It’s when you’re in a hurry or late or in some other strait that you take greatest note of life’s conspiracy against you.
After we’d decided to go to Bristol Renaissance Faire, I asked J. to pick me up, then we could get on the Stevenson at McCormick Place and connect to the Tri-State from there. It sounded easy enough until we got to McCormick Place — only to see that the on ramp was closed. Now what? Don’t ask me. I don’t drive. Per J.’s direction, I programmed my eyes to look for 57, but it didn’t turn up during several trips around Chinatown. I asked if he had any maps, and he dug out a street guide with a high-level overview of the expressways. While he drove and his blood pressure peaked, I took off my glasses and peered cross-eyed at the map. “Say, it looks like I55 connects with the Tri-State,” I said.
We were about a block away from a cluster of signs near a ramp, including one indicating 55. Had he not had both hands on the wheel, J. would have slapped himself. “That’s what I meant — 55, not 57. 57 is by me. What was I thinking?” he said. One closed on ramp equals one half hour in lost time and probably an unhealthy amount of blood pressure points.
The drive was uneventful, except that J. resents reduced speed limits in the absence of workers. Eyeing the concrete barriers and semi-trailers hurtling by in the narrowed lanes, I am more inclined to agree with the rationale.
Ignatius the thriving fibroid doesn’t care about lost time; my bladder makes its needs known as he makes his weight felt. At the O’Hare Oasis, we put a couple of dollars in the massage chairs and split a pretzel (while he was debating with himself whether he should get one, the counter person put out a sign, “Be back in 5 minutes” and disappeared, which perhaps was not the best customer service I’ve ever seen.
Earlier, I had teased J. that he times his arrival at the faire so that he can get free parking. This time, we benefited not only from free parking, but from free admission — we arrived at the ticket window at 5:59 p.m., and the man there told us to hold out for another minute. We did.
Despite the false start with the closed on ramp, we had a brilliant time. The weather could not have been one whit better for walking — sunny and comfortable. Perhaps because it was a little later in the day, the crowd had thinned. It was my idea of a perfect day to be in the woods.
We stopped for a few minutes to watch and listen to “Wheel of Sin,” where the man who sometimes portrays Little John chooses where he wants the wheel to stop by pounding on it, none too discreetly, and the group performs bawdy songs. J. didn’t realize it, but I knew it was time to move on when one of the men (the one who sometimes portrays Robin Hood) found himself with felt reindeer antlers perched on, then falling off, his manhood, which apparently was not up to providing support. His reddening face made his predicament seem genuine, and his smile is always infectious.
We ate, of course — the traditional Renaissance known as portobello bangers. J. was about six feet in front of me when I bit into mine, and the spurting juice and cheese just missed his back. You know food’s good when it spurts.
After we left the portobello stand, J. confessed that he couldn’t help noticing a woman with a generously sized chest (amply set off by her costume) sporting a large bandage over one breast. I admitted I had observed it, too. I told him he should have asked her if she’d had a rough night with the master. Well, perhaps not.
This brings me to what I saw next — a T-shirt worn by an older teenage male bearing the apropos phrase, “Please tell your boobs to quit staring at my eyes.” Men, how many times have you had that problem and wished you could so tastefully address it?
What would a Renaissance town be without a music and video store? Even Shakespeare must have popped a CD or DVD into his home theater and sound system every now and then. After numerous CD binges in the 1990s, I had stopped buying them, especially when I learned my hearing had become so poor, but on this occasion I couldn’t resist songs with titles like “Come, you pretty false-eyed wanton,” “Pined I am, and like to die,” and “I cannot keepe my wyfe at howme,” and so ended up with three CDs for my Elizabethan collection. Of course, J. bought CDs. And magnets. And tote bags. And Shakespearean insult chewing gum. And T-shirts. And personalized note cards for me and another friend. And who knows what all. I believe he’s determined to keep the economy afloat, or at least his bank and credit card company. Indeed, it was past 7:30 p.m. by the time he completed his purchases (and a half hour after closing).
On our way to the souvenir shop, however, we were waylaid. Not by robbers, who I might have found easier to cope with. No, we were stopped in our tracks by a singer demanding to be allowed to perform for such a “beautiful” and “fair lady.” (“You talkin’ to me?”) He didn’t believe me when I claimed that my name is “Gertrude.” Robin, whose manhood was unable to support toy antlers, was no more embarrassed or red faced than I was by the impromptu serenade. My investment advice? Glasses.
At last this tribute to my beauty was completed, and I took off for the bridge. J., fascinated by the turtles, had to pause to capture them on chip. Had the souvenir store not stayed open well past normal closing, he may not have made it there in time to get his credit card chewed up.
There wasn’t enough time for Apple Holler, so we headed home. As we stood outside the Flamingo and J. dug around among his purchases for my gifts (“Don’t buy me anything” being beyond his comprehension), I realized that I was shivering. Cold, on a night in mid August. I’m not complaining. August here can be and often is brutally hot and humid. I’m also not disturbed by summer rain because I’ve seen drought. But the dearth of butterfly sightings (and landings), the growing rabbit (he’s so big now!), sunsets before 8 p.m., cloudy days, and cool evenings all give me a sickening sense that another summer came and went, slipping from my grasp and separating me even more from the remembered idylls of my youth. Will I live long enough to look back at these days as fondly as I do the days of strawberry picking in Eden or visiting Old Fort Niagara? I wonder.