This essay made the rounds of several SCA lists a few years ago.Warning: Strong language.
Someone Left The Cake Out In The Rain.10/12-05
Crusades was *exceedingly* wet, but that wasn't the most disappointing thing about it. No, I can deal with wet weather - wool is good at shedding moisture. I don't mind wet feet, or even my splendid lunch plans being rained out.
What I minded was the lack of medieval. Crusades had way too many people with HFN chairs. And plastic pop-up dayshades. And visible modernities. And too few people who seemed to care at all.
I don't understand why people do that - I mean, they're supposed to be trying for at least the Victorian approximation of a medieval-oid event, so why the lack of period things? Even basic stuff wasn't in evidence.
When I started playing, most people still used blue plastic tarps and modern tents because there really wasn't anything else available to the average person with a limited budget. We used director's chairs, and we covered our coolers with scraps of fabric. Despite the unavailability of any actual period-style furniture, everyone made a real effort to cover and hide modern things.
These days, there's all sorts of stuff available at reasonable prices, and if you can't make it, you can almost certainly buy it. Wooden chests, and canvas tents/dayshades, nice tables and chairs, and all sorts of other goodies being made and/or sold by a wide range of people at affordable prices. We should be in hog heaven as far as period-oid items go - everyone can outfit themselves with at least the basics.
And yet, people seem to be going the other way - HFN chairs without covers, coolers sitting out in the open, cans of soda drunk straight from the can... All these things would have garnered shocked looks and a request to cover/decant/fix things so that the place looked more vaguely medieval (insofar as one can make a gymnasium/cattle barn/rec center look medieval) in the old days (which weren't better, just more motivated).
Crusades was wrong. It wasn't an event, not a medieval-style one. I looked around the hall at one point, and I grant you, it was crowded, and people had to do the best they could because of the rain, but it looked like some weird PTA-run craft show, not the SCA. People had set up willy-nilly, with their nylon chairs and their modern tote bags, and their coolers, and it looked sad, just lame and sad.
I don't understand, I really don't. I don't expect people to be perfect, but I thought they could at least make a little tiny effort, you know?
Nylon chairs are horrible (hence my name for them - Horrible Fucking Nylon chairs). Coolers and tote bags look completely modern. Soda cans and plastic water bottles look like what they are.
All these things can be veiled with minimum - really minimum! - effort. Throw a piece of thrift store fabric over the cooler. Pour your damn drink into a period-looking mug. Invest a teeny bit of money and at least get a chair that looks vaguely like it's made from natural materials.
I'm not thinking just of Crusades, though that's the most recent thing in my mind. In the past year, I've witnessed people walking around drinking out of soda cans, letting all their modern stuff sit out where everyone could see (and trip over) it, and setting up their HFN chairs around the field where everyone could admire them in all their nylony glory (and don't even get me started on the ones with footrests).
It's not nazi-like to ask for these things to be covered, it's the bare minimum anyone should expect from the attendees of the event. Okay, your T-tunic is a cotton-polyester blend, and you're wearing sweatpants. It's no big deal; everyone starts somewhere. I just want you to go one more step (like people used to do) and cover your chair/ pour your soda into a cheap aluminum tankard/ cover the cooler that's holding your soda nice and ice-cold.
I'll take care of the ultra-period stuff - I don't expect anyone else to match my level if they can't invest the time or the money - but at least make a teeny bit of effort, okay?
The tote bag - buy a cheap basket from a craft/dollar/thrift store.
The cooler - I can't say this enough: Get a piece of fabric, whether it's an old bedspread/throw/sheet or something cheap from your pal the thrift store, and COVER THE FUCKING THING. It's really cheap, and requires maybe two brain cells worth of thought.
The chair - more fabric, if you insist on the HFN chair. There are fewer people out there with genuine back problems than there are people who simply haven't made the effort to find a better-looking chair, so don't give me that excuse. You bought it because it was cheap and it's comfortable. Fine. COVER IT.
The drink - you have no excuse for wandering around with a can of soda in your hand, or leaving a plastic water bottle sitting in the cup holder of your HFN chair. Cups are so cheap, it's ridiculous. GET ONE AND USE IT.
Seriously - I'm not asking for anything outrageous. If you have that hard a time even covering your modern items, then maybe you need a hobby that doesn't require an attempt at pre-1600 stuff. Nascar, say. Everyone uses those HFN chairs there.
Yes, it makes me cranky. I'm not crushing your dream by asking that you make a tiny little effort. But if you don't want to make even that miniscule effort, then maybe you don't belong in this particular dream.
Wino Wisdom -9/4/03
I was driving home from work a while ago, and I stopped to give a little bit of money to a homeless guy on the side of the road. I only had a moment, as the light was changing, but just before I drove away, he shoved a crumpled little piece of paper into my hand. I tossed it into my purse, and forgot all about it.
Now, I clean out my purse on a semi-annual basis (or when it gets too heavy to lift), and it gets rather filled up with little crumpled bits of paper, medical receipts, notes to myself, and such things. I carefully read all the bits before I throw them away, because I'm always afraid I'll throw out something important like my paycheck if I'm not careful.
So, I'm looking through all these random bits, sorting out the things I need to save, and lo and behold, I find this little crumpled bit of paper. I smoothed it out carefully, and this is what I read:
"I was once a prince among men, a king on the tourney field. All bowed to my majesty, all feared my power. I lived my life thoughtless of the people beneath me, and cared not whom I crushed to get my way. All was mine that I wanted; money, power, women.
"Alas, I did not know that soon the winds of change would come over my land, nor did I realize that those whom once I had dismissed without thought were now powerful in their own right, and had massed their strength and skill to bring me down.
"I once was great, but now am forced to beg from others to survive. If I had followed the advice I give here now, perhaps my fall would not have been so hard, or so far. To those that are kind, I press you to follow this wisdom. To those who think they are too good to acknowledge the people who are not as successful as they, or who would only fawn on those more powerful, not heeding the ones they tread upon in their quest for glory, I say this: A journey upward cannot continue forever. Sooner or later, you must tread upon the downward path. Those who are smarting from the injuries you inflicted on the way up will not be blamed for rejoicing in your fall.
"Heed my words, and take them to heart, as I wish I had done, for they will serve you well."
I was intrigued. Why did this guy give this to me? What *was* his wisdom? Was I missing a page? Or was I on the installment plan, and the next time I saw him and gave him money, would he give me the next bit?
This could get expensive.
...especially if there was a lot of wisdom.
But my questions were answered when I held the paper up to the light. Like a watermark, in the center of the paper was embossed a list of advice. I set it down here in the hopes that his wisdom may be known by all:
"Sneer not at those in poorer clothing, no matter how polyester they may be, for that person may be visiting royalty on their way to a keg party."
""Do not reply to insult, real or imagined, with like insult, for that is how Seneschals get involved, and before you know it, the entire damn BoD's breathing down your neck."
"Alway be graceful when you blow off someone who's wasting your time - if they don't feel like you've bestowed a great favour upon them for even noticing them, you haven't done it right, and when they're Queen, you'll pay for it."
"Never denigrate the love of learning, even if it doesn't float your boat, because if you change your mind, there will always be at least one Laurel who remembers what you once said, and will make you suffer for it. Especially if you insulted THEIR stuff."
"When asked to give opinions or take sides on contraversial subjects, dissemble. Even if you don't care about the thing that has everyone's knickers in a wad. ESPECIALLY if you don't care. Those things have a way of sucking in bystanders like a giant whirlpool; everyone gets wet and pissed."
"Find something nice and encouraging to say about every gift one receives, for then people will want to give you more. This is useful when you're trying to fill up yet another darn Kingdom gift basket."
"Always act as if everyone's reputation were spotless; even if it's not, they'll be grateful for your tact. If you humiliate them, it's guaranteed they'll win Crown, and you'll be hosed then, won't you?"
"Hide your steely strength under a velvet coat of grace. As a sword should not be unsheathed except in times of need, so should the ability to kick butt and take names only be used when there is no other alternative. That way, you have the element of surprise on your side."
There it was. I had been handed the wisdom of the ages, by a wino in ragged clothes and a greasy Redskins baseball cap. Who had he been? Where did he come from? How did he end up at the intersection of route 29 and University Boulevard? And most importantly,
Who did he piss off?
"For the least among us may find their way to the top one day, and if you are rude to those beneath you, don't be surprised when you don't get that cherry award you've had your eye on, my child."
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.