Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Pennsic (long)

Assorted recollections of the War, in no particular order...

All of this is taken from notes in my nifty little period-style notebook, which we bought from Countess Aiden. (msmemory got a black one, I got a white one.) I need to learn how to make them -- it will make a fine binding for the book of game cheat notes I've been wanting to write.

Cooper's Lake Brand Water: No, really. Not actually bottled on-site, of course -- the result would have been opaque and red. (Actually, the disturbing rumor this year was that the water was coming out yellow.) But they apparently have someone bottling water under the campground's name, and they are selling it in the camp store. I drank many liters of it, apparently with little poisoning.

Volgemut: Everywhere, all the time, every day. They're a loud band from -- well, all over the place. (I gather that they were originally from Germany, but the lineup has evolved to be relatively motley.) Good music, and more fun than most of what you hear at Pennsic. But they were very fond of partying on Hangover Hill until 3am most nights. Oh, well -- they were a great improvement over the usual mediocre Middle Eastern drumming. (There is nothing in the world more irritating than a slightly off-beat drum when you're trying to sleep.)

Mud.

Blue Tyger Legions: To no one's surprise, House Von Drachenklaue -- Duke Lucan's unit -- was awarded the Blue Tyger Legion, the award given to exceptionally effective combat units, on the field after the bridge battle. To their own surprise (but not particularly mine), the Lochleven Army was given one immediately afterward. Lochleven has evolved into something truly remarkable: a unit that manages to be powerful and effective on the field, despite not having a lot of tournament hotshots in it. (Yet.) It was a lot of fun watching the Midrealm forces literally splashing off their lines in the bridge battle; they were the vanguard of the center bridge, and I managed to get a good view, perched on the side of the Herald's Tower. It's a testament to what good organization and training can do.

Tyger of Valor for Kenrick: The Royalty gave out several Tygers of Valor, which is for doing particularly cool stuff on the field. But it was particularly sweet seeing one given to Sir Kenrick, since he's an esquire-brother of mine. Always nice to see the family doing well...

Missile Weapons: The bridge battle was the first time I've seen missile weapons really making a difference in a war. (They mostly came into common use while I was on my five-year Pennsic sabbatical.) It's really rather neat watching the big bolts flying back and forth across the field, way up high.

Genevieve, newest dancer to encourage: Among the dance crowd was a lady for whom Pennsic was her very first event. She's passionately enthusiastic about period dance, and fairly talented at it -- by week's end, she was getting pretty decent at Gracca Amorosa. Now we just need to find her some dancing down near Delaware, where she lives.

The Pre-1603 Dance Party: The high point of dancing at Pennsic for me was the dance party. It had a very good sized crowd, which I'd guess was somewhere around 60 people -- enough to fill the floor in the dance tent without feeling overly crowded. The only downside was the spectacular tilt of that floor, which made balancing on some of the Italian steps a little tricky. Still, it was a good time, dancing with the rest of the hardcore dance nuts.

Mud.

The Real Caroso Ball: There were two "Caroso-style" balls this year. The one I made it to was strictly limited to dances from Caroso. This was an interesting experiment, and it wasn't half-bad, but the playlist was a real limitation. There were only about 15 dances on the musicians' playlist to begin with, and no one in the crowd knew more than half of those. I wound up kicking myself for not bringing our brand-new reconstruction of Barriera, which turned out to be on the playlist. This was the true hardcore dance, with only about 20 people there, since it was basically just the people who knew at least some Caroso well enough to go for it. It would have been better with about twice as many people; with any luck, the current growth of Caroso dances will make this work better next time.

"Children's Poker": For reasons beyond the ken of man, someone in the A&S system decided that, since my class on Primero was listed as "15 and up", this meant that it should be put into the Children's Track. Of course, the listing that actually wound up in the program simply said "Children's". Great: a class that I describe as "the Renaissance equivalent of Poker" wound up inundated with kids. The A&S folks did deal with my complaint efficiently, and published a correction in that morning's paper, but that really came out too late for my 10am class. Having to turn away half-a-dozen 10 year olds was not fun, but I refuse to try to teach that game to kids that young: not only is it inappropriate (since it's fundamentally a gambling game), it's just plain too complex. Sigh. Oh, well -- aside from that, the class went well.

Taking Over the World, One Board at a Time: OTOH, my seven-sided backgammon reconstruction is catching on quite seriously. Had a huge crowd in my class (about 30 people), and everyone seemed to have fun. I got lots of reports of people making their own boards. Only downside there was that MacGregor Games has gone and refuted my theory about how you build the 7-sided dice that go with it -- it appears that the original really does clearly call for dice that simply land with two sides up most of the time. (As opposed to my dice, which put the pips on the edges, so they land with a clear answer.) Hrmph: it's always annoying when my elegant solution turns out to be wrong.

Did I mention mud? It rained for the first several days we were there, reducing everything to mud, all over the place. Getting my car out of the parking lot for my town run on Monday was treacherous -- it took me 45 minutes to get out, and I only managed it at all because I found a back way out of overflow parking. (Around the big Dodge Ram that was just plain stuck at the main exit.) If I hadn't rented a 4-wheel drive SUV this year, there's no way I could have gotten out.

We discovered, rather disconcertingly, that being high up on Hangover Hill did nothing at all to help our drainage. In fact, we appear to have had some of the worst drainage on site. The Serengeti may be flat, but it's all thick loam, so the water drained quickly out of it once the rain stopped. The Hill, by constrast, is apparently solid clay with a thin layer of soil on top. As a result, the water simply had no where to go. So by week's end, when the water trucks were going around and wetting down most of the roads to keep the dust down, we were still going squelch-squelch-squelch in the otherwise lovely Village of Lochleven. No real harm done, but I wound up writing off a pair of shoes, which are now utterly caked in mud.

The Quaqeri Lake of Fire: The night of the last big rain, Quaqeri (next door) got stubborn and decided to have a campfire -- despite having several inches of water in their firepit. By building it high enough, they managed to get a pretty solid fire, despite the builtin moat. I spent an hour or two sitting there, helping to fan it, enjoying the sheer perversity of the sight.

Shopping for a Drill Pump: I had no idea that there even was such a thing as a drill pump, but wound up spending a fair while on my town run shopping around for one. It's a cute little device, essentially a drill-powered sump pump. Sadly, it didn't survive contact with the mud in our sump hole, but it was a nice idea while it lasted. (Fortunately, Quaqeri managed to improvise a siphon that reduced the waters that were threatening our pavilion.)

HALIBUT: I don't even remember all of what the acronym means, but it's Lochleven's annual Bocce tournament. I managed to come in third in the singles, mainly by pretending that I was playing miniature golf (which I'm good at) instead of Bocce (which I'm not). Since it's played in and around the pavilions, on a less-than-level terrain, my mini-golf instincts served me well.

East Kingdom Court was very, very good for Carolingians (by residency and spirit). Their Majesties gave Court Baronies to Lakshmi, Liaden and Svava for their enormous service -- all three got way-spiff leather coronets made by Nicolette. And Caitlin fitzHenry (the Goddess of Archery) was given a Pelican for her various work, most notably as archery general for the East. Add to that the aforementioned recognition for the Lochleven Army, and an AoA given to Ruairidh on the field (at the same time as the Legions were given), and there was quite a bit of recognition for this area.

Also in EK Court was The Petition to King Alaric of Caid, which was fascinating. Apparently certain people in Caid don't like the way he won Crown Tourney (because he actually took advantage of having range over his opponent after getting his legs -- in other words, he fought smart and showed some respect for his opponent's skill), and have been trying to convince him to decline his Duchy when he steps down. Something like 100 knights presented a petition asking him not to. Damned impressive: I don't think I've ever seen so many heavy hitters (including damned near all the Dukes of the East) in the same place at the same time.

The LJ Gathering was modest -- between one and two dozen people, out of at least a few hundred who were at Pennsic. But it was fun getting to put names to faces; in particular, meeting redsquirrel and reasdream, whose stuff I've been reading for a while. We all went around and introduced ourselves, with various knowing nods and such as people gave their user names; I got a rather unsettlingly loud "ohhh" from the crowd. (I didn't think I was quite that notorious here yet.) Afterwards, I spent a while managing to get cellio and chaiya in the same place at the same time, since it was clear that they needed to meet each other. This also gave me the excuse to see cellio's house, which is truly one of the marvels of Pennsic. (It's not just cool-as-in-interesting -- it's even cool-as-in-not-hot, which is wondrous at Pennsic.)

Fun With Fire: On the last night, I discovered my apprentice's pyromaniacal side. After the Pennsic Ball, we went back to Crook'd Cat, and watched as Gwen built the fire higher and higher and higher, on the pretext that they didn't need the wood any more, and the fire was pretty. Which it was, but managed to get so hot that I could barely come close enough to hold the marshmallow fork.

Speaking of which, I got to see Cam's Marshmallow Fork in action, a true engineering marvel capable of roasting six perfect marshmallows at once on its twin tines. Cam also introduced us to the concept of fire-roasted olives, which sound improbable but turn out to taste quite good. He sears the outside until it's dry and slightly crisp, then slowly boils the insides in their own skin. The result is very hot, but intensely flavorful. Yum.

Sadly, Lochleven wasn't able to dig a firepit this year -- they've put in new gas line that run right under our block. (Quacheri built theirs right at the road, to avoid the gas line.) But we did get a neat elevated brazier to replace it. The resulting fire isn't quite as big and impressive, but it's nonetheless pretty.

Going home, we spotted more SCA cars than I've ever seen before -- we counted 16 definites, and at least 40 probables. As far as we can tell, the thunder that came in early Saturday morning left everyone bolt upright, scrambling to get their encampments packed before the rain hit. We managed to get Lochleven struck in record time, and as far as I can tell, pretty much everyone else was going just as fast.

Finally, going back a few hours, the climax of Pennsic this year was the fireworks. Apparently, a fellow who does fireworks both professionally and as a hobby discovered Pennsic last year, and asked if he could come do a period-style fireworks show. The result was classically SCA: a mix of stuff that is almost certainly documentable with some crowd pleasers that I'd bet aren't. But documentation quibbles aside, it was fabulous. Speaking as a jaded veteran of the Boston fireworks shows, this was probably the best I've ever seen. There was creative use of rockets, mixed in with some serious ground-level pyrotechnics. It was all held out at the fort, which wound up dramatically backlit by some of the firepots. And to cap it off, they signed it with final "credits", outlining the big XXXII on Mt. Eislinn in firepots, which glowed bright red for at least 20 minutes after the show. Best sendoff I've ever had from Pennsic...
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