A Cow Palace tradition inspires strange dedication, adult stimulation -- and snappy cravats
But the casual visitor to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair need not adhere to all these strictures, though I did feel très gauche in my jeans and hooded sweatshirt. We spent most of our time in the "unsavory" parts of town where custom dictates glottal stops for words with double t's, and "anyfink" instead of "anything." You find the filthiest drunks thereabouts, not to mention the boozy pub songs of Mad Sal's, and a boudoir photography booth to show off your new spendy corsetry from Hayes Valley's Dark Garden.
Not to mention an absinthe bar (pouring some local brews), hair-braiding salons, an explorer's club, steampunk wonder shows, tarot readers, meat pies, crafts galore — and the happenstance magic of coming across a bunch of Dickensians spontaneously acting out some scene of yore-ness, not because they're being watched by a gawking family but because they really, really like playing out life in Victorian England.
In one such scene, two women were strumming mandolins on the floor, their tiny ankle boots peeking out from voluminous skirts. Around them a perfectly period audience looked on from chairs set against the walls. Even in my slightly dehydrated, deflated state, I could enjoy their dedication to this homey weirdness.
"It's our family holiday. We look forward to celebrating it every year," twinkles Patterson, as I bid adieu to the posh environs of the family parlor. Charles Dickens himself sees me out onto the fake street outside, thanking me for attending his fair.
GREAT DICKENS CHRISTMAS FAIR
Sat/4–Sun/5, Dec.11–12, Dec.18–19;
11 a.m.–7 p.m., $12–$25
2600 Geneva, SF