January 4, 2015


The Truth about Pirates



So anyway, a brand new full moon arose over the Island as we all sailed into another year. Now is the time to put aside the past year's disappointments and make a few resolutions. Denby resolved to drink a little less. The Editor resolved to drink a little more. Larry resolved to eat more cheese. Rev. Howler of Adelphian Iglesia del Luz de los Cajóns de Estacionamiento del Mundo resolved to make more money out of this cash cow he had going with the entertainment club he passed off as a "church".

Sabine, the Buddhist nun, resolved to be more mindful. And forgive and try to understand hapless people like Eugene who had fallen in love with her. Fe Corpuz resolved to be a little more devout. Her friend Mona resolved to help her be a bit more earthly.

Mr. Howitzer resolved to get more money and pay less in taxes -- same resolution for him as last year.

pirates of a certain type have developed cachet

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their annual New Year's Eve Ball at the Parlor hall again. David rigged up a glowing disco-ball and set it to fall from the top of the main mast to Wally's schooner. Actually Wally's 20 footer had no masts to speak of, so he rented the restored 18th century brigantine that people could charter for excursions and for use as a privateer during pirate festivals. One would think pirate festivals were a thin way to make a living, but ever since Jack Sparrow appeared pirates of a certain type have developed cachet. Not real pirates like they have in the Malaysian islands or off the coast of Somalia. Those pirates have no pizzazz. They don't carry parrots around and go, "Arrgh, me maties!" or say colorful expressions like, "Heave ahoy and blow yer lubbards to windward! Avast abeam and starboard ya luffin' gunwale davit!"

Indeed now that pirates of the Spanish Main have got game, everybody is looking into the family tree in hopes there was a Bluebeard snatching the petticoats off of proper French ladies, when in the past, this sort of thing was kept under wraps and never told to the children.

Kids, of course, love the idea of pirates, because pirates get to swear a lot and go late to bed without brushing their teeth. Furthermore nobody ever demands that a pirate each all of the brussel sprouts on the plate. In fact, pirates don't eat vegetables at all. Pirates eat massive turkey legs and poltroons, which are probably a kind of candy, and hamburgers with french fries.

Try as he would, Mr. Howitzer could find no evidence of any English pirates in his family tree. There were a few robber barons who formed part of the railroad octopus, but nobody had ever gone to sea that he could find.

As it turned out both Mr. Larch and Ms. Light had pirate ancestors. So to did Luther, however his family was presently decent and law-abiding and they did not respect this distant relative who had plagued the Mediterranean Barbary Coast. That man, known as "Lashing Leroy", wielded a bullwhip ten feet long in battle and was known to be a rake and a scoundrel to the all the ladies between the south of France and North Africa. He was something of a black sheep, but Luther felt secretly a little pleased that one of his family had terrorized the same people who had enslaved so many others.

she made the men start taking baths

Unlike many pirates, Lashing Leroy got out of the piracy game in good time with his neck still attached to his shoulders, for he captured a woman from Ethiopia who proved to be such an excellent cook that the ship's crew persuaded the captain to retain her services instead of tossing her overboard for fishbait. It wasn't long before she was sleeping in the captain's cabin and not long after that she became the First Mate to succeed Old Firepants who got blown right off the ship during a nasty run-in with a British man of war. Once she became First Mate, she made the men start taking baths, wearing clean underwear, and dressing in something other than rags -- which meant that many of them started wearing uniforms taken from officers of captured ships. Then she had them pay heed to keeping the ship so tidy and well swept that when a French man of war on the lookout for pirates examined them via spyglass, they were taken for an English military vessel, and so were left entirely in peace.

It was while moored near Tunis that she rechristened the ship's name from the Tsunami to Poesy Bucket.

So it was the ship sailed around the West African point to stop at Lagos, where Betty forced Leroy to marry her in an English missionary chapel. Shamed by these outrageous acts of propriety, as well as the crinoline-draped gunwales and all the lace doilies, and especially the toy poodle named Wow Wow picked up in Tunis, the crew mutinied and departed the harbor without the First Mate or the Captain who stood with his bullwhip drooping on the wharf as his ship left the harbor to return to its old ways. There was a little splash and sure enough a white head could be seen dogpaddling to the wharf, where the rather sodden Wow Wow pulled her self up by her front paws. The crew had simply tossed her overboard.

Leroy wanted to get another ship, but Betty would have nothing to do with this kind of nautical life. The last voyage Lashing Leroy made was aboard an emigrant ship that brought them to free state Boston Harbor, and from there the three traveled via many adventures until they came to the new Zion of Utah Territory where they had many, many children on the frontier, who dispersed themselves like flower seeds across the country. Leroy eventually died an old man in his bed, which is unusual for a pirate.

As for the crew of the Bloody Outhouse, formerly Poesy Bucket, nee' Tsunami, that ship was set upon off the coast of Libya by Portuguese warships and overwhelmed. The new officers were hanged, while the remainder were transported to serve hard labor on the then rocky Azores and the ship was sunk.

In the Old Same Place Bar, someone asked Padraic why there were no famous Irish pirates. The rest of the crew there were intent on the horse races starting up out at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

Padraic and Dawn both had to exclaim that quite to the contrary, there had been several notorious Irish pirates, starting with Edward Seagar, who changed his name to Edward England, because nothing to an Irishman was so vicious and bloodthirsty sounding as the sound of that hated name.

Then it was Dawn who referenced the Bonny Anne Cormac, who like many wild Irish girls simply could not stay quiet and demur on the plantation. Her mother had been a servant to Bill Cormac and when their affair came out, they fled County Cork for the American city of Charleston, where Anne got bored. So she married James Bonny, a basic ne'er do well and occasional pirate. Once again Anne fled, this time to the Bahamas after burning down her father's plantation. Here, again, Anne got bored of her husband who had turned to rather humdrum business of con jobs and narcing.

She then fell for a guy because of his pants, a certain Calico Jack. They ran off together after a bit of trouble with the husband, and the romantic duo turned to privateering. During one foray Anne desired to "have her way" with a fair-looking sailor but discovered in her room that the sailor was a woman named Mary Reade.

The two became great friends and they robbed and plundered with zest until, as with all pirate ships, they were captured by an English warship when the male crew hid below decks to avoid the withering cannonfire, leaving the two women to fight alone.

The survivors were all hanged, save for the two women. Mary Reade died in prison and Anne was released to sign a contract with Walt Disney Studios in 1721. Not many people know this.

Then of course, there was the most fabulous Irish pirate of all time, The Sea Queen of Connacht, Gráinne O'Malley. She inherited the large sea trading business started by her father, but soon turned her resources to other means. It seemed logical to here that since Galway collected taxes on ships that traded there, she as chieftain of the O'Malley clan had perfect right to do so as well. Naturally some captains refused this taxation, to which O'Malley responded with what may be termed "excessive force."

She lived quite a long time, exacted terrible punitive revenge on land and sea for offenses against her and her lovers, and in a moment rare for a pirate, after some relatives of her were captured, she sailed to England and was brought in audience to meet Queen Elizabeth, before whom she refused to bow as she felt the Queen had no lawful jurisdiction over Ireland. She did, however, surrender the dagger found under her bodice during the meeting with the Queen. There O'Malley negotiated with the Queen for the release of her relatives, the removal of a particularly odious English governor of Connacht, and the return of property she considered to have been stolen from her lands in exchange for ceasing all rebellious activities.

Her relatives were released, but the property retained and so was the English Governor, and so she returned to supporting the rebellious Irish Lords. She passed away of natural causes about the same time as Elizabeth, having caused about as much trouble as she could during her time. For which the Irish are very proud to have had her as one of their own.

"So you see," Dawn said. "The best of Ireland has always been the women in it. Ain't it right, Padraic?"

Padraic paused a bit, thinking hard, before saying, "It would be fatal to disagree."

"Righ'," Dawn said.

Just then the horn blew and the horses launched from the gate for the last of the trifecta at Golden Gate Fields. They were off on the first set of races for the New Year and the full moon hung overhead to gleam on it all, the dew and the sweat and the challenge.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their towers bedecked with holiday lights, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to the unknown future.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.