Ren 5/13/22

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Today was interesting. For the first time, I attended the Nebraska Ren Fair. Often, when I go to Renaissance Fairs, I dress in garb, but as this was my first visit to the Nebraska Fair, I opted to attend in my “civvies”. Renaissance garb is, frankly, cumbersome. If it’s relatively authentic (I mean, how authentic can it really be?), there are none of the modern conveniences, such as zippers, or buttons on pants. It’s not easy getting out of pants with ropes holding them on in a bathroom emergency.

So, I walked around as a patron, taking pictures with my way overpriced and underutilized digital camera, pretending like I know what I am doing. It was great fun. I took a photo of a family, mom, dad, fiveish year old and baby in a stroller. The five-year-old was very polite. He said “thank you”, paused, and added “bitch”. Yeah, I’ll be deleting that photo.

I met one young lady, apparently a young teen, who had no idea how to accept a kindness. Kind of heartbreaking, actually. I happened upon a booth selling crystals, and overheard her ask what she can get for twenty-five dollars. She seemed like she wanted a crystal that was out of her price range, so I asked her, “if money were no object, what crystal would you buy?” With a little hesitation, she finally indicated, meekly, that there was a large crystal that she would have purchased, but at thirty-five, it was more than she had. I said to the vendor, “I’ll buy that one.”

Immediately she refused. “Are you buying that one for me? No, I refuse…” Maybe she was worried that I was going to try to do something creepy, which is, let’s be honest, way too common in our society, but that’s not the way it seemed. I had the distinct feeling that she just didn’t know how to take a random act of kindness. The vendor tried to talk her into it saying that she shouldn’t feel guilty, I, of course, did the same and explained it was just a random act of kindness. But she started to walk away, apparently feeling uncomfortable in the situation, but somehow, she turned back around. We came to a settlement, that she would let me buy the crystal for her if I took her money. Square deal. She felt better about accepting the gift, and we charged the crystal with positive energy in the act of kindness. Interestingly, I paid cash, gave the vendor forty-five dollars, and instead of offering change, she simply said, “I’ll be sure to pass the kindness along.”

Okay, fine, I didn’t need the change. I’m still kind of chuckling about that one.

My “Home Ren Fair” is actually in Sioux Falls, where I play Marco Bragadino (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts), which is not terribly far from the Nebraska Ren Fair. While I was there, I randomly asked a young woman if she likes the turkey legs (as she had one), and she stopped and said, “did you teach at Dakota State University?” It turns out that I had randomly asked a former student of mine about her legs, and yes, that sounds very wrong indeed. But it was fun running into her, and frankly, I love when former students recognize me, and liked me enough to point it out. Believe me, they didn’t all like me that much. I don’t know if she’ll choose to contact me or not, but it was fun chatting briefly with her.

And I ran into several of my friends from the Sioux Falls fair (maybe four or five hours away). That’s always fun. I almost got a kiss from one of my newer friends, but I thought she was just going in for a hug and I turned my head too fast. Sigh. Would have been my first kiss in YEARS.

Ren fairs are fun. It’s like a big outdoor shopping mall with entertainment out of step with time. But the people have fun, both in and out of garb, and most of the vendors are small shop. It’s rare to see anything mass-produced at these fairs (and if you do, it’s usually something that is offered from a small business owner surrounded by their own artisan products, like the set of dice that I saw surrounded by hand-made jewelry). They can be found pretty much anywhere and depending on the location more or less year-round. It’s worth checking out. Just avoid kids who call you “bitch”.

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