Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here Thar Be Pirates!

What A Handsome Lad!

This is the 5th year running of the great NorCal Pirate Festival held on the waterfront in Vallejo and my third time to attend.  And it was once again positively spectacular!  Even having seen this before, i am still amazed by the creativity, enthusiasm, and fun-loving energy that goes into this event.  And puns.  Lots of puns.  I saw a sailor dragging a rope with a long piece of wood at the end.  Painted on the wood was the word, “PLANK.”  A friend, laughing, turned to me and said, “Get it?  He’s walking the plank!”  Oh the levity.

For certain it helps if you have a sense of fun, adventure, and a heaping dose of silliness to help enjoy the festivities.  But even if you are a stouthearted, maritime historian, there is plenty to admire here.  The Dauntless, The Brotherhood of Albion, Morgan’s Companie, the Government House, and others provide nautical fact to the Hollywood fiction.  In fact, many of the pirates working the event have a full knowledge of maritime history and were quite happy to share with an enthusiastic listener.  In my mind, that’s the best you can get – a well-blended balance of crazy fun and nautical life – they even have it along the waterfront to give it that harbor feel.  Could it get any better?  Oh yes – it does!  I brag to everyone how good the food vendors are – what a feast!  Every year i make sure to get something different.  I’ve had meat pies, gyros, cinnamon almonds, chocolate dipped strawberries, funnel cakes – and this year, much to my delight – they had mouthwatering fish-n-chips!  It was one of those things i had mentioned in a blog i posted last year about this event – the lack of fish-n-chips.  Obviously i wasn’t the only one who missed this tasty dish.  I walk away every year wishing i had a bigger stomach. 

This year’s entertainment was even better than last.  Either that or i’m becoming more and more a pirate (to be sure).  Undead pirates – courtesy of the Pirates of Emerson (who do a wicked Halloween haunting every year…) and the Dead Pirate Macabre – jugglers, comedians, musicians, sword fighting, Pirate Lords and Ladies, cannon fire, dancers, storytellers, Capt. Jack-a-Likes, and piratical debauchery are the rule of the day.  Merchants are just as varied, selling everything from t-shirts and treasure maps, to finely made period clothing, decorated skulls, and swords. And i must say, the wares are high-quality and not dollar-store-junk.  I would like to do a shout out to Pirate Mod, one of the best and creative piratical t-shirt designers around.  It is through their website that i discovered the NorCal Pirate Festival three years ago.  I’ve been a satisfied customer of theirs ever since.  Hello good peoples – thanks for your hard work and great shirts! 

Crew of the Dauntless

One of the highlights of each day’s festival is the sailing of the Aldebaron and her attack on the British Royal Navy.  She’s a beautiful schooner with wooden masts, spars, and decking – and remarkable red sails.  Even though she was under diesel power, the wind filled her sails and showed off colors.  The land based cannon fire, and possibly the ship too, was provided by B.O.O.M. (the Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries).  Honestly, i don’t know how real sailors and infantry kept from going completely deaf in their first year of service; the concussion of power when a gun goes off is scary.  Another highlight is the Court of the Pirate Lords.  The Pirate Brethren put on a great show which features slap-stick comedy, swordplay, and choosing a new pirate lord.

The Aldebaron fires on the British! 

And the British fire back!

All of this is to say, i will be back again and again to be delighted with such mirth and laughter as to keep me in smiles all week long!  For those of you who wished you had known earlier about this event, or realized it too late – put this on your phone or computer calendar.  Next year Father’s Day weekend is June 16th & 17th, and unless things change drastically, that’s when the next Nor Cal Pirate Festival will be.  So set the date now and don’t miss out on the best event all year!

Queen Anne's Revenge

The Sea Dogs

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Crazy Cool Jobs

Look at these guys.  Crazy.  But cool.  For the last few weeks i’ve been watching them fly through the air at the end of a tether, going from one high power tower to another.  It looks like a blast.  Zipping through the sky, swinging free and clear.  What a view!  What an experience!  I would dig it.  I’ve flown in gliders, been pulled behind a boat in a parasail, traversed ziplines through treetops, flown loops and hammerhead stalls in a bi-plane, and skydived.  Oh and wouldn’t i just love to add this experience to my little list of aerial feats – not that i’ve intentionally tried to create a check-list of craziness.  It’s just that opportunities arise.  And i take them.  

Obviously, i have no fear of heights.  Or control issues.  I envy these guys as they zip along.  Yet despite the casual regard, i have a great fear of what the gentlemen are actually doing – working with electricity.  True enough.  It’s some seriously high voltage electric we’re talking about.  But the stuff really frightens me.  I don’t even like walking underneath them.  Buzzing and humming with zappy power.  Gives me the willies. 

I remember when i was a kid, the boys would dare each other to touch an outlet.  I was completely amazed and baffled by their stupidity.  Why on earth would you want to get zapped?  Hell, static electricity scares me.  I do all sorts of tricks to avoid it.  It’s a wonder i will even turn on a light switch.  There’s one in my bathroom that makes a little popping noise when i flick the switch.  I have little heart palpitations every time.    

Back to our flying electricians, they have a very cool job.  They probably even get extra pay.  Certainly it’s dangerous work they have with lots of room for a possible fatal error.  But i can’t imagine that it’s ever a boring job.  In fact, i think it would be one of those jobs you actually look forward to when you wake up in the morning.  As for me, i would take the ride but not the job.  I wonder if i could talk them into hiring me to photograph their work?  That would be cool.