The Surgeon's Journal, 2013

13 posts in this topic

Wednesday 12-5

William picked me up from the airport in Keith’s van, which went without a hitch if you don’t count the security people yelling at him for parking in the wrong place. My thought, even then, was that we had to get back to camp so I could find Sandi and head out to Café Sole. I was hungry.

William got me to the check in building for Compass Realty where I picked up my room key. The life of the room key was not to be a long one, because I managed to break off in

the door with my luggage because I foolishly left it in the door without thinking about it. Not wanting to dwell upon this, I suggested we head for camp. I was still thinking of Café Sole.

So we went over to the camp and chatted with Lily and Keith and the Pirates of the Dark Rose. I rather unartfully suggested dinner at Café Sole to Sandi, but she decided to stick with her crew. Her crew decided to stick with Lily. Lily decided to stick with the camp until Fayma arrived. And Mission decided to stick with his plan to go to Café Sole before his blood sugar ran too low.

So I walked back to the condos where I found William at the door trying to retrieve the broken off bit of key from the lock with two needles and pair of tweezers. That worked about as well as you’d expect. He seemed determined to get it out in this manner until I explained that I had a pair of needle-nose pliers in the stuff I had shipped down to assemble the gibbets.

I was primarily looking for a reason to go and eat. At Café Sole. This we did, discussing all the problems of the world, particularly those related to pirate reenacting. I also learned that the reason that the Mercury crew does not have a captain is because Patrick Hand, in the founding meeting of the Mercury crew, announced that we should not have a captain and thus avoid the usual problems that go with that. So it was written, so it was done. William was then elected Quartermaster of the crew.

Following dinner, we waddled (and I mean waddled) back to the condo. Hopefully the walk aided our digestion – we had a lot of yummy escargot and hogfish to work off. I had earlier invited William to spend the night on my couch rather than try and put up his tent in the dark, which he readily agreed to do. William had told me at least three different times that he was very tired, having taken the redeye flight from Utah and gotten only about an hour of sleep. So we sat around and talked about haunted houses for three hours.

William’s take on haunted houses is very classical. He had several ideas that had never occurred to me, such as strategically placing lights in rooms filled with complex mechanical objects so that the shadows cast would scare people. He also told tales of using long walkways with existing, deteriorating walls and ceilings without any further dressing. I particularly liked his idea of wadding up newspapers and placing them at the bottom of a room with a slightly inclined floor and a strobe light at the end of the path out with the exit being via a sharp turn to disorient people. The worker could then hide in the newspapers and move under them or jump out from them, the effect of which would be exaggerated by the strobe.

But you didn’t start reading this to learn about haunted house rooms and it’s 12:30am here, so I’m going to stop for now.

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Thursday 12-6

I woke up early, so I decided to work on my research for a period article on drowning. Eventually William awoke and we headed off to Blue Heaven to have breakfast. There are two restaurants that I simply must dine at when I am in Key West and this was the second.

They had totally redone the menu at Blue Heaven, which now included banana and pineapple pancakes. I was quite torn between the two of them, so I asked for one of each. For those who are curious, pineapple pancakes totally overpower banana pancakes. If you have the choice, you should totally take the pineapple if you want a lot of flavor.

While we were there, we discussed tobacco enemas for reviving the drowned, which is what I had been digging into in my research [heh]. There was also a cute girl sitting behind William which I (rather uncharacteristically) was making eyes at. I don’t know if it was my unshaven mug or the conversation, but she actually changed seats so that I couldn’t see her.

Captain Jim arrived at the fort and sent William upwards of a dozen phone messages asking where we were. Not getting any answer (William had put his phone on vibrate or something), he posted on the FTPI participants Facebook page asking where the Mercury crew was. William used his fancy smart phone to fail to leave a voice to text message response, so we decided to head back to the condo so he could fail to leave a voice to text message there as well.

We decided not to linger at the condo and headed over to the fort to reassure Captain Jim that he was not going to have to be the only Mercury crew member at the fort all weekend. Having nothing else to do, Jim had set up his tent and sleeping area and helped the vendors build their stove and repaired a few parts of the fort wall. (We had a long lunch.)

Every New Year’s Day, I make a list of projects I want to have completed by the end of the year. I do this because I have read that if you write down the things you want to do at the beginning of the year in a list, you will usually have completed most, if not all, of them by the end of the year. One of the things on my list was to create a male skeleton to go with the female skeleton (Becky) that has hung at Fort Taylor for the past few years.

I had actually already created a male skeleton (Bucky I) back in 2008, but he had been stolen or gotten lost or something. (I don’t even want to know what happened to him. No doubt someone, somewhere has a secret room with a sex dungeon in the Keys that contains Bucky I.) (I really, really don’t need him back if that is true.)

I had also added two steel gibbets (the cages) to house Becky and Bucky II to my New Years list of projects. Becky’s original gibbet was made of plastic that was apparently designed for people who want to set their gibbeted skeletons in a corner of their living room where the only elements they will be exposed to is Pledge. (If Bucky I is in a sex dungeon, his cage is probably better for it.) Becky’s gibbet had been repaired multiple times and not repaired even more times and looked pretty shabby. William liked it that way, thinking it made the whole thing look more realistic, but I just thought it emphasized the fact that the thing was plastic junk. So I had created two steel gibbets with the help of my welder friend Bob Kokal and shipped them down to Key West with Bucky II.

Scarlett Jai got the three boxes I had shipped down to the Keys for me and put them in the shade so I could assemble all these things.

Now, I should note that I had hand drilled these gibbets and they resisted the process at every step. They wanted to be free, not formed into 18th century torture devices! Plus, since they were formed into such unusual shapes, drilling was a challenge. I could drill the hoops on a drill press, but the body of the gibbet required fastening the pre-drilled hoops with spring clamps and drilling them with a hand drill. As a result, every hole position was uniquely placed and these things could only go together in one way.

I knew this and had even accounted for it. I had painted little markers to make sure the right hoop got with the right gibbet and was started in the right place in the hopes that everything would fit together nicely while assembling this “in the field.” I may as well have hoped for snow in Key West.

As a result, some of the holes lined up in such a way that other holes could never be lined up without the aid of a 150 ton forcing press. Fortunately, with so many connection points, it didn’t matter. We just left some of the bolts out or put them in place in such a way as to suggest they were installed even though they served no purpose whatsoever. As William sagely noted, “It looks more realistic that way.” (By ‘realistic’, I assume he meant ‘badly designed.’)

I had asked William to take pictures of the assembly process because I wanted to do a Little Nellie like assembly montage of photos. Hopefully that came out.

Because of the way a gibbet works, Bucky II had to be put into the cage before too many of the hoops were installed. Once installed, he naturally got in the way of assembling the gibbet. But I soldiered on and he was eventually encased in his new steel home.

Captain Jim and William actually finished putting their gibbet together before me, which Jim pointed out with alacrity. I noted that that were two of them and my sugar was really high (pancakes will do that every time), so I had to keep wandering off to the rest room to take water in and let the used stuff back out. (This is what happens when your sugar is really high. Trust me. It’s the body trying to get all that sugar out of itself and it doesn’t work worth a tin penny when you’re a diabetic. Flushes your system out nicely, though.)

We next had to get Becky and her crappy plastic gibbet down because Deadeye had strung her up before I got there and explained what was going to happen. William had been all for leaving her in the plastic gibbet, especially since they had finished assembling their gibbet and putting her into it would involve disassembling parts of it. (He still thought it looked more realistic with pieces unsprung.) I lobbied for putting her in the matching steel gibbet and they agreed once the thing was on the ground and they saw how bad it looked.

I was delighted to see how moldy Becky’s clothes had become. Deadeye has been the keeper of the gibbeted skeletons ever since Bucky 1 went missing. I believe he stores them outside in his work area and Becky had gotten nicely weathered over the years. Unfortunately, her legs had also gotten twisted around and one of them had lost its pin, so I had to do some rather indelicate surgery on her. That done, Jim and William got her in her gibbet and I was happy. (Grinning like an idiot is more like it. They looked so cool!)

The primary goal of making these two (in my mind at least) was to string the two gibbets up together and have the skeletons holding hands. I thought it was romantical. (That is so a word. Look it up.) I didn’t know how we were going string them up – I only knew we needed a board to keep them about the right distance apart. The ever resourceful Captain Jim had an idea that worked marvelously. All we needed was a board, which Deadeye supplied. Hoisting the two skeletons and their all steel gibbets required four people to drag on the rope. It would have been a lot easier if we had been pulling at an angle, but I didn’t think of that until later.

When they were finally up there, the twisted together ever so gently in the wind. I was very, very happy. Sometimes a project looks even better than you could have hoped.

Just about that time, as if on cue, Iron Jon arrived with his trailer full of tents and supplies for the Mercury camp. With the skeletons up, the rest of the crew went over to help Jon and his friend Steve unload the trailer. I kind of hung back looking at the skeletons for a while. While drinking lots of water.

Eventually I toddled over to the site and started helping with the unloading process. Once that was finished, we had to start putting up tents. Well, first we had to have a beer, which Captain Jim generously supplied. Then we sat around and talked for a while. Then we started putting up tents.

Now the camp had been precisely laid out and Keith had a color-coded map to prove it. Unfortunately the first few people to arrive hadn’t been told about the map and were directed to set up in a way that made following the nicely color-coded map impossible. (This is just the sort of thing Ian Malcolm was talking about in Jurassic Park. Except that misplaced tents didn’t result in people getting eaten by dinosaurs. Well… not yet, anyhow.) Rather than make half a dozen people move their tents, Keith wisely decided to deviate from the map. So we had to use our cunning and ingenuity to set up our camp. Between the five of us, we managed to assemble enough cunning and ingenuity to do that. With that complete, it was time for another beer.

It was about 3pm at this point and now my sugar had slid the other way and was going low. (Ride the rollercoaster! It’s fun. Not.) So I had a really delicious (not to mention reasonably-priced) veggie burrito at Crazy Lady’s Café. They even had Diet Mountain Dew, the official drink of pirate surgeon reenactors at Fort Taylor. So I was very happy.

While I was sitting there, eating my gigantic veggie burrito, Captain Jim came over with a tool. “Is this a surgeon’s tool?” I looked at it, It was very thin and sort of bent like a bistoury knife, but it had a plastic handle that said “Secure Pro” on the handle. “It kind of looks like one, but I don’t think it is.” I replied. William looked at and laughed. “It’s a lock-pick!” Talk about serendipity! One can’t help but wonder why someone had brought a lock-pick into camp, but it was JUST what I needed to get that stupid key out of the door of my condo!

There were more tents to be set up, but I won’t bore you with all the details of that. Just note that we kept working until it was time to pick madPete up at the airport.

Keith gave William his SUV to pick up mP, so I hitched a ride. I wanted to rent a bicycle for the duration of the event, try to get the key out of the door and shower. (I really, really wanted to shower.) William was also had to pick up some poles for madPete’s tent, so I figured I had plenty of time.

The lock-pick tool made short work of the key. I felt just like James Bond, deftly snicking the key out of the lock. (OK, ‘deftly’ is a bit of an overstatement, but once I figured out how to use it, I was able to flick it out just like James Bond after he had been properly trained off screen.)

It was dusk when William called and asked what I wanted to do. I told him that they lock the park gates for a half an hour after sunset, so they may as well come back to the condo and wait. Which they did.

madPete had only had a yogurt for lunch and I was getting hungry. The dinner plans hadn’t been settled, so William called Captain Jim to find out what was happening for dinner. What was happening is that Blazing Swine BBQ had made a pig and was giving it out for free in the fort because they were so happy to be invited back to the event this year. I noted my vegetarian concerns, so Captain Jim asked the Blazing Swine folks if they had anything for vegetarians. I could actually hear the laughter from William’s phone.

So madPete and I went to the Rum Barrel for dinner. He actually owed me a dinner there for reasons I really don’t recall.

Friends, it is with a heavy heart that I make the following statement: corn and crab chowder is no longer a regular menu item. Yes, I feel your pain, but it is what it is. (Whatever that means.) Our waitress was named Savannah, which I know because she quizzed us later on in the meal. “I told you what it was when I seated you, do you remember?” I think I guessed Chelsea which did not please her. But she was very, very nice to us and gave us the locals discount because she just figured we must be locals by the look of us. (I always consider that high praise.)

We went back to camp after dinner. Steve had brought upwards of 3 cords of wood, so there was a fire going in the Mercury camp despite the fact that it was 78 degrees out. Everyone was sitting around the fire. After five or ten minutes of that, I decided to take a stroll around camp. Thursday night is usually quiet early on, so upon returning to the Mercury camp, I said my goodbyes and walked back to the condo for another shower. (Honestly, who sits around a fire in 78 degree weather?)

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Friday, 12-7

It was the first day of the event and I wanted to get there early. I took a purely ceremonial shower and headed out to be instantly coated in a protective layer of sweat that would accompany me for the rest of the day.

My first order of business was to give something I had had made for William to him in front of the crew – a hand-made replica of the Mercury in a bottle created by Daniel Siemans. Daniel had appeared on the Pub in February this year and the minute I saw his work, I knew what I had to do.

Unfortunately, there was a captains or crew meeting going on when I arrived. (Or maybe both. I can never tell meetings apart.) So I had to sit and watch all that before I could give the ship to William. After the meeting, there was a bunch of forms and stuff to be done. I had originally planned to go out on one of the ships today – the one Stynky Tudor was safety officer on – but Stynky hadn’t shown up. So I had to tell Lily this fact. I tried to do that, but she made me get in line. When I finally got to the head of the line, she said she already knew that and had taken me off the list. OK.

I then proceeded to try and gather the crew, who were similarly trying to get their spots on boats or have their weapons inspected for the battle and so forth. I finally managed to get them all together… well, most of them.. and I gave William the box with the ship in it.

He was delighted, commenting that it was "so weird to see it in three dimensions." After the crew admired it for awhile, told me he had to take it around camp and show it off. When he returned, he carefully tucked it into a burlap bag so that it wouldn't be in the hot, direct sunlight of Key West. He us that he wished he had had a fireplace at his house to he could set it on the mantle when he got home, but that we would find a place of honor for it.

With that done, I set up shop and spent the majority of the day extolling the virtues (and vices) of period surgery. There were some openings on the ships that were participating in the battle this year, so William and madPete decided to go out on one of the boats. This left Captain Jim, Iron Jon and Steve (whom Iron Jon had brought with him) in camp with me.

Steve turned out to be Jon’s neighbor from across the street. He was retired from the Army after twenty years of service. I told him it was too bad that Gareth Pugh wasn’t there because he had retired from the British Army. (Regular readers may recall Gareth from last year. He has several prize-winning sheep and a 16th century Welsh farm.) I commented that most long-term military guys had that precise way about them. He agreed, stroking his face and noting, “Yep. This is about as much beard as I can stand to have on my face.” Steve also proved to be a very good cook as we’ll see later.

We had pretty decent traffic for Friday, so I stayed at my post most of the day, with the exception of the battle.

The battle was once again on the field in front of the fort with the pirates on the right and the British on the left. I decided to play with the pirates today, bringing my trusty clyster syringe along to revive any wounded. Captain Jim and I went out to the field at the appointed time only to find that everyone else was on island time. It gave us a chance to admire the Viceroy’s cannons.

The Viceroy had cast a new cannon for this year named ‘El Jefe’ which was a brass monster of a gun. I don’t know the specs of it, but it was bigger (and certainly louder) than any other gun on the field. They had two other large brass guns in their arsenal, but nothing like The Boss.

The pirates started drifting onto the field, as pirates will do, so Jim and I made our way to our side. The cannon crews began practicing as soon as they were there. We had several small cannons and a smattering of deck guns mounted on poles. While we quite a few more guns, I don’t think the lot of them melted down could make something as massive as El Jefe.

Scarlett Jai was there organizing the troops. She was looking for someone to hold the pirate flag, so I volunteered since my surgical role wouldn’t come into play until people started getting wounded. The small arms folks were discussing their game plan, which involved firing from the sidelines and marching past the cannons once they ran out of cannon charges. Then some of them would be killed. I advised everyone to fall face down because it’s a pain in the neck to have to keep rolling people over to administer my ‘cure.’

While we were waiting for the action to commence, I went over and talked with the charming Catalina De Alquezar. She has a lovely Spanish accent, so I asked her where she was from originally. Spain, natch. She told me that her family had started coming over to Miami 17 years ago and she had come over herself in 2002. She worked in her family importing business in Miami. I asked her how she kept her rich accent and she explained that they all spoke Spanish at their import business since they were communicating with Spain all the time.

The battle got started on time at 2pm, which in itself was amazing. Jai had advised us to act all disorganized and drink liquids from bottles in an exaggerated fashion as soon as the battle commenced. I had set my clyster syringe on a waterjug sitting on the field so I could hold the flag I had with both hands. Catalina asked if, during the confusion, she could grab the clyster syringe as if it were a gun and then look confused and set it back down. I thought this was a wonderful idea and encouraged her to do so.

There was a lot of back-and-forth small arm and cannon firing, occasionally punctuated by the roar of El Jefe. People on the fort wall watching reported that they could even feel that monster gun’s blast up there. We were supported, or possible being fired upon, by four ships at sea with small arms and cannons on board who kept crossing back and forth in front of the battle field.

Willie Wobble was on the field with Searle’s Buccaneers waving a red flag (meaning no surrender for you lubbers) and I was waving my banner, which happened to be the standard of the Pirates of the Dark Rose. Every once in a while, I would stop and take photos of the scene and then Scarlett Jai would yell at me for not waving my flag, so I’d have to stop. You don’t cross Scarlett Jai.

The cannoneers finally ran out of charges and the pirates ran forward. The Brits fired El Jefe and many people fell down as if wounded. Now was my moment. I handed off my flag to Lily. Except the other part of this script was that people were to run away and so most of the wounded decided to get back up and run! One guy agreed to fall face down for me in the effort to get the photo. We shot this and then off he ran.

Wasabi was one of the few pirates who remained on the battle field, sitting. He started crying for the surgeon, so I jogged over to see what he wanted. He wanted me to use the clyster syringe to inject medicine in his mouth! I agreed to do so, but sternly warned him not to let his lips touch the syringe tip. I do know where that thing has been.

I went back to the fort and did my surgeon schtick for an hour or so and then decided to close up shop so that I could get back to the condo and get my dance ticket before sunset. The fort closes and locks the gates at sunset and no one is allowed to enter or leave for half an hour. Steve had been making what looked to be a splendid diner and I didn’t want to show up after it had already been served. So I skedaddled on my bike, taking a quick sponge bath and changing into clothes that hadn’t yet been given an inside coating of sweat. (It was a dance, after all.)

Dinner was everything it looked to be. Steve had made chicken that just fell off the bone according to informed sources. Your vegetarian ship’s surgeon stuck with the potatoes in cheese sauce and corn on the cob. By way of dessert, Steve had prepared little blueberry muffins in a Dutch oven. Delish. Steve didn’t have any. Someone asked him if he was going to have something and he replied, “I’m not gonna’ eat that crap!” Welcome to the Mercury crew.

William and I had both received tickets to the dance because we were sponsors of the event. (William does graphics for them and I do the website and gibbeted skeletons.) The rest of the crew demurred – they all had spouses and significant others and, more importantly, no free tickets. So we boarded the trolley and headed off to the East Martello tower.

There are two Martello towers on Key West. They were built in the mid 19th century by the US Army for the civil war to provide protection against a confederate attack from the ocean. (As amazing as it may seem, Key West was a union territory.)

It is practically on the grounds of the Key West airport and today is the home of the Key West Art and Historical Society, who keep a museum there. I had been to the West Martello Tower, which is on the southern coast of Key West about half way between the West Martello Tower and Fort Taylor. It contained a lovely garden. I had never seen the East Martello before, so I was interested to do so.

The dance was loosely to take place from 6 – midnight. William and planned to show up, take photos and leave within twenty minutes or so.

We walked in and found ourselves smack in the middle of the Art and Historical Society’s gift ship. It was being manned by a lovely girl named Christina. I tried to give her my ticket, but she refused it, telling me the tickets were being taken in the next room. So we headed that way where we found Scarlett Jai taking tickets. Then it was down a small flight of stairs and into the central part of Martello Tower.

It was a roundish space with a tower in the center and a number of doors leading off into the circular wall we had just came through. The event organizers had wisely put the drink station right in front of the door we had come through and there were little food stations on either side. The Brigands were playing off to the right to a crowd of people seated on white plastic lawn chairs.

If I was going to be at a dance, I wanted a drink, so William and I parted ways while I fetched myself a rum punch. It was quite tasty. Then I wandered around the central tower admiring the landscape. Being an art museum, there were some interesting sculptures on the grounds like a cannon with shark fins and a state of a woman with no head. It kind of looked like something had decided to eat her, starting with her noggin. William wanted me to pose with my head in the scooped out spot, but you have to draw the line somewhere. (At least until you’ve had more drinks, you do.)

Even though we had both just eaten a wonderful dinner, courtesy of Steve, we tried one of the food stations which had tuna on salad covered with wasabi sauce. It was very good.

Wandering around, I ran into Diosa, Wendy and Dawson Wellman. Wendy immediately decided it would be a good idea to stroke my hair (perhaps to fix it – I had just removed my hat) and she commented on how soft it was. This made Diosa want to try it. Then Dawson. Then some random guy who happened to be passing and heard all this discussion about how soft my hair was.

So I had four people with their hands in my hair. (It’s soft because I use Baby Shampoo. I’m sure it’s horrible for my hair because it doesn’t contain enough vitamins or the right vitamins or something, but it’s cheap and it doesn’t smell of perfume too much. Plus… no more tears. ;) )

William appeared and said it was getting close to eight, so we should go. I was now on the fence about going, what with everyone complimenting my hair and all, but I decided to head for the waiting area for the trolley. There, we encountered Christina, from the gift shop. She was smoking a cigarillo.

Earlier, when we had given our tickets to Jai, she had told me that if I wanted some cool stories for the Journal, I should talk to Christina. So this seemed like the opportune moment. She offered me cigar. I didn’t really want it, but William started making noises about my being a hypocrite, so I took a few hits off of it. Cah! I definitely needed more drinks if I was going to smoke that!

Another guy was standing there with us who also tried it. “What kind is it?” he asked her. “It’s a cab cigar.” He clearly didn’t know what that was, so he asked her. “I found it in a cab this morning,” she replied simply. Well!

I started quizzing her on good stories, but I seemed to have caught her off guard. Finally we started talking about Robert the Doll, who is reputed to be cursed. She explained that he is a one-of-a-kind, handmade doll created around the turn of the 20th century, who is wearing a sailor suit. Rumor has it that there is voodoo in Robert the Doll’s past.

Christina explained that if people took Robert’s photo without asking permission or insulted him in some way, then they would be harried by bad luck until they came back and apologized to him in person. She noted that many people had flown back to Key West just to do so. Others sent cards and letters begging his forgiveness.

This was all very interesting, but my ears pricked up when she told the next story. Some drunk woman had apparently come into the display (I know, it’s hard to believe their would be a drunk woman in Key West) and said horrible things to Robert the Doll and had thrown his small lion at her. Christina noted that ever since that event, Robert wouldn’t even hold the lion in the same place where it had been since he had come to the museum.

“Wait… Robert has a baby lion?” I asked. “Yes, you could call it that.” Now I was fascinated. “Can I see it?” “Oh no, he’s locked up in the museum which is closed for the event. We have a small version of Robert though.” She led me back inside and showed me. Sure enough, Robert had a small lion sitting on his lap. It was Baby Lion! (Those of you who have hung with the Surgeon’s Journals since the very beginning will recognize Baby Lion from discussion I had with Grace Thatcher at the Fort Taylor event in 2008. If you haven’t read it or don’t remember and for some reason feel that you need to, you can read the Pirates in Paradise 2008 account on my web page.)

Now I had to have one. I bought a miniature Robert the Doll who came complete with baby lion and a rocking chair, which was apparently just like the real one in the museum version. “Are all the parts there?” I asked Christina. “Oh yes, I package them myself.” Christina was a four year resident of the island and I believe she said she had been working in the museum for much of that time. (I honestly don’t remember for sure.) Although she had come in at 8 or 9 in the morning, she had volunteered to be on duty that night because she thought it would be fun.

The trolley did not seem to be in the offing, so I told William I was going to go back in and stay for the duration. (See, the trolleys were supposed to run from 6-8pm to get people there and then again from 10 – 12 pm to get them back to the fort. We were apparently in the donut hole so William wound up staying for until 10pm.

So I went in and hung out with Wendy, Dawson and Diosa for the evening, having a fine time of it. I even learned to dance a bit of a jig, although I have already forgotten how it went. (I need alcohol to have any sort of motor skill coordination whatsoever for this sort of sport.)

They had a best-dressed pirate and pirates contest, which was nice. Caribbean Pearl won the pirates contest and her prize was a liquor bottle shaped like a skull. I asked her if I could have it, but she told me she had promised it to someone else. She did let me have a sip, though. It was terrible, terrible stuff. If I were going to bottle something in a skull, it would be much better than that.

They also held an auction, but it was hard to hear and I can’t really tell you much about it other than the fact that Scarlett Jai and Chrispy did the auctioning. I was sitting by William at this point. He told me it was 10pm and he was leaving because we had 11pm gate duty. I decided to stay. I found Diosa, Wendy and Dawson and we watched the impossible auction for a bit. Eventually our little group decided to get while the getting was good. I figured we were going to catch the bus with everyone else, but Diosa had driven.

“Do you want me to take you to the condos or the fort?” she asked. “We’re staying in the condos.” That was tempting, but there was gate duty and my bike was back in the fort. So I spent the next hour or so hanging with my crew of madPete, Captain Jim, Iron Jon and William. We sat around and talked and the time just flew by. (I’m not going to say what we talked about because I was being obnoxiously candid for some reason, but it was still a nice time from my POV.) Then I gathered my bike and backpack and peddled back to the condo.

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Saturday, 12-7

Between finishing the web page that explained how the Mercury ship in a bottle was made, uploading photos from my camera so I could keep everything organized and writing the text Journal, I got to the fort around noon today. We had decent traffic through the camp site, so I was busy explaining period surgical techniques until it was time for the battle.

There were a couple of interesting folks who visited. One said he was from a newspaper and he asked me to pose in front of my display, which I did. I will try and find a link to that once I get back home.

There were several medical folks who visited and commented on things. A group of women, two of whom were in the field admired the table and quizzed me on several procedures before announcing that many of the techniques and tools really weren’t all that different from today. (I frequently hear that from medical folks.)

Another actual surgeon stopped by and was most fascinated with the display and the instruments. I have noticed that medical folks are often very fascinated with medical stuff. I used to know a couple of hospital folks who loved nothing more than to watch ER when they got home on Thursday nights. They would tell me how accurate the whole thing was, which made me sort of wonder why they didn’t just stay at work and watch that.

A third ER nurse in the tiniest bikini visited with her husband, a serious-looking fellow. She parked herself right at the edge of the table and occasionally pointed at things near her and asked to explain them. It made me a bit nervous to go grabbing those surgical tools. (In addition to being serious-looking, her husband was also bigger than me.)

Perhaps the most interesting guy was the one who approached the table with his wife and two children and got a delighted look when he was the instruments. He got out his camera and started taking close up shots of instruments, particularly focusing on the clyster syringe. I dutifully explained its purpose while he continued to snap away. Now, I know the clyster syringe is interesting, but it’s not that interesting. His kids look mildly interested in my explanations and his wife looked a bit bored.

He finally explained that he was an underwater archeologist who was helping to bring up and identify pieces from the wreck of a ship in the Keys. which I believe he said was called the Santa Margarita, but I’m not certain. They had found the top part of a clyster syringe on the boat and he was taking photos for his work. He said he had worked on several shipwrecks all over the world and “nearly all of them had these types of syringes.” This is not unusual, given that the first English sea surgeon’s manual, the surgions mate by John Woodall which was written in 1617 (about 5 years before the wreck of the Santa Margarita) contains 20 or 30 pages of information on the clyster syringe and the concoctions that could be loaded into it for injection.

The boys of the Mercury crew started gathering their guns and other implements of war. I knew it was time to cover the surgeon’s table, grab my trusty weapon of surgery and head for the battle field. We actually didn’t make it all the way their, however. Walking along the fort wall path, we ran into Wasabi, who was in charge of the pirate small arms. He was standing in the last piece of shade you encounter before walking onto the barren, treeless expanse of the battle field. “We still got ten minutes; no sense going out into the sun until we have to,” he explained with a twinkle in his eye. So we stood around and chatted with him and I got a chance to pose for my first reciprocal photo of the trip with a couple of tourists.

It was finally time, so we headed out. The pirates were on the opposite side of the field today, along the waterline, facing the fort. I had thought about being on the British side today because it can be fun to mix things up. Plus they were scheduled to lose, which means there would be wounded to care for. But the whole Mercury crew (except Steve) was out on the field and I wanted to be with my crew.

The plan was explained (We were to hide from view and run up to the cannons at 2pm. Then the cannon crews would fire the cannons until they ran out of charges with support from the small arms on either side of the cannons and then charge forward and fire another volley or two. Then we would go over to the British and capture the Viceroy and anyone who wasn’t smart enough to fall down as if dead.) After that, everyone milled around in plain view of the fort wall (where most of our audience was located) for a bit, the cannon crews did some practicing. Then Scarlett Jai said it was 10 minutes to 2 and ordered everyone to go hide along the shore, which is festooned with giant pale grey rocks. I noted that this was sort of ridiculous given that we had all just standing around in plain site a minute ago, but I said it sotto voce. (You won’t see me crossing Scarlett Jai, no sir.)

I studiously avoided being given the pirate flag, even when Scarlett Jai tried to present it to me. In fact, when she was walking around behind the gun line holding the flat, I yelled at her, “Big flags, Scarlett! Big flags!” just as she had done to me yesterday. Her answer? “This one keeps getting twisted up when wave it!” “Yep, I know!”

Iron Jon had given William one of his blunderbusses although it couldn’t be fired for some reason. (Maybe they didn’t have powder. I’m sure I’ll find out when they read this.) So William told me that he was going to be my bodyguard. I liked the idea of needing to have a bodyguard for the surgeon. In fact, I really think we ought to make this a tradition.

The only trouble with being my bodyguard is that I like to wander around and take photos of the action since I have no useful role until people start to fall. (And so long as I don’t accept that stupid flag.) So poor William had to keep traipsing behind me if he wanted to stay in character.

There was a lot of cannon fire, punctuated loudly by El Jefe and his two brothers on the Brit side. Still, even with those big guns, the British had their script and a few dropped here and there. My vict- patients! Except I had to wait until I could cross the battle field. There was also a flank group of pirates lead by Felicity who manned a cannon or something off to the side which took out some more Brits. Finally we advanced, fired and then were able to go and do some surgery. After reading several places about the reviving ability of tobacco enemas, I decided that that’s what I was using the clyster syringe for this year. (Which makes no sense, but we’ll go with it anyhow.)

Back in camp, I returned to my surgeon’s table where we had a marathon run of people. I must have talked for 45 minutes straight, going through the procedures over and over again as people kept appearing.

Things started slowing down around 4 and I was able to get out from behind the table for a bit and chat. Mike (the skeleton pirate) and his girlfriend Ashley appeared and we chatted for awhile. Mike told me he was really impressed with Becky and Bucky and asked me about my techniques for creating them. I explained that I used toilet paper and liquid latex and advised him to check out my Becky and Bucky builder pages. Neither of them put on their pirate garb, which was unfortunate, but I was glad to see them.

The festival finally closed at 5pm and we started thinking about dinner. Steve had once again been cooking, but there wasn’t anything for me this time because they put a can of beans with pork into the otherwise vegetarian beans. Iron Jon explained that they were just small pieces of pork, but not having knowingly eaten any meat since 1998, I didn’t want to risk it. (I’m told pork is one of the worst things to eat if you haven’t eaten meat in a long time – you get severe stomach cramps because your system doesn’t have the right kind of digestive enzymes or something.)

So I started looking for other options. I had it in my head to ask Wendy Wellman if she and her group wanted to go to Café Sole, although I thought with such short notice that probably wouldn’t work. (Besides, I was ready to stick it out in the fort for the rest of the night at this point.) I found in front of Crazy Lady’s Café ordering a pastry. She was interested, but Diosa had already eaten and we agreed that Café Sole probably wouldn’t have anything her 15 year old son Dawson (Youngblood) would really be all that enamored with.

So I talked to Toni, the owner of Crazy Lady’s and he suggested I get a vegetarian taco salad. Which I did, along with an order of fries. It was wonderful. Wendy was seated on the bench at CL’s Café, so I perched next to her. Having finished his cooking duties for the moment, Toni came out and sat in the chair opposite.

I asked Toni how long he had been doing the café and I believe he said 7 years. (I would have written this down, but I didn’t have pencil or paper. Besides I was eating a wonderful taco salad.) He started the business when he got tired of his previous business which was refilling toner cartridges. He told me that the problem with that business was that the cartridges were forever changing and you needed to keep buying new printers to test the refilled cartridges and the whole thing just became a headache. So he started Crazy Lady’s Café and hit the road. I asked him where he lived and he basically said ‘on the road’. He had a house somewhere (Idaho? I really needed a pen and paper.), but he had only been there a couple of times this year. He loved the mobile life and enjoyed hanging out with reenactors and folks at motorcycle gatherings. Plus he got to winter at events in Florida and Texas which suited him just fine.

While we were there, Caribbean Pearl appeared. I asked her about her life over the last year, knowing she had been relocated to the orient with her husband who was (apparently) trying to photograph a certain snake. (Jeff.) I probably have much of that wrong because she talks so fast and my memory gradually degrades at this event as I get less and less sleep and try to remember more and more things for this Journal. I promise to try and get the facts correct before I put this on my web page.

Anyhow, based on the conversation that I can recall, she had liked the Orient somewhat, but was very glad to be able to fly to Hawaii with her husband regularly to get training or something. (He got training, she got photos of herself as a mermaid.) She explained that the one condition of following her husband to the Orient was that she had to be able to bring her mermaid tails (she has 4 of them, I believe) with her. Based on what it cost to get Becky and Bucky from Michigan to Florida, that must have been quite an investment moving all those fish tails.

They had also visited Australia together because it was the last continent left which they had not visited. (I was really trying to follow her rapid speech at this point, so I apologize if I get some of this wrong.) There she got photos of herself holding a white koala bear, a fact of which she was most proud. I am hoping to have that in the webpage Journal. They also almost hit a kangaroo while driving because the stupid thing just stopped and looked at their car “like this.” (That photo will definitely be in the web page Journal.)

While driving, her husband spotted the snake of which he wanted a photo. (Not Jeff. I don’t think. I sort of lost the thread of what it was that her husband was trying to get a photo of by this point. Suffice it to say that it was some kind of snake.) “I don’t know how he do it, he saw the snake while we were driving and stop the car and get his photos.” She did say she was tired of all the traveling because she didn’t really have a home these days.

So that was dinner! (You forgot that Wendy and I were eating dinner through all these travels, didn’t you?) We shared the order of fries because the taco salad was more significant than you might think. Certainly more significant than I thought. We put lots of salt on them. You know, they might have had vinegar at Crazy Lady’s – it was that kind of place. That would have been good on the fries too.

I headed back to the Mercury camp afterwards and talked with the guys.

I also asked Steve what his favorite posting was in the Army and he said Italy first and then Anchorage, Alaska. “Although I wouldn’t want to be there today. I really loved it when I was younger.” I don’t know how many children he had, but I did learn that he had a son who was born while he was posted in Alaska and a daughter who was born in Italy.

His daughter could speak Italian, which he noted had been useful in her career. I asked what that was, and he told me that she was currently running a business that designed pop-up ads for the internet. (I had liked her up to that point. Pop-up ads!) She had four employees and had made a pretty good thing of it. She had an undergrad in biology and a masters in Social work or something like that. I mused that it was funny how far your job often is from your degree as you go through life.

It was finally time for the auction, so we all headed over there to get a good seat. I wish we had gotten a different good seat, because I was downwind of a table full of smokers. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but the Friday night shared cab cigar had not been kind to my throat. The smokers at the other table were not helping much. I had not been drinking anything before because a lack of sleep combined with spending the day in the sun had made a bit logy. But the sun had set and I thought a wee dram might be just the thing. So I had a Cuba Libre which made my throat feel better for some reason. There’s probably a lesson in that, and it’s probably a bad one. (Curiously, my throat steel feels pretty good today.)

The auction was the typical raucous event with William and Cannibal Chrispy trading off auctioneer duties. There was a lot of good stuff there, but the crowd must have needed a bit of Cuba Libre themselves. Several of the items auctioned at the beginning didn’t do nearly as well as you might have expected.

Chrispy finally managed to break the dam of cautious spending by auctioning off a belaying pin with a brass star in the handle made by Captain Jim. It started off easily enough and then Chrispy noted that it could also be used as a marital aid. The bidding got hot then and it was finally won by someone for $69. Yep. I’m sure this is just what Captain Jim was thinking when he made it.

There were many, many items auctioned. I wound up buying a set of short glasses with skull and crossbones on them.

We were getting near the end of the auction when I realized that Becky’s old gibbet wasn’t hanging around (hah!). I hope I mentioned this before, but if I didn’t Captain Jim, William and I had talked about auctioning the old gibbet off. When they presented the idea, I derisively noted that we wouldn’t get $20 for the thing in the condition it was in. William promised me he would get a lot more than that. So I had wanted to see what would happen if it were auctioned.

I snuck up to the stage and asked the auction crew if the gibbet was to be auctioned tonight. It turns out no one had brought it, but Lily said that if I ran back and got it from the Mercury camp quick-like, they would stick it in the auction. So I jogged back to camp and detatched it from Iron Jon’s tent fly ridge pole. We had been using it to house a lantern. (Seeing this, a couple had actually come up during the day and asked if the gibbet was specifically designed to hold lanterns and if this was usual in the time of the pirates! Iron Jon replied that it was.)

I got it back in time, so William auctioned it. The bidding started out tamely enough - $10, $20… then someone offered $100! William said that I would sign it for whomever bought it to try and entice the buyers, but that was as much as he could get out of it. Still, he definitely got a lot more than I though he would. I talked with the couple who had bought it and they said they thought it was steel at first, but they didn’t mind that it was plastic as all the money went to the fort. They asked if they could keep it in the encampment, which I agreed to do. (They had to walk back to their hotel. It would be kind of hard to explain to the front desk.) They also insisted I sign it and said they would bring it back for next year’s auction because it was a piece of FTPI history. Which I guess it is.

I hung around for awhile after that, but I wanted to be able to get an earlier start than I had this morning, so I left around 11:30 or midnight. Sunday is always a long day and I wanted to be ready for it. The Mercury Crew was going out on one of the boats tomorrow!

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Sunday, December 8

Sunday is kids day at FTPI, which was fun last year, so I showed up promptly at opening. We had had a downpour last night and I had left the steel surgical equipment out without the water resistant covering over it, so some of the tools got wet and spotted with rust. Fortunately Iron Jon had moved the table back away from the edge of the canvas fly they were sitting under and the rust spotting was not too extensive. (It adds character!) He had also wiped some of the tools down to remove the water. Kudos to him.

I was going out on a boat today (the Jolly II Rover), meaning I would be out of the fort from noon to 4pm, so I started doing presentations immediately. Since it was Kid’s Day, there were a lot of little ones around which meant I had to tone down some of my presentations a bit. I’m not sure if this is entirely necessary, but usually they are with their parents so I’m really toning things down so that the parents don’t get offended that I am presenting all this gross stuff in front of their children. (Odd that.)

Not to wander too far off topic, but the reason I say this is probably not necessary is something that happened this Halloween. I was in Target, looking for skeleton parts when I came across a family with a 3 or 4 year old and a baby. They were staring at one of the endcaps, which featured a bunch of masks and the toddler pointed and yelled “Walking Dead!” at one of the masks and then went up and grabbed. It’s a whole new world…

The woman across from me had a booth selling sea glass and we had sort of been chatting all weekend. Her name was Tiffany King, which I know because I took notes. Tiffany was married to a guy enlisted in the Coast Guard, so she lived in the Coast Guard area on this side of the island. “I can see the 90 Miles to Cuba marker from my window.” Tiffany had been making jewelry for about 9 years and collecting sea glass since she arrived in Key West Four and a half years before. She had kept the sea glass “in shoe boxes” because she liked it.

You regular readers of the Surgeon’s Journal web page will recall a tale about a woman collecting sea glass while we waited for the ferry to arrive during the Put-in-Bay pirate festival in 2012. Sea glass is basically pieces of glass that have fallen into the water and been rolled about on the sandy bottom which sanded off the edges and made nice rounded shapes.

A friend of Tiffany’s saw her jewelry and sea glass and asked if she was using the sea glass to make jewelry as well. She had not, but since she now had a nice collection of it, she started doing that and her business Key West Sea Glass was born.

Tiffany had met her husband when she was working as a bartender in St. Croix. He was on shore leave where she made a play for him and snagged him. She explained how this was done, which involved walking her horses (she had horses in St. Croix) in front of the Coasties and making some poignant comment. (No I don’t remember what she said. Contact her yourself for that one.) His shore leave ended and he went back to Miami, so 9 days later, she quit her bartending job and followed. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how love works. Pretty cool, eh?

Around 11:30, I closed up shop and went looking for some food. One thing about being a diabetic – you can’t just wantonly skip meals. Scarlett Jai had told me last night that she had some cous-cous “with loads of vegetables in it” for her crew because she had a vegetarian turned vegan in her crew. This turned out to be the girl who had tied my head scarf for me on Friday morning whose name I will hopefully get before I write the web page version of this Journal.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Scarlett had told me that her camp was located up behind the forge and there was a crockpot sitting there with the veggie food in it. So I wandered up there and searched around. I didn’t see it. I asked the guys working the forge if they knew anything about it, which they didn’t. So I decided to go find Scarlett Jai.

She was at the welcoming booth with the girl who had tied my scarf. She told this girl (I really need her name in her, don’t I just?) to show me where the food was. I asked her how long she had been in Key West and she replied that she had been there for about six months. Then she thought for a second and said, “Except I think I have been saying that for about six months, so it’s probably more than that.” She had tried being veggie/vegan at 10 years old, but her parents apparently weren’t interested in buying her the food needed, so she gave up on that. Around 17 or 18, she went back to being a vegetarian. She wanted to be vegan, but said she wasn’t quite there yet. (Personally, I don’t know how anyone could be vegan, but that’s just me.) She wasn’t currently working, but when she did work, she worked in retail. She didn’t seem to like that job much. “Right now, I’m working at this,” indicting her garb.” “Ah, but that doesn’t pay very well.” She laughed and said, “No, I’m spending more on this than I usually make.” We’ve all played that tune, right?

About quarter of 12, the Mercury Crew started heading for the parking lot. Everyone was invited to go, but Iron Jon and Steve had decided to stay behind. It’s a good thing they did; the goat for the feast tonight was set up next to our fire pit and sort of left there. So Steve and Jon kept an eye on it and sure it was getting all the care and feeding that a goat corpse spitted over a fire requires.

So the rest of us – Captain Jim, William, madPete and me – all trotted out to the Braze’s van. I had forgotten my mug, which I wanted to return and get it, but Captain Jim suggested that Braze would stand no lateness. So I kept with the group. Eventually the rest of the group assembled including Cascabel and his girlfriend, a couple from Marathon, further up the Keys, Braze and Cannibal Chrispy. Just for he record, Chrispy was the last to arrive and I would have had plenty of time to go and get my mug, despite Captain Jim’s stern warning. (Nothing against Chrispy, mind you.)

Chrispy was coming along so he could bring his gigantic Cannibus, which readers of last year’s Journal will probably remember is a small cannon on a leather strap. (For those who were wondering, Cannibus = Cannibal + Blunderbus. So whatever you were thinking it meant, you were probably wrong. Well, maybe.) Later in the day, I overheard Chrispy telling someone that the leather strap that was holding the Cannibus had stretched enough that it was now resting a good two inches lower than it had been at the beginning of the weekend. “It’s not very comfortable there.” Ah huh.

We got down to the pier and boarded the Jolly II Rover. We were the only ones there! Either Captain Jim or William volunteered to go down to the dock and drum up business for them, which was part of our role as freeloaders. So the majority of us headed back onto the dock.

The Jolly II Rover sits right outside a large, open-sided restaurant where there is a lot of foot traffic. This is probably by design, since they rely on a steady supply of tourists to make their trips. So we wandered up and down the dock, pausing to have photos taken of us and to try and convince the photographers to board the ship.

From my experience last year, this is a tough sell, I suspect mostly because the tourists have learned to put up a good mental defense to the hard sell. We still managed to convince a few people, which was better than I recall us doing the year before.

The most notable was a couple sitting in the corner of the restaurant. We had tried to cajole them into going, but they demurred. So we went about our business, pitching the hard sell to people walking past us near that corner. Eventually she got to talking with some of the pirates who explained who we were, why we were dressed like we were and what we were doing there. At what must have been nearly the last possible moment, they decided to go. Chatting with them on the boat, I learned that they were here courtesy of the Key West Express out of Fort Myers. (I believe that’s where she said.) The Key West express is a short of ferry shuttle that can bring a couple of hundred tourists down to the island for a day trip. So they had come down to Key West on a boat to take a 2 hour cruise on a boat!

The Jolly II Rover had two crew members and the captain. One of the crew members was Kelsea, who I had a chance to chat with. She was from Atlanta and was down in Key West, crewing on ships. She went out nearly every day and seemed to be one of those people who just takes life as it comes to her, not worrying about what comes next. She said she was tired, to which I replied, “Late night, eh?” She laughed and said she had found a neat like jazz club called the 90 Mile Lounge. “They had big comfortable couches and cool jazz music and before you know it, it was way later than you thought. It was like being transported back in time.” Kelsea went barefoot around the ship and by the end of it her feet were black with spent powder.

The trip was nice, first wandering about the bay and area near Sunset Key and then heading over towards the fort in preparation for the battle. The battle plan was for the British to march out on the field and take the three large guns (including El Jefe) from the pirate in the form of Barnacle Beau and Fenris Chase, who wore goofing around and drinking in ways that were so exaggerated that we could see it from the ship. Then they turned the guns around and attacked the pirates who had their smaller guns lined up near the fort moat. The battle ensued. We then joined in with our guns.

The crew had given us all ear plugs for the gun fire, which is a luxury I’m not used to. (There’s nothing quite like ear plugs to remind you that you really should clean your ears out.) We made at least a half dozen passes, our gun crew merrily blazing away. Captain Jim was the safety officer and also happened to be the only one who had brought a powder flask. Nobody had thought to roll papers of black powder, so everyone relied on his flask and its measuring cap to load their guns. I figured this was going to be a huge mess, but it actually went quite well given that there were 5 or 6 guns of varying sizes on the ship.

The battle ended when the last standing British cannon crew fired El Jefe and all the pirates were killed. I guess they used grapeshot or something on that last firing because I can’t imagine any other way they would have killed the lot of them.

Then we headed back out to sea for a bit. Our captain, Captain Ron (of course that was his name) wanted to get us along side a very large cruise ship that was parked next to one of the piers on Key West so we could fire against it. He went round Sunset Key and parked it very particularly. “OK, we’re going to fire our large gun first. When you hear the echo, you guys can fire.” They did so and the echo made it sound as if they had hit the side of the cruise ship. (The cruise ship was a monster. There are 20 story buildings that are not that tall. El Jefe might not be able to damage it.) Everyone followed suit, taking turns so that they could hear the reverberation.

This was also the opportunity for anyone who wanted to climb in the rigging, so I went up a short way so that William could snap some photos. I took my clyster syringe with me because… I really don’t know why I did that. It just seemed appropriate. When I got back down, Captain Ron asked me about it, so I gave a short presentation on it for the crowd. I certainly hope the restaurant couple felt they were getting there money’s worth.

The crew wanted to do another reverberation fire by the condos, but the Coast Guard was between us and the shore, keeping pace with our ship. If we slowed, they slowed. Etc. Captain Ron finally threw caution to the wind and had us fire after which the Coast Guard boat zipped behind us and went out to the open sea. They were waiting to hear the reverberation off the condos as well!

The ship docked and we all headed back to wait for Braze to go and get the van. (He had to park it farther away because there were no spots near the ship.) While we stood out of the dock, we were enlisted to pose for a dozen or more photos. I’d have asked the tourists to take reciprocal photos by way of payment, but I was just too tired.

I should explain that I was in Paris the week before, where we had eaten outrageously rich and delicious food. Two days after returning from that trip, I made this one, which involved another substantial change in diet. When I do this, I nearly always come down with a cold-like thing I call “the sludge.” It’s sort of miserable for the first few days, then it sound really miserable for the next week or two, although you don’t feel too bad. I often lose my voice and cough like I have the croup. This was day 2 and I was dragging but, especially with all that sun and sea behind me.

During the trip, I learned that my brand new slops had ripped down the middle. (I thought it was very breezy out at sea.) So I had Braze drop me off near the condos so I could change into something a little less ventilated. I chose the pink flamingo slops, which required a complete wardrobe change. I don’t know much about matching clothes (regular readers of my web page probably recognize this), but I do know green socks with pink flamingos and a red waistcoat is a poor fashion choice unless you’re going for the Santa look.

I hitched a ride back into the fort and was soon back to playing surgeon. I had a wonderful couple with two kids during the afternoon who were both very curious and quizzed me on every tool. The mother commented, “This is the most interested they’ve been all day! They love to learn new things.” They asked very incisive questions and even remembered what I had told them, repeating it back to me when I touched upon some of the instruments while explaining other instruments. No doubt they will become surgeons some day. Or NASA engineers.

5pm hit and I started tucking everything back into it’s shipping box. The box was a little worse for wear, but it was tough enough that I figured it would make the trip home safely.

Then we headed over for the crew photo, which Tony “Papa Ratsey” took from the fort wall looking down at us. Tony has an eye for detail and he actually ordered people to turn a little, move a little and so forth, despite the fact that there were probably about 120 or more of us in the shot. It went pretty smoothly and we were done.

The Mercury crew headed up to the fort wall to take some photos of the sunset. They were hoping to see the green flash, but it was cloudy on the horizon and the green flash requires clear skies. So we missed that, but had a lovely sunset nonetheless.

Back in camp, Iron Jon had prepared ham, cabbage, baked potatoes and corn for pre-dinner. (Tonight was the pig roast.) (And the goat roast.) The cabbage was so good that I had thirds. He explained how he had made it, but my memory does not willingly accept lists. I know it had brown sugar, red wine, sweet onions and number of other things in it. Yummy.

I had forgotten my pig roast ticket, so I ate heartily of this feast. I wasn’t about to go back and get it, being as whipped as I felt nor was I about to ask Leigh about it. So I can’t tell you anything more about the feast.

In the mean while, they came to get and move the goat over to the dining area. This turned out to be a major operation involving half a dozen people, the gator and multiple orders and directions. After they got it over to the food area, someone started carving it only to discover that it wasn’t fully cooked. So then there were the half dozen people, gator and multiple orders again as they brought the goat back to the fire-pit in our camp. Searle’s crew seemed to take charge of the second cooking of the goat and, quite frankly, I don’t know what happened after that because I nodded of while lying on the ground with my head propped up against a barrel.

When I awoke, half the people who had been in the camp were gone. I felt truly horrible – as if I had been beaten with a truncheon. It was only 7pm, but I knew I probably wasn’t going to last a night of drinking heavily. (The popular Sunday sport at FTPI.)

Had Stynky or either of my twins been there, I would have probably tried tough it out and put on a good face, but they weren’t. So I achingly got to my feet, bid my adieus and headed out on my bike. One of the fort personnel was manning the gate during the feast (which I thought was awfully nice of him) and even HE registered surprise that I was leaving so soon.

Back at the condo, I took a shower and then slept solidly for 12 hours. Sorry not to have the usual store of great stories to share about the Sunday night antics, but if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

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Monday, December 9

Over at the fort they were busily tearing down the encampment, so I pitched in, I can’t point to any particular thing of interest – it was rolling ropes and folding canvas and putting things into vehicles and so forth. I had a chance to chat briefly with Deadeye and his crew although I don’t recall anything of significance coming from that conversation except that he was taking some folks on a tour tomorrow and he was going to show them how some of the fish laughed at his moustache. He also planned to catch a shark, which he explained was fun. (I’m not sure why it was fun, but I decided to take him at his word.)

I also ran into Jhode Cabral, whom you may recall from the Eastport Pirate Festival Journal. Her husband had come with her. He looks a lot like a thinner Joshamee Gibbs – he has that same sort of face even cuts his facial hair in a similar fashion. When I first met him, I said, “Hey, you look like Gibbs!” as if it were the most original thing that had ever been said. He replied in a slightly careworn way, “So I’ve heard.” Immediately sensing that this was a really annoying running gag, I said that every time I saw him for day. He quickly caught on, so I changed it to other names that made no sense or just “Hey you look like someone… but I’m not sure who.” OK, I admit, I was not on top of my game. I should have said he looked like Barry Mannilow or Antonio Banderas. (Because it’s fun to say. Try it. Antoooonio Banderrrrras! See?)

William and I also delivered madPete to the airport just in time to have his flight delayed so that he wound up on standby for the next flight and completely missed his connection. I felt bad for him. We also mailed my box o’ surgical crap at the UPS store. I want it noted here that my not-Captain and quartermaster parked as far away from the door as possible and stayed in the car while I lugged the 70 pound box to the UPS store. Even after I asked him to get the door. The girl in the UPS store couldn’t have had 30 pounds on that box, so I offered to lift it onto the scale for her. I later learned that she is a martial arts expert who can throw a man three times her weight as if he were made of whipped cream. (Alright, that’s not true. “…as if he were made of mashed potatoes” would be more accurate.)

The Pirates of the Dark Rose had invited William and I and Keith and Leigh out to dinner at Duffy’s that night. It started sounding more and more convoluted to me as various people had to finish this and do that before going and it was estimated that we would be heading off to dinner around 8pm which is awful late for me. (This is probably more info than you need, but the insulin pump is specifically set up to handle meals at certain times. You can stretch things a bit, but pushing dinner several hours past the predicted time leads to a miserable night of fighting with my blood sugar.) On top of that, while Duffy’s is a nice steak and seafood place, it’s not Café Sole. So I grabbed my book, told William I was striking out on my own and strolled off to my favorite restaurant.

I happened to be seated next to another gentleman who was dining alone and we naturally got to chatting. He was an electrical engineer like me who had gotten into computers, like me. He hadn’t taken the final step of going into mechanical engineering like I had, however. “That’s a long way from home, isn’t it?” I explained that I liked mechanical engineering because you could see what you were working on; electrical engineering is rather esoteric. “You mean you can’t see the electricity flowing around a circuit?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

He lived somewhere north in Florida – it may have been a city near Orlando – and he was retired. I asked him why he didn’t move down to Key West and he explained that he had lived where he was at for a long time. “Besides, I spend four months of the year traveling. I come here at least 3 or 4 times a year. It’s a nice place, you can walk to several good restaurants and see interesting people everywhere you go. What more do you need?” He was headed for St. Martin’s next. During one of our conversations, the waitress had given him a dessert menu to consider. She returned to see what he hadn’t even glanced at it. So she scolded me for keeping him from his menu. She was joking. (I think.) He didn’t mention any family and it occurred to me that when I got to his age, I wouldn’t be entirely upset if I wound up in his situation.

I settled up and headed out. Scarlett Jai had mentioned that some of them were getting together at Deadeye’s place, “very low key, just walk in the door.” This interested me because the last time I had been at Deadeye’s, my camera battery died and I had failed to get photos of the cool stuff in his back yard. (Deadeye told me he spent most of his time at home in his back yard because it was his workshop. It was where Bucky and Becky would be spending their retirement.) Scarlett told me the address, which I actually remembered, so I plugged it into my phone and followed the directions.

Not to wander too far off topic here, but I have only had a smart phone for about a month. It has a nice, Google-based directional app that allows you to select what mode of transport you’re taking, including walking. The only trouble is that it wants to keep the map pointed north on your screen. This makes perfect sense when you’re driving, but it’s a huge pain in the neck when you’re walking. Every time I’d turn to the phone in the direction I was walking, the map would either turn to match the way I’d turned the phone, or it power down because I’d turned it upside down or something and it apparently assumed I no longer had eyes on it. Is it reasonable to assume you’d want the map to be positioned like a compass or is it just me?

I finally arrived at Deadeye’s place where the door was standing open, per house policy. (Deadeye explained that even when he was inside, he like to feel he was outside.) The couch was gone from the front yard, which was a huge disappointment to me personally. So I strode up the walkway and inside. Deadeye was on the couch and a girl who goes by the name Darwin was sitting in a chair kitty-corner to him. He got up and shook my hand and I sat down next to him on the couch. He then moved across the way to a wooden stool. “I don’t mean to make you move.” I said. “It’s OK. I can’t see you when I’m that close to you.” This is why they call him Deadeye.

During the weekend I had asked him to take a photo of one of his crew (Anastasia) tying a scarf on me. He tried his best to do so, although he advised me to check the photos because he had no idea if we were in the photo or not. At one point I had also taken a photo of him, which I then tried to show him on the tiny screen on the back of the camera. I can hardly see it in the daylight even with my reading glasses; I’m sure he can’t see it. “But I look anyway,” he pointed out. “It’s just a natural thing to do.”

Chatting with Darwin, I learned that she was from Massachusetts. She had come down because she was friends with Mad Maeve and Calamity Grace. She explained that she had known Maeve for 18 years (she was 25, so that was significant.) She also revealed that she had just this morning been laid off from her job via text message, which apparently had something to do with a fellow part-time worker having seniority and regrets on the part of the management and how they would follow her future career with interest and so forth. She decided then and there to stay on the island because she had so many friends here. This is such a foreign way to exist that I almost felt like I was conversing with an alien at this point. Many of the young people I encountered who live here had a similar attitude, just living life from day-to-day, having a job, losing a job, not worrying about their next job until it was necessary.

Speaking of Calamity Grace, those of you with long memories may recall reading about how she gave Deadeye a laser for pointing out the stars in one of the previous Surgeon’s Journals. I recall thinking at the time that she might be an interesting person to profile in the Surgeon’s Journal, something I quickly forgot. I mentioned this and both Darwin and Deadeye agreed that this really wasn’t her style; she was very shy. Darwin told me both she and Maeve were shy, although my experience of Mad Maeve last year didn’t bear this out.

As a result, I decided to quiz the assembled and put together a profile of Calamity Grace despite her not being there and (possibly) being shy. Calamity Grace, Mad Maeve and Darwin all originally lived in Massachusetts together. Maeve was the first to come down to Key West and stay. She then decided to convince Calamity Grace to join her, which (as I understand it) took a bit of doing, but Grace (whose real name I believe is Kaia, which, if so, is a really neat name) finally decided to see what Maeve was going on about. She got a 3 month temp job in Key West and met a guy while she was here. So she decided to stay. She eventually married this guy, whose name, if I ever heard it, I have forgotten. (And I’m not saying I heard it.)

Scarlett Jai showed up during the course of this conversation, so I now had three voices helping me to create this profile. Everyone agreed that CG was rather shy and someone even noted that she had “chronic stage fright.” They also concurred that her name fit her impeccably. As Darwin explained it, “She can trip over anything, no matter how small. Sometimes she trips over nothing at all.” With that bit of Dr. Seuss out of our systems, someone explained that Grace was a perfectionist, “but not in that negative, picky way that perfectionists often have.” Scarlett agreed, explaining that Calamity Grace was always cheerful and happy. Either Deadeye or Scarlett Jai said they were trying to teach Calamity Grace to sword fight, “and it’s terrifying!” Deadeye added that she had learned to make made and she had brought four different kinds to the festival to share with her crew. They then began to review the various flavors, none of which I can remember. So there you have your first ever Surgeon’s Journal profile of someone I have never communicated with.

The last time I had been at Deadeye’s, my camera battery had died, so I did not get to see his outdoor -workshop. It seems to me he had had lights out there last time (although I may be wrong). He did not have them today, so I took a few photos for posterity’s sake and we called it good. One of them was of his white snake named Jake and one was of his work area. I haven’t even looked at them yet, so I can’t say how they came out.

Things were very low key at Deadeye’s. He offered me a bottle of very nice rum that someone had given him for his birthday, which I accepted. It turns out Deadeye doesn’t really drink and this was from several birthdays ago. The group of us talked about the event, particularly how impressed the park people were with our event who had come down from Tallahassee to see how we did things.

One of them happened to be standing by one of our cannons that was out on the field, taking notes on what was happening when a pirate reenactor whose name I promise to find out before I do the web page came out to a cannon and checked it from top to bottom, making sure that it was ready for the battle. Thinking the park person standing by him was a part of Fort Taylor, he ordered her to keep and eye on the gun and let him know if anyone touched it since it had been inspected. The Tallahassee park person was so impressed that she went up to one of the organizers and said, “I get it now.” Rumor has it that we’ll once again be able to do live action combat on the field next year, although we have to use LARP swords for it. Score one for us.

The conversation kind of meandered around after that. Scarlett Jai asked to use Deadeye’s shower (which is outside with his workshop) and my insulin pump ran out of insulin. It was clearly time to leave. Having a nice long walk home actually helped keep my blood sugar in check. After I had added a new insulin cartridge, I was pleased to find my sugar was just about where I wanted it.

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Tuesday, December 10

I awoke at 6 am when normal people are usually asleep in Key West (including William, who was once again staying on the couch). So I worked on updating the Journal and typing in notes on drowning during the GAoP. William woke up about 9, by which time I was hungry. “I’m hungry!” I announced as soon as he appeared. “No, ‘Good morning William! How did you sleep William?’” he said with a laugh. “I’ll get ready.”

We had a nice breakfast at Blue Heaven where I learned that during his courting of Tracy, William had lived for awhile in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I noted that this was an unusual strategy for courting a girl. He explained that it wasn’t because he was trying to impress her, events just shook out so that he wound up without an apartment or a job at the end of the month during his stay there. From this I learned that the strategy for living in Golden Gate Park is to live in the trees in the middle of the place, out of sight of the main walkways. As he explained it, most of homeless live around the edges, so if you go there, you don’t even have to worry about the neighbors.

Fortunately, William found a better situation that the Golden State Park. I asked what that experience was like and he called it “a life experience. It was miserable while I was going through it, but interesting to look back on later.”

Back at the condos, we decided to go and see what was going on at Keith an Leigh’s place. Some of the Pirates of the Dark Rose were in the parking lot with Keith. Laurance said he wanted to go down to Duvall to get his poster. “It’s at the 801 Bar.” I laughed. “Are you sure?” “That’s what they told me. Why?” “It’s the perfect place to put it. I want to go with you when you go to get it. I’ve never been there.”

This was not to happen right away, however. The Pirates of the Dark Rose had stayed an extra day so that they could go an check out Key West. Laurance was going to lead the tour after they went back to Fort Taylor to put some of their stuff in their trailor.

We headed out about half an hour later.

The first place they wanted to see was Mile Marker 0. I have gone by it many times, but have never stopped to really look at it because.. well, it’s a sign that marks the end of Highway 1. This has meaning to the Dark Rose folks because they’re from Maine where Highway 1 begins. So some of us posed with the sign heading North. Sandi Bilbo announced that she didn’t want a photo with that side, she wanted a photo with the sign showing the END of Highway 1. So we all crossed the street and took that photo.

There was some discussion over where we should go next. (I am glad this wasn’t my first time in Key West – all this deciding by committee would have driven me crazy. It was decided to strike out for the Mel Fisher Museum. Now in all my twenty-some trips here, I had never actually been in the museum, so this sort of interested me. However, we weren’t going in! We simply want up to the courtyard in front of the place and looked at the cannons and large anchors there. Laurance was explaining things along the way, although, as William put it, “Laurance starts to give us a piece of trivia and then it winds up going no where.” For example, when we were walking around the downtown area near Mallory Square (our next destination), he pointed to the bricks in the road and explained, “Those are bricks. They are authentic bricks!” I think he may have meant they were authentic southern style bricks or maybe that they were brought over in the ballasts of ships or possibly that they were made from leftover hard tack from voyage into Key West, but that’s not what he said.

We wandered around Mallory Square, which was empty at this time of the day. (It’s only active about an hour or so before sunset. Then it is crazy busy.) We ambled through the kitschy marketplace near the trolley stop where Laurance helpfully pointed out a line of people. “They appear to be waiting for nothing,” he explained. (They were waiting for the trolley bus – this was one of it’s stops.)

Laurance asked the assembled if they wanted to see Duvall, which they all agreed they wanted to do. I figured they would head for some of the nice shops nestled in between all the garish T-Shirt shops, but they were actually looking for T-Shirts. And Emeralds. This sort of thinking was entirely foreign to me – I always avoided the T-shirt shops because, while there are a lot of varieties of Key West T-Shirts available, I had found in the past that they are the same kinds of T-Shirts that you find in every other Florida tourist town, only with the location name changed.

There are always a few new funny Ts out there, but they are not actually the sort of thing you would wear. For example there was a shirt with a stick figure giving the raised arms goal gesture (it looks like a ‘Y’) that said, “I pooped today!” It’s kind of funny, but I wouldn’t wear it around. William also pointed out a shop with a wall of shirts consisting entirely of team mascots giving the finger with the slogan “F*CK (their rival team)” Ah. Klassy.

Most of the group were interested in traipsing through the shops, however and I was just along for the ride, so I couldn’t complain. I wound up on the sidewalk a lot, standing with William and Fenris Chase who seemed to want nothing more than a beer our of this tour. He spotted Hog’s Breath Saloon as we slowly made our way along the stores and quickly tucked in there for a beer. He later explained that this made the whole tour enjoyable for him.

After making our way through all the various stores on Duval, we finally reached the 801. By now Laurance had figured out that this was a cross-dressing bar, so the group of us barged in to find his poster. We wandered around the place, harrying the assembled, staring at the walls. The bartender, sensing his regulars were becoming alarmed asked us what we were looking for. Laurance explained. He said that if it had been there, it would have been on the opposite wall, which had some very provocative posters featuring cross-dressing shows and gay men. (You have to admit, that would be a funny place to put the Viceroy’s poster.) Alas, Laurance did not get his happy ending in the 801.

So he called Wasabi (whom I’m guessing had placed the posters in the shops) and asked him, “WTF?” Wasabi thought he might have placed it in the Bourbon Street Bar nearby. (This is a straight up gay bar.) So we all trekked over there while Laurance asked after his poster. I was getting the impression that Wasabi was pulling Laurence’s leg here. But I was also getting some funny photos, so I didn’t mention this to anyone but William.

The crew was getting hungry, so they started looking at restaurants. Crudbeard was mumbling something about reasonable prices which is not a phrase you use in the same sentence with Duvall Street, so I suggested a Mexican restaurant that I remembered being on the same street as the condo. That would get us heading back in the right direction, if nothing else.

It turned out the the Mexican restaurant had long since been replaced with a sort of American fare restaurant. Everyone individually noted that this was not a Mexican restaurant while gazing at the menu, but then added that the food looked good. Finally Crudbeard said, “Everyone seems to like the food so let’s just go here.” Which we did.

Fenris went up to the bar while the rest of us were settling in and immediately got a beer. He’s usually pretty quiet, so when he returned I started talking to him. His favorite part of pirate reenacting was instructing the kids on swordplay and choreographing fights. He had joined the Pirates of the Dark Rose one year at Eastport when Crudbeard had spotted him walking around with a brand new sword strapped to his belt. Crudbeard examined the sword, which Fenris explained “didn’t have a mark on it.” Crudbeard asked him if he knew how to use it. Fenris said he didn’t. ‘Would you like to learn?” So he joined the crew.

Fenris works at programming a Sequel-based system for law firms. He was currently working for a group in Connecticut, which those of you with a map will notice is not all that close to Maine where he lives. He has to travel a lot and works 10-12 hour days, so the pirate stuff is a nice break from that. He explained to me that with technology the way it is today, he can actually sit in a hotel room, hook his phone up to the internet through the room’s TV and control his computer remotely to do most of the work he has to do. He still has to travel to Connecticut to do training, though.

We finished lunch and headed back to the condos. William went back to our condo to get his stuff ready to go and I hung out at Keith and Lily’s place while the Dark Rose pirates got ready to leave. Not long after they left, it was time to take William to the airport, where Keith and I bid him farewell. That pretty well ended the trip as far as pirate-oriented things went. I did suggest to Fenris that if he ever really wanted to see Key West to take the Key West Trolley or the Conch Tour Train. You look like a tourist, but you do get to see more than giant anchors and authentic bricks.

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Excellent details as always!

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This has finally been formed into a web page. It basically follows the above narrative with a bunch of additions and photos. If you're interested, check it out via this link:



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Thank you for the entertaining and informative archiving that you do!

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Finally got a chance to read the web version. Excellent work, as always. It's one of those things that make the event what it is.

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Thank you! I'm just sorry it took so long to finish.

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Thanks for all the hard work!


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