Finding Treasures

Another day ends, and I’m still feeling good. I find it unusually pleasant to be able to say that on a Monday. Let’s face it, only masochists actually enjoy Monday. So, anytime I can get through the worst day of the week and still be feeling good, well, that is a good thing.

The weekend was surprisingly productive; got a lot accomplished on a couple of projects, but I’m most pleased by the work I’ve gotten done on de-cluttering my living area. I finished my bedroom and got started on the bathroom this weekend. I’ve still got a lot left to do; regaining control of this house will be a project that takes a while. What makes me proud, makes me feel good, is that I can see that I am making progress. That visible progress helps me maintain the self discipline to keep going.

For the past three weeks I’ve been focusing on cleaning my bedroom. I’ve gone through and eliminated over half of the items in my closet.  I’ve also gone though all the boxes of stuff I had stored in  my closet, the boxes and tubbies stacked along one wall. I’ve also cleaned out the two junk drawers in my dressers. Most of the stuff I tossed from the closet  were pieces of clothing I’ve been holding on to for far to long. The stuff in the boxes and tubbies, and in the junk drawers was mostly…well, it mostly crap I took each box, tubby, or drawer  and removed everything inside. Each item got examined individually, and a choice on whether to keep or toss was made. Quite frankly, most of it got tossed. If I hadn’t  used it in the last year, it got tossed.

Well, the “have I used this in the past year?” test determined the fate of most of the items in those boxes. The three cases of cassette tapes, none of which I’ve listened to in at least ten years? Tossed. The box of assorted commputer cables and other related odds and ends I’ve not needed in the last six years? Gone. The files of class notes from college?: Out of here.

I’ve compared this de-cluttering process to an archeological dig recently, and that is an apt description. The most recent items were on top, and as I dug down through the stacks of boxes, through the layers of stuff inside the boxes, I was literally digging through my past. Most of the items were no longer relevent to my life, so, as mentioned above, they got tossed. Just as most of the items found at any archeological dig are trash, literally. The trash reveals a lot about a culture, but it’s not what one would consider a treasure. Occasionaly, both in “real” archeological digs, and in my personal dig, treasures are found.

The first treasure I found was a small stuffed animal, a buffalo, that my sister gave me about ten years ago for my birthday. She was not the first person to tell me that I’m difficult to buy a gift for (a description that I heartily disagree with – how hard is it to get a gift certificate to a bookstore?), and that year she had commented a couple of times that was, “as stubborn as an ox.” So, on my birthday she handed me a wrapped box that contained this little stuffed buffalo and said, “this was the closest thing I could find to an ox. Love you, bro”. I’m not sure how long it’s been in that box; I remember displaying it in the apartment in Decautur, but I can’t really remember having it at the apartment in Nashville. It’s now sitting on top of the two reference books I keep on my desk (dictionary and thesaurus). It also led to me calling her Sunday afternoon and having a long, pleasant conversation.

The next box contained two treasures: a fake stone gargoyle statue, about six inches high and as ugly as homemade sin, and a bear figurine. The bear was a gift from my Mom, and I can’t remember how long I’ve had it. It is now guarding the top left corner of my book case. The Gargoyle? I got that from friend about  seven years ago. For reasons I never did really understand, his name is Fred. It’s ugly, as gargoyles are, and he is now guarding the second shelf in my book case.

I know that by keeping thse three little nick-nacks, I am kind of violating the concept of getting rid of things I don’t use. The whole purpose of de-cluttering is to simplify, to get rid of stuff. I know all that, but there are different ways to use things. The buffalo reminds me of of my sister, of what a great person she is, what a unique sense of humor she has. The bear does the same job, reminding me of my Mom. Fred, the gargoyle, reminds me of a friend I’ve not seen in years, and the fun we had. These three little items serve as visual reminders of the most important things in life; they remind me of friends and family. That is plenty of reason to keep anything.

That’s all for tonight.

C

The Wild Ride…

The Great De-cluttering goes on. I’ve spent an hour each night this week sorting through boxes and files, and throwing most of the contents away. In an odd way the process is sort of like an archeological dig – each piece of paper, each trinket is an artifact of the person I used to be.  Some of the finds have brought back fond memories while others  have triggered memories that I’d rather had been left buried. It has been an interesting way to see how much I have changed over the years.

Thursday night I found the preliminary schedule I had made in mid-September of 2004 while planning Bard Wars- Samhain 2004. That was the first weekend event I autocratted. Since then I have autocratted several events and enjoyed all of them, but I think that Samhain was my favorite.

You see, that was not only the first weekend event I autocratted; it was also the first event where I felt like I knew what I was doing. I had a lot more confidence in myself than I had while working on the previous year’s Lugh. The first event had taught me a lot – mostly it taught me that I couldn’t do everything myself, nor did anyone really expect me to. I had learned that it was ok to ask other people to help; I’d learned that people WANTED to help. No one would think less of me for asking for help.

So, I asked for a LOT of help. THL Luca handled the reservations. Mahsheed and Saachi organized the the candleight tournament on Friday night. The good folks of House Sablehand organized all the competitions and helped out in countless other ways.  Countess Linnet (now Duchess Linnet) organized all the classes. THL Gresch and THL Chiere organized the feast…oh my good the feast. What an incredible feast! My brother in law; a guy that has the metabolism of a shrew on meth, and who might way 150 pounds soaking wet, had to push his plate away during the fourth remove. His only comment was “I fought the food, and the food won”.

It is funny, I can remember a great deal of the planning of that event, but I don’t remember much of the Day of the event. Prior to court that evening, my main memory is one of walking around the site watching a lot of other people working their tails off, while I didn’t do much of anything. Well, that’s not really true –  I spent a lot of time listening to people tell me what a great time they were having, and thinking I had the most incredible event staff ever. They were the ones doing all the work, and I seemed to be getting most of the credit.

I have much more clear memories of court that night. It was, a very special court. That was the court where Gresh and Ree, got their GOA’s, and their induction to the Order of Denial. Of course that was also the court where I was inducted into the Denial, but as much as I was stunned by that I was more proud for Gresch and Ree. But the most special part of that court was the fact that when it was over I was belted to Linnet.

I will never forget the ceremony that Linnet had organized  for my belting. To this day the poster she made showing my “associate’s family tree” is still on my wall. I remember her handing the yellow belt she had woven, and I remember her turning me to face the audience and saying, “This is my protege, Cormac. Good done to him is good done to me, Evil done to him is……not recommended”. Gods, what a good feeling.

When I became her protege Linnet and I knew each other, and were friendly, but I can’t say we were really friends. In the last four years that has changed; today I consider her one of my closest friends. At the time I knew a lot about the workings of Grey Niche, or thought I did, but I was relatively clueless about the rest of the kingdom. In the last four years I’ve learned a lot more about my kingdom, about my barony, and most importantly about myself. It’s been a wild ride, and I can’t wait to see where the next four years will be like.

A good time was had at Brawl.

This has been a fairly productive day. I woke up rather early considering what time I got to bed last night. I’ve watched a couple of good movie (The Bank Job and Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels ), made my plans for the coming week, and even completed a jewelry project I was working on for a good friend of mine. Now, it’s time to talk about yesterday.

Yesterday I attended Barbarian Brawl put on by the good folks in Grey Niche West, ….excuse me I mean by the good folks of Small Gray Bear. This is the third year I’ve attended Brawl, and I have to say it is becoming one of my favorite events. The folks are always friendly, the fighting is always fun to watch, and there is always plenty of time to do what I do best; talk with people.

Turlaugh, Jakob, Elizabeth, and I pulled out of the drive way right on schedule at 6:30AM. The roughly two hour trip to Beebe went by surprisingly quickly. The conversation during the drive was interesting, wide ranging, occasionally thought provoking, and often hilarious. This is a good thing, because the drive across eastern Arkansas on I40 may be one of the most boring drives in the country. Well, on second thought, it’s not as boring driving through the Nebraska Sandhills, but then, nothing is that boring.

We arrived at the ASU Beebe campus about a quarter til 9:00 AM. I had promised I would help my friend Dia work the Troll station at the event, but unfortunately she was unable to attend due to illness so I worked with Ravenswar (hope I spelled that correctly), until the Troll closed at noon. I always enjoy working Troll, always enjoy talking with people as they arrive on site. If nothing else it’s a great way to know exactly who is, and isn’t on site. All to soon it was time to close troll and count the cash. I love it when the count is right the first time, it makes things so much easier.

The time between closing troll and feast was spent just talking to people, my favorite activity. I didn’t get nearly enough time to talk to my friends Cucullin or Eithne, but that is understandable; they were the autocrats for the event and were  quite busy. I did spend some time talking with Kat the Strange, John the Bell Ringer, and Lady Abigail. The four of us were trying to think of a spot halfway between Memphis and Little Rock that would be a good site for a regional fighter practice. I wandered out to the merchant area and talked with Drix for a bit, and then spent some money buying some pendants from Froggie, and  before knew it, the afternoon had passed and it  was time to set up for feast and court.

One of the things I really enjoy about Barbarian Brawl is the way that Their Excellencies Hrothgar and Brianna combine feast and court. It is nice to not have to hurry up and tear down the hall after court to set up for feast. It also makes for a relaxed, pleasant Court. The feast itself was wonderull, Julianna did a great job with it. I particularly liked the fresh bread in the first remove, and the chicken in the second remove. Oh, and I truly loved the entertainment between removes and between court business. Those in attendance were privileged to see the beginning of a new, informal, Baronial award, the SPAM*D: The Spontaneously Active Man Dance. Trust me, those of us that saw it in action are not likely to ever forget it, no matter how hard we try.

All to soon feast was over, and it was time to pack up and head home. Once again the trip was filled with laughter and seemed to pass quickly. Elizabeth and I both came away from the trip with ideas for new projects to work on. We got home somettime between 11:30 and Midnight. A long, but very, very pleasant day.

Crown List.

So, let’s talk about Crown List, which took place this past weekend at the Woodmen of the World Camp in Hattiesburg MS.

I traveled to the event with a different set of traveling companions.  My regular traveling crew all decided to stay home so I rode down with Sir Padruig, Lass, and Aktay. I find it surprising how different the road I’ve traveled literally dozens of times in the last six years looks when viewed from a different seat.

There is nothing like a five hour road trip for learning new things about people that you thought you knew. For instance I had no idea that Aktay was such a fan of country music from the sixties and seventies. Nor did I know that he and Padruig could do a pretty good rendition of “King of the Road By Roger Miller”.  I also learned that I am actually a fan of the group  Big and Rich. I discovered, much to my amazement, that is possible to travel to Hattiesburg without stopping at the Love’s truck stop in Canton.

We got to the site and got unloaded by about 8:30. I must have been living right last week because the bedspace had been sold out, but an email to the Reservation Steward let me find out that there had been a cancellation and the bed was mine. I dumped my gear on the bed , got changed into garb and headed out to do what I do best, talk to people, and I spent the rest of the night doing just that.

Saturday dawned clear and beautiful  The day would prove to be warm, but not oppressively hot. The tournament field was gorgeous. All the fighters had pavilions around the field and the heraldry on display was ……stirring. There were sixteen couples taking part in the tournament, including four from Grey Niche; Caedon and Lass, WIlliam of Glenn Lyon fighting for Marisa Symes of Berwyck, Ali was fighting for Naqid, and coincidently Naqid was fighting for Ali. All four couples were sharing a pavilion and the hospitality table they put on was truly impressive. Both Caedmon and Lass and WIliam and Marisa had honored me by asking that I process in with them, and I was more than happy to do so. In fact I was allowed to carry banners for both of them, which showed a great deal of trust I thought, since all four of those folks know how klutzy I can be. I thought it was particularly cool that Their Exellencies Dagan and Mahsheed were on site and doing everything they could to support and encourage the people from their Barony.
Though none of the Grey Niche fighters won the tournament they all fought honorably and well. I was proud to belong to a group that included such good people. In one round Naqid had to fight WIll, and it was clear that though they both wanted to fight, to win, they didn’t want fight each other. They are very close friends and neither wanted to be responsible for eliminating the other from the tournament. They both gave it their all, and when William called “good” to Naqid’s blow, she looked a bit confused. She said later that on one hand she wanted to celebrate because she had won, but she wanted to cry as well, because she had eliminated Will.
After the Grey Niche fighters were eliminated I really didn’t pay that close of attention to the rest of the tournament until the final fight. Sir Loric and Duke Havordh. Havordh won, but it wasn’t easy, Sir Loric fought very well. So well, in fact, that at court that night he was named Queen’s Champion.

The rest of the day passed quickly, but pleasantly. I didn’t get reserved in time to get a feast spot, but from everything I heard later it was an excellent meal. The post feast entertainment was hilarious. All to soon it was Sunday morning and time to come home. Another great weekend, and another great set of memories.

Cormac

A mixed bag

I finally figured out why I don’t post here as often as I feel I should; I don’t want this blog to turn into one of those “always angry” blogs. I don’t want to post about things that are annoying me, making me angry, or depressing me. Who wants to read that kind of stuff all the time? After looking around the blogoverse it seems that an awful lot of people want to write about that kind of stuff.
So, I tend to only write posts when I come back from events, or something that involves SCA people, because even with the large number of things in the SCA that annoy me, there is an even larger number of things in the Society that I love. A large number of things that I find in the Society that allows me to recharge and face the mundane world. When I spend time with SCA Folks, I come back feeling renewed, recharged, and ready to deal with all of the other things. I feel able to deal with the hundreds of annoyances in the SCA and the thousands of annoyances of the mundane world.
So, with that understanding, last night was a very mixed bag of feelings for me. I was not at all happy that my barony had to have the meeting we had last night. I’ll not go into the details about it here, because this isn’t the place for it, but if anyone wants to know what I’m referring to please feel free to contact me either by email or on yahoo messenger or google talk. I honestly believe that nobody in the barony was happy that we had to have that meeting last night. However, for whatever reason, we did. I think it was handled in the best way possible. I also hope that we all learned from it, and that we never have to have another meeting like that again. Because of that meeting last night sucked. Sucked rocks. Big, fat, greasy, republican rocks.
After the meeting, however, my usual crew went out for dinner, as we usually do after meetings. The conversation was interesting, and the laughter was contagious. I think we scared the poor waitress at Ruby Tuesday’s at first, but at the end of the night she was laughing right along with us. And during that conversation, amid the jokes and laughter I had an idea about a possible event theme for a Samhain. Not to be modest or anything, but it is a brilliant idea. As I sat their last night listening to and participating in the conversations I had most of the planning and the event schedule figured out. Now, to get it to work I just need to convince three other Barons and Baronesses it’s a good idea, and get a feastocrat. Shouldn’t be much of a problem at all.  Got plenty of time to plan, I don’t look at doing this until Beltaine 2009…

C

“I call that a bargain”

It’s 9:33 Sunday evening and I’m at the end of another good weekend. You just gotta like that. There’s something mindless playing on the television, but I’m not paying attention to it because my Ipod has results of my latest playlist creation playing. Shall we have a musical interlude? Why yes, I think we shall.

Run your car off the side of the road,
get stuck in a ditch way out in the middle of nowhere...
Get yourself in a bind, lose your shirt off your back,
need a floor, need a couch, need a bus fare...
This is where the rubber meets the road,
this is where the cream is gonna rise...
This is what you really didn’t know,
this is where the truth don’t lie 

Chorus:
You find out who your friends are,
somebody’s gonna drop everything,
run out and crank up their car,
hit the gas, get there fast, never stop to think
“What’s in it for me”, or “its way to far”
They just show on up…with their big ‘ol heart...
You find out who your friends are…… 

Not a whole lot to report about my work week. It sucked, but that’s why they have to pay me. Tuesday night however was rather interesting. Our local SCA group is/has been suffering from some internal communication problems that have manifested themselves in various ways over the last few months, and Tuesday night we held the second of a series of ….I guess you could call them “discussion” or perhaps “philosophy” meetings designed to address those communication problems. It went very smoothly, lots of good points were made and nobody got angry or got their feeling’s hurt.
Saturday was the true highlight of the week. Barbarian Brawl is a wonderful one day event hosted by the Barony of Small Gray Bear, and one that I always enjoy going to each year. This year in particular I was looking forward to it because two very good friends of mine were serving as autocrat and feastocrat for the first time. It was a great time. Let me tell you about it…..
I awoke after three hours sleep way to early Saturday morning. The reason I only had three hours of sleep is that I had promised Lady Deahe, the autocrat, that I’d make a chain to use as a prize for one of the tournaments, and I didn’t get it finished until late Friday evening. So, I was awake at 5:30, and unlike a work day when I have to get up at that ungodly hour I was full of energy. Showered and dressed by 6:15 and ready to roll. Kat arrived about 6:45 and we got her gear loaded and left to go pick up Her Highness Kenna. After picking her up we then crossed the Mighty Mississippi heading west. A short stop for breakfast and to pick up Duchess Linnet and Brandi in West Memphis and it was on to the site location at ASU Bebe.
We arrived about 10:00 AM, and quickly trolled in. It was a beautifully sunny day, but very, very hot. I stayed outside watching the fighting for a while, but frequently took breaks to get back inside, in the air conditioning. Her Highness was well attended, so I didn’t have much entourage duty, so I spent the day doing what I like most at SCA events: talking with old friends and making new ones. I was able to spend some time talking with Paul and Kat, with Neal, with Cucullin, and many, many others.
My class was scheduled for 1:15 Pm, and I had a whopping three people show up for it. I can’t claim it was a real class, but it was four people sitting and talking about about a topic for an hour, and I enjoyed it. I hope the attendees did as well.
The rest of the afternoon was spent the way the morning was; talkign with friends. I got some ideas for a couple of different projects I want to pursue from Brandr and from Hrothgar. Had a rather spirited discussion with Gresch. Watched some of the afternoon heavy weapons tournament, some of the rapier tournament, and before I really knew what time it was, it was time for court. Their Excellencies Hrothgar and Brianna hold a rather interesting court that combines feast with court. It is historically accurate for their time period, and it was unlike any court I’d ever been to before. Much less formal, and very, very entertaining. I was particularly moved by the attention they gave to Liam, who will soon be again departing for Iraq. That was very, very cool.
The feast itself was truly excellent. Lady Eithne and her staff outdid themselves. My particular favorites were the beef served in a bread bowl, the pork, and the bleeding fish pie.
After court it was time to load up and head for home. Again the trip home was filled with conversation and laughter. It was a great, great, great day. And it reinforced a thought I’d had last week while driving home from Cerridwyn and Gordon’s home: There are a great number of things about the SCA that I wish were different. There are lot of things about our Society that I wish would change, etc. etc. However, if dealing with those things are the price I have to pay to have days like I had that day, if that is the price I have to pay in order to spend time with good friends, well that’s a price I’ll gladly pay. To steal a line from one of my favorite musical acts, “I call that a bargain, the best I ever had”.

Cormac

A Winter Memory on a Summer Day.

My good friend Charlie suggested a cure for my writer’s block, “Tell us about your most memorable family holiday.” Well that’s easy, It would be Christmas. Specifically I think it would be Christmas of either 1980 or 1981. Now, I know Christmas is the major holiday for most people,  as it should be. But  Christmas in my family was kind of different for many reasons.
I guess the first reason is that my family didn’t travel at Christmas. The year I was born my parents told their parents, that would be my grandparents, that Christmas should be spent at home, and if they wanted to spend Christmas with their grandchildren they could come to our house. Now, both sets of Grandparents had grandchildren all over the country so some years they would come for christmas, some years they would be off visiting other grandchildren. That was fine. The point is, we never had to decide what place we were going for the holidays. THe holidays were, ALWAYS, at home for my sister and I. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how truly special that is. How truly tough it must have been for my folks to make that commitment and stick with it through pressure applied from various family members. It was just the way it was.
The other way that Christmas at our house was somewhat different was that my parents collected strays. Although we were not military, the town we lived in was home to a very large Air Force base (Offut Airforce Base) and most of the people we socialized with were military, or military dependents. Every year there would be several people that we knew that wouldn’t be able to travel to be with their families for Christmas, and somehow Mom and Dad would find out about them, usually a friend of a friend…Or perhaps somebody they worked with. So they would get an invitation to Christmas Dinner. It was not unusual for us to have 20 people for Christmas Dinner.  Four or five of them might have been blood family, but for that day each year, they were all family.
And what dinners they were!! It was not until many years later when I had been to several SCA feasts that I had comparable meals. Mom and Dad would cook turkeys, usually two, and usually a ham, as well as several other dishes (to this day I still think my Mom makes the best dressing/stuffing in the world), and most everybody else would bring a dish; either a vegetable dish, or  desert, or some kind of drink. There would be so much food we could have probably fed large portions of Ethiopia for the day. However, the food was just a reason for us to gather at the table (ok, in reality there were usually three or four tables put end to end) and socialize. Another tradition my parents always insisted on  was that EVERYONE ate at the table. There was not a “children’s table” downstairs. We’d eat, and talk, and tell our version of “no shit, there we were” stories.
So, what made that one particular Christmas so memorable? Well, It was one of the last that my family would have in Nebraska. We moved in 1983.  The more I think about it the more I’m sure it was 1981 and it was  a true Nebraska December day: Bright and sunny, clear sky, and bitterly cold. I don’t remember the exact temperature, but I’m sure it was somewhere around 20 below zero without counting the wind-chill factor.
That particular year we had 23 people for Christmas Dinner. It wasn’t the largest number we’d ever had share the day with us, but it was close to it.  People started arriving around 11:00,  and we sat down to eat at 3:00 P.M. My main gift that year had been a video game console, the top of the line Atari console and several games. Gods, Atari? How many years has it been since anyone heard that name?
About 23 minutes after unwrapping it I had it installed on the television in the family room, and for the rest of the day, right up until it was time to go upstairs for dinner I was playing my games. I played with Kris, my sister, and as guests started arriving, I played with various guests. One of the games was a type of target shooting game, and I/we were having a lot of fun.
One guest was an Air Force Lieutenant  named Duncan (I never knew his last name). He was a friend of Major Springer, our next door neighbor who was also attending along with his wife. . Major Springer and his wife always came to dinner because their families were in Arizona, and I don’t think they liked them much. Duncan was a Jr. Lt. , not married, and so young that i now realize he couldn’t have been out of college very long. As we were playing, blowing the bejesus out of something, he told me that his family was in Georgia, and for some reason he didn’t have enough leave to go visit during the holidays. He didn’t really have a lot of people he knew in Bellevue. I think he said he’d only been there a few months.
So, he stayed downstairs with Kris and I playing Atari most of the day, and tromped upstairs to eat when the call came out to take our seats. The dinner was huge, as always, and we had a lot of fun. Afterwards it was back downstairs to the family room to play some more, at one point Duncan and I took turns playing against Dad and Major Springer. Whipped their combined behinds as I remember. It was a a GREAT day. But the truly memorable part didn’t happen until about 9:00 PM that night.
You see, Duncan and the Springers were the last people to leave.  Duncan shook my hand,  and hugged my sister. He told us that we reminded him of his brothers and sisters  and that he had enjoyed himself. Then he turned to my parents, hugged my Mom, and shook my Dad’s hand and said, “Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher. You have made what was shaping up to be a very lonely, depressing day into one that I’ll remember, fondly, forever. Thank you”.
I never saw Duncan again. Soon after that I heard from Major Springer that he had been transfered to another base. But I’ll never forget the way his voice almost broke from the emotion he was feeling as he thanked my parents.
See, that is what I think the holidays should be about: It shouldn’t be about the presents (oh, I like presents, but it shouldn’t be the focus of the Season). Nor should it be about stressing about what part of the family you are going to  spend time with and what part you are not. Nor should it be about trying to outdo the neighbors for brightest lights. It should be about spending good times with good people, and building good memories. It should be about helping those that for whatever reason can’t be where they want to be. I think it was at that particular Christmas I began to truly understand that.

Thanks Charlie. I had not thought about that Christmas in a long time. Thank you for causing me to think about it tonight.