Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fred the Magnificent

I really don't know if anyone ever bothered to name our high school mascot, which is an enormous winged green British dragon, but I believed that he should be called something pithily ordinary, like Fred. I always thought we had the coolest, baddest mascot in the known universe regardless, being a D&D'er, Tolkien fan, and nerd in general. Good-looking dragons, particularly that specific type, are a little difficult to find. Over the years, whenever I've encountered an especially good objet d'whatever of a British dragon, I've bought it.

That's how I ended up with my very own Fred.

Back in my misspent youth, I worked the admissions table for a quarterly new age and psychic fair in the Big City. There's a lot of crossover with the Ren Faire crowd, including vendors, especially in the colder months when outdoor stuff isn't happening; this typically means that someone will pop up with decent dragons. The year that the original promoter sold the show, at his last event, all of the old vendors who'd fallen away to attrition or whatever came back for one final hurrah. With them came an artist who sells "shoulder dragons" at things like Dragon*Con in Atlanta. If you're enough into the Nerd Herd, you know what that means...if not, well, it's sort of like having Jimmy Choo show up to peddle his wares at the local Macy's, i.e., a little out of that league.

I bought two of the dragons; one was purple and orange and just a pretty color, but Fred was a little more loaded with meaning. They weren't cheap, either- if she hadn't been selling them under her usual Con price, I couldn't have afforded one of them, let alone two. Fred is green with glints of gold braid and glitter, our school colors. My older Airedale, Sister, got hold of the orange dragon when she was a puppy and surreptitiously ate it. Fred, however, survived and has sat in a position of honor atop my living room bookcase for about eight years.

If Fred was laid down, his wire ligatures squished flat from nose to tail, he'd be about a foot long. With his head tilted up and his tail crooked, he's probably eight inches or so, and can be about four inches tall if his neck is bent all the way up. Fred is, however, a piece of jewelry, because he's an enormous ornamental pin. I have a lot of jewelry, but Fred is easily the largest piece I've ever owned. I don't wear him a lot.

When I was a junior in high school, we campaigned a friend of mine for state office in Beta Club. I had a life-sized duck hand puppet that I carried around the room bearing campaign buttons and the plastic leis we were giving away with his name spelled out in florets we'd carefully attached with staples. The best reaction to it the whole week was a German exchange student who walked up and asked, "Vas es 'duck'?" (What is duck?) I explained it was to get attention for our candidate, very common in American politics.

Fred has a similar function. At some point this year, he will officially come out of retirement to serve an actual purpose: to draw attention to my high school's band, for which I am currently the alumni representative to the band boosters. For our first performance yesterday, it was just too hot to wear him, so I opted instead for an expensive artisanal dragon pendant I've had for several years, but Fred will be doing his thing when the weather cools down.

If you'll be in South Central Kentucky doing the band circuit this fall, look for a woman with a large green dragon on her shoulder- it's probably me (and Fred).

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