Kage Baker would usually be flagging slightly by this time in the year. Not from Extreme Christmas – she was up for Dickens Fair no matter what. And that emphatically included usually doing the last weekend with a raging fever and the distinctive but unknown-to-science malady we all simply call “Fair Crud.”
Glassy-eyed with Nyquil, hacking up her lungs; to explain her red eyes and nose, she often regaled customers with how she was remembering her one true love who died in a freak naval accident – usually involving giant octopodi. Sometimes she blamed bad gin, or assured people it was “just a touch of the cholera”. It’s amazing how funny modern people find cholera, when it’s jolly Christmas time all around them and they no longer remember what the hell cholera is anyway …
I’ve managed to attend Dickens Fair mostly by long distance this year, trapped by duty and illness in Los Angeles. My faithful minions have kept me informed and modern technology has given me a tele-presence: I have been directing via cell phone. And it’s worked. But this coming weekend is Last Weekend, and I must be there. Not only to partake of the event myself, but because once the customers are out of sight, the really hard part begins – striking the set.
Those performers and vendors who aren’t responsible for their personal venues can flit around like grieving fairies, gathering kisses and hugs and stirrup cups, and making many tearful goodbyes. And so they should – it’s always a highly emotional time, when the curtain comes down for the last time. But for them, the whole thing goes up and down like Brigadoon: between a sunset and a sunrise, appearing and vanishing like magic.
It’s not magic. Well, maybe it is – but it still takes effort by the magicians and genius locii. Someone has to box the glass and china and ornaments and linen and furniture; someone has to get all the glories back in their various nests, where they will rest out the ensuing year. My dear ones and I will spend some hours in exhausted hilarity, putting away our toys.
And then I’ll head home – either racing through Christmas Eve as soon as the dawn breaks, or seeing how far I can get on Sunday night itself. I’ve done that sometimes – driving until I was hallucinating parrots and pineapples by the side of the road, and then pulling into some motel for a hour’s sleep in the glow of a single string of Christmas lights … they always have just one string, those places. But they still shine out bravely over the dark expanses of the winter night.
It’s been a tough December, and I haven’t gotten as much done as I wanted to. But I’ve gotten some things finished, and more will be done soon, and new leaves are already beginning to open beneath the metaphorical snow. To get the to beginning, you have to reach the end first – that’s the whole point of that night-running, that wild untrammeled rush to where Sol Invictus is breaking new on the world …
And so I keep running.