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Pennsic Musings (belated)

Pennsic. What to say about Pennsic?

In some ways it was an introspective year. Packing and loading went smoothly – so smoothly that there really isn’t much to relate. We miscommunicated a bit about when we thought we were leaving, but it wasn’t a disaster.

On the drive out I did a lot of reminiscing.

This was my nineteenth Pennsic and my, how things have changed. Some better, some just different, some in a fashion that I think has lessened us. I remember my first Pennsic, and how so many people would be traveling on the same day. You’d drive the length of I-80 waving at cars that you knew were also going to Pennsic. Close to home you’d know some of them, then as you got further into Pennsylvania you’d be waving at strangers – but you knew they were going to Pennsic because their cars were overloaded and filled with armor, and quivers, and straw hats, and all the stuff that just screamed "scadian." It was fun. It was ritual, in a way. These days the influx is so spread out that we didn’t see another vehicle that was headed our way. Eight hours on the road, not one. That saddens me.

There are aspects of the War’s growth that I have severely mixed feelings about. I love some of the conveniences that come with the size – the food court, the expanded merchants, the main roads being paved! But we’ve lost a sense of community. I blame a lot of that on the attenuation of the schedule. "Back in the old days..." most people rolled in on what we now think of as the middle weekend, the populace shoot ran for the second half of the week, the field battle was Friday, the woods Saturday, and the bridge battle was Sunday (unless I’m remembering wrong.) Everyone was interested in the war points (read: people showed up), because there were so few that they *counted.* People pulled out on Sunday or Monday. Heck, people still rolled in late in the week because they could fight the war points. We had a common purpose and reason for being there. Now, people are pulling OUT as we’re pulling IN. Because of that, there is a *continual* motor vehicle presence in the camps. It never, never, never stops. I’m also getting a feeling that we’re arriving "too late." The best of the authentic merchants have sold the best of their wares days before we arrive. There are classes that I’d love to take, days before we arrive. The last two or three days that we’re there, everyone is packing up to go. I’m not sure if the answer is to shift our attendance from mid-week to mid-week instead of weekend to weekend, or just to come to grips with it. Two weeks with my back and heat intolerance is not an option. I just don’t know.

I miss going to closing court, and I miss the "count down." Now that I’ve finally got enough years under my belt to have fun with it, they don’t do it any more. I miss dancing in the barn until the wee hours of the morning. The dance tent just isn’t the same – it’s a special little segregated space for the dance people. In the barn you used to be able to just wander by and decide to join in. Now most of the dancing is during the worst of the day’s heat in a tent where the air never moves. I just can’t do that. Also dance, like so many other things in the Society is growing up and becoming more authentic. I approve of that in concept, but the actuality is that it’s shutting out a lot of us who aren’t dance experts. The thing I’ve always liked about Playford is that it’s dance for the masses, not spectacle for the court. So far I haven’t seen an equivalent replacement. And God forbid that you admit that you LIKE Playford to one of those folks! It’s the equivalent of going to a mixed gathering and throwing around the "n" bomb. I can’t show up, learn a dance fast, and have fun anymore. I really, really miss that. But maybe it’ll come back. It’s still growing, and it may grow back into something I can do.

I HATE the cell phones everywhere. For years we all managed to keep track of each other without having an electronic device visibly in play. Bob and I are still doing it. Yes, I had a cell phone this year. Yes, I had it with me. If my parents or my cat-sitter had called, I would have answered it. Short of that? Bob’s around. We’ll find each other either back at camp or at Merimask’s booth. We’ve always managed before, what’s changed?

It disturbs me that the road we camped on for our first two Pennsics; the road that I walked up and down to get to the bath house; the road that we drove down to get the car to parking from our camp... isn’t there anymore. I don’t know why, but that really bothers me. It bothers me almost as much as I’m disturbed by the current size of the sapling that we camped by at Pennsic 18.

It’s sad that the Kopper Kettle is not only closed, but still vacant. It saddens me that the East is talking about selling their gates and going to canvas. I understand it, but it grieves me a little. The summer I spent helping to build them was memorable, and something I’ll probably never do again. I find it interesting that we seem to be exiting the "building projects" phase of development, at least as far as kingdom gates go. First no one had them, then everyone had them, and now they’re slowly being replaced by canvas entries. I’ve often thought that the SCA could be a fascinating anthropological study.

But lest you think that I’m unremittingly negative:

I love that you can buy your meals reliably these days. It means that I don’t have to devote car space to kitchen gear. I love how much more canvas there is as opposed to nylon. It almost offsets the vehicular traffic to see camps full of pavilions instead of camps full of dome tents. Pretty. I love my camp. We’ve been there for six years now – who’d have thunk it? That’s the longest we’ve stayed in one space. It’s not a fully authentic camp, but we’re not doing *too* badly. And we have Pennsic’s most wonderful shower.

I like that most of the "tag sale" merchants have gone, and that there are more and more merchants selling authentic goods. I *loved* the glass blowing demonstrations this year. How nifty is that? I adore Wolgamut playing in the marketplace, and that a lot of the other regular buskers are truly talented musicians. I like that people are performing authentic theater productions, even if I’m not interested in going. These are all things that I couldn’t have had until the numbers grew.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 28th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
Things have certainly changed a lot...once you quantify them it's pretty obvious. Like you, I miss the barn dances. I didn't know about the Kopper Kettle (too bad about that!). Most of all, the lack of a coherent "war week" is most upsetting. It IS annoying when people are packing up & going when really, you've just gotten there. You feel like you're staying to long at a party that's wrapping up.

I think the early bug-out is due to a combination of factors. We're getting older & two weeks of Pennsic is too much for too many of us. Also, while I heartily agree with you that the period pavilions are BEAUTIFUL & add to the look of the camp, the fact is they are more work & I think people leave based on what the weather might do to their investment ( & also, if they get home on Friday they still have two days to set up & dry out the tent).

Anyway, even though there are changes, in general I have to say things run MUCH more smoothly than they used to. The Coopers have really done an awesome job of building the kind of infrastructure that can support 13,000 people on their land. I remember the port-o-castles from Pennsic 17 (OMG!!! :-P It was horrifying), and the Coopers have on-site backhoes & towtrucks now, for when people get stuck (it used to be a real problem, getting a truck in there to yank you out of the mud, & some of those guys would overcharge).

Like you, I think the food court is a blessing. I was actually able to eat vegetarian all week! :-)

I think the most upsetting thing, really, is the passage of time. Pennsic has been a constant for so many of us. Every time I get there I feel like I never left, but each time there are small changes so, you know, it adds up. The biggest change is in me, though. If I think about it, my first Pennsic was twenty years ago. Now, I'm so different from the kid I was, & yet I still look for her when I'm there (because c'mon! She was just here twenty weeks ago!). That's the most confusing part, for me. Where did my youth go??
Aug. 29th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yes - canvas has it's downsides! More set-up, more break-down, and both of them at the mercy and whim of Mother Nature.

The Coopers' infastructure is amazing. The only bad thing I have to say about it is how much I hate those dumpsters being parked smack in front of the barn. I do not however, have a better idea. The porta-potties are as close to luxurious as those things get, and when the cleaning truck got stuck by our camp there was a tractor there to pull it out in jig-quick time. Very well run.

On some levels I miss the kid I was - I miss being able to bounce up and down Runestone hill without feeling it. I miss dancing in the barn until the wee hours of the morning. But you know - I like the me I am now better than the me I was.

Someday I'll outgrow Pennsic. But not soon.
Aug. 28th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
not to intrude, but I'm trying to get in touch re: Canterbury... email me! baronjehan at gmail...

as for Pennsic, yes, many changes. Some good, some less so. And yes, the cell phone thing really bothered me too... Don't want to see them! But I also love our camp...
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
Hey - dropped you a note from the Carolingia link and at the above address. That's my work email - I'm in front of it all day.
Aug. 29th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
re: "I love my camp. We’ve been there for six years now"
Yegads has it been THAT LONG since Rob&I got to Pennsic?
Kidney donation summer 2002... now it's 2007...oh good god in heaven...
no wonder I'm having camp-withdrawal.
Aug. 29th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Re: "I love my camp. We’ve been there for six years now"
If it helps at all, I didn't believe Bob when he pointed it out. I made him count through the years for me.

Hopefully we're still in Clifford's good graces so that we can make it seven!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )