Sherwood Forest and Other Family Friendly Adventures
This weekend is South by Southwest and by rights I should be partaking in said festival. However, I think it almost goes without saying that SXSW is too rich for my blood. I live here. South by Southwest is for tourists from Los Angeles and the music industry.
What I can afford to do and what I would like to do are not always the same thing. However, I have to say that affordable living can be enjoyable as well. And I probably belong in and enjoy a setting with children more than I would hobnobbing with the music and film industry elite. I mean, it would be fun to visit for a change, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Two weekends ago I went to a four year old boy’s birthday party. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Landlord turned four, and a great time was had by all. I showed up early. Family friends and Mrs. Landlord’s parents were there. These are folks I’m pretty comfortable with now, having spent many hours conversing at such family gatherings over the past seven years. Mr. Landlord’s best friend and I are practically best buddies.
Let’s call Mr. Landlord’s best friend, Tuba, since that is the instrument he plays in the neighborhood Christmas caroling excursion every year. He’s hilarious. He loves the two children of Mr. and Mrs. Landlord, but you never know what mood to expect him in, and he’s not always the life of the party.
When I showed up, Mrs. Landlord tried to get Tuba and me lead the crafts for the eight million little children in the yard. This was an attempt to divert them from the fact that chicken dinner was taking a little longer than she had expected.
What I knew as I gathered the supplies of paints and brushes and clay pots, potting soil, morning glory seeds, gardening trowel, glitter glue, and stickers and attempted to parcel them out limited to only one table, was that Tuba would soon desert me with eight million children.
Eight million children, who all called me, “Miss,” and were largely polite and respectful but who soon blossomed into a group of little crafty mess makers, getting paint and glue and glitter all over three of the tables we were soon supposed to be eating on.
I have previous experience in dealing with eight million children, sometimes on my own, from having worked with children in the church as both a paid worker and as a volunteer. So, I wasn’t completely overwhelmed.
There were sweet moments, such as the little boy who blew on my arm to remove some dirt that had settled there as I was filling his decorated clay pot with potting soil. Also, when I stepped in the dog shit, the children were kind enough to tell me, “Ew! Miss! Miss! You have dog poop on your shoe.” Later in the evening I stepped in cole slaw that another little one had dropped on the dining room floor while serving herself, and I got it all over my other shoe. That sounds like a great book title. Maybe if I ever write a book I will title it, Poop on One Shoe, Cole Slaw On the Other.
When all the children had decorated their clay pots and put their names on them, and I had gotten the potting soil distributed to each and every little child, I complimented them all appropriately, “Oh, how pretty! What wonderful colors, Jorge!”
It was then time to parcel out the seeds very carefully, not knowing in advance if there would be enough for every child to have one. This is the point in the evening when Mr. Landlord looked at me and grinned in an evil manner, saying , “Do you feel a little like a drug pusher?” as the kids all yelled, “Seeds, seeds!” in their tiny voices with palms up and arms outstretched.
The timing worked great, and it was soon time to eat. Mr. Landlord said to me, “I thought we were going to limit the mess to just one table.” I said, “Well, if the adult to child ratio were any higher than eight million to one…” in an exasperated tone that I truly didn’t mean to come across quite as snippy as it did. Magically, two of the other adults stepped in to clean up all the mess and make it go away without my having to lift a finger, and I went in to sit down in front of the television with Tuba.
Like I said, a good time was had by all. Free food. Free entertainment. Tantrums. Drama. Candy, cake, ice cream. A piñata. Who needs glamour?
Sure, every once in awhile I think wistfully of the good old days when I was still young and pretty and skinny and not an alcoholic. I remember before my heart got freezer burn, when I still believed in dating (if I could ever get an eligible man to ask me out) and I could partake of the dirty vodka martini with a man in a club. I remember when I could do that without later hibernating in a cave of self-pity with a three-liter box of cheap wine for seven years. It doesn’t seem fair. Why me?
But who needs that kind of fun? I get to play with other people’s children and then give them back when they scream and cry. It’s great.
Last weekend the family friendly adventure was Sherwood Forest, a Renaissance Faire that just opened this year outside of Elgin, the famous sausage town. I’m friendly with a gay couple from work who had a baby with a single woman friend of theirs. The baby is fifteen months old, and she is really adorable and well behaved. She doesn’t fuss much. All of us set out together, the gay couple, the baby’s mother and grandmother, and me, the adopted extended family member.
Tickets to get into Sherwood Forest are $12 each, and it was a pretty big faire. We were able to spend the whole afternoon without boredom setting in. Not counting the ticket expense, I spent just a little under $20 all day long. Most of this was spent on food. Wait. Maybe all of it was spent on food. Sausage sandwich, large dill pickle, roasted nuts. I’m sensing a theme here.
I thought that Sherwood Forest was a pretty good place to take kids. There are all the usual things that you expect to see at things like this. There was a parade, several theaters with musicians and magicians and player performers, simple rides for kids, animals for children to pet and feed. Tons of people wear some pretty authentic costumes. Not everyone in costume is being paid to do so. People really get into these things.
A small proportion of the population there were drinking. It didn’t make me want one. Mostly what I noticed was how pathetic these people seemed. It made me wonder if I was that big a fool. It made me wonder about what past roommates thought of me as I turned into a slurry opinionated loud mouth. Mostly, I was embarrassed for them and for myself.
There was a palm reader, which I thought about, but I can’t bring myself to pay $20 for that. So, the baby’s mother, who, no doubt, wondered if I were one of those whacked Evangelicals who believe that just getting one’s palm read means an exorcism is in one’s future, suggested the tarot card reader instead.
I don’t think Jesus is likely to take back my salvation over a thirty-minute tarot card reading, so I was game. And honestly, since this was only $10 I was thinking it would make for a cheap investment towards entertaining blog reading. But the baby’s mama got her reading and her mom’s reading done first. That took an hour, and by the end of that hour I was ready to do something else. I don’t suffer from attention deficit disorder but after waiting all that time, I lost the urge entirely.
Like I said, we saw many folks in costume and there were probably about five buff versions of something like Conan the Barbarian, one of which one of my co-workers insisted was flashing his wanker if you looked carefully enough. So, mostly this was the entertainment for the afternoon.
“That guy?” I’d say, as I carefully examined for cod-pieces under short leather skirts.
“No, not that guy. The guy was wearing a cape. This guy is wearing a black Speedo. See?”
“I’m never gonna get to see any dick.”
As I said, it was a family friendly adventure.