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I miss these shoes.

the Artisan Rogue

– Travels, Trials, and other Tumultuous Tales

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Sun
25
Aug '13

The path to walking with the ghosts of the Blue and Grey. (Part 1 of a massive update.)

It’s been about what, a month since my last update? A lot, a LOT,… has happened since last I posted.

To say that I’d been busy for the last few weeks would be an understatement of what I’ve been diving into. So let’s start at the beginning and go forward from there. 🙂

An almost typical weekend…

First Friday reinvigorated

It had been some time since I’d been able to actually go down and enjoy a full evening at First Friday in KCMO because I often get off from work too late and then hate dealing with finding a parking spot, or I have to be at work at my weekend evening job right around 9 p.m. so it never normally works out too well for me.

Really though, aside from all of that, I had gotten to where I was really sort of burned out on the local art scene. Some was because (and anyone that does art shows knows what I am talking about) the pretentious and over-rated are in full strength out and about in the galleries mingling with the people who genuinely love art.

But this first weekend had a bit of a different vibe, or maybe it was because I was still on a creative high from Spectrum that I immediately felt and saw a slew of differences in the streets downtown.

The weather was actually pretty good, not so hot that galleries would become saunas, and of course not overcast so as to threaten rain on the people out and about (rain does little to dissuade me though). When the weather is good, musicians and other performers of all kinds will come out of the woodwork and work the various streets.

Everything from small circus troupes to street musicians and live poets/writers were out and about.

And some of my favorite galleries had the usual stock of amazing urban art and design going on.

From live graffiti (the tall guy with the shades is Eeks, a good friend of mine), to recycled/reclaimed robot sculpture.

But what I like seeing is when the smaller performers come out and about to showcase their talents. So many times, this is when you can get the chance to hear some of best music from some insanely talented individuals.

Which included this super talented lady who was performing at a church. Do not let the lack of people in the seats fool you. This duo below was powerful… I mean yes, it had a christian edge to it, but that matters little to me. The young lady in the picture below is Hurley McGahan [https://www.facebook.com/HurleyChristinMusic]; if you get the chance to hear her perform, you will not regret it. No description I can write can describe the powerhouse voice she wields.

As the night wound down, I found myself very inspired, and full of appreciation for Kansas City. It’s not a bad city, and it certainly has it’s moments both quiet and inspirational…

Saturday night not so much…

And then there’s my average Saturday evening, when most people choose to go out, do things, get drunk, or whatever kids and arrested development adults are doing nowadays. 🙂 I am a security guard, but officially I am a door greeter, which is just another term for babysitter. Anyone that has done police work, or even just security work like me, can tell you that rarely does a weekend pass that is uneventful or odd. Case in point finding something like this at 4 a.m is just not that odd to me anymore. (And yes, the fellow here was “fine”.)

The Frida Kahlo Exhibit (or facing the culture I never embraced)

I’ll be honest. Aside from having seen the movie ABOUT Frida starring Salma Hayek, I actually knew little of her work aside from what I had learned in a few art classes. I do not shy from art that is created by the Hispanic community, but as a whole, I had never really seen anything that she had made that really got my mind all that interested.

And like every time I have had the chance to see master works in person, I find myself feeling like an idiot for ignoring them for as long as I did when I was in school.

The Nelson Atkins museum was going through a lot of advertising to say that this show was here and present for all to come and see, and at first, I was under the impression that it was primarily Frida and her husband Diego Rivera’s work that would be on display, but there was a fair few more works by other Hispanic artists to see there.

I will be the first to say that I have little if any real knowledge, empathy or love for the country of Mexico. I am of Mexican descent, being primarily of Tarascan, the Native Indian people of northern Michoacán in the central part of Mexico. I do speak some Spanish (since my grandparents primarily spoke it, and my parents still speak it half the time at home when I visit), but only in a rudimentary fashion, and when I can find it, I eat great Mexican and Central American food at little known out of the way places. 

It’s difficult when I talk to some people who have recently come from Mexico (this happens quite frequently at the bar I work at on weekends) and how they will often remark to me about “going to visit the home country”. I often get odd looks because, to be quite frank, I tell them I’d not visit it if my life depended on it. I mean, I’d have more business visiting Australia than I would Mexico because I know far more about that country. One side of my family left after the last revolution was going on, around the year of 1907, and left behind a house, animals, other family and friends, and land that had been given to them generations ago by a viceroy of Spain. It was a violent and scary time for my family, most of the men were forced to go fight, and none ever came back. My grandmother and her older sisters finally left with some money and the clothing on their backs to begin anew in Texas. My grandmother would always tell me of her earliest memory as a little girl being her playing with the water off the side of the boat they used to cross the Rio Grande.

For the years that followed, they worked as sharecroppers all over south Texas picking cotton by hand, which is what most of my mother’s young life comprised of as well. She grew up in what is really considered poverty by any standards, dirt floors in some places, out houses, and no windows or front doors in some of the “houses” they would live in over the years.

My father’s family was an odd mix of my grandfather making the trek from Mexico as a young man, aged 14, with money he stole from a man’s dead body that had been laying bloated in an alleyway in the town his family was from. He did not know how the man died, but it was evident to everyone that saw the body that a pouch was still attached to the well dressed corpse, and my grandfather took a deep breath, walked over to the corpse, and cut the belt loose and took the money. In it, he found enough money to get him and his older brother to the U.S., but for reasons that we’ve never known, his older brother chose to stay in Mexico, and my grandfather ventured forth and got a job on the railroad eventually settling in the Midwest in Ottawa Kansas.

For many reasons, I felt that Mexico had given my grandparents little to no choice but to leave a country that was, and in many ways, is still a very dangerous country if you are not a member of the upper class. Basically what you see in many of the tourist and vacation brochures, is not the real Mexico, and for many years growing up, it was presented as a very bad place, rife with the pains of my family from both sides. But here’s the thing, I do have friends that are Mexican, I love the food, the history, the music, even the art in general… but there was something that really kept me from wanting to go and see the works in this exhibit.

I’m glad I did. Although I am still not a fan of Diego’s work, I found so much in Frida’s work it was not even funny. The surrealism present is one that is not alienating to me, in fact it borders on almost a science fiction sort of look in some of the paintings I saw she did. Namely this one below:

This is the work from 1949 “Love Embrace of the Universe” which was a work of her’s that I’d never seen before. Even this image above does no justice to the majesty of the work in person. Like the Mona Lisa, it’s not that large either, but its seeing the brushstrokes and the size and quality of technique in person that did it for me.

What I really regret was not having taken a photo of this group that had Mexican kids in it. It was an educational group of some sort, but from where exactly I don’t know. The point is,… I was floored by what I saw. So many beautiful beautiful colors of skin, eyes, and hair resplendent amongst the kids in front of me. Asiatic eyes, coarse hair, long hair, slim noses and all the reverse and opposite,… on kids speaking Spanish. At that moment, I felt an unabashed poignant bit of shame and sorrow for my harsh and simplistic views of what it meant to not only be Hispanic, but to be Mexican. I am a New Mexico born American through and through, and so much a country Missouri boy that I feel absolute joy when I hear a Bluebird sing, but at that moment, I was very proud to share a space and moment with children that were comprised of a rainbow of physical features and backgrounds that literally brought tears to my eyes. In that gallery surrounded by artworks I long ignored, I understood the messages and reasons behind them.

[And all of this came full circle when I watched a movie by a Mexican director the next month, but more on that in part 2 of this update next week.]

Animal Rescue Update:

Here is a bit of an update on my efforts in animal rescue and fostering. Fostering a cat and caring for it while also trying (unsuccessfully many times) to keep her isolated from the other animals is not only a challenge, it’s a downright failure because she is such a loving little ball of fluff and curiosity.

The cat I am referring to is currently named Patches, for the amount of almost mange like fur loss she had when I rescued her (which thankfully turned out to be a very treatable flea allergy). Over the past few weeks and a followup vet visit, Patches has grown back a lot of her hair, started to really trust me, and developed a love for Merrick’s wet food and sleeping on whatever the hell she wants in the basement.

But for as long as it takes me to get her a new family and safe home, I’ll watch over her and she’ll be taken care of. Fostering can be difficult, and really, it’s playing the part of temporary owner, and it is not the easiest thing to do. But I do it, because the need is there, I care, and I believe that if everyone could do it, even for a just few years or one animal, the message on pet over population and the need for more responsibility on our parts to prevent it would be more understood.

Art and Convention Show; Reenactment and Appearances Schedulings for the rest of 2013/early 2014:

A somewhat accurate listing of shows and events I will be at in the coming months heading into the next year.

  1. Strange Folk Festival – Illinois
  2. Archon – St. Louis
  3. Freestate FanCon – Lawrence Kansas
  4. G.A.M.E. – Springfield, MO
  5. Battle of Honey Springs – Oklahoma
  6. Nebraskon – possible
  7. Anime Apocalypse – possible
  8. NakaKon 2014
  9. Planet Comicon 2014
  10. Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3

Computer Woes:

I feel the need to complain about this because I have a computer that is currently wanting to be tempermental with it’s video card settings, as in my wonderful NVIDIA card which has powered my adventured through many online games and sessions of Adobe software midnight oil burning, has decided to start randomly turning off the signal to the monitors I have. MUCH of an annoyance as of course this is probably one of the busiest times of year for me, and my favorite computer techs are located about an hour’s drive from KC (I trust few with my cpu in using it, and even less in working on it).

Thankfully, I have a place not too far of a drive away, the ever wonderful Cargo Largo, where I can wonderous things at random like Club Mattel He-Man exclusives, out of production Lego set, electronics, Blue Rays and dvds for anywhere from $2 to $13, lawn stuff, clothing, furniture, you name it. And what do you know? They had another NVIDIA card there ready for me to get my grubby little hands on. 😀

It’s basically a place where shipments that were damaged, returns, and overstock are offered again to the public.

So finally my dual monitor system was up and running with a new 1GB card pushing it.

Projects and Progress:

  • Graphic Novel Project – A few of you have probably seen some of the work I am doing on a graphic novel at present (from a few roughs and finished teasers), I’ve had the pleasure to be working on what is turning out to be a really fun storyline that will be if all holds well together debuting at NakaKon/Planet Comicon next year. Much more information will become available as the book nears completion later this year.
  • Prop Guns and Cosplay Items – This is an initial effort to possibly push out some things that I had interest in making available in limited numbers for costuming and cosplay people. The initial prop gun is an Anime inspired cyberpunk gun. I hope to get some real traction on this by December.
  • Pooch Patrol Children’s Books – Still on target for this fall as well.
  • Pagan Zoetrope Issue #4 – Coming along, and will be on pace for the shows this fall.
  • Pagan Zoetrope: Volume 1 – Considering that most of the art for Issue 1 has been lost and now needs to be redone, rebuilt, and reworked, this one could be pushed out to early 2014 for next year’s round of shows.
  • Wood Panel Series – More info coming on the newest ones available this fall.
  • 2014 Artisan Rogue Sketchbook – This will be a late year release to be sold in 2015.

Other goings ons:

Some of the Kickstarters I had been involved with have finally started coming in, and I have to say that Kickstarter has to be one of my favorite concepts that has come about in recent years. For me, it’s a resurgence of investing in ideas, efforts, creations and inventions in the hopes that good if not great products can make it out to the exact consumers that want them, nay CRAVE them.

I say “crave” them because Kickstarter is the the perfect fan boy/girl or hardcore enthusiast’s playground to get in early and eagerly on stuff that may not have a chance by exposure to mainstream exposure, at least initially.

Two of the recent ones that I finally received were my Flesk Publications released art book by BROM, and the very well made ToughHook that’s great for holding my heavier reenactment items (more on this really cool book after I’ve had some time to look at it).

150th Anniversary of Gettysburg:

Now I get to tell you about a crazy long experience that I am so glad I attended, but going to and during it all, I was sure my sanity was going to crumble. So in other words, it was one of the BEST TIMES EVER. Read on good friends…

the Drive there…

I both love and loathe my GPS. In one fell swoop it is a tech marvel that so proudly announces distances, arrival times, and other information at the touch of a finger tip in either a jaunty female British accent, or the voice of Daria. It makes even the longest trips seem like something well within reach, easily conquerable, and woefully apparent to anyone with a brain that a 19 hour drive is nothing to joke about. But I was walking with a fresh bit of adrenaline and chance on my side! To quote Jon Stewart, and I paraphrase some here, “Live life right by getting in trouble.” Boy would those words haunt me…

I’ve driven my truck pretty far before, down to Louisiana, out across Kansas, up to Chicago, through Texas, and into Oklahoma, and all back, with only the occasional technical mishap, like a dead battery, or a flat tire. I normally will try and study my route that I drive to see if there are more scenic routes, or places that would be good safe stops depending on time of day, or where I am eventually heading. Because of my current schedule and really the almost last minute decision to just go in lieu of thinking about it back and forth for weeks prior, I feel that I had left somewhat unprepared.

I could go into the tire troubles, the road pain of being a solo driver on what turned into a 22 hour drive (2 hours extra for fueling and stopping and stretching) in which over the years, rest stops have become FAR more luxurious than they were even back in 2001 when I drove with some people to go to Gamesday in Chicago. But the drive itself was actually not that bad as a whole and for really the first 90% of it. But towards the END, as the sun rose in the mountains around Gettysburg, my legs were cramping up, and my lower back was beginning to revolt in pain, I finally came upon the first sign on the road that signaled that I had indeed arrived.

As a general rule of thumb, no matter the type of reenactment event, bike tour, campground vacation, or convention building location, the initial arrival (or as I like to call it, the first landing approach) always plays out like a crap scene of an F-14 Tomcat trying to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier on a stormy night, yours truly the pilot/driver, all bleary eyed, yet full of adrenaline, just like in some Micheal Bay movie. There is usually a lot of cussing, missed turns, close calls, and nervous wild turns of the head as if you’ve either just missed your sign to turn, or you’ve just seen Bigfoot out of the corner of your eye. The radio who had been my faithful companion on this lonely trek now is the most annoying thing to squawk noise since the beginning of time, and rolling down the windows and sticking your head out to look for any signs of direction like a demented Labrador enjoying the wind, sounds like complete and total brilliant reasoning until you take a june bug to the eye.

Registration…like the DMV, but outside…

Now upon finally finding the registration tent, I joined a few more reenactors who were slowly coming in, many of them with the same caffeine deprived now winding down look that I had plastered on my face. Thankfully, people that can bond just as easily in mirth and hobby, can find common ground in waiting for administrative staff to finally show up and get us approved or registered so that we can somehow locate the people we need to find by placing random drop out calls with one bar of signal, or by shouting out “Marco” and hoping someone you know yells back “Polo”.

I made fast acquaintances with a fellow from Brooklyn named Chris, who had just come in from a late night drive preceded by doing the memorial service for James Gandolfini. Yeah! No joke! But as we talked, it turned out we had some mutual ground in doing comics and graphic novel work, as he is a writer. So after some nice conversation, and a thankfully short wait in line to register, we exchanged info, found the reenactor’s parking lot located like a mile at least from the Union camp, and bid each other a good time at the event. Off to a good start, and my mood was quickly rising.

Holy $#%@… that’s a LOT of reenactors…

After hitching a ride up to the Federal camp with Chris and probably 7 others in full gear in the back of a “temporary transport replacement” (look up 1992 small body Mazda truck) with little to no rear suspension left, I finally came upon the area in the woods where all of the Union troops were camped.

Now, my phone at this point is riding the AT&T signal that it’s not accustomed to (being that I am with T-Mobile, and the rest of Pennsylvania clearly is NOT), and mocks me with faux bars of signal, and no one is answering my call efforts. Mind you, that 22 hour drive is taking it’s toll, but my adrenaline at seeing SO MANY at an event is literally making my head swim with the moment. And then it dawns on me that I am in the woods with at LEAST five to six thousand federal troops all dressed fairly similar.

I had no clue how in the world I was going to find my unit in the least. At least all I brought with me was on me, as I opted to do a campaigner’s take on roughing it, which meant what I brought strapped onto me or in my double knapsack, was all I had to make it through the next few days out there as far as personal items.

-[For many months prior I had taken to wearing a sling backpack that carried all my art and tech gear that I use daily in it, and would walk 9 to 10 flights of stairs about every other day, and walk everywhere I could with it. I carry a 32 oz. bottle of water with me that I was constantly filling and drinking down at least one of daily in preparation for the hydration needs of this event. I did not want to fall victim to heat exhaustion like I did at Shiloh and Ft. Larned. Both efforts paid off brilliantly as even with wool blanket, ground cloth, clothing, and assorted personal items and all of the rest of my gear, it felt like I was literally carrying half the weight of my daily bag, and I found myself more than well hydrated. ]-

As luck would have it, as I walked into the area, many of the units were already mobilizing, either for parade dress or for the first battle event. I did not know the schedule, but it’s not hard to discern that by seeing columns of troops marching about all heading in a similar direction. But as I filmed the column walking by as my initial footage, I never noticed my group, the 2nd Colorado marching right past me until I’d put my camera up. Thankfully, the column had stopped and I looked up at that moment to see Eric, Jim and a few others that I did not recognize.

After some quick hellos and info gained, I found that not all was well, and out of respect for my dear friends that were involved in an argument that would set the stage for the mood for the rest of the days there, I will leave out names and incidents. It is not my story to tell, but I can say this. It brought to bear a new meaning at this reenactment for me about the concept of brother versus brother in a way that in my adrenaline fueled and excited mood, I was not completely ready to accept, nor believe had happened. In the end, it made the event that much more poignant and powerful of a moment in my life, as I am sure it did for the ones that were more involved directly than I.

In the mountains, no one can hear you complain…so why bother?

Let me put this out there. I love camping. I love roughing it. I mean, the no camper, no tent, build a fire pit, bring what I need on me to make it kind of camping. I like to pretend I am Bear Grylis Lite (I mean, sans the extra bad ass martial arts prowness, and years upon years of becoming one with the environments to survive at all costs, I make tea with my urine on the run, kind of insane testicular fortitude). I like looking up at trees while I sleep, hearing the crackle of a campfire as it dies down, the random cold bursts of night time rain that allow me to wake up in a wallow of mud the next morning, and the sounds of birds in the morning. No mattress is as comfortable to me as the earth (although Pennsylvania seems to birth rocks like they are going out of style, no matter WHERE you chose to lay down), and it was just a matter of finding the softest rock and going all neanderthal early man and passing out.

And imagine not bathing for days, sweating profusely in it, with leather accoutrements on TOP of that, and then unless you go TOTALLY period with the undergarments you have little leg protection against the itchy stiff feeling of dirty wool on you. All the while ticks, crickets, spiders, twigs, leaves, and rocks work their way into your pants and sleeves while you sleep. In other words. It’s awesome.

There are things that one has to keep organized and ready. Rain is not great for your gun, rust will find you. Your gun powder must stay dry, or you run the risk of having a misfire or worse when all you are shoving down the barrel is black mud essentially from damp paper cartridges. And we do have instances of mingling with the public at most events, which means that smelling or looking like unfortunate roadkill is not really an option if we choose to bring more people into this hobby.

Most days comprised of one or two battles, cooking, drilling, talking, or spending time at the Sutler’s Row, cleaning rifles, and meeting new people at every turn. There were quiet times, nap times, stressful times, but all memorable times.

There were some injuries, I had a slight issue with my shoulder almost dislocating when I had put too much powder down the barrel during the aftermath of Pickett’s charge, and a total of what I know to have been three charges were in my barrel when it finally went off.

A fellow even fell off of his horse while trying to ride up onto a ridge, and I was pretty sure he was was just absolutely hosed when his horse looked like it fell back on him from my vantage point. This was when we reenacted the moment when the defense of Little Round Top happened with a (in our case for safety’s sake, a non-bayonet) bayonet charge by the 20th Maine (whom we had the honor of portraying) through the trees.

-[Later when I was talking to one of the Sutlers I know well from James Country in Liberty Missouri, I found out that there were near 134 heat related injuries over the course of that weekend. With one being flown out by helicoptor from what she knew.]-

Each day I was there, I got up about 4am, prior to the sunrise for a morning constitution, to stretch, check the dryness of my clothing on a nearby rope, and drink in the sunrise over the mountain ridge across the grassy slopes below. No city skyline, no modern civilization does, what viewing a sunrise does for me. It’s reaffirming of living life, of renewal, of perpetual motion in life, of so many things that are easy to forget when we view life through screens on desktops and portable devices.

I met people from Australia, Japan, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, a few Welsh, and of course all over the U.S. from Brooklyn to San Antonio, from Seattle to Tucson. Of particular note was the Australian who sat next to me on one of the transportation trams who was there for a week already, and was staying for the second reenactment the following weekend. I wish I’d had more time to talk to many of them, hell, FILM their stories and reasons for why and how they got there to Gettysburg.

To see the masses of sheer manpower, the huge numbers of cavalry, and everyone marching and moving in unison; to see just a fraction of this, to FEEL just a notion of what those days for all of those Americans on both sides must have felt like and looked like. It’s something to watch a reenactment, but to DO one? There are few better natural highs than that for me. (The short film below showcases a bit of this.)

Trouble found me…

Now, I have happily found that if you lose something at a reenactment, MOST people will go out of their way to return said items to you, pass word along that something has been found, or later after the event, take to posting it online everywhere to return these waylaid items to their former owners. It’s in fact one of the things that most draws me to be a part of like minded hobbies like reenactment. It’s usually one of the last bastions of non bastardness left for me to enjoy.

So much to my displeasure, I awoke the second day after a mid day rainstorm to find that my canteen was gone. Not, I rolled over in the mud and pushed it into the earth gone, not I left it in the woods gone. No.

See, at these events, that item is literally life and death for people. Hydration is key, and I am a thirsty and large fellow who has been known to break a sweat while peeling an orange. So what choice did I have but to go and try and get to the Sutler’s Row (the market place area) and procure a new one? It was an unplanned expenditure, but a necessary if annoying one. But I know that heat stroke is FAR more annoying, so in lieu of taking my chances, (which my superior officers and really anyone with a brain, would never have let me do), and doing a march without a canteen, I got a new and bigger one.

For the most part, the morale and spirit of most of the unit I was there with seemed alright, but there was a tension, and it was palpable. Not because anyone was trying to make anything worse, but coupled with the schedule, the needs, and all going on, it seemed at times that the tear in the fabric of the flag of unity in a reenactment group that I very VERY strongly feel constitutes a group of adopted brothers for me, would never be mended. Decade old proverbial seams wear out just as unexpectedly as the ones in our uniforms, but I’ve found that it takes many to repair those frayed ends.

But I often voiced my opinion that I (and so many others) had not driven in excess of 1000 miles ONE WAY, to not live in the moment of 150 years of history happening around me. Even in the face of someone taking my canteen, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip.

Later that evening, as the Formal Ball and another rain storm of scattered density went head to head, I wentn with two of my comrades to visit some other friends over in a campsite just a short walk away. I made it a habit to carry my credit card and driver’s license in the space between the screen protector and the belt clip carriage on my Otterbox for my phone, so I felt that they were pretty secure and safe there.

As the night went on, it was one of those fantastic in the moment kinds of conversations where people that normally do not see each other, nor under most normal circumstances would probably ever get to speak to one another, much less meet in the first place. We spoke of the current and past presidents, the economy, the great issue with incomes, does a college degree REALLY mean anything anymore, life experiences, time spent in the hobby, drinking stories, the whole basket. I imagine that there were many such candle lit sort of conversations like that, including one I heard later that night between some Irish fellows a few camps over that had a bit too much to drink and sometime later actually had a ripe old time settling it with fisticuffs.

So, where trouble found me just prior to that point was as the evening chat came to an end, I and the others that came to visit went our own ways, but on the way out, I decided to pull my phone out to light the pathway, since it was crossing by a heavily foot trafficked area that was just nothing but slick mud, rocks and roots. It was where a large watering set up was located at, so I just wanted to make sure we’d not slip and fall in the mud (I didn’t want to get the mud that was caked on me any dirtier mind you…), so I unlocked my phone case, thinking nothing of the side effect of my actions, and went on walking. I was so tired by the time I got back, I curled up on my favorite rock and scrubgrass pile, hugged my rifle, tucked my ammo in my knapsack, rolled up into a gum blanket burrito and went to sleep, just as the rain began to fall once more.

…but so did my faith in humanity and more.

The next day brought a whole new level of panic that not even the most MGM studios kind of sunrise could quell. I had discovered around 11 pm after waking up from what I hope was an acorn and not an oversized big of dry squirrel dung hitting me in the face, that I now had lost my debit card and license. Two MAJOR strikes on being able to get home. As a rule, I don’t carry cash. So after also realizing that somehow I had lost a day in the process of being out in the woods and not being able to charge my phone, I re-awoke, walked out to the line of artillery that was near the outskirts of camp and did something I rarely do, and that was… talk to God out loud. Yes. The big guy in the sky, the beardy fellow or long tressed omnipotent lass that sits up there and listens to so many.

See, by this point, I was feeling pretty beat down, and frankly stupid. I actually saw no end to the internal strife that was happening in our group, try as many of us did to help fix it, it was not working. I felt that maybe,… this had been the worst decision to drive all this way and literally get stranded from home and work over a thousand miles away. Perhaps it had not been the best financial decision, the best timing, or whatever. So I figured, hey, maybe enough time has passed that he who dwells up in the sky might have an opening to hear me out.

I asked for a sign, a shooting star, a breeze, SOMETHING that would tell me that this was going to be alright. That the rift in my unit would heal. That today would get better, and that I would have a safe trip home, because I had seriously underestimated my level of fatigue.

After going all “emo” for about 5 minutes solid, I started feeling a bit moronic, yet oddly better, not because I was talking out by the artillery battery to what seemed like myself, but because I was forgetting all of the GOOD things that had indeed happened and that I was grateful for. So as I got up to come back to my camp, I stepped about four feet, and tripped on something in the grass and mud, dang near slamming my mouth into the wheel on the nearby cannon.

There, laying in the mud, not but about 6 feet behind me, was my original canteen. How, do you ask, do I know it was my canteen? Well, based on a historical one that had been fixed with what looked like red thread on the white cloth strap, I had started to sew in a notch of red thread for each time I would go to an event or muster in my reenactment career.

The cork was missing off of the chain holder, it was filthy and soaked, but it was mine. I felt warmth on my face as the sun broke through the skyline, and I watched the early rays revive the green foliage all along the slopes before me. I kind of laughed a bit at my previously hopeless outlook, and walked back to camp to get the fire going for the rest that had not yet woken up.

I didn’t get a shooting star, but I did get my old dirty canteen, and that was enough of a sign for me.

A few hours later, as we were getting final plans figured out, a lone fellow comes down the busy pathway, and older gentleman with what sounded like a faint Rhode Island accent. I could hear him, but I did not discern what was being said until he came up to our campsite and called out, “Is there a… Feliciano Mario Mora anywhere here?”

Gravity had nothing on me, a weight lifted off my shoulders, I don’t even remember clearing the short distance to the man as he handed me my debit card and I.D. in literally the same condition I had lost them in. Somehow, in that muddy bog of an area by the watering hole, the two cards had fallen into a plastic bag that had been thrown by the wayside, and as some members of this unit from Rhode Island had been cleaning up the trash there, one of them had looked in the bag and found my cards.

One of them was sure he’d seen me out and about, he’d recognized my beard, but my unit was not portraying the 2nd Colorado, we played the part of other units, so the really astronomical chances of first recognizing me from my I.D., then them wanting to take the time to hunt me down, and all of that in an area comprised of several thousand guys, probably a good couple of hundred of them with beards like mine, and you can see how I was taken aback at it all that they even found me.

Resolutions, farewells, and the long drive home.

I think it’s fair to say without going into too much detail that the hardest steps to take in situations unknown, are the first ones. There had been a feeling that maybe, as a group, we were at the end of all things, that maybe these farewells would be harder to cope with, and more final than anyone had anticipated. Then… beneath a tree, two brothers came once more together. The held in tears and regrets that flowed were certainly not their own. Someday, when I am a braver man, and I can formulate what I will write down privately now in another place, into something that I feel more comfortable about letting others read, I will tell a deeper tale of these days. But for now, I beg pardon in respect for two men, whom I immensely care for and respect more than either are probably aware that I do.

As the last moments there were spent packing items, rubbing sore feet, and the prospect of getting on the road again, it is always with a bit of sadness, and a sense of gratitude. And for that, I am glad those were again the travel companions we would all take with us.

I chose to drive through Gettysburg, for a bit of food, and to see the sights from my car. Mental notes and photos were taken of places I want to come back to see maybe in the years to come, perhaps the 155th Anniversary or so.

In closing…

Heck of a long update huh? Well, hopefully I did not bore any of you in the process, for me, it was partially a huge load off of my mind to get this caught up, and in truth, this ended up about only 2/3rds the length it originally was. There were some things I thought about adding back in, but I think I’ve talked about just about everything I can get out at this point.

A slew of shows and new things await to be discovered and talked about in the coming months. I look forward to it. I look forward to… getting in trouble.

Till next time, adopt don’t shop, take time for those sunrises, and those in your life that are most important. – Mario, the Artisan Rogue.

Next Update: Back home, and into the hands of Pirates and Robots.

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