The International Writers Magazine:Lifestyles
Fear and Loathing at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival
(With apologies to the late Hunter Thompson)
We were about 25 minutes north of the Twin Cities when my doctor and I pulled the rented Dodge Charger into the drive thru of the Forest Lake Starbucks. I ordered “two Venti non-fat lattes with a dozen chasers.”
“What do you mean by a chaser?” Asked the Barista over the intercom.
“A Doubleshot. You know, the espresso drink in the short can. In fact, make that two dozen Doubleshots.”
“Your total is $71.89. Please pull ahead.”
My doctor bellowed, “But I wanted a Mocha Frappuccino!”
“Too many calories.” I said. “Besides, a Frappuccino is filling and the effects of caffeine are more intense on an empty stomach.” As I said this, I wondered what kind of doctor this was who didn’t know these essential facts about caffeine consumption. He weighed 400 pounds, and was hitchhiking with a walking cane on Interstate 35 when I found him twenty minutes earlier. He carried a satchel containing necessary doctor tools such as a defibrillator and a blood pressure monitoring device called a sphygmomanometer.
In addition to covering the story on the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I wanted to see how much caffeine one person could consume without going into cardiac arrest and I felt a doctor was necessary for an experiment such as this.
As far as expenses were concerned, the Charger was $120 a day, but I wasn’t concerned about money, however, as ---- Magazine (name of publication omitted at insistence of lawyers) had provided an expense budget. While the editor hadn’t disclosed the amount of the budget for this article, I felt that $300 an hour for a doctor was not excessive. In addition to the budget, there was a promise of $10 payment for the story upon publication.
After obtaining said drinks from Starbucks, I steered south onto Interstate 35 and headed toward Shakopee, the home of the Renaissance Festival. I floored the accelerator and grabbed a Doubleshot, which contains 130 milligrams of caffeine. I slugged the 6.5-ounce can down and cracked another can open.
“Wait!” My doctor screamed. “I should take a ‘before’ reading on your blood pressure.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s important to know what kind of patient I have and what’s normal for you before you start with this adventure. Give me your left arm.”
“Use my right arm,” I said, “instead of trying reach across me while I’m driving.”
“Hey, who’s the doctor here?” With that, he reached across my chest and struggled to attach the cuff of the sphygmomanometer onto my left brachium. I in turn struggled to retain my grip onto the steering wheel while driving in excess of 90 mph. My doctor pumped away furiously on the sphygmomanometer’s rubber bulb, taking two breaks to smoke cigarettes. Sweating profusely, he continued to pump and paused to give me reading. “160 over 90 with a pulse of 150. That’s perfectly healthy.”
I felt relieved to hear I was in good health. In the past, I have been prone to stabbing pains in the left side of my chest and have had my left arm and hand go numb after partaking in a caffeine bender. I slammed down the second Doubleshot and started to work on the latte, a 150-milligram drink with low calories. I slugged down the latte and popped two Maximum Strength No-Doze tablets, 200 milligrams of caffeine each.
“What is the Renaissance Festival?” My doctor asked.
“It’s everything: a marketplace, a gathering of entertainers, and there’s a plethora of food to consume.” I found the Festival and pulled into the bumpy parking lot. The nearest vacant spot to park was several thousand feet from the front gate. My doctor groaned at the prospect of walking this far, however, after some coaxing, he agreed to follow me. I paid for two tickets, which was another $39.90 to add to my expense report.
We walked through the front gate and a vivacious blonde woman dressed as a 16th century wench called out to my doctor in a cockney accent, “’ello, Governor!”
“What the hell kind of freak show is this?” My doctor shouted. He stumbled while carrying his satchel and leaning on his cane, sweating and looking in many directions where there were hundreds upon hundreds of people dressed in Renaissance era clothing.
“People from Minnesota and Wisconsin wait eagerly for this event every year,” I said, “It’s their chance to dress up and reenact an era they love.”
“What a bunch of freaks,” My doctor said as he watched a man dressed in purple garb fish a half-eaten turkey drumstick out of barrel trashcan.
“Wait until you try the food,” I said, “and meet some of these people. They are nice folks just having a good time.”
I downed six more Doubleshots while we walked the grounds. We were passing the chess booth, and for some reason after downing over 1,500 milligrams of caffeine, it seemed critical that I partake in a game.
“Five dollars for a game,” said the taciturn man in the booth. “If you defeat me you get a Shrek chess set.” It was a cheap looking plastic set and yet it felt of all importance that I win the set. I paid the man, and I lost the game in ten moves. I quickly lost two dozen more games and was down $125 in twenty minutes. I turned around and my doctor was nowhere in sight. I thought for a second that I might be better off without him and would be able to duck out of paying him the $300 an hour. But no, I recalled that I had already given him the account number on my Cigna Healthcare card.
I wandered about and spotted my doctor wine tasting at a booth. I walked over and sat next to him. Serving wine was a man dressed in what he explained was an Earl of Hartford outfit (a hat with a feather and leggings and puffy sort of funny looking coat). He set a glass of wine down in front of me. If the man had worn his outfit anywhere besides the Festival, he would no doubt be mugged, heckled, and raped. My doctor snatched the wine glass from in front of me and guzzled it down.
I took another Doubleshot out of my coat pocket and slugged that down.
“How is your heart?” My doctor asked.
“It’s thumping a little fast,” I said.
My doctor took my blood pressure again, “175 over 105 with a pulse of 210. That’s a little bit high but nothing to be concerned about.” He downed a dozen glasses of wine and soon became involved in a chair-flying brawl with two other patrons. Law enforcement officials soon dragged away my doctor who screamed, “Filthy swine, I will come back and euthanize all of you!”
I lost sight of my doctor and decided to curtail my caffeine drinking for a few minutes. I wandered the grounds and checked out the wares in the marketplace. There were numerous interesting pieces of pottery, leather, and jewelry. I declined on purchasing anything as they were out of my price range, but I did buy some potato skins and a turkey burger from a food stand.
Overall, the Festival was interesting. My only criticism was the sanitation, which was terrible. There were only portable toilets that stunk with long lines. The sinks were filthy. What disturbed me about this was the question of how did the cooks at the food booths clean their hands.
I left the Festival without locating my doctor. I raced the Dodge Charger out of the parking lot and back up 169 and onto Interstate 35 North toward home. I wanted to try at least one Hunter Thompson type maneuver in the Charger before returning it to the rental agency. I gunned the Charger to 100 mph and decided to test the transmission for stress factors (as Hunter did in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) by taking a controlled drift on a freeway exit ramp without letting go of the accelerator. About quarter way down a cloverleaf ramp, I had second thoughts but it was too late to bring the vehicle down to a proper speed while still maintaining control. I spun the Charger off the ramp and down a forty-foot embankment. With the car bouncing through a thicket of brush, I managed to regain control of the Charger and bring it to a halt against an oak tree. There was a small amount of damage to the front bumper, hood, engine, and windshield. After the smoke cleared, I realized the steering wheel was bent, but all of this damage was negligible.
The fact remained that I was okay and the story would still be told. The story of the greatest event of our time, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Come experience the magic (but bring your own alcohol-based hand cleaner).
Afterward. The car rental company billed ----- Magazine (name still omitted at insistence of my lawyer and magazine’s lawyers) $32,000 for the totaled Charger. My doctor charged Cigna $5,200 for expenses including his bail, court fees, and the $300 per hour for administrating health care. Cigna declined all but $50, so my doctor billed the remaining $5,150 to me, which I in turn submitted to ------ Magazine. My personal expenses for the article were $340, bringing the grand total of said article to $37,490. Also of note, the magazine rejected the article, so I am out the $10 promised upon publication.
Biography: Adam Graupe has been published in magazines in Finland, England, and America. Visit his author's website at: http://adamgraupe.webs.com/