantly. Isaiah, too, took steel to hand and assumed a battle-ready stance prepared to enact carnage on any and all who opposed him. Both are skillful, fearsome warriors, long trained and battle hardened in the use of all shapes and types of swords, light sabers, and the sticks that stand in their stead in this real wold that fades to a dim shadow in the blazing shine of their imaginations.

While we boys were admiring this panoply of killing tools, Ruth and Elsie had strolled through some markets offering items more appealing to the feminine mind and Elsie had discovered a pink and purple magic princess wand upon which she spent some remaining birthday money and which required the boys both to declare that they “should get something too!” despite the fact that neither had brought coin of any realm in their own coin purses. Nonetheless we undertook a quest for affordable trinkets as we made our way toward the time-space portal that would bring us back to 2010. Wooden swords were the treasure we sought. Alas, though we found many, none were affordable and thus was born agenda item number seven about which we shall hear later.

Agenda item number six was supper- Panterra’s Pizza on the way home. I have no prosaic account of our repast. We ate good pizza, the boys got to play a video game. We had a good time. The small office furniture store right next to that Panterra’s was a hobby shop the first time we went to the Faire several years ago. It was sadly going out of business the day we first saw it and we contributed to the growing bareness of the shelves in the form of a few model rockets and rocket related items. I always note that storefront with a tiny bittersweet nostalgia, but the pizza always brings me straight back to the present.

The seventh agenda item I mentioned above which was born hastily in a spirit of “sorry we didn’t find anything- IF you are good maybe we can…” was to visit Lowe’s hardware store on the way home for some PVC pipe of an appropriate diameter along with pipe insulation and duct tape with which to create swords of a type I must fess up and admit to in college not only having fashioned, but wielded in conflict of arms on numerous occasions. This agenda item was, of course, created contingent upon appropriate behavior up to the very minute the money was spent and it was too late to return the materials to the shelf. This agenda item was only accomplished at Ruth’s vehement insistence on the expansion of the contingency, since to my mind the boys’ behavior didn’t quite meet the requirements. But they were pretty good at the Faire so she was right. We did not yet, however, combine the elements into the devices they are destined to become. This, once again, is contingent on behavior up to the point at which I fire up the forge (and the slick PVC pipecutter I bought last winter after a freeze burst some pipes under the kitchen) and bind eldritch energies into the blades to harness the mighty power of imagination that can transform them from the shining steel of valiant, questing knights to the glowing blades of light with which galactic adventurers deflect and redirect the particle beams of their enemy’s crude blasters.

If the car had started this day would have gone on record as 100% perfect. As it is, I guess the best description it can qualify for is tremendously super. Actually mega tremendously super- I forgot about seeing a half basset hound, half shar-pei dog at the Faire. It was odd looking, but not in a bad way. Isaiah said it looked a bit like Satchel from the comic strip Get Fuzzy and we all agreed.