It’s amazing how many different kinds of postage stamps you can buy at the post office this time of year. There’s the Madonna and Child, Saint Nick, and a lamb proclaiming, “All is calm and bright.” Of course, there’s also one celebrating Hanukkah, another Kwanzaa, plus quite a few more. And that’s on top of some pretty amazing stamps commemorating people and events from America’s past.
One of my favorites is a black and white stamp of John Kennedy. It captures a very handsome man displaying an air of leadership and dignity, something lacking in the presidency these days. I remember when he first became president. I was only 14, but even a callow youth like me sensed the feeling of hope that pervaded the country. Anything seemed possible then, so much so that Kennedy promised the United States would put a man on the moon in a decade. He beat his own timeline.
Coming from any other politician, the prediction would have been preposterous dribble, like a slimy politician promising to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the country. But when a man like John Kennedy shared the vision of a New Frontier, most Americans believed that it was not only possible but probable.
I don’t think we should put the picture of politicians on postage stamps today. It seems most are obnoxious and deceitful, many millionaires who buy their position with the family inheritance or with obscene amounts of money from lobbyists. And that’s a disgrace. Who wants to mail a letter with a politician’s picture on it who robs from the poor to give to the rich?
It’s not that people don’t expect you to bend the rules when you ’re president, but they do expect you to play fairly and not be mean-spirited or vengeful. Which brings me back to postage stamps and an interesting character from America’s past. Blackbeard.
I can’t help but think he would have made a great president, looking great on a postage stamp. He was clever, manipulative, strong, focused, and a great motivator. If you served with him, you might not always agree with his methods or his goals, but life couldn’t have been fairer on his ship. He wouldn’t have had to tweet for you to know what he was thinking or to exert his authority.
As I mull over this whole postage stamp thing, I can’t help but think what one would look like with Blackbeard’s picture on it. He’s usually portrayed with a black, straggly beard and a full head of hair. His eyes didn’t twinkle like Santa Claus’. Rather they were dark and piercing, quick to root out malingerers.
I don’t know if Donald Trump’s likeness will ever appear on a postage stamp. One reason is just practicality. How can you get a picture of someone with all that hair into such a small space? The other reason is more ethical. Is it really a good idea to extol someone who thinks it okay to grab a woman by her genitals without even asking? I’d like to see Donald Trump do that around Blackbeard.
Another figure that deserves a place on a postage stamp is Captain William Kidd. Kidd’s gotten a pretty bad rap over the years, but many historians are revising their view of Kidd as a ruthless, blood-thirsty murderer. The fact is, when Kidd set sail from New York, he did so with the explicit approval of some very influential politicians. His fortunes turned bad when his crew grew mutinous after failing to capture any ships on a list pre-approved by the King and politicians.
Kidd struggled to control his crew, all the while attempting to satisfy the demands of his well-connected investors. If Kidd had a flaw, it was that he was naïve and trusting. After returning to the Caribbean, he discovered he was a wanted man, yet opted to willingly return to New York, certain he would find support from those who hired him.
Politicians, realizing they were about to be embarrassed, disassociated themselves from Kidd, and even went so far as to hide two tickets that would have exonerated him. Upon his arrival in New York, he was jailed and shipped to England to be tried for murder and piracy. Forbidden to present an adequate defense, he was found guilty and condemned to hang. Kidd’s picture on a postage stamp? He earned it after dealing with cutthroats at home and at sea.
And not to slight the ladies, I think Ann Bonny is another pirate who deserves to be on a postage stamp. At an age when women on ships were taboo, Ann broke the glass ceiling or at least the crow’s nest on the mainmast. It took a lot of courage for a woman to pass herself off as a man, rubbing elbows and God knows what else with a ship filled with lusty sailors. Just going to the bathroom took a lot finesse and cleverness so as not to expose her identity as well as other things.
Eventually, Bonny’s sex was discovered, but she earned the crew’s approval when she showed she could fight as well as any man. Surprisingly, Ann and her cohort Mary Read proved more valorous than the men who cowered below deck when the ship was under attack. When captured, she was tried and sentenced to death. The only reason the sentence wasn’t carried out was because she was pregnant.
I could suggest other pirates whose faces deserve to be on postage stamps, but I’d be happy with just these three. Like the typical politician today, they were resourceful, clever, and master manipulators. Unlike today’s politicians with their aristocratic attitudes, pirates had a strong sense of fair play and democracy. On a pirate ship, no one was privileged. Not the rich; not the well-connected; and certainly not the blood-sucking lobbyists.
The motto of pirates could be summed up in a familiar phrase: “All for one. One for all.” If Blackbeard and his ilk were alive today, they might even adopt the motto of the Carnival Cruise Line: “Fun for all, All for Fun.” Though they would probably insist on changing it to: “Rum for all. All for Rum.” Rather than argue with them, I figure why not join them.
It’s almost 4:30, and I have to close this piece. My wife needs a book of stamps at the post office. I don’t know what kind she wants, but if I had my way, I know which ones I’d buy.
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Lately it seems wherever you turn, you either hear about the Rio Olympics or you see it on TV. I’m not complaining. I find it inspiring to see so many topnotch athletes performing at their best.
But did you ever wonder what it would be like if pirates held their own Olympics? I can’t help but think it would be an exciting event well worth watching.
If I was organizing the event, I would have eight categories. First, there would be the sword and cutlass events. The first part would consist of polishing and honing a sword or cutlass. (Swords are more for piercing; cutlasses are more for slashing though you can do both with either.)
Each pirate would be given a dull, rusty blade and his job would be to turn it into a thing of beauty that every other pirate would want to steal.
Since this event is in the nascent stages, I’m still working out the details like how to prevent a bunch of pirates who had too much rum to keep from cutting themselves. In the end, the sword that pirates try to steal the most gets the gold. And you know how pirates love gold.
The next event requires each pirate to draw a treasure map. You heard that X marks the spot. Can you imagine a pirate marking a hundred X’s on his map? A stolen map would be worthless to the pilferer.
And before you object to pirates stealing at the Olympics, I want to remind you that they’re pirates. They’re supposed to steal from each other. In fact, if they failed to steal anything during the events, they’d be disqualified.
Another event would require everyone to design their own pirate flag. The only stipulation is that it’s designed on cloth. One pirate new to the trade actually flew an old piece of burlap because that was all he had. As time went on he got better.
Imagine the possibilities pirates could come up with after a couple of rum and Cokes. A treasure chest on a field of pink. My grand daughter would love that. Or picture a skull and crossbones on a rainbow background. I bet that would bring a smile to the faces of a lot of men and women in the gay community. Aarrrrgh!
Pirates are often given a bad rap about their hygiene- and some might well deserve it. In this next event, pirates are given a bar of soap and required to wash up. Drop the soap, and you’re automatically disqualified. Continue reading →
Most of you may remember a few short weeks ago, I hosted Captain Billy Jacks Parrot, giving him the opportunity to tell you about The Bare Bones, a cruise ship he was refurbishing for those looking for a real pirate adventure.
Well, Captain Billy just returned to port late this afternoon with an update on epic changes he’s making to the whole cruising concept. You may remember the fantastic changes he’s already made to the dress code, the Sign and Steal Card, and the Liquor package.
Captain Billy tells me that on a trip to the Western Caribbean this past week, he’s made a number of other revolutionary changes, but like a pirate he was adamant about telling you first hand. So I’m turning this post over to him. Am I crazy or what? I hope he’s learned the fine line between bawdy and proper by now, but with all the wenches on board The Bare Bones, I doubt proper decorum was foremost on his mind.
“Avast! Mates! I see ye be back visitin’ with me old friend, The Uncommon Mariner. He be kind enough to let me speak with ye about a subject near and dear to me heart! And we ain’t talkin’ rum or wenches either. I be’s talkin’ about The Bare Bones. A Pirate cruise ship fer anyone lookin’ fer a rollickin’ good time. If ye got a pirate heart, me cruise ship’s the one ye want to book passage on, mate.
One of the big changes we made this last time out was in gambling. If it’s one thing a pirate likes more than rum or a pretty wench, it’s gambling. Wanna stop a sword fight that’s going hot and heavy? Just throw a pair of dice out on deck.
First off, we kept the slot machines, table games, and roulette. And we give ye a thousand doubloons and a hundred pieces of eight to bank roll ye. Moreover, to give ye a fair shot at winning, half our dealers are wearing two eye patches. And we don’t confine gambling to a stuffy casino either. Ye can gamble outside on any of our decks. And there’s plenty of places to sit. That’s why we call them deck chairs.
Speaking of entertainment, this might be a good time to let ye know we’ve done away with some forms of amusement ye find on other cruise ships. There’s no phony art auctions. Ye know what I be talkin’ about. Ye bid or buy what they call an authentic print or painting, only to find it’s a copy of a copy of an exclusive print or painting, meaning fifty million other landlubbers have had the same piece of ship hanging in their bathrooms at home fer years.
Movies. Ye should be havin’ too much fun to even think about sitting in a dark room watchin’ movies. Why ye could be doin’ that at home. But Captain Billy has made some concessions, so ye will find movies aboard The Bare Bones. Mostly pirate movies. We’re kind of partial to them onboard our ship especially those with Jack Sparrow. No relation to Jacks Parrot, mate. But if ye want to be admitted to the theatre, ye better follow our dress code. Eye patch, tricorn hat, and plastic sword.
After much discussion and arrrghuing , me crew decided to eliminate other forms of entertainment that were also pretty lame. Trivia. Listening to Lawrence Welk’s rendition of elevator music. Lectures on underwater basket weaving. So we now offer a whole ship load of fun seminars by experienced Corsairs. (That’s just a fancy word for pirates… we charge more when we use words like that. We also call them seminars instead of lessons for the same reason.) So here they are, mates!
How to sharpen yer sword. How to speak Pirate. How to draw a pirate map. How to walk the gang plank. How to git yer hands on someone’s booty. How to keep someone’s hands off yer own booty. Especially important if yers is oversized. How to sing like a mermaid. How to train parrots to talk. How to roast parrots that refuse to talk. How to catch crabs. How not to catch crabs from other passengers. How to carve nautical scenes on yer wooden leg. How to stop strangers from carving nautical scenes on yer wooden leg. 100 Things ye never knew ye could do with yer hook. (Yer wench is gonna love number 69.)
Speaking of entertainment, you’ll be glad to know the swimming pool is manned with lifeguards. That’s mainly because the bottom is lined with pieces of gold, and they ain’t takin’ their eyes off it. Except maybe to eye some of them wenches… but that’s jest to make sure they don’t need mouth to mouth respertation or whatever the hell that thing’s called when they lock lips. And if ye decide to take advantage of our pool, we got instructors who will teach ye the fine art of doing cannon balls. Cannon balls should be mandatory on all cruise ships.
As ye can see in between wenchin’ and rummin’ me shipmates have been hard at work makin’ the Bare Bones yer ultimate cruise ship. We have several additional modifications planned when me crew and me take ’er out on the high seas this coming week. Till then me friend and compatriot The Uncommon Mariner will keep ye posted. I want to thank him fer lettin’ me apprise ye of our revolutionary updates. Smooth sailin’ out there on the High Seas! – Captain Billy Jacks Parrot
**** The Uncommon Mariner and Captain Billy Jacks Parrot share culpability for the content of this post.
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