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…

View original post 691 more words

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.”

House Rock

 I nearly drowned at a job interview. Who was I believe that after one trip down that very river years ago would deem me experienced enough to be gainfully employed as a whitewater rafting guide? My plans to escape the continent for the summer, following in suit of my cousin who ran off to South Africa with the Peace Corp., were lofty and unrealistic as were my hopes of heading west. I was still unwilling to let my precious time off go to waste as my sophomore year at art school ended. Growing increasingly despondent about spending another summer languishing in a ghost town when one fateful afternoon I happened upon an ad in a college publication. Whitewater Challengers sought the aide of poor, miserable, and unemployed students such as myself. In my mind, I was already rafting for the summer. Living in a tent in the Adirondack Mountains, an encampment that I already named “Camp RiddaLynn.” A clever play on my middle name. I thought it was very clever.

So you’ve been down the river before?” The owner and operator of this outfitter, a man called “Bone” asked as we sat in his office. It was the second time I met with him and so far he seemed all right.

“Yes. Well once, like three years back. I was roped into going with a church camp.” I confessed. “Is my lack of experience going to be a problem?”

No,” he said assuredly and perhaps appeared a little pleased. “We like new people. We’ll get you suited up and see what you can do.”

What? Now?” I had never been one to back down from a challenge but all my idle fantasies of whitewater rafting for the season came crashing into fruition. Would I be able to rise to the occasion?

Craig will go as your guide.”

Craig stood in the doorway nodding slyly.

I swallowed my anxiety, crossed my arms, and saw no other option. “All right, lets go.”

 Seated in an inflatable kayak and stuffed snugly in a wetsuit and life vest, I adjusted my helmet and gripped my paddle. It looked as if I would navigate the boat down the river alone for my guide was to ride behind in his own vessel. We left the bank and the grip of the current sent us on our way. It was early Thursday morning in April, the water roiled at 6 feet still frothing from winter’s run off. The voyage was more than half-way through and I miraculously managed to stay in my boat. Perhaps, I would make it to the end unscathed, I thought. We rounded the corner confronting a rapid called “House Rock.” My guide and I skirted past the boulder, the namesake of that particular stretch of the Middle Moose River. “You go on ahead,” Craig said and I unwittingly obliged. Partway down the rapid, my boat took a hard turn sideways. Water poured in capsizing it in an instant. Dashed about on the rocks underwater I was besieged by the undertow in what I came to closely know as a hole. Struggling, I surfaced for a second’s reprieve to breathe before the current regained its relentless pull. For a few rounds, I rode the crest to undertow. Strong hands hands gripped my vest tugging me up for air, my eyes met my guide’s before I saw the bottom his boat. Hard-pressed to breathe, I violently kicked and gripped and the river-slick stones gaining purchase on what I prayed to be the shore.

Finally out of harm, I pulled myself up on the rocks. There I sat and sputtered feeling ashamed about the abrupt course of events. My boat, paddle, and even my helmet disappeared from view carried by the current. Regaining my breath, my eyes met my guides again to see his growing look of disbelief. “Sorry, I lost my things.” I muttered.

That was awesome!” he exclaimed. “Tell me that wasn’t awesome!”

Huh?” I stared past him into the rapids. I, the fool who leapt blindly off the cliff defied the river that could have claimed me. “That was awesome…. Holy shit. That was fuckin’ awesome.” He left me on the rocks and went to retrieve the missing equipment. Pulling myself to my feet, I stood there staring into the tumult of churning whitewater that thundered in my ears. I tried to think of a better way to spend a Thursday morning but couldn’t.

Once I regained my things. The rest our route went without event. Back at the base, I changed into dry clothes and went to meet Bone. Craig had already told him what transpired. “I heard you took quite a spill.”

“Yeah, I did. I found a hole.”

“And you kept your head and got yourself out of it.”

“I lost my helmet.”

He smiled and asked when I could start working. 

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 and fleets of professional pirates, enthusiasts, and reckless adventurers such as myself flocked from all over. This was shore leave.
The brochure admonished us it was a tour first and a pub crawl second. I don’t remember exactly when I stopped heeding the warning. There were only grim recollections of the tour itself. Bobbing to the tawdry tales of murder, suicide attempts gone horribly awry, slow painful public executions and brutal beheadings. Completely and utterly enthralled by our handsome and swarthy navigator. Enamored with Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which was actually was The Gentleman Pirate Blacksmith Shop. We rollicked with The Pirates Charles, as they paraded and serenaded us through the streets the darkened alleyways while we were swept up a sudden fierce thunderstorm. The last two or four taverns we ventured into I had done so slinging my buckle shoes over my shoulder. Carelessly plodding through the puddles in my red and white striped stockings down the filthy soaked pavement of Bourbon Street.
At the end of our intriguing and intoxicating tour, we hitched a ride back to our vehicle. Our journey took a quick turn for the worse. The wheel-man was a greasy drifter that could have been part of our group, but at that point everyone looked a like pirate. There were quite a few of us packed tight in his backseat. He stopped suddenly as a flock of frat boys crossed in front with no regard for traffic signals. As he slammed on the brakes, the car thumped, thudded and died right there in the middle of the intersection. We didn’t hit any of those damnable jocks but what had befallen us was bad enough. “Transmission,” our strange wheel-man glumly said. We got out and pulled the dead vessel to the side of the road to let the traffic pass. He called a tow truck, delved deep into his trunk, and pulled out a bottle. The label read Diesel and it looked down-right flammable. The one hundred and ninety something proof Everclear meant this guy was serious.
I was vaguely aware of how my compatriots regarded me from my post on the sidewalk in my inebriated state. I very well could be Bully in the Alley. “I’m fine,” I grumbled, thankful it was no longer The Golden Age of Piracy. Luckily, I had such a compassionate and likewise marooned crew who wouldn’t just leave a drunken pirate alone in an alley to maybe pick up later. “I would be better if I could walk” I whined, cringed, and forced the Diesel down my gullet when it was my turn. Instead, I gagged and spit it out on the sidewalk. Just when I felt at my most pathetic, two men teetered toward me at the crosswalk. One of them reached into his pocket. “Here” he said suavely as he approached, “five for the right and five for the left,” and stuffed a bill down my cleavage as he passed. I looked down to see the ten poking out from between my breasts, which were practically bursting from my bodice. There I was, slumped on a sidewalk in the middle of the night in New Orleans. A hot mess, or perhaps just a mess. There was nothing new with the scenery; this town had seen millions like me. But when things looked their grimmest, I found an unexpected reward. “Hey guys! I just got some money!” I exclaimed, sat up a little straighter and adjusted myself with purpose.
There was no question where the money was going to go, new stockings. My current pair was sopping wet and coated with the black grime consisting of piss, spit, spilt drinks and the bile of tens of thousands of raging nighttime tourists. They would have to be quarantined the rest of our excursion or tossed away in the nearest receptacle. Naturally, I couldn’t part with them. I washed the Bourbon Street stockings when I finally returned home ten days later, throwing them in with the mound of other moldering pirate clothes. I still wear them years later especially when times get rough. Sometimes, I wear them for weeks on end.