American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 2
July, 2005

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 AMN Article, Vol. 25, No. 2  

California Ale 2005 -- The Year of the Wabbit 

Dick Bagwell, meet the Queen of Hearts.

Take the number of tour spectators, subtract those sleeping with or spawned by dancers, divide by the number of hours spent on tour busses. Small total = "Why did we bother?" Bigger number= good Ale! And the 2005 California Ale was very good indeed.

Jointly hosted by FFL (rhymes with "muffle"), Faultline Morris and White Rats Experimental Morris, self-described as the continent's (world's?) premiere gay/pervert/leather Morris team. Not transmittable by casual contact.

Designed the Wabbit's T'Ale, which signifies an ale in NoCal (low fat diet and beverages) as opposed to SoCal (some calories present.) Or North and South California-- the legends differ. SoCal ales have been called "Ducks" from time immemorial, or at least a long time. So the North decided to retaliate, alternating Duck season with Wabbit season. Terminally cute ale names have been a feature of California ales, probably the result of many hours in front of flickering screens large and small, vast quantities of carbonated beverages in youth and heartier foaming ones in "maturity." You could ask presenters of the past. Check visiting hours.

But there is a clear, definitive law: if you put in all the hours and deal with all the headaches required to make one happen, you jolly well get to call it what you please.

The small number of bus hours was due to the camp location at the Headlands Institute. Situated at the northern side of the entrance to the Golden Gate, it's Marin County. Headlands is a former military base, with glorious views of the Gate and San Francisco on the other side, and the ocean, and famous as a hawk flyway. It's well worth a visit without bells on..

The U.S. military has controlled large chunks of prime land in the Bay Area, such as the Presidio of San Francisco, for many years. Initially to protect us from the Confederacy, who were no-shows, then the Japanese, also no-shows, then the Ruskies, also-- but you get the pattern.. But recent years and recent federal budgets have put much real estate to more peaceful uses. Morris dancers seldom, if ever, shoot at people.

So a quick dash across the Golden Gate Bridge and you're in San Francisco, which is to say right in the middle of Tourist Country. SF tourists are easy so spot: blue legs emerging from their shorts, their climactic expectations having been shaped by "Baywatch."

If you go to their gathering places-- The Embaradero, Union Square, Marina Green-- as we did, their only choices are to move on or be Morris spectators. They've paid a lot of money and come a long way to where we confronted them. And besides, it's something else to tell folks back home about. ("I think it was Cinco de Mayo.") There was a nice pub stop in the Castro.

Most of the attending teams were from California of course, with a mixed side assembled from Portland teams, and representatives of Capering Roisters (St..Louis). Berkeley Morris uncorked a truly spectacular show dance for twelve in a wheel formation, with many intertwining heys. It could be called "Berkeley's Busby," if you get the idea. But it's identified as Bledlow Cross. Apparently culled from Roy Dommett's notes, and probably transmogrified. Originally danced to a ragtime tune (Scott lives!), Berkeley made the excellent choice of Siege of Delhi for their tune.

And so to busses and back to the Headlands. In an additional gracious touch Saturday night was designated a no-skit zone. Though some folks did act up.

The Wabbit's T'Ale was a signal success, and as things wound down on Sunday, the usual suspects migrated to the Marin Brewing Co. in Larkspur for more of the same. Everybody was happy.

Dick Bagwell
Squire & Fool
Deer Creek Morris Men
San Francisco Bay

Ed. Note: Many more photographs on the California Ale can be found here, courtesy of Ethan Hay.

 AMN, Vol. 25, No. 2, July 2005  ISSN: 1074-2689