March 14,2011

Port Royal History Seen in Japanese Earthquake

Sometimes we can learn about the history we portray by watching what is happening in the modern day.  In this case, the horrific earthquake and Tsunami in Japan are a perfect example.

As I have watched report after report come out of Japan about the quake and ensuing tsunami and aftershocks, I thought about how it must have been for those who were living in Port Royal, Jamaica on June 7, 1692. I saw the images of the northern coast of Japan before and after the tsunami and had a flashback to the before and after images I had seen of Port Royal.

When the movies portray Port Royal, Jamaica in the Golden Age of piracy (1720s) they act as if it were still a massive, bustling city and den of piracy. While, yes, the city was there, it was not nearly the force it had been just 30 years before.

Things were going along just fine on the morning of June 7, 1692. Church services had wrapped up and then some time between 11:15 and noon the ground began to shake. The exact time is under slight debate, but a pocketwatch that was found during archeological digs in the area was x-rayed and the hands stopped at 11:43 a.m.. This coincides with written reports of the earthquake hitting.


First, you need to understand where Port Royal is in Jamaica. As you can see in this map, it is a little finger of land that sticks out at the bottom of the country. It's called the Palisadoes peninsula. The quake struck in the Blue Mountains, on the mainland to the north. The ripple effect did cause the water in the Kingston Harbor, between the mainland and the Palisadoes peninsula to start to swish like ripples in a bathtub.

Those who experienced the quake said it felt like theground was sailing on top of waves, it was rolling. Then the ground started to disappear, some described it as ground turning to water, as one side of the city began to sink below the surface.  There were multiple shocks, two smaller ones, leading up to one large 'main shock'.

Researchers believe a few things were happening. First, that washtub effect of the harbor was causing the ground to become saturated with water and people would begin to sink into the ground, much as you would at the beach when you step on wet sand. It was during this phase of the quake that many people sank into the earth or were swallowed up by the ground. Those who only partially sank were trapped as the rest of the disaster played out. There were also reports that at times the ground opened up and then closed again, trapping people inside. Witnesses differed in how long the earthquake lasted. Some said as long as 15 minutes, but the majority set the time at 2-3 minutes.


Additionally, the layers of sand that were beneath layers of limestone of the Palisadoes may have been washed out by the back and forth motion of the water. This liquifaction caused 1/3 of the city (the west side) to literally slip below the surface of the waterline in just moments. To this day, you can see the cobblestones continue down into the water of the harbor. They also stick out of the ground nearby as well

If you go there today, there are markers that will give you an idea of how massive of an area went below the surface, telling you, for instance, where Fort James is.

And this picture shows what that portion of the city looks like in modern times… a photo I shot as the Schooner Wolf sailed in a few years back…That 1/3 of the city is still below the surface.

As if these two things were not enough, finally there was a tidal wave or tsunami. The tidal wave pulled people and property out and because of it's time onshore drowned many of the people who had found themselves trapped in the ground.

At the time of the earthquake there were approximately 6,500 people living in Port Royal. Nearly 2,000 of those people died in the quake and ensuing tidal wave. Another 3,000 were injured. Up to half of these people later died of their injuries.

In the wake of the disaster, the people of Port Royal were on their own. The waves had knocked out the land between the Palisadoes and the mainland, and damaged or completely destroyed many ships, so the rest of Jamaica could not help them, at least not as much as they desperately needed.

After the quake there are reports of aftershocks that went on for some time as well as the ugly side of human nature. Looters ransacked all the buildings they could, taking anything of value. There are even stories of the dead being robbed as they lie on the ground.

To really grasp how the landscape changed because of the earthquake and tsunami, I offer this picture, this shows the shoreline before and after the quake, and how the island has rebuilt ground in the generations since.

Now that you have the history, let's fast forward to today.

An earthquake off the coast of Japan has a similar impact. Look at the before and after pictures…many areas that were solid ground are now below water due to an effect not unlike what happened in Port Royal 319 years ago.

When we do living history, we try to understand not only what happened, but how people thoughts and felt. Until this point when I would talk about Port Royal, I could only imagine what it looked like, what people felt like, how they responded to what happened…. Now I can see it. I can feel it.

I felt my blood run cold as I saw the images of that wall of water devouring everything in it's wake.

I prayed for a father running with his child hoping to be safe from water that kept rising...

I felt moments of hope as I saw survivors working together trying to pull victims out of the rubble and those who have strength, aiding those who did not

I cried with the people who were suffering when I saw the pain and agony they are experiencing with the loss of those they loved to the ferocity of Mother Nature.

And I am in awe and fear of the chaos left behind.

While I would never wish for such a horrific event as this to happen, and my heart goes out to all those who have been impacted, I will tell you, the next time I give a presentation on the earthquake that destroyed Port Royal, I will likely have images from this modern-day disaster running through my mind.

I will see desperate faces being confronted by such a fearful force. I will visualize the unimaginable destruction. I will remember their losses and pain and be able to better express what it must have felt like, or bring images to the minds of the public as I have them recall this devistating event.


March 9, 2011

Searle's Raid of St Augustine

(Thank you to Poppa Ratzi (Tony Callahan) , Ivan Henry, and Greg Schultz for photos that are being used in this in addition to the only couple I seemed to take.)

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic, to say the least, but culminated with a fantastic event in St Augustine this past weekend - Capt. Robert Searle's Raid of 1668. I was unable to arrive in St Augustine until Friday afternoon, which had me already envious of those who had begun their weekend of camping and levity on Thursday.

There were so many faces I was thrilled to see including Mickey and Kate, whom I had not seen in a full year! There were also Mark G, Lft Johnson, Melissa (or Melvin for the weekend since she was getting out of the kitchen and onto the field), Capt William, Willie Wobble, Doug, D.B., Anne Marie, Ivan and his lovely lady Kelli, and the list goes on. Let's just say it was like old school week with lots of people to see and hug! The major surprise was that Tony, PoppaRatzi was also there! I had seen him last in Key West in December and had no idea he was going to be at the event, but there he was, camera in hand!

I was not there long at all before he had me in my wench garb taking photos with Carlos (Pedro, Ponce, Chad… take your pick of names) in his Spaniard attire that, as Carlos said, were going to get himkilled by his girlfriend. And yeah, he's probably right… Now, I must mention the funny part of these pics. I had a heck of a time keeping a straight face because Poppa told Carlos to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. To which he whispered "nada, nada, nada" which means 'nothing' in Spanish.

Then there was a little more socializing that all seemed to have to do with hammocks. First was Melvin, who had gotten into a hammock (after darn near falling out, due to no hammock balancing skills) and could not figure out how to get out of the hammock without doing bodily damage. It took a little trust and a big hug from Doug to separate the two.

The other hammock incident came as we were discussing the raid to come, which was Spanish Vs English. The next I knew, Mickey was tied up in a hammock and being yanked around on a rope by Sam. Lesson to be learned – don't hang out with a number of English and Spanish troops and say you're French.

Things changed a bit from past years in that everyone was going to 'parade' through town that evening in an effort to let the public know what was going to happen on Saturday. The concept was that everyone would begin the parade through town around 5 pm then head back to the camp around 6 for dinner.

Before dinner I was able to link up with Gumbatz (Who later would be renamed Augustus then Gus Gus by Kate) whom I had invited to the event. He is from Bawdy Anne's Buccaneers. We had done performance events together in the past, but I thought it was time he took his acting skills to the reenacting world and told him Searle's was the place to do it.

The first group of us arrived back at camp around 6, but there were literally only a handful of people. That said, there had been stew cooked and bread, cheese, fruits and other munchies out, so Willie said the fewer people who were there translated to more food for each of us!

The evening was a great time of catching up with people I hadn't seen in some time, meeting new friends and lots of levity. It was just what you want to have at an event.


Saturday morning, everyone was up and moving pretty early. There were weapons checks to be done, pike drills to be performed and more socializing to happen. Not to mention, the public starts coming in early so things have to be in order for their visit.



Once again Tony grabbed a hold of a few others and me and wanted to take more pictures. We were hiked all over the Fountain of Youth Park (where we camp) for various photos including the 'battle line up' with The Englishman (Gumbatz) on one side of the shot and Craig Shell Carver and The Spanish Lady (me) on the other side.  There were also a couple of photos taken of me looking nice and innocent, so I must share those as they are rare.

I also had a fun little side moment. I had been saying that since it was bike week, I needed to pick up a man in leather with a bike over the weekend. I mentioned that to Craig and he said he had a horse…. horse… hog…. It's close! And he was wearing all leather. Ok, so I didn't really pick him up, but we thought it was funny so I got a picture of the man in leather!

I was going to have a sword class with Gumbatz that afternoon, but my new Starfire sword did not quite fit my hand the way I wanted and I was having a problem keeping my footing. I blamed the footing issue on the mulched ground (a MAJOR mistaken placement of blame which you will learn more about later) and Gumbatz said he would adjust the wrap on the handle to make it better fit my hand, so less than 10 minutes after it began, my sword class ended.


When it was time for the raid, I was all excited for a couple of reasons. First, one of the things I love the most about doing Searle's raid is how we all get to the raid site. You see, it starts across the city from the FOY park where we are camped, so they bring a trolley or two down to the park and it carries us to the starting area. There is nothing like looking at a trolley full of costumed English and Spaniards driving alongside the automobiles and motorcycles in the city.

The first part of the raid is held in the Plaza. The Spanish townspeople and a few of the guards are staged in this area and are just 'minding their own business' when the English attack. Now, this is where I get to work. I work the crowd. The crowd is quite spread out all around the park so I gave the same speech about the raid approximately 8 times to make sure everyone could hear it. Essentially I explained that they were all good Spanish citizens and that they needed to be ready to defend their city from the attack of the English PigDogs, at which point I pointed to Gumbatz. He would then do an introduction to the English perspective of the raid, essentially saying they deserved everything because they were pompous English (or perhaps that was just my interpretation) and we worked to get the crowd to take sides.

Essentially we were to stall and keep the crowd's attention until the fighting started, which happened to be about 20 minutes. About half way through this time period I hurled some insult at Gumbatz during a part of our improv and he started running after me. I took off, and was doing just fine until I hit the pavement. Remember that slipping I was doing during sword practice earlier? Well, it wasn't the ground. It was the period shoes. I hit the pavement and it felt like ice with a layer of oil on top. 

I was lucky that Ian was there and I grabbed his arm to lessen part of my fall, but only by a fraction. I still went down hard. I heard members of the audience and reenactors gasp and saw faces that said "Did she just kill herself?" After getting untangled from my skirts, I stood up and did a quick inventory. I was pretty sure I was alright. I had a little road rash on the elbows that hit the ground and my right leg was also sore, but I figured I would be ok. I dusted off and got back into the pre-show.
Within about 5 minutes, I was dashing about again when I started to slip once more, to the repeated gasps of the audience. I stopped mid stream, stripped the shoes off and asked the ladies to get them to the end of the route and did the rest of the event in stocking feet. I did not fall again.


Searle's Raid is unique in the fact that it is not only a field battle, but it literally marches through the streets. The English soldiers chase the Spanish down St George Street, periodically stopping to fire a round of shots to keep the Spanish running. Gumbatz and I, meanwhile, work to keep the 'masses' that we have collected following the raid through the street as the English loot the city and periodically take hostages from the crowd.


One of my favorite moments related to a large biker who was right at the front of the pack. This big, hardened guy had switched into a 6 year old, completely enthralled in what we were doing.  While he was a southern white guy, he became 100% Spanish for the hour! As the English came to try and take me away, he would step out in front of me and hold his arms out to block them from taking me hostage then asked me if we could yell Viva Epsana again, which he said more like 'Vivee Esp-ah-ha'.

My second favorite moment was when I realized what a mob I had created. Gumbatz jumped on a cart that was in the street to try and bring everyone over to the English side, chanting 'Long live the king!' Instead of repeating it, as they did every time I said 'Viva Espana' he was boo'd and hissed at and then they yelled Viva Espana again. I do love my good Spaniards! He looked at me and said, "I think they really want to kill me!" And, he may have been right. He plays a magnificent bad-guy Englishman.

When we got down St George Street, made our way through the arches and to the field for the final battle, I finally got to take a bit of a breath. I told the crowd where to go to watch the battle and then enjoyed seeing guns, pikes, cannon and sword go back and forth in the final battle scenes. They do one heck of a job with this! 

After the raid was complete we headed back to camp. By now my elbow was killing me. If I even lightly touched it, it felt as if I was being stabbed through the arm. (I found out after a trip to the doc once I was home I did some cartilage and ligament damage, but did not break anything.) I washed the cut area and then was quickly Neosporin-ed and Band-Aid-ed. I was also medicated, with lots of Fuzzy Navel cocktails. Perhaps not PC, but they made me happy and after 3 or 4 I did not notice any more pain.

Then Scott West(whose character name I do not know) pulled out a guitar and set up a lyric book and started playing. We sang for a while doing a number of songs like the Mingulay Boat Song and he was even able to fudge a pretty good version of Dark Lady which had Lft. Johnson come up and play the role of the Baron and elicited hugs from Willie Wobble. It was a fantastic end to a great day, give or take the elbow incident.

Sunday morning was as depressing as always. Camps were coming down and people were disappearing quickly. I did not get to say goodbye to many of the very early departing folks, which may have been for the best, as I hate goodbyes. Despite the sadness of the parting, I ended my weekend in a mood of enchantment, once again feeling truly lucky for the wonderful people I spent my time with and enjoying each and every moment to the fullest.

Until next year, thank you to Searle's Buccaneers for inviting me back and - Viva Espana!



February 9, 2011

Finding My Chosen Sister

Most people know Fayma Callahan or Momma Ratzi as the 'in-charge' woman who helped to make the Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion a success and as the other half of Poppa Ratzi, famed pirate photographer! You probably know a tough chick who can get darn near anything accomplished no matter what hurdles are facing her. That's not how I know her. Fayma and I met under circumstances that are going to give you a different view of the both of us – of a very weak moment.

I was in a fetal position under a tree in Key West sobbing like a baby. Not one of my proudest moments, but true nonetheless.  It was at El Meson De Pepe, right after the award ceremony for the Walk the Plank Championship in 2008.

10 minutes before I found myself crying under this tree I was having a fantastic time at one of those 'picture-perfect' events and was literally the center of attention.  Then my job was over, I walked outside and with one phone call I had all the happiness taken out of me and found myself shattered beneath a set of boughs just outside the gated area where the dinner was taking place. The details of the phone call are not important. Let's just say a few words had taken my self-worth and stomped it into quite a few pieces.  It was one of those punched in the guts, helpless moments.  But I was not alone.  Following me over was Fayma. We had met in passing before, but really had not built a relationship before this. She grabbed a hold of me and gave me a hug. Then I noticed she was crying too. We were both having similar evenings. They were caused by completely different triggers. But there we were, both crying under the same tree. After a bit of consoling each other we realized we had been working most of the day and had not eaten, not even at the dinner that we had comp tickets to.

People were leaving the now completed event, but I figured there had to be some food left. Not much. There was a little bit of rice and beans and bread left on one plate so I grabbed that. Then I looked for silver ware… one set. I grabbed that too. Fayma was now sitting on a cement planter wall that surrounded the area where the dinner was being served. I joined her. We balanced the one plate on our collective laps and shared the food, the spoon and the one napkin.

I remember us trading comments through red, swollen eyes, and eventually the remaining tears dried up and we ended up laughing at our situations. After all, what the heck else could we do but laugh?

We bonded. And I don't mean a 'hey you, you're my friend now' type of thing, we REALLY bonded. As she describes it, "we saw two halves of an incredibly strong person, like we were split down the middle. It was so solid and committed to a sisterhood that defies definition."

We also have a similar trait; we usually do not get along well with other strong-willed, independent minded women. There's usually a battle of wills. They're getting in our Alpha way. But with each other, well, she's my sister I didn't know I had, so that doesn't happen with us… that also  means if you mess with her, I'm coming at you axes and cannon blazing!

Now a little more on how Fayma came to be the pirate she is today:

The Ohio Renn Fest is responsible for Fayma getting into Piracy, "I attended the fest with my husband, Tony. I never knew they existed. As close as I had been was places that have themed restaurants. So we went and I fell in love with the whole concept of going back in time and I wanted to play too. We went shopping, bought clothes and attended the fest every week during its run."

So, how did she come to play with pirates?

"Our oldest son decided he wanted to join the Navy. Before he was deployed he wanted to go to a real pirate festival, with an actual ocean, so we started looking at places and were told 'if you want a real pirate festival you have to go to Pirates in Paradise'. So, in November 2006 we made our first appearance at Pirates in Paradise."

So in just a couple of years she went from not knowing any pirates into being Momma to them all? How did that happen?

A lot of that credit, she says, goes to her husband Tony (aka Poppa Ratzi) and the photographs he takes at events that they print and give away to the pirates who are in them.

"What he does is so far beyond regular pictures. It's artwork and its stunning and vibrant, colorful and beautiful. He has an incredible talent for capturing your soul. What sets us apart is that we want to give back to the community. The pictures, artwork, websites and gift packages when we come to a festival are our way of saying thank you. We applaud what you do and you are important to us. "

Anyone who has received one of those photos knows how precious of a gift they are, as those camera lenses always seem to catch wonderful moments we never could have.

So what are her favorite pirate moments so far? She had a list…

"Firing my first cannon, deciding I really love corsets, being able to touch the world one person at a time, sailing with the wind in my hair on the Wolf, seeing my first green flash, the list could go on and on and on..,"

But what if she was forced to pick one moment that holds a special place in her mind?

"The first time I walked into Fort Taylor and met Harry Smid who was the park specialist for Fort Taylor in 2006. We had never met the man and accidentally had come in early. He was very kind and said 'come on over and we'll figure something out'. The first thing he did when I stepped out of the truck was give me a hug and tell me 'welcome home'. To this day Fort Taylor is a second home and it started with that first moment."

And now in many respects it has become a first home as Fayma has relocated to Key West and is even a member of the Friends of Fort Taylor board and, as we know, is a integral part of the Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion being our pirate home in December. As a matter of fact, running the 2010 Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion in 2010 is on her list of great pirate accomplishments – having all the pirates that attended know they are part of her 'family'. That and being a reenactor and entrancing children and adults alike. "I want people to recognize what we do is an important learning tool. I want to call national attention to the venues themselves that are in a lot of cases in very horrible shape. They need preservation and though living history we are able to shine the light on these needed repairs."

While I often think of Fayma as a force to be reckoned with in Pyracy, as one of those upper-tier folks that everyone looks up to, she has only been in this circuit for 5 years…so who does she see as her mentors?

"I look to everyone I ever work with.  Everyone in the community of piracy whether you are a polyester pirate, serious reenactor or Hollywood - you have something to offer me that I can learn from."

But if pushed to pick a top 3…they are:

  1. Jamaica Rose – "She is the one who taught me to be a pirate. I typed in piracy online and found the magic manna of No Quarter Given. I have every single issue they ever produced."

  2. Diosa - "Who taught me that being a living historian can be really fun. And that no matter how much running around there is to do there are always those moments when you can pause and enjoy everything around you." (While I am quite flattered, no, I did not pay for this endorsement)

  3. Captain John Sterling  - "When I don’t know what's right or what's correct or whether I can wear my purple fancy Captain's coat, Captain Sterling is my incredible, unending research tool who in an instant can give me 15 sources for everything I ever need."

While I could go on for days with things Fayma and I have talked about, I need to wrap this blog up, so let's finish on her thoughts for newbies getting into pyracy:

    1. "Jump in! It’s a great time. "

    2. "Ask for help. There are plenty of people who will be more than willing to welcome you with open arms."

    3. "Decide who you want to be, but take your time. Be whoever you want to be and then look around at events and places and find your niche before you make a commitment to organizations that may or may not fit."

    4. "Know what you want to get out of it. If you go to something you didn’t have fun at, that's ok. Not everyone is cut out for every event. Not everybody likes brussel sprouts. I would say not everyone likes chocolate but I think that's a mortal sin."



January 31, 2011

Florida Chautauqua Assembly 2011

I have a feeling many of you are reading the title and thinking 'A Chatauq-what?' So, I am going to begin by explaining what Chautauqua is.

The Chautauqua Institution began operation in New York in the late 1800s as a combination of vacation and education. Its weeks of educational and performing arts events surrounding particular themes. But who wants to spend the winter in New York? They decided they could have another Chautauqua for that time of year further south and settled on a beautiful location in Defuniak Springs for the Florida Chautauqua, which began in February 1885. The annual Florida Chautauqua continued through 1920 and then faded out to be revived again in 1993 (and every year since). I was invited last year to deliver two presentations on Anne Bonney and Mary Read for their 'Journey into the Caribbean' theme and this year I was invited back for their Florida theme and created a presentation about St Augustine from it's Spanish founding through the year 1750.

I wrote a 'She said - He said' style show, taking on the role of the Spanish Lady and cast Joe Catalano (Gumbatz as a pirate) as the Englishman whom I have since lovingly named 'Pig Dog' as I could not decide whether I wanted to call him an English pig or an English dog.  He turned out to be the perfect choice in the role and we were told a number of times that we sounded like a real bickering couple and people thought we were married or at least must have worked together for a long time to work off of each other so well.

I arrived in Defuniak Springs on Wednesday afternoon and was let into our home for the weekend, a beautiful Victorian (from the original Chautauqua days in the late 1800s) owned by Dennis and Brenda Ray. We had the whole upstairs two-bedroom apartment to ourselves, with kitchen, multiple sitting areas and a walk around balcony with a couple of Adirondack chairs - just beautiful!.

If you are trying to figure out where Defuniak Springs is, it's a quaint little town of about 7,000 a little west of the Suwannee River in the panhandle of Florida. It's far enough west that I changed time zones.

That evening I already had a dinner date with Art and Marty Dees, the owners of the WZEP radio station. We went to Mom & Dad's, an Italian Restaurant, and had a fantastic meal and conversation. A perfect kick off for arrival night.


Thursday, it was down to work. We had agreed to do presentations for four classes at Walton Middle School. I was a little puzzled about this though as we were told to prepare a 25-minute presentation for a 50-minute class, as Andrew Jackson would also be there doing a presentation for each hour. But what were we going to do for the other 25 minutes? Just sit there? No, it turns out that the teacher we were assigned to, Mr. Guy, was going to trade us out with another teacher, Ms. Thorn, every hour. That means we were doing 8 presentations....right up until Ms. Thorn said those famous words, "I really wish you all would still be around for my 5th period class, I think they would really enjoy the presentation." We looked at each other...and the next thing you know we were in for two more presentations, one for each class, in 5th period. The 6th -8th grade students were great and liked that we had hands-on items, especially the 3 1/2 lb cannon balls that always surprised them when they felt how dense they were.

After 10 classes, our brains were completely fried and Mr. Guy decided they needed to be fed with a local favorite - a Pub burger and fries from Ed's. While he ended up being a big part of our weekend, I am going to hold off on talking about Mr. Guy too much right now, as he will be the focus of another post I am going to write later this week. Suffice it to say, he is such an impressive teaching force and has this amazing heart that it warrants an independent article!

Thursday evening took us to the community center for the Opening Reception. Here we were able to meet many of the other presenters and see people I had met there last year. Among them was Greg Garland an 8th generation Floridian who comes down from his DC job with the Department of State and claims to be a presenter. I say claims because that may just be a joke they are playing on me since my presentations are always set at same time as his. For the second year I was unable to hear him speak which begs the question... if I can't hear him, did he really speak? Actually I heard that Joe and I might have been loud enough during our show that our voices were carrying through the wall into his presentation. If that is the case, I'm sorry Greg!

I also saw Brenda and Lane Rees (Brenda plays local historical figure Octavia Walton Le Vert), Dale Arrowood and his beautiful owls and falcons from Winged Ambassadors, and met Kevin Mims, a fantastic photographer who was there on behalf of Visit Florida. He was kind enough to even snap shots and video from one of the presentations Joe and I did that I hope to see soon.

There were lots of hugs and lots of animals. In addition to the owls and falcons, Brain Staples of Staples Safari brings in animals every year for the Conservation Station portion of the assembly to educate the masses on animals. I fell in love with Tyler the Lemur.



Friday morning we had a lot to do. We were up early and off to WZEP to do a radio interview about the assembly and then more education sessions. It was only 6 classes this time. During one of these sessions something happened that made me realize that we were officially in the south, where children are expected to have a certain level of manners.

We have a Q&A at the end of the presentation and one of the kids asked "Why is he dressed like a pimp?" to Joe. I thought it was funny, but the teachers did not. As they were leaving one of the teachers profusely apologized for the 'inappropriate question'. I was so unaffected by the question she had to clarify which one it was. I assured her it was not a problem but she continued saying it would be dealt with and that not only would his parents know, but they would be taking it up with the principal. I told her there was no need for any real punishment as we were not offended, and I hope he didn't get in too much trouble...


The afternoon had time for a stop off at The Little Big Shop, an old style country store with lots of fun flashback merchandise as well as old-fashioned candies, which I went home with a bag of.

Then we took a break on the balcony of the Victorian. It's amazing how peaceful one can become by sitting on such a balcony for 30 minutes and watching the world go by! I also appreciated the view after learning some of the history of the area. The homes on the lake were all built as a part of the initial Chautauqua campus in the late 1800s. Most of these homes have been lovingly kept up are just a beautiful step into the past.

I could easily picture the original assembly members walking around the lake and stopping on the porch of one home as the lady of the house offered them a glass of fresh lemonade.

Our first tea presentation was in the afternoon. The patrons are literally sitting in small gazeboed tables around the room and served tea, sandwiches and snacks while we present in a 'theater in the round' environment.

I am not going to go through the whole presentation, but I do have one moment that still has me laughing.

In the show, I am a history teacher, in a Spanish school and the Englishman crashes class and counterpoints St. Augustine history with me.At the beginning of class I handed out paper and pencils so the 'students' could take notes. It was mainly to be funny,but a couple people did take notes.

About 20minutes into the show the Englishman was talking about how much of a great man Robert Searleswas (he sacked St Augustine in 1668). I responded that the only thing anyone needed to know about Searles was that he was a "bad, bad man". It seems I said it with enough importance that one of the women actually grabbed her paper and wrote 'Bad, bad man!" The only other thing she had written to this point was the date! I made her sign it and that was my memento.

That evening we found out the place for the younger folks to be on a Friday night in Defuniak Springs is the McDonalds by the interstate. I wanted ice cream and when we pulled in the parking lot was full. The line at one point was literally out the door with most people ordering ice cream or coffee drinks and socializing. It was quite the zoo. I am not sure if the ice cream was THAT good, but it hit the spot.

Saturday had us up early for a little down time. Art Dees had invited us out for a boat ride on Lake Stanley.









Now, Art just turned 70 in January... but I am pretty sure he is going on about 17. He went speeding around the lake, making wakes and then quickly turning into them to jump them on the water while laughing maniacally.It was a great time and wow does he have a beautiful backyard!

Then it was back to work. It seems our first tea presentation on Friday had been appreciated because what we had been told was light-sale tea event that afternoon was suddenly sold out! Among the audience were some folks I remembered from the year before. They were members of a local developmentally disabled center. One of their group leaders came up and gave me a hug and told me they had wanted to see me again this year. I later found out that they had all been working in the community in jobs they could do and had been saving a little money to do special things throughout the year. Coming to see us was one of the few 'special events' they wanted to do. They remembered me and wanted to see me again... That was one of those heart touching moments and I am tearing up again writing about it. There were LOTS of hugs!

After having a victorious set of presentations Joe and I decided we deserved a celebratory dinner. Everyone in town said the place to go for such a thing is Bogeys. It is a restaurant attached to the Hotel Defuniak, a nice old Victorian style hotel.

The dining area was quaint and attractive. The difference from the picture is that it was pretty busy and we didn't have a reservation, but were lucky enough to get a table toward the back of the room.

Walking to the table had a little bit of a celebrity feel to it. People at four of the tables waved to us and said 'we saw your performance' or ' you all were great' or similar things. Talk about a nice ego boost at the end of the day! We were frankly surprised they recognized us out of costume!


There was a keyboardist playing the old standards and I found myself singing Summertime at the table between bites of fried green tomatoes. I was in heaven! I sat there reflecting on the weekend thinking 'this is how life is supposed to be!" - great old friends, great new friends, great performances, lots of laughs, lots of good tears and hugs and more positive energy in the air than I knew what to do with.

We wrapped up dinner with a toast to an awesome weekend, had some crème Brule cheesecake then spotted Greg Garland and Tom Cloud and we all headed back to the fairgrounds for the evening animal show by Brian Staples. It's also the farewell evening and many of us hung around for over an hour after the show all chatting each other up and trading business cards, e-mail addresses and the like.

Sunday was time to pack up and head home with a now traditional stop at Po Boys in Tallahassee for fried pickles before finishing the 7-hour drive back to Melbourne.

Here's looking to the next one and hoping I am again on the faculty!


January 13, 2011

Happy New Year! Yes, I know, I am a little late. But as we all know, the holidays can cause time to get away from us and that is just what happend. But now, it's back to work and time for the next of my Pirate Profiles!

Who The Heck is Bilgemunky? (Picture pirated from his Facebook page)

This is a question I have been asking myself for some time. Just kidding. Sadly, I have not had as many opportunities as I would like to spend time with Bilgemunky. He is always such a lively and happy guy and the kind of person you want to hang out with. But we seem to only see each other at events perhaps once a year and even then we are both usually doing so many different things we just wave and say 'hi' as we pass.

2010 was pretty amazing because I saw him twice in two months! I figured if the fates aligned to have us in the same location at such a frequency, it meant I should interview him.

Let me first begin, as I do with these things, by doing my impressions of Bilge.

The first time I met Bilge we were both lost. We had all just arrived in New Orleans for the first PyrateCon and did not know where we were going and what we were doing. It was less than a year post-Katrina and New Orleans, while operational, was still a pretty messed up and messy place. There were abandoned and rotting buildings all along the route driving in. It was quite the depressing drive to get to the hotel. Our hotel itself was filled with pirates for the convention and National Guard members who were helping to keep peace in the city. This is also the place where I had a National Guardsman tell me he could kill me 16 different ways with a quesadilla, but that's another story. I know I should remember something more riveting about Bilge from this, but really, the lost and confused look he had is my first memory of him. We had a 'hi, nice to meet you' chat in the elevator at one point and otherwise both continued befuddled en route to our various commitments.

The next impression I can recall was in Key West at Pirates in Paradise. The Pirate Ball was out at the waterfront that year and we were sitting at a table as he was trying to interview me for his radio show. The problem was, he had been sampling the rum. I am pretty sure he had about a half dozen samples of every variety they had, because he was completely blitzed and openly admitted he was so drunk he did not know what he was doing.  I saw the red light, so I know he was recording, and, oh, how I would love to hear how that interview came out! Ok, enough of that, on to my interview of him.

In case you don't know, his real name is Gerard Heidgerken. So, where did the Bilgemunky name and character come from? It was a name relating to his time in the Navy. Yes folks, he is a pirate that was in the Navy. Careful, you never know where his alliances are.

"You're familiar with the term powder monkey? Powder monkey is of course from the age of sail where you had the small boys who would run around with the gunpowder because they were small and wiry and could slip between small spaces. When I was in the Navy I was the smallest and wiry-est of the machinist mates on the USS Enterprise in the engineering nuclear division.", he said, "Most of those guys are gorillas – big guys, thick necks, arms like tree trunks. So whenever something had to be done in the bilges - that was me. I kept some sandwiches tucked away down there. You disappear for a few hours; play some Gameboy in the bilges. It's not so bad once you get used to it cause no one can find you."

And thus the 'bilge monkey' concept and name was born. Now, if you are like me, you may be stuck on fact that he said he had sandwiches tucked away in the bilge and perhaps that is making you, too, a little urpy. But, then again, I consider many of the pirates I know and figure it may not be that odd so I chose not to pursue that line of questioning…

So now that we know where the name came from, how did he get into being a pirate?

"Me and piracy go back as far as I can remember. I think with me and my brother it was right there with cowboys and Indians and being astronauts. It was part of our childhood culture. Pirates was just one of the things that you aspired to be."

Being a pirate (or doing things relating to piracy) is how he makes his living, sort of, "This is my living in the sense that this is my sole source of income except for mooching off my wife, who has a real career."

In case you don't know, there are a number of layers to the Bilgemunky Empire. Sure, you know the guy who is on Pyracy Pub, and you may have heard of the website, Then there's the Bilgemunky radio show and also the DJ company.  And when he's not working on those, he is working on his house, "I am rehabbing our mansion. It's an 1893 Victorian that has fallen on hard times. So while it's a mansion, it's not as luxurious as we would like it to be."

But let's get back to the pirate work. How did the Bilgemunky Empire get created? And why? The honest truth is it was sort of by accident, "I started a website one day mainly as an exercise. All of the sudden I had a pirate website. It probably would have lasted two weeks but people started saying 'Hey, we want to send you this book to review or we want to send you these hats to review', and I was like 'Oh, I can get free stuff! That’s kind of cool!', and it built up from there."

When it comes to what he promotes, Bilge takes a modern look at piracy. "My entire professional career is solely based on pirates and how they can interrelate with popular culture. My own bread and butter is the pirate music. There's pirate rap, pirate jazz, pirate metal, you can have a pirate wedding, pirate bar mitzvah, bris, graduation ceremony. I have pirate music that goes for any of this." (Is anyone else hearing the Bubba shrimp scene from Forrest Gump in their head right now, or is it just me?)

After uttering a few more pirate possibilities, Bilge went on to say he is surprised by those in the pirate community who don't know more about the performers who are around them, "I'm amazed at how often people who are really into this - eat, drink and breathe pirates had no idea this stuff existed", he said, "I'm not just talking about the kind of stuff I DJ. So, you've never heard of me. I can live with that, but people like Pirates Charles, Captain Bogg and Salty? There are so many different pirate bands out there of so many divergent genres. It's always amazing to me how difficult it is to get the word of that out there, which I try to do every week.", he says tossing in a shameless plug for his radio show.

While he is quite rabid about spreading the world about all kinds of pirate music, he also has his eye on other ways pirates and popular culture have intertwined, things such as clothing, which he says is a very tough thing to do well, "Gwen Stefani about four years ago released a line of stuff that was very pirate inspired. It was brilliant. Some of it was gorgeous. I love seeing people being pirate and taking it mainstream. It's tricky. I have seen a lot of other designers do stuff that's just scary, frightening and the men who wear it look absolutely like you want to beat them up in a dark alley. When people succeed, and it's rarely done, but when it is done, it's absolutely genius."

So, want to know what mainstream pirate things he thinks are genius right now? That's what his website is for. And, conveniently, it will also link you into any of the levels of the Bilgemunky Empire you may be interested in.


December 16, 2010

A Steely Silent Pirate...

(Photo by Tony Callahan)

Many of you know of First Mate Matt or Matt Stagmer as the guy behind Baltimore Knife and Sword or the guy that writes that sword article in Pirates Magazine. Many people even go out of their way to meet him and talk to him because they know of him and the wonderful things he makes. Well, the first time I saw First Mate Matt, I didn't talk to him. The second time I was around him - same thing. Perhaps a generic 'Hi." but that nothing any more substantial. I have been seeing Matt at events for 3 or more years now and it was not until we were in Key West this year for Pirates in Paradise and the Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion that I ever sat down and had a conversation with him.

It wasn't anything he did wrong. It wasn't anything that someone had said about him. It wasn't anything he said. As a matter of fact, it was what he didn't say. ANYTHING! He's a pretty quiet and low-key guy. In his own words (once I got words out of him) "I go with the flow. I am on Keys time even when I'm not in the Keys."

So, what made me break the silence and talk to him? Chocolate and steel. A few of us were heading back to Klaus' hotel room to enjoy some yummy German chocolate he had brought down and he was rooming with Matt. Matt was showing off a just-completed Damascus sword and everyone was at first in sticker shock ($1,400 or so) and I said 'Well yeah, it's Damascus!" Our eyes met. Everything went quiet. The world around us ceased to exist and... OK, not really. I was just impressed that I said something other than just 'Hi." We had actually traded a couple sentences!

Our second conversation was outside El Meson De Pepe in Key West as we were waiting for the pirate dinner. I am not going to offer all the back-story, but suffice it to say that over a short chat about knives and swords he uttered these precious words - "I'll trade knives for sex." Ah, the joy of being able to offer no context and let you all draw your own conclusions on what preceded that line. But, before you all start offering your bodies up for a blade please note he has discerning tastes and not all 'trade offers' will be accepted.

Visually, my impression of Matt is that he is fuzzy. He has lots of facial hair with what I am pretty sure is a baby face hiding underneath. Then again he is a bit younger than I am (grumble) so I suppose that should not be such a surprise. He has a very welcoming smile (if you actually approach him) and pretty blue eyes (which was one of the things he wanted people to know about him - Done!).

First Mate Matt has been a pirate for only about 4 years, but has been making swords for about 15, since he was twelve or thirteen years old. He learned about making and selling swords from his brother, "When I was twelve years old my brother had already been making swords. He had a booth at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It was semi-pirate themed, more Musketeer-era, but I was always more into the pirate thing. I always wore the big boots and stuff like that when I was a kid growing up and then I started working with him and making stuff and went into it." And it seems it was a wise move as he is now making swords full time.

While we in the pirate community appreciate a man who can craft weaponry, not everyone has that same view of this trade, according to Matt, at least not before the POTC movies showed Orlando Bloom crafting blades.

"All of the sudden when I told someone I was a sword maker it went from 'Oh my god, he's a creepy sword maker!' to now all of the sudden it's ok to go somewhere and tell someone in non-garb that you're a sword maker."

Matt spends the little free time he has working with the folks at Pirates Magazine. He originally got into the magazine world when he was talking to Kim, who was at that time running Faerie Magazine, "She was looking for another genre to get into and I said, if you do pirates, I'll help along the whole way. I didn't know everybody, but I had been on the Pyracy Pub for a while and I just said lets do it."

That 'let's do it' attitude is also how an event in his hometown of Baltimore came to be what it was last year. I'm talking about the Fells Point Privateer Day and the Order of the Leviathon event. He even lists it as one of his best pirate accomplishments, thus far, "They fired their event coordinator and looked at the magazine people. All the magazine people looked to me. It was lot of work and fun making it happen. Before, it was not much more than an arts and crafts street fair and we brought it up. It was a blast and next year I'm looking forward to it again!"

You can also catch his article in each issue. Blades of the Brethren is a sword column, each focusing on a different sword maker and a specific piece they've made.

His hope for the future is that pirates will continue to be popular, "I would like to see this genre live beyond just the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and just stay, and so far it has. There are some people who have gone into the steam punk and this and that. It's too much fun to stop doing."

New to pirating? Well Matt has a couple pearls of wisdom for you:

First, he says don't go all out deciding on a character and shopping for everything right away, "Before you buy anything look around and really know what you want. Make sure you really want it."  That is sound advice I could've used when I started pirating. I can't tell you how many outfits I bought or made that I have sold, given away or just tossed because they no longer suit my characters.

As for his character? "Pretty much I'm the guy who tries to do some PC stuff, but then some days I am a ren pirate. I don't really like to make rules for myself."

Second, establish good friends. "First and foremost - good crew, good friends. Find the best people you can - that smile the most. Hang around them and go from there."

Third, don't get caught up in the drama, "Somebody comes up to me and starts talking drama and I am going to walk the other way which I advise anybody to do that."

Fourth – "Stick to your own girls, don't steal anybody's girls. Bastards."

If you take one thing away about First Mate Matt is, he says let it be this – "I'm the guy who strives to make nice things for nice people."  And don't forget, he has pretty blue eyes and will trade knives for sex…


December 7, 2010

It's a Tuesday morning and I woke up in my own bed in a house with a heater…. The Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion and Pirates in Paradise is over….

I find myself missing the long shivering walk to use the restroom, and a chance to take another gander at an amazing star-filled sky to as I walk through a fort of sleeping pirates. I miss seeing Galen working to get the fire roaring in the morning. There are no Fayma or Lily hugs and no periodic squawks from Oreo letting me know he's awake while Crudbeard slumbers….

So, I will now attempt my look back at the events of the past week and condense as much as possible to just a few cute stories so I don't write a novel.

I arrived at the Cypress House to see my roomie for the first 4 days, Captain Marci from the Schooner Wolf, just moving in so we caught up and I introduced her to Amelia. They became fast friends and on many occasions they had conversations I was left out of… By the way, if you are looking for a great place to stay in Key West, centrally located, but beautiful and with yummy breakfast and happy hours every day, check out the Cypress House. Dave and the staff are second to none!!! I love going there!

Then I headed out to dinner with Momma and Papa Ratzi, Lily and Klaus. Klaus seemed very overjoyed that there were always Klaus Sandwiches with Lily and I on either side of him.




After dinner Lily and I did what we have always been told not to do…. Followed a strange guy who said 'Want some candy little girl?'  You have to admit, they don't get much stranger than Klaus J But, he was sporting a cooler FILLED with yummy German candy!

We also got to see First Mate Matt and Sarah at the hotel and I got to play with Matt's newest pretty, a beautiful Damascus sword that I unfortunately do not have a picture of, but I have no doubt he does, so hit him up for a look-see!!!

Monday I had to do a little work, helping to set up things on the Waterfront side of the fest, but my work buddies were none other than Jamaica Rose, Michael MacLeod and Powderkeg. Great company to be sure! We had things done in minutes and were able to do a bit of socializing. It was during this time at Amelia met Pierre, Michael's pet rat. She was less than pleased as her whole body is about the size of his head. She ran back into my shirt to hide.

Things started picking up more on Tuesday with the End of Hurricane Season Party and Conch Republic Holiday Party. Liberte and Dean and Deadly Aim were kind enough to help me get onto the Navy base so I could purchase the final pieces of my Naval Uniform to be a proper member of the Conch Republic. Then Silkie tacked the pant legs as Edward O'Keeffe helped assemble the rest of my outfit and they sent me out the door looking dashing in white!  Once I was on site Fayma put my Epaulets on and gave me a hat and I was good to go. (I forgot to take pictures from just before this point forward, so Thanks to Tony and Fayma Callahan for many of the pics you are about to see!)

Drop Dead and Great Scott were put on the flag detail for the burning party, which went up in a fireball and made the front page of the paper

Wednesday morning, a group of us (including Edward, Galen, Silkie, Cascabel, Braze, Scarlet, Mamasabi, Klaus and Caribbean Pearl) went over to a local school and talked to the kids for a couple hours about being pirates. They were a great group and got involved and had lots of questions for the pirates!

Thursday got a lot more active! That was fort setup day. Every few minutes another tent would come in and our neighborhood was really coming together. I managed to get my tent up pretty quickly with a little help from Drop Dead, Great Scott, DB Couper, Buxom Anne Marie and some of the Searle's Buccaneers and we erected the 'great mast' that DB built.

Then there was the baker's tent. I was delivering an old baker's tent to Fayma to become part of her collection and she was having it set up for Beauwolf to use. It had been a while since I had assembled it, and it became quite the group effort. After getting a little hardware we were missing and a couple other side-jaunts of shopping for things that were lacking at the campsite, a group of 6-8 of us managed to get it up. Once I quit looking confused and remembered how it went together it went quite smoothly, and since it had a built in fly, it even became home to the Mission the Surgeon presentations.

The evening ended peacefully with me back at the fort. Constable was playing his harmonica and I went over and sang a few songs with him and had a nice evening just taking in the environment we were blessed to be in.
Friday started and ended at 'full speed ahead'. First thing in the morning I donned my Mary Read attire for the trial of Anne and Mary at the waterfront.  Those who have watched it over the years know one of the main things I do is abuse a guard.  After all, Mary was described as a hellcat that took half a dozen men to control. I can't be easy to bring to trial. This year they gave me Thomas. While a little smaller than me, he was all muscle and gave me a 'bring it on' look as we headed out. On Friday, he got off a little easy. I was in bare feet and the ground was covered with rocks, so it was a little hard to really throw him around without causing myself substantial pain. The trial itself was a little 'rusty' but we made it through. The bright point of the trial was Gareth (Pew, I think, on the pub). He took on the role of the Bailiff and was fantastic – and brought the role the  pompous air it needed!!

I got back to the fort in the early afternoon, quickly switched into my 'Wrecker' dress and headed up the fort wall to do commentary for the battle. I was getting help from CJ (JollyJackTar on the Pub) and Hawkyns. I was the noisy character (yeah, I know, type casting) who talked about the characters on the field and the gentlemen were so kind as to add facts about weaponry that was being used.  I believe my favorite part of that day was the ongoing yelled discussion between myself and Jack Roberts (on the field below) trying to set up my dinner 'date' with Captain Sterling that evening, where I was instructed 'I would have chicken and like it' to which the folks on the wall started giving me advise on what I should ask for in addition to chicken such as diamonds, sapphires…gold….etc…and their reaction when Jack returned to Sterling to say he had promised those things and was then promptly beat around the head and shoulders by the Capt for making such an agreement.

Dinner was plentiful - onion soup and beef stew with lots of bread.  Then it was time for the auction. I sum up the auctioneering skills of William Red Wake and Cannibal Crispy in two words – DEAR GOD! I used those words to describe what I was seeing on a number of occasions. They were hilarious and a number of things they said and did are wrong enough that I dare not repeat them, but there was so much laughter that I got another one of my 'laughing too hard' headaches… I seem to only get those hanging out with you pirates!  When all was said and done I ended up with a Don Maitz watercolor of me done during the Trial earlier that day, a Janny Wurtz original drawing of the trial and the beautiful map case made and donated by Mad Pete (I picked up a couple other Maitz items during the weekend as well).

Saturday was a similar schedule during the day with the trail going much more smoothly in the morning, and my knocking the wind out of Thomas and possibly injuring his pinky finger as he dragged me in shackles, and back to the wall for battle commentary in the afternoon.

I do believe this was also the day that Willie Wobble made the little Jerk Pork. It was on the boucan pit and I sneakily grabbed a piece to nibble on. Now, I know Willie makes hot food. After all, the man sells a variety of hot sauces and pepper jellies, but WOW this stuff was really hot. Two bites and my lips were starting to numb up. Just as a point of reference, when I purchase jerk chicken in Jamaica, it takes a whole plate for the heat to be enough make my lips tingle. Willie did it in 2 bites! I did get Willie back though, I taught Amelia how to be a good pirate in his campsite…stealing an almond!

While many went to the parade, I stayed behind at the camp with those who were having a more quiet evening. There were chicken and dumplings and cheddar broccoli, potato and corn chowder to munch on, and Dutch and Greg brought their guitars over by the fire and we sang and played for hours. What a great time!  On a couple of songs Silkie and I both sang and found out that we sound pretty darn good together! Neither of us can figure out why we didn’t know that before, but now we do and we're planning to start learning songs we both know.

Sunday had many of the same events as Saturday, sans the trial. The battle scenario was a great one. Friday had seen the pirates 'test' the fort defenses and be sent running. Saturday had the pirates put up a fight, but ended in a stalemate. But Sunday, what looked to be a formidable Royal force suddenly shriveled up when Capt Sterling and the Spanish defected and joined the pirates. But as soon as they had their victory over the troops, they seemed to not be able to decide who was in command and soon there was a blood bath on the field with Capt Sterling and William Red Wake among the casualties. Then they abused the living, the Viceroy was stripped of most of his possessions and made to watch, and swear allegiance, as a pirate flag (The Mercury flag as a matter of fact) went up the flagpole. Also check out the photo of CJ Carrying Edward ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE FIELD! Amazing!

After the battle, things started to wind down and as the bell hit five, and the public was officially supposed to leave, I pulled out the Klaus Kandy Kooler and all pirates headed that direction to have a treat. I am pretty sure we all regressed into kids opening packs of candy and sharing them around.  Capt Sterling seemed to be confused and was not eating candy, but instead trying to put a candy rat down my top, figuring 'If a squirrel lives there, why not a rat?"


We then took the Pyracy Pub picture….

…. And enjoyed the Hog Roast, which had a long line of hungry pirates, but was the FIRST big meal I have been to at an event this year that has not run out of food! As a matter of fact, a few folks had seconds! It was all very tasty too! I should have gone back for more of the mac and cheese!

During dinner, David Foster, the park manager, was turned into a pirate and given his new name, Broadside Foster. We then headed to Old Zach's Tavern, the pub in the fort, for our closing ceremonies. Bawdy Be was the MC, and a might fine one, and presented Mamma Ratzi with the shirt we had all signed for her and presented Lily with the cards we had all 'customized' for her as well.

While emotional… I was holding together well…..Then Harry stepped up to speak. For those who do not know him, Harry was 'THE GUY' at the fort until two years ago. He was both pirate and park ranger and seemed to be able to make ANYTHING happen for us and was one of the heads of the pirate family there. He was sorely missed last year and this year was able to get back to spend the time with us. As soon as he started talking about how important this was in his life and I heard the first crack in his voice, the tears started. Lily and I were sitting on the floor, arm in arm, and both bawling like little babies.

This is also when the entire pub sang 'Here's A Health to the Company' while handing around a big goblet and all taking a drink from it. It was one of those bonding moments that I believe everyone who was in that space was blessed to have and if they had not understood the 'family' concept before, after that, it was crystal clear.

The night continued with singing and socializing until the wee hours of the morning and when I could no longer hold my eyelids open, I went to bed.

Monday morning as I broke camp, I thought back to my early worries about what this year's event was going to be like and had to admit I had been wrong.  When I first heard all of the reenactors were going to have to camp in the fort together, I wondered how crowded and annoying it would be.  But walking down that aisle of lantern-lit tents that turned into our pirate town for the weekend completely switched my thinking and I loved it.

Offhand… a couple of other highlights of the weekend that have not been mentioned.

Crying with Fayma during dinner Friday evening – Friday evening was the first time EVERYONE was at camp. Once the beef stew and onion soup was up on the table and the line assembled, the true PIPmas Family happened. Fayma was working, but I pulled her from her tent and had her stand in a little patch of darkness with me. I then said, "just listen and look for 30 seconds… this is what it's all about." And the tears began. It WAS a pirate family gathering and it was truly beautiful. Lit by dozens of candles you could make out silhouettes of pirates who were serving up a bowl of food and grabbing a hunk of bread. Your ears would be filled with conversation and laughter as all the family reunited and caught up. It was fantastic! I pulled Lily out to enjoy the moment as well.

Meeting CJ or JollyJackTar on the pub - First, he had a 'what do you need' attitude which I always like. Second he made me look good on the wall while he was up there and third, well, for those of you who have not met him, he will make you immediately think' WOW! I have so much to learn and so much to do to upgrade my kit. He's in his early 20s and his demo stuff and knowledge puts me to shame in no time. He's got me already opening up books and plotting new things I need to better my presentations! And that's a good thing. I love good motivation to get off my backside :)

I know there are so many more things I should mention and may down the road, but I have already caused many of you to read far more than you were likely intending, so let me just say – Bring on 2011!!!

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