On Timeliness

I heard it most recently from Jeff Daniels in a WTF with Marc Maron interview: work hardest, and show up on time. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. Wanna be a late person, excellent. Go for it. Work any number of jobs up and down the pay scale, but you want to be an artist?

Confound every cliche about lackadaisical talent.

Plenty of artists show up late and do just fine for themselves. I don’t know how they pull it off, but they exist. Far as I’m concerned it’s profoundly unprofessional and disappointing but what’s worse it’s a waste of everyone else’s time. But what’s worse? It’s unprofessional.

Now that I’m finished condemning a bunch of people I either do or will work alongside, why Ian? Why are you so dead set on following the clock?

Chivalry. In a very literal manner.

As I’ve mentioned, I once squired for the Freelancers Jousting Company. Most of the knights, and a few squires for that matter, served in one branch of the military or another. Makes sense, right? Frankly I don’t understand why jousting isn’t huge in this country; a pitch perfect way for veterans to face death in a visceral fantasy and make a few bucks.

We operated on T-times, as in “T-MINUS THIRTY!” meant get the saddle on the horse and the first pieces of armor on the knights. Last chance to piss, and a favored responsibility as a squire; getting all worked up in steel is a lot of pressure for these guys, and they didn’t always remember to drink enough water. As soon as they called the “thirty,” I asked my knight if he’d pissed. If he hadn’t, that meant drink more water. Dehydrating wrapped in a tin can is… messy.

T-times ran up until five minutes to curtain when we got the knights mounted and awaited the trumpet call to action. Again, veterans. Our steps calculated for safety, and if you miss a beat anywhere in the process that could mean a step down the line that gets someone killed.

No shit. Killed. A lot of pressure for a thirteen year old.

So I don’t blame them for their harsh punishment for lateness. Specifically, every minute late was ten pushups. And call was at six AM, Saturday and Sunday mornings. nine weekends from late August to mid October. I couldn’t even drive, so my lateness was based on my mom’s girlfriend.

For me, the squire called Worthless, those ten pushups for every minute late went face down in horse shit as often as not. Didn’t have to be that way; if I’d let on that it bothered me the knights would’ve stopped. I never did. I loved it. I wanted the full punishments; I wanted to be the best.

So you won’t catch me late to work. And art is work.

Catch you next time, I’ll haunt your thoughts and dreams!

My First Baston round

My first real job, I squired for the Freelancers, a full contact jousting company working on the Eastern Seaboard last I checked. I don’t remember when they started calling me Worthless. It was an honor. More on that later.

I was thirteen when I got the gig and in mortal danger all the fucking time. My first day on the lists, technical term for the field where grown-ass man nearly kill each other dressed in metal, I narrowly escaped trampling. It was the baston round, where the knights lock in their helms and beat each other on the head with wooden dowels. They ride back and forth across the soil and it’s all pretty well choreographed.

Except they can’t see.

So there I was, cresting puberty and about as self-conscious as every thirteen year old should be. The Lead Squire that year, I believe her name was Brandi, told me to crouch back in the bushes when the knights rode past. My job was to collect any pieces of baston that broke off.

Yeah. They wail on each other pretty good.

I found a break in the hedges and settled in. The branches poked into my black tights, and the short green tunic I ordered online rode up to show my ass if anyone cared to notice. I was thrilled. Living on a battlefield I’d read in Once and Future King and a dozen other novels.

Metal clangs a lot louder when you’re on the lists. Your adrenaline soars. When they finished their bout and turned to charge down towards my end of the list, I awaited my chance to dive in and help out. They rode those hedges awfully close, though. Right along. And I had a spot picked out but there wasn’t room for me to squeeze all the way back.

A mount called Max didn’t give a shit I was in his way. And his knight didn’t know I was there. I couldn’t breathe.

I heaved back into those shrubs, smashing undergrowth as a stirrup shot like a cannon past my nose.

Holding the stirrup, I gaped at the knights beating each other. One of the greatest moments of my life.

This post started as a diatribe on timeliness. Also, I didn’t have time to explain my nickname, Worthless. Guess those’ll wait for another time. Meanwhile, I’ll haunt your thoughts and dreams!

… ten pushups per minute, and for Worthless that meant face in horse shit…