Pennsic -2 weeks report

In fifteen days, I will be at Pennsic. As is inevitable, I am not nearly as ready as I thought I’d be. One of these years, I’m gonna do what I promise myself every year at War: get everything organized during my 50-week “town run” so that I’m super-prepped with plenty of time to spare.

Ahahahaha… I crack myself up sometimes. Let’s be honest: it’s gonna be like this forever.

While I only start my formal Pennsic diary once I get in the car to War, I have enough thoughts spinning in my head that I thought I’d write them all down. So consider this a preview of the Pocket Bard’s 2016 Pennsic Diary, two weeks early.

What’s happened since last War
Most of the people reading this know that I missed the last two years of War. In 2014 I was planning my wedding, and while there was a lull in early August and I could probably have managed to go, I was also working a six-month contract at McGill University, and you can’t exactly take off two weeks in the middle of a six-month work contract. In 2015 I was unemployed. I had the time, and technically I had the money, but since I didn’t know when I would be employed again I decided to be a responsible adult and stay home. But this year, my friends, the stars have once again aligned and allowed me to travel to my very favorite war on Earth!

So, what’s happened in the last three years? For one thing, I got married. It didn’t actually change my life as much as I thought it would, as Marc and I had been dating since 2007 and living together since 2009, but now we’re doing it officially and not living in sin. (Though I admit, “living in sin” makes my life sound all manner of exciting that was never true in reality.)

I also got steady employment working as the administrator at a Unitarian church. Conveniently, summer is our slow season, so I should never have any trouble taking the time off for Pennsic. This is super-awesome and I actually consider it a major perk of the job. For a while I was worried they wouldn’t let me take vacation time my first year, but my boss is amazing and told me I could. Hooray!

Of course, this meant that I only realized I could go to Pennsic about three months ago, and I had about three years of catching up to do in 122 days. Oops.

What good is a Pocket Bard who can’t bard? No good at all! Very high on my to-do list was going through my entire “request sheet” and seeing how much I remembered. These are all pieces I had ready to perform at a moment’s notice three years ago. The list contained over a hundred items, about two-thirds songs and the rest a mix of saint’s lives stories, other prose, and poetry. I sat down at War of the Roses a few months ago and tried to go through as much as I could, figuring out what I still remember and what I’ll have to cut.

Surprisingly, I remembered a lot more than I thought. Once I started singing something, it tended to come back to me. I’d occasionally forget the start of a verse, but once I had it, the rest usually flowed in of its own accord.

That’s not to say I’m keeping everything the same. Some pieces just aren’t appropriate anymore. Some I don’t remember. Some are the “slow and pretty” songs that require more vocal training than I have, and I probably won’t bother keeping on my locked-and-loaded list. And I’ve got a few new pieces I realized I picked up over the last three years that will be going on instead. But on the whole, I’ll have a large enough repertoire for War that I should never be found wanting.

That said, I was a little chagrinned that I don’t really have any new saint stories. I’ll have one or two new-to-my-audience pieces, but I haven’t researched anything new in the last three years. And the pieces I do have aren’t really as polished as I’d like. Of course, by the end of Pennsic, they’ll be a lot more polished. But I’m still a bit sad that I won’t have a huge trove of new material to mine through. Alas. Something to put on my burgeoning list for next year.

Finally, I was a bit surprised to realize I don’t have any desire to sign up for the stage shows or expos. Sure, if someone runs up to me and says, “Katharine, we need someone to fill a hole in our programming right now”, I’ll do it. (Not hypothetical. This has happened to be before.) And I’ve been approached by at least one performer asking if I’d do the intermissions for their show, and I’ll probably say yes. But honestly I don’t feel the need to stand up on stage and perform. My favorite type of bardic over the years has shifted to mini-performances as I wander around War and find people in their camps. Just a quick, “Hey, would anyone be interested in a song or story”, perform for 5-10 minutes, and then move on. Standing up in front of a large group of people is fun, but it’s also a time commitment I’m not sure I want to make.

I’ve been very slowly developing a new persona since 2013. I look at a few websites, read a few chapters of a book, and then put the whole thing down to look at later. I’ve determined that Katharine is early 14th century English, having been born exactly 700 years before me and going through time exactly 700 years before now. So for her, it is 1316. That much, I have.

But I’d been hoping for so much more. I was really hoping I could start up a new, in-persona class this year called, “A gossip’s guide to English court, 1316”, which is a class I’d like to offer every year at Pennsic, with each subsequent War progressing the timeline a year forward. But I realized that between the new job and getting all my Pennsic stuff together after a two-year absence, this would be just too much for me. I decided to shelve it for next year.

I would like to develop out the new persona more, though. I’d like to start telling stories more in-persona. Maybe someone will workshop some stuff with me at War. Because otherwise I worry it’ll fall through the cracks for yet another year.

Even though bardic is my first love and the thing I most look forward to, there are certain practical considerations in going to War for two weeks, especially as a new persona. Chief among them is that a large chunk of my garb either doesn’t fit anymore because I’ve gained weight, or is no longer appropriate for my persona, or both. I have enough t-tunics to last me the two weeks (more or less), but only three sideless surcoats and no wool overlayers. I’ve got a wool hood and mantle and a lot of cloaks, so I should be okay for the cold, but it would always be nice to have more. Sadly, I suck as a seamstress and I rarely find the energy to make new garb, particularly knowing that I’m only gonna wear it at Pennsic and maybe one or two other events a year.

I’m also worried about my shoes. I had some moderate foot problems last Pennsic because my period shoes exacerbate some old foot injuries if I walk in them too long, but my sneakers are both hyper-modern and also non-waterproof. I’m half tempted to bring my winter boots, which are insulated hiking boots, but I worry my feet will sweat and stink very badly in the Pennsic heat. I’m holding out hope that I can find new shoes in the next day or two, but I worry about what’ll happen if I don’t. I don’t seem to have any good solutions for the ridiculous amounts of walking I’ll be doing at War. Join me in prayers to Saints Crispin and Crispinian, patron saints of cobblers, in the hopes that they’ll steer me right.

The good news is I’ll have a decent amount of spending money this year. The bad news is the Canadian dollar is crappy, and there’s a lot of stuff I want to buy. As I write this, my bank is offering about 75.3 cents US for every Canadian dollar. That’s admittedly better than it was doing back in January, but still. It means I’m losing quite a lot in the conversion.

Which is sad, because there’s a lot I want to buy. In particular, I need ALL THE CDs and at least one new piece of garb. (See above about wool overlayers and my lack of having one.) In terms of CDs, I try to buy every CD put out by SCAdian artists, because I like supporting my friends and a lot of them have songs I want to learn. And I know a ton of stuff has come out in the last three years. If I get away with less than 20 CDs, I’ll be hugely surprised. Time to pull out the pocketbook and start saving my pennies. (Haha! I kid! Canada doesn’t have pennies anymore!)

On the other hand, I’m hoping to do a little barter. I’ve got a bunch of hand-sewn apron dresses and some other garb that doesn’t fit me and isn’t appropriate to the new persona. There’s gonna be a barter town swap meet on Monday of War Week, so hopefully I’ll be able to do some good trading there.

Food, Camp, Chores, Logistics
Our camp offers a breakfast-and-dinner meal plan. Every year I’m tempted to just sign up for breakfasts and see whether I can sing for my supper. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen this year – I’m already registered and paid – but I have a sneaking suspicion there will be evenings where I’m down in the Bog and just let people feed me there. Time will tell.

Our camp is instituting a sign-up sheet for chores. I personally consider this a good thing compared to previous years, where the policy was, “If you see something that needs doing, do it.” I’m very rarely in camp and I always feel guilty that I’m not pulling my weight. I hope that with the chores sign-up, things will run smoother and I’ll know I’ve done my part. I imagine that Land Grab weekend is still gonna give me cabin fever as I want to wander but need to stay in camp to help set up, but that’s been the case every Pennsic for the last decade. It’s just something I need to live with.

Speaking of Land Grab, it looks like I’m borrowing a tent again. At the very least, I told the head of our camp that I needed a tent, he said he’d find me one, and he hasn’t contacted me since to say it fell through. Period tents at Pennsic make me happy. I have a hard enough time staying asleep after sunrise on the Serengeti in a period tent; modern tents just make the problem worse.

I’m planning on doing the full two weeks this year, arriving the evening of Land Grab Saturday and leaving… I don’t know. If I’m lucky, my body will have spontaneously decided it’s not allergic to the mold that grows under the tents anymore and I’ll be able to stay until final Saturday. More likely, this will not be the case and I’ll wind up leaving on War Week Thursday or Friday. One of the reasons I’m not taking a passenger this year is so I can be flexible with leaving times. I’d hate to be flaky when someone else is depending on me.

Kermit Arm Flail!
All my above reservations aside, I’m super-excited to be going back to Pennsic. I miss my “annual friends.” I miss the joyful feeling in the air of everyone being somewhere they love. And, let’s not kid ourselves, I miss the chance to do bardic for two weeks straight. Even if I’m not fully ready, I will be ready enough, and by Plaugg, that’s good enough for me!

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