psy·chot·ic leop·ard sīˈkädik/ˈlepərd/ noun · anything that is funky, interesting, beautiful, niche, useful, and grabs one's attention

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To Splurge or Not to Splurge: Drooling At the New York Renaissance Faire

Posted by Lisa Johnson on


At sixteen, the first guy I truly fell in love with took me on one of the most romantic dates ever:  to the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY, and it has remained one of my favorite festivals of all time.  He bought me a crown of flowers which I wore in my hair, on occasion, for the next ten years plus, and it always reminded me of that perfect day, long after he had disappeared.

I loved everything about the early Renaissance Festivals, from the mud shows where the comedians dove into and actually consumed the wet dirt, to the lascivious pickle seller who came up with the most clever double entendres to hock his wares.

I loved just being there, taking in the scene, especially the people in costume, the womens’ breasts pushed up and spilling over the tops of their corsets, the men in full garb, chainmail over beard-stubbled faces, heavy brass and silver swords in their belts.

There were so many things in the Village Market which I would have loved to own, but I did not ever seriously consider getting something extravagant, because I thought I just couldn't afford it.  At that time, I used all my spare cash for backpacking around Europe or flying to San Fran for a few days.

A couple of decades passed, and about four years ago, I found a wooden gazebo housing not only live birds, but some of the most incredible handmade jewelry ever, cast in sterling silver, pewter, gold, and more.  It was the Mistikal Gypsie Curio Shop, off to one side of the main marketplace of the Renaissance Faire.  One particular brass bird skull charm was screaming my name, but, being naturally frugal, I waited a whole year to make sure it was worth it to spend that much on a single piece of jewelry.  It was – and I did – and it is one of my favorite necklaces ever, a definite compliment grabber!

Last summer, I was bleeding money in the midst of dragged out divorce proceedings, so was hesitant to splurge on another large purchase, no matter how tempting.  I satisfied myself with an unusual mussel shell turned cockroach hair clip work of art from creative genius, Roger Swezey at Tideline Salvage – which I then placed on the edge of a mirror in the sunroom where it regularly freaks people out.  Definitely one of my best buys!  I hope to go back another year and snatch up one of his vulture sculptures or hand painted horseshoe crab wall-hangings.

This year was different.  We had just driven up and back to upstate New York for my aunt's memorial service the day before, and I must have been channeling her ability for reckless spending.  My job seemed to be in a good place, and so before we even got to the parking lot, I had made a monumental decision.

The boots - THESE boots - were what I REALLY wanted.  For almost 30 years, they were the "if I ever get rich" item.  I'm still not, but something in me said, "Go for it.”

So I followed my nose and the delicious smell of leather into the booth of Catskill Mountain Moccasins, and proceeded to fall in love.  That’s what always has to happen in situations like this – if I am to own it, I need butterflies in my stomach.

I usually don’t get too close to artisan work at fairs unless I plan to buy, because it seems like a tease to loiter where you don’t spend, but for once, I took my time, lingering at the incredible designs I had admired from afar for so many years, the detailed elaborate stitching, the incorporating of wild beasts, Celtic imagery, and Native American beadwork into the rich animal hides.

I knew the boots were expensive - REALLY expensive - but like my boyfriend, Chris, said as I was reeling after the initial quote, "If you're going to spend this much money, you might as well do it right."  So a decision was made to go all the way.  And when I say all the way, I won't tell you how much I dropped, but will admit that it was more than some used cars...old, high mileage ones, but still...a lot.  My flashes of guilt were tempered with thoughts of “this is a once in a lifetime thing,” and “calm down and shut up already,” and my aunt’s voice in my ear, chanting, “Just get them!”

And so I let loose, proceeding to choose a buffalo base and deer embellishment in a bevy of red, gold, green, and purple.  From there came the design idea, and then the buttons!  Silver coins or pressed custom copper?  Burnt or natural antler? It was almost as stressful as choosing bathroom tile! 

Today at the weekly lunch with my dad, I confessed what I had done, and my ambivalence about it.  His reaction was somewhat of a surprise.

“I’ve been trying to get your mother to do something like that for years!” he said, and then proceeded to tell me a story about a friend of his sister’s, who hired a private driver to take the two of them around New York City to go fancy department store hopping.  The woman found a super expensive beaver coat, and my aunt, of course, convinced her to get it.  Which she did.  And then proceeded to die within three months.

So the question is, was this a waste?  My dad didn’t think so at all, because it was something she longed for, and got enjoyment out of it.  Plus, she had the means to afford it, and it made her happy, so it was totally worth it.  Some people work hard their whole lives and save and save, and then never use the money for anything really wonderful, he said.

Permission granted. It is definitely ok to splurge on oneself once in a while.  Now, I just have to wait until Christmas, when the boots will be ready!


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