Kilt Joy

During the week, he's Chuck Feuquay, builder of jails for Sheriff Joke. On weekends, he's Charlie FitzRoi, builder of spoons at Renaissance festivals. Feuquay is politely referred to as a reenactor, and as Charlie FitzRoi, he's one of those folks who gets garbed in 18th-century duds and wanders around a park pretending it's 300 years ago and that Glendale is Edinburgh.

Charlie will be doing just that at this weekend's Arizona Scottish Highland Games, a time-warped carnival-cum-sporting event that will find Mesa Community College's football field festooned with plaid and overrun with guys in pleated skirts. Chuck, who quickly lapsed into Charlie's deep brogue, met me at Kricket's, where Charlie sipped iced tea and I glugged Scotch and had myself a history lesson.

New Times: So, you're wearing a skirt.

Charlie FitzRoi: Nay! Nay, nay, nay, laddie. What I wear and what most of the reenactors wear is a piece of woolen material that's about nine yards long and 60 inches wide. You lie down and wrap it around you. Before the wee kilt was invented in the mid-1700s, you used your kilt as your sleepin' bag, your overcoat. It were more than just a garment.

NT: Nine yards?

FitzRoi: Aye. It's supposed to be five times your height. The plaid that you were wearin' might weigh 27 pounds, and you wore it around your waist while you traveled. When you put it on, you pleat it into pleats that are about the width of your backside. This was popular until the mid-1700s.

NT: So the wee kilt is more like a miniskirt for guys.

FitzRoi: Aye, it's Highland fashion to wear them very short. Which gets a lot of ladies in Edinburgh to blushin', because the hills there are very steep, and the laddies would be walkin' up those hills and embarrassin' the ladies, if you know what I mean.

NT: If they're looking up men's skirts, then perhaps they're not really ladies. So, John Masters wrote, "The kilt is an unrivalled garment for fornication and diarrhea."

FitzRoi: Of course! It's a skirt. The word "skirt" comes from the Norwegian word "kirtle." And a kilt is great because for fornication you just pull it up and do your thing, and it's the same thing for shittin'.

NT: I'll have to try that. Meantime, tell me about the Arizona Scottish Highland Games.

FitzRoi: They'll have the he-men out there tossin' the cabers, and puttin' the stones and doin' all the manly things in their kilts. Then there are great band competitions, Highland dance competitions from around the world. Demonstrations of sheepdogs herdin' live sheep. It's a great place to buy Celtic jewelry, and there are reenactors, and of course there's the fun of Seamus the Insulter.

NT: Seamus the Insulter?

FitzRoi: Aye! You pay Seamus and you tell him who you want insulted, and the lad finds them and sits down with them and proceeds to insult them for a time.

NT: You mean this guy gets paid to insult people? That's terrible! What a horrible way to make a living!

FitzRoi: Aye, and no one can compete with him, laddie.

NT: I'll bet. Now, what's this caber-tossing thing you mentioned?

FitzRoi: Aye, aye. It's like tossin' telephone poles. They have different weights, and you must pick it up, run with it, and toss it so that it will turn once in the air and land in a straight line.

NT: So you're a bunch of guys in plaid skirts throwing telephone poles.

FitzRoi: Aye. The athletes wear a kilt, and heavy shoes and tee shirts. Caber-tossin' clothes, y'see.

NT: Apparently, if you're a Scotsman, it makes you want to throw a lot of heavy things. I notice that the major events in the Highland Games all involve hurling giant rocks and hammers into the air.

FitzRoi: Well, lad, with the stone throwin', I think that came from the fact that there's a lot of rocks in Scotland, and a good way to clear your field was to invite a bunch o' lads over to toss those big heavy rocks into someplace else. And that hammer throw there, aye, a fellow swings it between his legs and throws it over his head to judge his strength, y'know.

NT: Is that what's known as the Highland Fling?

FitzRoi: No, that's a dance, lad! A wild victory dance.

NT: Instead of reenacting Scotland, why not just go there?

FitzRoi: I do! I've been there three times these past six years.

NT: What does a pretend 18th-century Scot do for a living?

FitzRoi: He works for the Maricopa County, in the Capital Facilities Development Department, buildin' Sheriff Joe's jails down at Durango.

NT: And the rest of the time you build spoons.

FitzRoi: Charlie FitzRoi is a treen maker, aye, a fellow who made spoons and ladles. It's an art!

NT: The Scots invented golf.

FitzRoi: That's what they say. Well, they get the recognition for it, in any case. I couldn't say. But you know, laddie, it's not right to say "Scotch" unless you're talkin' about the drink. A Scot is a person, or a Scotsman.

NT: And you're a Scotsman.

FitzRoi: Well, when I'm in character, aye.

NT: And the rest of the time?

FitzRoi: Maybe a wee, wee bit of a Scot. The rest of the time, I'm Mormon French.

NT: Of course you are. And what do you say to people who think that doing this Renaissance thing means you're a total loser?

FitzRoi: So far, no one has ever told me this is peculiar. When people see me in costume, I'm givin' them somethin': history, or a look at me kilt, or a spoon I made. When I tell people what I do, they're fascinated. They see me at the Renaissance Festival, and it's a kind of history lesson. It's all great crack.

NT: I'm sorry?

FitzRoi: In Scotland, havin' great fun is called crack, m'lad.

NT: Speaking of cracks, what are you wearing under that skirt?

FitzRoi: Lipstick, me boy!

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela