Yesterday, Gentle Reader, I realized a terrible truth: I have
wasted spent precisely one year of my life on what would become the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire. This year that I’ve spent – spread out over the last twelve – includes 24 hours of 7 days of 52 weeks. It’s a significant portion of my life, and I’ve spent most of it as head of the household that I run ran. This year, King Edmund I of Paisley Glen is hanging up his crown.
By the time you read this, I will be greeting old friends, setting up camp, and preparing for our Opening Ceremony.
Today marks the first night of my last year at this event, and I’d like to mark the occasion by telling you a little about our silly little household. After all, the bulk of my adult life is tied up in it. It fostered my love for costuming, for history, for not complying with the demands of traditional lifestyles.
In my teens, the faire started out a few miles from my parent’s house. Naturally, we’d end up there – there is very little to do, in a rural summer, when you don’t drive. I’m not exactly Opie, after all. After a year or two, we founded our household, Paisley Glen – named for the bright pink dollar-per-yard fabric we festooned in the foyer.
Oh, yes – our encampment had a foyer – as well as a picket fence, a swimming pool, etcetera, etcetera.
The next year, we were camped at what became our traditional corner – the ground there became our right. At the corner of Paisley Lane and Paisley Avenue, we opened our doors, and opened our eyes to what we would become – when the wind blew my tent into another encampment, we annexed it, calling it Paisley Poland, which would become the first of our duchies. We refused to recognize anyone else’s sovereignity, making other leaders dukes and duchesses of our realm – including the head of the whole damned faire. This year – 2002, I believe – was where I connected with Ex-Husband outside of school for the first time, and we shared an illicit bottle of Peach Arbour Mist.
When the faire changed owners and names, years later, it was a bit of a wrench – the original owners had purchased a large woodland area, intending to hold the faire there, but the site wasn’t ready – the new owners hadn’t taken over yet. This year, there was no faire, but that didn’t stop us: We held a picnic in a public park in our garb, we held a household-only camping event at somebody’s house, we camped in our designated spot at the soon-to-be-lost new site. We did what we always did: we were utterly ridiculous in the face of reality.
In the new country, after the coup that left the faire with new owners and a new name, we followed the faire: this was our home event, even if it had moved and changed. By this point, we were well established; completely distinct from other households, we were the place to party, due to the generosity of our open bar. We had proper, upholstered, furniture, not just camp chairs. We claimed to be Victorian time-travelers, re-enacting the Elizabethan age for a lark. Our costuming spanned five-hundred years, mixed and matched, and nobody minded. Not quite like the other ren-rats, we were well liked.
After we attained the new site, we were constantly striving to be bigger and better than before. The Lord Von Hale has built us many magnificent set-pieces and structures over the years, including our portable bar, that grew out of my Majesty’s original booze-cage.
A portable clock-tower – sixteen feet tall, with a belfry – has replaced the original muffin-dome.
Our silly mythology, peerage and parliament, our pretend customs and ceremonies, have grown, evolved, and changed. We even have a second generation – well, first and a half – of younger siblings who don’t remember a life without the Glen.
They’ve grown up believing all the silly bullshit we spout, and take it as a solemn duty, almost as if Paisley Glen were the church they were raised in. It’s peculiar, and it’s wonderful.
Over the years, drama has increased, mounted up; there is tension between various factions; we play politics for fun, but sometimes those pretend politics are deadly serious. This is part of why I’m abdicating my crown; I’m done with the drama. The Glen, as much as I love it, has been holding me back; almost all of the founders of this institution have moved on. I need to, as well. This is why I’m leaving the comfort of our little household, where I’m regarded as a literal king; the world is wide, and I need to explore it. I’ll never do that, trapped in the habits of twelve years.
Here are some additional photos, because – well, because of Nostalgia. Enjoy them, Gentle Reader.