Friday, September 9, 2011

Booty: Pyrate Creep

State Fairs are one of the few things that have survived in our highly gadget oriented “I’d rather text you than look at you” world. People still go and slog around in unbearable heat or drenching rain to see farm animals, eat food what only tastes good at a fair and see live shows. While State Fairs seem to have been a hold out for many years, it looks like “performing pirate creep” – as I like to call it – has finally hit the hay bails.

Seeing this article in the Anchorage Daily News last Saturday quite literally brought that home. Evidently the troupe known as “Pirates for Hire” was engaged to entertain Alaskans for the two weeks and three days that our fair was up and running in Palmer. For those of you unfamiliar, Palmer is next door to Wasilla which is where then Mayor Palin married a couple at the local Wal-Mart. As you can doubtless tell by the picture at the header (from their website) “Pirates for Hire” hits all the high notes of our now popular pirate tropes; it’s Disney’s “Jack Sparrow and Friendz” right there in front of you.

While the article does point out that “Pirates for Hire” began doing live shows prior to the release of the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 1999, it sure looks to me like they’ve hitched their yoke to that cash cow. And more power to ‘em; even fake pirates have to pay the bills.

That said, all this business of Pyrates in (fill in the blank) is fun but it hardly lends itself to keeping our ancestors’ memories alive. I’m referring here to all pirates, from black hearts like Francois L’Olonnais to descent men like Renato Beluche and everyone in between. None of them were saints but a lot of what was interesting about them is lost in strings of beads and eye makeup. Not to mention some sub-par fencing. At some point our culture – and if you live in the Americas you probably have an ancestor who was touched in some way by pirates and/or privateers – substituted historical pirates with party entertainers. As I noted it is great fun, but there is a lot lost in translation.

What’s the alternative, you ask? I would offer three I’m familiar with, which is only barely scratching the surface. First, the Historic Seaport ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain who put on mock pirate battles with great authenticity up and down the west coast. Not only are they teaching the ins and outs of daily life at sea, they’re keeping alive the ancient art of seafaring with wind and sail. Then there is my mate Blue Lou Logan, who offers story telling and history lessons all rolled into one, with no need to mention Jack Sparrow or Elizabeth Swann even once. And why should he when we’ve Bartholomew Roberts and Grace O’Malley just as a start?  Last but by no means least, there is the generous and knowledgable Captain Swallow.  The good Captain is one of my oldest and dearest piratical friends.  He and his mates at NOLA Pyrate Week keep the memory of all our histories alive, and for that I cannot thank them enough!

So go enjoy the shows, Brethren.  Then poke around your area for some real pirate history and share that with the little freebooters in your lives.  Lost history is rarely regained; let's see to it that the wonder of this history never has to be found again.


Blue Lou Logan said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Thanks for the shoutout. I have done the pirate troupe thing at Faire, and (personal politics aside) I simply found that dressing up, singing the same half dozen shanties ("All for me grog"...), and doing pretend sword fights just wasn't satisfying. OK, I do miss the blackpowder. But the trial of Bonny and Read, the capture of Teach, and the piracy of "patriot" John Paul Jones are just as entertaining as pretending to have Cap'n Sparrow's swagger...and a whole lot more enlightening. I choose theatrics mixed with education over theatrics alone. So thanks...I'll, um, keep up the good work!

Pauline said...

My pleasure, Lou. As noted, the pirate shows are great fun but what you do is both more authentic and more difficult. Keep at it; sharing your knowlege is very worth while.

Capt. John Swallow said...

As me ol' Uncle used to say, "Well I'll be jiggered!" Many thanks from me and the Quartermaster for the mention!

As it happens, we've a visit this weekend from the lovely Schooner, Pride Of Baltimore II and - in a somewhat less than historical turn - we will also be joining the Hammer City Roller Girls for a bit o' fun as they turn Pyrate for a no booty spared bout on the Pier!

When we're not running NOLA Pyrate Week, we separate fact from fantasy at The Pyrates Image...history can be fun if ye let it!

We raise a tankard to ye and all those who share the knowledge and keep to the code!

Pauline said...

Captain, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you and the QM and all the crew of the Pyrates Union are some of the greatest among us. Thankee indeed for all your insight and dedication; it is truly appreciated.

Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! I like the title of this post. Is that like TMQ's "Unified Field Theory of Creep" or are you saying that these performers are creeps?

And Huzzah for Blue Lou and Captain Swallow! Keep up the good work, mates!

Pauline said...

Absolutely the former and not the latter, Timmy!. The vast majority of the performers I have met personally have excellent intentions, and many times a lot of knowledge if they are asked. So ask 'em, kids; you might learn som'ot while yer havin' fun!

Genevieve Graham said...

Just found out our local pirate festival has been retired, which is sad, sad news, even though it was very much the "Arrr maties" kind of thing. At least it kept people in the mood. Our coast has an excellent pirate history and I hope it's resurrected soon. Then again, here in Halifax, Nova Scotia (New Scotland) even our Highland Games have come to an end (temporarily I hope.)

Pauline said...

I'm sorry to hear it, Genevieve. Even we have our Scottish Festival every spring up here in Alaska and our local Ren Faire cordons off the beer garden as the exclusive domain of the "Pyrates of the Berring Sea" (burrrr!).

You should keep an eye on the goings on at The Pyrates Image. Our mate Captain Swallow is in Ontario which, though I know it's not right next door to you all in NS, is at least somewhat close to home. He may have news of piratical doings in your area (follow him on Twitter for updates).

Charles L. Wallace said...

Ye know, my fave has to be the Fest in Wentzville, Missouri (of all places - completely landlocked!). Fun, aye, and gets one to thinking about piratical history.

My poor friends in Nova Scotia... no pirate fests, and no highland games? That is really sad.

Pauline said...

There are some amazing pirate reinacters all over the place for sure. And I hear you on the NS issue, too. At least there's good fishing off the coast.