Scene from The Cable Guy
Before entering the faux-castle walls of Medieval Times, I have a brief premonition that my life will change forever. For better or worse, it’s undecided. It’s my friend Steve’s 32nd birthday, which is not necessarily a milestone year, but his choice to celebrate at the famous dinner theater in Orange County adds a level of profundity to the situation. My wife and I could turn back now, keep on living our lives—tell Steve that we got in a car crash and died or something—or we could enter the castle walls.
We enter the castle walls.
A woman whose job it is to place a paper crown on your head greets us. All the women at Medieval Times are vaguely subservient, so accepting this sexist display of reverence feels weird, and I wonder if I should just ask to put on the crown myself or—better yet—outright refuse the paper crown because, after all, I’m a grown-ass man.
But, nope. Not at Medieval Times, I’m not. I wear the paper crown, and despite the strange feeling of infantilization that comes with it, I’m suddenly imbued with a sense of royalty. A faux-Shakespearean lilt enters my speech. I feeleth thine former self begin to slip away.
We enter the arena. My God, why have I never dined in an arena before? It’s beautiful. The mass of bodies—sunburnt from their Southern Californian vacations—awaits us. A man greets us, introduces himself as a humble servant—a man who does not quite grasp the Olde English as well as I do—leads us to a section that coincides with our crowns. Hark! The Green section! Obviously the best section in all the land.
“Your wish is my command,” the servant says. “Would you like Pepsi, Diet Pepsi or Sierra Mist?” I ask for—nay, demand!—water. Then we ask for beer. Our servant says there will be a bartender coming around shortly to take our drink orders. But… I commanded thee, I think.
We look down our row and see Lord Steve. He’s waving a flashing, light-up sword that someone has bought him for his birthday. It’s possible he’s already a few meads in.
The lights go down, and the arena fills with smoke. Majestic, white horses emerge onto the playing field and, for a moment, I can’t remember whether I’ve ever seen a horse in my life, and that’s how I cheer.
The servant returns with two pitchers of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. We remind him that we ordered water. “Oh, yes,” he says. In our past life, this would be an annoyance, but the disparity of competence is emboldening. It reinforces our royalty. Ah, my poor servant, I think. Your obliviousness amuses me. Now, be gone with you.
Lord Chancellor—the king’s advisor, who also serves as the MC—emerges onto the playing field. “Welcome… to Medieval Times,” he bellows. Shivers run up my spine. His accent is remarkable. His words sound as if roared by a lion (a lion that watched a lot of Laurence Olivier performances).
Lord Chancellor introduces the knights that will fight on behalf of the respective sections. Each knight rides out on a highly disciplined steed. They show off their control of these beasts, forcing them to leap, dance and perform some majestic “trot in place” move. Obedient squires follow and shovel the horses’ waste. I refer to them as Shit Boys for the rest of the night because that’s the kind of royalty and power I now wield.
The servant returns with the Pepsi pitchers. “Oh yeah,” he says before we can even protest again. He returns a third time with the water. I quench my hearty thirst.
The Green Knight rides near our section. Pride swells in my heart. He’s stoic, chiseled and composed, and I feel justified in objectifying this human specimen for my entertainment needs. He holds his fist up and our section—the Green section—cheers. A bartender walks by and I demand mead. “IPA, please.”
The king emerges on a platform that looms over the arena. “The feast is served!” he announces, and an army of serfs marches out to trumpet-heavy music, holding trays of roasted chickens. A huge piece of meat drops onto my plate, nearly obscuring it. Grease drips from the fowl as I tear into it.
In the arena, the knights perform feats of cunning and strength. They throw javelins from speeding horses and try to put blunted rods through miniscule rings. The Green Knight is the only one who misses, and I question my allegiance to him. I tip back my plastic mead cup. Farther down our row, Steve pumps his sword in the air. By the time Red Knight defeats the scar-faced villain, my head feels heavy from the grog. Such wizardry! I think. Hoppy, dank wizardry.
When we leave, my knighthood sheds off like the roasted chicken skin left on my plate. Was it but a dream? I wonder. Then, I look at the grease on my fingers. That shit will stick around for days—a reminder of my bravery.