WILD PIRATES. Part Seven. Sixes and Sevenses

Saturday morning there was no wind left. Sixes and Sevenses, my mind and body set adrift in a still unmoving sea. It was a wonder I made it back to the RV. I woke up after a lucid dream of sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a bar. “I think I actually slept last night.” I remarked, not that it was doing me any good. It was rough.

“I didn’t” Kamikaze grumbled. “You were snoring.” Our stowaway was still there.

“I don’t normally snore.”

“You do when you’re drunk.” MAD had to agree since I spent many nights passed out on the longboat of the flagship of the Curvy Dogs. That couch was like my third home in my second home.

“I have to go to work.” Kamikaze said.

“You mean the stripper café?” In the sparse words we exchanged around the time I was planning to sacrifice her, I recalled the strip cub she worked at happened to have the same name of a diner we ate breakfast at early Wednesday morning. If ever there was town that a stripper/café could call home it would be New Orleans. A nutritious breakfast, complete with scrambled eggs, hotcakes and a lap dance. Larry Sparrow obliged to drive her while MAD and I prepared to face the day’s obligation of vending. We raided the RV for our belongings but found it impossible. The place was trashed. When our Jack Sparrow impersonator returned we departed leaving behind our sleeping host. While we closed the door behind us, I pocketed a couple dollar bills that scattered in the doorway, feeling I would need those later.

As it turned out in our absence, we only made five dollars at our booth. For most of the morning I was barefoot and still in my pajamas. My feet were too swollen for the pair of accursed shoes and I lacked the mental capacity to find any decent pirate clothes. I wasn’t hung-over just utterly brain dead. A garish bruise the size of my foot blackened the length of my thigh; a sheen of saliva grew sticky in my cleavage. Something was growing on the corner of my lips, which luckily turned out to be a pimple considering the fact that according to MAD I treated last night’s pirating expedition as if it was Fleet Week. I was motor-boated by everyone. We crashed the Dead Pirate Ball. I vaguely remember getting us kicked out of the RV hot tub at the end of the night and MAD griping about having to be everyone’s handler. At one point, Larry Sparrow even went missing. My current condition was very different from last night’s revelry; the godless town had chewed me up and shat me out. I looked like it and probably smelled like it too. When asked how I was faring, all I could muster was a weak deflating noise for there was not even enough wind left to properly sigh.

The mood shifted among our immediate crew. Despite the sun, dark clouds gathered overhead heralding a storm. I clung to the shadows of upstairs deck avoiding the blistering heat as Larry Sparrow and I stepped outside for a cigarette break. “I can’t believe I had to hear it from her. Who is that Kamikaze bitch anyway?” Apparently, en-route to the strip club she let Larry Sparrow know all the dirty details of a drunken discussion that she had with MAD after I passed out. I could tell he had been stewing all afternoon on it like salt rubbed into a wound. He looked great though, dressed immaculately as Jack Sparrow, and when the time warranted it, he never broke character. I couldn’t gather the energy to form coherent thoughts let alone deal with the ensuing drama but I admired his relentless professionalism.
“I dunno man. I thought she was bad news. Take it with a grain of salt.”

Days passed before I saw the bayou and I could only imagine what happened in our absence. My traveling companions made the trip back earlier in the week and returned with grave news. My tent was demolished in Tuesday night’s storm. At least the car was still intact, I feared for its welfare as well.

Driving through the familiar State Park lane we sniveled on the phone to Pearly Hawkins Hooke. “We’re so tired. We’ve had enough, we’re ready to go home- Oh! Look it’s an armadillo!” Our tale of woe was immediately interrupted as the fabled creature crossed the campsite road. Somehow, for that second it seemed to make everything better. All we wanted to see on this trip was an armadillo, a live one preferably, and perhaps if we were lucky an alligator- at a safe distance of course. “Is that it? It looks like a scaly opossum,” I curled back up in the back seat and closed my eyes, desperately trying to sleep before we reached our quarters. My tent was unzipped. I could my next door neighbors on the other side. The cloth was shredded, dry rotted and ripped wide open from the wind or the deadly claws of some creature. It was over ten years old. The ground around it was littered with even more holes. Everything else looked as we left it. Something swept over me I hadn’t felt in an awful long time: a sense of peace. We successfully escaped the insanity and cast off into our own secluded corner of the country to gather our bearings. Grateful, I was finally able to expand my lungs and breathe deeply. I lit a cigarette, inhaled the mild gulf air, coughed and vomited.

“Did you just sea cucumber?” MAD asked and it was a perfectly viable question and an old Curvy Dog term reserved for especially rough mornings. Sea cucumbers expel their guts, just as I did.

“Yeah,” I choked down water.

“But you didn’t drink anything, well just that one beer.”

“It was the cigarette.” I whimpered. “I can’t smoke anymore.” This was the first time I puked all week. My mates and myself included expected to see me splatter the sidewalks long ago.

“Are you sure you want to go back out?” She asked though there was no choice in the matter. After all, it was Bourbon Street, and it had this crew by our balls.

“Yes.” I cleared my throat and straightened my back. Despite everything, I had too much pride to let the that town win, “just let me find pants.” At that point, even the simple task of finding a change of clothes proved to be impossible. Our belongings were scattered senselessly: blouses, bodice strings, belaying pins, and blunderbusses lost to the depths of New Orleans. I was going to have to go as is. I was lucky if I could find my shoes. “Where are me shoes, me noggin’ noggin’ shoes. They have all gone have all gone for beer and tobacco. I’m sick in me head and I haven’t been to bed and across the western ocean I must wander…” I sang as I dug them out of the tent and stuffed my feet into the beastly things. The jumbled lyrics to the old shanty were all too true. We were pirates, all right, living the fucking dream. We said goodbye to the armadillos and left the bayou, leaving behind our little bit of solitude for the cacophony of the French Quarter.

“This is getting tedious,” MAD muttered through gritted teeth. Noisy streets clotted with people, she and I stepped aside and glanced back at Captain Jack, as he disappeared from view. Suddenly swallowed by a crowd. “Oh my god!” Women wailed. We were pretty much used to it at this point. But our patience was short. The Curvy Dogs had enough. I sighed and leaned doggedly against the wall and immediately leaped foreword startled.

“What just happened?” MAD asked.

“I leaned against the gutter pipe and it shook, like it was going to fall off the wall. We should step over this way…” Before I could cause further damage we reclaimed our lost compatriot and headed steadily into the thick of things.
“We’ll find our friend stay for a little, get our shit back, and get the hell out. I’m not drinking, tonight. I don’t think I can. “ MAD confessed.

“He’s too drunk,” She reported back, after a scouting mission to find the man who had our bedding and belongings at the RV Park. “He’s harassing people and threatening them with his rifle. We’re not sleeping there tonight. This sucks.” It looked it was back to the bayou for us, with or without bedding. We happened upon our misanthropic pirate radio DJ mate Bilgemunky seated on a bar stool charged with babysitting our belligerent host. He had taken away his gun and looked to us to take the man off his hands. I shook my head, “we’ve been here for nine days.” I growled, my way of saying I lacked the patience to deal with him. “Bully in the Alley, just let him go,” I said leaning in close, “you don’t have to be responsible for him… but we will take that rifle off your hands. I do love this gun.” With his rifle slung over my shoulder and the money I pirated off him earlier that morning I set out to find cheap booze.

“You know what I’m going to with you.” I heard his all too familiar drawl as he followed MAD and I out. We stopped dead in our tracks. I raised his rifle as I turned to face him, pressing the butt hard against his shoulder. “Absolutely fucking nothing,” I spit and sneered. He found it endearing that I was defending myself until he saw the look in my eyes and turned to wander off into the night. It was the last we ever saw of the man. Our stowaway Kamikaze, on the other hand, we couldn’t shake so easily.

WILD PIRATES. Part Six. The One True Pirate

Our Captain had taken a fancy to the man. We went back to his RV on her behalf to deliver a six-pack of The Curvy Dogs’ home brewed beer and a small special bottle of rum. She wrapped the package up, tucked it in a pouch for safe travel, and charged me with its delivery. “Tell him I got the pouch from a dead priest, the rest of his things were too covered in blood. So, this was all I could get,” Captain Pearly Hawkins Hooke said before my departure, “he’ll know what I mean.”

“That’s such a cute story. Don’t worry I’ll tell him,” I assured our Captain and we regretfully said our goodbyes. If she had chosen to go to New Orleans with us, things would have turned out quite differently.

Trying to find Pirates’ Alley was like trying to find Neverland. Pyratecon was gearing up and somewhere out there, pirates and privateers, brigands and buccaneers from all over the country were beginning to congregate. We circled the French Quarter for what felt like miles. We’d finally have a chance to encounter some of our mates face to face and not a photo on a profile page or name on a pirate radio chat site. We found out we were in over our heads as we later set out on our goodwill mission

“You know what I’m gunna do with you?” He got in my face.

“I’m a member of the press. People will know if you do anything.” I drunkenly challenged him and hid behind my boss’s camera; quickly snapping “photographic evidence” of the corner of the dinner table as I precariously backed away from his advances.

“I’m a true pirate,” he grumbled in a gravelly drunken drawl. His breath smelled of rum and absinthe. I chanced a glance at my surroundings. The girl was gone, passed out in his bed. She was the fortunate one, our little stowaway. Lucky bitch was unconscious comfortably oblivious with what MAD and I were forced to deal with. Somehow we ended up spending the night at an RV resort behind the overpass. Two Curvy Dogs verses the One True Pirate. Unfortunately, Captain Jack Sparrow was occupied elsewhere dealing with AAA after the keys were locked the car. The crew brew was long gone, so was the rumsinthe and we started on his wares. We found ourselves treading treacherous waters. I desperately needed sleep but was afraid of what might happen if I did. We were with someone we only just met in person, an alter ego in a chatroom. We knew nothing of the man and there was no telling what he would do if we let our guard down. If worse comes to worse, I thought of our stowaway, best to offer her up before any of us dies. The word Kamikaze was tattooed across her chest. Naturally, I was preparing her for sacrifice. Wait, that’s murder, I balked. How could I think such a thing. She’s a human being… Think of the headlines…

“You know what I’m gunna do with you?” He persisted, swaggering ever closer. “Don’t get me blood up.” He drawled and growled. I was running out of room in the RV. Face to face with a rogue, a true pirate, and I completely folded. I’m nothing more than a damned Disney pirate, a big fat fake. Tears welled up and my chin quaked.

“You need a cigarette outside.” MAD stepped in between us, and I was never more glad to have such a true friend. I nodded, screwing up my face, “I’m sorry.” I whispered, most of this mess may have been my fault. Somebody could die tonight. Risking one last glace towards the bedroom, just to make sure, I stepped outside to get a better handle on reality.

Reemerging a few minutes later, I found my brave mate engaged in deadly game. Drinking The One True Pirate under the table, taking shots of scavenged alcohol from the wreckage of our party. He had to pass out sometime she was trying to speed up the process. Foolhardily, I joined them. One slug, two slugs and so on. Time wore on it became perfectly clear, we’d run out of beer before he’d even flinch. I wasn’t doing so well. Bobbing and wobbling I burped up foam, and finally broke. “I can’t take it anymore! Its not working! And how are you still standing!” I turned to MAD, then it hit me all at once. “You were faking.” MAD nodded. Defeated, I slumped into the fold out bed, and looked wearily out the window. A pinkish hue tinged with lavender grew over the Vieux Carre. The color was quite lovely. “Is that the sun?” I asked. The madness stopped for a second. Those unlucky enough to remain awake turned to gape. It was Friday morning in the French Quarter. I sank into the blankets and hugged The One True Pirate’s prized rifle as it lay beside me for protection and moral support. “I think it’s time we get some sleep. We have a big day today.”

The sun reached it’s zenith and was well on its decent by the time we were ready to greet the day. We missed not one but two parades and wholly neglected our vending venture. Our rogue host graciously served us breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, grapes and orange juice. He acted as if the last night’s indiscretion never happened. By the time we showered and got somewhat situated it was nearing five in the afternoon. After a good days sleep and food, the RV park shower was like stepping into Narnia. Feeling refreshed I joined MAD where she waited soaking her feet in the Jacuzzi. “We really should move down here,” I had no idea what made me say that, apparently I bounced back fast from last’s woes and was surprisingly itching to hit Bourbon Street again. Ready and more than willing to take up residency.

“I dunno,” MAD said after admitting she was thinking the same thing, “I love it here, but you know how I get in the sun. I might just burst into flames and you…” she didn’t even have to finish that statement.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, I might end up like that one guy at that bar who said he was born and raised behind a bag of potato chips.” His Star Trek tattoo was the nexus of the universe.

“We should get going,” MAD said after we had a good laugh, “they’re probably wondering where we went.” The sun sank and the low grumble of music and voices rose as the nocturnal beast of Bourbon Street awakened. Heeding the call, we had no choice but to lace up our bodices, hike up our stockings, stuff our weapons in our belts, and face whatever madness barreled toward us. Larry Sparrow donned his Captain Jack gear. As we dressed up, I dropped my double-barreled boarding–pistol knocking the flintlock clean off. I was sober. Our host gave me his deck-sweeper, a very fine piece with considerable heft and suspicious red stains on the butt of the blunderbuss. I didn’t deserve something so pretty, let alone be trusted with it while inevitably getting paralytically drunk. Then again, as a pirate, I never felt right without a weapon. What was Bloody Lynne Flynnt without something that could stab, shoot, or bash your head in? It was part of the reason I took up a pirate persona in the first place. It’s socially acceptable to stroll into a bar armed and no one would think twice. It was the same thing about getting ridiculously if not belligerently drunk in public. “Besides,” I’d tell people whoever wondered about my choice in dress, “any excuse to wear a bodice.” Everybody loves a pirate.

“The American Dream is dead!” I exclaimed as our crew headed out on foot down the street. “Fuck it all! Take to the seas!” We had a few drinks before we departed, so I was feeling good. It was a wonder there was any more beer left. Someone must  have went on a run, but the logistics have long since escaped me. We stopped at a bar for pub grub and mingled on the patio. The One True Pirate treated us to three-dollar rum and cokes. When Larry Sparrow started taking shots of ranch dressing and I found out my bodice hoisted my breasts so high that I could literally motorboat myself we were with full sails, swept into the gale, and speeding headlong into iniquity.

WILD PIRATES. Part Five. Validation

Waking up in the Lower Ninth Ward had a certain ring to it, like walking up in a wing of a sanitarium. Instead of a padded cell, it was a poorly padded mattress of our hosts’ fold out couch. After Wednesday night’s developments, I deserved to be put away. Leaning on my elbows, I had a quiet look around our current encampment. My mates still sleeping soundly next to me snoring. The previous day was a big day and as a result I may have gotten a little carried away.

The package arrived just before we did at the pub. The box had a ridiculous amount of stamps and was smaller than expected, not that I expected much. A few copies of a book, one that I co-authored.

“You know what I’m going to do?” I said with great determination, I’d been thinking about this moment for a very long time. “I’m gunna bite it.”

“What?” my mates said incredulously.

“I’m gunna bite my book to see if it’s real…” Unable to wait a moment longer I opened my mouth and bit down on the paperback cover, feeling it give under my teeth. What I had in my maw was four hundred and sixty eight pages a project five years in the making and it was real alright. I couldn’t think of a better reveal than in New Orleans.

“How’s it taste?” Larry Sparrow asked.

“Like a book,” I said, nicely stacking my copies neatly on the vending table. “How’d you think it’d taste, like steak? It tastes like validation.” It tasted like destiny and I hoped the book was one of many. For a while I buckled down, lived like a nun and worked like a dog and now had something to show for it. I was told I had to grow up live in the real world get a job that had benefits, insurance and a 401k. I was an author now, not squandering my young adult years. Blowing smoke up my arse with delusional dreams of grandeur and notoriety. The excursion this was not only a vending venture, it was a cause for celebration. For the rest of the week, this notion sent our crew reeling off into the deep end. It resulted in complete collapse in moral structure and responsibility. That night at the pub, I went as far as writing TIPS on my chest in eyeliner with an arrow pointing downward toward my cleavage. If it worked Tuesday night on Bourbon Street… I was a pirate and I didn’t give a damn. The lot of us even held up a Burger King drive-thru at pistol point. Many other transgressions transpired. As the night drew on our crew grew far too loaded to venture back to the bayou so the proprietor of this particular pirate festival was graciously took us in to pass the night in her abode. “With two cons converging like this, it’s is like a game of survival…” Someone said at some point. I took it to heart and perhaps a little too seriously.

WILD PIRATES. Part Four. Bourbon Street Stockings

TerminalJournalism

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…”

WILD PIRATES. Part One. Freak-out in the Bayou

(Saturday)

As soon as the sun sank over the bayou, I was confronted with the gravity and the depravity of our current situation. Up until that point, the three of us were having a great time. Rejoicing in the fact that after a fifteen-hour drive Larry Sparrow, Mad Anne Dandy, and Bloody Lynne Flynnt finally arrived in New Orleans. What little sleep we caught was at a truck stop in Birmingham at seven in the morning. MAD had to pry my hands off the steering wheel when we pulled into the State Park. Travel addled and beyond bedraggled and we still had to make camp. A torrential rain tore through two days ago, flooding most of the sites. Tents were assembled amid receding puddles. There I found I wasn’t the only one vying for the dry ground. “Ants in my pants!” I whooped, hollered, and jumped up and down.

“What?!” MAD and Larry Sparrow stopped shocked at my strange and sudden utterance.

“Ants!’ I threw down my tent poles and shook my leg furiously. It didn’t stop the bastards from biting me. At first I thought it was an exceptionally painful sunburn, until I looked down to see all those little red dots crawl up and under my pant leg. Booking to the water spout, I kicked it on full blast, and doused myself. “What?” I looked back to see MAD and Larry Sparrow staring agape.

“You okay?” MAD asked.

“Yeah, I stepped on some ants. I’m gunna change my pants.”

“Shot first?” She offered me a drink.

“Yes please.”

We were taking shots of $2.99 bottles of Rico Bay Rum mixed with dollar store juice jugs while we worked. “Fleur de Leurs” we jokingly called the drinks. It was a surprisingly palatable concoction. We named them after the votive holders/ shot glasses acid etched with Fleur de Lis to mark the momentous occasion of vending at Pyrate Week 2009. We kicked off this business venture cheap, after all we were there for a week. It was a meager dinner of franks and beans. Then we toured the campsites looking for the waterfront cabins that the brochure boasted only to find the tattered remains. Foundations poked out of the murky shoreline. The rest had been demolished in the hurricane. Through the tinted backseat window glass of my mates HHR the view looked even more brackish and ominous in the failing light. Luckily, I couldn’t see what MAD and Larry Sparrow witnessed in the front. Flies, mosquitoes, millions of them. The water was alive there were so many. The surface breathed. The water danced.

“Maybe we should get out of here,” Larry Sparrow said.

“Yeah, no shit.” I added as a grave wave of inexplicable and powerful paranoia began to take hold. We pulled back on to the road and drove past row after row of parked Rvs. Were we the only ones stupid enough to camp in tents here? Where the hell are the other pirates? Families settled in for the night. An retired couple walked their small dog. Alligator bait, I thought morosely. They waved at us as we passed. Larry Sparrow muttered the word “locals” and I unhinged. In my messed up mind he was right, they were locals. We were tourists. Worse, we were pirates and everyone was out to get us. There was a flood of films where hapless holidaymakers that met a fearful fate in a faraway land, films that I’ve never bothered to watch. I couldn’t help but think of my very own bed more than a thousand miles to the north.

“Did you see this place?! Security patrols, padlocks, dump stations, a water park? Where are we? A minimum security prison?!” I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My madness spilled out. “How cold is it supposed to get tonight?”

“43 degrees.” They said dry from the front.

“That’s bloody cold. Say, did you notice any fences to keep us away from the alligators?” I had only seen alligators in zoos and nightmares. “When I booked the campsite at Bayou Segnette State Park, I didn’t really think we camping in the actual bayou.” My voice rose an octave.

“We could just spend the night in the HHR.” MAD added. It was a brilliant idea and it made me wonder if my apparent panic was contagious. Ironically, having grown up in the back woods of Upstate New York, I was a fairly seasoned camper. This was her first time. I wasn’t setting a good example.

“You know, by the time we get our bedding and everything in here we could just go to sleep in the tents.” Larry Sparrow interjected with a voice of reason.

We were having none of it.

“You said so yourself, we we should have a movie night while we’re down here. Why not right now.” There was no way in hell I was leaving the vehicle, except to fetch my bedding. Swiftly and cautiously, I skirted puddles and sidestepped the little holes that littered the uneven ground. I hadn’t noticed them before and dreaded to encounter the creature that bore them. Keeping a weary eye on my surroundings, I pulled the sleeping bags from my cold unused tent. By the time I made it back to safety, the mosquitoes began to swarm. With the hatch open, I kicked into gear, fighting to make sense of the jumble of bedding before the insect invasion got worse. “Okay, this goes here, that goes there and there and-”

“Whoa, relax,” MAD steadied me.

“Mosquitoes,“ I muttered. “There are a hell of a lot more of them than there are of us.”

She left, braved the bayou to visit the head. Content spending the night bundled up safe in a vehicle that resembled a mini hearse, I briefly entertained the notion of venturing out to find our missing mate before our neighbors did. I saw the way they watched us set up our tents. She emerged from the shadows and sealed ourselves in for the night. Bathed in the glow of the laptop we were too exhausted to pick anything we settled on The Simpsons.

My mates slept stretched out vertically snoring loudly. I curled up between the wheel-wells, atop a pile of blankets, hard pressed for sleep and wishing there was something stronger than a Benadryl to knock my crazy ass out. My mind was thrown into override. I tossed about for the remainder of the night. Sporadically sweating and wracked with chills. Comfortable one minute, cramped the next and then everything would go numb. All the while wondering what the hell I was doing there. Unable to retire I took it upon myself to keep watch. Occasionally glancing out the back hatch, on the look-out for undead midget clowns stealing the quarter panels off the HHR. Thanks to a nightmare Larry Sparrow had in Birmingham that very morning I had to look out for those sonsofbitches too. For the sake of reality, I saw the news, stories about “tent cities” springing up as the economy spiraled. With homelessness on the rise, people called parks like this home- desperate people. I on the other hand was desperate to escape.

Morning came and the sun slowly crept up the window glass of the back hatch, baking us. The air was stale, stinking of sweat and our regrettable choice of supper. Ready to claw my way out like a premature burial, I gasped and grasped for the gusty gulf air.

“Mmmf- feet” I mumbled as Larry Sparrow stretched his legs on top of my face. Bound and determined, I crawled over my passed out mates to the hatch, forced it open, and spilled on to the ground. Breathing heavily and stretched out on my back, I saw it was a beautiful day in the bayou. Overhead the Cyprus trees were in full leaves blown by the temperate spring breeze. The morning sun peeled back the untold terrors we encountered during the night, revealing the same safe place that we found when we arrived. “This is a good camp.” The night was not without it’s casualties. The trusty HHR was dead in the water from a drained battery. In order to make room for more cargo it was someone’s brilliant idea to leave the jumper cables behind . It was our creepy RV neighbors who came to the rescue. We returned the favor with ample glasses of Rico Bay. They reprimanded for us watching cartoons with the daytime running lights on all night.

After entertaining every worst case scenario through the night it seemed the rest of our little excursion should be all sunshine and cypress trees. We successfully skirted our duties and didn’t have to check into the vending hall until the following day. Sunday was at our disposal. “So, what do we do?” One of us asked as we sat armed with instant coffee and hand-rolled cigarettes. We stared at each other for a moment. The answer was unspoken, an axiom as true as The Constitution. We said it anyway. “Bourbon Street.”