I’ve always really loved Shakespeare. I also loved Sir Philip Sidney’s poem “Astrophil and Stella”; and although my attention span was hardly long enough to endure Paradise Lost, I enjoyed it. I felt impassioned after reading the poems of Queen Elizabeth I and have endured the linguistic rollercoaster of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—Middle English is no joke. But I’m most attracted to the Renaissance period because it’s the epitome of balance between dark and light: Whilst wars raged, illness spread and murders in the Florence Cathedral happened on Easter Sunday, some of the world’s most profound thinkers, artists, playwrights, poets and scribes blossomed.
But as of a few weeks ago, I’d yet to go to a Renaissance Pleasure Faire, so I trekked out to Irwindale. I had no idea what I was in for, but I tried to get my friend to dress up. I mean, unless you wanted to stick out like a Neptunian, why wouldn’t you dress up for the Ren Faire? My suggestion was vetoed, but once we got there, the regret of not renting a costume struck deep. We were two of maybe 10 people at the entire festival who didn’t respect the dress code. It was the equivalent of going to Burning Man—where everyone is either naked or dressed in glittery, desert-dweller Mad Max attire—in a pencil skirt, a white blouse, a blazer and black pumps. No one was naked at the Ren Faire (thank God), but the costumes were just as extreme as they were on the Playa.
It was nearly noon by the time I walked through the gates, and the smell of alcohol, turkey legs and incense dominated the air. The only way it would’ve been more authentic is if the smell of body odor was added into the aromatic mix. Thankfully, this is 2018, not 1400.
Right by the entrance, there were people seemingly from the 1400s eating dinner. I didn’t realize they were acting out scenes and thought they were just eating food, which triggered my instinct to get a closer look at their meal and see if I might be able to break bread with them. As I got closer to the stage, I realized what was going on and refrained from trying to take anything from what looked to be the buffet.
A company called Holy Honey had a booth near the center of the faire. A representative wearing a green Tudor flat cap adorned with a large red feather handed out samples. “Hello, my lady,” he said to me. “Would you like a scoop of honey?” The sample of lavender honey changed my world. He explained the bees are located in Seal Beach, and the honey they produce is bottled in Downey. The owner, apparently, has kept bees for 15 years. I don’t know if I’ve ever had better, genuinely local honey in my life.
There were vendors selling swords, knives, hats, amulets, horns to sip booze from, pewter chalices and corsets. While I wandered the grounds, the falconry show began. According to the host, falconry was the sport of kings, as it was a regal and noble activity, allowing royals to maintain extravagant falconry establishments.
Every seat was taken. A group of teenagers stood to the side. “She doesn’t feel pain—can you believe it?” a young guy asked his group of friends about a female friend. “Watch this!” The guy wound up and slapped his female friend across the face; the girl didn’t make any facial expression. The guy was amazed by her “lack of pain.” The friends in the circle didn’t skip a beat. They kept talking as if everything was fine and normal. The girl who was slapped pretended it didn’t hurt, but the red handprint across her face showed the opposite. The group quickly scattered away from the bird show.
I was astounded. IT’S NEVER OKAY TO HIT A WOMAN. IT’S NEVER OKAY TO HIT ANYONE! Hello!? This is 2018. We are living in the #MeToo era, not the Renaissance. Women have a voice. If something hurts you, SAY SOMETHING! Don’t take abuse ever, regardless of what shape or color it presents itself in. Watching that dipshit slap his friend across the face—and her willingness to take it and pretend it didn’t hurt—made me sick. “I need three beers now,” I said aloud to no one in particular.
We walked to the nearest beer stand, which was luckily about 30 feet away. I ordered a tall Hoegaarden and was then sucked into a quirky show called the Washing Well Wenches. I’m still unsure why they called up the drunkest man in the audience to join them onstage, but he pounded a beer that one of the women had spit in. Once the women were finished interacting with him, one asked him for a kiss on the cheek. When he went to kiss her, she turned her face, and he kissed her on the lips. He threw his empty beer cup in the air, along with his hands, and cheered. The women ushered him back to his seat, where he sat next to his significant other, who then put her arm around him.
It was time for another beer. I got a tall Oktoberfest beer and sat at a lunch table to enjoy people watching. On the way, I saw a man swaying toward me, sloshing beer everywhere with one hand and holding a half-eaten turkey leg the size of his femur in the other. He turned to talk to his friend. “We’re going over this way,” he said, pointing the turkey leg at a half-empty table.
Then we passed the dunking booth, where people tried to hit the bull’s-eye with a softball, which would drop a jester into water. The jester was also wasted and playing with his dreads as he talked shit to the people trying to hit the target. “I would be worried, except I know you can’t hit the target,” he yelled from behind his cage, as he sipped his beer. The thrower could scarcely come within 6 feet of the bull’s-eye. “Does it normally take this long for you to get a girl wet?”
Every spectator around yelled, “OHHHHHH.”
He never hit the target.