Monday, May 31, 2010

This is the day we stop and remember this thing

I always feel vaguely guilty about having national holidays off, when the historic area is open three hundred and sixty five days a year, so my interpreter friends are out there regardless. I was determined to make the most of my time off.

This morning I participated in a Memorial Day parade, honoring the fallen war dead who are buried throughout Williamsburg. As we lined up near the Palace, the temperature was hovering around ninety...I can't complain though, I wasn't wearing a woolen Continental uniform, nor carrying a musket with a fixed bayonet. (the muskets we carry are about twelve pounds unbayonetted, about fourteen with) After laying a wreath at the Palace, to honor the Continental soldiers buried in the garden--Washington used the empty building as a hospital--we marched down the Palace Green to Bruton Parish Church, where more soldiers are buried. Three volleys there, and then the long march to the French cemetery, a tiny, out of the way, peaceful plot of land where some of Rochambeau's men were laid to rest. Far, far from home, probably not understanding exactly why the King of France would take the side of some upstart colonial rebels, but loyally here doing their duty. We had a good turnout--a large amount of guests who were attentively solemn, some who were more interested in getting a picture with the militia, a few locals who skirted the crowd with their dogs, and one idiot jogger who ran straight through the rope barricade, missing the yells of "you can't go there, there's live firing!" due to an iPod firmly screwed into his ears.

I sweated straight through my linen shirt and hunt frock. When I got home, I looked like I had jumped into a pool fully clothed. I had lunch, started some laundry and began packing. You see, loyal readers, I am going to be moving in with Jeff, so once again I find myself putting my life into boxes in preparation for another jump. Most of the books I have with me were lovingly packed before I went to London. The boxes still have "Books!" written on them with little hearts around the word--I have kept them, flattened and tucked behind my dresser for two years. They won't all fit into the three boxes I brought now. "Nelson and Napoleon" was bought as a present to myself for getting an apartment, and it sits weighty on the bottom of one box that contains all my maritime and English history books. A bag of winter clothes and a serious debate about whether or not to get rid of some of these sweaters. I love these sweaters. But I don't wear them, winter being so short in Virginia. A small pile of things to be got rid of or given back to their rightful owners. I think to myself that I must be in America for good...I would never have let my possessions get so out of control, so permeated throughout this apartment otherwise.

Then the grocery store. A friend has told me her husband went to the emergency room, and they are waiting on test results. Her family, his family, a sister, all are coming to help out with the kids, with the emergency, there's nothing I can do to help but pray, but Midwestern genes dictate I must make a casserole. I have never done this sort of thing before, so I fall back weakly on a Betty Crocker recipe for macaroni and cheese. I add a lot of cheese.

Folding clothes, walking the dog. I am hurrying to get everything finished by four so I can take a nap before working the evening program. The march through the historical area has taken it out of me, and I am fighting off a weird headache. I succumb to the joys of high thread count sheets and the AC blowing directly on me. A fan wafts beagle farts into my face as Kismet joins me in a nap.

Then, getting dressed again, this time in girl clothes. I must wear stays to fit into my gown, but it's not the stays that are hot tonight, it's the linen petticoat and gown skirt. They absorb the humidity in the air and stick to my legs, I feel like I'm wearing wool. Not much I can do, except pin my kerchief loosely, slightly immodestly, around my neck. I carry the mac n' cheese to work with me, cleverly hidden in an extra piece of fabric as a disguise. My friend and her family live next door to the Randolph House, where I work. At the break, an older man is sitting on their porch...I go up and introduce myself--he is the father in law of the sick husband, and he tells me that it's cancer. What the next step will be they're not sure yet. I lamely push my mac 'n cheese on him, answer a guest's question about the gardens behind the Randolph and then walk over to the office where the ghost tour leaders meet, to tell another employee what's going on. She hopes he's not at a certain hospital. I tell her he is. She starts telling me horror stories about her husband's experience there. I let her run on, then make sure she's okay and pat her hand before I leave.

As I'm walking back to the house, a little boy comes up behind me, crying. Sometimes they do this, the kids, they are having hissy fits or they are overtired. But he is overwhelmed with tears and looking frightened. I stop him and ask if he's okay. "Nnno," he says, hiccoughing, "I'm lost." So I take his hand and we go back to the office where I hand him over to one of the counter people. Luckily the little boy knows his mom's cell phone number. And, at the end of the night when I call my manager to let him know I'm leaving, he tells me the boy found his parents.

On the way home I stop for ice cream. I want a peanut buster parfait from Dairy Queen, but I will settle for a hot fudge sundae with peanuts. Rita's--the frozen custard stand on the way home--does not have peanuts. But I do not learn this until after the nice man behind the counter has triumphantly presented me with a scoop of vanilla custard slathered with hot fudge. I am disappointed. But I eat it anyway. It tastes cool.

My roommate has turned the AC off. I suspect she's had her window open all day--she is constantly cold--but by now it's cooled down enough that the fan will be enough for tonight. Tomorrow is a Tuesday--traditionally the slowest day of the week--but I feel rested knowing how much I have accomplished today. A hot day, a long day, a day for remembering and a day for doing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to solve a problem like Maria...

The problem with having a blog is that you must have something to write about. Or you launch on your glorious adventure assuming (hoping?) your life will furnish you with enough material to keep going. I was never very grandiose in my blog attempts, this literary corner of the internet is just an attempt to keep my friend and family up to date on what's going on in my life.

Except that there's not much going on in my life right now except for work. And work is... Well, there's the rub. When I got this position I said that I wouldn't write about my current employer, except to share positive stories and potentially embarassing things I do. Except that work is... Well, what I'm trying to say is that there's only so many times your loyal readers want to hear about beagle farts and me running around in crazy costumes.

Work has totally taken over my life. Work means sixty hour weeks just to not make ends meet. Work means being underpaid to be underappreciated. Work means creative enthusiasms meeting an effective wall of silence and a corporate attitude of That's Not How We Do Things Around Here. Work is making me increasingly unhappy, tired, fat and stressed.

And I know--I know I ought to be grateful to have a job in this economy, working at a place that is at least slightly more creative than an office beehive. And I know too that I should chuck it all and start over, free as the wind, confident in my bohemian abilities to get by. Part of me is still tired of surfing that uncertain wave that is Temping+Writing and grateful for a solid workweek, part of me (the 18 to 22 year old part, no doubt) wonders what the bleedin' hell I'm doing here.

The single ray of sunshine that has been sustaining me for the past few months is the fact that my play has been accepted, is in rehearsals and will open July 3rd...but in two plus years, nothing has happened beyond that. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Work is going to continue to wreak havoc on my wellbeing and so... Well, if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain.

Or, perhaps, find another mountain...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Come to the shoulder

Here's what I look like these days...The wind nearly took my hat off just as I snapped this picture. I managed to avoid another raging sunburn thanks to a major application of sunburn and this hat. I love this hat.

Jeff and I spent last weekend in Bowie, Maryland, at beautiful Belair Mansion. Saturday Jeff put his militia through their paces, and I got to use my brand new clay bean pot and cook dinner for t'lads over an open fire. It was a pretty sweet deal...for them. I spent the entire day out in the sun, hunched over a hot fire, simultaneously trying to keep the wood going and praying that I wouldn't give everyone salmonella. Thank God for the brisk wind that not only fanned the flames but also kept me cool. I really enjoyed the challenge of cooking over a live was such a departure from cooking on a stove. Most of the folks who stopped by were disappointed that there weren't more of us (apparently the local paper got our Saturday and a bigger reenactment in August mixed up), but a few of them spent a significant amount of time asking questions. Two teenagers who showed up as we were packing up actually got to pull the trigger on one of the guns that hadn't been cleaned yet.

It was refreshing to be at site that was so welcoming of reenactors. Belair was built in the 1750s and redesigned in the late 1890s. In 1957, William Levitt bought the property and set about converting the commodious lands surrounding the mansion into the newest Levittown. He used Belair as an office and left it to the local ladies' historical society upon his death. Bowie used it as a town hall until the 1980s, when it was turned into a historic site. Now they are working into returning it to its eighteenth-nineteenth and -early twentieth splendor. It was a little odd to be deep in the eighteenth century as 90s pop blared from the community pool a hundred feet away. But the private tour of the house was delightful--I especially enjoyed inspecting the original set of Hogarth's "Idle and Industrious 'Prentice" prints, and the original 1920s bellpull lights and dumbwaiter.

After a hard day's work in the sun, some of t'lads in Jeff's militia invited us to "the" local Annapolis hangout, Pussars Restaurant, where we sampled that fine company's most well known product and some local seafood. The heart of Annapolis is probably the most well preserved eighteenth century neighborhood in America...and as the night fell we drew stares walking around in our clothes admiring the architecture and a cannon from 1634 that had been dredged up from a local river. I, alas, had left my camera back at Belair, so no photos of Annapolis (or the ships that paraded up and down!) but here are some photos of the day...

Jeff with Belair in the background.

Dinner! Notice the lovely clay beanpot with chicken bubbling away. Notice also the broken cutting board on the wooden block. I attempted to crush some peppercorns on it with the bottom of my saltglaze mug...those buggers are tough.

The lads make ready.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dyeing tonight

I am dyeing my hair for the millionth time, but for only the second time this year. I think I started when I was thirteen or can't buy knives or adult magazines when you're under eighteen, but apparently hair colour is ok. (Rebellious children take note!) I haven't had my natural hair colour since. It used to be a joke that I dyed my hair constantly so that I wouldn't have to know when it was turning grey, but the joke is on me. The past couple weeks, when I've pulled my hair back into the pompadour required for an eighteenth century lady, one determined grey hair has cheerfully poked up, defying bobby pins and hairspray alike. So for the first time, I am actually dyeing my hair to cover grey.

That doesn't mean I'm doing anything method is slather-and-scrub, no matter what the box might say. And I do someday look forward to sporting a head of beautiful white-grey, like the matriarchs in my family. I will probably take advantage of not having to bleach my hair first to finally dye it purple...I hope so, anyway.

Urghhh...I wanted to say something profound but I have to go wash this goop out of my hair. Jeff and I are going reenacting this weekend...I hope to have some pictures to post and a proper update soon.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Save the Surprise!

Okay, okay, so I know I haven't updated in what seems like three years...I spent a weekend reenacting and then a week hosting an old friend, which ended up in a trip to the beach that gave me a sunburn so bad I have been crying for the past three days. I know you all want to hear about that, but! A quick trip around the interwebs tonight brought me to the San Diego's Maritime Museum website, where their end of year appeal (for money) includes a plea for help in restoring HMS Surprise...

"You may remember me as that random person that sails the Surprise and posts pictures about these adventures.

Well, I'm coming to you in a time of need. We just got our favourite ship in drydock and have some bad news. Her hull is so rotted through, the Coast Guard can only approve her as a dockside attraction, and she won't be able to sail again unless we practically rebuild everything from the waterline down. Now, the Maritime Museum of San Diego is all about preserving historic ships in sailing condition, and I (and the rest of the volunteer crew) simply cannot see the Surprise just sitting at the dock and never sailing again. Especially not after all the work we've done to get her good and sailing-fit!

If you could help the Surprise out, we would be eternally grateful. There is a donation link here at the Maritime Museum's website, and any little bit can help. Tell your friends, we need all of the help we can get.


EDIT: A lot of you aren't from the US and were wondering how to donate, since the online form calls for a state. You can contact the Development Office if you'd like to donate by cash or check (cheque...).

(619) 234-9153 x 141 or x 129

Development Office
Maritime Museum of San Diego
1492 N. Harbor Dr
San Diego, CA 92101"

HMS Surprise was, of course, a replica of the eighteenth-century sailing ship and was used in the movie Master and Commander. She was built here on the east coast and then--as soon as Nicki got wind of her--promptly removed to the other side of the damm country, so it's in my interests to keep her afloat as long as possible. A: so I can go see her and drool over hearts of oak and futtock shrouds and B: so we can hopefully see another Aubrey/Maturin movie!!!

That is all. More later.