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June 25th, 2008 Ethan Smith | Special Section Stories
 

Grown Men Shouldn’t Say “Arrr!”

An off-season kvetch: everybody punch a pirate.

     
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IMAGE: Kim Scafuro

You love pirates? Screw you.

On June 3, the United Nations voted to allow foreign navies to pursue pirates off the Somali coastline, where 26 ships have been attacked in the past year. Since the mid-’90s, piracy has spiked around the world, centered mostly in the waters off Indonesia, western Africa, the Persian Gulf and, yes, even the Caribbean. Today’s pirates wield automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and they’re as interested in kidnapping and ransom as looting cargoes.

Freighters, cruise ships, pleasure yachts, even U.N. aid ships—all have been targeted. In 2001, two-time America’s Cup champion Sir Peter Blake was shot dead defending his boat from pirates off the coast of Brazil. According to the International Maritime Bureau, attacks peaked at 445 in 2003—the same year Disney released the first of its Pirates of the Caribbean films. In 2007, the world averaged more than five pirate attacks each week. Like terrorism, global warming and the Sex and the City movie, pirates are a serious and growing threat to the world—and to Portland.

In mainland America, pirates threaten good taste more than maritime safety. For more than a decade, pirates have keelhauled American popular culture. Many experts peg the genesis of our pirate problem to Sept. 19, 1995—the year Talk Like a Pirate Day was invented by Albany residents Mark Summers and John Bauer. By 2002, syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry was promoting the pseudo-holiday. From there, excruciating “arrr!” and “booty” puns proliferated like wet panties at an Obama rally.

Portland now suffers the sickeningly well-attended Portland Pirate Festival (in its third year), and Plunderathon, a drunken, pirate-themed mob spectacle (also on year three) that careens through downtown every June 14. Online costumer Dresslikeapirate.com is based here. Pirate-inspired shanty bands, like Captain Bogg & Salty, play to crowds of nerdy misogynists. The basement of the downtown’s Hilton conceals Glowing Greens, a blacklit, pirate-themed mini-golf course (3-D glasses available). Sandy Boulevard hosts the Pirate’s Cove strip club, which is saved by two virtues unrelated to pirates: a jug-shaped building and titties. Pirates’ latest threat to Portland is Captain Henry’s Pirate Store, which opened in Lloyd Center on March 29.

Through its faux-rock cave mouth, Captain Henry’s Pirate Store leers out at the closest thing in the mall to an ocean—the ice rink. The stock puts a nautical twist on Renaissance fair trappings. Besides the cliché-pirate paraphernalia—floppy hats, flags, hooks, eye patches—the store sells bedding, baby clothes, skull-and-crossbones toilet paper, replica cutlasses and muskets, keychains made from poisonous insects preserved in glass…the list of infuriating knickknacks goes on. Employees, decked in full pirate garb, greet customers with, “Welcome matey. How can I help ye?” So far no assaults have resulted, but it’s just a matter of time. In back is the Pirate Hideout party room, which runs $195 for two hours, cake and punch included.

In the midst of a recession, this pirate store is thriving. According to Captain Henry’s employees, the store can’t keep merchandise on the shelves. “We keep running out of T-shirts,” said one clerk. “We had to start ordering stuff by the case.” This means pirate geeks are multiplying.

Like Trekkies and World of Warcraft addicts, this virulent new breed of nerd are mostly males in their 20s and 30s frozen in awkward adolescence: fuzzy upper lips, bad haircuts, Bugle Boy cargo pants (somehow found in a 38 waist). You’ll know them from IT guys and Paul Allen by their “Surrender the Booty” T-shirts and hoop earrings—and of course their enraging lingo. Listen for words like “swashbuckler,” “doubloon,” “Jolly Roger,” “ahoy,” “grog” and “bilge.” Or just wait for the inevitable “Arrr!”

Once you spot a pirate geek, there’s only one reasonable course of action: Kick out his legs, kneel on his chest, and slap him around until he denounces Jack Sparrow. It’s for his own good.

(Captain Henry’s Pirate Store, 2201 Lloyd Center #951, 206-5051, captainhenryspiratestore.com.)

 
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