Friday, June 15, 2012

The Slings and Arrow of Gainful Employment

My employment history is checkered with some strange and wonderful experiences. At fifteen, I started as a groom at a local horse farm. In this particular case, it wasn't just grooming horses. It was mucking out stalls, groundskeeping, AND getting the Trakehners prepped for events. This stable specialized in dressage. They even sent a few riders to the Olympics. I did get to ride a little. I went to a breeding stable after that to care for Arabians. Then my allergy docter found out. End of career in mucking out stalls and grooming horses.

Let's see. I bussed tables at a restaurant. I did video store clerk. File clerk, department store clerk (Macy's housewares). Owned my own housecleaning business. Barista at Starbucks. Actor - extra and bit parts mostly. I was in Sleepless in Seattle, where I was a stand in for one of the actresses and then used as an extra in a newsroom scene. Rosie O'Donnell totally walked right up to me in the scene and went OFF chewing me out about how she'd better have my article on her desk NOW! Thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. :D  Let's see. There was the doctors' conference in Northern Exposure that both my mom and I were in. Then the ad for Eagle Hardware - which no longer exists. The Rainier Beer many extra jobs. No speaking parts, though.

I temped for awhile and worked for several different companies - trying on different hats. Ultimately, that's how I landed at Microsoft where I stayed for a very long time. Terrific place to work. But by far, the strangest, funniest place I ever worked was at Camlann Medieval Festival as a minstrel. Yep. I dressed up in period clothes (circa 1376) and performed as part of a foursome. Medieval music predates the use of harmony. So the four people (two men, two women) sang different parts of songs in order to tell the stories the songs presented. Most of our songs followed a particular pattern. Young maiden pursued by lecherous male manages to trick or turn the tables on said lecherous male. She escapes unscathed. The songs usually present some kind of humorous moral. Other than don't screw with the pretty young things, they'll drop you in the well and then fine you for fouling the water. That was the plotline of one of the songs as a matter of fact.

The educational society that runs Camlann has an entire village set up. The fair surrounded a tourney of knights. We had characters from every walk of medieval life and booths of period appropriate merchandise and food. Most of our characters returned to perform at the fair year after year. Some of the most talented people worked summers there. The minstrel troupe worked year round. We performed at banquets through out the year. You could hire out a medieval feast for up to 200 people. Entertainment was part of that package. The highlight of the year though were the Christmas feasts. Tons of food - all medieval recipes - all fabulous. Did I mention there were no utensils? Forks and spoons were French affectations, you see. No, we ate with our hands. No plates, either. Meals were served on a round of bread. The round was sliced and the hosting knight was offered either the upper crust or the lower crust (yes, this IS where that saying comes from). A chivalrous knight commanded that the upper crust be given to his lady and he took the lower crust. All in all, there was much merriment.

It's the only place I've ever worked and so much fun all while feeling as if I'd utterly stepped out of the modern world. Until writing...


  1. so... can we SEE you in that Sleepless in Seattle scene???

  2. I have no idea. We were background in the newsroom - and I don't think we were anything but an over the shoulder shot in the real scene between Meg Ryan and Rosie. I'm ashamed to say I've never actually seen the movie...

  3. My first job (other than babysitting) was mucking out stalls, grooming, etc. too - at an Arabian breeding farm. Then at an Appaloosa farm. Those were the days.

    Cool about the acting gigs. I was going to say I'd look for you the next time I watch Sleepless, but I don't think I know what you look like. (I'll probably still look for whoever Rosie is chewing out in the background, though.)

  4. The medieval troupe gigs sound like a ton of fun.

  5. B.E. - I looked younger. That's what I looked like. Thinner, too.

    KAK - Bawdrie and Bliss was a kick. Really a lot of fun. Pretty intense schedule, though, rehearsing and performing. It's finally what killed us. After four years, I think three of the four families threatened to commit murders.

  6. I love those festivals! We have a Renn. fest here. It looks so fun to work there, but so intense. I mean, it's a lifestyle for a while. But oh, the costumes. No utensils - that is hardcore!