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Pirate Surgeon's Journal - 2012

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So the journey to my sixth Key West pirate celebration started out with me forgetting my hat. Naturally I had to go back home and get it. (On my way to Searles in 2010 I forgot my wallet, but I just had someone bring it to me. The Patrick Hand original hat is another matter entirely.) It's a good thing I got it, because it was the star of my trip. Usually two or three people comment on the ol' Patrick Hand, but this time no less than 8 or 10 had something to say about it. At this rate, when I hit my tenth KW Pirate Fest, I'll be staving off comments with a... stave.

There was a large group of what can only be described as hippies - patchwork vests, long print dresses, accoustic instruments in old black cases plastered with stickers, dreads - like a storybook hippie group - waiting at the gate on the flight to Atlanta. I took this to be an omen. (Of what, I don't know. But it was an omen.) I took photos that probably came out really crappy because I was trying to take them without the hippies noticing. I don't know what a pack of hippies might do to you if they saw you taking their picture, but I didn't want to be wounded before I even got to Key West! (Then again, they probably would have made peace signs. Make love not war and all that - although this group was far too young to have any connection to the original movement so the mantra may be different.)

The flight from Atlanta to Key West was full of boisterous tourists, decked out in the what I'm sure they felt was the finest of gaudy faux Caribbean island wear. The lady sitting next to me was with her father who was clearly making his first trip to Key West. They talked the whole way down about the plane, the funny little screen in the back of the seat, whether it would play the football game, &c. (What football game? I have no idea. I only watch football for the commercials. In February. Sometimes.) I buried my head in the The four years voyages of capt. George Roberts until we got to an altitude where I could use my laptop and work on my golden age of piracy Christmas article.

When the seatbelt light went out on the tarmac, I got the Patrick Hand Original™ out and the woman sitting next to me became all curious. I explained that it was a 16th/17th century planter's hat, used to keep the sun off the heads of the planter. This led to a discussion about the event going on at the fort and she became very interested and told her dad about it. Wanting more information, I produced one of my business cards and suggested that she could find links to the Fort and the FTPI website by looking at the first page of last year's Surgeon's Journal. She said she was going to try and come out and that I should not be embarrassed if she yelled out my name. So I'll be looking forward to that.

OK, one last rambling observation on getting to Key West and I promise to stop. (I've been told never to include this in the Journal, but it fascinates me, so I can't resist. Skip the next two paragraphs if it annoys you.) We all gathered around the airport's luggage thing and several folks jammed right up against it so that no one else could see the luggage or get to it even if they could see it, despite the fact that this would not make their luggage appear any sooner than if they hung back and waited for it to appear before rushing forward. (It's tradition.) Standing near me several feet away was a very anxious-looking girl. She said she didn't know what her luggage looked like. I made concerned noises. "I'm on vacation. I'm de-stressing. I'm here to unwind," she replied apprehensively, as if it were some sort of hopeful defense. She was actually wringing her hands. "You don't seem to be de-stressing." I commented. "I have anxiety issues," she confided. (What?! No!)

I asked her why she couldn't remember it. She said she had mainly looked the inside of it, not thinking about the outside. There is a queer sort of logic there, I have to admit. We nattered on for a bit, me kind of teasing her into relaxing and she rewinding herself every time a piece of luggage that could have been it come out of the mysterious luggage feed. "What color is it?" I asked. "Black." "Ah, there's your problem. You should never buy black luggage. I didn't." Just then my black carry-on, which I had gate checked in Atlanta, appeared. "Annnnd I'm about to make a liar out of myself." I said as I stepped up and grabbed it. People began to drift away as they got their luggage. Finally it was only a few, including she and I. I spotted my bright blue hardcase. As it made the round on the carousel, people grabbed everything before it and left. Suddenly she got all excited and said "I think that's it!" It was the one right behind mine - the very last piece of luggage from the plane.

Loaded with luggage, I made my way to the exit to find Captain Jim and madPete standing on the curb in full garb. "Why didn't you guys come in and help me?" I asked. I never got a good answer to that one. Our non-captain Quartermaster William Red Wake was driving, so we loaded everything in and got on the road. I asked if we could stop at a grocery store, which they agreed to do. (This is what crewmembers do for each other, especially when dealing with the ship's surgeon who might be operating on them with sharp, crooked knives some day.) I was the only one not wearing garb. "At least you have your hat!" madPete offered brightly.

In the store, Captain Jim took upwards of 5000 pictures of me getting groceries. Look forward to a whole series of photos in the webpage version of this journal featuring yours truly shopping for eggs and such in excruciating detail. (I know, I know, you're already holding your breath waiting for that one. Stop already or you'll turn blue.)

We then had to get my condo keys, which turned out to be a problem because there were no condo keys. Fortunately the owner of Compass Realty was in the office with a plumber trying to figure out if they should use dynamite to remove the cement pad that used to have a shower atop of it. (He thought this was pretty funny. He even showed me the concrete shower stall pad, which had several holes the plumber had drilled in it hoping that would cause it to break apart.) When I asked him why they had a shower in the office, he answered, "We thought we might need it some day." Ah. He was a really nice guy and he made five or six different calls on my behalf before determining that they hadn't put my keys out like they were supposed to. So he went in the back and got them.

Our carload of pirates then graciously took me to my room, helping me bring up the bags and groceries, with Captain Jim capturing the event for posterity. (Actually, he probably didn't, but he should have. We'll need a whole new series of pics for the website journal right about here.) I was pleased to not that the pull shade that I mounted last year was not only still here, it was already pulled down! Yet another valuable contribution to Key West courtesy of the Mercury ship's surgeon. Since everyone was in garb, I threw on my stuff and we headed back out and made our way to the fort. Lily Alexander was at the gate and she graciously checked me in.

The fort is chock-a-block full of canvas from what I could tell in the moonlight. There is a lovely breeze this evening bringing in cool, fresh air. (This is good for the health according to some period surgical authors. Unless people start getting sick, of course. Then it is bad for the health.) The Mercury crew was set up near the flagpole on the row of inside tents this year. Our group consists of William, Captain Jim, madPete, me, Iron Jon and (I think) Paula. (I didn't actually see Paula, so I can't confirm this yet.) We intently discussed how my display should be set up for the weekend, although my heart wasn't in it. Tomorrow would sort itself out and I was more concerned with getting dinner since I hadn't really eaten much since breakfast. When I broached the subject of eating, no one wanted to go. So here I was in garb, thinking about going off to eat by myself. If you have to do it, Key West is certainly the place.

Of course, I had to be hugged by a dozen different people and you all know how much I love that. What's worse is that since I've been doing these journals and nattering on about my Patrick Hand Original™, lots of people know me by name, or at least my hat, but I don't know them. Oh, I sort of know them and I even recognize that I have written about them, but when it comes to cold recollection of names... well, let's just say I use all my spare memory cells to house information about 17th century surgery.

I finally got near the exit of the fort when I ran into none other than Jana, one of my fellow twins. "Third twin!" she called cheerfully. She was with another girl, whose name is (I hope) Alexis. Alexis is one of the many friends of Shana and Jana who somehow got roped into accompanying them to Key West. (They often bring a spare girl to these events for some reason. I suppose if one of the twins is unable to complete her weekend at the fort, the extra girl can take over.) Shana lives in central Florida and Jana lives on the Georgia coast. I asked Alexis where she hailed from. "Maryland." "Maryland? However did you get to be friends with these two?" As it turned out, they met Alexis through the on-line game version of Lord of the Rings two years ago and had been Facebook friends ever since. They had only met twice in person, this being the second time. How about that?

As it happens, they were heading out for dinner, Jack, Shana and Kiera (Shana's 4 yo daughter) were waiting in the van for Alexis and Jana, so we headed for the parking lot. On the way, Jana stopped to use the rest room. "Where are we going?" I asked Alexis. "

Some Italian place that has a z in it. No one can remember the name."

"Ah, Abbandonza."

"I think that's it!"

"I can get them to go someplace else. I have influence." I explained confidently.

"More influence than Kiera? She wants mac-n-cheese."

"Looks like we're going to Abbandonza." I answered. No one has as much influence as a four year old.

Riding in the back of the bus (Jack has a white bus that's disguised as a van), I sat between Jana and Alexis. Alexis is the type of person who has to wear a seatbelt, even when she's in the back. This meant she kept digging around in the seat for it and apologizing to your ship's surgeon for grabbing him. I offered to give directions, but Shana and Jack seemed to want to use the GPS system rather than the Mission Dead Reckoning system. As a result, we got there without any wrong turns.

It was a nice dinner. We met up with Jack's parents, who haven't been here since 2007. They were decked out in 2007 PiP T-shirts. "I found them at the bottom of the drawer and thought they'd be appropriate." Jack's mom explained. In the restaurant, I sat next to Kiera, who was playing Life on someone's phone. She kept calling out the color that the arrow pointed to on the virtual Life spinner thingee. "I got married again." "Again?" I asked. "Yes," the announced firmly. Where does the second husband peg sit in the virtual Life plastic car? I though the back was for the kid pegs.

As we were leaving, Jana took several photos of the restaurant, 'so she wouldn't forget the name.' I was slightly wounded. The Mission Dead Reckoning guidance system may be a bit dodgy (and sometimes perhaps moody, quarrelsome, hard-to-use and possibly dysfunctional), but the Mission Key West Restaurant name map is pretty reliable.

Back in camp, I ran into Chad and Cannibal Chrispy, who was sporting his gigantic new cannon with a rifle butt that Chad had made for him. He let me hold it. It was only slightly more heavy than my hardcase luggage. I quickly returned it to him. Not something you wanted to run across the battle field with. It had a beautiful seal cast into the top of it, which Chad assured me he had built into the mold for the gun. A very interesting and stylish piece. Still not something you wanted to run across the battle field with.

I ambled around and talked with several people who said things witty and interesting that I will probably wish I had remembered. Things like William regaling us with the story of the slave auction of Reggie back in 2000 and... nine? During the proceedings William thought the price was too low, so he told me that Reggie would make a fine surgeon's assistant. I apparently indignantly shot back, "I know for a fact that this man has no surgical training!" William replied "Neither do you!" Yep, don't remember a bit of that. I was drunk as a lord. Or finding Captain - wait, no Commander - Cutter and asking innocently if he was Deadeye. (I wanted to find Deadeye so's I could thank him for putting Becky's dress back on here. I was sure that dress would be long lost by now. Finding her clothed in the gibbet this year made my heart sing.)

I do remember encountering Rachel, who identified herself to me last year as Sawbones Sarah, and her boyfriend Blackheart Charlie. They were talking about the full moon. (Yes, it's a full moon. And no one should be surprised.) Rachel wanted to get a photo of it. I explained that this rarely worked - I have several times tried to take photos of the moon while at this event and never been able to capture it properly. In fact, sometimes I have missed it entirely and wound up with a photo of black nothing. (Uh huh. Drunk as a lord then, too.) By way of proof, I took a couple of shots, all of which came out blurry. Still, she wanted to try it with her tripod, so she went about setting it up.

While she was doing that, I talked with her husband. He explained that in the Northern latitudes, when a storm was coming, the moon would often have a ring four times as big as the moon in diameter around it - like my pictures, only moreso. "It's the reflection off the ice crystals," he noted.

Rachel got her tripod set and took several more shots, although they also looked a bit blurry. Her husband rubbed his chin and philosophically noted that some things can only be fully grasped by the human eye. (This is my new excuse for all future journals as to why I don't have pictures of the things I am describing. I will even rub my chin philosophically while writing that.) He also told me she always bought Canons because they were the best camera and could take the most abuse. I regaled him with how in 2010, during the Key West Holiday parade, I had stretched my arms up high to try and get a photo of the parade from that angle and dropped my Canon on the asphalt - yet it survived and is still working. Rachel took a couple more shots, all with the encampment in the frame - she called the encampment "the Christmas", which I quite liked.

Having had enough, I decided to wander back here. My blood sugar was running low, which is astonishing given the amount of Italian food I had had. On the way down the long, winding road out of the fort, I heard my name being called. I stopped and waited for my pursuer to catch up.

It was Gwen of the Valhalla's Pirates. "Thank God you've got your hat. I can always recognize you by it!" Score another point for the Patrick Hand Original™! I didn't recognize her, so she said she was the girl whose name I always forgot in the Surgeon's Journal last year. (This does not narrow it down very much.) I explained how I usually relied on Facebook and crew websites to fetch me up names. We then talked about how wonderful Facebook was - thanks to tagging I can often find people's names without having to ask Michael Bagley. (He knows everyone and can remember most of their names.)

I opined that it would be even more useful for me if people tagged photos with their pirate names. She told me that she actually had two different Facebook accounts because she wanted to separate her family FB friend from all those cleavage shots. "I've never saw so many pictures of my cleavage as when I started reenacting. So I thought I better separate the pirate and family stuff." Wise advice that we would all do well to follow, to be sure.

When we reached the end of my compound, she headed for Duvall to find her crew, who had left before she had managed to get into the fort from the airport. I toddled over to my condo with the pull-shade. I love that pull shade.

I think that's enough for now. Tune in tomorrow when there may be more piratey stuff to discuss.

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Someone this evening asked me what the twins were like when they were drunk and I had to admit that I didn't know because whenever they were drunk, I was even moreso, so I could remember clearly. Well, still sticking with my intention to be sober for a full year, I am pleased to report that I know know. But you'll have to wait to find out because that happened at the end of this evening and I must do this sequentially or there will be no hope of my ever remembering it all.

I got up bright and early after a restless night. How can you sleep in properly when there is pirate fun in the offing? I wanted to get into the fort early enough today to make the Battle Planning meeting at 9 am so that I could be in the battle even though I wasn't actually going to be in the battle. They've gotten even more safety conscious this year. I even had to put a safety ribbon on the surgeon's weapon of choice. (The clyster syringe for you newbies.) I awoke at 5am, however, which was far too early for the battle planning meeting, so I wandered about the condo, editing yesterday's post with things that hadn't occurred to me while writing and continuing to work on the surgeon's article for December on Period Pirate Christmases. I wanted to breakfast at Blue Heaven, but they didn't open until 8am. (Key West proper doesn't really do mornings. 8am is pretty early.) So I forced myself to work on images for the article and adding random thoughts to the journal while nervously tapping a foot and drinking coffee - which made me nervously tap my foot even more vigorously.

Finally it got late enough and I rushed down to Blue Heaven and wolfed down an asparagus, spinach, white cheese and shrimp omelet. (Yes, of course it was good. No, I can't be more specific about the white cheese because it had the sort of name that was invented to confuse poor ship's surgeons who were really more interested in getting to stupid battle planning meetings.) I also wanted to get a bike so that I didn't have to walk all the way to the fort on foot, but they didn't open until 9 or 9:30, so that didn't happen. (Seriously, they just don't do mornings.) This was a bad thing as I may remember to tell you later. (Or not.)

Once inside the fort, I ran into Israel Cross and his girlfriend whose name I do hope to determine before putting this together on the web page because I forgot it. (I'm sure no one is surprised.) She was very nice. She seemed to know a whole lot more about me than I did about her, which was slightly alarming. I asked him if the battle planning meeting was going on and he assured me that it was "Just the captain's meeting, which doesn't concern us.

Once inside the fort, I found that it may not concern Reggie, but it sure concerned everyone else because it looked like at least half the camp was at the battle planning meeting. This either means that everyone mutinied and started their own crew. (A crew of one!) or people just didn't have anything else to do, so they decided to attend the captain's meeting. I can't think of many places where people would willingly attend a meeting, but this appeared to be one of them. Of course, I'm one to talk, because I went right over and bent an ear. OK, that's not completely accurate. I went over and took pictures and pretty much ignored what was being said. Regular readers of my surgeon's journals will immediately recognize this as Pirate Surgeon SOP. I am actually proud to say that I have learned next to nothing at the last four battle planning meetings I have attended because I was more interested in digitally capturing the moment for posterity.

After that, I went over to the Mercury encampment and started to unload the surgeon's gear. I had packed the surgeon's crate in a cardboard shell this year because, as I learned last year, UPS charges me a $30 penalty for not having a package wrapped in cardboard. Tack that on to the normal shipping charges and you're talking about over $100 to ship the surgeon's tools each way! Oh the things I do for my art...

The first thing I did was get out the gift I had gotten for the twins to con...vince them to continue editing my articles and journals for me. These were two bears wearing the outfits they had had on for the parade last year, made by Trudi Dufrense. They were amazing and the twins gushed over them marveling at the details like the fully boned bear corsets. I also trotted out the surprise third twin bear that Trudi had made for me without telling me. We got some nice photos of that which you'll have to wait for the webpage journal to see. The Mission bear was most detailed and even had a bloody surgical apron. He sat on my table all day with the idea that I would use him to explain operations to kids. (It's less threatening to explain how you cut off a teddy bear's arm than a child's arm. I guess.)

As I was unpacking the surgeon's chest, the battle planning meeting started, so I went over to take more photos and pretend to be paying attention to what was being said. I also got a form from Lily Alexander that said I was going to fire a black powder weapon - which I wasn't - so that I could go on the battle field and take photos and carry my clyster syringe into battle. I then tried to give her the form back and she wouldn't take. I tried twice more and she still wouldn't take it, so I finally gave up and decided to keep it until I saw an opportune moment to slip it into her official-looking papers when she wasn't looking.

In the meantime, I finished setting up my surgical tool table and prepared for the public, who arrived in short order to hear about period surgical procedures. There were several groups who were interested and, sometimes, interesting, so that was fun. I encountered two different sets of vacationing veterinarians this year, who sort of recognized some of the tools on the table and made approving comments after the presentation.

I the slow periods, I got out from under the awning I was sharing with Iron Jon and wandered about the campsite taking photos of some of the other interesting displays in camp. I wish I could remember exactly what those were, but I took the photos so I wouldn't have to remember, so you get no more information on that front in this text-based version of the Surgeon's Journ

Eventually it rolled around to battle time, so I stuffed the necessary surgical instruments for fiield surgical treatments in my new lether doctor's bag that Fayma had gotten for me, and headed out for the pirate side of the battle field. I had already decided by then that I would NOT be showing up in time for the battle planning meeting tomorrow, even though I figured that would disbar me from being in the battles. I refuse to be driven by the clock while in Key West. This is one of the reasons I like coming here: time doesn't matter to me.

Curiously there were several bizarre displays at the end of the battle field. I asked what they were and someone told me, "Art." No offense to the artists, but it was the kind of art that can only be described as being 'interesting', by which I mean 'bizarres and kind of stupid.' I will post photos when I get arrund to doing the web page journal properly.

There were a few people watching us form up from the path along the fort side of the battle field, which I later learned were the artists. The female artist became what I can only describe as irrationally angry with us, wanting no discussion or soothing from our part because she was afraid we might wreck her art. Someone - it may have been Wasabi - named the area she had marked off with a wedge of rope as 'the devils triangle' into which we were not to trespass for fear that we would ruin the 'art.'"Avoid the devil's triangle!" he kept hollering out. This wasn't enough for the agitated artist and she eventually stormed off with her bike, muttering under her breath. Very strange.

The battle itself was limited to cannon firing on both sides and a spate of small arm firing from the side wing. We weren't allowed to have swords on the field of battle for some reason this year, so what we could do there was a bit limited. There were several rounds of back-and-forth cannon rounds and small arms shot from the pirate side. There was a small advance of both sides and then some people went down allowing me to rush... well, no, that's not really fair... amble over to them and try and treat them with the clyster syringe and/or the bandages. I effected several Mission Miracle cures, especially when the wounded saw the clyster syringe coming out of the bag. I did manage to get Israel with it, even though I suspect he enjoyed that whole bit more than he should have. As a joke, I also took the (apparently) dead flag bearer's flag and covered her with it, which got an "Awwwww!" from the folks watching the battle field from the fort wall. I don't think anyone got photos of this, so you;ll just have to imagine it.

Whew. My eyelids won't stay up and my mind is turning to mush - it was a long day. Tomorrow morning I'll finish this narrative and reveal such fascinating things to you as I can recall, like

*Why you should never put a bunny pirate on your surgical table.

*The details of how your surgeon got all the women up to his room and into his shower.

*How Alexis got named 'Stiffwitch'

*The way you get the ship's surgeon to dance.

*And, of course, what the twins are like when they're drunk.

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There were a number of animals visiting your surgeon's table at the fort on Friday. A woman who announced to me "I am Mrs. Ford and I am 90 years old!" brought her large dog, which I petted and found to be incredibly soft. A couple who were about a 1/3 that old brought a little teddy bear sort of dog called a brown Pomeranian that sat up in its owner's arms like a fuzzy Buddah and allowed itself to be fawned upon by every female pirate in the joint. But the the day's Most Interesting Creature Visiting the Surgeon's Table in Skin prize winner was a large lop-eared bunny named Spike the Pirate Bunny who was, I kid you not, wearing a little black pirate hat.

Mrs. Ford's dog was far to large to get on the Surgeon's Table, but the Pomeranian and Spike were just right. So they were set down and put next to the Mission the Surgeon Bear and everyone took photos. Spike ('Who, BTW, was not related to our Spike the pirate. So far as anyone could prove, of course.) sat on the table and sniffed the Mission the Surgeon Bear's head which everyone took upwards of twenty photos of, including your author. With that excitement over, Spike the Pirate Bunny left the building and we resumed the normal pirate surgeon's patter, believing him forever gone from our lives except for the inevitable photos which will appear in the webpage Journal. However, that wasn't the case - Spike had left us a secret gift. He had been sitting on the blacksmith's nipper I used to explain finger amputation with. When a group showed up and I started to explain them, there -right in the middle of the place where the round hole of the nipper had been, was a neat, round puddle of yellow bunny juice - right smack in the middle of that hole! Fortunately, the leather the nippers were sitting on was treated or something it didn't soak in. There will be a photo by way of proof, trust me.

Throughout the day, I spent a little time sitting with Iron Jon at the Mercury table, talking of this and that. I don't know if I've mentioned this before or not, because I don't recall knowing this, but Iron Jon was in military service. Jon is an sort of giant, affable guy. with a bunch of tattoos peeking out from the wrists of the sleeves of his shirt. He nearly always has food set out at the table - fruit, cheese, bread - which is just one more reason why I like him. He told me that his dad had been a American Civil War reenactor in the 60s, which, as far as I know, was the very beginning of the reenacting movement. "They used to fire real civil war guns back then," he explained to me. He showed me a piece of his dad's old kit that he had adopted into his pirate persona. His dad passed in June this year. "I've been going through his stuff and finding all sorts of neat things that I can use in pirate reenacting."

Speaking of interesting people, I should mention Captain R. Hood, my interesting neighbor from last year who lives on the island before I start telling you another bunny pee-type story. Capt. Hood greeting me warmly upon arrival and announced that he had some bottles for me. He had mentioned this last year, but kept forgetting to bring them down to the fort and I had completely forgotten the whole thing. True to his word this year, he brought over a box of 20 or thirty old glass bottles. (This is a good thing because the bottles in my surgeon's chest keep breaking during UPS transit. I really should pack them better but, well, I never do.) The bottles came from a neighbor of his who had tried - and failed - to sell them at a garage sale. So he gave them to Capt. Hood who now gave them to me.

He also brought a pair of medical books for me to check out - one from the armed services from the 50s or so and another one called, The Barefoot Doctor's Manual, which was a translation of a Chinese medical book. The first book contained all sorts of procedures for surgery, although they were much too modern for my use. The second was a quite fascinating. It also contained procedures, but it had a listing of various Chinese herbs and their uses in the back along with helpful line drawings. I instantly recognized some of the names from the various scripts in the period surgical manuals. Period medical books are hopelessly arcane when it comes to medical recipes because most of them are in abbreviated, and sometimes misspelled, Latin. I may have to invest in a copy of that book.

Capt. Hood also showed me a tiny compass that he explained was a feng shui compass. (I don't know what that means. It was a very small white compass with Chinese characters on it.) He told me he had traded some unusual piece of 50s or 60s hardware he had in his possession "in the original box!" with a guy who owns a shop on Stock Island. "You should check it out - he has all sorts of interesting things. I've asked him to keep an eye out for interesting medical pieces for you." However I inspire such fast friends as Captain Hood, I couldn't say. Speaking of gifts, William Red Wake had brought me a really cool little wooden mixing bowl that I will use to encourage myself to make a proper plaster box for my reenactment kit. William also said he had met a woman who made period correct dutch medical mixing pots (called galley pots, I believe) and that he would forward me that web site. (I put this in here to remind him. ;) )

While we're talking about people, I also met a very forward woman calling herself Alamadea (I hope I spelled that right) at the surgeon's table who was wearing a silver nose piece. I asked her if she had had syphilis. (It eats the inside of the nose, you see.) She laughed and assured me that had not. She had lost part of (or perhaps all of, I don't recall exactly) her nose when she refused to join the crew of a slaver ship. Then she asked to some islands - I believe she said the Cormorants or something like that - where she had lived for a period of time. I made some flip joke about the islands because of their name, but her companion told me that she had actually lived there for several years which is why she had included it in her character profile. (It's good to work with what you know when concocting a story. That makes it easier to remember. Curiously, later that day William was explaining the history of the Mercury crew and his role and he told me that his character had lived in Jerusalem for a while because he had lived there.) Alamadea had a wild-looking grass of palm-type woven hat on which her companion assured me she had gotten in those islands she had lived at. I asked her about all the frizzy, dried, curled strands on the hat and she explained that they collected the bugs before they could get in your hair. "Then you just shake your head and all the bugs fall out!"

As the daylight begin to fade, I folded up shop and went looking for my fellow twins Mae and Brig. I had promised the entire group with them that they could have use of my shower at dinner on Thursday night and all the girls wanted to take me up on that offer. Mae, Alexis, madPete and I also had a standing date for Cafe Sole for that evening. After some fussing and a few false starts, we finally got underway. Brig, her daughter Kiera, Alexis and Jack's mom (whose name I have to yet to get stored properly - sorry, Jack's mom!) all wanted to use my shower. So we did that.

Kiera wandered around my condo in amazement, flipping the lights on and off, wandering out to the balconies and looking over the rail, announcing with wonder each feature of the place. "Look at this kitchen, mom!" she said after turning on the recessed can lights over the kitchen. Brig said, "You'd think she'd never been in a house before!" with a laugh. She then sat Kiera down with an orange which Kiera proceeded to devour with gusto. Kiera eats with great animation and as many funny poses as can be imagined.

Alexis showered first and once she was ready, we headed out leaving custody of the condo to the rest of the girls.For some reason Mae had brought the ivy head wreaths they had worn during the parade we never actually walked in last year. I asked her why and she said simply that "We might need them. Maybe for the dance." Ah. OK. Anyhow, they left them here - I am looking at them right now. I think Shana and Jack's mom (sorry!) left them in offer of trade for my hair brush which is nowhere to be seen.

Jana parallel parked Jack's car. (We were in Jack's car. If I ever though my back seat was messy, I know have reason to be proud of my car-housekeeping efforts.) She got into a space that I would never have even attempted. It was a good spot, about a 1/4 block from the entrance to Cafe Sole. I said as much, but had to add the caveat that when Red Jessi had driven us to Cafe Sole in 2009, she had managed to get a spot right outside the door somehow. Red Jessi exudes such confidence, that I've no doubt whomever was parked there before she arrived sensed her coming and ran out and moved their car. But I digress. This is 2012.

We had a great dinner, as always, which should surprise no one because, as you all know, Cafe Sole is my favorite restaurant on earth as I am fond of noting to anyone who will listen. (Say, go back into that sentence and count the prepositional phrases will you? I think I'm over my limit.) I insisted they order wine even though I am not drinking. Everyone oohed and aahed over it so much that I finally had to take a sip. (I don't count it as a black mark against myself and my promise since it was just a sip.) It was exceptionally smooth and rich. I am not enough of a wine person to loftily announce that it had bouquets or hints of this or that, but it was a fine sip of wine. Our waitress was an actress trained at UCLA, which she assured us was a difficult program to get into. (Which I've no doubt is true. I think Spielberg and Lucas both attended UCLA. I'll look that fact up when I have more time and get back to you.) She was in training and she did a fine job. She was quite animated. I asked her if she was going to take up acting while in Key West and she said she was going to try and do that and get into a band (she sings) now that she had landed a real job. Here's to her, hoping she succeeds.

After dinner we drove back to the fort, passing by that amazing house with all the gaudy Christmas lights that I love to look at. I was glad we were driving because I wanted to get back to for the Buccaneer's Ball that was going on for this first time this year, but I wished we were walking when we reached that house so I could get some photos. It's gaudy in a bright new, fascinating way every year. Mae had talked about doing a Christmas lights tour on Saturday night, but I have the uneasy feeling that that's not going to happen. Alas. I do so love looking at Christmas lights. When you add the incongruity of Christmas lights in Key West, it makes it all the more fascinating for me.

Speaking of the ball, we were assured by someone walking by that it was going on full swing when we pulled into the parking lot. We started to take the Mae Snake trail over to the fort from the parking lot, which was absolutely stupid given that the Mae Snake trail goes away from the fort and off towards the battlefield. I kept mumbling that we were going away from the fort on a dark, overhung trail without a flashlight where there were tree roots and Mae snakes, but everyone blithely ignored me and kept onward. I finally realized that I had forgotten my backpack and I told everyone I needed it, so we all trooped back to get it and decided to take the normal path instead of the Mae snake path so that I would stop mumbling. Mae snakes successfully avoided.

Now, that ball. I am not a dancer. There is a very good reason for this, revolving mostly around my natural inept clumsiness, but the twins insisted that I go. Who am I to refuse my fellow twins? I went. I managed to avoid getting on the dance floor before the rowdy band finished their set. Then everyone dissipated while the band went on break. I toddled over to the Mercury crew tent where the guys (Paula has still not showed up, so it's just 'the guys') were talking seriously of weighty matters. (Insert elephant joke here.) Iron Jon produced a bowl of peanuts, (How can you not love this guy?) which we quickly drained several times. Eventually we started telling Patrick Hand stories. Patrick couldn't make it this year due to lack of funds, which make your ship's surgeon, and proud Patrick Hand Original™ Planter's Hat wearer very sad. My favorite Patrick Hand story was one told by William. Patrick had gotten very drunk (which will surprise no one who knows him at all) and sort of passed out, mumbling to himself. He was outside his tent and William & Co. were quite concerned. How would they get Patrick into his tent? William explained that Patrick is "deceptively tall, lanky and yet heavy." I'll let him explain. "We all stood over Patrick like he was some kind of engineering problem. Everyone offered suggestions. 'We could roll him into his tent.' I said. Patrick mumbled loudly, 'Don't roll me! I don't have any money on me!'"

The music started again and I reluctantly decided to go and face the music. (Ha!) But that story, and the drunken twins, will have to wait because madPete is here and we're going for breakkies. Cheers!

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I went into the candle-lit port where the dancehall was located and the Brigands were playing. Spotting Mae and Brig, I wandered over, but they were busy. On the way, Diosa grabbed me for a dance. (She apparently claims I asked her to please, please dance with me, which is a lie as all you regular readers will instantly realize. Don't believe anything she says in her blog about this.) She showed me a pretty simple dance which involved locking arms and doing a half or three-quarters turn and then switching to lock the other arm and repeat the process. It sounds simple, right? It was simple. I fouled it up repeatedly. (I have censored myself from using the tired cliche 'two left feet' while writing about this, but I suppose you get the idea.) Still, I managed to finish the dance without breaking any of my or her toe bones (phalanges and metatarsals for you surgically-minded) and she went off to tell everyone I had been dancing which, naturally, none of them believed. They know me.

A little while after that, the twins spotted me and Mae led me to the dance floor. Jana had another dance that she had made up to show me. I had watched her and Brig dance this dance and gotten completely lost in the details of it (as is my wont when it comes to dancing - I approach it like an engineer.) I am going to try and recall the steps which she eventually managed to coax me into doing properly by repeating the instructions every time we did them. First... hmm... first... well, I think you held hands out in front of each other, turned in a little to the right, bumped left hips, pushed back, turned in a little to the left, bumped right hips, pushed back. repeat the first move and then... Hmm. There was whirling around, which I liked because it was easy. I believe you do that three times. Then there was another move that you did three times that I can't recall.

Mae is a belly dancer in a group called Fire Belly and I'm sure she looked every bit as graceful as a sylph of a woman can look doing such an intricate step with the rhythmic equivalent of a water buffalo. Alexis and Brig assured me that we looked great together and it was much better than when they had done the dance with Mae, but I highly doubt that. I know she didn't have to keep repeating the steps for Brig because I watched them and took photos. It was quite exhausting and I can see how Mae remains a graceful sylph of a woman, even when paired with aqua bison.

That was actually the last dance for the evening, so we stood around debating what to do next. Either Brig or Mae decided to show Alexis the yellow fever restroom of the fort, which is purportedly haunted by the victims of that disease who were in the fort sometime in the 19th century. So someone grabbed a lantern off the table and off we went to the bowels of the fort. (Heh. Literally.) On the way, I started to realize just how crocked the twins and Alexis were. It started with a tale about M.A. d'Dogge from 2008. Mr. d'Dogge was apparently put in charge of taking photos for the Archangels on that trip and he had taken a whaleboat full of them on his digital camera. He is a really good photographer from my experience. While we were walking towards the bowels of the fort, the twins were talking to each other and eventually got on the topic of M.A. d'Dogge tripping on the very brick path we were on. They started tittering about this, then giggling and eventually they were laughing so hard that Mae had to sit on the ground. From what I was able to extract from the laughter-filled conversation, Mr. d'Dogge had tripped over a rock or something and started stumbling forward and couldn't stop. So he kept running, bent at the waist with his camera held out in front of him, building momentum with each step. Eventually he ran into a wall which is when Mae collapsed to the ground in gales of laughter while trying to tell the story. They loudly assured me it was one of the funniest things they had ever seen. The result of the Dogge hitting the wall was that he smashed his camera which you either have to view as a tragedy or, in the case of the twin, the most absurd of comedies. The Archangel photographer thus lost tons of photos which he had to later try and retrieve from the remains of his camera. It sound awful to me, but when it is told through peals of amusement from twins, you have to join them. (I'm pretty sure there's a law to that effect.)

We made it back to the yellow-fever historied rest-rooms, encountering Spike (not the rabbit one) giving his ghost tour along the way. He was telling stories of Harry Smid photographing things in the fort and finding ghosts in the images with ponderous seriousness, which was only somewhat marred by a group of giggling twins and their friends. Eventually Spike decided he needed to go somewhere far away from us and headed upstairs to talk about the spirits inhabiting that part of the fort. Mae and Brig insisted that Alexis, being a FTPI virgin, had to go back into the restroom and sit on the third pot from the end. This she did with equanimity. Mae was mightily impressed. She might have even reverently said, "You rock." although I doubt it. It was something like that.

With that bit of business accomplished, we wandered along the inside of the ramparts (or whatever they're called) of the inside of the fort, passing several cannons along the way. Someone (probably me) said we should recreated the infamous Mae on the giant cannon scene, which she agreed to do, but didn't on account of running into a guy not playing a digeridoo with his friend. He insisted he could imitate it, though, and went over to one of the gun port windows and sat down and proceeded to do so. He was pretty good, but I've heard a real one while I was in Australia, played by a professional, and he lacked the depth and resonance. He did keep talking about how he had to get he proper tone and, most pointedly, the vibration. "You have t tune into the vibration. The vibration is key." He swore he was not drunk or high, although I can think of no other explanation for such behavior and commentary.

We all then trooped into Ole Zach's Pub, which was empty and unlit and sat around and started chattering. This is when I noticed the twins were giggling a lot, joined by Alexis' throaty laugh. Shana announced that her cup was broken - meaning it was empty - and that, despite the fact that her dad referred to her as 'Camel-bladder', she had to go pee. So she and Alexis staggered out of the pub and headed for the source of more alcohol, although I can't possibly see how they would have needed it at this time. This left Mae, not-digeridoo boy and his friend and madPete in the pub alone. We talked for a while longer, but the conversation flagged without the other tipsy twin, so we decided to go find them.

On the way, something happened that I would not ever put in the Journal if it hadn't been for what followed. We passed a group of people, madPete swears they were three girls, who said in a demure voice to us "Meow.' There was a pause and then someone farted. (I never thought that word would appear in these Journals, but now it must.) Then a girl in the group giggled and they sped by us. Mae was stunned into silence and asked us if we had hear that. madPete and I laughed and she ran back to her camp and started explaining that something had happened and that the group at her site should ask us what it was. So the sent an emissary to us (we were standing a couple feet away looking for Mae and Alexis) and they asked us what happened. We explained it and then Mae started giggling and saying she couldn't believe it.

Camel-bladder and Alexis reappeared and Mae insisted we retell the story, so we did and the girls started laiughing, more at Mae's amazement than anything. Then we all stood around and talked extensively about this amazing occurrence for a while until we were joined by Silkie McDonough who started making worried noises about our discussions waking The Captain. (As if we were the only people in camp talking and the group ten feet away didn't exist.) Finally she sent us off back to the Pub, saying we should all go, except she didn't. Silkie was trying to get rid of us on behalf of The Captain, who had never even stirred as far as I could tell.

Back in the Pub, we were joined by some other members of the Archangel crew whose name I hope to get before I put this in webpage form and we talked long and serious about things of great weight, most of which made Alexis and the twins giggle, particularly when madPete would suddenly, for no reason related to the conversation say, "Meow." Alexis was sitting on the table at one point, explaining how the room was starting to spin, so we advised her not to close her eyes, which she did and that announced that she wasn't going to do THAT again. She finally layed down flat on the table and stuck her legs, which had been dangling off the edge straight out in front of her which caused Mae to comment that she looked like a stiff witch. "Like in the Wizard of Oz?" madPete asked and then added, "Meow." which caused everyone to start laughing again.

I figured something out while we were in there. Mae refused to say the word "fart", which is why we had had to tell and retell the story so many times. "Why can't you say that?" I asked her. Brig piped up with, "Because it sounds stupid when we say swear words in our little voices." By way of example, she upped her voice about three octaves and said "F-ck!" causing everyone to start laughing again. madPete said, "Well yeah, when you say it like that." To which someone added "Meow."

Now, I was stone cold sober throughout all this - like Dian Fossey, I was just observing the behaviors of the Archangels in their natural drunken element (and madPete too, who is, technically a Mercury crew member.) Usually drunk talk gets louder and dumber and louder and more crass and louder and impossible until you finally either have to start drinking to enjoy it or leave. But that never happened here. Even when they're drink they are little and cute and come in a set. No one wanted to leave, but we began to worry about Alexis passing out (which always made her laugh her throaty laugh when we said it, proving she was still with the living.) Brig kept complaining that her head was getting heavy because, "my head always gets heavy when I'm drunk." She titled it back and to the side, propping it on any convenient shoulder and saying she was tired, but she didn't want to miss anything. Then someone would say, "Meow" and everyone would start tittering again. I guess it never gets old. Finally I announced that we must get everyone into their respective beds and we all headed out.

And that was the night. I came back here and started wiring the first installment. Breakfast today, for the record was fine. madPete and I went ot Croissants de France and neither of us had a croissant. We talked of sailing ships, a sealing wax and cabbages and kings and then I rented a bike because I tore the absolute hell out of my feet yesterday walking on the coral (My feeeet!) yesterday and I came back here to empty the rest of the contents of yesterday from my head so I could fill it up again today. I'm hoping to get out on one of the ships with Stynky today (Danger! Charters), so we'll see if that happens. Till later on, then!

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I arrived in camp today and noticed there was yet another meeting taking place. (There are a lot of meetings this year.) Since I wanted to talk with either Scarlett Jai or Lily Alexander about getting on the Danger! Charters boat with Stynky and Scarlett was running the meeting, I decided to listen in and wait for an opportune moment to interrupt. As I stopped thinking about the moment that would be best to interrupt and started listening to the meeting discussion for a bit, I realized that this was the boat planning meeting. If it were not for blind luck and other people's willingness to make allowances for me, I don't think I'd ever get to do anything. The say God protects fools and little children and I am equal parts if both, so I guess I just get lucky this way.

Scarlett was explaining the rules and duties of the pirates on the ship and... ohh, look! Something shiny! I wandered around the meeting and took several pictures of those paying serious-minded attention to Scarlett once I had expressed my preference for being on Stynky's ship in the completely wrong part of the meeting for expressing such things. Then I went over to the place that was the dance hall last night and watched the tail end of the Tryal of the Mercury crew. Quartermaster William Red Wake and Captain Jim were exonerated of all charges not long after I wandered in, so I took a few hopeless photos of that and headed over to the table where the twins and Alexis were sitting. I pulled several dirty shirts out of my bag for Mae to clean. (Mae is doing the washerwoman bit as you may recall.) This was not entirely untoward on my part as she expressed interest in cleaning something other than the same two pieces of cloth over and over again. (I hope she doesn't use too much starch. Or maybe they hadn't found the great starch mines of Africa yet, so that would be period incorrect.)

I wandered back over to the meeting (which was still going on) just in time to learn that we were being broken into groups to brainstorm just how much lumber a Maromota monax (aka groundhog, land-beaver, whistle-pig (seriously!) or woodchuck) could throw, toss or 'chuck' if he could chuck wood. No, we were actually trying to figure out how to arrange a carpool to get all the crew members over to our assigned ship, which is second in difficulty only to determining what variety of pizza toppings will make a large group of people all happy at the same time.

I had rented a bike as I (hope I) mentioned in the previous post, so I just volunteered to ride. I left the other five people in our group - Stynky, 'Handsome' Devlin, Captain Henry Belanger, Zatara De LaVega and Frank to figure the rest of it out while I chatted with Deadeye, he who restores Becky's clothing. (Huzzah!)

Someone was asking if the boots he was wearing were the ones he got in 2008. He explained that he had gotten those boot several years before that from his jousting troop. (Of course he belongs to a jousting troop!) None of the rest of them could fit their calves into the boots. Since he could, he was given them and then made fun of for years afterwards because he had such skinny calves. (I don't get it either. Jousting troops - go fig.) He told us that when he first joined the troop, he didn't know how to fall off a horse. Then he corrected himself. "Falling off wasn't a problem, it was learning to land."

I had actually run into Deadeye at the very beginning of this post when I was walking into the fort when he was carrying two bags of trash. I asked him about this and he informed me that he had seen the fort personnel doing it yesterday and thought it would be a good idea to take that over rather than make them do it. He's that kind of guy.

I also learned that Deadeye has a son who is going to be a chaplain in the Marines. "Think about that - it's the toughest job in the unit. You're the only guy who doesn't get a gun when landing on a beach." Admittedly, I had never though of that. His son had come to visit him awhile back and he had took him on a tour of the fort. Deadeye said that his son had asked him to tell him everything about the fort, so they spent 7 hours touring the place. That's a lot to learn about the fort! After they finished, his son repeated it back to him, which drew a group of tourists who wanted him to show them the stuff he was describing, so they took several more tours through the fort, spending all day there.

Our group began to filter out of the tent and I decided it must be time to go to the boat, so I mounted my buck and ran into Captain Henry Belanger and Zatara De LaVega who were walking to the boat dock. (Not literally ran into them, you understand. That would hurt.) They hooted at me and said I was going to get there too soon and I answered that I was going to stop by my condo to pick something up on the way, so probably not. But, of course, that didn't take so long and I ran into them again and they hollered at me again, so I doubled back and walked my bike which gave me the opportunity to talk with them for a bit.

They are both involved with the Beaufort Pirate Invasion. Zatara told me she was in charge of event fundraising. Color me impressed. Volunteer event fundraising is no easy task. She was apparently quite good at it, raising thousands of dollars for this year's event. She was actually too good, because the event coordinator has since told her that she is to do nothing else for the event but fund raise.

We arrived at the Key West Custom house, behind which was apparently the ship we were sailing on with Danger! Charters. I believe she was called the Sarah, although I may be wrong on that point. I split off to park and lock my bike because the boardwalk that apparently led to the Danger! Charter boat dock had such serious-looking signs explaining that bikes were strictly prohibited on the boardwalk. So I wandered about until I found an inconveniently located bike rack. Once on the boardwalk (stopping only briefly to purchase a Key Lime Ice Cream scoop), I spotted Zatara, Henry and Frank over in front of the tiny shed that served as the Danger! Charters world headquarters. (Well, I assume it is their world headquarters. If it isn't, it should be.) Right across from the shed was, you have probably already seen this coming long before me, the larges bike rack I have ever seen. No bikes on the boardwalk, my eye!

Frank was a very quiet sort of person, so I decided to chat with him because quiet people always have such interesting stories to tell, if only you can get them to tell them. Such was the case here, but I am out of time to type. The Dead Man's Chest auction is this evening and I have a horse in the race, if you'll permit me to mix metaphors. So you'll have to wait to hear about Frank, the boat trip out and why I never made it back to the fort before now.

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(This is probably going to be a short entry because I am dog tired.)

Our job at the boat dock was to encourage the tourists passing on the boardwalk to take the Danger! Pirate! Cruise with us. Zatara was a natural at this. She could call out to people in that carnival barker sort of way that demanded your attention. She also did this thing where she would just stand there in the middle of the sidewalk and point at the little Danger! Charters World Headquarters shack. People would look at her, look a little puzzled then look at the D! C World HQ and continue looking a bit puzzled. Sometimes she yell out, "Made you look!" and laugh. She explained to me that she had been in charge of bringing people into a booth at events and that this pointing thing was her classic garden gnome ploy. (She also mentioned that she had had a hat the looked like a garden gnome's which she wore while doing this.)

The rest of us paled in comparison to Zatara, so we kind of milled about, looking a bit sheepish. As I mentioned in the previous entry, Frank seemed sort of reserved, so I asked him where he live. Key West. He had come to Key West six weeks ago from New York City because "I fell in love." When he got here, however, the girl gave him the cold shoulder. So he started figuring out what to do with his life now that he was here. Frank is a writer, copy-editor and English tutor. He had just written "a frank article on what it's like for a writer/editor to newly arrive in Key West," which they published on the front page of Solares Hill. He explained that he went from week-to-week deciding whether he would stay here or not. "I live on peanut butter and coffee - kind of like being in grad school again." When I asked him how long he'd been reenacting, he laughed and said, You're kidding, right? About 18 hours. I just threw this outfit together when Jai asked me if I could help out."

One o'clock rolled around and we all trooped out to the boat, proper. The staff explained the rules of the ship, noting that we should all sit down as the boat was pulling away from the dock and we should watch our heads as the boom of the sails had to be hauled around every time the ship turned. There were two young boys, about 8 - 13 years and they could not abide this sit down rule, running all over the place while the rest of us sat and watched. (Boys will be boys.)

We cruised around for a little while and then things started happening on the battle field in front of the fort. So the boat angled in towards shore so that we could fire our guns and add to the battle.

Oh, man, I'm just nodding off here. I promise I'll finish tomorrow morning. .

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Once aboard the boat, we all took seats except the young gentlemen who fidgited and proceeded to run around like wild men. You have to place some of the blame for this on the pirates - Devlin in particular - who were mock sword fighting with the boys on the dock. Young boys + pirate sword fighting is more potent than an energy drink.

We finally got out to sea, which was beautiful. It was a model day for sailing; the sky was blue with brilliant white clouds, the sea was fairly calm, there was a nice fresh wind and the sun was shining. Reaching Tank Island (across from Mallory Square) was apparently the cue for the crew, in the form of Janet, to go around and ask everyone where they were from. Her pat response to whatever you said (Phoenix, Baltimore, Detroit, Fallujah) was, and I quote, "Cool." (It had a slight uptilt on the L - not quite enough to rate an exclamation point here, but enough to know that whereever you were from, well, it was a fairly good thing in Janet's opinion. It became something of a catch-phrase for Stynky and I.Stynky: "I'll let you fire my gun when we get near the fort.'" "Cool. (Slight uptilt.) I've never fired a black powder hand weapon before." Stynky: "Cool. (Slight uptilt.)" Random tourist: "I think I'll go use the restroom before the battle." Stynky and I: "Cool. (Slight uptilt.)" &c. (If Janet noticed what we were doing, she was too polite to say anything.) This is what passes for entertainment for Stynky and me, from which you'll gather that the two boys had a better developed sense of humor.

She was also offering drinks around, of which the boat had a good variety and store. Most of the pirates were firing their weapons, so we tended to stick with water and sodas. (Yeah, I know, "Pirates!", but safety first.) The captain, whom Stynky had yesterday named 'Wet Willie' because his name was William and... well... Stynky. (You know?) He plied around the area in front of the fort for a while where the poor, land-bound battlers were stuck trudging about, dragging and preparing cannons, yelling orders at each other and sweating. Meanwhile, on the Sarah, we were sipping cold drinks and Janet was bringing out chips, salsa and hummus, which one of the boys camped cross-legged in front of, eating all the ships and nothing else. The rest of us, when we could get around him, were slopping salsa all over the deck.

Finally it was time for the battle, so Captain Wet Willie tucked our craft in behind one of the other boats preparing to make a run. Stynky had prepared his gun for firing and explained the workings of it to me. I asked him about the frisson or the hammer or the halyard or something and he said, "All you have to do is pull the trigger." This is why I don't remember what I asked him about because I realized that all that info was going to be useless to me - Stynky was just showing off his knowledge of the gun or something.

One of the crew members said we would fire a broadside, making me asked what the signal was going to be. Stynky said the guy didn't really mean broadside, he meant were were going to fire as we pleased which made me wonder just how good of pirates this crew was. They had a tiny little brass cannon tied to the top of a cooler with bungee cords that was about 1/4 to 1/5 the size of our blackpowder hand weapons. I said something to Stynky about it being cute. "Wait till you hear it," he replied. The sound it made gave our guns inferiority complexes. The gun barrels may have drooped a bit after it fired it's first shot. The little cannon was loaded with some kind of monstrous shotgun shell - at least twice as big in diameter as a normal shotgun shell - and then the guy operating it would hit the end of it with a mallet. Color me impressed.

We fired of several rounds with Stynky giving me and Frank opportunity to fire. Captain Wet Willie stayed in radio contact with the land-based operation just like during the golden age of pyracy. After several passes and many rounds of fire, he told us the pirates had won. The tourists on the boat cheered. (We already knew the pirates were going to win because they had explained that in every meeting that had taken place that morning. Well, OK, everyone else already knew it. I had been too busy taking pictures and watching the end of the Mercury trial at the fort.)

After the battle, everyone relaxed and started drinking Yuengling which their internet page tells me is the oldest beer in the United States. (And I always believe everything I read on the internet, so it must be so.) There was wine and some other beer options, but the pirates were firm in their preference and poor Janet wound up having to retrieve a second case. The crew also relaxed and they even allowed Captain Henry Belanger steer the ship for quite awhile. (And I'll bet you thought the 'Captain' monniker was just a pirate name affectation.)

We made our way back into port, which was marred only by the two young jackanapes, who, filled with chips and several sodas and fresh from watching gun fire and running around with their plastic swords couldn't possibly be made to sit still for four seconds. We cheered Captain Wet Willie. Stynky, who had given him that nickname, wanted to give him a new one, a better one, but he seemed quite taken with that one, so he didn't press the issue.

Back on land, I sidled up to Stynky and said, "You know what we're close to?" "No" "The Rum Barrel restaurant." Now, those of you who read last year's Journal will immediately recognize this as Stynky's breakfast nook of choice. We went there for corn and crab chowder every day during the event. It's good, it's filling and it's affordable (for Key West.) He was immediately sold. He said, "I've missed escaping there for breakfast each morning, but the food in the fort is really good this year so I haven't had to do that." The other four pirates were sold on the idea, so we stopped off at Devlin's car to drop off all our weapons and headed off.

On the way, I asked Captain Belanger how it was that the crew let him steer the boat. He told me that back home, he was actually a professional ship's captain with a license to captain 100 ton ships. He operated in North Carolina, ferrying people back and forth from the coast to an island called Cape Lookout. He talked lovingly about this island and I eventually discovered that he and his family had land there. One of the stories he told was that when hurricane Irene had hit the North Carolina coast, it had wiped out every house in the area where his family had their place except their house and the house on either side of them. Talk about lucky! He also explained that they had a rare group of wild horses in that area (at Shackleford Banks, actually) called Banker Ponies which he assured me were only 10 hands high. I put this information in here, mainly because I think the term "10 hands high" sounds cool.

Captain Belanger had a great history in back of his pirate name, that I didn't make notes on, so I may get it all completely wrong. Indulge me. Several generations ago, a wealthy family by the name of Belanger owned much of Cape Lookout. They had a single daughter who started see a man named Henry... OK, this is where I should have taken some notes. Let's call him Henry Whiplash because the family thought he was a mountebank. (Another point on the cool word scale! Huzzah.) So Henry courted the girl, whom we'll call Alice. (No notes.) Eventually they married and had a large family and their family inherited the land. Captain Belanger explained that he had taken his name from those two people, in part because the great grandson of Henry 'Whiplash' had been best man at both of his weddings.

At the Rum Barrel, most of us ordered corn and crab chowder because Stynky and I had been yammering on about it so much. I say most, because Zatara did not. She ordered a salad (she had to 'watch her girlish figure') for which Stynky ragged on her mercilessly. He told her she at least had to try it or she couldn't be in the club. He looked to me for verification of this fact and I just gave him a stunned mullet look. (I was off my game - all that time at sea really takes it out of you.) After lunch or whatever a 3 o'clock feeding is called, he asked me if she could be in the club, having taken a dainty spoonful or two of soup. I continued to give him a stunned mullet look and he gave up on me as a hopeless loss.

On the way back we were accosted by a young man who said he was a fellow pirate and he needed some doubloons for drink or something like that. (He was not in garb, he was in a lime green T-shirt and shorts as I recall. I'm afraid I took no photos of this chap.) He said we were all brothers together and we should help a brother out and so on and so forth. Finally he said, and this is the reason I even mention this here, "Parley, mother-f-ckers, parley!" Among the things he thought he understood about pirates, that was clearly not one of them. The one good thing that did come out of this was his comments about drinking made me realize I had left my mug back in the Rum Barrel. So I turned around and trotted on back to retrieve it. I would lose my head if it weren't attached. (My mother told me so at one point.)

Having lost the group, I decided to go over and check out Mallory Square docks and see the sunset people. When I first came to the island back in 1992, it was one of the key things I wanted to experience. This had reputedly been started by a bunch of hippies on the island who would come down to the dock and snap their fingers in appreciate of nature's handiwork. When I first saw it, the dock was a bit of a shabby looking place and there was all sorts of disorganized-looking street performers lining the edge of the dock and any other space they could capture, using ropes and chains to mark their territory so that the other street performers didn't encroach upon them. Since then, the dock has been massively overhauled with the addition of concrete and fancy paving blocks and a whole new wooden boardwalk section appended to it (the section where Danger! Charters operated from, actually.) The street performer have to apply to the city for space and they may even rent them for all I know. It all seems so clean and neat. But I took several photos which I will share in the webpage version of this journal.

Well, I'm hungry, so I'm going to get this one posted and finish up the rest of the day a bit later.

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That's better. Now I'm going to tell you a story out of sequence in the hope that it might save a human life.

When the Mercury boys dropped me off at the condo on Thursday evening, they had helpfully brought the groceries up with them because I had my monster hardcase suitcase and my black carry-on to wrestle with. Unfortunately, they didn't bring all the groceries, which I know was an honest mistake, because they didn't actually take or eat any of the things they left behind in Keith's car. I really wouldn't mind this much, except they had brought me the eggs and laundry soap, but left the coffee, bread and the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light (to which your surgeon is absolutely addicted and will not even reveal how much he consumes because he doesn't want to hear all that nannying nonsense about how bad it is for you.) The real crime here would have been the loss of the coffee. Had I had no coffee in the room, they might have had to send paramedics to my condo with IV bags of caffeine when they realized they hadn't seen me for two days. Fortunately some previous tenant had left behind a can of Folger's French Roast, which worked for the nonce.

So I didn't worry about enough to actually remember that the groceries were in Keith's car. For newbs, Keith is event organizer Lily Alexander's husband and he is the runner for the event. If something is needed to keep Lily from completely losing her marbles, he goes and gets it. (Keith is as calm and easy-going as Lily is intense and strictly organized. I think they're a good match in that way. But I digress...) So the bread, coffee and butter stuff sat in Keith's car for two days before I thought to ask him about it late last night. He told me he had it and would give it to me before I left. Which he did as I was leaving for the evening. Now bread and coffee can pretty much deal with the trunk of a car in the glorious Florida sun and heat, but the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light - not so much so. In fact, I could feel the liquified contents of the sealed plastic tub rolling around in there when I picked it up. But I threw it in the fridge anyhow. (I am a bachelor, if you haven't already figured that out.)

Wanting breakfast a bit ago, I wondered what to use to cook the eggs in. I couldn't use the melted and reconstituted ICBIB Light, now, could I? Haven't you been paying attention? I am a bachelor. So if this starts to sound like the missing verse of the poem Jabberwocky, please call the paramedics. I am staying in the Shipyard Condos. Thank you.

Returning to the condo, keeping you all up-to-date and showering, I then proceeded to head for the fort. At the gate were none other than the crew of Bloody Historical. They demanded my papers and wouldn't open the gate. They adopted threatening poses, with Keith Iritsky sticking his sword through the chain links by way of thread. (For those of you who don't know how a sword works, this is a damned-fool way to use it. All I had to do was stay a few feet back. Unless he suddenly opened the gate and ran me through.) The evening before, when I was returning from Cafe Sole with Mae, Lex and madPete, Jana had made an astute observation when we were fishing about trying to get our passes for the gate. "It doesn't really matter whether you have it or not. If the people at the gate know you, they're going to give you a hard time either way." Then she looked at me significantly. I can't imagine why.

Anyhow, they finally let me in (I did have my pass), and then parked my bike. I toddled in to the fort and wandered about making small talk before the auction started. One of those people was Rusty Nell, Cannibal Chrispy's wife. She is one of those incredibly genuine people and I hadn't seen her in years, so we hugged and she filled me in on her recent doings. She was just finishing up her first official music CD. She explained what style of music she plays, but I can't really remember that bit. I believe it was American folk. She told me that on her 40th birthday, she took stock of her life and asked herself if she was ever going to finish anything she started. Being involved in the Second Life online universe, as I have mentioned in a previous Journal, where she was a singer, and having a library of ten years worth of songs she had written, she decided to finish that project by making her first music CD. She cautioned me that it was a lot of work - not just going in to a studio and recording. (As if I would ever decide to make a music CD.) Her Second Life fans apparently paid to be in her virtual audience (including the ever-fascinating Patrick Hand) and she used that money to bootstrap her CD project. She has leaked some of her songs out and they have made it onto FM radio in places as far away as England, Germany and Australia. I will post links to her CD once I learn of them.

I spotted Tury, who is Maria de Los Angeles's friend and started to chat her up... erm, get info on her for the Journal, but we didn't get very far before Scarlett Jai started making a speech about the importance of the auction and the people at the fort and raising money to fix the place up. One of the things I learned is that the fort was due to receive a whole bunch of their American Civil War artifacts back that had been recovered there in the late 1960s and early 70s. I guess when they were recovered the park system decided to send them all over the state for any other American Civil War era forts that had a museum. Now they were getting a bunch of them back including one of the few, if not the only, water desalinization machine from that time period.

After that our auctioneers Chrispy and William Red Wake were introduced and the auction got going. The first thing that was auctioned was a painting Don Maitz had made of someone who (for copyright reasons) Cannibal Chrispy called "Captain Organ." Don is the guy who painted the original Captain emM... Organ, so this fetched a pretty high price of $300. And things went along from there. It was one of the better auctions I've seen for raising cash for the Friends of Fort Taylor, who help keep the fort in good repair. They got $10 for a pair of turkey legs and the same amount for, I kid you not, a pair of frozen goat balls.

Now, before we go on, I want to give you an aside about the goat. He is going to be cooked tomorrow for the Sunday Night Feast (formerly the Pig Roast, now the Pig and Goat roast.) This is a wonderful choice of meats given that many privateers and pirates stopped at Juan Fernandez Island which was well stocked with goats. They would kill and salt goats to replenish their supplies and the men would have fresh goat while they were staying on that island to cure the scurvy-ridden and replenish their wood and water. Some forward-thinking captain had left a bunch of live goat on the island in the 16th or early 17th century and the goat did what came naturally and populated the island. They also provided the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk - the model for Robinson Crusoe - with dancing partners. (Just dancing. As far as you or I know.) So pirates and goat go way back.

Flash forward to earlier this year. I like to say silly things (which, if you are reading this, you already realize) and I started talking about how I was going to bring a goat to the event this year. I do this to exasperate Lily Alexander. (It really doesn't take that much effort, but I consider myself an artist.) This idiot joke planted the kernal of an idea in either Lily or Scarlett's mind and now we're having goat for dinner. (Too bad your vegetarian surgeon can't try some. I'd really like to. Seriously.) So that's where the frozen goat balls came from. They are, no doubt, a delicacy in some South Pacific Island where the natives worship iguanas.

Speaking of iguanas, they, like the goats, have been fruitful and multiplied. When Cannibal Chrispy and I were walking back from the battlefield on Friday, he pointed several out to me on the fort wall. I had a hard time seeing them because there are rust spot on the wall and many of them are a rusty bright orange! Mae later told me that this is because they are in heat. My the thing you don't learn! She also told me that she had rescued a frog, which promptly got frog goo all over her hands. She did this because she had accidentally knocked an iguana off a tree while walking on the Mae Snake trail. (Those of you who have been reading along with me for years will recall that Mae used to work in a place that specialized in reptiles. She told me last night that she has a large snake which she rescued from a guy who smoked a lot and didn't feed the snake well. She reported that the snake is now fat and healthy. I guess when you're a snake, being fat is healthy. After this weekend of Key West restaurants, I have a feeling that I am going to wish I were a snake. But we are Waaaaaaay OT now.)

The one thing I wanted to see in the auction was my original 1972 Pirates of the Caribean Condemned to Chains Forever Snap Action! skeleton model went for. It is a complete kit in a somewhat damaged box. All the model parts are still in the bag and all the original instructions and advert docs are still in there. Diosa bid $50 for it. Then nothing. So I bid $60. She bid $70. I bid $75, because that's what I'd paid for it. I wanted to fort to get it's value, you see. I won it. (And I have no idea what to do with it now. I'd like to build it, but I can't stand the thought of taking it out of the original packaging. What a geek I am.) I asked Diosa why she was bidding on it and she told me that it was because she was a Disney collector. Later on, Iron Jon told me he had had all the POTC Snap Action! model kits. I was instantly jealous as I had only had three when I was a kid. These models were actually the reason I became interested in pirates, as I have explained in detail on my webpage.

The action went long and an awful lot of money was raised. It was better than any previous Dead Man's Chest auction I had seen. We all cheered at the end of it and then Scarlett Jai announced that she was going over to Ole' Zach's Pub. Mae and I decided to go and check it out. There was some very disorganized singing going on in there. It was all candlelit and several people were sitting around listening to Dutch sing rambling sailor songs from the stage area. When Dutch finished there would be silence. A guy sitting off to the side would occasionally start a song and peter out after a few verses as he seemed to either run out of or forget the lyrics. Mamasabi and Wasabi came in and things picked up a bit. They had brought the Brigand's official songbook with them and were trying out various melodies from that. Then the Brigand's themselves appeared and things really sparked. I don't want to diss anyone else who was singing, but you can really tell the difference between folks who do it for a living and folks who do it for events. Still, sailors probably would have been more like the latter, so it was kind of neat either way. I am still listening to some of the songs this morning yet in my head.

From there we went back to the Mercury crew site where several people were sitting around chatting. Stynky appeared and then it got sort of loud. He brought out the best in Silkie, Captain Jim and Adam Cyphers when it came to rowdiness and volume. (If there is a problem and Stynky is around, it is probably his fault.) Mae and I went back to the Tavern where she started playing her finger cymbals (which probably have a name that she told me but I don't remember) along with some of the music. After doing that for a while, back to the Mercury camp where it was rowdy. Mae and Adam Cypher's wife (I think) got cold, so William wrapped them in the Mercury Flag which is made of wool for some reason. It's probably because it's period correct knowing William. Then Scarlett Jai came over and, very nicely, asked us to please shut the hell up. I was getting really tired by this point, as last night's posting indicates, and decided to call it a night. After a brief stop to pick up my slight toves, I brillig'd my bike and manxomed to my condo, turning left at the Tumtum tree. Now I must go galluphing back to the fort to refill my brain with new stories. So you on the flip side!

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enough of your fancy words !! we are simple !! we need pictures, man !!

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Oh, man. I'm totally going to regret the morning here, but I wanted to get a few things down before tomorrow because I'm sure I'll forget parts of them when I awake, so here goes. I totally fell off the wagon tonight because Beowulf had brought Glenfiddich 12 yo. and it was Sunday night at the event. Among other things that happened....

I said to Captain Jim or madPete, for reasons I don't exactly recall, "Fate bitch-slapped you."

After spending several minutes chatting with Commodore Cutter, Spike, Jaded Jettty, wife of Commodore Cutter among several others, we were called over to watch Cannibal Chrispy's rap which is not suitable for children and involved a prop, in the form of a woman with large... extremities.

And a message to fellow twin Mae who should TOTALLY have stayed because this evening was SO MUCH more fun than last night and she could have been the one to straddle the red hog or at least helped me convince Brig to straddle it because nothing I would say would convince her to do it, including asking Jack to help me. Where WERE you in my moment of need?

And that's all I'm going to post because I have to go sleep this off. (We were smoking really good cigars too, Mae. You could have been a parr of that. You could have. Next year take Monday off, dammit!)

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I'm afraid pics will have to wait - my internet connection is a bit slow. Besides, memory is fleeting and if I don't get this stuff down, a lot of it will all be gone.

Sunday morning as I was peddling my bike into the fort, I met Reggie - Israel Cross on the pub - and his now bride-to-be whose name I will find out before I do the webpage version of this (the internet is running really slow or I'd look it up now. edit: Krystian) Yes, Reggie popped the question this weekend and she said yes, so he's on his way to wedded bliss. Actually, he was on his way to Disneyworld. They were leaving the fort and heading for Orlando, presumably to celebrate their engagement away from the bunch of overripe pirates in the fort. I wished them the best and peddled on.

Once inside the fort, I set up my surgeon's gear for the day and was immediately inundated with tourists. It was a brisk day of doctoring.

While I'm doing that, over in the fort, I wanted to mention a couple of things that had been going on all weekend in the background so's I don't forget them. Across the way from us was the Key Lime Pie factory, who were selling chocolate-covered slices of key lime pie on a stick. Business seemed a bit slow for them, so I kept talking them out to various reenactor women and then buying them one. They were $3 of yummy, semi-frozen heaven. I ate four or five of them this weekend. You will probably notice my waistcoat buttons popping off in the photos from today.

Also across the way from me was a woman preparing animal pelts. I never got the chance to sit down and chat with her, but it was sort of interesting to watch her scraping the hides all day long, sometimes with assistance, but usually not. A very neat slice of living history.

Deadeye brought a young lady over to meet me by the name of Mad Maeve who was just beginning to do an apothecary impression. She wanted to chat with me and pick my brain on how to do it properly. Poor Mad Maeve... I am nearly hopeless with the medicines from this time period. All the prescriptions are written in abbreviated italicized latin which is only occasionally misspelled so I have shied away from it as much as possible. She asked me several questions about what would be used in different situations and I was surprised to learn that I actually knew a bit more than I thought I did. While we were gabbling, I started showing her bottles from a home medicine kit that I had acquired from eBay that contained nice, clear labels and she became quite fascinated. She started asking me what they were for and I just shrugged my shoulders since I'd never looked them up. This made me realize there were a whole bunch of them that I had left in my shipping crate. They are inside of a very old Cuban cigar box, mounted in metal clips. She greedily took the box and started examining the contents closely.

While she was doing that, I asked about her. I discovered that Deadeye had brought her to FTPI last year. She fell in love with the sport and decided upon the Apothecary role. It's a good choice because I only know a few people who do that impression. I asked why and she told me that she had always been interested in herbal medicines and this was a chance to expand her knowledge on the topic and get involved in the pirate reeancting thing. She had a slight accent that I couldn't place, so I asked her where she was from. Originally. "Northwestern Massachusetts; we have a slight accent, but we can still pronounce our r's, unlike those people in Boston." I learned that she had left Massachusetts 8 years ago and come down here with someone because it was they wanted to go as far south and as they could to get away from the snow and ice. They thought about going to live with some of her family in South Carolina, but she told her mate that if they were going as far south as they could, they shouldn't stop there and they wound up in Key West. She had never been here before she moved here, which I found interesting.

She wandered off and returned with an herbal book and started to explain my medicines to me. For example, Arnica was an ingredient to reduce swelling; Calengila (I doubt that's spelled right, sorry, I'm operating on fewer cylinders this morning than usual.) is actually Marigold and it is used as a styptic and to make an ointment for abrasions and burns.Capsicum was actually cayenne pepper and was put on the gums for temporary toothache relief. And so on. She showed me her little medicine box and explained some of the things it contained like honey, wormwood and other such things and revealed how they were used. It was a good thing she came over to pick my brain about her role because she taught me a lot.

While I was talking with her, one of the guys who was cooking came over and asked if he could use my bone saw to cut the breast bone of the pig. After asking, he looked at me, then looked at William and asked, "Why's he grinning like that?" I told him he could only perform this operation if I could help. So we strode (he was a strider) over to the spot in the fort wall where they were preparing food and unceremoniously dumped the pig out of it's ice chest onto the chest lid.

It was already gutted - the breast bone needed to be cut from inside the pig's chest. So he started sawing away and I watched. Then he asked me if I could hold the pig open while he sawed, which would have meant I couldn't get photos, so I yelled at Devlin - who happened to be going up to the fort wall parapet to watch the battle and got him to take photos while I assisted on the operation. Eventually he got it to where he was happy and I followed Devlin up to the fort wall to watch the battle. While I was absent, the guy decided to cut through the entire pig and he used the bone saw to chop it in half. He had nothing but praise for the saw (which was my Chad Azevedo hand-crafted replica of a 1680 saw) and boasted the it allowed him to "cut through the pig's leg joint in 24 seconds." More props for Chad.

Well, I want to get over to the fort before everyone leaves. I get to stay until Wednesday, so I promise I'll get everything down before I leave.

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With the pig sawing complete, Devlin and I trudged up the circular stairs to the fort wall to watch the battle. I got up on the fort wall for a bit to hang out with Michelle Murillo and Wendy Wellman who were encouraging the crowd to yell enlightened things like "Hit... a... Brit!" Scarlett Jai appeared on the wall shortly after that and I realized that I was way out of my league when it came to inciting the public and sheepishly got back off the wall. There was quite a large crowd for the battle today so I stood back with William Red Wake and Chad Azevedo and watched the tourists watch the battle. We were also guiding people to stay away from the side of the fort wall we were on because there were a small group of pirates hanging out about 20 or 30 feet away up there with their guns ready for take the final shot.

As a result I didn't really see much of it, but what I did see was that they had decided to arrange the British along the water facing the fort and the pirates along the fort wall facing the water to exchange cannon fire. I thought this was a much better arrangement than normal (when the Brits were on the left and the pirates on the right) because the sound reverberated like crazy every time they fired a shot. I was later talking with Edward/Keith and he said it was awesome for the pirates too, because the Brigands were playing in the sally port and the sound was bouncing off the wall there and adding music to the battle.

The battle appeared to go back and forth with cannon fire. Running out of powder, the British advanced step by step on the pirates, firing small arms and people started dropping on both sides. (It's kind of funny how they fire all those cannons and no one ever gets wounded until they switch to the notoriously fiddly and inaccurate small arms.) The pirates were getting the worst of it, mostly because they didn't actually have any small arms today. Someone - it may have been Crudbeard - noted that they figured they shouldn't drop because the pirates had no weapons and it wouldn't make sense. (Meanwhile, up on the fort wall, everyone was looking at Scarlett, Michelle and Wendy and yelling that inane phrase and not really noticing whether the pirates had guns or not. They were three rows deep at least and probably could only see the ships trawling around firing cannons and small arms.) Crudbeard (if it was him) added that it suddenly occurred to him that there were pirates firing from the ships behind them and they could logically die. (Meanwhile, up on the fort wall, Michelle and Wendy were leading the crowd in doing the wave along the wall.)

The moment finally arrived for the three people in the corner of the fort wall that we were guarding from the public to fire their pieces. Among them was Cannibal Chrispy with his swivel gun con stock (which someone in the Mercury crew had nicknamed Cannibuss - Canni-bal -bal + Blunderbuss - Blunder.) I wish I had been paying more attention to this so I could have snapped a picture, but I had joined the crowd who were being led by Michelle and Wendy in doing the hokey-pokey. All the Brits went down in a heap and the crowd started cheering in between putting their whole selves in and then putting their whole selves out. The pirates won! Huzzah!

I went back and retrieved my bone saw, which was now covered in pink goo and Italian dressing. I wiped it off and returned to my station.

As mentioned previously, I had really wanted to sit down and interview Tury which she remembered and returned to sit and chat. I was on her list of things to do because she was leaving soon, which kind of bummed me out. (I was already feeling a bit down because fellow twin Mae had decided to leave earlier in the day. Who was I going to be stupid with? You girls really need to just take Monday off and stay for Sunday night. It's always the best evening in the fort. But I digress yet again.)

Tury is a friend of Maria's as I explained yesterday. Maria was planning to introduce her to the wonder that was FTPI, but Maria got sick and decided it was best not to come down. Tury told me Maria had been going on and on about it and she was really interested in seeing it because she loved the ocean and had "always wanted to play a pirate." When Maria couldn't come, although she knew NOBODY here, she got in her car and came down with the idea that "I was not going to miss this opportunity. I love finding that sort of pluckiness in people, particularly women. For some reason new-to-pirate reenactors seem to have it in spades.

Tury turned out to be from Cuba - she came here when she was 17. I asked her about Cuba, because it seemed fascinating to me, but she just sort of shrugged at the question and said it was a beautiful place but it could be a hard life. I also learned that, like me, she had an undergrad degree in computer programming with an MBA added for good measure. Although she had been tired last night and left the auction in the middle, she loved the interplay between the two auctioneers and the crowd and had had a great time. From talking with other folks at the event she had learned that there had been active pirates in Cuba (mostly in the 1800s as I recall) and decide she was going to do some research and find out more. She told me she was already looking forward to coming back next year.

It was getting near closing time for the fort (sunset), so I started packing things away in the Surgeon's Chest (which is really just a big box right now, not a proper surgeon's chest from period.). While I was doing that, I noticed a funny-looking knit purse with a drawstring on top and three little decorative tassels on on the bottom on the table. "What is that?" I asked someone. "It's a Gunnister purse." I learned that it was used to keep money in. It was a replica of one found on a preserved man who had been found perfectly preserved in a peat bog near Gunnister Scotland. He was dated to about the golden age of the pirates (early 18th century) and they used his clothes and belongs to assemble and image of what men wore during that time period - at least men in Gunnister, Scotland.

Speaking of projects, the boys started making fire-starters while I was packing up my kit. Iron Jon pulled out a little box of blue and white striped cloth cut about 2" wide and a bag of flax. Captain Jim explained how to make the fire-starter and Jon and William began assembling them. The way this was done that you took the pieces of cloth, stacked a couple of them together and lit them on fire, only letting them smoulder. If I remember it rightly, Jim said when you saw smoke, it was time to stop. This created a ashy-looking piece of cloth which was then buried in the highly flammable flax and stored in a little metal box. Being so flammable, it worked well with flint and iron. (And, as anyone who has ever tried to start a fire with flint and iron will attest, anything you can do to help get it to work is to be highly prized. I have worked for 10 minutes on a flint and iron trying to get it lit to no avail.)

Captain Jim is a font of interesting knowledge. He is also one fine wood-worker based on the pipe box he had donated to the auction last night. He has offered to make my plaster box for me (which is an open box with compartments in it for storing plasters, bandages and gallipots of ointments and medicines) which I plan to take him up on. This brings up a point that I find interesting about reenacting. The best kind of reenactment pieces you can have in your kit are those that 1) have a story that goes with them - like my newly pig-breast bone christened Chad Azevedo bonesaw and 2) were made by a friend - also like my Chad bonesaw. So I knew that getting a Captain Jim original wood product would be a prized worth having. As soon as I can get the info from William Red Wake on the lady who makes period gallipots that I (hope I) mentioned, I am going to get some so that I can design the plaster box around them. Cascabel happened to be sitting at our table while we were talking about this and he gave me some excellent suggestions for making realistic-looking plasters. He said to use Vasoline on the the fabric of the plaster and add cinnamon to some of them to give them a ruddy brown color. The plaster box has officially become a group project.

It was getting near time for the pig roast. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that the food at the fort was awesome this year. There were two food vendors in fort - one was called Crazy Lady's Catering and the other was a meat cooking operation of which I don't know the name. (I will find it out, though. Keith told me they came all the way from Pennsylvania with this huge cooker to be at the event!) Usually I try to escape the fort for the Sunday dinner because the food is not really Mission/vegetarian friendly and it's often cold by the time you get up to it. This year looked to be quite different and I was actually looking forward to the Sunday Pig Roast.

Before we get to dinner proper, however, I want to mention William and Iron Jon's pre-dinner snack. It seems someone had cooked the goat's balls, slicing them quite thin and frying them or something. (Maybe they were breaded, but I never saw them, I am only reporting this second-hand.) Both William and Iron Jon tried them and noted, almost simultaneously, that they tasted like, you guessed it, goat balls. No! They tasted like chicken!

This brings us to dinner preparations and dinner, but I really must take a shower because I haven't had one since yesterday morning because of Stynky. (I will explain why later on.) Plus my laptop battery is running out and I have to get it plugged in.

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There were a lot of people out for the event this weekend. I mean a lot. You'll find out when the group image is posted. Speaking of that, before dinner, we were all corralled over to the Pyracy Pub flag to take the group shot. Unlike previous years, it was organized quite quickly and only took about five or ten minutes to shoot. For some reason we were supposed to line up in groups, so we Mercury crew members all got in the right back row and tried to look handsome and debonaire instead of sweaty and tired. I was most pleased to find that Beowulf had changed into Commodore Poppycock again this year. (Ya gotta' love those white shoes.)

Back at our encampment, we thought about the fact that it wasn't proper to have Commodore Poppycock dine with the regular unwashed, so we decided to use Iron Jon's tent fly to arrange the tables so he could eat with his own group of unwashed. (It was a beautiful sunny day on Sunday and we were really pushing the limits of decency with our unwashedness.)

So we started arranging the surgeon's tables and Iron Jon's fascinating-looking slat table into a reasonable proximity of a long dinner table. I haven't mentioned this before, but our camp was directly across from the meeting tent where dinner was going to be served. This made it super-convenient to attend meetings and, we hoped, get dinner. . It also meant we would be treated to Jon's fine victuals. He produced cheese, meat and other assorted snack food while we waited for the pre-dinner festivities to start.

Something else Jon produced was a bottle of 12 year old Glen Fiddich. Now, I have been talking throughout the entire last year about how I wasn't drinking for a year, something I decided to do on December 16, 2011. It was December 1st. Iron Jon called out to our group, "Anyone want this?" I liked my lips. I had almost made it a whole year. But it was 12 y.o. Glen Fiddich. It was only two weeks early. So I decided to forge ahead and poured myself a cup of Scot's nectar.

Stynky, Braze and Cascabel joined us at our table and we all feasted on Iron Jon's cuisine and I feasted on scotch. Braze and Stynky asked for some of the golden liquor, so I poured some. Braze took a sip and then roared and asked someone to put some water or something in it. "If you're not going to drink it straight, pour it into my cup!" And he did. Stynky asked for ice, but I talked him down from that ledge too. 12 year old single malt scotch and ice. I mean to say!

Getting a bit happy, I grabbed madPete and asked him if he would take some photos for me. I posed with Caribbean Pearl and Pete shot the image. "Who else?" he asked. That was really all I wanted. I learned from Pearl that she was going overseas to the orient somewhere and would not be back to the FTPI event until at least 2014. I believe her husband got a job over there doing whatever it is he does. (Yeah, I know, but I didn't take any notes.)

I decided to wander around and find people to pose with, which we did. I eventually came across Wendy Wellman who started babbling about Pete insulting her calves. (My comment? "I didn't even know you kept cattle." madPete laughed.) She walked back to the table with us and Youngblood. They sat at our table along with the rest of the gang. Not long after that they started bringing out the food which was right in front of our makeshift dinner table. Talk about hitting the jackpot. Not long after that, chaos began over in the unwashed tent. Several curious ceremonial things occurred like inducting people into the Order of the Leviathan, inducting other people into the Order of the Stinky Sponge... er, the Order of St. Barbara, and inducting the Viceroy into Order of the Pie in the Face Club. (I was told that a great deal of time was spent trying to figure out how to convince Lawrence, who plays the Viceroy, not to wear his wig to dinner because they didn't want to ruin it with pie filling. I don't know how they did it, but I just thought it was an interesting logistical problem that I wanted to share with you all.)

There was apparently also a mini-pie fight between the Viceroy and Spike (not the bunny), which I am damned sorry to have missed. I have written so much that I can't rightfully keep track of it all, but I don't think I mentioned that I talked with the Key Lime Pie Company about staging a Key Lime Pie fight, an idea William Red Wake sort of accidentally started on the FTPI Facebook page and which I carried on and on and on about trying to make it happen. Sandi Bilbo was going to be a part of this as I recall. The Key Lime Pie Company LOVED this idea and said if I could make it happen, they would make special pies that wouldn't be as heavy and hard to deal with as real pies. So that is Mission's mission for next year: get the Key Lime Pie fight on the schedule. I am going to talk to Harry and see if I can get around Lily and Scarlett who seem somewhat opposed to this wonderful idea. :P

After all that silliness, DB Couper and his recent bride Anne Marie renewed their vows (of a month or two ago). I didn't actually see most of this, but I've no doubt it was touching and wonderful. DB told me he had proposed to Anne Marie while they were flying to Hawaii earlier this year by announcing it over the plane's PA. He had chocolates and flowers ready at the military hotel where they stayed on the island (DB is former Navy, which I didn't realize.) He got champagne and the people running the military base sent up champagne and the hotel sent up a bottle of champagne and I'm guessing they floated out of that room. They spent three weeks in Hawaii, honeymooning.

Scarlett Jai then made a nice speech thanking everyone who had helped, particularly Mama Ratsey and Lily Alexander. She thanked everyone she could think of, including me for working on the website and not starting a pie fight. We all cheered. Lily and Mama Ratsey got up and said some nice things about the event and the people who show up to reenact and make it happen and it was warm fuzzies all around.

Then dinner was served. Being strategically placed, most of our crew was near the front of the line. William has already asked that we get the same position in the camp next year. Dinner was delicious and hot and included at least four different kinds of meat, including the goat. I wish I could have tried the goat. Although I didn't mind breaking the alcohol free promise a little early, I knew that if I started eating meat, I'd only regret that the next day. Alas. Speaking of breaking my alcohol promise, DB Couper and Anne Marie had a bet, which she won, that I would break my alcohol freeness. (How I rate a DB/AM bet is something I can't quite fathom.)

We all sat around chatting after dinner and I finished off the Glen Fiddich. I spent a lot of this slightly fuzzy period talking with madPete, Wendy and Youngblood. We were talking about Youngblood not having to be in school and so forth when, according to my notebook, on which I must rely because... fuzzy... Wendy said to Youngblood, "We don't bring up your parole officer in public!" Somehow that doesn't seem as funny now as it did at the time, but we were roaring about it.

Wendy got hold of my little notebook and promised to write some good things in it, most of which I couldn't make head nor hair of when I first looked at them. So let's look at them them here and try to guess the meaning and context. "'Kid table'" OK, that one I get - it's a reference to the fact that we were sitting off to the side, away from the main group, which I have already explained with a much dumber joke.

"Ant made food." Hmm. Oh! Ant was the guy who made the food for the feast. Ant also happens to have been the guy who borrowed my bone saw to cut the pig. I ran into him this (Monday) morning and he was still boasting about cutting through that knuckle in 23 seconds. (I had heard 24, but he said it was actually 23.) When he cut the first one, it took him longer and he decided to see how fast he could do it on the second.

"Glenfidick." I believe this is a comment on the fact that I kept correcting people who were pronouncing it Glen Fid-ditch. I am pretty sure the pronunciation is the way I stated. (Otherwise I wouldn't have stated it that way. See how that works?)

"I;; cutcha..." Hmm. Nope. I got nothing here.

If that bit was fuzzy, the next bit is probably going to be hopeless. I had actually stopped drinking for the most part by that time because when I'm drinking scotch - which I love - one liquor to rule them all - I know when and where to stop drinking scotch. I made my way over to Brig and Jack's tent where Stynky was sitting. We had gate duty tonight and I had promised to be there, so I was going around asking everyone what time it was. It apparently wasn't time, because I parked myself under their fly and joined in the conversation, which was being conducted in low tones because of Angry Bird. I guess I better explain that.

Stynky had asked Kiera, Brig's 4 year old daughter, what games she liked as a sort of ice-breaker. (Little kids are often shy when they aren't used to you. Even if they aren't they should be around Stynky because as past readers know, he has a tendency to recruit them into his criminal plans, like having Josh Sterling sell counterfeit Mission's Mugs to the unwary because such a cute child couldn't possibly be pulling a fast one!) Anyhow, Kiera said something about Angry Birds, so Stynky started calling her that, which made her laugh every time. (I was witness to that.) The point of all this is that Kiera/Angry Bird was asleep and we had to conduct our conversation in low tones, which is tough for your old surgeon when he's crocked. But I pulled it off. As far as you know.

Jack was smoking a cigar and drinking his patented liquor which I believe I skipped because I didn't want to start mixing. (I may have had some, but I didn't have very much.) madPete was supposedly going to go into town and get me another bottle of single malt, but I'm glad he didn't because I was cruising pretty well without it. Brig and Jack were in street clothes and he was in one of the chairs while she was sitting on the ground, so I sat next to her. She suddenly decided she wanted a cigar, so Jack lit her one. Feeling pretty randy (when I fall of the wagon, I go all the way) I started smoking the cigar. Scotch and cigars, you know? So we ended up sharing it, because I am the third twin. (Note that the Surgeon General has determined that smoking cigars and drinking single malt scotch is a damned fine way to spend an evening while sitting on the ground in Key West.) Someone told me it was time for gate duty, so I got up to amble off in that direction. Brig announced she would go with me. So off we went.

What happened next will have to wait. I'm going off to dinner.

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So...gate duty. Right. Gate duty was a bit fuzzy. In fact, it was a lot fuzzy. I recall sitting cross-legged on the ground with Brig and William and having Captain Jim running around taking all sorts of photos which I will probably regret. Brig and I kept trading off the cigar. Eventually the cigar started reminding me of a scene in the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. (Now stay with me here, because it will take some explaining.) Tuco is tracking Blondie (Clint Eastwood for those who don't instantly recognize this reference). Tuco keep finding old campfires as he goes along and he figures out that they were Blondie's campfires by the stubs of old cigarillos in the fires. Finally Tuco finds a campfire that's still smouldering. He stirs up the ashes and finds the butt of a cigarillo in there that is still smoking, so he takes it out and drags on it three times. The important thing (for me) is the music in this scene. It is sort of riff on the GBU main theme that goes, and I quote. Wah... (Tuco tries to puff the cigarillo.) Wahh... (Tuco drags on it and there is a spark at the end of the cigarillo. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh. (Tuco takes a deep puff and lets the smoke slowly dribble out of his mouth.) So I did the musical notes, trying to imitate Tucos puffs and everyone looked at me and said things like (and I quote here): "WTF?" So I had to do it again, explaining each puff followed by the musical note. I found this incredibly amusing and I did it at least 10 times more. By then the cigar had been smoked down to the nub. Brig said she was going back to camp to get something, but she promised to come back, so I asked her to get us another cigar. It's a twin thing.

She eventually returned, cigar in hand. Something else I thought was amusing for some reason was offering a puff on the cigar to everyone in the cars leaving the park. (William said I tried to force them to puff on it, but I don't remember it that way. William was sober, so we can't rely on him to understand all this.) I believe Captain Jim got a shot of each car with me offering the cigar, so you can all look forward to seeing that in the web page version of this Journal.

Brig returned and somehow a comment was made about the two of us being awfully close together, sitting there on the ground, or something like that and Brig said we couldn't do anything together anyhow because that would be twin-cest. Seriously I wrote that in my notebook! I think we were sitting closely together because we were holding each other up. If you would have removed one or the other of us, there would have been a pause, like right before Wile E. realizes that he has run off the edge of the inexplicably tall cliff in the Southwestern desert and the twin not removed would have suddenly fell over.

Brig had my notebook for a while and there are more notes that she wrote in it, many of which I may be able to guess the meaning.

The first one says, "You 3rd twin!" which I believe is pretty self-explanatory. (I am the third twin. Or did I mention that already?)

Next it says "Bastard from MI". which I am not sure I understand. I do believe either Jim or William asked how we had not known each other before the Fort Taylor pirate event in 2007 and Brig said something about we had known each other and whomever posed the question said something about the bastard from MI. (I take no offense, I accept it in the manner it was offered.)

Then it says (and I'm trying to figure out all the words, so sue me if I go astray) "Stack Line - warmer in bikinis - Frank." Well, the Frank part is pretty obvious - Frank must have been leaving the park and I must have been talking with him and asking if he wanted to smoke the cigar. You may recall that Frank had left the Rum Barrel the day before to go meet some girls at the Fort rather than stay for corn and crab chowder, which is a sin against god and man, but we'll forgive him because (as I believe I stated it to him at some point), it's better to go after the fish on the line than sit and eat corn and crab chowder. (Wise advice to anyone, to be sure.) He did tell me that it had been totally worth it and I'm guessing the girls were in bikinis when he met them or something. I don't know; it's all so cryptic.

Then it says, "Best gate crew ever!" although I don't know if this was a quote or a comment on how much fun Brig was having.

Then it says, "Think I saw a ghost on gate duty" which I really don't understand at all. Or maybe I do... let me think... maybe it was that there was something in the bushes? Or a light? Or Brig was practicing her drunken penmanship. Nah, I got nothing again.

William also reported something else we two twins said. Brig: "I just drink to preserve myself." Mission (nodding thoughtfully): Like a mummy." William said the best part about this exchange was the even tone we both said that in and the immediacy of my follow up to her comment. You had to be there and you probably weren't, which is your own damn fault. (Start planning for next year. See the drunk surgeon forcing cigars on passing motorists! Fun for the whole family!) William also added that "It was almost like you guys were finishing each others' sentences." Which makes perfect sense to me. Twins...

Brig started to get tired and said she was going back to camp. Captain Jim, ever the gentleman told me that I should accompany her. So I did. As we were walking into camp, I spotted Scarlett Jai's scarlet motorcycle sitting there by the entrance where it had been parked all weekend. "Get a picture of me on the bike!" I demanded and got on it. So she did.

Then I told her to get on it, but she wouldn't. I begged her to do it for reasons I don't begin to understand now, but she wouldn't. She told me it wasn't hers and she didn't have permission. I rebutted, "I didn't have permission and I did it!" as if that made any sense at all. No amount of beseeching could get her to do that. I think I may have even offered to give her money to sit on the bike so I could take a picture. (Thinking on it now, I haven't the faintest flipping clue why I thought this was important.) I whined about this all the way back to the campsite and she crawled into bed and shut me down. I asked Jack to get her to do it and he said, "No way. I've got to live with her." So I went over to Lily and asked her if she would sit on Scarlett's bike, which she agreed to do and I took the photo. "Is that it?" she asked. I said it was.

I then went back to the gate and finished my time out with Jim and William. Eventually our relief showed up in the form of Keith/Edward and Lily and we went back to camp. We all repaired to the Mercury fly and sat around talking. I started drinking lots of water, knowing this would be a key aspect of how miserable I was going to be the next morning. Then I started wandering though the park, stopping at Commodore Cutter's site as I reported several posts ago. (Cut that out and insert it in here to preserve continuity.)

Finally I was feeling relatively human, so I got my bike and headed to the gate. There I found Edward, Lily and Stynky. Stynky was as drunk, if not more drunk, than I had been a few paragraphs ago. Edward asked if he could ride my bike, so I let him. When he returned, Stynky wanted to do it too and he disappeared for quite a while. I stuck his mug under Lily's hat to see if he would notice. (He didn't. He reported this morning that I had never done that and he had always had it.) Then he told Lily he wanted to give her a piggy-back ride and stooped over and ordered her to get on. She refused. He kept asking her to do it and she kept saying no. It was me asking Brig to pose on Scarlett's motorcycle all over again.

With that, I left for the night, peddling all the way home without hitting anything along the way. This time. And that was Sunday night - they're always the best nights of the weekend. Seriously.

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~3:30 am - Crawl into bed and go visit the subconscious. I sleep remarkably well until...

7:00 am - My cell phone rings. @#$%$#! Who is calling me at 7am after leaving the fort around 2:30am? If you guessed Stynky, you win a virtual Kewpie doll. (I've been trying to get rid of that damned virtual Kewpie doll for months anyhow.) I didn't actually answer it because the morning after a good long session with alcohol, I am usually really logy.

Do I really want to deal with Stynky in this state...?

What passes for a hangover for your ship's surgeon is existing in a dull and featureless world where I look at the day and think that it ain't for me and I may as well give the whole thing a miss. Fortunately, I don't usually get headaches or feel sick at the stomach or worship the porcelain god, but I feel slow and dull-witted. I am just... logy.

Do I really want to deal with Stynky in this state...?

I pad around the cool tile floor of my condo in my bare feet. The doors are open with the pull screens across them (BTW, I love those pull screens. They sing to the engineer in me.) There is a nice pleasant breeze wafting through the place, but I am mostly oblivious to it. I wonder about the cotten roll in my mouth... oh, wait that's my tongue. Those stupid cigars... (I later learned that Brig spent quite a while this morning trying to get the taste of them out of her mouth. Her husband Jack buys good cigars and I do recall them tasting pretty good while smoking them, but... pthah.)

Do I really want to call Stynky in this state...? It occurs to me that there is no going back to sleep after this mental debate, so I call Stynky back. I can hear the croaking voice that sounds as if it is coming from inside a mummy's sarcophagus. Stynky picks up. I say... "Whaaaat?" He asks me if I want to go to breakfast. "It's 7am - there's nothing open. You're in Key West. Normal tourists are dead to the world at this point. Why the &^%$ are you calling me at 7am? I went to bed at 3:30." I'd add exclamation points to that last sentence because it would this all sound so much more dramatic, but you couldn't get emphasis out of me to save your life at this point. There's a big fuzzy cotton ball sitting there in a bowl of soup between my ears and I'm having enough trouble keeping my thoughts lucid enough to continue this conversation. Finally I decide it will be something to write about in the Journal, so I consent to try and find a place for breakfast. I know Croissants de France opens at 7:30, so I suggest that (This is the place madPete and I went Saturday... was it Saturday? It seems like a week ago.)

So off I go, feeling a little like I'm made of settling concrete and meet Stynky on the road. He tells me he fell asleep on the beach earlier this morning and had awoken feeling... well I don't know. I am too busy feeling logy to listen to him that closely. He decided to get up with sun - as if he had a choice - which turned out to be a fortunate decision because one of the park people appeared not long after he departed the sand. (My one hope at this point is that he had sand in his shorts. Waking me up at 7am after last night. Pah.)

Arriving at Croissants de France I can tell he is not impressed. It is now 7:38 according to the big cheerful guy behind the counter, but they don't serve food until 8am. I shoot Stynky a look. "I told you that we wouldn't be able to find breakfast this early." Key West is not really a morning town. Not even remotely. It wakes up sluggishly, just like I did this morning, feeling a bit arthritic and having a slight headache. Back on the street he explains that that wasn't the breakfast he was looking for. He wanted a Key West breakfast. I know what he means, but I know we're not going to find it right now. Finally I admit that Blue Heaven opens at 8am. I am pretty sure that this is where he really wanted to go all the time and he knew I knew where it was.

I love Blue Heaven, I honestly do. The open air, the bright white cross-hatched lattice fence, the packed mulch and patio block floors, the little Tiki bar at the opposite end, the roosters scrambling around amidst the cats, the wrought iron tables and the efficient waitstaff that you can just tell have interesting stories if you can only prise them out when they're stopping to refill your coffee. Yep, love it. But I was not hungry. Hungry and I didn't belong in the same sentence. (Ignore that last sentence. Thank you.) So I said, "I'm not hungry." "Neither am I, but let's go over to Blue Heaven - they'll be open by the time we get there.

They are not, but the gate is open. Now I had been there on Friday morning and had been chatting with the guy who was folding napkins near the hostess station. He had been quite interested in my garb and had asked me several questions and told me several things he knew about pirates. (Many of which were wrong, but you know how it is.) So I had given him my card and suggested he check out my website. He was there again this morning and he greeted us cheerfully with "It's the pirate doctors!" Stynky asked "Can we sit down and wait?" The guy glanced furtively behind him and said, "No. I could get fired for seating you right now." Stynky said, "Yeah, but can we sit down and wait?"

He talked with us for several minutes after that, asking more questions about pirates, which helped stretch out the time. It still wasn't opening time. (What a couple of Blue Heaven groupies we were.) He indicated we couldn't stay there or he might get in trouble, so we ambled off to the open gate that serves as the entrance and chatted. The fog was lifting. I didn't feel human yet, but I the soup/cotton ball thing was gone.

Finally it was opening time and we had a nice, Stynky-approved Key West style breakfast. We both had eggs benedict. After that and several cups of coffee, the loginess was completely gone and I was feeling zippy. Stynky called Braze (his ride) and suggested he meet him over by the entrance to the Truman Annex. (This is where my condo is - in the Truman Annex.) We stood around there for about ten minutes, talking about the Pyracy Pub and what we could do to improve it and how Google ads had told him they weren't going to pay for the web space because he had malware on the site. He asked them where the malware was so he could remove it, but they told him that they couldn't tell him because that was proprietary information. All that coffee went straight through me so I told him "I have to go back to my condo and use the restroom or I'm going to explode." He replied, "OK. Give me your camera." "Why?" "So I can get a picture of you exploding. I'll make sure it gets in your Journal." Komedy!

Wow, that took a whole lot longer to explain than I thought it would. I have NO photos of this because my mind was so fuzzy that I didn't grab my camera when I left the room, so when I do the web page I'm gong to be hosed here. Still, another Stynky story. I love this event. There is so much more to tell...

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I finally made it into the fort where I wandered around, chatting, wishing people farewell, getting hugged entirely too much and occasionally helping folks to load up. I didn't have anywhere to be, so I didn't mind helping people to load up a little, but not too much because, you know, these hands are delicate, precision instruments. Surgeon.

While I was preserving my delicate, precision instruments from the rigors of moving heavy things into vehicles, Zach and his mom Jen appeared. Zach wandered off and Jen sat nearby while I taped up my surgeon's chest to prepare it for shipment. I had seen comments from Zach on Facebook about swimming with the manatees, so I asked her about it. She told me it was amazing. "The swim beneath you and you feel them lifting you up." I asked her what she was working on these days because she is a splendidly intelligent and creative woman and she said she was putting together a web page that she called 'Healthy Moms, Healthy Bodies that was about eating and being healthy when you were pregnant. She told me she was going to be interviewing Dr. Christiane Northrup about midwifery and nutrition soon.

We finally had gone as far as we could with that topic. (Your ship's surgeon actually skips anything the talks about delivering or caring for children in the period surgical manuals. I'm afraid it might be contagious and I don't want to run any risk in that area.) She told me she also had a financial information web page that she had put together that talked about how to save money and invest it wisely rather than relying on bank account savings and the soundness of dollars. Now we were talking! With my MBA and interest in business, I could get into that topic without fear of catching anything. I told her about the wonderful parable-style book The Richest Man in Babylon which seemed to interest her greatly. (I know, I know, we're supposed to be talking about pirates stealing money, not investing it. I'll stop now. Although that is a really good book.)

Jen also told me she, Zach and Bill (her husband) had gone out on the Owl on Friday, the smallest ship out on the water. Friday was an overcast and windy day, so they kept getting pulled out to sea It was a problem because they weren't close enough to the battle a lot of the time and the Captain - John Lewis - kept having to bring her back in, but it was also really cool because they saw a flying manta ray leap out of the water. Zach wanted to sail on that ship because it was much closer in size to the kind of ships most of the pirates would have sailed in during the golden age or piracy as I learned last month in the first of a two-part article on the surgeon's quarters shipboard.

She then went off to find Zach and I found myself back with the Mercury Crew. William told a couple of stories this weekend that I wanted to remember to share in this Journal and here seems like as good a place as any.

The first was about the founding of the event. William was the instigator who got us inside the fort back in 2005. He kept suggesting to people at the Pyracy Pub who were involved in the event that we should move it inside the fort. Before it was in the fort, everyone stayed in hotels and events were held all over town in various bars and other places willing to put up with a bunch of raucous people dressed in pirate garb. The other people told him the fort would never let us go in the fort and do this. He kept thinking about and and William finally decided to call the fort and see what they would say. He reached Harry Smid who immediately said, "I've been wanting to do that for years! How many people have you got? How much space do you need? We'll supply you with wood and water and free camping. It'll be great!" Three and half hours later, William finally got Harry off the phone and we had an event spot. So William was really laid the groundwork for what would eventually become FTPI.

The second story was about me. My first Fort Taylor pirate experience was in 2007 as those of you who read all the journals will recall. (It was also the first Pirate Surgeon's Journal which was started because William's Wife Tracy, who couldn't come (and whom I've never met) posted something on the Pyracy Pub asking us to tell her what was going on at the event. But I digress yet again again.)

So William so me sitting on a picnic table, staring thoughtfully into the distance while everyone else was putting up tents and organizing their campsites. (He thinks I was being thoughtful. I was probably actually thinking about where I might go to dinner that night. The way to the surgeon's heart is through his stomach.)(Fortunately I have an instrument for that.) (Getting through the stomach, that is.)(OK, I'll stop doing this now.) Anyhow, knowing this was my first time and sensing something was going in in the fuzzy lint I call a brain he asked me, "So? What do you think of all this?" He reports that I looked at him, paused for a beat and responded, "Ask me again when the weekend is over." Fast forward to the Monday after the 2007 event. He claims he saw me sitting on the same table, or one near it, looking off in the distance in about the same way and he asked me, "So... what did you think?" He says I replied that I would probably doing this for many years to come. And... I have.

The last thing is something from Sunday night's romp which also involves me. We were talking about the goat being at dinner and I was explaining how I had been talking about bringing a live goat to FTPI on the Facebook page to see if I could rile Lily and now... we had had a goat at the festival, in part, as I understood it, because of me. (It was also there because it was kid's day and someone thought it would be funny to have a kid cooking at kid's day. This is much more clever than the reason I brought it up, which is because it's my go-to goofy animal.) But I was wondering drunkenly at the goat being there and, according to William I said, "You know, it's strange. It (pointing at my skull) comes up with all this weird sh!t and I put it out there and it becomes legend... and lore." Yeah, it's a bit arrogant, but I can allow it because I was pretty happy sitting there leaning on my twin smoking a ceeegar.

"Wah... wahh... wahhhhhhhhhhhh."


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Keith generously offered to take my surgeon's chest to the UPS store some time after that. OK, that's not really what happened. I went over to Lily Alexander and asked her what we were going to do with my medicine chest and she said we were not dealing with that right now. So I asked what I could do with it in the meantime and she started doing the Austin Power's Zip it! Routine. In the middle of all that, I thought I had heard her say Keith could help me take it there when he got back from dropping people off at the airport. So when Keith appeared, I toddled back over to their tent and Lily started doing Zip it! again and getting all exasperated with me. She later told me she really wasn't all that exasperated, she was just messing with me. She's so serious when she does that that I can't tell when she's kidding and when she's not. I figure it's better to err on the safe side.

However, it was finally decided that Keith could take me to the UPS store, with a stop off at the condo to pick up the shipping labels so, for some reason I'm still not entirely clear on, all the remaining members of the Mercury crew decided to pile into the car with their gear. (That would be William Red Wake and madPete.) On the way over to the condos, madPete and I were inducted into the secret Fellowship of the Flounder club which Keith and William had established earlier. The purpose of the club was to immediately slap anyone who complained about niggling little things in the face with a flounder. It had a secret handshake that, if I explained it to you, I'd have to kill you.

Arriving at the condos, I went and grabbed this shipping documents and then settled in with the rest of my inexplicably present crew at Keith and Lily's place. Keith trotted out some hors d'œuvres and we all sat around and munched and discussed the weekend. Keith had some fresh coffee made so I had some of that too. (Keith always has fresh coffee. This is not because he dumps out the old stuff when it's been sitting, but because a pot of coffee has a very short life around Keith. He told me that Crazy Lady's Catering had stopped giving him paper cups and taped his name to a ceramic mug and told Keith to get his own coffee whenever he wanted it. He paid in $10 increments and told the owner, "Let me know when it's time to put down another deposit.

Keith and I went off to deliver the box to the UPS store, which went without incident and then I returned to my condo to update the Journal.

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Lily had invited me out to dinner to Duffy's (Either that or I invited myself. I do that.) Monday evening I made my way over to Chez Alexander where I found three people sitting in the living room. I asked them if they were the Brigands because I knew the Brigands had been staying in Lily's condo. They laughed and said I knew all of them. Now while the cotton ball in soup had sort of dissipated, I was still operating on three hours of sleep, some cobwebs and breakfast with Stynky, so I think I should be given a pass on this one.

It turned out these were the Pirates of the Dark Rose - Crudbeard's Crew. I was actually Facebook friends with two of them - one of whom instantly confessed to being Fenris Chase and the other of whom made me guess who she was. I couldn't place her. I had run into her on Thursday evening and gone through this once until I finally gave up and said I knew her when I really wasn't at all sure I did. She had short dark hair. "I'm the girl sitting on the cannon!" she announced. I was thinking about Sandi Bilbo, but she had long, curly red hair. I mentioned this and she said, "That's me!" Then it slowly, ever so slowly, dawned on me. They make these mystical things called 'wigs.' Little sleep...cobwebs...Stynky at breakfast. (Even so, I am sitting in Lily's condo right now typing and I had to verify that this was the case because Sandi never confessed.)

The other person was a photographer I had met earlier who had been taking a ton of photos that I am sure will be populating the web page version of this Journal. He was wearing a black T-shirt that said "piratographer" which his crew had had made for him. Don is one of the organizers of the Eastport Pirate Festival which takes place the weekend after Labor Day in Maine. Don is a pretty soft-spoken, yet intense kind of guy. His voice intensity rose notably while explaining this event to me telling me that had a bed race, fireworks, dinners, a ball and Pirate Pet Show. Yep. A Pirate Pet Show. Color me intrigued. Don noted that it included dogs, cats, rabbits and several other animals. If it has goats, I am so there. Actually, it sounds like something I'd really like to see. I've always wanted to visit Maine and this is a wonderful reason to do so. For a quiet guy, Don really sells this well. (I should talk. I yammered on about the Put-in-Bay Pirate Fest in Ohio that takes place the weekend before the 4th of July to anyone who would listen.)

Everyone finally arrived and we all drove over to Duffy's. We were eight - the three Pirates of the Dark Rose, William and I, Lily Alexander and Scarlett and Pistol Pete. Everyone was in normal togs... well... almost everyone. (You'll have to wait for the photos.) This apparently allowed Scarlett Jai to switch out of character and I was finally, after six years of doing this, able to find out something about her. She was born in Montreal, but her family moved down to Hollywood, Florida when she was five or six. She went to college in Tampa for 8 years, earning a variety of degrees in Woman Studies and then told me "I couldn't get down here [Key West] fast enough." She's lived in Key West for 11 years. She is committed to helping out the fort. On Saturday, Frank had told me that she works for the Florida Key's Children's Shelter although he called it 'Project Lighthouse.' He said she is quite passionate about helping children through this organization although I've never heard her mention it before. An amazing woman, really.

Now in the 16 or 18 trips I've made to Key West, I've never gone to Duffy's before, even though Lily has raved about it in previous years. This is mostly because they have their menu posted out front like a lot of the good Key West restaurants and it never had anything on it that interested me. It looked like a nice, upscale surf-and-turf place. So I scoured the menu looking for something that was 'Key West interesting' since I only eat fish and not meat A lot of it was Lobster, which has never been a favorite food of mine. (They're just... great... big... cockroaches.) So I settled on the Yellowtail Snapper "Maison".which featured capers and mushrooms in a white wine sauce. It came with soup or salad, so I ordered the New England clam chowder, which just seemed wrong somehow. William talked about getting the Alligator Tail to split between us, but I finally decided alligator was more meat than fish. So he ordered that old tourist standby, conch fritters. (He had never had them before, so this was a good thing.)

Friends, I have been giving Duffy's a short shrift. I knew this the minute I took the first sip of the chowed. It was outstanding. I offered it to Sandi Bilbo, sans wig, who told me that she didn't like fish. "You live near the ocean in Maine and you don't like fish?!" She replied, "I live four blocks from the ocean and, no, I don't like fish. I never have." I mean to say... What?! You know?

The entree was fine and we all sat around and chattered for quite awhile after the meal was over. It was a really nice evening out. I was stuffed to the gills with fish, which only seemed appropriate. However I thought I would like to walk back rather than ride to try and walk off some of the heavy feeling. Don said he wanted to go wandering around, so he would go with me. We left the group in the parking lot, still talking and wandered down Duvall.

Don has an interesting photography style that I mightily admire. He glances around, looking for interesting things and pauses and snaps a quick shot. After the first one we had to stop to adjust his camera shutter speed so that the photos would come out, which is something I am willfully ignorant about. (This is why some of my night photos are so bad, no doubt.) Then we proceeded along with Don taking quick shots of things I didn't see until he paused. He never took more than one shot of any given thing which I really admired.

I tried to give him running commentary about the various buildings and places along the way that I had picked up on my many trips, but he was mostly focused on looking for 'the shot.' I'm not sure he even heard half of what I said. We got to Sloppy Joe's bar near the end of Duvall. I explained what it was, but the loud dark cavern of the bar didn't interest him. Then he spied the Hog's Breath Saloon across the street at the back of the parking lot it sits in. So I told him about that and we wandered over. He shot two or three images in different place of the Hog's Breath. He said he liked the music. We went along a little further, running out of exciting town scape for him to photograph. "I think I want to get a drink." I was pretty sure he was still thinking of Hog's Breath. While I have never actually been in there for more than five minutes, the lack of sleep/cobwebs/breakfast with Stynky was wearing on me and I bid him good night. He went his way and I went back to the condo, stopping to try my hand at some Christmas light photos. I doubt they'll be half as interesting as Don's.

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I know, I know, this should be over now. Most of you who were here have gone back to your non-FTPI lives. But not me! :P It's raining like hell this morning, though, and I'll be glad to get home, deal with 300 pounds of laundry and an irate cat. But there are a few things to mention yet. Yesterday I spent most of the day with Lily Alexander. We took William Red Wake to the airport and then went off to breakfast at Blue Heaven. I wanted to get some photos of the place for one my verbose descriptive rants back there. (I was shocked to discover that the place where I have spent so many hours chatting with friends and wiling away the hours in the morning was almost nothing like I described it. Call it artistic license.

While there, who should we run into but Gareth and his wife! They have been coming over to this event from England for as long as I can remember and probably longer. He is usually so busy running around the fort, organizing the British cannoneers and such that I have never had a proper chance to sit down and find out about him. And today, I still didn't. We didn't want to impose upon their last morning in paradise. He said they were flying out to London tonight.

However... I had been talking with Scarlett Jai the night before and she had told me all sorts of thing so off we go. ;) Gareth has been running the British cannon drills and firings on the battle field for the British for the Viceroy for the last few years. This is highly appropriate because he retired from the British Royal Navy after 20 years of service to Her Majesty. He told me in our short discussion that he had been in charge of cannons during his tenure which puzzled me until he explained hat "anything with a smooth bore is considered a cannon in the military." So we're talking about howitzers and that sort of thing. (I wonder how you prick the charge in those mothers?)

I asked Scarlett if he had retired to become a spy and it turned out he had. (I would make a double-ought spy reference here, but Gareth and Jethro really don't belong on the same continent together, let alone in the same sentence.) In fact, Scarlett said she thought Gareth had started a private security firm or worked for one or something like that. Scarlett didn't seem to clear on this point. (That's the way it is with these double-ought spies. Oops! Sorry.) All she knew is that from his emails he traveled all over the world. "I'm in Lisbon now, but I'll let you know (whatever) when I get back." She rattled off a string of different place names in similar fashion that sounded a lot more appropriate to a security firm but I have completely forgotten them. I could doing what I usually do and randomly pull names out of the air ("I'm in Guam now..." "I'm in Upper Ubangi...") but then we would be back in Jethro territory. These were serious, no-nonsense sorts of places.

One of the things Gareth seems to do for fun is raise sheep. He has a sheep that has won all sorts of awards in the UK..He made a comment to Scarlett that really resonated with her experiences living in Key West. It was that in the place he lived, the seasons were not measured by the weather, they were measured by what was going on with the sheep. Things like breeding season, lambing season, shearing season, annoy the sheep by making 'bahhhh-ing' sounds season and so forth. (Does this sound like Ireland to you? Or perhaps northern England? Being a security firm sort of guy, I'm sure he'd have to kill me if I put it in print, so we'll not guess, eh?) In Key West, Scarlett noted that the seasons are measured by which festival or party was going on - Fantasy Fest Season, Christmas Season, Make Fun of the Snowbirds Season, Sweat Till There's No Liquid Left in You Season...

Scarlett also told me Gareth's house was built in the 1700s. No doubt many of you are 'oooh-ing' and 'aaah-ing' over this, but that was my experience while in England. What we think of as being historically significant, the British think of as being new construction. ("1812? Give it a few years so the foundation can settle fully.") They have bars over there that have been running since the time of the Picts.

I wanted to go and visit the Key West Key Lime Pie Factory store, which Lily was game to do, so off we went. She did her Christmas shopping and a I bought some oddly flavored coffees. (Your ship's surgeon loves oddly-flavored coffees. Although I'm talking about things like coconut and key lime, not things like bacon and raw sewage. Please don't buy me any coffees like that based on that comment. Thank you.) Then we toddled up to Faustos so she could get some groceries and it was just a Brad and Janet sort of day. We talked philosophy, which has been a recurring theme for me this trip and how we Introverts are so much better off than those Extraverts.

Fast forward to dinner. We had dinner with Scarlett Jai at a locals place you will never be able to find - even with your fancy smart phone mapping program - on Stock Island called Hogfish Bar & Grill. We even had to successfully answer three questions to cross one of the bridges on the way there. ("Red. No, blue! Aieeeee.") We dined with Scarlett's mother Lorry and aunt (her aunt was down from somewhere north. Possibly Canada.) Her mother and I clicked immediately, allowing me to learn a lot more about Scarlett. (Scarlett kept trying to separate us, but her mom is one of those fun-loving folks who not only understands the interest of an alleged humor writer in talking to someone's mom, but embraces the opportunity to regale him with the juiciest stories.)

So let me give you the skinny on Scarlett. She has a twin sister who is named Lee-Lee. Yes, Scarlett Jai is a twin, just like me! (As far as I know, she doesn't have a third twin like me, which is her loss.) Actually, Scarlett's sister is not named Lee-Lee, she is named Leanne or something like that, but I liked Lee-Lee better and her real name was never brought up again after that so I assume it only appears on legal documents. Lorry showed me photos of Lee-Lee dressed as a vampire, which I hope I can get her to let me use in the Journal.

I asked what Lee-Lee was like and Lorry told me that she had a pirate and a princess. Lee Lee is a Reiki Master which has something to do with Universal Spiritual Energy Healing, but I hit a wrong button and I can't figure out how to get out of full screen mode to look it up in another tab. Lorry told me that Scarlett was born a smart-ass and that Lee-Lee had once noted that although she was born 8 minutes after Scarlett, she was trying to catch up with her in that department. At this point Scarlett's aunt jumped in with stories about the twins going into rooms while she was sitting for them and changing their clothes so they could fool her into the thinking one was one and one was the other. (This is an old, tried-and-true twin trick. Mae, Brig and I do it all the time as you will see when the photos get posted. They can never tell us apart.)

After dinner, Scarlett took us over to see her boyfriend Pistol Pete's live-aboard boat which he is restoring so that they can go on an around-the-world sailing jaunt. (Scarlett told me that was her dream right now.) The boat is in drydock amongst a village of similar boats on Stock Island, many of which have active tenants. I don't remember much about her other than she was about 45 feet long, gaff-rigged had a boom that stuck out well beyond the back of the boat, had an 8 foot draft and a 50 or 60 foot tall mast. The inside was very cozy and yet had a lot of standing room because of the design of the boat and her deep draft. Pistol Pete was sitting back relaxing when we climbed down into her, listening to really good new age music. The place was festooned with pirate images, many of them from past FTPI events. The seats were covered with skull-and-bones blankets and such. A nice space. I didn't take any photos of this because it somehow seemed a bit irreverent of me to even suggest it.

Pistol Pete is a quiet, intense sort of guy - like someone who is externally very calm but has all sorts of business going on in his mind. He sort of, kind of, reminded me of Patrick Hand. He is a professional sailor and was sometimes gone off on sailing trips all over the world. He had seen the boat they are restoring when it was owned by an man who was too old to climb and work on her, but too proud of her to sell her. He died, and Pete bought the boat from the family. They asked him to look around the boat to see if they could find "his treasure." Apparently they figured the old man had squirreled away precious items on the boat, but I guess they didn't want to be bothered with pulling her apart to find it. (Very piratey.) While working on the boat, Pete and Scarlett had been keeping an eye out for stuff, but they hadn't found any in the boat proper. Scarlett told me when the first got her, she contained "four of everything" which they set aside to look at later. Scarlett happened to need a backpack for her motorcycle and she grabbed one of the several she found an proceeded to empty it. Inside one of the many zippered pockets she found a small diamond ring. She also found the gold-plated coin that had been placed under the mast when the removed that during the refurbishing process after Pete had searched in vain to retrieve it. This causing her to ask us, "Now who's the better pirate?" As if you have to ask.

Well, that should be it for the Journal unless something interesting happens on the plane. (Which it sometimes does on this trip.) Hope you guys enjoyed it!

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Wow, I just transferred this into word and it's 47 pages long. Last year is was in the mid 30 pages as I recall. Blah, blah, blah... ;)

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