Pennsic 2011 Diary: Saturday, August 13

before breakfast – Marauders

Enchanted Ground was, indeed, happening. The effect was somewhat diminished, however, by the presence of trailers in the camp. Also camp chairs and mundane clothes. It wasn’t so much an Enchanted Ground circle as a bardic circle in which people presented period-appropriate pieces. (I know I’m a bard: I wasn’t even attempting to alliterate that last sentence. It just sorta happened.)

There weren’t too many people around, and fewer storytellers. The guy who was running the circle (Chinngis? Does anyone know for sure?) did a few, Unnr did as well, and there were one or two others who did a piece apiece. I stayed an hour or so and did about four of my more lighthearted stories, which pretty much used up my repertoire of pieces that were both period-appropriate and fit the mood. I think next year I’ll just try to get there earlier in War.

From there, I went across the street to Eoforwic, where I sat for a while with Hector and Grim, who was also visiting. We traded war stories, and interesting Bible stories, and just generally chatted.

Then Grim and I walked up the hill. On a tip from Dorigen, we headed over to High Rafters, where I found many of my favorite bardic people: Morgana, Fiana, Toki, Zsof, Dahrien, Cerian, Maraha… I walked in to find Fiana telling the story of “Putting the Devil in Hell,” and I’d have loved to stay longer to hear more performances (have I mentioned these are some of my favorite people?). Sadly, it was late enough and I was fatigued enough that I decided to go home. [Editor’s note: If you don’t know the story of putting the devil back into hell, you owe it to yourself to go read it. It’s pretty short, and it’s one of the Renaissance’s best dirty jokes.]

I slept in John’s tent, but despite getting home around midnight, it took me a really long time to fall asleep. Between the congestion, the strange tent, and the unfamiliar sounds, I was probably awake for at least an hour. Waking up was… a challenge. I don’t usually experience “ning,” but today it is ning. [Editor’s note: Some friends of mine argue that until you’ve had coffee, it’s not “morning,” it’s just “ning.”]

We don’t have camp breakfast today, so I’m going to Beast & Boar, maybe with Edith and Colin. The antihistamines are helping somewhat – I’m not sneezing my brains out – but I am extremely congested and I’ll be leaving today, probably sometime this morning.

2:45 p.m. – service area outside Rochester

I left site early, around 10:15. My allergies weren’t as bad as the last two years, thanks to the antihistamines, but they were still there, waiting to pounce. I stayed long enough to get breakfast from the Beast & Boar, eat half of it, pack the rest of my stuff into the car, and drive Alethea up to parking. (She was parked way far away.) I’ll drive as far as I can today, which probably means somewhere on the I-81 between Syracuse and the border. I’ll get there moderately early, with no idea what to do for the evening, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. It’s probably for the best: even with the French vanilla I bought when I filled up outside Buffalo, the sleep dep is getting to me and I’m kinda sluggish. (Good enough to drive, but not, say, to car-watch while I’m doing it to figure out who else is coming from Pennsic.) Thank God for my audio book. It’s been keeping me nicely entertained, and I’m only about 2/3 through it. It might keep me occupied all the way back to Montreal.

It’s weird to be in air conditioning. Enjoyable, but weird. Now if I could only get to a real shower…

Incidentally, it’s truly odd to me how after using porto-potties for two weeks, I can still be repulsed by unclean flush toilets, where the person before me forgot to flush. Different contexts, different reactions, I suppose.

7:20 p.m. – Stefano’s Restaurant, Pulaski, NY

I wound up stopping around 5:00, about 45 minutes north of Syracuse. I could probably have gone farther, but there was a good coupon for a Super-8 in my RoomSaver book ($60 plus tax), and I figured this was as good a place to stop as any. I took a real, hot, long shower, which was glorious, and lay down on the bed for an hour or so. Then I took a walk to an Italian place recommended by the hotel clerk, and here I am. Once I get back to the hotel, I think it’ll be time for the ever-traditional brain dump.

8:30 p.m. – Super-8, Pulsaki, NY

And now it’s time for the ever-traditional…

Post-Pennsic Brain Dump

I suppose the first thing I should write about is how it was a very odd year for me for bardic. Not bad, just odd. Unlike most years, where I’m at 1-2 circles a night, this year I think I only hit a handful. Sure, I was at other performances and exhibitions (Beowulf; the East-Mid circle, which was really more of an exhibition; the Marian of Heatherdale show; even the Hoity Toity party to an extent), but I think I was only at four honest-to-goodness, pick-pass-or-play circles. Which is odd. I enjoyed them very much, of course. Rhodri’s honeymoon circle was roaring; Haakon’s circle was lots of fun; the Peerless circle was a great place to workshop once we got going; and Enchanted Ground is always lovely, even with the sad absence of Cariadoc and the conspicuous presence of trailers.

I did other bardic, of course. I performed on my walkabouts (though, curiously, not a lot of the household-specific stuff I’d written for many of the camps). I performed for Erwillian at the Tudor House. I swept in and out of a few circles so that I can’t really say I “attended,” but I was there for 10-15 minutes. (I’m thinking particularly of Northshield and one night at Calontir.) More common, though, were nights where I performed maybe 5-10 minutes out of an entire evening, and watched the rest. I love the Harpwood Hall jam sessions, but until I learn to play an instrument, I’ll be on the sidelines, beating quarter-notes on my bead pouch and singing along with the choruses. Beowulf was great, and my piece went over really well, but again it was only five minutes of performing out of a 3-hour piece. I got to be “in character” at both Bardicci parties, but that was more roleplaying than bardic performance.

And, of course, there was the on-stage performance night. It’s been a long time since I was on-stage at Pennsic, not since the old chirurgeons’ benefit concerts. It was nerve-wracking, but also a lot of fun. And if I learned anything, it’s that I can hold a stage for 5-10 minutes, at least when it’s the Pennsic stage. I don’t think I’m ready for a full concert, not by a long shot, but at least now I feel it’s something I can reasonably aspire to.

I only wrote one piece at War this year, a commission piece I’m unlikely to ever perform before an audience, but it’s still better than nothing. I hope Gui likes it. I didn’t hear back from Alaric on how it went, but I have high hopes.

I got a few tokens and gifts this year, mostly for bardic: two rings, one from Morgana (since given away to Orla, who definitely deserved it), one from Grim; a bookmark from Lorelei; dice and a velvet dice bag from John; Bardicci silver; a coin from TRH Midrealm for performing at Beowulf; a “pilgrim badge” from Gaston. I didn’t get any new beads, nor did I give out nearly as many as I’d planned. I suppose that’s a side-effect from not going to too many circles.

And I also got clothes. Lots of clothes. For someone who usually doesn’t get any clothes at Pennsic, I managed to discover a veritable wellspring of clothes. Leonete delivered my lovely new cotehardie (I didn’t get a chance to wear it, but I will); I got a sideless surcoat from John’s box-o-garb; and I have an entire new outfit for the Hoity Toity party, complete with jewelry. Between that and my newly-dyed tunics, I felt like I had a lot more variety in my clothing choices. I could get used to this. Though I may need to buy another bin for next year.

Speaking of clothes, my own clothes-sewing project (the orange-green apron dress) was a partial success. I’ve got it to the point where I need to do the straps and hem the bottom, which will only take an evening or two. Sadly, once I got more than 3-4 panels in, it became too cumbersome to carry around. I’ll have to think of some other portable project for next year. Maybe embroidery.

Speaking of things that didn’t go quite as planned, being in the canvas tent was an interesting experience. It was definitely cooler than the nylon tent, it didn’t leak, and I had more room, so those are all major positives. On the other hand, the sun still woke me up every day before 8:00. I wonder if that would have been different if I’d had a tent next to me on the east side, but I may never know (until next year, anyway). Also, my experiment with having only my sheepskin on the ground next to my bed and no other ground covering was a mixed blessing. It meant that mold wasn’t growing too much under my tent, but it also meant I was paranoid about walking around barefoot, even in my own tent, especially when I realized I had a raw patch on my left foot. Also, after a few days of my laundry being under my bed, I got worried about mold or rot going up into the clothes, so the laundry bag lived on my camp chair for most of War. Next year, I may try a ground cloth/tarp and see how that works.

I mentioned my foot, so here might be a good place to point out some of the physical problems I had this year. My heat rash came back, but it always does, so I wasn’t terribly worried. More annoying was the blister on my right foot and raw patch on my left, which made it annoying to walk quickly. I also had some lower back pain, and have no idea whether it was the cause of or a symptom of my constipation for much of War. Thankfully, these were all relatively minor ailments and didn’t get in my way of enjoying War. I didn’t even need to use my inhaler much, which is a first.

There were a few highlights from the War that particularly stood out for me. Playing with children, whether in Eoforwic, in camp, or at Dione Sidhe, is always fun. I’m supremely impressed by parents who bring infants or toddlers to War. I’m not sure I could do that. I loved both Bardicci parties. Hamming it up with the guards at the low party and being on the arm of the Baron at the high party were both great experiences. Working the Watch shift was a new and interesting experience. I’m glad I went with Guido; I got to see parts of Pennsic I’d never seen before, even though this was my eighth War. I even know where the classic swimming hole is now, though I have yet to actually get there myself.

I also enjoyed just walking around and talking to people, which I seemed to do a lot of this year. I had heart-to-heart conversations with a few people I’d never spoken to on that level before, and I loved being around Harpwood Hall for a few hours when everyone was just relaxing and letting their hair down. Someone told me the other day, “I don’t know how you do all that walking.” For me, I don’t know how people are content to stay close to camp when there’s so much to do and so many friends to see. I have trouble staying in one place for more than a few hours at a time.

On the other hand, all my wandering is made possible in part by Seraphina, our awesome camp cook. I eat better at War than I do at home: bigos, fajitas, perogies, ham, turkey with all the trimmings… I love my camp’s meal plan! I eat well in other ways, too: scones in camp, cookies from friends, scavenging awesome stuffed bread and homemade cheese at Eofowric… the list goes on and on. This is why, despite the huge amount of walking I do, I never lose weight at Pennsic. I’m just too tempted by all the food. (I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “I can resist anything except temptation.”) [Editor’s note: Apparently it was Oscar Wilde. I stand corrected.]

As usual, there was weather at Pennsic, in a very wide range this year. It started off super-hot, so that I barely felt like moving by day and lay on top of the covers at night, trying vainly to cool off. By the end of War, the days were still hot, though not brutally so, but the nights were quite chill, so that I had to break out my cloak and my feet turned into icicles by morning. Thankfully, there was only one or two really rainy days. For the rest of it, there were just short showers, mostly at night. And there were a few really gorgeous days, for which I’m very grateful.

I had an odd experience this year with regard to my nickname. It’s nothing new that people call me “Pocket Bard”; it’s a good nickname and I’ll answer to it. But somehow, on the same day, three or four different people independently seemed to decide to call me just “Pocket” or “Pockets.” Suddenly I understand people who don’t like their names shortened, the “Michaels” who hate “Mike” or the “Jennifers” who hate “Jen.” Let me say for the record: I will answer to “Pocket Bard” or “Katherine” or even “Julie,” not “Pocket.” I do not like the idea of being called “Pocket.”

Another odd thing about this year: I was homesick much earlier than normal. I suspect this is because Marc is home this year, not off fighting forest fires. Usually I don’t hear any news from Montreal for the entirety of War, but this year I was hearing updates every day. I think that made me miss it more.

I also missed a few of the Pennsic regulars I’m used to seeing. High on the list were Seamus and his lady (new parents and wisely not coming to Pennsic with a few-weeks-old baby) and Duke Cariadoc, whose stories I greatly missed. I hope I’ll see them all next year.

Speaking of next year, I have project ideas (as I always do). In terms of garb, I really think it’s time for me to start making some trim and weaving a belt or two. For which, of course, I really need to settle on my new persona. It’s been two years; I’d like to lock it down. In terms of bardic, I think I’m going about my saints’ lives stories project the wrong way. I think instead of reading through the Golden Legend, I should compile a list of 25-50 of the most popular medieval saints and work on one every week or two, really getting down their stories and mining them for stuff I can use for bardic. I’d like to get a bunch of short stories, not just the long ones like my St. Basil or St. Christopher (video) stories (8 and 6 minutes, respectively, which is long for bardic circles or impromptu performances). I’d also, as always, like to pick up the guitar again, though that may or may not happen, and I’d like to follow up on Lorelei’s suggestion to take an ear training class to start to learn to sing harmonies.

Next year, if I can make it, will be strange and possibly difficult for the Marauders, because John is thinking of going to Europe instead of Pennsic. John does a ton of work in camp; he’s the glue that holds us together and the oil that makes the camp run smoothly. I honestly don’t know who’s going to do it next year, and the Marauders may be in for a bit of a shock. I hope it all works out okay, because I’ve gotten lulled by the luxury and would hate to go back to the lifestyle I lived my second Pennsic, when I was in a camp of four people without amenities whatsoever.

That said, Pennsic is still Pennsic, and it will be awesome even if I need to do more chores or get by with fewer luxuries. I just hope my job situation next year will allow it. I managed to pull off four consecutive years of “My situation shouldn’t allow me to go to but I’m making it work through sheer luck and stubbornness.” I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it a fifth time.

In any event, that’s a wrap for this year. I think it’s time to tumble into bed (a real bed, not an air mattress, and king-size to boot) and collapse into sleep. Until next year, have a great 50-week town run.

Back to Friday, August 12
Back to Pennsic Diaries



  1. Edith said,

    August 22, 2011 at 11:58 am

    If you decide to seam another apron dress as next year’s project (or any other time), would it be more manageable if maneuvered as two half-dresses? Seam all the front panels, then all the back panels, so there are only 2-4 panels in your lap at any given time. Then the side seams, which will be the full bulk of the thing, but not for most of the hours you’re working on it. –Edith

    • pocketbard said,

      August 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      Possibly. The problem isn’t keeping it in my lap, but in the satchel, which only has so much free space in it.

  2. Flieg said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Just a quick note about tarps for your tent. I recommend buying a canvas tarp AND one of those blue and silver COSTCO tarps in an appropriate size. The COSTCO tarp does down first, (make sure you roll it a bit at the edges so the water goes under it in the rain), and then the canvas tarp goes on top so that it is comfortable to walk on it.

    At the end of the event, you carefully peel the plastic tarp up, fold it so the grotty stuff is inside, and throw it away. It keeps the mold and stuff out of your tent,

    ‘Twas good to see and hear you at the war.

    — Flieg

  3. LoreleiSkye said,

    August 23, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Thanks for sharing all of this! 🙂

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