When Ric and I first met he was a 'host' in a AOL (America On Line) chat room. Two of the other hosts were Gerry and Becca who lived in Somerset, NJ. As Gerry was losing his eyesight Becca wanted him to meet as many of the other hosts as he could while he could still see so she organized a gathering for the weekend of August 24 - 26, 2001 to be held at their place. Ric was flying from San Francisco to Newark and, as his flight would be arriving before mine was scheduled to, he would be waiting at the gate when I debarked.
This was the first time that we encountered a new policy where 'visitors' were not allowed to be at the Gate when incoming passengers debarked so I was confused. I looked everywhere for Ric but could not spot him until a young woman approached me and asked if I was Ernie from Toronto? When I acknowledged that I was, she told me that my friend was waiting for me at the top of the ramp. I was happy to see him but that was only the beginning of the puzzles for us to solve. We were to meet a woman from Los Angeles named Janet who had red hair. She had been vacationing in New England and would be flying in from Boston. Beyond the fact that she had 'reddish' hair we had no idea for whom we were looking and, during our search, a number of women with red - or reddish - hair were approached by Ric or I to be asked if she was Janet? Try that some time in a busy airport!
Eventually we found her and then we had to locate the kiosk for the car rental place where Janet had booked a car. In 2001 Newark Airport was undergoing massive renovations and the entire place seemed to be complete chaos. Eventually we found the kiosk and the keys for the car and then began a drive southwest on a freeway which took us to Somerset. Fortunately, once off of the freeway, the address where we were expected was not difficult to locate.
Gerry and Becca had a nice house in a nearly rural area so they had a huge yard most of which was lawn and trees. A large marquee tent had been pitched under some evergreen trees and that was where Ric and I slept for the next two nights.
There were three other guests as well as Ric and I and we were asked to pick what we wanted to do on Saturday. The options were a tour of the Jersey Shore or a nearby Renaissance Faire in the hamlet of Tuxedo Park up in the hills on the New Jersey/New York state line. I had no idea as to what was a Renaissance Faire but I soon found out.
Ric had told me via email that he had purchased a 'renaissance costume' for me to wear (the charm of most of these Faires is that many visitors - along with practically all exhibitors - dressed in medieval costumes). Ric's costume was that of a Cavalier while mine was that of a wealthy French merchant of the Medieval Ages.
We arrived at the same time as a number of others and, while we were all strangers, everybody greeted everybody else - in costume - as old friends. Later, while we were strolling the grounds, we encountered somebody else attired as a Cavalier - a young man from Kingston, Ontario!
We small group of 'pilgrims' in front of the racecourse
The limo was waiting for us when we exited and we were whisked back to Somerset. It was late afternoon by that time and I was sitting at a picnic table writing when I saw motion out of the corner of my eye. Looking up I saw three adult white tailed deer who had been grazing on the lawn. Unfortunately, my camera was in the tent and, as soon as they realized that I had seen them, they leaped away into the neighboring woods.
The next day - Sunday - we left to catch our flights home. When I arrived at the gate the Air Canada flight was already boarding and somebody was sitting in my seat. I pointed out his error to him and he moved to the aisle seat but, out of the blue, he asked me if I was Jewish? Through my mother's side of the family, technically I am so I said so. When we arrived in the Arrivals Hall at Pearson he wanted me to get down on my knees so he could lay a shawl on my shoulders identifying me as another long lost Jew!
I had never been any where near New York City before. When I flew down on the Friday the weather was overcast and I did not see the 'Big Apple' but Sunday was perfectly clear, the aircraft took off towards Staten Island and, once aloft, banked to the left and I saw Manhattan with the Twin Towers still in place - for two more weeks.
Ric had attended a Ren Faire at Vacaville, California where he had met an exhibitor who ran a couple of games on the grounds. I got to go there with Ric the following year and had a riot! The game that Ric had agreed to run during a short shift on the Saturday afternoon was a Rube Goldberg type of affair where a moving object along a wire tripped various signals along the way causing all sorts of crazy things to happen. If the player - usually a child of grade school age - was lucky he/she would win the prize of a chocolate 'dollar' wrapped in gold foil.
The young couple who tended the booth before us were 'very much in love' and did not really attend to the public. Ric and I, however, were very proactive and raked in the largest take that the game's owner had earned in any shift before. Ric was great with the prattle and I kept busy too. Everybody laughed and laughed and we had a ball. Also, there was a trip wire close to where I was and, if the child was not going to be successful, I tripped it so he/she did get the prize. Yes - I was dressed as a French Merchant Prince while Ric was the Cavalier.
At that time there was an annual Renaissance Faire held in a meadow near the northwest Toronto suburb of Milton. One Saturday afternoon I donned my costume and caught a bus out there. Two big letdowns - the first was that the Faire was a couple of kilometers from the highway (most of which I had to walk) - and I seemed to be the ONLY visitor dressed in costume. If I had charged for all the photos of me that were taken, I could have recovered my bus fare!
I still have the costume and have worn it on each of the past two Hallowe'ens with wonderful reactions from friends and strangers alike.