April 26, 2006

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

Our Grail class made a pilgrimage to the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival a few Saturdays ago to spend a day in the period we've been studying (sort of). Standing around while Dr. Watson picked up our tickets at the window, Wilson and I could already see a hint of the diversity we would be encountering pouring through the gates. The costumes ranged from wonderfully authentic to scandalously authentic to bizarre conglomeration to simply silly. I was envious of the guys sporting cavalier hats with ample plumage, sympathetic to the plight of large-chested women who (apparently) "could barely afford enough material to cover their breasts," and generally disdainful of those who seemed to be attempting some sort of Ren/Goth conglomeration. Emo just isn't medieval. Sorry.

Wandering through the gates, I wound up in company with Wilson, Rachel, and Rachel's friend Alyssa (who is also in the class). Wilson and I wanted to find ourselves some good hats, and look at cool things. Rachel and Alyssa wanted to look at boring things. Tension is essential to drive action, so I knew it would be an exciting day.

There was an additional ulterior motive behind the apparent aimlessness of our fair exploration, however. Wilson and I knew that there was more to be had at Scarborough than the novelty of the garb, jousting, and the like. Always avid seekers of illumination in any form we can get it, we resolved to locate the Holy Grail and make off with it, if possible. At the very least it might be worth a few points of extra credit. Arrayed against us was a whole host of devilish foes, both medieval and modern, internal and external, flamboyantly obvious and subtly hidden. In order to locate the Grail, we would have to best them all.

Our very first battle, one we were forced to wage throughout the day, was against the lure of commercialism. Everything was for sale, and everything looked good. There were costumes, trinkets, weapons, props of all shapes, sizes and varieties. Certainly we needed to leave no stone unturned in our attempts to locate the Grail, but it was difficult not to linger extensively over items that had nothing whatsoever to do with our quest. One particularly fiendish shop was full of items that might have included the Grail. Some of them looked very similar to what we were looking for, but we were not fooled. There can be only one Holy Grail.

The second obstacle, which we had foolishly brought with us, was (shall we say) female in nature. Everyone knows that no good can come of interacting with women when one is on a Grail quest, and our own experience was no exception. The girls were a constant distraction, wandering off at the drop of a hat or staring dull things for minutes on end. I, of course, couldn't leave them behind, and it was up to Wilson to show extra fortitude in standing by his companion on the quest instead of sallying forth alone.

The distractions kept coming, next in the form of shiny armor and feats of arms. We wandered off the path to watch the knights at work in the tournament grounds, darting about on horses and spearing things with lances. And, of course, after watching them for a bit, a new temptation made itself known: a test of gluttony. The flesh, in its weakness, demanded sustenance and I was drawn inexorably in the direction of large chunks of delicious white meat hanging off of turkey bones. Just as I finished with that (and my cup of apple cider), Rachel pulled out candy, and we ended up spending a great deal of time at table.

Not to be put off forever, though, we renewed our search with even more fervor after lunch. Wilson was the next to be tested, this time by vanity. He wandered into a hat shop and tried various articles on, checking them in the mirror and trying to decide which one he wanted. By the time all of this was done, the afternoon was wearing on and we were dangerously close to our time of departure.

To make a long story short, we managed to stay one step ahead of the big parade and scuttled into a section of the fair which we had not yet visited. There, in the back corner of a small booth, we found the Holy Grail. It shone like gleaming silver in the sunlight, standing solidly on a wide base with its long, elegant stem flowing upward into the distinctive communion-style "bowl" of the vessel. An attendant noticed our interest and wandered over to tell us about it.

After an ardent and lengthy quest that had lasted through many tests and many hours and consumed our visit to Scarborough Faire, our hopes of retrieving the Holy Grail were finally dashed entirely and with great finality (although we did get to touch it).

You see, he wanted money for it. Lots of money. How very Catholic of him.

Posted by Jared at April 26, 2006 01:37 PM | TrackBack