The Bus III

Kage Baker was a great admirer of the surreal. I always suspected it was how she actually saw the world, at least out of one eye. Due to intermittent strabismus, she only ever saw out of one eye at a time. Both eyes worked, but since they seldom looked at the same place at the same time, her brain blocked one eye’s vision – usually the left one. When her left eye was looking straight ahead, it meant she was having a rare attack of binocularity. Or a migraine.

Riding The Bus may have been that rare atmosphere where it didn’t matter. Very strange scenes happened there.

I remember … walking back along the aisle after having discouraged some sociopath from opening his take-out dinner of kimchee. As I lurched from seat to seat, I found our one shawm player (brilliant and irreplaceable Darin) just fitting a noose around his neck: the other end was tied to the luggage rack.

ME: What the hell are you doing?

D (in apparent sincerity): My David Munrow imitation …

I remember … that Tim, the head of St. Blaise (the Cryers) brought his cat on The Bus one Friday. I’ve forgotten why, but Terry Collier was not pleased. Especially as he discovered it about 20 minutes out, at the base of the Grapevine.

Terry: And I suppose he’s gonna hold it in for the next 400 miles?

Tim: I swear to you, angels will come and take away his shit.

Maybe they did. I do remember the cat preferred Blackpoint, and lived at the Ben Johnson Stage for years afterward. Lots of animals traveled with us, often one way. Usually it was unhappy kittens in baskets, or uncomfortably lively rats. (Protip, kids – animals rarely make good props.) One Sunday, though, a lady Labrador retriever patiently brought her dozen puppies down to the Bus stop, one after the other. At least 6 of them came home  to LA with us that night. Petstore Pandemonium!

I remember … Athene Mihilakis and Cheryl Gilnor standing in the aisle, giving the classic safety lecture on airline oxygen as we pulled out of LA, using someone’s gold brocade belt pouch for a mask.  Five people spread out over two seats, all frantically sewing pearls on Athene’s sleeves: by the time we hit Blackpoint, it looked like it had been beaded by a spider on LSD. An improvised live action version of The Wizard of Oz, starring Scott Dodd as Dorothy and Athene as Glenda:

Scott: If all I had to do was click the damned shoes together, why did you make me go through all this?

Athene: Well, Dorothy, it gets pretty boring for us here in Oz …

I remember …the immortal Kevin Brown giving a dubious recap of the speeches of FDR, using an empty Coke can as a radio echo chamber (Today ….ssss – the forces of Imperial Japan … ssss – attacked my wife Eleanor …). Kevin recounting the adventures of the fiendish Angus McCreech and the Great Babby Drive. Kevin singing obscene versions of the Cowardly Lion’s songs from Oz (Oz was a perennial favourite with us). Kevin describing the cold, dark, swirling, shark-infested waters below the Richmond Bridge every damned time we crossed it:  to a chorus of outraged yells  and death threats from everyone else on board.

Costume Mistress Chris Zaida coaxing David Springhorn to wake up by dancing a sock-bunny on her hand across his nose.

Numerous people sitting on bananas, pies, freshly starched ruffs, bodhrans, fiddles, Orange Juliuses and – once and memorably – a McDonald’s bag with a hamster in it.

Morris Men playing hacky sack between the 18-wheelers thundering in and out of the Santa Nella truck stop. Me having to explain this behaviour to the 18-wheeler-drivers.

Getting shot in the head with a rubber band helicopter toy by Luisa (OMG the Queen!) Puig in a Burger King.

Watching Sandy Grinn steal a portrait of Colonel Sanders from a KFC in Castro Valley.

Some people almost died; a couple almost got born. Marriages were arranged, dissolved, sometimes consummated. Kage saw all this. And more. In, I think, several alternate dimensions. These people and their antics, their faces, their voices raised in songs both profane and exquisite, their youth, live forever in her mind. She did amazing things with some of them.

Tomorrow: where the stories started.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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14 Responses to The Bus III

  1. I used to know a fair number of Renn Faire and Dickens Faire people. The magic just isn’t there for everyone. I was constantly appalled at the horrible conditions people worked in all day long, the extremely repellent in-group snobbery that made people feel it was a privilege, and all the ridiculous posturing, fake accents etc. There is no way, not even remotely, I ever would have had anything to do with it, and the bus sounds like one of my worst nightmares.

    • Kate says:

      I am sorry that you have had such bad experiences with Renaissance and Dickens Faire people. I think you should consider, though, that this blog is not intended as an advertisement or a recruitment tool. It’s merely my memories, both of a time I loved and my dear, late sister who shared it with me.

      I don’t understand your reaction, or why you read this piece; or why you would, with no provocation, vomit your dislike and malice on a stranger. What do you think you are accomplishing with this cruelty? No one made you read this. No one has demanded you agree with it, or travel back in time and participate in something you find so hateful. So why do you find it appropriate and necessary to abuse my memories? Does it somehow assuage the pain you felt when you were rejected by a group of Faire people years ago?

      You don’t detract from the magic for me, but you have succeeded in hurting me – casually, and for no reason. Presumably this makes you feel good about yourself? That’s more of a nightmare than anything I have conjured here.

    • Chris Springhorn says:

      How interesting that clicking on Frances Grimble leads to the sales site of said individual. Driving business to website with such negative commentary seems crass and counterproductive, as well as just plain nasty.

      • Frances Grimble says:

        No one has to like a writer personally to like their books. There’s no connection, and no visible affect on their sales.

    • catharine says:

      Fascinating. She hates us, yet wants to sell her wares to us. Keep it up Kathleen! I am having a jolly time waltzing down Memory Lane with your posts, and am enjoying the bus stories as I unfortunately joined the Faire the year after they stopped the bus.

  2. Shirley says:

    Kate, in my mind I’ve been comparing your Faire days with a period in my life that also combined being hot, cold & dead-tired worn out mixed with an abundance of laughter & joyous fellowship. Truly some of the best days of my life were involved in the buying & selling of antiques – shows, travel, people, etc. I cherish my memories and I think that is why I’ve been enjoying your Faire/road trips tales so much. The difference is that you got to wear really great outfits and you knew what a shawm player was without having to look it up!

  3. Tom says:

    I am so glad you found the home of your heart, at least then, among the Fair Folk.

  4. Frances Grimble says:

    I assumed you put up this blog to market your sister’s work–which I like very much. I also assumed you planned to finish a book or book of hers.

    If you’re going to be a professional writer or marketer, you are writing for _other people_. You may have a highly targeted, niche audience. You are not custom writing for any individual. But you are still writing for someone other than yourself.

    A blog, on the other hand, is often a purely personal exercise. Yes, in it you do have the right and power to reminiscence solely for yourself or a small group of personal friends. I’m sorry I misunderstood the purpose of your blog and as you suggested, will cease reading it. I heard way, way too much about “Faire,” every day and all day, from fellow students and later, employees who could never seem to discuss anything else.

    • Kate says:

      Frances, I don’t respond in this fashion to professional comments. You didn’t make a professional comment. You indulged your bad temper on a random stranger.

      Your previous difficulties with people who worked at Faires are a personal problem. Your weariness with the subject is a personal problem. Your basic discourtesy is a personal problem. You’re the only one who can deal with them.

    • Mongo says:

      Not that Frances is going to neccesarily read, nor reply, but just in case…
      Kage’s work, which you admittedly “like very much” was forged in the atmosphere of what you are reading here. You may have “heard way, way too much about Faire”, but it seems you are blind to the fact that Faire (and her denizens, hovels, ox-carts, and apparently buses) was the fuel for that fire in Kage’s mind.

      It may have been tiring to hear about something you knew little of, it may be that you felt excluded by the secret code of “Cardiac Hill”, “Pass House”, “Phyllis” and “Prog”, but rather than vent your spleen and sully this catharsis, take a deep breath and say “Hmmm, well, I don’t get it, but I can certainly appreciate the output. Perhaps I should take a back seat and see what all the hubub is about.”

      After all, the same crucible that poured the ingots of Kage’s works also yielded the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the Flying Karamozov Brothers, Penn & Teller, and hundreds of other amazing creations big and small.

      An ounce of respect would serve you far better in all things, and perhaps there is simply a perspective you’ve never explored. Pity, that.

  5. Frances Grimble says:

    Actually, guys, I don’t write or sell Renn Faire related books. I also don’t read (or write) any amateur blogs, so I’ll get out of here and leave you guys to reminisce with your friends.

  6. Frances Grimble says:

    Hey, have a private Rennfest reunion if you want to. I’ve long been aware of how the Faire affected Kage’s work–it’s quite visible. For the rest, everything you say about me is speculation, which I can’t stop. It is, however, merely speculation, assumptions, assertions, etc.

  7. Kathleen: Thank you so much for the wonderful writing and memories. While this is my 21st year of Faire, I find the time travel to my early days and times before me to be fascinating, wonderful, surreal and entertaining. I appreciate the peek behind the curtain of Kage’s life.

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