It was a pretty daunting Tuesday that lay before me. My check-in for my colonoscopy was at 8:00 am. The procedure was at 9:00. With any luck, I’d be sitting in the Applewood House of Pancakes by 11:00, savoring Amy’s Awesome shrimp omelet and a stack of hot pancakes. The preparation leading up to my procedure involved the unavoidable misery the day before. So when my wife pulled into the hospital parking lot at 7:22, It was comforting to know I had time to spare.
Fifteen minutes later, my day began to unwind quicker than the threadbare sails of an aging galleon. “You’re all set,” the receptionist said, as she signed me in. Then there was a long pause as she glanced at the number written next to Tuesday.
“Seventeen what?” I asked.
“The secretary scheduled you for the seventeenth.”
“Yes. Tuesday. It says so right there.”
“She wrote the wrong date,” she replied. “You’re in the computer for tomorrow.”
If there had been anything in my stomach, it certainly would have growled in protest. “Don’t worry. We won’t make you do that preparation again. They’ll have to squeeze you in.”
As I climbed out of the wheel chair and into the waiting car seven hours later, I glanced at my wife. Lunch had proved as elusive as Amy‘s Awesome omelet. But at least my troubles were behind me.
Flashback to a little over four hundred years ago. Sailors hustled on the Cuban dock as a restless breeze rocked the ships that lay at anchor. Noblemen and slaves alike were abuzz as they made final preparations for their trip to Spain. Unimaginable wealth was stored in the ships’ hulls: gold, emeralds, and silver bars. Carefully packed in crates were chalices, plates of silver, and finely crafted jewelry. Then there was the loot the greedy had smuggled aboard to avoid the ship‘s manifest.
Somewhere two hundred miles to the east, a monster with massive arms swirled clouds, wind, and rain wildly in its path. Two days later, the Atocha and twenty-seven other ships in a caravan struggled in mountainous seas. The Atocha and the Margarita were among the unlucky ones, sinking in fifty-five feet of water. As primitive as their forecasting was, the people of the day had warning of what was to come. Yet greed, restlessness, and a yearning to return home overcame their better judgment. Continue reading →
You May Be a Pirate if…
How did you do? Less than five and you’re no pirate at all. Six to ten and you’ll be pillagin’ and plunderin’ in no time with a little more practice. Fifteen correct and you must have a pirate ship waiting to whisk you away. Twenty correct and you deserve the Golden Doubloon Award. Let me dig into my pirate’s chest. I think I have one in here somewhere. Oh, yeah! Here it is…
Last time we visited, ye took a little test to see how much ye really knew about us buccaneers. Did ye know enough to escape the gangplank or was ye swimming with the sharks. Think you’ll survive a second broadside from me cannons? Good luck, mates. Ten right answers and ye merit sailing with Blackbeard himself. Three wrong answers and anyone will know yer a landlubber fer sure and no mariner of the high seas.
Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all. When Helen Keller spoke those words, it’s not likely she was thinking of pirates, but they fit perfectly the happiest pirate this side of Margaritaville and his parrothead followers.
If there are three trademarks of a pirate, it’s these
1. The willingness to take bold chances.
2. The willingness to steal.
3. The thirst for adventure.
If this is true, then Jimmy Buffett is not only a pirate’s pirate, but he’s had school in session for over forty years, teaching parrothead/pirates the intimate details of how to pull this pirate thing off. Let’s get started by putting a few things up front.
Jimmy’s been shot down in Jamaica, crashed his plane in Long Island, been put down by critics, thrown out of sports arenas, and had his share of illicit taxi rides. Yet each time cannon balls fly his way, he’s found a way to “… jump up and smile back at …” us.
This is exactly what makes Jimmy Buffett a pirate’s pirate. Adversity is no stranger to him. It’s just that he’s learned to make friends with it. It’s hard to know whether Jimmy shines because of his resilience, or whether his resilience comes from his ability to shine. I’m convinced if given an electric guitar and Jimmy Buffett‘s example, Blackbeard would have turned out differently.
Let’s face it. No one would ever accuse Jimmy of being a saint, yet there are few people I know closer to God. When you make so many people happy in a world writhing in pain, it’s one of the most godlike things a human can do. More of us should learn to do that.
As for this whole stealing thing, Jimmy is guilty. For over forty years, he’s stolen our hearts while encouraging us to live our dreams. What‘s more, he’s taught us to steal our lives and our dreams back from those who stole them from us a piece at a time.
Though he seems to preach a hedonistic lifestyle, Jimmy is more of a Buddha than a sensualist. It’s all about the present moment. No matter what you were expecting, it is always now. Breathe in, breathe out. Move on. It’s a terrific lesson. Continue reading →
We owe an incredible debt to mariners whether they answer the call of the sea for money or adventure. Include in that group commercial fishermen, members of the merchant marines, ferry and tugboat operators, workers on cruise ships, and many more brave men and women who know what the demands of life on board a ship entails.
And make no mistake about it. The men and women who serve in the United States Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines and around the world are a special breed of mariners. Along with the aforementioned, they willingly put themselves in harm’s way for their country not only in war time but in times of crisis when life, limb, and property hang in the balance.
Much has been made of the dangers from pirates these past several years. With more than one sailor losing his life to these ruthless cutthroats, they are a force to be reckoned with. The luckier ones have been held ransom while loved ones a world away wait for years in dread and uncertainty.
But pirates aren’t the only peril mariners face when the last vestiges of land disappear. As stately and rugged as they are, ships today still must face the ferocity of storms at sea. How many men and women lost their lives just in this past year because of storms? Only the other day, a Russian trawler went down within minutes with fifty-four dead and fifteen missing. The death toll would have been far worse if not for nearby sailors risking their lives to save those in the frigid, choppy waters.
Old or poorly maintained ships are yet another hazard many mariners around the world must deal with. Alas, it’s a fact of life that for some companies the bottom line supersedes the lives of those who serve on their ships.
Ask any mariner working on a fishing boat or cargo ship about the dangers they face on any given voyage. It’s not a reflection on the captain or crew. It’s the nature of the job. Equipment doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. Long hours and weariness take their toll, making it easier for accidents to happen.
I think those who object to pirates generally do so for two reasons. First, they point to pirates as nasty, evil men and women who made travel on the sea a precarious and dangerous adventure. Some, indeed, were downright diabolical as can be testified by the ilk of Francis L’Ollonais, Edward Low, and Henry Morgan. Yes, that Henry Morgan who straddled the fence between pirate and privateer quite adeptly. At one point, Henry wasn’t above using nuns and monks as shields when he attacked the fortress at San Geronimo. Clearly these men were sadistic and evil, taking no small pleasure in seeing men and women brutalized for their own personal gain. But not all pirates fit that profile. Many pirates who have been demonized for centuries were not always the vile, murderous figures history has portrayed them to be. One only has to read Colin Woodward’s stellar book The Republic of Pirates to realize many were victims of circumstances. Richard Zacks’ in his revealing book The Pirate Hunter convincingly discounts the myth that Captain Kidd was the world‘s most wicked and notorious pirate. Whatever you can say about pirates and those with a pirate heart, one thing is true. Each is motivated by his own dreams… and whatever they are, a real pirate is willing to lay down his life for them. It’s too bad more people today don’t have that kind of passion.
The second reason pirates make some people feel uncomfortable is that few want to admit we all have the seeds of great good and terrible evil in us. Which ones we water determines what we become. Given the proper circumstances only God knows who among us would have gladly sailed under the jolly roger. Today we tend to romanticize pirates perhaps because we recognize that there is something within them that resonates in our own hearts. The history and literature of the world is filled with stories of men and women both fictional and real who rose from oppression and boldly struck out on their own to follow their dreams- consequences be damned. Their environment may have been landlocked fiefdoms instead of the high seas, but these heroes and heroines had a pirate heart just the same. Joan of Arc, Socrates, Thomas More, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Davy Crockett, Julius Caesar, Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman. It’s why we root for pirates despite David Cordingly’s solid job of debunking a host of pirate myths in his book Under the Black Flag.
To us, Pirates were the good guys who in some way strove to throw off repression and cruelty inflicted by unfair governments and social castes. We see something of ourselves in them. We recognize unfairness and injustice when we see it and stand and cheer when someone bucks the system and fights back. We’re not just cheering for a pirate that knows how to sneer Arrgh. We’re cheering for ourselves because we too have known what it’s like to be oppressed by an insensitive boss or been bullied by an HOA or mistreated by a surly clerk or abused by an unfair insurance adjuster. It’s that part of the pirate we love.
Those with a pirate heart always challenge mainstream thinking and because of it risk becoming outcasts and paying the price. To be sure, we despise men and women who would readily cheat us of our possessions or deprive us of our lives. We spurn and despise the Bernie Madoffs of the world just as quickly as we eschew the pirates that plague the waters off eastern Africa. Yet we admire any soul who courageously breaks from the status quo to pursue his dreams.
The person with a pirate spirit today has a lot in common with the pirates from the Golden Age of Piracy. He stands tall, willing to push back on anyone and any power who would rob him of what is rightfully his. Namely, his life and his dreams. In those quiet moments, you can hear your dreams call your name. What plans are you forming to make them come true? What are you going to do today to reclaim your life out there on the high seas of Life? May God Speed, and may you always have the wind at your back and following seas. See you out there on the high seas of life. Aarrgghh!