|I wonder if he knows he's just holding Dude's place?|
Let me tell you something. There's nothing that will get you funny looks more than sitting in a grocery store parking lot with a full cart of groceries in the same stall as your motorcycle. And I'll tell you something else; Having a passenger along with your cart of groceries doesn't exactly help people understand what the hell is going on either. But eventually, your girlfriend will show up and as your autistic son (as a random example) sits in the backseat he will say, 'Take me to (LOUDLY insert full address here), and step on it!' At that point you could A: Murder your offspring in front of 409 witnesses, or B: you might as well invite everyone in the parking lot to a barbecue, because they already know the address, and you won't have to print up fliers.
As if Dude wasn't feeling lordly enough, almost a week later Alexis invited me to drive her to the Renaissance Festival just south of Pittsburgh. Dave got very excited about going to the RenFest. He had absolutely no clue as to what a RenFest was, or what you did when you were there, but he was enthusiastic about it anyway.
The day of the Fest, Raine was fighting a cold, so it was just Dude, Alex and I that braved the chancy weather and made our way to the Land of Medieval Merchandise. After about an hours drive and almost exactly 1/2 mile before the exit it started raining. It was just about at this point that I remembered the 7 umbrellas that we own... 36 miles away at my house. It was a nice, gentle rain... right up to the point where we were halfway between the car and the front gate. Then it lost most of its 'gentleness'. We secured our tickets and immediately headed directly back to the car to secure some more modern version of lunch. Or at least something a bit less soggy.
RenFests are fun events and they're held all over the country, but not everyone goes, so let me explain a couple of things: Once Theater majors graduate college with their degrees and then find out that only about 11% of them actually get jobs in their field, they need something to do with all that unfulfilled 'theater-ness'. Odds are, that at least one of them has access to a large parcel of undeveloped land (probably owned by an older theater major) and they've all done the bake-sale/carnival fundraising thing any number of times while pursuing their dreams of stage glory. It's guaranteed that every one of them has read every Tolkien book ever invented, and seen every one of those Johnny Depp pirate movies at least 29 times a piece. They quickly find out that many people will pay actual money to wander around in this atmosphere and so they come back every year to the same place to do it again. So RenFests are basically County Faires with style. Also with historical and fantasy based merchandising.
When we got back the weather was much more well behaved so we started wandering around the place. We stopped briefly at the Jousting Arena to watch the preliminary phase of the main joust. This consisted of two guys in armour wandering around the lists shouting Elizabethan insults at each other. Dave liked the knights and was fascinated by the horses, but since nothing actually happened he was more than ready to move on once the shouting had stopped. Now when at a fair or a new mall or even a garage sale, I like to wander the whole thing at least once before I actually buy any of the things or participate in any of the activities. Dude was not hip to my style. He was ready to plunge right in and start riding the rides and playing the games, so right away we had a little bit of a problem.
It's no secret that for all my hard-ass, toe-the-line attitude about keeping Dave 'in line' (yeah, good luck with that, sport), sometimes, and at random intervals, I turn into a giant marshmallow man. So when David started gushing and getting all carried away in the booth with the dragon paintings it should come as no surprise that after 20 minutes of saying, 'Be careful.', 'Leave that alone!', and 'Don't touch that!', that as we were walking out and Dude was taking one last look at a display of carded prints, his big, mean, repressive father said, 'Pick one.' and bought the damned thing before we walked out.
How could I not? He was soooo excited about the prints. 'Oh, look! Dragons!' 'Dragons are
Shortly after our dragon purchase, as we were wandering slowly waiting on Alex to get finished in the Uncommon Scents store we watched a juggler for a while, but since he didn't even singe himself a little bit Dude's interest waned quickly. So we walked some more because Alex wasn't done yet. I don't think she's all that interested in scents, but there was a nice looking person trying to sell them to her, so that might have had something to do with it. Whatever the reason, David and I walked away and started exploring on our own.
Just as we reached the Carrilon (an enormous musical instrument with bells) it started to sprinkle. Dave said, 'Oh no! Not again!' (He was to say this several times this day) So I didn't get a picture of the 4 ton (yes, 8000 pounds) instrument that was making those wonderful sounds that drew me there. We ended up standing under a copse of trees for a while as the rain was only slightly stronger than a sprinkle, but when the lightning flashed and it started to get more intense we ducked into a small-ish tent with more prints and a nice older lady/artist. When we got there, there were only a few people in her modest tent. But that didn't last long. Soon there were about 20 people in a tent rated for 4 and that was without her wonderful art in it. Dave and crowded places don't go together very well. He doesn't mind them so much, it's just that he can't be bothered with whomever he happens to bump into/knock down, so he takes a bit more watching.
After we hooked up and lost Alexis again (There was a wine tasting going on) (Wine is waaaay more interesting than Dudes) I mistakenly introduced Dude to his new Very Favoritest Food Ever!. It's all my fault. I take complete blame. Mea Culpa Maxima en Aeternum. Loosened up by buying him a loud pretzel only a short while before, I saw a sign that seemed to have Dude written all over it. So, I bought him some and now I'm doomed, doomed forever. It was fried Mac&Cheese on a stick. I know. I'm sorry. So very, very sorry.
While we were walking to the Jousting Area we passed a silly, pointless game. It was a giant dart board that had a knight and a dragon drawn on it, and you threw darts at it. I really didn't see the point. There were no prizes, no balloons to pop, just a board you slung dull darts at. I began to see the point when the girl charged me $2.25 for Dude to throw three darts. Only one of them even stuck in the board, and no where near the dragon, but he got a sticker and he had fun. That was worth two and a quarter. The sticker calls him a 'Dragon Slayer', so if you've got dragon trouble, Dude is the one to call. Just be sure to give him more than 3 darts.
Even with the 2 inches of rain Dave and I decided we were in need of some interior liquid. For
It was finally time for the Joust. Dude and I set up on a hill beside the lists in the 'Not so good people' area. I know this because the announcer guy with the big sword said so. He'd talk to the people on the other side and call them, 'My good people' and when he talked to our side he'd say, 'You, Not So Good People'. We didn't have ushers or anything, we just ended up here. I think they saw us over here and told the 'Bad Knight' to work from this side just to make us look bad.
Dave was getting kind of excited about the horses, but he still really had no idea what was going on. I've lived in Pittsburgh for 14 years and it wasn't too difficult for me to figure out how the whole thing was going to go down. The Knight on the 'Good People' side was wearing the colors, Black and Gold. This guy wasn't representing 'King Henry', the fat guy in the big chair, he was representing the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the Knight on the 'Not So Good-People' side was wearing Black and Purple. And in this football crazed city that can only mean one thing. He was representing the Baltimore Ravens. And if you're Jousting the Steelers against the Ravens you'd better get the winner right, or there is going to be..... trouble.
The Knights made several passes at each other and I was impressed with how well they did considering the wet sand they were playing on. Dave, on the other hand, made no concession for technical difficulty, he just enjoyed the show. He was yelling encouragement to the Steeler Knight, even though we were supposed to be rooting for the other guy. It looks like all that Yinzer indoctrination has taken root, because he was yelling, 'Black and Yellow! Yeah!' I'm pretty sure he didn't care that we, as 'Not So Good People' were technically supposed to be rooting for the other guy. Not to prove I'm psychic or anything, but after 3 passes with the horses and some slogging around the wet sand whacking at each other with swords the Steelers Knight won the day with a pretty gruesome looking slash across the belly. I'm pretty sure almost no one but me saw the soon-to-be vanquished knight picking up the pouch of fake blood when he grabbed his second sword, but 20-some years in Entertainment means that I... basically annoy the crap out of people by pointing out things like that. I didn't tell Dave though. Not that it would have mattered if I'd tried. He was yelling out, 'Hooray! Black and Yellow!! Yeah!He's the winner! Black and Yellow is the BEST!'
Here's a travel tip for ya: If you're ever in Pittsburgh and you want to sweeten a sour group, just say something like 'Black and Gold is the Best!' The clouds will part, the Sun will shine, people will smile, and you will instantaneously be invited to marry someone's son/daughter or maybe even asked to dinner. Well, people will smile, anyway. And people were smiling at Dude and I as we made our way back over to the Soda Stand to get us another drink. I think it was because he could shut up about the 'Black and Yellow' winning, or being the best. It's not like we're goofy, or anything.
You'd think I'd learn, but I never do. Everything was nearly an exact repeat of the earlier hydration trip. I took a drink as we walked over to the table, handed it to David as he sat down, played with my camera for a bit. Took a couple pictures and then sat down myself. After a moment David pushed the cup over towards me. Berating myself for not paying attention, and fearing the worse, I looked down into the cup. Expecting to find it empty but for ice, I had a sarcastic comment all ready to go. It went entirely to waste. In the bottom of the cup, nearly covering the ice was exactly one drink of soda. Dude had left me exactly what I'd asked for. I think that means I just got punked by my autistic son. My own son! Out Smart-assed me!..... I'm so proud.Things were winding down but we still had time to walk through one more time. Dave decided he'd like to try the High Striker game. (It's the one with the hammer and the weight that hits the bell. Everyone knows the game, no one remembers the name,) (Yes, I had to look it up.) They had three different sizes there, from one about 4 feet tall to one about 15 feet tall. Dude immediately grabbed the largest hammer and started toward the largest Striker.(ambitious young man) The girl running the game stopped him and gave him a smaller hammer, but he still wanted to try the largest game. After the first swing produced nothing but a slight bounce from the weight, (he'd missed the rubber pad) I persuaded him to try the 'Mamma Bear' sized game. He still wasn't having much luck hitting the proper spot, but the girl gave him some instruction and moved him back a step and he was ready to try again, 'He has to hit the rubber to win the Game!' he said, and gave a big John Henry swing. He managed to move the weight about 1/3 the way up the slide. The girl and I were going a little nuts encouraging and praising his efforts, but it did nothing to improve his score. I think his sticker said
'Mighty Knight' and what more could anyone want than that?
We walked the rest of the way around the Fest and stopped by a semi-sorta-authentic Medieval band playing. Since things were kind of wrapping up, most of the wandering performers were hanging around the stage. Dude and I both thought the Owl Woman was really cool so we stood over by her while we enjoyed the music. 'This is my favorite song!' Dave exclaimed. Which just means he really likes it, because neither one of us had ever heard it before.
After the song, but before we made it to the gate we stopped again so I could get a couple pictures of a woman in a fairy costume. Although at this point I was making no assumptions and was fully prepared to treat her as if she was a fairy, because she had the very best fairy costume I'd ever seen. And, hey... it could happen. Dave had no doubts at all. As far as I could tell, he was fully convinced this woman was a fairy and he sat down on the wet grass to watch her. She walked in a very Fairy manner and even though I've never heard of any Fae tradition of blowing bubbles I'm not aware that there isn't one, so I just kept my big fat trap shut. He was nearly glassy-eyed as she went down on one knee and presented him with a green glass 'rock' with gold glitter all over it. That may just be my cynical old man description of what she gave him, because as we were walking to the car he held it with his hand palm-up and open so he could stare at it while he walked (not recommended when walking through a rain soaked, tire rutted grass