Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

The Midwinter Ale

The Annual Minnesota MidWinter Sword & Mumming Ale is a dashabout day. The Twin Cities is home to several Morris, Sword, and Mumming sides, and for the MidWinter Ale we are usually joined by a few outside teams. Because the MidWinter Ale is held in the middle of January, it has several times fallen on one of those supercold Minnesota days, when the temperature may or may not creep above 0 F by midafternoon. This year, however, the day was sunny and pleasant, at least by January standards.

The Ale organizers found a great place for breakfast, the Downtowner Woodfire Grill in Saint Paul. This restaurant is near the Excel Energy Center, in a neighborhood that has seen the surprising addition of upscale dining establishments in recent years. I'd never eaten at this place, and I would never have thought it was a place that served breakfast. I would have been wrong. This was by far the most pleasant large-scale breakfast outing possible. At 7:30 am I had a table by a fireplace with 6 Morris friends, the first group to arrive. The veggie hashbrowns were wonderful. The other thirty or so folks who joined us for breakfast got two nice long tables to themselves, and we got separate checks without asking.

It wasn't time to head off to the first Tour stop until 9:30, so we lingered and chatted and laughed. It was like eating at the college dining hall, except the food was many times better.

We split into two groups, and we performed at nursing homes and hospitals and community centers and bookstores and the Children's Museum. The groups regathered as one at the end of the day at a Community Center where we performed for each other.

The day had its share of frustrations, including a lunch stop that did not allow time for us to get to our next scheduled gig. This is the sort of thing that worries me tremendously. In fact, the scheduling seemed slightly off for most of the day. There was one awful moment when we arrived at a senior citizen's center to a room of residents who were sitting waiting for us, clearly long ready for us to begin (many on our tour didn't arrive for another 15 minutes, but we made do and it worked out).

At one point, the point where I was going nuts about being late for the Children's Museum, I wondered why I put myself through this. There is a great deal of stress associated with an Ale such as this, even if you are not one of the main organizers. Wouldn't it be a calmer life to stay home on a winter Saturday, or to be part of something that didn't involve the coordination of so many people and such complex logistics?

Just by forming the question I knew how stupid of a question it was for me. For one thing, the massive coordination of people and details yields something embracing and fulfilling. In general, though, it's my same old theme: I fervently believe we should all contribute to the common weal. I like being out there, in my community, helping to make my city a richer place. Yes, that's high-blown and perhaps self-aggrandizing, but it motivates me. That it brings me great pleasure and encourages good friendships and happy times does not mean it is not also a good thing. Even if I live in a world that doesn't generally recognize this.

The Ale began (Friday evening) and ended (Saturday evening) with nice parties. There was food and drink and singing and laughter and chat sandwiching the day.

Now Border Morris is done for the year, and Cotswold Season begins. Now things really get busy. And stressful. And fulfilling.
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