Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Ah, Renaissance Europe, when I think of you I think of brilliant artists, genius stateswomen, Shakespeare, the Medici, the rebirth of learning and now…GIANT freaking boobs…

I have never seen so many boobs pinched and heaved to an inch of their life as at Thee Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale. Many participants in the Renaissance Faire are of the more voluptuous turn and seem to like to wear corsets that stop just under the bosom so that their DD’s can absolutely spill over their polyester peasant blouses. This seems to be a kind of mating call to the many swingers who (according to a tattooed bondage type lady we met- I believe she called herself a “fantasy carnie”) troll the faire looking for others to “ravish”, as one delightful herald kindly offered to do to me while hawking turkey legs.

The bawdy atmosphere doesn’t stop there. The faire is HUGE, a winding, dusty and colorful bizarre next to a beautiful, calm lake. Vendors sell petticoats and mead, squires and wenches play traditional board and dice games, children and costumed adults crowd typical fair booths (shoot the crown off the king etc…) with an olden times theme. There are multiple performances on different open air stages- magicians, comedians, and my favorite, a troupe who specializes in dirty(and I mean dirty) songs. A full fledged royal procession of HRH Queen Elizabeth I took over the streets at one point, with cheers and songs being sung by the decked to the nines, joyful regulars.

The fellowship that goes on between the comfortable costumed communities is heartening. I think one of the big draws of these faires is the great amount of banter and human interaction that they provide. People yell across to each other from the gallows to the washing tub, using vague old English, telling jokes and saying dirty, (mostly) good-natured things. Many of the participants seem like they are probably rather awkward and feel misplaced in real life, but here size, and looks and skin don’t matter. Cat and I both (as did Doren and Ben who also joined us) envied the great sense of play and make believe that goes into learning an intricate Maypole dance, or creating a court costume or drinking stout out of a wooden mug as you get married to your winged, goth partner (at Ye Old Wedding Gazebo, of course).

The Renaissance faire takes place every year and goes on for one more weekend. All girls and open minded boys should definitely go if it's pretty out. It may seem like a freak show, but there is a surprising bit of substance behind the obsolete style.

PS: The Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area where the Faire is held is amazing. Irwindale seems to be squarely centered in Fitzgerald's “Valley of the Ashes” but the park is really awe-inspiring, with a huge white rock dam you can ride your bike on top of, a swim beach on the lake, and lots of day trip and picnic opportunities.

Travel: D (You will need a good mix of music, preferably some CCR.)
Ease: B-(Off roading is required when parking.)
Content: A
Subjective Coolness: A
Overall: B+

Directions: Take the 101-South to the CA-60 East. After 10 miles you will merge onto the I-605 North. Take exit 25 for Live Oak Ave. towards Irwindale. Keep right at fork and follow signs for Live Oak Ave. Continue onto Arrow Hwy. Turn right into the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area Park. Trip takes around an hour.
Hours: 10:00am-7:00pm. April 10th- May 23rd ONLY!
Price: $25.00- adults, $22.50-students( I was given the student rate although I lost my ID card before I graduated from college...), $15.00-children.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mosaic Church

Cool but edgy historic auditorium in downtown LA?
Concession bar featuring espresso machine and trendy baristas? CHECK
Strobe lights?
Smoke Machine?

Audience that skewed younger and hipper than Hadley?
Band of dudes that came out to rapturous applause?
Total number of praise songs Hadley had to stand for?

Welcome to Mosaic Church, the "hippest" church in Los Angeles. Hip as in they don't have services, they have traveling "gatherings" at various venues, and once the "gathering" is over all guests are welcome to the "After-Party." Hip as in the preacher wears a simple black, collarless shirt with a womanish sweater and gives a sermon that is two parts Woody Allen and one part Elmer Gantry. Hip as in there is not one DJ, but two, and the pre-show bass pounds so hard it feels like your heart is jumping out of your chest.

The amazing and ironically pagan themed Mayan Theater where the non-denominational Mosaic holds its Sunday night 7pm service, was filled with folding chairs packed with straight-edge young twenty-somethings. You know the type, lots of grey hoodies and beanies but hardly any tattoos. I felt like I was in an under-18 club, somewhere I never felt very comfortable, even at 17. I totally should not have worn my pearls.

When the house band slunked out I knew I was even further out of my element. Mosaic picked the wrong outreach style to convert this still seeking lady. Back in my youth, I unhappily went to enough alcohol-less Battle of the Bands featuring Quartets of Scruffy Boys to last a life time. This group was fronted by a very earnest Emo guy, and he sang the most banal songs of generic rock glory that I have ever encountered. Three giant screens projected the lyrics, which might as well have been written by a computer program, they were so boring. When I think of all the awe-inspiring works of art and song made in praise of Jesus, I cannot fail to be continuously shocked by what passes for worthy in contemporary Christian music (see South Park episode #105).

After we had to stand (and sway and raise palms) through FOUR songs, the lead singer begrudgingly directed us to sit down. We were treated to a short film (this is LA after all) that was supposedly comic and had something to do with having the strength to carry your new digital TV up the stairs?!? And something to do with Superman?!? And then there was the highlight of the evening, a trio of voguish men in suits doing some kind of neutered and sexless but very angry and aggressive Trip Hop dance (at one point Beyonce's "Single Ladies" came on).

I sort of felt like I was at a Chippendale's review.

Here is the thing. The guy next to me was crying. The young adults in the audience seemed like a genuine community, laughing warmly at inside jokes, hugging each other constantly. Everyone was very respectful. And a church, is a church is a church. The message is still the same, self help though God's help. I figured that out as soon as the preacher casually strolled on the stage. Sure his sermon was clever, there was no pulpit, and he was great at tailoring his themes towards an artistic community. He used a lot of new agey references to the Myers Brig personality test and some kind of in house test Mosaic does called YELLOW. But at the end of the day the talk was still based around one line of scripture(Ecclesiastes 10:10, "The duller the ax, the harder the work...), how it could help you a little and Jesus can help you a lot.

And there is nothing wrong with that. I am apparently an old fuddy-duddy and prefer my Christianity served up with a side of gospel, graceful old ladies in hats, pretty sermons in heavily poetic English and some tea and cookies served in a fellowship hall. I just ain't cool enough to stay for an after party.

Info on Mosaic: http://mosaic.org/
I'm not going to rate a church, that is like totally asking for it(from above and below). However, it is free and has parking right next to the Mayan Theater.