I first met Michael Sullivan at a party in in the spring 1976 when he was in the planning stages of building the first Hobbit Hole at the MN Renaissance Festival. I had no idea what a Hobbit was, but I was planning to audition for the MN Renaissance Festival that same summer. We spent the evening talking about the philosophy of Buckminster Fuller, and the mathematics behind the design of the geodesic dome. At the end of the evening he invited me to camp behind his new Hobbit Hole if I got accepted into the show.
I passed the audition, and set-up my tent behind the Festival’s original Hobbit Hole located near the Crown Stage, but I still didn’t know what a Hobbit was. On that first weekend I gleaned that Hobbits were short like my friend Michael, and lived inside a hole in the ground with a round door.
At the time I was living at the family home of Robert M. Pirsig the author of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The house was wall–to-wall books. I was living with Pirsig’s youngest son Ted, who was my best friend from High School, while his parents were off on a sailboat he bought with the royalties from his first book. His second book, Lila chronicles this time that Pirsig was sailing, and I was living at the house.
As soon as I got home from the Renaissance Festival on Monday I asked Ted, “What the heck is a Hobbit?”
Ted pulled JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring off of his shelf and said, “I will let you read it if you mow the lawn first.”
For anyone who knows me, I hate mowing the lawn, but I was outside as fast as I could to start that lawn mower. By the end of the week I had finished the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, plus the lawn looked beautiful, his mother’s garden was completely weeded, and the all the floors were thoroughly cleaned and waxed.
I returned to the Festival the next Saturday with a heightened sense of reality and purpose. That is the day magic became the stock and trade of my life.