Remember when you took those aptitude tests in high school, and some B-list guidance counselor divined that, based on your ability to fill in ovals with a no. 2 pencil, you were destined to be a nurse, or an investment banker, or shoe salesman? Mine told me I was ideally suited for priesthood. At the time I was aghast (although I liked the idea of wearing a black robe all day), but nowadays the notion of a life spent in constant close quarters with other young men, bound together by shared spiritual pursuits, sounds pretty enticing. Except that if I were going to make a career switch along those lines, I wouldn't sign up for the clergy. I'd be a pirate.
As with most of my idiosyncrasies, I blame my parents for this fixation with the bad boys of the ocean blue. When I was just a sprout, my father used to take me to Disneyland every six months. "The Pirates of the Caribbean" ride transfixed me. In my favorite scene, you sailed past two captive soldiers bound back to back on a chair, being tortured by a swarthy ne'er-do-well. What strapping young lad wouldn't be changed by such a sight?
I managed to keep my obsession fairly well under wraps until adolescence, although when I was still a whelp I swooned over Captain Hook in Peter Pan, whimpering audibly until my mom dragged me out of the cinema halfway through a matinee. But in high school, my mania blossomed. The first show the drama club staged my freshman year was Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, and while I found the prattling operetta mind-numbing, I delighted in strutting through the corridors in full costume: striped shirt, pantaloons, high-buckled shoes, and a sash.
Around the same time, I discovered Bow Wow Wow and Adam and the Ants, which provided a perfect excuse to continue promoting my unique fashion sensibility. I feel bad for kids today. Marilyn Manson and the Offspring give teens valuable outlets for pent-up aggression, but they don't really afford one the opportunity to show up for class in a puffy-sleeved jerkin and an eye patch. When you were new-wave, anything was possible. I was the Vivienne Westwood of suburban thrift stores, and it didn't matter if I took shit for it in the locker room. My affirmations came from a higher authority: glossy European style magazines.
For a while, it seemed like being a pirate had fallen into disrepute. The only prominent spokesman for the trade was Captain Morgan, and any fool with half a lick of sense knows that spiced rum is a hangover waiting to happen. I have a hard time believing that Long John Silver and Blue Beard actually sat around infusing their hooch with cinnamon and cloves—that's too Martha Stewart for the high-seas set. What next, color-coordinating the mainsail for a seasonal flair?
But lately, there's a fair trade wind blowing for the pirate revival. The other night, I turned to a friend and asked him if he knew any pirate jokes. Without missing a beat, he asked, "Why couldn't the 12-year-old get into the new pirate movie?"
I shrugged. "Because it was rated Arrrrrgggh," he answered with an exaggerated snarl.
"How much does a piercing pirate charge?" I retorted. "A buck-an-ear!"
I'd like to encourage everyone to try being more piratical—you'll be astonished at how invigorating it feels. Wear a tri-cornered hat to the office. If the boss gets up in your face, whip out a cutlass and slice a few arcs. Slap down a fistful of doubloons to pay for drinks at happy hour. If you need assistance, feel free to consult me. I'm easy to spot at rock shows. Just look for a guy with a wooden leg and a parrot on his shoulder, addressing everybody as "matey."