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Post details: Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past

If you feel that your inner British accent doesn't get enough exercise, consider attending your local Renaissance Fair.

Maryland hosts the second largest festival in the country, and since I never saw one first hand, I convinced two of my friends to take an hour long trip from DC to a leafy grove near Annapolis, which has been permanently morphed into a charming Elizabethan village. We left our car in a large meadow moonlighting as a parking lot and stepped through a gate emblazoned with a coat of arms into the age of artisans, dancers, jugglers, merchants and witches. Into the age devoid of electricity and sub-prime mortgages. Into the age of story telling and axe throwing.

Of the latter I partook myself, and I can vouch that no amount of time spent in front of a computer screen playing Doom can match the simple pleasures of launching a robust hatchet towards an unsuspecting chunk of solid wood. You almost feel obliged to utter a deep guttural scream as you dispatch the lethal implement. And during its flight, just for a second, you get to feel like Mel Gibbson in Braveheart, or like a complete fool - depending on your hurling skills.

And if you ever get tired of endless shoppes catering to "upwardly noble", you can always wander around and wonder. How are these brittle vultures made out of mussel shells supposed to survive the journey back? Do all these men in tights feel comfortable? How do the rock climbers feel attacking the ramparts? Why doesn't the fashion industry make better use of wench grade cleavage? Is it legal to protect your property with a slingshot and a crossbow? Where did schoolboys learn the proper etiquette of being knighted?

As you muse on these mysteries, you'll come to the village center: a stadium like arena bedecked for a bout of well staged jousting. This is the true heart of the Fair, with knaves running around the court and picking up tossed weaponry and with fair ladies announcing the results from a balcony. We were sitting behind a group of very properly dressed young ladies who were quite enthusiastic about one particular group of knights. They made their rooting preferences clear by tireless chanting: "H-R-E! H-R-E!". If you didn't know where you were, you'd think they were enjoying a homecoming football game. I was curious what is this H.R.E.? It was revealed to us only at the end of the festivities when one of the girls screamed at the top of her lungs: "Holy Roman Empire Rules!". How simple.

So what makes people wear preposterous costumes and trinkets and indulge in obsolete pastimes? I guess life is short and we long to be part of a larger context. We eagerly identify with our cultural roots and make them part of our existence. In doing so, we hope to extend our modest life span by a few centuries. And in a sense it works. The renaissance fair is like a pain killer for our mortality.



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