I'm back from Kalamazoo. The paper went well. I regret not having spent more time with my fellow bloggers, as I got in after the meetup this year (and Vaulting and Vellum, if you're reading this, my deepest apologies for being vague and scattered every time I saw you -- my brain was simply not working correctly).
But, this year produced one truly memorable incident, probably the most memorable of my many Kalamazoo experiences to date, and so it bears sharing:
I was giving my paper, and we had a good roomful of people in the audience. Now, for those of you who have never been, one of the things I like about the Medieval Congress is its lack of exclusivity. Graduate students and independent scholars mix with tenured Ivy League professors, and everyone gets to show off what they're doing. Interested amateurs also are welcome at the conference, so long as they pay the registration fee. I don't think there are a huge number of these in attendance, but since there are a lot of medieval history buffs out there, we probably get more than your average conference.
One such interested amateur was in attendance at the panel I presented at. He was somewhere in his 50s or so, somewhat stout, with a big gray beard. Afterwards, he made a point of coming up to tell me he had enjoyed my paper, which was nice. I knew he was not a professional historian, because the upshot of what he wanted to say (after his general appreciation) was a bit of advice for me. You see, his wife had been a historian (it was unclear whether they were divorced, or she was deceased, or retired), and she had told him that the best material for writing history wasn't found in the public library; you had to go look at things like tax records and such. Really, I'd be amazed at how much you could figure out from these things.
I responded with several polite versions of "That's absolutely true," because really, the comments were well meant. But here's the thing:
He was dressed as a pirate.
Well, maybe "musketeer" would be a better description: He was wearing a leather hat with a big ol' feather in it, a leather vest over white shirt with puffy sleeves, and tall boots with big cuffs. And face it: without a ship in evidence or a parrot on one's shoulder, it's hard to tell whether the swashbuckler that one is facing is land-based or sea-based, right?
Either way, though, this was one for the books.