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Killing Time Before Batman

Easily the wackiest activity of my summer so far has been the fencing demonstrations. Coach Mike has this fundraiser for the fencing club where he contacts libraries all around the state that have the sort of summer programs where they round up the kids to do neat things and get them to read, and offers to bring himself and a few fencers to demonstrate Real Live Olympic Fencing. I've been to two of these so far, and they are a blast. Coach Mike picks up the cast for the day's show at the student union, drives everyone to the library in question, and we put on a show. Mike explains the three weapons, their history, the way they're used, and the safety gear, and we serve as his lovely assistants. We model the kit, demonstrate the weapons with each other if there are enough of us or with Mike if there aren't, and help with audience management. Mike tells a lot of jokes, gets the kids into the act, and at the end, we get seven or eight of them kitted up, and he fences sabre with them a little. The kids just eat it up. Mike talks in movie quotes, and just about all the kids know The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, and Zorro. And then there are college kids (who are automatically cool) with real weapons, dueling it out right there in front of them. Nothing says love like a roomful of nine-year-olds going "oooooohhh!" when you make a flashy épée touch. We make $100 plus mileage and lunch off of each of these demonstrations, and we have a blast.

Because I have six-hour-long summer shifts at the key desk, and the practice rooms tend to be dead on lovely summer evenings, I've been getting a fair amount of writing done. I'm fairly pleased, because I've just found a way to give a cameo to a character I really liked, but who I feared would be a one-story kind of a guy. It's nice to see him back.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2005 01:18 am (UTC)
The demos sound like fun, Pony. My kid would have loved seeing something like that when he was nine. Heck, he'd probably still like it and he's more or less an adult.

I have to go to my office twice month for two days because I'm on a committee that meets all summer, and I often wind up with a free hour but can't leave my office yet because I have to wait for someone. And I find it's a great place to write because I can't go anywhere or distract myself by doing any of the usual things I do to avoid writing.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 01:36 am (UTC)
The demos are great. I would have loved something like that when I was nine. I never even saw anyone fence for real until I was eighteen. It's just not that popular a sport in the U.S.

"More or less an adult?" He's getting married, right? That means he's way more of an adult than I am.

And by the way, while I have your ear. . . Henry Purcell wrote a couple hundred catches, and roughly half of them are about drinking, sex, and farting. Two-hundred-year-old potty humor, gotta love it. I've got a CD by the Baltimore Consort called The Art of the Bawdy Song which features performances of this kind of music. It's got the one about the two ladies and the fart contest, the one about the manservant, the maidservant, the long thing and the hairy thing, and the one featuring an instrument called the fartophone, among other things. It's the only classical CD I've ever known to have a Parental Advisory sticker for explicit lyrics. It's also very funny.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
Figures they won't let kids hear it if it's historical AND funny. I loved The Canterbury Tales, and Lysistrata, just because they were bawdy and funny, when I hit them as a young teen. It's sometimes good to be amazed by how similar humor was then to now in some ways, and how people really haven't changed all that much. Plus, like the kids don't know potty jokes....

LOVE the idea of those demos. You must be having the major blast, plus, not a bad few dollars for the day. :D.

Sounds wonderful that you also get time to work AND write. :D.

Jun. 23rd, 2005 01:38 pm (UTC)
I don't know if the Parental Advisory sticker is on all copies of that CD; it's just that I saw one at the Chicago Public Library about a year and a half ago that had the sticker. Maybe some CD stores put it on and some don't.

You'd have loved the children's theater in the town where I grew up. The senior troupe (ages 14 - 19) would perform anything, if it had a large enough cast (theater policy was never to turn down a kid who auditioned, so they needed shows with casts of thousands). And I do mean anything. We did a production of Wendy Kesselman's The Butcher's Daughter that showed on stage the French Revolution, execution, rape, mob violence, and the general psychic weirdness and random mindfucks that are Kesselman's stock in trade. They performed Charlotte Delbo's Who Will Carry The Word? about daily life in a women's concentration camp. And they did in fact do Lysistrata, in full commedia dell' arte style. Picture thirty teenaged actors running around in clown noses, dressed in baggy pants containing tent poles. As I recall, one joke involved the mysterious female ability to remove a bra while keeping the shirt on. The audience loved it.

It helped that this theater really taught kids to act.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC)
Those demonstrations sound great. That's what kids want, not the storytelling sessions and collage workshops that we have to hold.

I like the sound of Coach Mike too. What an interesting life you have. So... how far would you be willing to travel to get to a library for a fencing demonstration? I suppose it's out of the question if it involves a plane...??!
Jun. 23rd, 2005 06:50 pm (UTC)
The libraries don't think of the demonstrations. We do; it's a fundraiser. Coach Mike calls up the libraries and asks if they'd like to host a demonstration, and the libraries say "What a good idea! Yes, we will pay a hundred clams plus mileage and lunch to have you come and be cool for the kids!" Most of the demos are within a two-hour drive from Grad School Town. I'm sure Coach Mike would love to make it to Ireland if he could get the time off work, but just think of the mileage you'd be paying. . .

Coach Mike, by the way, is one of the better coaches I've had, and I've had quite a few.

And some of the things libraries and bookstores do to attract kids is just bizarre. My first job out of college was in a bookstore, and I got to be the one to host the kid programs. I think because the managers liked to see me get dressed up in the Costume Of The Day. The "highlight" of my time at the bookstore was the Madeline program, where we rented a Madeline costume for the manager's daughter, and I got cast as Miss Clavel. Which meant that I put together a nun outfit, and the manager thought it was so cute that she made me put it on as soon as I got to work (the program was at 1:00 p.m. and I got to work at 8:30 in the morning) and wear it around the store all day. It was Christmas season, which meant that the store was crowded from the moment we opened the doors.

First guy who walked in had clearly not had his morning coffee. He stumbled blearily up to the register and said "Sister, can you tell me where the books on home repair are?" And it went on from there. One of the hot books that season was a Sister Wendy art book, and a couple of people asked to take my picture next to our display of them. By the time the Madeline program actually happened, my smile had grown rather less than beatific, and I was thinking lots of un-nun-like thoughts about bookstore customers.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 08:35 pm (UTC)
ROTFL! The only thing like that I ever had to do was when I worked in a charity shop one summer while I was at college. They had some fundraising day and I had to dress in bright yellow and spend the whole day on a street corner giving away even brighter yellow balloons. You'd think my scowl would have frightened most people off but it didn't seem to. At least I was raising money for charity - your employers clearly just needed a laugh.

By the way, if ever you write an autobiography, I am so buying it!

What was Batman like? I'm going tomorrow night.
Jun. 30th, 2005 05:28 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to remember what the nuns in the Madeline books look like. You didn't have one of those headdresses that look like they have wings, did you?

If it'd been me, my un-nun-like thoughts would have been directed at the manager (though I like Dot's charitable assessment that he just neede a good laugh).
Jun. 30th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC)
Dang it! Not anonymous, just me. I wasn't signed in.
Jun. 30th, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC)
Tall, long dress, long, narrow headdress. Here's what my costume consisted of:

1 black turtleneck
2 black concert skirts.
2 fencing knee socks (white)

I wore one black skirt as a skirt and put the other on over my hair, flowing down my back. I tied that one onto my head with a white sock to make the white band for the nun headdress and tied the other sock around the turtle neck to make a prim little collar. Then the college store manager gave me a big malachite rosary to pin at my hip, because she'd been to Catholic school and she said no nun was complete without a big clacking rosary. Black stockings and black shoes, and voilá, meet Sister Pony, the world's only Jewish nun.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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