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Archive for June 2011

Ren Faire Memories: Showering You with Affection

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(For the past two decades of my life, I’ve participated, with varying levels of commitment, at both the Arizona and Southern/Northern California Renaissance Faires.  I’m going to start chronicling some of the stories here.  It’ll be sort of like Get in the Van, but lamer. Please note, the names have been changed to protect all parties.)

This is a slight deviation from my last two Ren Faire Memories posts.  Here I’ll be discussing a facet of life as a ren faire performer and not a specific event.   The topic for this installment are the showers participants have to use out at the faires.

Huzzah!

Here’s the thing about the showers at the Ren Faire: after a day working in the hot sun, you need a good shower.  Men can sometimes get away with going a day or so without one, but that varies from person to person, and what costume that man is wearing.   Men’s costumes, generally, are lighter and less restrictive.  Especially men’s peasant costumes; those usually consist of a shirt, a vest thing, short pants and stockings.  If those items are made out of light natural fibers, you can stay cool throughout the day, and you’ll be less disgusting when the day’s over.  So, depending on how “outdoorsy” you are, it may not matter at all. However, as you get up towards the top of the food chain, the costumes get heavier and more restrictive.  That causes much more sweat and grime to accumulate.

Women’s costumes have the same problem as the royal costumes.  Women’s costumes are so layered and restrictive even if they’re made out of natural fibers, they still cause sweat and misery. The run of the mill women’s ren faire costume consists of a tight bodice (a corset like thing) and multiple long skirts.  And that’s just the basic costume.  Like with the men, it gets worse as you go towards the upper classes.   The women’s royal costumes are even more restrictive and painful to wear.  Seriously, you have never seen relief until you’ve seen the faces of some of these ladies when they get to loosen their bodices.  Probably the only thing that’s comparable to that feeling is being told that the biopsy was negative and the tumor is benign.

Anyway, back to the showers. Each faire has its own management, so the facilities are unique to each faire.

For instance, at that Southern California fair when I would attend there (between the years 1998-1999) they used to bring out shower trailers. These were purpose built trailers with three shower stalls in them, and  they weren’t bad. Yes, pools of water would form on the floor, grass and dirt would be smeared on the walls, and occasionally single-sex showers would turn co-ed in the middle of the afternoon, but overall they weren’t bad.  You didn’t feel completely violated going into them.

 

The best shower facilities at any faire I’ve ever worked had to be at the Santa Barbara Ren Faire in 2000.  That was the first year that faire was open and it was a small affair.  The site itself was on a live oak camp and already had some good infrastructure there.

The showers were made out of concrete and wood.  The stalls themselves were built out of wooden slats that sat high above the drains so water never pooled at your feet. There were nice plastic shower curtains, so you never had to shower in front of everyone else.  Which is cool cause I don’t want to be sitting on a bench while some dude’s ass is right there in front of me.  And I’m sure they feel the same about my rear as well.  So it was a win-win.

But, as good as having clean stalls, plentiful hot water, and shower curtains was, that wasn’t the best part. The best part was there wasn’t a ceiling.  Seriously, I know that sounds weird, but it was great. It was fantastic taking a nice warm shower in a clean stall underneath a beautiful deep blue sky with a light cool breeze going over me.  Normally at a faire event the facilities are so nasty it’s a get in, get out scenario.  At this faire I took two showers a day. It was wonderful.

The current fair at the Northern California faire doesn’t currently have any shower facilities. That, my friends, gets nasty.

But what’s worse than no shower facilities are the old shower facilities at the Arizona Ren Faire. I started working there in 1990, the second year the fair was open. I have a friend that is still doing fair out there and he says the showers are in the same building as when I worked out there. I don’t think they’ve gotten better with age.

 

It's not this bad, but it aint much better.

The shower facilities in Arizona are in one building with a side dedicated to each sex, i.e., men on one side, women on the other. Originally, there were four stalls made out of cheap plastic. My second year there, they took out the fourth stall and put in a flush toilet that was always clogged. The bottoms of the plastic stalls started breaking, so pools of stagnant water would form in large cracks by your feet. Stagnant water that drained off the bodies of people with questionable hygiene.

The shower curtains were stolen/trashed so water was flying everywhere and pooled on the shower house floor. The shower house floor that had no drain in it and a constantly clogged flush toilet. That water got ankle deep some days.  Rumors of staph infection were rampant, but I don’t know how true they were.  I know I never got it, that’s for sure.

Now, think about it. You work at the fair, it gets into the 90s/100s some days out there (it also gets down to the 40s and 50s and rainy, but that’s another issue), you’re hot, you’re tired, and all you want it is a shower. You trudge to this lean-to and open the door. You get hit in the face with smelly steam, stinky, overweight bodies hanging around, a clogged overflowing toilet and three inches of stagnant water, which may or may not be swimming with staph infection. You’re standing there, deciding whether or not risk possible infection and loss of limb, when some fat old bear screams at you to close the door. So I ask you, what would you do? Me, I just closed the door and decided to deal with my unique stink. But that’s just me: I’m a bold young man with a Devil May Care attitude! (Read: I just stank a lot).

For next time:

I’m still trying to decide which piece I’m going to work on next for this series.  It’s down to two: 1) It Aint So Good to be the King, or 2) One Day Soon I’m Going to Tell the Moon about the Farting Game.  I’m not sure which one to go with.  Suggestions are always welcome in the comments.

The Heat is On

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Sunday night, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in game six of the NBA finals.  This made me very happy.  Not because the Miami Heat are classic head-case bullies — arrogant in victory, self-pitying in defeat — and deserved to lose, but because I placed $60 on the Mavericks winning the series in six games.   I took home $330. Go me.

Actually, that’s disingenuous. Truthfully, I really, really, wanted the Miami Heat to lose.

Really, this team is loathsome.  From their unearned arrogance, nauseating self-pity when things don’t do their way, to Chris Bosh and his flopping (including the most egregious flop in the history of the NBA.  Even Manu Ginobli thought that flop against Carlos Boozer was over the top), this team runs afoul of all that is good and true. If you think I’m being harsh, well, I’m not.  What other team, in any other sport, do you know that holds a triumphant pep rally, the kind normally reserved after winning a championship, before one goddamn minute of the next season has been played?

Pictured: Chris Bosh, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade. Not Pictured: 2010-2011 NBA Champions.

I mean, my God — that pep rally.  I thought James’s The Decision was bad.  However, as bad as it was, that could be chalked up to poor decision making and a misguided desire to be more marketable from a tone-deaf, insulated star.  Tacky, foul, but forgivable if someone wanted to be charitable and acknowledge the fact that James lives in a bubble.  But this pep rally was planned and executed after the public fallout from James’s insane television spectacle.  Great idea guys.   You managed to make The Decision look like an exercise in humility and self-restraint.  Kudos.

And there is really only one explanation for that absurd spectacle: the Miami Heat wanted to rub their free agency coup in everyone else’s face.  Classy, guys.  Especially flashing “YES WE DID” on the big screens behind the players. Great plan.   And Miami, what did you do?  Rings aren’t won in July.  All you cats did was spend a boatload of money on a guy who’s turning into the biggest head case in the NBA and another guy who always looks like someone hit him in the face with a 2×4.  Oh, and you resigned Dwayne Wade. Congratulations, I guess.

Chris Bosh...oh my god...

So yeah, the Heat are loathsome.  And I don’t feel bad saying that.  They brought this on themselves.  They wanted to be hated, to be villains.  Now they are and they don’t like it.   So we’re supposed to stop piling on.  The rest of us are supposed to be nice to them, now that they’ve lost. No way.

Anyway, now that the basketball season is over, and a major lock-out is looming, there’ll be nothing to talk about except how the Heat failed and LeBron James wilted in the fourth quarter of pivotal games.  And make no mistake: this Heat team is a complete failure.  Last off-season, Pat Riley and company went out and signed two marquee free agents and a guy who should just be happy to be there.  There was only one reason to wrap up that kind of money in three players: multiple championships.   This isn’t a team built to make a strong push for the playoffs or to get to the conference finals every other year.  No, this team was constructed for one purpose: to win now and in the future.   This was Riley’s attempt to custom build a dynasty, and cousin, did it go down in flames.  But that’s what happens when you have no point-guard or center, and one of your best players decides not to show -up in the fourth quarter.

And speaking of James, like all “great athletes” he doesn’t stand pat, resting on his laurels.  Somehow he managed to one-up both The Decision and the pep rally in one fell swoop.  I didn’t think that was possible.  I  didn’t think LeBron James could make me like him less.  Then he said something so arrogant, so condescending, so downright insulting it literally made me laugh at the sheer absurdity that now surrounds a once promising athlete. Here’s what he said during the post-game conference:

“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

Wow.  Just wow.  Where do you even begin with that?  I think the world needs a break from LeBron James.  Luckily for him, he’ll get it with the lock-out.

But in all honesty, James is right.  His life is vastly different from mine.  For example, I can go to Ohio without having to worry about death threats.  I don’t know why I would go to Ohio, but there you go. But even with major lifestyle differences, James, you and I have a lot in common.  We’re both human beings after all.   We both want to be loved, to be respected by our peers, and neither one of us has a post-up game.   And until one of us changes that, we’ll also have the same amount of rings: zero.

Written by B. Michael Krol

June 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

Random Anecdote #2

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Earlier this century, I attended a hockey game at US Airways arena in Phoenix.  I had two tickets to the “Ice Den” portion of the arena, so I took my friend Phil who lived above me.  He was later immortalized in a song John E. GO! wrote called Phil’s Apartment.

US Airways was not a good place to see a hockey game.  The sight lines were poor and depending on where you sat in the upper level, a good third of the ice wasn’t visible.  The Ice Den, where Phil and I were that night, was a section sort of underneath the main seats, directly behind the Coyotes goal and level with the ice.  There were actual seats, but still, it really sucked to sit there. To make up for that fact, the Coyotes marketing staff would do things between periods for the people sitting there.  Like giving away t-shirts and stuff like that.

A 6'4", 280 lbs man wearing this will get anyone's attention.

About midway through the first period, a nice looking young woman came in and asked, really loud, if anyone wanted to ride the Zamboni.  I stood up immediately, extended my arms wide and yelled, “Me!”  I was wearing the old style green and orange Coyotes jersey and I’m a large man.  I attracted her attention and she picked me.

Right before the period ended, she came by my seat and got me.  I waited for the Zamboni in the back corridors of the arena. I remember it was dim and there were lots of dark taupe colored bars and pipes winding around the superstructure of the arena. Before the Zamboni picked me up, I saw three men in suits walking swiftly towards me.  The guy in front was shorter than the two behind him and had sand colored, curly hair.  As he came closer I recognized him.  It was Wayne Gretzky, then the Coyotes President.  He nodded at us as be breezed by, smiling.  Friendly enough, I decided.

The Zamboni came and picked me up and we went out onto the ice.  The Coyotes were playing the Colorado Avalanche that night so I made sure to taunt and jeer the fans as we drove around the ice.  I think the Coyotes were losing at that point, so I was being a big a-hole for no reason.  Oh well — it wasn’t the first time, that’s for sure.

After we smoothed out and resurfaced the ice the Zamboni headed back into the tunnels.  I got off, thanked the driver and marketing person, and walked back to my seat.  As I was walking, Gretzky and his guys were coming the other direction.  He smiled and nodded and, as he walked by, he said, “Good job.”  I think I said thanks or something similarly lame, but after I got back to my seat, I told Phil what happened and I realized that I had gotten a “Good job” from the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.  There are people who are playing in the NHL that have never gotten a “Good job” from Gretzky.  I think that makes me King of Canada or something.

The Coyotes ended up winning that game. Goaltender Patrick Roy being ejected helped, I’m sure.

Written by B. Michael Krol

June 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Punk Rock Bowling: The Dreaded Line.

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Over Memorial Day weekend, I attended the 13th Annual Punk Rock Bowling festival in Las Vegas.  And by “attended” I mean I saw three bands on the second day. But the bands I saw were pretty awesome: Bouncing Souls, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and the mighty Descendents.

How could I not go to a festival with a logo like that...

I’ll have more on the actual music part of the festival either tomorrow or four years from now, but first I wanted to share with you all the little slice of heaven I went through to pick up my tickets.

The promoters sent out emails suggesting that if you were attending the festival, and were in town the Friday night before the festival started, you should get your tickets then.  It sounded good to me. It also made the plan for Friday night simple: pick up the tickets and go drink.  We had purchased the tickets months ago and all that stood in the way of us getting stupid drunk was a Will Call line, and how bad could that be?

Really fucking bad, as it turns out.

Picking up tickets from a Will Call window is normally an easy endeavor.  You show up, wait in line, show a person distributing the tickets your I.D., and they hand over the tickets.  Easy, right?  If you get multiple people distributing the tickets from a central location it shouldn’t take more than 3-5 minutes a person, even if a signature is required from the person picking up the tickets.

I thought that would be the case, and man, was I wrong. I was in line for five hours. Apparently, what was complicating matters was the festival promoters were also selling tickets for a club show that evening.

Of course, I didn’t know that walking into the El Cortez casino, where the promoters were distributing tickets.

The El Cortez is located in the old section of Vegas.  Fremont and Sixth to be specific.  This casino is so old it was around when Bugsy Malone ran Vegas.  That’s old, if you don’t know Vegas history.  And like most of the old casinos, it has that sleazy, old-school Vegas vibe: it’s filled with smoke, desperation and sweat.

The place was built when Vegas was all about gambling, not expensive stage shows, celebrity chefs, or museums. As such, the place looks run down and smells like failure and cheap liquor.  It’s not a place I’d want to spend five hours or any kind of time at all.  It’s like someone took a small dive bar in New York, blew it up, and put slot machines and cheap prime rib in it.

In other words, the place was icky.

It just looks inviting, doesn't it?

I arrived at 5:00, when the promoter’s email said tickets would be distributed.  We parked in the El Cortez parking structure and walked through the casino to the Fiesta room, where the email said the tickets would be handed out.  After going through the rows of slot machines and table games, I saw a line of people in front of a table that was just inside the Fiesta room (which didn’t look all that Fiesta-y).  The line was long — about 40 people I estimated — but manageable.  I got at the end and prepared myself for a bit of a wait.

“Sir?”  I turned around a saw a chubby Latino guy in a security guard uniform.  “The line starts outside,” he said gesturing with his thumb to the glass doors behind him.  I looked and I saw a bunch of people huddled at the door looking inside.  I shrugged.  How long could it be, right?

I went outside.  There was a mass of people in one of those thick, bulging, disordered lines, where clumps of people congregated together in a sequence, not a nice, clean, single file line.   This group of people stretched all the way down the block, around the corner, and almost down the rest of that block.

Still, this was the Will Call line.  How long could it take?

Like I wrote above, five hours.  And since they would only let in small numbers of people at a time, I would stand in one place for 30 minutes, usually longer, not moving.  That made it even worse.  Long lines are tolerable if you’re moving constantly.  That’s what a place like Disneyland does.  The lines there are long, but they’re snaked around enough so that even if one person moves the rest of the lines moves.  It feels like progress is being made.  Disneyland lines are also in dark places where there are interesting things to look at or interact with.  Here there was nothing to do but stand in place for a long time and drink.  A dangerous combination.

The crowd had all the ingredients for a full scale-riot: they had been waiting in line for hours for something that should have taken minutes, they were being dicked around by uniformed authority figures, and they were bored. Most of them had also spent the day getting wasted.  The situation was tenuous at best. All it would take is one misunderstood shove or some guy oogling another guy’s retro/punk girlfriend a little too long.

Some trouble started when an overweight hermaphroditic security guard came out and told the front of the line that he/she was taking 10 people inside to buy tickets for that night’s show, regardless of where they were in line. A guy behind me in Black Flag hat yelled “Bullshit!” at the security guard and others followed suit.

The crowd yelled and chanted.  I wondered what it would be like to actually be in a riot and looked around planning my escape.  I was also, after four hours, in front of the line. Believe it or not, I was conflicted. What to do? Tickets or safety? Tickets or safety? Tickets or safety?

I made my decision. Personal safety schmafety — I wanted my goddamned tickets.  Then, behind me, I heard the slightly metallic link of a beer bottle shattering — the seemingly universal kick-off sound to every riot in a movie.  This crowd was degenerating by the moment.

Thankfully, the guard backed off letting people in and left.  Cooler heads prevailed and the crowd calmed down a bit.  The weather helped too, I’m sure.  That weekend, Las Vegas was in the middle of an unseasonably cool bit of weather.  Had it be normal temperatures — somewhere in the mid 90s — I’m sure there would’ve been a riot.  Hot, drunk, and angry people do not play well with others.

As I stood by the glass doors waiting for my turn to go stand in another line inside the casino, I felt a hand on top of my head.  I turned around quickly and saw a guy with a shaved head looking at me.  His idiot’s grin and his dull, lagging eyes indicated that he was drunk.  Possibly really drunk.  He smiled at me and said, “Heeey….another bald guy!”  I smiled at him and hoped he would go away.  “We got to stick together man,” he said.

“We sure do,” I said and turned around again, hoping this would placate him.

He didn’t like my approach. “Hey man, I’m just trying to be friendly.  What’s up?”

This wasn’t going well.  From my days of being a bouncer, I knew that drunks could go from friendly to violent in a matter of seconds, like any undomesticated beast.  I also knew that you should always be nice, until it’s time to not be nice, but that’s a different story…

Diplomacy was required. “No man, we’re cool.  I’m just tired of waiting, that’s all.”

He bought it.  “Yeah, this is some bull shit, huh.” He turned to the crowd, “LET US IN! LET US IN! LET US IN!”

Some people joined in, but the chant fizzled out.  I breathed easier.  I hoped that I could get inside soon.  My feet hurt, my back hurt, and there was a bald headed lunatic taking an interest in me.   The current state of affairs could get ugly in a hurry.

Finally a security guard with slicked back black hair and the best mustache this side of a Dirty Sanchez came out.  “I’m letting in ten people,” he said.   The front of the line mobbed towards him.  Like some half-assed bouncer at Studio 54, he started separating the worthy from unworthy.  He pointed at people, numbered them, and they went in, visibly elated.  He had gotten to six and that’s when I started worrying.  The line at the door was a mass of people.  There was no way for the guard to know who’s turn it was to go in.

At this point, it had been an hour since the last group had been let in.  My mind reeled at the possibility that I would have to stay outside for another hour. A line from Robert Shaw’s Jaws monologue through my head:  “You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn.”  Robert Shaw only had to deal with sharks; I was facing the possibility of getting my ass beaten by a drunken punk rocker just because I wasn’t friendly enough — and I doubt anyone would hold my place in line while I was getting beaten, either.

“Eight,” the security guard said and pointed at me.  My heart jumped and adrenaline went through my system.  I had survived the line.  I now had access to the holiest of holies — the Fiesta Room at the El Cortez.

If you don't get this reference, google it.

About 40 minutes later, tickets in hand, with aching back and aching feet, I left the El Cortez.  The group then went to In-n-Out Burger.  A great way to end a shitty evening.

Random Anecdote #1

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Years ago, in 1992 to be exact, I saw the Pixies perform at Hayden Square Amphitheater in Tempe.  I really wasn’t into them at all but all my friends were going, so why not go?  This was also the first show I used earplugs, a practice that continues to this day.

I was assaulted by this woman...

The opener, Pere Ubu, were boring and I don’t remember much about them, except that the lead singer was on the larger side and that they were from Ohio.   I’m not sure the two are connected, but check out recent pictures of Greg Dulli, another famous rocker from Ohio.

The Pixies opened the show with their Jesus and Mary Chain cover, Head On.  I recognized my friend CW crowd-surfing up front — something he had never done before that night and what he’d swore he’d do at the show. Mission accomplished.

The only other thing I remember from the show, aside from it being very long, was at the end of the last song they played — Where is My Mind — Kim Deal threw a very thick book out into the crowd.  I reached up to grab it, but it flew by, bending my fingers back a bit which hurt. The guy who caught it was a few people away from me.  I asked him what the book was.   He said it was a travel guide called Let’s Go: Europe.  “So let’s go,” he said.

I think he was wearing a flannel shirt.  But I’m not sure.

Written by B. Michael Krol

June 6, 2011 at 9:50 am