good buddy

“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”

 ~Henry David Thoreau

And nothing makes the world seem so cozy as to be visited by friends from afar.

I’m sure Thoreau just forgot to add that last bit.

This fall I have enjoyed the new sensation of having friends visiting me. How delicious it has been!

First, a friend from Pennsic War decided to work at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and we have had the delightful opportunity of spending out weekends together.  How wonderful it is to discover a new kindred spirit!  Whether sharing ciders and laughs, or cheesecake and knitting projects, or weekends have been a hoot!

Then, a friend who has been working in China had work that brought him to Pittsburgh, PA.  And compared to China a five hour road trip didn’t seem too far to travel for a good friend.  So a visit to Pittsburgh was made! And I have to admit I was impressed with that ol’ city.  I expected smoke stacks and coal mounds, and even sought them out for a photo shoot with the new Rainbow Rampage collection, but it was a tough search down by the river’s edge to find the grit and grime.  Downtown Pittsburgh was clean and trendy and full of art and life.  The tourist center even has a sweet little book detailing all the outdoor art installations throughout the city.  If I only had had time to explore more of them!

I did find the time to stay an extra day and attend the Mumford and Sons concert at the First Niagara Pavilion.  Which was so awesome! They were great.  And the adventure that took us from the Lawn to the third row was awesome too!

Mumford and Sons August 29, 2013
Mumford and Sons August 29, 2013

Then Sandra, my Swiss friend with whom I have shared many a travel adventure, came to Boston with her new beau; and I just had to head north again for a visit. It was one of my first road trips with Shelly, my big white van, and I was excited to test out the comfort-ability of the bed in the back.  It was great!

On the way up I stopped off in Delaware for a few hours to visit with a friend from my Drexel days, and we caught up with each other over glasses of white wine and dainty cheese plates.  Oh Wilmington how I underestimated you!

That night I stopped to sleep at a rest stop in Connecticut.

Lets pause for a moment and talk about rest stops, and deciding which ones to stop at.  Not all rest stops are created equal. As a solo traveler it is important to trust your gut and look for clues.  I was let in on this little tip at a Denny’s when I shared a midnight meal and a counter with a group of truckers on the I-10 West of Dallas.  Straight from the lips of professionals, I took their advice to heart.  I like to remember the three S’s:

1. Shakes

2. Semi’s 

3. Shadows 

Shakes, as in restaurants like 24-hour diners and fast food chains, create traffic and energy at a rest stop.  It may seem bright and noisy, but it is much better to stop over at a place busy with people and frequented by patrol cars.

Semi’s, as in tractor trailers, are usually a good sign that a rest stop is well used and on the beaten path.  If the stop is split between car parking and trucker parking…park with the trucks.  I like to tuck Shelly in between two monstrous truckers and find myself gently lulled to sleep by the deep growling idle of a monstrous diesel engine.

Shadows aren’t necessarily your friend. But the light sources that create them are.  If you are just plum exhausted and can’t bear the thought of traveling a single mile more in search of a bright glowing island of coffee and gasoline than pull into that dodgy looking blue sign rest stop off the highway. If you must park, at least park under the light.  Though it was the consensus of my trucker angels that if you have to choose between pulling over under the light on an exit ramp and pulling into a dark and shadowy abandoned rest stop, choose the exit ramp!

In all of my cross country adventures I have to say that Pilot and Love’s are pretty great truck stops. They have 24 hour restaurants and mini-marts, gas pumps, lots of lights, lots of trucks, and lots of parking.  You can always see them from the highway well before their exit because they have monstrous electric signs with the current gas prices printed in green and red which is a great beacon of hope when groggy highway fatigued eyes are searching for answers. And in the morning when you wake up in the front seat with your legs over the steering wheel and your feet stuck in the dash the cashier won’t look at you funny when you brush your teeth in their bathroom and pour yourself a 24 oz cup of steaming hot, incredibly bland, amazingly rejeuvinating coffee before hitting the road again.  Ah the life of a modern gypsy.

But I digress. Boston.  And then Houston, with another old friend and another new adventure.  Perhaps those stories should be saved for another day.  Each deserves its very own post I think, complete with catchy title and a photo that hints at stories yet to be told.

Over and Out,
Aeri

Advertisements

hiking with a viking, or life is like a hula hoop

It has been a very crazy summer and there is so much I want to talk about! Where to begin? With Pennsic 42, the most epic two weeks of the year? With my discovery of the meaning of life? With a chance encounter and my new friend?

How about this.  It will all make sense in the end, I promise, but getting there…well it’s always an adventure, right? I’m going to start with the fortune cookie I got on Day 2 of Pennsic Set-Up, when Janeen and I brought dinner back after our final town run.  The fortune cookie said “Talk is cheap, barbers give it away free with haircuts.”  And that cookie really made me sad.

I thought about my Granddad (a barber) and all the great talks and advice he gave to generations of customers over the years.  When he passed away I made sure my email address was included in the obituary because I wanted to hear stories from strangers about what a great person he was.  And man those stories poured in! I am pretty sure if you asked them, they would tell you that it was the talks more than the haircuts (though those were great too) that kept them coming back time after time.   And in today’s technologically stifling “connected” world, the ability to have a decent conversation is a dying art.  Talk isn’t cheap, its priceless!

The next two weeks at Pennsic really reinforced the priceless-ness of real communication.  I’ll be honest it was a little sad this year because many faces in our guild were missing due to severe illness.  We felt their absence.  I had hoped the somber tone would result in more evenings spent together under the communal big top tent, as we all drew strength from our  community.  What a strange community it is. The guild, which was formed long before I ever showed up, is a collection of vendors who wanted to work together to make their part of the marketplace beautiful and engaging.  The vendors became friends, some of whom see each other regularly, and some of whom only see each other for those two weeks each year. And yet despite the gaps in time, or maybe because of the quality of the visits, strong friendships were formed and kept.  I know that I personally consider the girls, daughters of original vendors, some of my closest friends on the planet, any time of year.

But I digress.  I do not want to make it seem that Pennsic 42 was a depressed or deflated Pennsic.  There was much laughter and many happy memories made.  I can’t begin to describe it.  But there were lists.  Sheets and sheets of silly things said and done.  Late night talks held over jars of Apple Pie, and later night adventures had with Celts, Mercenaries, Sicilian Travelers, and other strange and interesting new friends.  It was a refreshing and healing sense of connection and community after the crazy chaos of the previous month on the road (see Moccasisters Unite).  I wish I had pictures to show you, but someone cough*cough**Amber* kept all the good prints.

Oh here’s a good one:

Sunset on Battle Road while the Camelot Guild plays drum head frisbee.
Sunset on Battle Road while the Camelot Guild plays drum head Frisbee.

By the time I got back from Pennsic my Wanderlust was really starting to kick in.  Like Pennsic, I’ve realized that traveling is a bit of an escape for me.  I get to see amazing new things, and have some really wonderful moments with complete strangers.  Right on time, a travel angel came into my life.  I think this was my first American travel angel.  I met this travel angel at the Best Buy in Liverpool, NY.  I had taken the van in to finally get the radio replaced, and when the technician, lets call him Jack, was finished we realized that the van only had one working speaker! At least I have one I joked.  But Jack, after chatting for a bit, offered me the gift of sound.  He had extra speakers that would fit, he said, would I like him to put them in?  Um, YES Please!

So the next day I found my self winding down Route 48 South towards Jack’s house where I spent the afternoon in his drive way handing in ratchets and wrenches and talking about everything from Vikings, to survivalists (Jack is a Prepper, which was an extremely interesting and eye opening discovery), to woodworking and gun-smithing, to travel, and to Zen and the art of Hula Hooping.  That was my favorite I think.  “Do you like the ying yang?” he asked me, referring to the Taijitu symbol hanging on a cord around my neck. “Yeah sure, of course. Balance of opposing forces is always good, right?” When he pressed further I had to really try hard to verbalize the way I felt, and I came up with “I like to dance with the hula hoop so balance is a good thing.”

When I dance with the hoop it is a sharing of energy. Sometimes I stand still and the hoop swirls around me.  Sometimes I move and the hoop stands still, and sometimes we move together.  It is the same with energy: sometimes it moves around me, sometimes it moves through me, and sometimes it moves with me.  With the hoop sometimes I explore how long I can keep the hoop moving around me before I fall or drop it.  With balance I can move many different ways for a long time. But without balance I just fall over and that’s no fun.  So that is why we need opposing energy and balance in our lives. Because it is more fun to dance than to fall down.

The speakers took much longer than Jack anticipated to put in, so we pushed off our hike in the woods until the next day.  His woods were great; good run through the trees like Pocahontas woods.  We found cool mushrooms and talked more about life, the universe, and everything.

A caterpillar on a mushroom! Where's his Hookah? Where's the White Rabbit?
A caterpillar on a mushroom! Where’s his Hookah? Where’s the White Rabbit?

“You really are a traveling fairy.” Jack said at one point. I had to agree with him, at this point I can really say travel has made me who I am, and I like who I am so I’m going to keep with it.  Which made it so interesting the next evening when I finished a book called Time by: Eva Hoffman.  One of the last paragraphs of her book really took all this meaning of life stuff that had unintentionally been percolating all summer and brought it to a frothy boil.  I’ll quote her now:

“We do not all have to be poets, but if we do not want to live meaninglessly, then we need to give ourselves over sometimes to the time of inwardness and contemplation, to empathy and aesthetic wonder.  We need to mull and muse, to reflect on our experience and interpret it, to perform on the level of our life narratives those acts of autopoiesis which apparently happen outside our intention or ken inside the brain’s neurological pathways. We need occasionally to go with the flow.”

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , Douglas Adams says that the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42.  The problem is, no one thought to ask what the question was and so little was solved.  But I’ve realized that for me the meaning of life IS that moment when one laughs and says “Well what is the question then?” The meaning of life is the conversation that ensues. And later, the time spent thinking about the new things learned or realized because of that conversation. And then later,  the moments when you get to share those new realizations with other humans and the cycle continues.  Life is a spiral. It is dancing with a hula hoop. It is shared energy and balance.

At least, that’s the best I’ve  been able to come up with so far.  What about you?

With love and curiosity, intensity and enthusiasm,

Aeri

moccasisters unite

My goodness has it been a crazy couple of weeks, and the craziness just does not show signs of stopping. So here it is, the grand update on what has happened and what (theoretically planned as of now) will happen for the rest of the summer and into the fall.  When you can’t remember where I am…just refer to this here post and you might get a bit of a hint.
So, what has happened?  Things were cruising along fine ready for a standard rennie summer as of about two weeks ago.  Then my dear friend (she’s like a second mother) and owner of Medieval Moccasins was told that she had a pancreatic tumor.  We are still waiting to hear just how serious the treatment will be, but regardless, the news drastically and instantly changed the mood and plans for the whole Medieval Moccasins Clan (that means me too).
We decided that Chela, the daughter and partner owner of Medieval Moccasins, would stay home in Texas for the summer rather than take to the road on their summer show schedule so that a) she could be close to her mom and b) she could continue to keep up with production in their home workshop. I would fill Chela’s shoes for the summer, taking the stock and supplies on the road.
So I flew to Texas to pick up their Sprinter van full of shoes and foot stools and tenty things and took to the road, mostly excited to have three days to do the journey I had only recently completed in 24 hrs in the mad dash to get my own van and stuff up to Virginia in time for THAT show.  The first day of travel was long but uneventful.  I realized I would be passing through Memphis, TN around lunchtime the next day and made plans with a childhood friend to meet for lunch.
I never made it to lunch.
About 20 miles outside of Memphis (Arkansas side) the Sprinter made a sudden clunk, and lost all power and acceleration. I managed to coast off the nearest exit and into an Exxon parking lot.  The Sprincess would not turn back on.  The usual AAA call and wait followed.  I was towed to a nearby Dodge dealership that has been wonderfully helpful in this whole situation.  They rushed the sprinter to the front of the line and began diagnosing it.  Basically what happened was the dealership in Texas where the sprinter had recently (like a week ago) been taken for a new transmission just didn’t put the transmission in right.  So it fell out. And cracked nearly everything in the engine bay around it while it did so.  We are STILL not sure when it will be fixed- at least a week from now they estimate.
So that left me stranded in Memphis with no vehicle, all the stock, and a show to get to by Saturday morning.  One rented and loaded UHaul cargo van later and I was back on the road…only 24 hours behind schedule.  So much for my leisurely drive north.  I now had to make yet another mad dash through the night to get to Celtic Fling early enough on Friday to set up before the Friday night concert started.  I drove from 4:00 pm Thursday until 2:00 am, slept until dawn sprawled across the front bucket seats and my backpack, and then kept driving until 2:00 pm Friday with barely a pause to refuel on gasoline and coffee.  But I made it! And with my Wonder Twin Janeen we were set up in a record breaking 2.5 hours. Before Dark!
We went on to have a record breaking weekend, beating the previous top year by almost 20%. Thank goodness!  We tore down Sunday night, ahead of the threatening thunderstorms and crawled back to the hotel for the night.  I’ve accepted my +1 in Logistics Management and +3 in Crisis Management, and am reveling in my new level up to Super Gypsy status.
Now I am home in Annapolis for a few days, and we think that this is the plan moving forward:
I’m going to keep the Uhaul through the weekend to get up to Connecticut and set up there.  By next week the Sprinter should (oh please!) be repaired and ready to be picked up. Also by next week my own van should be road worthy again (after getting back to Maryland from Texas I had to bring it in for a Maryland inspection and have the subsequent necessary repairs done. I also had to clear up a little bureaucratic nonsense surrounding the title and that should be resolved by the end of this week I hope.  But of course it had to be problematic NOW).
I’ll drive down from CT with the Uhaul and meet the Texas driver in MD.  I’ll send them on their way with Ace as a traveling companion.  Ace, my husky, will be spending a much less chaotic summer with the Med Mocs Clan in Texas and I will met him there in the fall.  The Uhaul will be returned to Memphis and the Sprinter picked up and taken back to Texas.
I will go back to CT (we are talking July 5th-ish by this point) for the last weekend there, now loaded into my Van.  From Connecticut I’ll go to Sterling in Upstate NY for one weekend before heading west to Pennsylvania again for Pennsic War.  After two weeks of Pennsic War I say good bye to my responsibility over the moccasin stock.  It will head to Maryland to await the opening of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Meanwhile I will go back to complete the Sterling Faire in NY as a manager for Myles Tonne Leather (Clothing this time).
I will make it back to Maryland just in time for that show where I’ll be working for Unicorn Clothing.  Maryland is open from the end of August until the end of October.   When it is over I’ll pack up the rest of my life possessions, reload the moccasin stock into my van, and make the trek back to Texas. I’ll return the shoes and camp out in Toon Town while I work at the Texas Renaissance Festival until the first week of December.
This winter I will be staying in Texas with the Moccasin Clan in San Marcos.  There is little point in driving back to MD after all that when I have to be in Arizona by the first week of February anyway.
So yeah. That’s where I’ve been and where I’ll be going for the rest of the year.  It is crazy, I know, but baring any more exploding transmissions it should all work out.
That does mean though that I’ve decided to sell my second car, the cute little BMW I picked up about a year ago.  It is a 1984 318i: 2 door, dark blue, sun roof, manual transmission (kind of persnickety though I’ll be honest).  I bought it for $1500 and haven’t put any work into her.  KBB puts her at $1900 even in the state she’s in, but I’d just like to get the $1500 back, or close to it. There’s just no point in keeping her if I never ever get to drive her.  If you are interested or know anyone who is…please send them my way!
Now, I’m going to go take a nap. I think I deserve one.
Much Love,
Aeri