Kage Baker was always in charge of the packing for Fairs. She handled all the maps. She was my navigator. I miss her dreadfully when I have to do it for myself; not only because it means another Fair without her, but because I am so really, really bad at all those things.
However, she made me promise not to stop doing Fair – and honestly, I haven’t even been tempted to do so. Ill health has prevented me doing Dickens much and/or at all the last 2 years, and it has been horrible. Bad enough I am falling apart with ridiculous frequency – I mean, I survived the removal of a kidney last winter, then fell down the stairs and broke my freaking ankle. It gets worse because I know what is going on in the enchanted depths of the Cow Palace, and knowing I was missing it was a horrible torture.
But this weekend, I returned. Ta da! True, I can’t do much but sit and point and make whatever executive decisions don’t frighten my dedicated and efficient staff, but it’s so much more fun to be there! It appears I am not ready to settle down. A weekend on the road has left me positively euphoric. Even though my poor Cruiser is still out of commission, rental cars are a thing. I rented a charming little sub-compact, and it still had plenty of room for me, Michel and our luggage. And it was such a thrill to head North on I-5 again!
Though first we had to wait for a mile-long funeral procession to clear the street in front of us. We live only a few blocks from a cemetery; and no return to Fair, opined my trusty navigator nephew, would have been complete without our getting trapped by either a funeral or a train or a stampede of llamas … we were, after all, embarking on the Highway of the Weird.
Luckily, I-5 was kind to us. Wonderful landscapes, the seasonal icebergs of cotton bales the size of 727s on the edges of all the fields, a late perfume of hay and harvested crops over everything. There were sheep with Fall lambs gamboling. There were hawks on the speed signs, ravens pacing our car, coyotes panting sarcastically at us from the roadsides. Political signs that indicate clearly the center of California is the original home of insane conspiracy theories …
Once we cleared Vallejo, though, I mistook a turning on Highway 12/29 and drove us into an alternate dimension. Some sort of pocket Universe, I think, that involved driving in endless circles around Napa. In the dark. By the time our hosts, the saintly Skolds, were calling us to ask cautiously where we were, we had no idea: we couldn’t tell what street we were on, we weren’t sure what city we were in, and the rental car didn’t come with a compass. And while Kage had a compass in her head, I do not.
But! I have a smart phone! Even more importantly, I have a smart nephew. Michael made me pull over, and determined that my phone had a GPS function! I had no idea, and had never even turned it on; I’d never cared. But when clever Mike did so – and also discovered the phone had a voice function – suddenly I cared very much. We were back in contact with reality! Mike was able to steer us out of the pocket universe and back to our proper destination. It was a wonder and a major triumph, and now I know something new and massively useful that my phone can do.
The Skolds, bless them, were unperturbed and gently amused by our mad adventure. I am constantly turning up at their door after some bizarre trip disaster: I even got the car stuck on railroad tracks in Petaluma one night, and they had to talk me off of the tracks and back on to the road. So they are sort of used to me being late to dinner because I am in flames, or was abducted by aliens, or have somehow gone too far and crossed the border into Oregon …
Once he was armed with GPS, Mike guided us all over the Bay area with no more contretemps. Out to the storage unit in the South Bay where the Green Man lives when it’s not doing Dickens Fair; back to the Cow Palace, through the Maze between the 580 and 880 when we left on Sunday while fearfully dodging Raiders fans. We saw many, many terrible accidents – but none of them involved us, though some seemed to have involved IEDs and heavy ordinance.
My wonderful, amazing group, the denizens of the Green Man – also known as the Chaos Construction Corps – got all the walls up and painted on Saturday. On Sunday, we got all the furniture unloaded and placed. Enormous Turkish rugs now cover the ghastly asphalt of the Cow Palace floor; our couches and tables and chairs and sideboards are all where they belong. The altar piece of the Bar is in place.
Next week we will decorate madly for two days. The walls alone have to be finished off with crown molding, wallpaper friezes and green garlands with plaid bows before we can hang a single faux Constable. And there are stacks and stacks of plastic bins everywhere: in which the bar and kitchen tools, the dishes and silverware, the tea services, the linens and table cloths, and all the enormous variety of Victorian gewgaws that enhance our walls are stored. Feathers. Mirrors. Hand-colored prints in gilded frames; dubious hunt scenes and ship wrecks and landscapes with ruins. The (working) chandelier. All the wreathes, lamps, candles and stag horns that give our Parlour its distinctive look.
Extreme Christmas is coming out of the boxes. And I am ecstatic! Even though I still miss Kage most dreadfully.
But when I am in the Parlour …. I am still living inside her head.