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Michigan Pirate Fest, August 2012 - Grand Haven, MI

Mission and skeleton kid
Photo: Mission's Camera
I want a costume like that...
Introduction The journal kept by the the Mercury surgeon Raphael Mission as he ventured to Harbor Island, located in the city of Grand Haven, Michigan for the 2012 Michigan Pirate Festival where he joined the Forsaken Crew. Grand Haven is a very strange place to hold a Pirate Festival given that Grand Haven is also known as 'Coast Guard City USA.' The Coast Guard recently updated their rules regarding piracy, but the event organizers apparently managed to stay under the radar (so to speak.) Also odd is the fact that the Forsaken crew is a group of pirate hunters and the Mercury crew is a group of pirates. We'll have to assume that theirs is some sort of dysfunctional codependent relationship. What are pirate hunters without pirates, after all? On the other hand, pirates can be pretty happy without pirate hunters. Hmm. We'll have to ponder that further. We'll get back to you when we figure it out.

Chapter 1st: Of setting up the encampment in the rain; Thinking about going to dinner, talking about going to dinner, considering going to dinner and then finally, after most of the places in town had closed, actually going to dinner; Of the pirates and hunters various encounters in town and A look at Rats and his clothes.

I arrived in the rain to find people setting up camp. See, this is one of the reasons I prefer to have a hotel. Rain? No problem. You go inside, it's warm and dry, and you're done. If you're camping... you have to set up camp before you can get out of the rain unless you stay in your car. (And given a choice between the two...)

Having said that, I immediately started helping set up the Forsaken's Tavern in the rain. (Unspoken social expectations and all... You know how it is.) While we were doing that, M.A. d'Dogge told me that although this was the fourth or fifth time he had used the Tavern - which was designed and owned by Rats - this was the first time he had seen it set up by someone who knew how to do it properly.

Billie unloading tavern pieces
Photo: Mission
Billie shuffling walls off the trailer.
Rats & Stinky Bob Assembling the Tavern
Photo: Mission
Rats & Stinky Bob set a wall. Billie & Jeff Ryden supervise.
M.A. d'Dogge holding up a tavern wall section
Photo: Mission
M.A. d'Dogge working hard.

The Pirate Festival Magazine
Photo: Mission
Fortunately Trudi Dufrense saw us and came over to save me from all those unspoken social expectations that would have resulted in my having to do work.

I had never met Trudi other than through Facebook. We had been chatting back and forth when I discovered that she was putting together a magazine for the event. Having been a former magazine editor myself, I asked her if she needed an article. (I knew she did. Magazine editors always need articles because lots of people promise to write for them and few actually do and none of those turn them in on time. Ever. Trust me..) So I put together an article on the history of pirate surgeons that was long enough to be its own magazine and sent it to her. She used a couple paragraphs of it on the page you can see at left. Fortunately, I had always intended to put it on the website - you will find the full article on this page.

My first comment up actually meeting Trudi was "Wow, you're short!" She was to remind me of these every time I saw her for the rest of the weekend. (What can I say?I had this expectation of her being quite tall - she just comes off that way on-line. Don't ask me how, she just does.)

Trudi arrives at the camp site
Photo: Mission
Danni & Trudi saving the surgeon from work
Trudi and her new born son in garb
Photo: Mission
Trudi showing me her newborn son's garb
Trudi and the surgeon
Photo: Dolphin Danni
Mission and Trudi

Eventually all the tents were up and the work was done. It continued to spatter rain off and on for the rest of the evening and we all stood around in the rain, continuing to talk.

Mercury crew in the rain
Photo: Mission
Mark, Jennie, Shannon & Trish out of the rain
Mission in the rain
Photo: Mission's Camera
Your ship's surgeon...
The smart people suddenly realized that there were all these flies and tents that they had set up and they could go stand under them and chat rather than standing in the rain and chatting. The surgeons took a bit longer to realize this and stood about in the rain thinking they were really smart to have brought their umbrella with them.

Everyone from the Mercury crew had already been out for dinner, but the Forsaken had not. I tried to hint to Mary Diamond that we should go out to dinner, but she wanted to go with her crew. Her crew was dressed in garb, but she was not, which was a problem.

Mary said she could get ready "in a few minutes," which was, of course, a lie. It is impossible for anyone to put on nice period clothing in a few minutes. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, she was ready. She then proceeded to convince Jamie (M.A. d'Dogge and Billie's cousin), that she should go. Jaime was not in garb either, which meant there was another fifteen or twenty minutes of waiting. Then Diane realized that Jamie was going after she had promised to stay behind. Diane wanted to go, but said she didn't want to waste everyone's time getting ready, a fact that took her fifteen to twenty minutes to convey to Jaime. So Jamie stayed behind and we finally got to town at about 10 pm, just in time to learn that the sit down restaurants had stopped serving food 10 minutes ago.

Billie scares two blondes with the skunk puppet
Photo: Mission
Billie scaring two blondes with his skunk puppet
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First we had to deal with a bunch of intoxicated young women. In fact, there were two sitting on a planter in the next block smoking cigarettes. Billie had his skunk puppet, which he brings for just such an emergency. Those of you who don't know how this gag works, let me explain. Billie tucks the skunk puppet's head into the crook of his arm and invites the young female victim to pet the skunk. When they do, he pops the head out which has crazy-looking eyes and a long pink tongue. Gets 'em every time. It got these two.

They were apparently the advance scouts for a bachelorette party, which appeared shortly. For some reason that I've yet to figure out, many of the events I attend are located in or near places that are bachelorette party central. I'm not complaining, because no group is more likely to produce all sorts of interesting reciprocal photos than CJ chartering a bus
Photo: stolen
"I've gotta' go charter a bus."
a bunch of bachelorettes, I'm just noting that it's been a recurring event. (Bachelorettes love to pose with guys dressed like pirates. Again, I'm not complaining, just noting a fact.)

The bachelorette party was soon upon us like a swarm of locusts. One of them actually grabbed your surgeon's behind. I have never had this happen before and I can't say much for or against the experience. I did wonder at the time what the excitement was of grabbing a bunch of muscle through heavy linen pants, but I didn't ask as the girl did not seem like she would have given me a very cogent answer. (She was pretty drunk. For reference, it was the girl in the long white skirt/shirt thing with her hair pulled back in the photo below left.) They enveloped our group and got us to pose for all sorts of photos with them. (The only recip shot I got was the one with the bride below right.) Then I heard one of the mob of women say something about having to get on a bus (which naturally reminded me of Candle Jack) and they were gone. After that we wandered into a pretty nice bar/restaurant that was no longer serving food as I mentioned previously.

Bridal Bus girls
Photo: Mission
The bachelorette girls taking photos
The bridal bus girls 2
Photo: Mission
Bachelorette girls tend to be intoxicated
The bride with MD and Mission
Photo: Mission's Camera
M.A. d'Dogge & Mission with the bride

Being hungry, we kept looking. Some people we ran into suggested Mr. Kozak's Gyros because, well, it was the Mr. Kozaks Gyros place
Photo: Mission
only food place open in town. So we went there. Mr. Kozaks reminded me of every late night greasy walk up food place that I've ever wound up in at 2:30 in the morning. (No, I wouldn't like to expand upon that.) It had a bunch of those mushroom-topped, backless chairs that spin for no reason I can think of, a bright white counter and two counter employees that remind you vaguely of Dante Hicks and Randal Graves.

The crew rushed to order. M.A. d'Dogge paid for everyone, which I thought was mighty fine of him. Mary and I split an order of cheesy fries which were exactly as messy as you'd expect in a place like this. (They never give you a fork unless you ask.) The Olympics were playing on a flat-screen TV, so everyone sat and watched that.

Well, I also watched the customers, most of whom barely noticed the group of pirates sitting in the corner watching the Olympics. I could write you a whole section on the various people who came in... the skinny guy in black who used his fingers like a scoop to eat chili-cheese fries, the chubby girl in a shirt two sizes too small who got cheeseburgers, and the giant Marine who was obviously both a local and a regular telling tales of Afghanistan while waiting for his large sack of food. ("We didn't get into any real fights. Oh, we got shot at a lot, but nothing really interesting.")

Once everyone had finished, they went outside where Billie used the skunk puppet trick several times.

The crew orders
Photo: Mission
Ordering at Mr. Kozak's Gyros
Billie getting ready to spring the skunk again
Photo: Mission
Mary Diamond watches Billie and his skunk
A skunk puppet victim
Photo: Mission
A skunk victim laughing with Billie

Having eaten, we wandered back down the street. It was Billie's birthday weekend and he wanted to find a place to go and have a drink or several.


Let's pause for a moment to talk about Rats. Those with long memories may remember him from the Pirates in Paradise '09 Surgeon's Journal. He actually become one of the people on the button for that page. (Those of you without long memories can follow that link and go find him for yourselves.)

I asked him some questions and he replied by writing me a book. (And an interesting book at that. I wish I Rats with his rifle
Photo: Sos Boss
A boy and his rifle
could put it all in here, but then this would be Chapter Rats instead of Chapter 1st.) He started his pirate reenacting career in his attic in 1992 when he returned home from the military by holding "a no-holds-barred pirate gathering, with rum and food and knives and such. And staged this all in my huge, wooden, and most importantly “empty” attic." He explains that he and his friends "hung hammocks from hooks and since me mum was the stage manager for all the theater productions for the Milwaukee Irish Cultural Museum... we had barrels and crates and all kinds of items to use for the night. We had drinking games, rolled dice and had chalked knife fights with daggers that my buddy “Chems” made with wood and a crap load of silver duck tape." At the end of the night, his friends left him "marooned" on the second floor porch, lashed to a chair and gagged.

He said he first became interested in pirates in 1973 on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. (I suspect Disney has created more pirate reenactors than they'd care to believe.) He had been christened Rats by a pair of lovely young reenactors at the Bristol Renaissance Faire who wanted to sing him a song. "They had long, flowing hair… eyes that shined like diamonds… and welcoming smiles that could warm even the coldest of hearts. Rats takes aim
Photo: Sergio Mazzotta
Hard to imagine him lashed to a chair and gagged in this photo, isn't it?
"

He was wary about letting them sing to him, but noted that "you never step on someone's toes when they're trying to work the crowd." So he acquiesced. "In the blink of an eye, they suddenly changed form! It was then, as they hunched their backs, gnashed their teeth and scratched forward with claw-like fingers, that I heard a cruel little song that will ring in my ears forever! 'Rats ate the baby! Rats ate the baby! Go tell mom! Go tell mom! Rats ate the baby! Rats ate the baby! Go tell mom! Go tell mom'."

Now if you're a reenactor, I don't care what the genesis of your character name is, it can't be that bizarre.

I did notice something else interesting about Rats: he likes to give people his clothing. I first noticed this with the woman in the photo below left. He did this at least twice more on Friday evening and several other times throughout the weekend that I saw. He explained that it gives people a feeling that they're involved when they can dress up in pirate clothes. I think he just likes to take off and give away pieces of his clothing.

Rats giving a woman his clothes
Photo: Mission
Rats giving a woman his coat
Rats giving Elizabeth his hat
Photo: Amanda MacDonald
Rats giving Elizabeth his hat
Rats' Bar and Grill
Photo: Mission
Tyburn's Last Drop Bar and Grill, created by Rats

You would think a bunch of rough and tumble folks playing pirate would make their way from Mr. Kozak's right into the closest bar to make merry at the joint, right? You would be wrong. We wandered up the street, right past a nearby bar called the Rosebud Bar and Grill that Billie - the birthday boy - wanted to enter because a table filled with woman were beckoning him to come in.

Rosebud's
Photo: Mission
M.A. d'Dogge informed him that Hookah Joe (someone I had not yet met) had advised against going to two bars: the Rosebud and the Kirby. So we continued on down the street, almost going into the bar/restaurant where we had learned that the food section closed at 10pm. We failed to do that due to indecision, causing us to wander back down to the Rosebud where several people stood around discussing Hookah Joe's recommendations.

I suggested that it was Billie's birthday weekend and he should be allowed to pick the bar. This must have been all Billie was waiting for because he was in in a flash... just in time to see that table full of girls getting up and leaving. "You waited too long!" they explained as they walked past Billie on their way out.

Since we were now inside, we grabbed a table in the middle of the bar and a server came over to take drink orders. He seemed a bit concerned that Billie had a cat with him. Billie informed him it was a skunk. He seemed more than a bit concerned. Then Billie popped the grotesque face out at him and he jumped and laughed. So much for Hookah Joe's warnings about the Rosebud.

Billie & Rats at Rosebud
Photo: Mission
Recip Photo with Billie & Rats
Billie with three shots
Photo: Mission
Billie with his 3 shots
The skunk and the shots
Photo: Mission
Billie's crazy skunk sampling
Recip photo
Photo: Mission
Mind if we dance wif' yo' dates?

Pirate dogs playing poker?
Photo: Mary Diamond
d'Dogges playing poker. (Except Rats who is practicing astronomy.)
Rats bought Billie three shots of some kind of whisky on M.A. d'Dogge's recommendation which our friendly server lined up in front of him as you see above. No fool, Billie, he drank them gradually. (The skunk, on the other hand, wanted to drink them right down.)

There were several more opportunities for recip photos despite the fact that the bar was pretty slow. (Friday night is apparently not the big night for Grand Haven bars.) Two guys wanted Rats and M.A. d'Dogge to pose with their dates, which they did as you can see above right. By way of thanks one of the guys sent a round over for our table. Now that's a recip photo!

After that round, we decided to head back to camp. I was amazed to find that it was 1 am. The festivities started tomorrow at 10am, so I decided it was high time to make the trip back to my hotel.

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