The carnival rides of the Elizabethan era
Continents Colliding
About the Harmony Hut
You didn't ask...
Sports Stuff

Well, where to begin?  Ahem:


It fell about in Martinmas time

And a gay time 'twere then

The gud wife hae the puddings to make

And she's boiled them in the pan


Er, no, wrong story.  Start again. 


Okay.  It was September 1997.  I was in The Bay Area on business, and Stef was a recent immigrant, and we wanted to get together for some laughs, so I suggested that we go to the faire.  The official title is the Renaissance Pleasure Faire North or some such hokety thing, but I always call it the Big Fat Bloatbag Renfaire.  So, Charles secured us a couple of comp tix, and away we went in my rental car to the dusty hills of Novato.


Now, the Big Fat Bloatbag Renfaire does try real hard to pull out all the stops, but it's hard, it's hard, to do medieval England when it's 90 degrees out and the dust is blowing and people are selling buffalo chicken wings.  Still, they did try.  There were plenty of people in the costumes of various periods, and they called the wings "dragon wings" or some such hokum.  We wandered through the place, looking at various wares and shows, and if the truth be known, mostly making fun of it all.


(“cuz you guys are a couple of smart ass-en.”)


Well,  yeah..  Anyway.  Yeah, we were smart asses, but it's hard not to be around these big fat stupid hairy Renfaire nuisances.  They go belly up to the bar with their goddamn tankards and ask for some "mead".  "Ho, fair lass!" and all that horseshit.  Then the procession marches by and they all turn around and bellow, "God save the queen!"


(*marvels that nobody got punched by either one of you*)


I didn't want to punch anybody, but it was very hard to refrain from saying, "Do you know what an ass you look like?"


So, we wandered through the place.  There were a few nice wares, but mostly it was overpriced badly made crap, and we had a particularly good time chortling at the displays of martial "skill".  Any of these people, if it came to the real thing, would have severed their own fingers with any bladed weapon, and as for projectiles, they couldn't hit a bull in the butt with a tennis racket.


So, it was the very last day of faire.  Everybody was a little worn out, and as I had figured, we had about enough of it in half a day, so we were hanging out near the entrance, waiting for the last joust.  We were kinda hoping that they'd be sloppy enough on the final day, or maybe figuring that there'd be no payback at this

late date, that someone would let loose an honest to god buffet and they'd have to get the smelling salts. 


Anyway.  Near us there was this kinda sorta medieval carousel.  Picture this: big pole in the center that turns around, has spokes going out from it at about ten feet up.  Hanging from each pole is a rope sling which is holding up a carved wooden horse.  It was a little kids' ride: they'd get on the horses, the operator would buckle 'em in, and the operator would run the ride.  It being all hey nonny nonny and medieval, this ride didn't run on a motor, oh no sir.  It ran on human-power.  Specifically, there was a capstan in the middle, and the operator would push the capstan and get the ride going, and the horse would go around and around, little kids just lovin' it.


But, there was a design flaw.


In order to get the ride up to a speed that would make for happy little kids (and happy little kids' happy parents), the operator had to turn the capstan at a pretty good rate of speed.  This wasn't hard to do, but it was hard to keep doing it, because to turn the capstan, they had to push the bar, going around the center pole, and it was a rather tight circle.  So they had two options: trot around constantly in a rather tight circle, becoming very dizzy in the process, or get the capstan going, give it a good shove, and then step back.  They couldn't just stand in the center, the capstan arm would come around and belt 'em.  The second problem came in when they stepped back, because in order to get decently clear of the capstan, they would have to step into the path of the flying horses, which were going along at about three feet off the ground.


You could tell that the job of operating this ride went to the people at the bottom of the heap.


So, we were watching this ride.  At first, there was a Young Laydye operating the ride, who had the routine down pretty well: belt the kids in, grab the capstan, get it going good, *step*step*dodge*step*step*, and she'd be outside the whole mess and safe.  I guess she had been doing it a while, and I guess she was pretty god damn sick of it, too, because about an hour before faire closed, she turned the operation over to a Younge Varlet of about eleven or twelve yeares, a sort of nerdy Renfaire version of a mall rat, who looked too young to be working there legitimately. 


He was another batch of oatcakes altogether.  He didn't seem like he was too fast on the uptake under the best of circumstances, and under those circumstances?  It was late, he was tired, faire was over, so he gets to operate the ride.  Belt the kids in, okay, we got that part down.  Then he steps up to the capstan and tries to do the little *push*push*step* etc. routine.  But, it quickly becomes clear that this kid is one of those people who's forever absorbing what just happened, so the thing that's about to happen kind of eludes him until it's in the past tense.  So he starts pushing.  Push push push.  He gets it going.  Then he figures out that he can't stay there pushing the capstan forever.  So he kinda staggers to a halt, but around comes the capstan arm and nearly beans him. 


(“ho ho merry japes”)


I must confess that we weren't helping.  We were sitting there on the fence, making bets with each other about when he would get injured and how.  We were NOT helping a BIT.


So, Younge Varlet figures out that if you stop pushing the capstan, you have to get the fuck outta the way.  So he gets the fuck outta the way.  And, just like I said, he stood there watching the capstan go past him, kinda figuring out what had just happend and assimilating the experience.  So what should happen next but around comes a carousel horse that nearly creams him -- "nearly" only because he wasn't yet fully outta the way of the capstan. 


So he jumped and stood staring after the carousel horse.  (Ods blud!  That was a close one!).  Around comes the next carousel horse -- a fine charger, 'twere, its head down, stretched out, eating up the miles -- and rams its solid wooden snout right into his left kidney.  At godspeed.  I mean, it was movin’. 


I have never in my life seen Stef laugh so hard.  I thought he was going to be incontinent right on the spot.  We howled.  This poor kid is standing there rubbing his kidney, and us laughing so loud.  Stef is yelling insults at him in between gales of laughter: "What an idiot!  ha hahahahahaha!"


So, that is the story of me and Stef at the Renfaire, and it's part, but not all, of the reason why we're the kinda people who always need to walk home from a boat ride.