[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on t he PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.


Previous Entry

First Entry

Thirty-Five Years With Blade in Hand
The State of Play
Part Six

I was now at college - or Uni, as my friends in the UK would have it. I was living away from my parents for the first time, I had a car, and the opportunities to expand my scope in the SCA seemed limitless. Specifically, I had the ability to travel to events outside the local area - what we sometimes referred to as the Greater Caerthe Galen Co-Prosperity Sphere.

A short digression on the SCA state of play in 1985 might be in order at this point ...

One of the most critical things to remember about this era was that the Internet as we think of it today simply did not exist. To have email was a rarity, and the web wouldn't appear until 1989 - and most people wouldn't have access to it until 1993 or so when AOL connected to ARPANET. The way one learned about events was by word-of-mouth, or, more usually, Kingdom, Principality, and local newsletters - printed newsletters, subscribed to with actual money, and received in the actual post. Reservations were made by sending actual checks through the post, or, if it was a local event, you could usually give it to the autocrat when you saw them. We also used maps. Paper maps. GPS/SatNav existed but was not widespread. (I didn't get SatNav until I moved to the UK in 2013, but to be fair, that was pretty unusual.)

Major events were usually day-long affairs, with activities starting in the morning, and concluding after feast the evening of the same day. That is to say, the venue was rented for the day. This means that if you lived in Caerthe and wanted to go to an event in al-Barran, a not uncommon situation, where the distance between the two groups was 444 miles (714 km), you would need some sort of overnight accommodation. If you wanted to travel between, say, Citadel of the Southern Pass and Windkeep, a distance of perhaps 740 miles (1190 km), the situation was even more complex. The solution was 'crash-space.' If you were friends with someone in the destination group, you could often crash with them. But what if you weren't? The solution was still 'crash-space.' Events at this time would often have a crash-space co-ordinator on staff. This person would find local people to volunteer to let travellers crash and put them in touch with people who had made a note in their event registration that they needed crash space. I remember on one occasion I was travelling from Caer Galen to al-Barran (Boulder, CO to Albuquerque, NM), call it 480 miles, eight hours on the road. I couldn't leave until after work on Friday (or I was carpooling with someone who couldn't), so that meant leaving at 1700 and hitting ABQ about 0100 the next morning. Crash space was with someone I had never met. They had given me directions (through the post, naturally). So I drove down to their house, got there in the wee hours, and followed my instructions, which were to go in the back door, the first (or second, or whatever) door would be the guest room. Be quiet, since everyone would be asleep. They'd wake me (or probably us) up for breakfast, and then we'd go to the event. After the event, it would be back to their place to crash. Sunday morning there might be a practice or something to attend, then it would be eight hours back.

What a handsome couple. This was a typical occurrence. Sometimes some of us would do that run twice a month during the summer ...

Interestingly, this is not dissimilar to the usual event routine in Drachenwald, with one crucial exception. Events in Drachenwald routinely have the site from Friday evening until Sunday morning, with lodging on-site. Given the size of the Kingdom and the fact that so many people must travel by air if they are to attend, the on-site lodging is a requirement.

The other feature from those early days was the after-revel. With sites closing at 2100 or 2200, and a crowd of people who had travelled hundreds of miles, such an early night was simply not the done thing. Someone local would often host an after-revel. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a party at someone's house after the event. It was often in medieval garb, but often people would change into mundane attire.

Which brings us to the Major Royal Progress Events. In those days, not everyone, indeed very few, had email. Peerage meetings took place face-to-face. They were scheduled for a few of the major events, such as Caerthan Twelfth Night and al-Barran Mid-Winter (about which I have previously written briefly). They were sometimes scheduled at other events where the Crown would be present. Given the usual structure of events, as described above, they tended to be scheduled on Sunday mornings. This gave rise to the "Peer's Brunch". Someone would host the meetings, starting fairly early (usually with the Pelicans, on the theory that they could be counted on to make an 0800 meeting while some of the other Peerages might be less likely to rouse themselves), running through the morning, finishing in late morning or noon, so those with an 8+ hour drive could make their departure. To sweeten the deal, breakfast or brunch would be provided. I achieved some small notoriety in the late 80s for Peers' Brunches. I was not a Peer at that time, of course, but was associated with the Baronial Household, which did have a lot of Peers. The household would provide the venue, and I was a natural choice for cook. I remember on various occasions doing omelette stations, a crepe station, and making blintzes, as well as providing the more usual, less labour-intensive, breakfast foods. (I don't recall making Eggs Benedict for a Peers' Brunch, but given the Abbey's reputation and fame, it is possible I did ...)

In any case, it was late 1985, Anno Societatis XX. I was living, if not on my own exactly, away from my childhood home; I had a car; I had a girlfriend living up the road in Unser Hafen (Fort Collins, CO); and I was the enfant terrible of Outlandish fencing. Life was pretty good.

Outside of the SCA, life was also pretty good. School was good and challenging. I was in the Electrical Engineering department. At the time it was ranked the 5th best in the US. That was fortunate, because I was in-state, which meant the tuition was actually affordable - for a course-load of 9+ credit hours (12 was full-time, I believe), in the Engineering School, the cost was $622 per semester. At the same time, tuition at Stanford or MIT was around $10-$11 thousand per year - a factor of magnitude higher, without even taking into account the cost of travel and lodging on the West and East coasts, respectively.

I applied to those three schools, in fact. My test scores were quite good, and the system at the time was such that acceptance at CU Boulder was essentially assured: I was in-state, with good grades, and excellent ACT scores. MIT and Stanford were numbers 1 and 2 in the national rankings of Engineering schools, so I decided to take a flyer and apply - although we had no idea if we could afford it if I was accepted, and I was frankly ambivalent about moving quite so far away. Those schools required an entry essay, on any subject the applicant desired. It is a measure of where my head was at in those heady days that one of the schools received as an essay an in-depth analysis of the advantages of rapier and cloak against rapier and dagger. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that neither of those two accepted me. Had I gone to MIT, my SCA career would have been much different - although the Barony of Carolingia was and is a strong group and had a very heavy presence at MIT for many years.

The stage is now set for momentous events both in the larger SCA and in my little corner of it. I will leave you with this, however: my parents had been very supportive of me as I got involved in the SCA. Every now and then I was able to reciprocate. Here is a picture from Halloween in 1985, with my father wearing my cavalier and my mother in an outfit borrowed from my girlfriend.


Disclaimer: This is based on my memory of the events and people, and although I have bolstered them where possible with references, it is a work of recollection. Errors, omissions, and all such-like are mine.
If you are reading this, remembering this, and wondering why you aren't mentioned, or are mentioned only in passing, or by reference and not by name, I'm trying to be very careful about other people's privacy.
As an experiment, I'm linking to a Diaspora posting for comments and such.
Comment thread on PlusPora


Luddite'sLog, 1 November 2019
© 2019 Jeff Berry
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