WILD PIRATES. Part Four. Bourbon Street Stockings


It was late  Tuesday night and I slumped drunkenly on the sidewalk. My feet rebelled carrying me further. Blisters grew and bruises spread there was no longer solace in the insoles. The lot of us marched for miles navigating the netherwordly nighttime streets of the Haunted New Orleans Pub Crawl. Flat feet, three dollar thrift-store buckle shoes, and  four dollar pitchers of PBR at every port left this poor pirate lass wishing for the quiet comfort of a little campsite in the bayou. But this beaten band of brigands wasn’t going anywhere.

Larry Sparrow, the infamous Cincinnati Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator, my long-time best mate and drinking partner the fearsome Captain Mad Anne Dandy and I Bloody Lynne Flynnt were just three brave souls striking out against The Big Easy. The Crescent City. A pirate convention, nay two pirate conventions, converged in New Orleans that year…

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WILD PIRATES. Part Three. Volunteer Day

“Bloody Lynne, wake up.” MAD mumbled outside my tent.

“Mumph,” My voice was muffled by a mouthful of pillow. “Areyouserious?” I whined with great consternation. The raucous song of all those infernally nocturnal animals was hardly the lullaby needed for sleep. I finally reached that magical land behind my eyelids when it all faded entirely from view. They sang throughout the night, chattering, chuckling, and burrowing beneath the ground around me.

“Yeah, I am.” She answered sullenly, hearkening me back to the bleak reality of morning. “We have to be at the bar in an hour. Big day.”

“I’m up.” I pulled my head out of the pillowcase, donned my fuzzy blue bathrobe and dragged myself out of the tent. Stuffed in one pocket was an energy drink and the other a breakfast bar. The two of us boldly trekked to the head to get ready. It was Volunteer Day.

As part of the Con our crew signed up to help rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward. We met at the pub at 6:30 in the morning as scheduled. The earliest I have been at a bar before, ever. Especially on a Monday morning. There was an interesting array of us assembled, ready and wiling to work. There was a folk band from Canada, proprietors of a pirate magazine, and an affable couple from California. The crew caravanned to headquarters. Lowernine.org, a non-profit organization allows volunteers to plant neighborhood fruit-bearing trees and help rebuild homes destroyed in the hurricane. There they sanctioned us off into teams and we were each handed a shovel and a map. Like pirates on a treasure hunt, only we were planting trees and not digging for gold we marched in step six abreast down the sun-baked streets with shovels slung over our shoulders. Our shirts matched. A few people asked what we were up to as we passed through the poorly populated parish. “You know, volunteering, planting trees, being pirates.” We’d answer cheerfully and gave them the information to the organization so they too could have their own fruit bearing trees which were already there when we arrived. There was roughly five of them in total. All we had to do was dig the designated holes and give them a home. For some of us, this was the most manual labor we had in while, myself included, having a desk job at a college publication. Then it was on to the next house. We got more than what we signed up for at the last stop. The lady recanted her life story as we planted her trees. We also hauled some rubbish to the roadside and the dumped stagnant water from her truck-bed compartment. In turn for our hard work she offered to give us a ride back to base. Seated on the wheel-well, I held on for my dear life. Mud and the dregs of dirty brown water sloshed and the shovels slid and smacked at our feet. We were launched on a torpedo tour of the Lower Ninth Ward. Sightseeing as we rocketed down the road, I was making friends with my buddy in the back of the truck, the one with the horns super-glued to his forehead. “This guy, he’s still talking,” I said to myself in wonderment, desperately trying to hear him over the rush of the wind and the screech of the tires. This guy was all right. The truck jostled and jumped. Any sense of direction was lost. Even after trekking through these very streets all morning there was no telling where exactly our driver was taking us. Not back to headquarters. Left turn, right turn and so on. Then we came to a skidding stop. Bodies and shovels collided and all conversation ceased. Before us stretched a great green mound and behind it the murky outline of the Mississippi River. Something some of us have only heard about, but have never actually seen. Not from this angle. Up close and in person. We sat there a second in silence until someone said the word “levee.”

“Its not a levee that broke, but you get the idea.” Our driver and tour guide said. “Go on have a look.” The volunteers disembarked on shaky legs from the vehicle and climbed up to get a better view of the busy port. Standing on top, one can only imagine a structure like that bearing the brunt and breaking under the sheer brute of nature. The landscape swallowed by so much water. We nodded in agreement and made our solemn descent to the vehicle and headed back to base.

At Lower Nine headquarters there was but a brief reprieve in between work. They fed us sandwiches, offered us a place to sit a spell and sent us back to work. Laying sheet-rock and slowly rebuilding houses that were still abandoned. Psalms and bible verses were scrawled on the exposed framework in permanent marker acting like wards and charms against further tragedy; an indelible addition to the infrastructure.

It was late afternoon when they no longer needed our services and the volunteers were set free. Sore, sweaty, dirty, wretchedly smelly and undoubtedly exhausted the three of us headed back to the bayou. Sadly, after such a hard day’s work there was only a matter of hours to regroup, shower, rustle up some dinner and a costume change before the next big event. Not enough time for a nap. It was the first time that two Curvy Dogs from Central New York and a Cincinnati Captain Jack Sparrow would make our piratical debut. For some strange reason, I had a nagging anxiety about the whole ordeal. Poised to enter and be counted among our kind I couldn’t help but wonder what if we weren’t accepted? Then I thought for second, we’re pirates for fuck’s sake, and we bravely boarded the bar. My fears were unfounded, washed overboard by the obscene amazement of $4 pitchers of PBR and a California-based pirate rock band called The Pirates Charles. It was lust at first sight. Once again drunk and overly stimulated I tossed and turned inside my tent. Sleep was still elusive.

WILD PIRATES. Part Two. Recon and Surveillance

Bar, strip club, bar, bar, bar, voodoo shop, cafe, bar, bar, bar, strip club, bar, restaurant, bar. Bourbon Street lay before us in all of its wet and well-tred glory. Throngs of partying pedestrians armed with grenades, and plastic cups spilled on to the streets. Music blared from every doorway. Buskers and brass-bands littered the sidewalks. We rolled down the road at barely 5 mph plodding through the foot and carriage traffic. Eyes wide and heads practically pressed against the window glass we were overstimulated and desperately searching for a place to park. It was all I could do to resist the urge not to run madly into the fray. This was Mecca, this was Valhalla, this was Babylon. I got my wish. The parking garage was cash only. Someone had to run out and hit up an ATM machine. “We’ll drive around the block and-” Our wheel-man Larry Sparrow never finished his sentence when the door slammed shut behind me. I ran into the fray, blending into the Bacchanalia.

We reconvened at the parking garage, Larry Sparrow sported an oversized sombrero. “Where did that come from?” I asked in wonderment.

“Over there.” He pointed to an empty parking spot.

“I love this place!” I still reeled from my solo excursion.

The three weary travelers clung to to the shadowed side of the street, shying away from the sun. We dodged and weaved winding our way through the thick pedestrian traffic. Multiple layers of music clamored in our ears. “Should we keep walking or-” Larry Sparrow never finished his sentence.

“Barrrrrgh” The two Curvy Dogs madly interrupted, we were perilously parched, wired tired and far too frazzled for senseless sober walking. Sadly, if we set out in costume, we would have never found refuge in the nearest drinking establishment, especially with Cininnati’s finest Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator in our midst. He’d be stormed by women in seconds. Suddenly swept up in a sea of screaming fans, followed by a flurry of photos. “Oh my god! It’s Johnny Depp!” they’d all shout while MAD and I would wait on the sidelines for the first wave to pass. Then we’d be free to take a couple of steps further before the second wave rolls in and so on.

Under-dressed and therefore unnoticed, we sidestepped inside as swiftly as possible . It took a couple of minutes adjust from the harsh light to the dark interior of The Funky Pirate. When I could see I couldn’t believe what I beheld. “Dollar shots! Of Pirate’s Revenge?!” There it was, an illuminated sign on the wall. A brilliant beacon beckoning us to drink.

As the afternoon wore on, this town looked more and more like a place I’d want to call home. Body and mind were greased and eased by live Delta River Blues, rum, gin, some sweet drink that Larry Sparrow sipped, and quite a few those vengeful grape-favored shooters. After an indeterminate amount of time, we landed once more on the street absolutely astonished to see the sun sink. “Dollar shots! Get your dollar shots of Pirates Revenge!” The day’s allotment of alcohol left our companion MAD harassing passers-by, brandishing the sign she stole from the guy whose job it was to sit outside the bar holding it. “Dollar shots! You know you want to drink them! You must!” She shouted like a pretzel vendor at a Ren Faire. Her enthusiasm was admirable. After about ten or so minutes of harassing and pulling patrons into the nearly empty bar, we made our weary weaving walk back to the parking garage. The bayou was waiting for us.

Hey, this isn’t that bad at all, I mused as I rolled out the bedrolls and settled into my tent for an early night. We had a long and work-filled day ahead of us; sleep was of the utmost importance. Luckily, the previous night’s panic and paranoia dissipated entirely. We survived the first full day. We were fine, and I laughed at myself for thinking otherwise.

“Listen to those animals,” I thought aloud hearing the bayou awaken. The still evening air filled with nature’s nocturnal cadence. All around us, beasts chuckled, chirped, and brushed up against the tent. The incessant high-pitched hum of a mosquito swarm and a chorus of coyotes resounded out of the darkness. “Listen to those animals…”