Mr. Adventure: Taking a Stab at Knighthood
Forsooth, can anyone spare a sword?
Merriam-Webster defines anachronism as “a person or thing that is chronologically out of place; one from a former age that is incongruous in the present.”
I define it as anyone who feels the need to go to a medieval fair.
Better known as Renaissance festivals, these wondrous gatherings celebrate a simpler time—a time of enlightenment, of mirth, of garbage in the streets (which led to pestilence and, ultimately, horror)—yes, a magical time.
And because I like nothing more than the opportunity to say such things as “forsooth” and “cometh the ’morrow,” I went to one such fair and found myself loving every minute of it.
That, of course, is a lie. But it taught me some very valuable lessons I had heretofore not learned. Namely that rented pantaloons don’t come with pockets. And, when you get called out for being a pacifist on a medieval battlefield, you should just keep your mouth shut and buy everyone a round of mead.
But the truth is, some people love medieval fairs—the same way some people love World of Warcraft or Cats, the musical. There’s no explaining it. You just need to accept it and appreciate that Betty Buckley is the Julie Andrews of feline-themed musical theater. Personally, I don’t find dressing in costume particularly satisfying unless Miss Adventure has lost a bet.
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And so it was with great trepidation I accepted the challenge to visit one of our local medieval fairs to get a taste of battle-hewn knights and the fair maidens who lust after them. Of course, you can’t go dressed in your everyday clothes (which, in my case, is a powder-blue tuxedo from David’s Bridal); you must dress the part. Unfortunately, that’s where the problems began. It turns out I’m not built for period pieces.
“So you don’t have anything in my size?”
“We tend to err on the side of bigger. A lot of times people who are into this type of stuff are bigger.”
“Interesting. So I’ll be wearing rented extra-large knickers previously worn by heavyset fantasy aficionados to the medieval fair?”
“They have a lot of elastic. And you could cinch it with this golden rope.”
If I’ve learned anything from life, it’s that sometimes you have to take what you can get, and if I wanted to be a stylish knight in a lovely red tunic (with matching mini cape), I was going to need to accept the extra-large. Budget constraints made it my only option, because the more affordable peasant-wear only came in those awful muted earthy tones, which do nothing for my complexion.
“Oh, it comes with the puffy shirt? My God. I’ll look like the sommelier of a Medieval Times. I’ll take it.”
And so on a recent Sunday morning, I donned my rented knight attire and hopped into the trusty Porsche for the surprisingly short drive to the Middle Ages. Despite the looks from the other motorists, I was comforted by the knowledge that soon I would be among like-minded individuals fully committed to the concepts of serfdom, classism and royalty. Basically, Naples without electricity.
But when I got to the Middle Ages (conveniently located at a park in Fort Myers), parking was a bear.
“Your best bet is this parking lot right here,” the attendant said. And so I did. But as I gathered my thoughts—I’m a method actor, you know—I noticed that all the other people getting out of their vehicles were dressed for a regular old day at the park. It was disconcerting. I decided to sit in the car for a few more minutes so that I could tag along with a fair maiden or pleasant friar, but none came: just more yahoos with baby strollers and picnic coolers.
Son. Of. A. Bitch.
Where were the knights? The jesters?
The royal people with the, you know, the things? (I clearly did not do enough research.)
After 10 minutes of waiting, I gathered myself enough to head out. Unfortunately, in a matter of steps it became clear I had no idea just where in the park they had placed the Middle Ages.
So I cocked my feathered chapeau cavalierly to the side and walked. And walked. And walked. (Seriously, it would have been nice if they had better signage.) But after wandering through playground after playground, past sunbathers and picnickers, I found it—a front gate stolen from a high school production of Camelot.
I shelled out my $15 and found my brethren.
Now, if you had asked me a few weeks ago what the Middle Ages smelled like, I’m sure I could not have told you. But if I were forced to guess (and that’s pretty much how that would have had to play out), I would have assumed it smelled a little bit like incense and horse manure.
It turns out I would have been deadly accurate.
As far as the eye could see, there were people of merriment, minstrels and merchants. Mostly merchants. It seems the era was very pro-business and featured all manner of traditional Olde English fare such as self-help DVDs, new-age hair clips and posters of kittens with dragon wings. It could be yours for mere pence (many took credit cards). I was just about to inquire about the price of corsets when a man dressed as Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale approached.
“Good sir knight! Why ist thou unarmed?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I say, royal knight, you are unarmed.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t really believe in violence.”
“WHAT?!? What kind of a knight doesn’t believe in violence? You are a discredit to all knights.”
“You MUST have a sword, dear knight.”
“I’ve heard the pen is mightier.”
“Can your pen do this?”
(He then pulled his sword and stuck it into a mannequin made of straw.)
“Are you trying to sell me a sword? Are you in the sword business? Is that what’s happening here?”
“You need training.”
He seemed pretty open-minded for a guy in a metal codpiece. But even so, he was right. I was an imperfect knight in an imperfect world.
In a perfect medieval world, all the girls would be named Guinevere and all the swords would be unsheathed. At least that’s what a wench at the grog station told me. I didn’t even have a sword. And though I have been called a swordsman with regularity, Sir Gawain (pronounced, I believe, Gay-Wayne) offered to teach me the way of the sword.
It was a lucky break that the knights of the dinner table had time to school a visitor.
“This is a bit more impressive than your pen,” Gawain said as he handed me his sword.
“Oh. Well, of course you would say that in front of the girl in the tube top,” I muttered before adding a bit louder, “I have a mighty quill, I assure you.”
“I can’t imagine you could parry and thrust with your pen.”
“Well, not until someone’s bought me dinner at least. Just don’t hit my knuckles. Thou’st art needed for typing…”
“It’s all about leverage. Hold your sword like this…”
“Ugh. This entire scenario is making me uncomfortable... I think I’m going to go juggle next to the girl in the tube top.”