I had to explain to a friend why I wouldn’t be at her _____ this weekend. I’ve been surprised several times within the past year to see people’s expressions when I explain what “busy” means to me, but as the universe seems to find it funny to keep redefining what “manageable” means in my life, the expressions on people’s faces indicate that they and I perhaps define “busy” a little differently. So for example: last weekend between Thursday and the Tuesday that followed it, I put 1148 miles on my car driving from southern Ohio to Michigan back across Ohio to Pennsylvania, and back via a different way through Ohio to home. That’s like driving from New York City to Tampa Florida (I just checked it on Google.) In the midst of that 1148 miles, I worked 8 hours on Thursday, 4 hours on Friday, 13 hours on Saturday, 11 hours on Sunday, 11 hours on Monday, 4 hours on Tuesday. I felt kinda lucky on Tuesday night actually, cause I decided to nap for a whole two hours rather than make more glass related things to sell. My cat had other ideas, so I ended up reading the artist Marrus’ book, called “Lightsurfing”. It was fabulous, and I can sooooo relate to her thoughts about people, art, selling art, and the weird world that sucks you in while selling your art.
Her book not only made me feel “normal” for an artist, but it gave me some new ideas, and in the state that I’m in (which would be a wee bit ragged at this point) I know why people do drugs. Really I do. There’s a part of my busy season (which is happening right now if the title didn’t clue you in) that I get so ground down that my filters fall off, and somehow that frees all the worldly concerns and allows my creative side to take flight. It could also be because I do a lot of driving this time of year, and for whatever reason, long drives seem to be one of the few places where my brain goes into hyper pattern recognition, ideas flow, (thank gods for Siri who takes weird but acceptable notes for me) and things click together in new ways.
I still think that this weekend may have been totally absurd in its own right…. because first off, I got
Upstaged By a Grasshopper
I was standing at an oblique angle to the “Cadillac” piece in my booth at the Ren Faire, and three ladies walked in, pointed to something in my booth and said, “Wow! It’s huge!” (For the record, the lantern in the photo stands a little over 2 feet tall, so it is huge, and I couldn’t logically see what else they would be pointing at. I mean, my booth itself is kinda small – 9 feet 3 inches per side to be exact, so the lantern in question is definitely “the piece of wow” in my booth. I proudly exclaimed, “Let me show it to you in the light!” and held up the lantern, door ajar so the glass shone true. One of the ladies corrected me. “No,” she said, “We were talking about the grasshopper.” I looked closely at the tall part of my checkout stand (which has two tiers, the lower of which the lantern was on) and see a pretty good sized specimen of grasshopper sitting there, taking in the view. I kind of laughed, and said, “Well the noise you hear is my artistic ego deflating.” They chuckled, but clearly the grasshopper was unimpressed. I swear he looked at the three ladies like, “Why are you guys laughing? She’s not as funny as I am! Watch this!” As we stood there watching him watch us, he wiggled his tail section, which looked like moveable miniature armor plating, and out from it shot a grasshopper turd. Admittedly I’ve never seen a grasshopper take a dump before. His timing was perfect. My three potential customers looked at me, looked back at the grasshopper, made a collective “Eeeeeeew” face, and left like greyhounds in pursuit of a rabbit.
More Fecking Wildlife Doing What It Shouldn’t Where It Shouldn’t
I went to put more salt in my softener today and noticed… a dead mouse. We’ve had a run of them lately, (Mice, not dead mice… Well, I guess actually it is a run of dead mice if you count that I keep finding them in my mousetraps and not in exciting places like my water softener.) I don’t know where they’re getting in, I don’t tend to leave food out… but I do live in a ranch house that’s over a crawlspace. And it’s a foreclosure, which means that there are probably mouse colonies that have years on me in terms of who’s been the longest tenant here. I keep filling holes as I see them, around pipes and vents and stuff, but until I stop catching them in traps? Well, let’s just say the traps will be out and filled with nummy peanut butter. My first thought upon seeing Ralph S Mouse floating in the drink was, “Oh holy feck I’ve been drinking the gorram water with mouse poop and dead mouse in it.” And promptly thought about vomiting. My second thought was, “Holy shit my arm’s too short to reach the bottom of the softener tank and fish it out.” Enter a stick, bleach, one vomiting episode, a shop vac, one phone call to Kenmore to ask exactly how much bleach one can put through said softener and not damage it… Needless to say I didn’t get my full workload done today. Some things just take precedence…
Praying Mantid And Another Reference to Vomit
(According to my friend Tamar, “mantid” is the plural of “mantis”). It’s a weird thing to be trying to describe in a blog, but for those of you with a well-defined spiritual side, praying mantid seem to come along whenever my business is expanding in a “Oh, please don’t let me vomit during this ride” kind of way. So it’s good, but scary. Like a roller coaster. The last time my business expanded like this was about five years ago, and I think I spotted 3 different mantid that fall. I’m seeing trends in that direction again. It’s cool but scary. And it means that I’m so busy riding the roller coaster that other things happen…
I Should Go Buy a Lottery Ticket Because I Didn’t Get Arrested In Wal-Mart
When I’m this busy, I just naturally lose weight. I put high calorie food in my mouth whenever I remember, get extra cream and sugar in my coffee (just for the extra calories), and at one truly epic (and cold) Ren Faire season in Ohio, every weekend we were open I would make hot chocolate in the mornings by melting a Lindt bar and stirring in cream or evaporated milk until it looked like a mug-full. But yeah, weight loss happens. I also tend to run short on clean clothes this time of year, so I end up wearing the dregs of my wardrobe (ya know, the stuff that never gets pulled out unless you’re desperate.) The pair of jeans I wore to WalMart were too big, and although they fit when I initially bought them, they didn’t really fit anymore by this past weekend. And I neglected to pack a belt because I hate wearing belts unless I’m in garb. (I can’t explain it, it’s just a weird quirky thing, ok?) And I wasn’t wearing knickers because, well, I miscounted the correct number needed for the weekend, and dear god I just wanted to buy my crisps/potato chips and whole milk and get back on the road… (No I didn’t say I eat well during shows season, I just said I eat high calorie food.) So the poor folks at Wal-Mart were getting treated to a rather stellar eye full, cause I was wearing a stained and ratty old tee shirt, pants that were clearly too big for my current size, hair that looked like it had seen better days, and I could smell me because I’d been driving all morning in a truck with no air conditioning and it was 87 degrees out. And sunny as hell. I think I inadvertently clinched the “Dear gods is she a meth-head?” in the rheumy eyes of the wizened WalMart greeter when I stood outside the automatic door for five minutes (waiting for people to stop going in) so I could get a photo of this:
If you can’t read it, it says, “LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAVE – Please make sure children are not left unattended in vehicles.” Now, I don’t have kids, but really, if you feel like you have to post this on the door of your business, I think that perhaps you may want to reconsider the demographic you’re marketing to. In other words, I actually fit in okay while shopping there the other day.
But the pants. Luckily the aisle was empty when I reached up really high to grab the chips I wanted. I think the security camera was either not on me, or it was a horny guy watching, because, well, when you reach high, your stomach flattens out. And my pants had a wardrobe malfunction. If there was someone on the camera at that moment, he (or she) got a fairly solid look at at least 2 inches of “more-than-I-show-to-someone-who-isn’t-living-with-me”. At least I didn’t get arrested. Although I did remember standing in the dairy aisle that I should grab a can of metallic spraypaint to touch up some lanterns I acquired that needed a little TLC. That clearly changed the greeter’s opinion from “Meth-head” to “Huffer” when she saw me walking out with my booty cause I refuse to bag shit I can just as easily carry… Sigh.
Children Shipped In From Hell
I don’t know where the kids came from at the Faire this past weekend. I think hell was running a special. “Buy one hellion, get one free!” (Or something like that.) It was so bad that other vendors were asking if the kids were particularly bad around my booth. (I’m the glass artist on the row. I think that’s the Ren Faire equivalent of the litmus test when contemplating child behavior “en masse” on any given weekend.) Nothing got broken, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by the anklebiter set. I actually yelled at a kid this weekend. (For anyone that’s seen me at Faire, I can’t remember in my 10 years of doing this of ever yelling at a kid).
Kids are impressionable, and frankly, although I’d hate to lose a piece, I would always rather compliment a kid on being gentle with something (particularly if they’re not quite hitting the “gentle” mark, but haven’t yet actually connected with a shot that puts it into “Danger Will Robinson!” territory), as it makes their parents react in a non-defensive way. And if you’ve ever worked retail, Ren Faire is guerilla retail – it’s high octane, super fast paced, and the sheer number of people is staggering. On a good day, depending on the faire, the gate count can vary from 8,000-20,000 people. I don’t want someone remembering my booth as the place where their kid got yelled at. It’s just my philosophy, but in my opinion, our primary goals are to a) sell stuff) and b) make sure people enjoy themselves enough to not only come back, but bring their friends. Word of mouth and all.
Seriously though, I stopped one little girl from having a swordfight with my Tardis lantern, another kid from juggling some of my magnets in my booth, one child from pulling on my hanging stuff like he was practicing for an epic cow milking experience, and another pair of kids from fencing with sticks in my 9 foot 3 inch booth. (Half of which is taken up by my product, so there ain’t a whole lotta room to maneuver while dueling.) I had more offers than I can remember ever cumulatively in one weekend from parents asking if I would “take their kid in trade”. My standard reply is that the ones that get offered up so quickly are never a good deal in the end. As Wallace Shawn’s character in the Princess Bride says, “It was inconceivable.” (And I know what that word means.)
And Then The Universe Rights Itself
Near day’s end, this guy came into the booth with his daughter in tow. Dad looked frantic. Little girl was weeping. Dad asked, “Have you seen a clear crystal pendant anywhere?” He points to little girl’s neck, where there is a string and a clear dent in the string where a pendant recently hung. Now, at this particular faire, I don’t tend to bring my workbox with me – nobody in 3 years has asked for french hooks instead of posts on earrings, and my booth is tiny. There isn’t a lot of room for spare bits that aren’t for sale. I asked the standard, “Have you checked Lost & Found?” He replied with an affirmative, and so I asked the next logical question, “Do you remember where you got it?” Dad shook his head no. (Meanwhile I”m kind of swearing inside because I tend to over-engineer my products so that someone has to really try to lose them. If the little girl lost her new pendant within a few hours of getting it, I can only imagine what sort of clasp was on it… I’ve done my homework, and I’ve strolled around to see how other people do it. Ego aside, I don’t like to make stuff that won’t hold up. And it frustrates me when other people don’t make their stuff to a high standard.) So I said to Dad, “I don’t have the same type of pendants, but I have my box of crystals with me, and nobody should lose their treasure at Faire. Faire is supposed to be fun!” I pulled out my crystal box, and while little girl was ensconced in looking, I asked Dad in my sotto voce voice if $2 was okay, since that’s about what a crystal runs me. Dad gave me a thumbs up and a huge smile, which tells me that a) he paid a lot more for the first one, and b) made me swear inside all over again about ethics and quality and stuff. Little girl pointed to the one she wants, I made a wire hanger for it, and all is repaired. At this moment, Dad reminds little girl to say thank you (she had been completely non-verbal to this point). Little girl grabs me around the waist and hugs. Dad shoves a wad of cash in my hand. Day is saved.
So in thinking back, I realize that I’ve done this faire for 3 years now. I have never had my workbox with my crystals with me at this faire. I get weird inklings sometimes. Stuff I’m supposed to do, places I”m supposed to be… supernatural stuff, and when I’m in my busy season, I don’t tend to recognize them when they happen. Stuff just happens. So here’s the math: Even considering the odds, and the number of days I work this particular faire, that puts my having my crystal box with me (actually with me in the booth) at a 1:21 ratio. Weird huh? Cue Twilight Zone Theme. Fade to black. Good night folks.