The Renaissance Diaries (2002) – Installment 2

Thus ill bestedd, and fearefull more of shame,
Then of the certaine perill he stood in,
Halfe furious vnto his foe he came,
Resolv’d in minde all suddenly to win.

–Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599)

Episode the Second
Not Every Thyng is Meet and Good
Thongs and Hairy Buttocks.

Saturday, 12 October 2002 7:10am

Rue de Renaissance

Rue de Renaissance

Thank God–‘the soul-searing inferno of last weekend has abated; it’s a very comfortable 62 degrees this morning, so perhaps I won’t dehydrate–but I do have a destructive sinus headache. A few Benadryl ™ and it’s off to the races.


We’re into the first set. While I did warm up properly, I’m noticing a certain stiffness in my chops. My top lip HURTS, and I can’t figger out why. At least I can play without asphyxiating today, and that’s a welcome change. Our usual first set includes a first 15 minutes of Bach chorales, and we’ve just read through our warm-up, as it were. The day should be interesting for at least one reason’-we have a new trumpet player to take Eddie’s (2nd part) place today.

Eric the 'alf a bee

Eric the ‘alf a bee

When we had our one rehearsal before the Festival started, this new guy (whose name I can’t remember to save my life) showed up’an hour into the rehearsal. Darryl says he’s a monster player, and he is. High, bright, light, and clear’like a Canadian Brass album, this guy. And, he’s a Boston boy, just like Darryl and Eric, the hornist.

Apparently, both he and Darryl, albeit years apart, studied and played with some of the same guys at BU. But, as I will attest, playing the Festival ain’t like sitting in for a session with the local Shriner’s band; weird things can happen.


Found out why my lip hurts. Apparently, in my pre-performance prep last evening, I cut my top lip– twice–while shaving. Being a hairy gent, I always trim the ol’ moustache away from my lip-line before I play. Couldn’t find my usual razors last night (cheap Bics, with the aloe-vera strip) and had to use the ‘nice’ razor that was a gift (A Gillette Mach3 with those damned pivoting heads, if you’re interested.) Other guys may disagree, but while pivoting heads may be great for shaving your face, they SUCK for trimming a moustache or beard line, as my bleeding top lip shows. Gross.

Eric and I did some slumming during the break (after I quit squirting hemoglobin), and I broke down and bought a hat. Yeah, one of THOSE kinds of hats. Floppy, with a plume. Black, of course. I think I look rather jaunty, but I most likely won’t be wearing it to job interviews, unless I’m applying for jobs as the IT Director at Ringling Brothers. I retire gratefully back to the Cherokee to guzzle a soda; I brought my OWN damn Coke this week; screw this ‘two pounds and fifty pence’ for a soda. Every time I’m quoted a price by a Festival shopkeeper (they HAVE to say ‘pounds’ instead of ‘dollars’ and ‘pence’ instead of ‘cents’ I point out that a pound is worth about a buck fifty-five, so that a $2.50 soda would actually be about 1.61 pounds, or 1L/12s/1d (new system), but that since Tudor England would have been under the old system, that’s 1L/6s and tuppence. I think. Occasionally I mention florins, sovereigns, groats, crowns, and guineas to the shopkeepers, but they just mechanically reply “two pounds and fifty pence, m’lud.” Stupid Americans.


Second set just started–late. We were all sitting outside the Sacred Door when we all heard the Noon Cannon go off. As I’m the only quintet member who does NOT take his case into the gazebo when we play, I zip out to the stage and play some medieval stuff from memory; L’Homme Arme, Kalenda Maia, etc. Sounds stupid, but hey, gotta makes some noise. Crowd seems to like it; I garner four dollars in tips. Huzzah, to use the RenFest word of choice. Darryl wants to know why I didn’t do a multiphonic version of Dufay’s Dome motet. I tell him he can cram his Nuper up his Rosarum until it tickles his Flores. He doesn’t get it.

Halfway thru the set, my slide’s getting REALLY sticky. I am a Slide-O-Mix user, and about three weeks ago I noticed that while I had the Big Bottle (the snot), I had misplaced the Little Bottle. Since there’s not a music store convenient to the house (and when you’re unemployed, nothing’s really ‘convenient’ since you don’t actually ever have to leave the house if you’re not getting interviews) I had been existing on this bottle of Getzen ‘slide cream’ that came in a bottle, and it needs frequent (FREQUENT!) sprayings. Now I can’t find my spray bottle either. I surreptitiously spit on both slides. No one notices.


During the third set, right in the middle of ‘Now is the Month of Maying,’ this crazed Xena-gal lumbered up ONTO THE STAGE while we were playing. ‘Hey, HEY! Whir is thuh Dranch a Wanch?’ (translation: ‘Drench a Wench.’ A dunking booth where scantily clad maidens hurl imprecations at hapless and partially inebriated Bubbas ™ who are attempting to soak them by likewise hurling spheroids at trigger paddles; kind of like a big F-valve — and they’re wearing thin little cotton, or, in true Renaissance style, raw silk, blouses.) Darryl, keeping his horn parallel with the ground, but not playing, so as to be able to answer her, directs her towards the back of the Festival where it’s located. What a professional. I would have told her to cram her Nuper up her Rosarum until it tickled her Flores, except she wouldn’t have gotten it either. Of course, seeing what state she was in, maybe she would have howled with mirth. I’ve never seen a besotted musicologist; I don’t know what they look like, so she could have very well been one.

All in all, a fairly restful and uneventful second Saturday.

Sunday morning, October 13th 11:05am

Church set over. Darryl feels like crap, so we’re lying kind of low today. He’s hacking like a 13 year old with DSL, and it’s a bit alarming. If anything, it’s cooler today; high in the mid 60s, but it’s damp and foggy. I love it; apparently Big D’s bronchial tubes don’t. Promises to be a great Sunday. Ack.

I found out a few minutes ago that Karen, the tenor trombone player, will NOT be here next weekend. I am mortified. I’ve known Karen for a while, and she is very forgiving ‘ plus, she gives great slide cues when I get lost. Next week, we introduce an Unknown Quantity into the trombone section. Since I’ve only been in Houston for a little over a year, I don’t know anybody. God, I hope I don’t do anything stupid, like cut my lip while shaving. Oh, wait, I’ve already done THAT one. Maybe I can break my right arm next Friday–that’d be fitting.


Well, it took a while, but it finally happened.

I knew the poor new trumpet guy would get bonked by something, and it happened during our crowd-pleasing ‘stereophonic’ imitation (we do some Gabrielli ‘in the round’) during the third set. Darryl always holds the last note in the first trumpet for about ten seconds before cuing us in on the last note. Apparently he neglected to mention this to the new trumpet guy. Ooopsie. I don’t even want to talk about it. I did find my spray bottle, however; at some point last week I had crammed it into a niche in the ceiling in the gazebo.

It was also during this set that we all nearly barfed.

From last week’s installment, you will remember the reference to the Xenas and pseudo-Zenas that populate the Festival. Not a lot of them, really, speaking as a ratio of Xenas-to-non-Xenas, but one must admit, even one nearly naked woman in chain mail (large links, too) does have a tendency to make a lasting, if not to say permanently scarring impression.

The permanent scarring took place right before we did “Shepherd’s Hey.” I saw Darryl staring, glassily, over my right shoulder. I started to turn and he reached out and touched my shoulder and said gently, almost kindly, “Don’t. Please don’t.” I did.

How does one describe this. I recall the favorite phrase of H. P. Lovecraft–“The Unspeakable Terror,” from his “Call of Cthulu” series of novellas.

Toontown, elevation 1


Imagine Rosanne Barr. Now, imagine a male character from “The Sopranos.” Any character; it doesn’t matter. They all have that weird curly body hair that crawls mercilessly up their collars until it forms a tuft at their neck; covers their back, etc. COMBINE THEM.

Now that you have this character properly visualized, give it acne. ON ITS ASS. For a final coup de grace, now dress it in a black thong and electrical tape. Voila! Bushiness abaft and bushiness abeam. I will have nightmares. Best part: This creature was there with its husband, also dressed in a black thong. They had four children with them as well, all under the age of 10. Thanks be to whatever higher being you wish, the children were NOT wearing thongs. They were wearing matching Marilyn Manson t-shirts. They were, of course, camping out in Toontown.


Permanent psychic disfigurement notwithstanding, this weekend was quite enjoyable. While I did play a bit better, most of the better attitude stems from exactly two factors: (1) It was a lot cooler. It’s hard to be particularly artful when you’re afraid you’re going to pass out; and (2) We got our first check for playing at the Festival today. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a lot more than I would have initially thought.

While it’s nice to be paid for working hard, it really is too bad that this entire first check will have to be given almost immediately to a psychiatrist to help me get over Thong Lady. I asked Darryl about hazardous duty pay, but apparently, for some reason, the Festival does not offer such incentives.

Next week, we have a new trumpet player AND a new trombone player. May God have mercy on our souls.