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Monday, March 21, 2011

Living La Vida Luxe at Pennsic War...

Those of you who know me also know that I've been in the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) for, well, EVER. (Actually, from the age of sixteen, but sometimes it feels like forever!) Once a year, about 12,000 of my closest friends and I gather at a campground in Pennsylvania for a large festival/war, called 'Pennsic War'.

The war started out as a reason for a few locals to get together and have some SCA-style fighting, archery, dancing, etc., and grew over the years to what amounts to a temporary city being constructed for two weeks. There are tents, pavilions, castles, pubs, shops and pirate ships, amongst other constructions Now, we're anticipating the 40th Pennsic War this summer.

My first Pennsic was spent  in a nylon two-man dome tent. (SCAdians affectionately refer to these as 'Pennsic Tumbleweeds' because of their tendency to blow down the hills in a strong wind.) I had no bed, no air mattress, nothing. I had just a sleeping bag, some cobbled-together garb, a box of oatmeal, a box of iced tea mix, and six cans of tuna fish. That's it.

That was when I was twenty. I am now forty-one. I have spent the last 20 years worth of Pennsics slowly improving my kit: From a 2 man domer to a six man tent with an air mattress, and from thence to a canvas pavilion with a four-post collapsible bed. As I got older, my tolerance for the cold and damp, heat and bugs got lower, and my camping setup became likewise more elaborate to offset the discomfort.

Every year at Pennsic, I would drool over some of the more elaborate constructions that people lived in; temporary tudor houses, towers, castles, an Italian palazzo. All of these disassemble and are stored on site. They require many people to put together and a lot of land to sit on. I had neither the skill to build one or the camping land to build it on. I dreamed of luxury Pennsic living in vain, and spent many years getting greener and greener with envy.

One year, while walking around, we came upon a camp that featured several mobile medieval-style homes. Two were gypsy wagons, or 'vardoes'. The largest belonged to a lady named Rachel. Here's a link to her vardo website: Rachel's Vardo Page.
Rachel was kind enough to give us a tour of her vardo. It was marvelous. It was built on a trailer, so it could be towed by a car, and inside it was warm and dry, with a big bed. The vardo was more than a foot off the ground, away from the dampness. We found out that a vardo could be insulated, to keep it warm at night and cool in the day, and keep out the damp. The best part though, as how wonderful they looked, painted so prettily, with flowerboxes in the windows, and beautifully decorated inside and out. To me, it seemed like the most perfect opportunity to be creative. In effect, it could be my very own little house, to build as I wanted, and it could be a source of creative inspiration for years to come. We walked back to our moist pavilion, dreaming gypsy wagon dreams.

We dreamed, but it's a pretty big undertaking and for several years we didn't do anything but talk. We had other concerns in life right then, Norm got a new job, and we moved house several times. But each year at Pennsic we were less happy with our camping setup. Finally, last year, we didn't even go to Pennsic. I just didn't have the energy to deal with the dirt and dampness. You know what? It wasn't even the dirt. It was the fact that, no matter how nice the pavilion, or how high the bed was off the ground, you still got that cold damp chill every time you went to bed. I can stand any amount of discomfort during the day, but I hate a damp bed. And as I grow older, I hate it more and more. Norm agreed; something had to give, or we might just start booking mundane vacations in nice hotels like everyone else just for the sheer comfort factor.

Finally, at the beginning of the year I made the decision that we were going to do it - we both needed something to be enthusiastic about, and we didn't want to miss Pennsic again. We also didn't want to be uncomfortable there anymore. So, I got my financial act together by hashing out my budget once and for all, and found myself a builder.

This blog will document the process as we go. You might be wondering about the name of the blog. 'Kintala' is a Romani (Gypsy) word for spiritual balance or harmony. Interestingly, it's also an Indian surname. Seeing as the Roma originated in India, this makes perfect sense. And since I think this project is just what I need from a creative and spiritual satisfaction standpoint, you can see why I picked this name.

Next Installment: "Who Ya Gonna Call?"

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