Tag Archives: ren faire

My Brain is a Liar

27 May

Yesterday was a bad day.

The last few weeks have been full of change, and much of it has been excellent change. I picked up a freelance writing gig. I quit my job, which I’ve hated for a year and a half, and I did it a few months ahead of schedule because I picked up that freelance writing gig. I drank up the courage to debut a new ren faire act. I planned two albums and launched a Kickstarter with my singing partner of six years. And then I went on a short, cheap trip to Charleston, a city I like a lot, with mr. biscuit, who I also like a lot, and between a five hour drive and two hours struggling to get around an unfamiliar city all the anxiety that I had been struggling with bubbled over like poison, and after a day spent picking fights, I started crying on the streets of Charleston because we had accidentally walked two blocks in the wrong direction on a beautiful evening in a charming, walkable city.

My new writing gig has me doing a lot of bullet-point blogs, so let’s break all this down in a style I’m becoming used to.

  • I quit my job. This is an objectively positive thing. As soon as I made the decision, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. Giving my notice brought a similar feeling of relief. I’ve been so happy since.
    • As I said, I’ve hated this job for a year and a half of the two years I’ve been working there, and been trying to find a new job for almost as long. I had finally given up on the job search, because there are only so many Almosts that I could bring myself to tolerate, but had contemplated self-harm to get out of work. More than once.
    • mr. biscuit got a big promotion at work, which came with a substantial raise that was not quite enough to replace my lost income were I to quit, but we had decided that I would leave my job at the end of July anyway and we would make it work.
    • When a friend turned me on to a freelance writing gig at her company, which I could do from home without having to talk to customers or put on shoes, we decided to push that date up.
    • My last day at my full time job is June 1st, and I’m thrilled. Between graduation and summer classes starting, I have been yelled at half a dozen times over the last three weeks and cried at work four times. I’m done. I’m so done. This place has poisoned my mind for long enough. It is time to cast it into the fire.
    • I’m also crushingly nervous. Quitting means a pretty substantial decrease in our income. That really only means that we will have to limit our spending, which a) I am bad at and b) I do not enjoy, but we’re in no danger of starving on the street or not having shoes. We haven’t had time to sit down and hash out what the new budget will look like, though, which is increasing my sense of impending doom. Objectively I know that we will be fine. mr. biscuit is making more than he ever has before, and the less miserable I am the less incentive I have to try and spend my way out of misery.
    • But still.

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  • I launched a Kickstarter. I’ve been singing with a friend for six+ years under the name The Voices of Virtue, and for a majority of that time we’ve been saying “man, we need to record an album.” About a month ago she sent me an email saying essentially “Let’s do this shit.” And we are doing it.
    • This led to me finally getting my shit together and launching a new renaissance festival act: SERFs, Inc., starring Lilly Bragg, Village Protest Singer. I’ve been working on a peasant revolution since my first year as a faire performer, way back in 2004, and I finally get to start using jokes and songs I’ve been hanging onto for so long. It’s amazing. It’s exhilarating. I feel very strongly about protest music, songs of revolution and social justice and the like, and I’m learning to play the guitar, and I just love it all. It feels so important and so useful, and my God these songs are so good.
    • My partner’s character is named Prudence and at the time mine was named Esperanza, and we tend to bawdy songs, so our group name made a lot more sense at the time than it does now that I’ve officially begun performing under the name Lilly, but we still do a lot of bawdy stuff, so it works out. Just not as well.
    • Our Kickstarter is going really well. I don’t know how I imagined it would go so I can’t tell you it’s exceeding my expectations, but I do know that on day six of 18, we are almost 40% funded.
    • The idea that people want to hear music that I’m making is absolutely thrilling.
    • The idea that people want to hear music that I’m making is also absolutely terrifying. I’ve been making music my whole damn life and I’m still terrified. Every single time. The amount of nerves varies, but I have never not been nervous before a performance.
    • Not once.20170527_105355
  • I went to Charleston. mr. scone plays with a volunteer street band (and has a sedately great time doing it, as is his nature), and every year they paly a festival in Charleston. This is the first year he’s been free to go, and rather than hang out at home alone all weekend, I’ve tagged along. It’s heavily subsidized by the band, Charleston is beautiful, and the weather this weekend is pretty perfect (for me, anyway; I like it warm and sunny).
    • It’s a longer drive than I anticipated. I don’t like long car trips to begin with, but in the last year or so I’ve become prone to carsickness, which was never really a problem before. That means I can’t read in the car without danger of yakking on the side of the road anymore, and mr. biscuit isn’t a very chatty person, and though he tries, he was tired and hungry and also driving, so for a lot of the drive I was at the mercy of my brain, which has been behaving Very Badly lately.
    • We got here in decent time, but since this is a budget trip we are staying in College of Charleston dorms. They’re fine. They’re dorms. They’re…whatever, they’re fine. Getting to them was a giant pain in the ass. Check in was at one building, parking at another, the rooms at a third; there are streets closed everywhere; we have only been here once like six years ago; my phone was dead; mr. biscuit refuses to use nav apps on his phone; we left home about 1:30, got to Charleston about 7:30, finally finished unpacking and parking and got back to our lodging at 10:30.
    • I’m comfortable with who I am. I like my aesthetic. Do I wish things were different about my body/face? Sure. Do I need a haircut? Yes. But in general I’m aware I’m pretty great, even when my brain hates me. Charleston is a beautiful city. It’s also a very old, very Southern city. It’s a holiday weekend in the summer, and two major cultural festivals are going on downtown. There are wealthy, beautifully put-together women everywhere. They are wearing breezy coastal tops, soft pretty makeup. Their hair is perfect. They all look lovely, in that very particular way that wealthy white Southern women look in the summer. They are small and dainty almost to a woman. The streets last night were overrun with beautiful rich white Southern young women and drunk rich white Southern frat boys. By the time we got back to the room last night I felt like a giant hulking monster. A walking tree with none of the grace or majesty of trees. A bipedal cow crossed with a sheepdog, whose makeup is always going to be shitty, whose jawline will never be perfectly sculpted, whose jeans will always be out of style.

So last night I cried on the streets of a beautiful coastal city, and then rather than go to the (outstanding) free concert across the street, or even to dinner, I buried myself in the blankets of a college dorm bed, texted a friend about my self-pity, and fell asleep with my contacts on.

I sent mr. biscuit out to hang out with his friends in the band. He insisted on staying and cuddling me until I started to get sleepy, and he brought me back some dinner and made sure I took my contacts out when he returned, even though I was too deeply asleep to eat or even remember any of that, and even though he had worked a half day while I went to breakfast with one of my besties, had driven all day, and had objectively more reason to be tired and cranky. 20170527_110935

My friend texted me back to soothe my feelings of being out of place. “Honey,” she said. “Which bitch made you cry? It’s a jeans and t-shirt festival if that’s what you want to wear. And you could come home and we’ll go to tea and talk shit about people. The option is there.” It made me laugh, and then I fell asleep.

Today is better. Today is great. I slept super well, and we went next door to get breakfast at a dinosaur-themed coffee shop where I’m currently drinking my third iced mocha of the day (this one is decaf) while he plays a gig somewhere nearby. The weather is beautiful, the city is charming–we walked around a little bit between breakfast and getting him dressed for the gig, and all the shops are nonsense for the wealthy, but the sunshine and the ocean breeze are free, and this iced mocha is in budget. I’m sitting at the window in a dinosaur coffee shop, watching people walk, drive, and bicycle past.

I feel better today.

Sometimes I wonder why I think about myself in ways that I would never think about a friend. If someone I loved was having a particularly rough day during a long and stressful series of rough days, and I heard someone say my friend was being lazy/melodramatic/stupid/ungrateful/a horrible wife/a terrible bitch, I would punch that person in the face. Metaphorically speaking. I would punch them with my impressive range of profanity and carefully crafted bitch face. So why do I let me say those things about myself?

I’m in a weird place right now. On the one hand I’m optimistic as fuck: I’ve quit my job without much of a backup plan and launched an all-or-nothing crowdfunding plan for a fairly ambitious recording project. On the other hand I’m nauseous and tense all the time with the fear of failure, or even worse: the fear of success followed by failure. What if this funds but I fuck up these records? What if everyone realizes I’m a fraud? What if I never finish all the things I have left to do? What if I suck?

At the darkest points I am paralyzed by fear of disappointing everyone in the world. Literally. I named my peasant revolution character after Billy Bragg, and I had a nightmare that someone told him about the act and he called me a fauxgressive shilbot*, and then a bunch of women who were involved in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1318 came and told me I am an insult to their struggle.

I am terrified. All the time.

I’m enjoying today, though. The weather is beautiful, Charleston is pretty, those mochas were delicious. I’m sure all that whole milk will catch up with me in a bit, but for now I’m well. There’s a free girls’ choir performance tomorrow, and there’s also a beach. Things will work out.

Make no mistake: I’m creative. I’m smart. I’m funny. I am capable of producing some pretty great stuff. Other people know this. I know this. Anxiety doesn’t know this. Depression doesn’t know this.

Anxiety is a liar. Depression is a liar. For all its creative power, my brain is a liar.

I’m not doing any work today. I’m going to nourish the part of my brain that isn’t a liar with sunshine and walks. And another mocha.

*HMMM I wonder where this came from

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Welp

26 Feb

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The Faire is Over

15 Sep

I’m going on hiatus. This season of CRF will be my last faire season.

I don’t know how long this hiatus will go on. I’ve sworn to wait the entirety of 2016 before I make any decisions, and in the meantime I am trying to focus on the here and now and get healthy.

The last fiveish years have been really difficult. At some point in late 2013 I wrote “I am burned the fuck out” in a post I never finished, and that feeling never went away; it only got worse. I began seeing a therapist after finishing Scarborough this year, and I’ve been diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder. I need a break from travel, stage fright, homesickness, post-show depression, worrying about money, being sick, and the physical and emotional demands of performance, the venue, and juggling two or three jobs. I’ve got a full time job that is enjoyable enough and pays well enough to keep at for the foreseeable future. mr. biscuit and I are working on getting our debt paid off, and I’m working on getting healthy.

I attended my first renaissance festival in the fall of 1992 or 1993. My friend’s family took me and my sister. The next 7 or 8 years my family went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival for a weekend every year. I loved it. I would cry when it was time to leave at the end of the day. In 2004, as a college sophomore, I auditioned for and got hired to be on the cast. It was a dream come true, and this is what I said about opening day (courtesy my livejournal):

“Ren Fest was the absolute shit, I’m tired beyond all reason, my poor breasts are sunburned, and I haven’t stopped smiling in about 3 hours.”

I spent six years on the cast of the Georgia Renaissance Festival, and for the most part they were excellent years. How many things happened there? I can’t even begin to tell you. I met mr. biscuit, and any number of my closest friends. I discovered within myself a talent and affinity for this very particular type of performance. I made a lot of people smile. And I had a shit load of fun. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions I had made up to that point, but I left to pursue other opportunities. When I told the entertainment director that I would not be returning for the coming season, I already had plans to go after the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. I got in. And after years of trying, I got into the Carolina Renaissance Festival. And I did really well. I met more dear friends, and developed a funny, tight, high-energy, educational, empowering act that can be as intimate or broad as the situation warrants. And I made money, and I had the time of my life, and I learned how to sew.

Esperanza began as a Spanish pirate who was in England trying to track down King Henry VIII in revenge for the death of her mother. She evolved into a Recruitment Officer for the Spanish Army, building an army on English soil. This is how the costume looked my first year:

Esperanza v 1

And this is how the costume looks now:

Esperanza final version

Things that have not changed: my penchant for making ridiculous faces.

In between, we had this:

Esperanza v 2

And this:

esperanza v 3

And this:

Espera

And this:

Esper

And this:

Esperanza

And somewhere along the line I wore myself out.

I don’t know where I’m going from here. My goal is to get healthy—to manage my allergies/asthma, my IBS, my increasingly difficult periods, and my anxiety and depression to a better degree than I am currently managing. I just want to have more good days than bad days. We want to get to a better financial place, to pay off our credit card and student loans so that we can take care of our aging cats and get a new car when we need to and afford to move again when our lease is up, and rebuild our retirement savings after the huge hit they’ve taken in the last few years, and maybe save to buy a place. We want to continue the progress we’ve made towards making our living space pleasant, beautiful, and well-organized(ish). I want to celebrate Halloween and Easter in a way that doesn’t mean working.

This decision was mine and mine alone. I consulted my most trusted advisors over and over again, but ultimately the only person I have to thank/blame is myself. It’s hard to walk away from something I worked to get for years. In pursuit of this dream I spent years going all over the country on my own dime to try and convince entertainment directors to hire me. I cried and struggled and swore and panicked and learned to sew, and eventually I succeeded, and then…I stopped. I know I made the right decision—when I sent the emails to my entertainment directors, I felt a huge sense of relief. But if there is one thing that art students hear over and over again, it’s “don’t give up;” it’s hard to feel like I’m not giving up.

Then again, maybe I am. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I love this work, but the things that go with it—travel, shitty working conditions, illness, iffy income, anxiety, homesickness—are just so hard to manage. Maybe I’m just not cut out for those things. Maybe the joy of the work—and there is so much joy in it for me, so that I sometimes feel like I’m going to explode from it—is not enough to carry me through the attendant trials and tribulations. Maybe I’ll never do this again.

Then again, maybe it is, and maybe I will.

I don’t know.

And I’m ok with that.

now leaving spain

I made a thing, and it turned out really well

10 Apr

I’ve wanted a collared bodice for a long time. I like the way collars frame my face, and the back of the neck is an enormously awkward place to put sunscreen.

I finally got around to making one.

I’m so proud of it I could poo.

esp 2013

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Gifts for the Ren Faire Participant In Your Life

4 Dec

It’s almost Christmas! You’d never know from the weather ’round here, since it’s like 75 outside, but I just looked at the calendar and it! is! almost! CHRISTMAS!

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Christmas is my favorite holiday. This is true for many reasons, among them Jesus, carols, wassail, Spree-flavored candy canes, and cheap-ass holiday cookies. But food isn’t the only thing I love about Christmas! I also like gifts!

Gifts are awesome. I know that; you know that. So let’s talk about gifts for the ren faire participant in your life, since I know all of you have at least one faire performer in your life.

Which is to say, me.

Ahem.

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Dressing for a cold faire

25 Oct

I’m in the middle of the Carolina Renaissance Festival, and it’s cold. Previously my biggest concern in outdoor performance was staying cool, what with working late spring ren faires, 4th of July events, and summer seasons at theme parks built around gigantic hunks of granite carved with the likenesses of traitors. Occasionally there will be cold days (one time it snowed!), but for the most part frostbite has not been a concern. It’s still not, but it sure feels like it some mornings. Being cold is my kryptonite.

The other day my talented and well-dressed harpist friend Sarah turned me on to her newest purchase: a pair of fleece-lined leggings from Anthropologie. They’re kind of amazing: soft inside, matte and opaque outside, comfortable, warm, and not the least bit bulky. High-waisted me could wish they had a slightly longer crotch seam, but if we got everything we wanted we would have nothing to bitch about. I think I’m going to need to add one more layer of tights or leggings when it gets super cold towards Thanksgiving, but for now they’re the best.

That got me thinking about other ways I’m keeping warm. I’m a little out of my depth here, but fortunately I have friends wit experience who can offer suggestions. And really, it should not be that complicated to adjust a Renaissance Europe-era costume to cold weather. Europe in the 15somethings, as it turns out, was smack in the middle of the Little Ice Age, and they all managed without central heating and insulation and fuzzy socks. This should not be hard.

So far, here in mid-to-late October, I’m getting along with the bare minimum of warm shit. I’ve got the basic costume (I adjusted a few things, more on that later), I just added some things: narrow sleeves (made of an 80/20 silk poly blend that’s heaven under 75 degrees and hell over), fingerless gloves (which also keep my shirt sleeves from riding up when I put on my sleeves), a black velvet scarf I keep forgetting to remove the tag from, and a black, rose-patterned shawl I found under the receptionist desk at my last full-time job. And then, of course, warm socks.

Next week I’m going to put together a new cloak. I have a full-length cloak in dark green wool and black fleece that’s gorgeous and comfy, but a) it’s not terribly character specific, and b) I’m using it as an extra blanket, because we’re camping without power hookups. The pattern is obviously seriously not period, but frankly it’s already 32 degrees outside when I leave the RV and it’s only October don’t judge me. With fewer (which is to say, no) ruffles I think option C will be just fine. Fleece Fest was happening at Hancock, so I got a pretty pale yellow for the lining, and I thought I was going to use my 50% off coupon on a black wool blend that was marked at $14.99/yd, until the lady who was about to cut it told me it was already on sale, it normally retailed for $27something, and so I couldn’t use my coupon. I was like “wtf, that’s the opposite of what it says on the bolt right there,” but it was almost closing and I was desperate for dinner so I let it go. To hell with Hancock Fabrics. I have got to stop going there. I’ve got some velveteen left, so I’ll use that, and the cloak will look like an extension of the costume. Which is what I want anyway. I just hope the velveteen and fleece is warm enough. Maybe I’ll interline it with something?

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing to keep warm so far. I’m going to need a pair of actual gloves at some point, with a water-proof outside and a soft lining and, ya know, fingers and whatnot. I’m also going to make a new pair of sleeves in a black velvety fabric of undetermined content, because options!

Tell me how you keep warm, persons who do historical outdoor events in the cold. This is for science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age

Can we talk about corsets?

16 Sep

You guys. I just. Can we talk about corsets? Specifically, can we talk about the difference in corset styles? “Well wait a minute, biscuit,” you may be saying, “a corset is just a corset, right?” Frankly I don’t know why you’re reading this post if that’s what you think, unless you’re my mom*, because how much interest would you have in browsing the “corsetry” tag? But I’ll answer anyway: NO, a corset is not “just a corset.”

I used to think the opposite. Many many years ago I had a conversation, which I shudder to recall, with a friend of mine who was saving  to have a new bodice commissioned for the ren fest where we both performed. We were having this conversation while she was wearing a perfectly lovely bodice, and I was so confused. “Girl, why do you need a new bodice?” I asked. “This one is super pretty and looks really nice on you.” “Thank you,” she said, “but it’s a Victorian silhouette, and not period at all.” “Who cares?” I replied with a wave of my childish, ignorant hand. “It’s all the same.”

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