Monday, August 15, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Room at the table


If you’re all the way to the mermaid tank at the Des Moines Renaissance Faire, you’ve gone too far. This is understandable, because you were probably distracted and beguiled by the smiles and colors and beauty of the sights when you walked in the gate. How could you not be? And, in fact, how will this orange-hatted baby ever reach for the dull black-and-grays of adulthood after this experience?joes1

But here you are at the mermaid tank. A redheaded siren to be sure. But her pool is just a wee bit further than we are going right now. So, first let’s take a left down near those stalls. There you go. We are here at last. A jousting tournament, with knights and squires and decorated horses.

“I’m 23. I’ve been doing this for about eight years now. I’m head squire. I set the field and deal with everything field-related. Making sure that everything we need on the field is on the field the way it’s needed to be.”

Alex Lundy is our squire. Yup, to a knight. Although, there’s always more to the story of a squire. He’s also a car detailer for Adesa in Grimes. His full-time job.

“That’s how I pay for the apartment, pay for my Internet, pay for my phone, pay for my water, pay for my car, pay for every single thing.”

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But these mundane worries are not for today. Today he is impish and laughing and entertaining. Unsurprisingly, his stage name is “Happy.”

joes2And, no, he’s not happy because he just got done cleaning up horse poop from the last jousting match. He’s happy to just be out in the mix of things. To be with his friends. To play a character from another time and another place. To be himself and to have fun.

“Getting to be able to fight my friends is the most fun. I don’t know if you saw the first show, but me and my friend Grayson did a squire fight. I love doing the fights. Coming up with new ways to hit each other and not hurt each other is always exciting. We have a spring run of shows and a fall run of shows. We travel around the Midwest. As far down as Wichita, and as far east as St. Charles, next to Chicago. We practice whenever we can.”

Grayson Gambrall, his buddy, readily agrees.

“I play Grumpy. He’s a squire for either Sir Daniel or Sir Joseph. He wears a mask to disguise his face and identity. He’s kind of mischievous. I’m back and forth between good and evil.”joes3

So, Grumpy, what’s in this for you?
“This is something very unique. It is very fun.”
Is that so? What do you do for your full-time job?
I’m a senior in high school this year. Dallas Center-Grimes. I’m only 17.”
My goodness. And what do your classmates think of all this?
“They think it’s cool that I do this.”

I am struck with wonder. Knights, squires, minstrels, jugglers, fairies, yeomen, pirates, Scottish golfers, gypsy dancers, a king and a queen, and even you and me. All exist together at the Renaissance Faire. Young and old. Happy and grumpy. Kilted and unkilted. All are accepted. All support each other. All coexist. Even the mermaid.

joes4It makes you wonder about things — after a summer of political wrangling of who’s in and who’s out, who’s a refugee and who’s not, who can stay and who has to go — if there’s room at the table for a mermaid, there must be room at the table for everyone. It seems simple enough on a warm fall day in Iowa as the leaves turn toward winter. CV

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog:

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