Kage Baker spent a lot of her Labour Days at Northern Faire. In the earliest days, it was always traditionally the weekend before last – and being a 3-day weekend, it felt like the Faire would never end. That provoked mixed feelings: euphoria, frantic last-minute playing, dancing on the aft deck as we slid under the cold ocean of Fall.
Even as time went on and the performance schedules changed (some years we almost made it to Halloween) the mayfly hysteria of 3-day persisted. Three whole days of Faire! Three whole nights of Faire – Kage had the good sense to sleep, but I was often awake most the of the entire weekend. One could do that 30 years ago … something has happened to time these later days, a few days without sleep and one just falls right over …
Despite the protracted fun, Monday was always Dawn of the Dead. Many years, the semi-annual Morris Ale had been in my Innyard the night before; the place would be carpeted with plastic cups, congealed Mullah meals, abandoned Morris bells and the occasional Morris Man. The sticks and swords were always leaning on the statue of Hern in the garden. Dave Ricker’s fiddle was usually upstairs in my bedroom, where he ceremoniously and decorously left it each time before wobbling off to the Grey Barn. Someone always left a pewter mug. Someone else always left a black cardigan.
I’d wander out in the eredawn and get my first cup of coffee from Don Brown’s up the road. I’d sit there amid the falling buckeye leaves (nothing looks as dead and sere as a falling buckeye leaf) and savour the most peaceful half-hour of the year.
The Inn at Blackpoint backed up to a spur of the eastern ridge, so morning sunlight just skipped right over us. You could see the sun hit the trees in front of the Inn; you could watch it fill up the Serpentine, and light up the Pacific mist falling in over the western hills. But we were under the crest of the wave, and so the morning was all indirect sunlight in the Yard. Easier on the very tired eyes.
One by one, zombies would shamble forth in search of their brains. Tom Westlake would emerge from the hovel we called Weasel Hall at the back of the Inn, in the most retina-burning paisley bathrobe in Christendom. My sister Kimberly would bustle out, inhumanly alert, usually in pursuit of her small son – Michael learned to walk on the steep slope of the Yard, and would come bounding forth like a mountain goat lamb, demanding scrambled eggs and French toast from Terry’s. Various other Guild members would surface from the Tap Room, the Baby Pit, the hooches in the back (we often slept a dozen people in that old Inn), fetching coffee and chai and Mullah mush and hideous day-glo cereals in wooden bowls and the Green Man Sacred Breakfast Food: chocolate doughnuts with frosting like melted brown crayons.
Ultimately, bizarre noises from the loft would mean that Harry the Parrot and Kage were coming back to life. I’d climb back up, and fetch Harry down in his cage to share everybody’s breakfast. Kage would start fighting her way out of her sleeping bag (it’s hard, when you also have waist length hair and sleep in an old-fashioned shift) and then I would be back with her first cup of coffee (and my third).
By the time the coffee and doughnuts lured her all the way down to the Yard, the morning was in full swing: Harry would be rampaging through the cereal and scrambled eggs, the first of the sensible Guild members who slept off-site would be coming up the road, ice would be slamming on the front tables. People were finding, repairing, trading costume pieces for the day. My ladies were making iced tea and lemonade; my gentlemen were setting up the day’s first keg (or vice versa. We were an equal opportunity chaos.) I was wandering around being vague and exclaiming “What? What?” at the day’s first disasters.
And Kage would come over and flop down on a hay bale, clutching her coffee. Despite a night’s sleep, her eyes would be red as stop lights and glassy with visions. I’d start to brush out her red hair, backing up three or four feet to get to the ends … and she’d gulp her coffee and say, “I had the damnedest dream …”
Happy Labour Day, kids.
Tomorrow: the weather in Torquey