Dickens Fair 2023
2023-12-04, 9:58 a.m.
"You are my favorite mini-series." -Jennifer Crusie.
This entry covers December 3.
Hello, all! I am back from Dickens Fair, which i have not been to since Guess What Year. I didn't have anyone to go with the last few years + had concerns about covid + it is a damn slog to drive for an hour then do BART then do bus all with a mask on, so I skipped. But a few weeks ago I was talking with Jennifer G and she said she used to work at it, but her group is currently boycotting it* so she just wanted to go recreationally. So it turned into an Oklahomies field trip with her, me, Isabel and Magnolia. She also volunteered to drive, which made me quite happy since driving there alone is not my joy in life and from what people have told me of late, BART is not particularly safe these days either.***
* Reasons why boycotting has been happening: (a) old owners died, new owner is their son who isn't particularly interested in other people's opinions, (b) DEI issues and PoC being uh, limited in what roles they can play there**, (c) no quiet room for the autistic, though frankly that's probably a great idea for everyone to have that option, (d) some guy was getting "handsy." Some people have returned, some had not this year, she said for some people the boycott ended like a week before the event started.
Anyway, it looks like most things/people/events have returned. Crystal Palace was gone, my favorite bonnet vendor and a few others I've bought from weren't there, and no Queen and Prince parading about, no Professor Flockmocker, my biggest disappointment. But Other Jennifer was happy that Mad Sal's returned, as we spent some quality time there watching sword dances, Morris dances, cancan dances, and people singing songs about why is the onion making me cry, I've always been very nice to it, and why can't one find a straight banana?
I should describe our outfits: I had on my traditional fancy dress: fancy bonnet, handmade collar, my Dickens Fair bought blouse, the sleeves and skirt I made myself (the one non-time period thing, because the people with giant skirts look great, but they cannot fit into the tiny bathrooms), and my Victorian boots. Other Jennifer dresses as a "poor person" and had on more petticoat/underthings and the like, but less fancy, and "I use a sock to hold my money because I can't hold more," and tied on her mug and her scissors, which she enjoyed using. That's her performer outfit. Isabel and Magnolia are steampunkers. Isabel had goggles and a fancy coat and skirt/blouse, but Magnolia had on full steampunk corset, steampunk hat, goggle tights, etc. and later bought herself a Draco Malfoy wand to join the collection. Hopefully someone remembers to send pics later of all of this.
We got there before it opened, so we went to Starbucks for a bit. I note Isabel and Magnolia can't eat gluten, so at least getting a snack at Starbucks was an option on that topic. We got in around 10:30 or so and there was no avalanche of line. I note that they (a) raised the prices of the tickets from $30 to 45, and are limiting the number of people in the building. Honestly, it was really noticeable and really nice on that last one because usually the place is packed to the gills and it's very slow just trying to walk around, but now there was a lot more empty space to just breathe. At one point I was running around looking for coded posters (see below) and I got that done pretty quickly, something I never would have pulled off pre-pandemic because going through the people would have been slow.
Anyway: we went to the panto at the Victoria and Albert upon entering. I haven't really sat through a traditional British panto before--I used to know someone at the CC who raves about the one they do at Sac City College, but so far I haven't really bothered to go--so I figured hey, might as well see how weird they are. The bad guy was a giant spider king, and Harlequin and Columbine and Puss in Boots were journeying around and going to the bottom of the sea with an ASL-using mermaid and a big ol' kracken looking for a pearl. Much to my delight, Micah (Alex from Much Ado's friend that I met at an audition) was in that show. I said hi afterwards but didn't expect him to recognize me, but he's pretty distinctive. (Also, I was masked except for food consumption, because I was still a bit covid concerned there even though the population was a lot smaller. At least I ate without freaking out.)
We also got Other Jennifer's hair braided, and per her suggestion we took a "ghost tour," which was following a tour guide around while she told ghost stories out of what I think was Pickwick Papers (never read it). We were introduced to Dickens while we did that one, which was fun, never met him before (I note I heard Edgar Allan Poe giving a talk later, but was too tired to get up and stand to hear it). My favorite story was a guy pointing out to a ghost, "Why do you always haunt dark and dank places instead of like, the beach?" The ghost was all, "good point, I shall have to think about that one" and disappeared. We played dice and card games for awhile. We tried the roasted almonds (quite good, actually) and the cider. We managed to find a gluten-free booth to eat at ("Jack and the Beansteak" offered fake meat that was vegan and gluten free, actually looked good and I'm told tasted fairly good too) and I note the tea area also has gluten-free foods, albeit we didn't end up doing that one. We hung out at Fezziwig's for a bit and Other Jennifer danced there.
As for shopping, I kept it to a minimum, for me. I would have bought more under normal circumstances, but I kept it to two things: I found a strap-on pocket, something I've wanted for years but never got around to making, and immediately tried it out and it worked a treat. (I note I put pockets in my skirt, but the phone in there made it sag a bit.) And towards the end of the night I ended up buying myself a necklace with a key charm on it.
Around the end of the day we finally came across the Sherlock Holmes booth (new!), which featured Shelby, a guy who usually performs at Casa de Fruta (under the name of "Willy" sometimes). This time he was Mr. Holmes himself and handed out sheets of paper with the case laid out, a code to decipher, and a map of things to look for in the building. Everyone was mostly pooped out when we finally got to this portion of the building, but Magnolia started figuring out the code (um, turns out it was backward alphabet ciphering), then I finished reading it--you were to find certain classified ads signed by flowers--and was able to run around the building finding said classified ads and photographing them, and I did at least figure out the third clue as to where the missing item had turned up. Alas, I and everyone else was kinda brain dead on figuring out the other two and were all, "eh, let's just read the answers on the secret wall over here."
I did take the opportunity to tell Shelby that he ah, reminded me of someone at the House of Fruit, and told him the story of how when I was doing lights for Something Rotten, I dressed up as Shakespeare and wore my "I Heart Willy" pin I got from him at a show once. And showed him the photo. He enjoyed it immensely. As for the key pendant, that was offered at the Holmes booth, as a reminder that you can figure things out. I got it for $10 immediately, because I need that. (That said, I need to tighten that jump ring, luckily I didn't have it fall off until I got home and was able to find it down my boobs. The thing fell off twice in one night, but at least I found it.)
After that, Other Jennifer wanted to get dinner, but we seriously spent an hour on Google, Yelp, Google Maps, findmeglutenfree.com, etc. while driving trying to find a restaurant (a) on our route, (b) NOT IN SAN FRANCISCO, WE AIN'T STOPPING THERE, NO THANK YOU, (c) that was OPEN on a Sunday night. That took a solid hour, we finally ended up at Buckhorn in Vacaville, where Magnolia's meat dish came out fine, but Isabel had surprise onion rings dumped on her salad and the busboy kept insisting that she'd ordered that on the salad. Apparently that was a default with a lot of the salads, So she didn't get to eat today, basically (sigh) and just had it packed up for her husband. Reminded me a lot of dining with you-know-who and his allergy issues.
I did enjoy the conversations we had about theater stuff, like never getting lead or even name roles. Other Jennifer never has, I only have if there's very few people auditioning and most of the time not even then. I don't know if Isabel has as much issues about that since she's relatively new, but Magnolia was all, "I could do lifts and things like that, but they wouldn't let me and Aspen do lifts or any of that stuff." We all had a bit of grumbles about how only young, thin hot women of a certain height range (I note Magnolia is pretty short). But what can you do when your looks, age, and body are wrong? Nothing.
A good time was had by all, would do again.