Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get Ye Old Freak On

"Hey, guess what’s happening this weekend?” I asked David towards the end of last week.

“What?” he replied.

“The medieval festival!”

“Am I supposed to be excited about that?”

“Every year we want to go –“

“We do?”

“And every year, we have something else to do. But not this year. Should we go? They’re doing jousting and having a quidditch match and giving free costumes to the first 400 kids. I think we could be one of the first 400. It doesn’t start til 11:30.”

“Yeah, I guess, sure.”

On Sunday morning, we rallied the troops for church – more on that debacle another time. After church, we loaded into the car, encountered no traffic and were getting off the FDR near Fort Tryon Park at just about 11:30.

“This is great. We’ll be one of the first ones there/” I announced. Like an asshole.

Yes, this whole post is basically about how I am an asshole for thinking that the medieval festival is something so esoteric, hardly anyone would bother to show. When I made that assumption, I was forgetting several important considerations.

  1. the festival is free. No admission. No membership cards required. Just wide open to the public. And it isn’t some podunk free festival where the highlight of the event is getting a complimentary coloring book from TD Bank or watching a knife sharpener sharpen knives. This free festival provided a schedule jam-packed with entertainment you’d pay to see: jousting with real horses, acrobatics and aerialists, puppet shows of Robin Hood, not to mention the people-watching factor. Whenever there’s that much entertainment given away for free – doesn’t even matter what kind it is -- you will have crowds.

  1. People go nutty for medieval shit. Both normal people and nutty people. So between the normal people with a mild interest – knight-loving and princess-fixated kids and twentysomething hipster dilettantes nursing a hobby – and the diehards with a passionate obsession, you’ve got throngs of folks. Did I mention it was free?

  1. I assumed because it was way the hell uptown, it would attract fewer crowds. F course, not everyone in New York begins their days in Brooklyn and not everyone is as lazy as me.

There were 60 000 people there.

That is a real number. I didn’t make it up. NPR told me. Actually, NPR told David, while he was driving around the outskirts of Fort Tryon Park for TWO AND A HALF HOURS looking for a parking space after dropping the kids and I off at the festival. That is not an exaggeration, incidentally. My husband circled around the neighborhood in search of a place to leave the car for two and a half hours – and here’s the best part. He NEVER found one – not even in a parking lot, because those were all full by the time we got to the festival at 11:30. After two a half hours, I called him and said, “We’re done. Are you still in the car?” And he said, “Yep, I’m about to turn the corner – for the five thousandth time.” He got to listen to NPR report on the festival, however, and gleaned lots of useful information. The poor man had to pee like a racehorse and couldn’t move his right leg for a few hours after.

Enough with the grousing, you will say. How was the festival itself? It is hard to view it objectively, and not through the lens of battling hordes of crushed velvet-wearing super-buxom people while carrying my enormous four year-old on my back.

I’ll tell you one thing I thought was way cool. One thing I may never forget. The size of those turkey legs. Good GAWD, those hunks of meat are massive. Have you ever seen what I am referring to? What kind of a turkey do they kill for that meat? It looks like a damn dinosaur leg. Suck on this T-rex haunch, why don’t you? I thought it was amazing and really wanted to buy one for my carnivorous husband, locked in the car, but by the time we exited the festival the line for Ye Old Barbeque Shoppe was about 100 people long. Smelled freaking delicious, too. Anyone know where we can get some of those WITHOUT going to the medieval festival? Because I gotta get something for David for Christmas/.

It was also pretty cool to check out everyone in their Arthurian garb. These folks are not joking around, by the way. The gowns did not look like the variety I purchase from WalMart for Seconda, which adhere with Velcro on the back. They had details, loads of finishing touches, and accoutrements, like those double pointy hats with diaphanous veils attached. The men were just as finely appointed, plumes blowing in the breeze, ornamental swords and all manner of vests. I’m a sucker for dress-up and I like to see people getting their Ye Old Freak on. My daughter, who has a drawer full of princess dress-up which she insists on wearing to all sorts of occasions at which princess garb is not appropriate, decided that on this occasion where everyone else would be wearing princess gowns, she would be donning a full tiger costume. That’s just the way the kid rolls.

Oh hey, you know what delicacy stands the test of time? Ye Old Fried Dough. Delicious, across the centuries.

We watched some aeralists on the Spanish Web and some guys in suits of armor attack each other with fake weapons and ate zeppoli. We tried to catch the jousting but there were no seats. In fact, we couldn’t even peer in from the sidelines because the group of by-standers was four or five people deep. Everything was just crushed with crowds.

Would I recommend the festival? Sure, if you are a medieval nut or happen to have a stash of benzos you can avail yourself of. Maybe if you live really close and can pip over right when it opens and stay for an hour before it gets really insane, that would be OK too. If you don’t fall into that category, I’d suggest listening to the coverage on NPR.