Friday, September 9, 2011
Booty: Pyrate Creep
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.