Monday, February 18, 2013

Last Mardi Gras Thoughts

-- When we marched in Tuesday's Mardi Gras with the Krewe of Pirates, we were joined by members of the Whiskey Bay Rovers, a pirate and mariners folk group who provided music from time to time during the sojourn.

The Whiskey Bay Rovers were a couple of men short, but they had made up for it with wit and personality. I particularly liked their take on "Cape Cod Girls," with an unusual syncopated rhythm that made it a great marching song.

And meeting them provided an unexpected ego-boost.

We were at the fleet-master's house in the morning, waiting to get moving, when the Rovers showed up. And as they walked in the backyard, Duffy introduced us and one stopped with a look of pleased surprise, then shook my hand. "I love your book!" he said. "It's one of my favorite books! It changed my life."

He was talking about "Pirattitude!" which Cap'n Slappy and I wrote about 10 years ago, self-published as "Well Blow Me Down," then rewrote and rewrote until it got picked up by a publisher. (An author never really finishes his book, he just fiddles with it until he eventually decides to ship it off to a publisher.)

Imagine my reaction when he explained that the book had helped give him the courage to stand up to his boss and get fired from his job at a collection agency, then spurn their offer of severance pay in exchange for keeping his mouth shut about the thing that had prompted the standoff. Instead of taking the payment (hush money,) he preferred to keep his freedom and self-respect. He went on and became a teacher.

I'm pretty sure he already had the intestinal fortitude for that, but still, it felt really good to hear.

-- One of the pirate brethren Tuesday had the most beautiful pirate hat I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong, I love my tricorn, which I got 10 years ago from Captain Jack's Pirate Hats, made by the MacKay and topped by a long orange macaw feather given me by the bird's owner. It's a little old, a little battered, a little worn – just like me. But still proud. And Cap'n Slappy's cavalier hat from is a sight to behold.

Now THAT'S a pirate hat!
But this hat was gorgeous, a big leather tricorn in a deep, dark red, almost mahagony, with hand tooling, silver buttons, a ribboned medallion and several long plumes. The picture here shows it, but (like Mardi Gras itself) you have to see it up close to get the full effect. It glowed, burning with an inner fire. I've never seen anything quite like it. It was made by a local artisan and when I learned how much he paid for it, I was stunned. That was a really reasonable price for such a beautiful head piece. More than I've got to spend on a hat right now, but really reasonable.

Part way through our march, the hat's maker – who goes by the pirate name Jean Lafitte Papillion – joined our throng, a really nice guy who talked about how he'd seen some nice leather work and decided, "I could learn to do that." And boy, did he. He tells me he keeps making himself swords, and baldrics and things, then ends up selling them to admirers. So he finally set it up like a business, along with performing as a pirate in venues around southern Louisiana and Mississippi. You can see his site at His own hat was very nice, but the one on Capt. Sir Henry Martin was unreal.

-- I mentioned in Thursday's post that one of the pirates in the krewe was pregnant – seven months – and pushing her two-year-old daughter in a stroller. You'd think that'd be a good reason to skip Mardi Gras this year, but no, you can't skip Mardi Gras, even if you can't drink and you no longer live in New Orleans, or even in Louisiana. She and her husband had moved away, but came back because you just have to. And this year he was crowned pirate king by the krewe, so she was there for his big moment. As I watched her pushing the stroller down streets cobbled in plastic beads, all I could think was, "Now there's a good sport."

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