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30 years
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jducoeur
It just occurred to me that, in the pre-wedding rush, I entirely missed a big anniversary. I don't know the exact date, but sometime in the past two weeks marked 30 years since I joined the SCA. Time for a reminiscence.

It was freshman year of college, and I was, to put it bluntly, miserable but excited. High school had been pretty bad, although not mainly for the usual reasons of bullying and such; rather, my problem had been that I had drifted through those years in a way that was, in retrospect, very Buddhist but without any of the requisite self-awareness -- I had simply made no impact. I had no really close friends, wasn't involved in the social scene, hadn't had a real date in my life, and had spent a couple of years in a bit of a funk. Finally, at the tail end of senior year of high school, I had finally had the epiphany that all of this was, by and large, my own damned fault. That didn't precisely make me happy, but at least gave me hope that fixing it was within my power.

So I went into college with a specific plan to be more social -- to find the right crowd for me, and to actually cultivate my friendships properly this time, instead of being passive about them. I had no clue how to *do* that, of course, and the idea was a bit scary, but it was clearly necessary for my sanity.

I found myself in the campus Activity Fair, therefore, like most freshmen -- mostly on my own, looking for something fun, interesting and probably weird to do. I honestly don't remember much about most of it, save that it was in Levin Ballroom, and was *full* of tables and noise. And in amongst that noise, there was a steady "whack" that seemed kind of incongruous.

I made my way to the corner of the room, and "incongruous" scarcely began to describe it. There was a guy in funny clothes, holding a stick, using it to whack a helmet on the girl who was with him. WTF?

I started asking questions; the answers were confusing but intriguing. The guy was Nicolai, the girl Arianwen. Their club involved history and dressing-up, neither of which was my thing, but it certainly seemed to qualify as "fun, interesting and probably weird", so I signed up to show up at the first meeting in a couple of days.

The meeting itself was a fine lesson in how to get a bunch of college students started. Nicolai showed up with signup lists for fighting practice and dance practice. From his worldly-wise perspective as a sophomore who had been in the SCA for something like Three Whole Years (he had started out in the West), he told us about all the stuff that was going on. Then he asked for a volunteer to be something called "Deputy Provost" -- I volunteered, and found myself shanghai'ed back to his place (an apartment called Crystal Winds on Winter Hill in Somerville, not far from where I now live).

There were a lot of people at that first meeting, but five of us gelled very quickly: me, Don (who would be my roommate the next year), and what would become the Were-Kittens: Judy, Janis and Sue. When Nicolai left the school just a few months later, the lot of us wound up running the place, with me as Provost. (Alongside cvirtue as Provost of Felding, sitting in the peanut gallery of Great Council and gently heckling -- at one moment of mild exasperation, gyzki, then Seneschal, addressed us as The F'ing Boroughs, which I proceeded to keep using for years thereafter.)

It was good times: young, innocent, exciting and educational in all sorts of ways that had nothing to do with academics. It set my views of what the SCA is like at its best: full of experimentation, proud of its own weirdness, a fun and social structure for friendships.

I'm currently working my way through probably the worst burnout of my life, driven by a mix of the traumas of a few years ago and simply being too damned close to too much politics. But I do hope I can get back to some of that simplicity, down the road...
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I remember a small demo/meeting in one of Usdan's upper-level causeway-like rooms, with Kale and Carol, Nikolai and Arianwen, Kobi and Gwendolyn. Nikolai was in armor, and later we got to hit him.

Hmm. I don't remember that at all, but that proves nothing -- either I wasn't there, or it's simply fallen through the great sieve that is my brain.

The first meeting I remember attending was in that meeting room in the building next to Gordon (whose name I've entirely forgotten), where we had most of our meetings for the first year. Other notable memories in that room include the lot of us designing Fenmere's arms, and the ladies talking you and me into wearing tights...

Are you referring to Kutz Hall, where much of the admissions admin was? I do remember the tights incidents, along with Nikolai bringing in a bunch of his old garb to sell.

The thing is, I don't remember the activity fair, as far as I can tell, but I remember bits and pieces of the demo I mentioned fairly clearly. And I think you were there, though that likely got a bit mixed up in my head as I think we *met* through Fenmere, so I don't know how I would have known you before I/you joined.

Dunno. I'm pretty certain about the activity fair. It's quite possible that there was also a demo that I've forgotten. Maybe after the first meeting? (Would explain us both being there.) But yes, I vaguely recall that the only friend I met before the first Fenmere meeting was Janis...

i remember my first sca meeting. there was Fionn and Kyonia and bevin and alaron whose SCa name i always forget...

So you were getting involved just as I was making my exit (end of 1983), though I had begun to disengage beginning as early as fall 1980.

Does Carolingia still do demos on college campuses? I remember Marian noting, oh maybe 10 years ago, that she had learned to stay away from such demos for fear of scaring off recruits with her white hair.

They're sadly pretty uncommon these days, for much that reason: we've slowly developed a generation gap. It's not as dramatically awful as the one Masonry developed in the 70s (where there was a period of 20 years of *very* few new members), but the Barony has aged, and we don't have anywhere near enough 20-somethings to bootstrap college demos. At this point, all of the Boroughs are dormant, and I suspect the only way to kickstart any of them will be if a student (likely second generation) decides to lead the charge. (The way asdr83 did at Simmons, for example.)

That's been hard for me -- college demos have historically been one of my favorite activities, and I take pride that I have likely done more demos than anyone else in the SCA. But I finally came to the same conclusion as Marian about five years ago: the grey in my beard crosses me over the line to "creepy old guy" when it comes to college demos, so I've had to step back from them...

Actually, I've begun to wonder if that "generation gap" is due to something you write about in your post above.

You said (paraphrasing here) you had bad experiences in high school, mostly because you weren't social, and that you came to college determined to become more social. In my case, the reason that I didn't have a lot of fun in high school is because there was really nobody like me in my town - I had to join the SCA to find People Like Me, who read the books I read, liked the movies I liked, etc. etc.

Nowadays, people who are looking for People Like Them just get onto the Internet.

I've been reading posts on The Decline and Fall Of The SCA, and wondering whether this is due to the new Age of Internet - whether the SCA filled a need that is now filled for Today's Youth by the Internet, which is why the SCA is having trouble getting new members.

Just a thought . . .

As at MIT, you need those student members to gain access to the facilities. Easy for me to say, but Carolingia should be actively pushing a return to MIT--there MUST be second-generation students there (not necessary from Carolingia or even the East Kingdom).

Seriously -- we've been pushing that particular rope *very* hard for 5-10 years now. Eowyn has put an enormous amount of effort into it, and we've usually had turnout at the Activity Fair of 10-15 people, with showy fighters and fencers, a well-stocked table inside, and so on. We have essentially nothing to show for it.

(And the club wound up dechartered last year, because the nominal head of MITgaard didn't respond to some key emails. At that point, we finally lost access to MIT, which caused no small amount of scrambling.)

It really is much harder than it looks. Unless you have a *motivated* student on campus, getting a branch going has proven more or less impossible. Having a second-generation SCAdian present is not sufficient -- we've tried that more times than folks realize, and the truth is that, unless they have the charisma and the drive to pull people in, it generally goes nowhere...

I've watched many clubs and groups come and go, die and be reborn (and I've been involved in birthing or rebirthing a few) and it's -always- about sufficient passion, energy to match, and charisma to find and pull in like minded people. One person can get it started, but unless you are lucky, these things tend to fizzle out. The groups that last the longest are always those that can build their own internal sustaining culture that makes people want to join year after year. Greek Life, Theater or Music groups (notably a cappella), Service organizations, etc. In some ways one of the benefits of the SCA is also a problem: The community is bigger than college. It is multigenerational and diffuse. So, therefore, is the culture. The times when the boroughs are strongest is when they have an internal culture and cohesion, but with so much around them it becomes difficult to convince them to build their own and sustain it. If a borough is just a way for students to gain access to the larger SCA, the borough won't last. It has to also do its own thing, run its own events (Falling Leaves and Mayday alone are some of the big reasons why the F'ing boroughs [thanks for the term!] have had better sustains at times), and cultivate their own identity.

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