GateHouse — As we get older, many of the most rewarding, meaningful components of our childhoods — the things we drew close to in our most absorbent years — get pushed away, faded, knocked off our consciousness like tin cans being shot off a fence with a BB gun, assuming people still do that sort of thing. I wouldn’t know, because I spent the years usually reserved for outside kid-stuff inside doing things like watching the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie on VHS repeatedly and becoming extensively familiar with the back catalog of Skid Row, thanks to the BMG Music Service, who I’m dead certain I’ve yet to pay for my “Slave to the Grind” tape (guys, that check is so not coming).
For male nerds of a certain age, this happened as soon as that weird Japanese flop-mouthed alien started burbling about trade route taxation in “The Phantom Menace.” Myself, according to the box of CDs I just pitched out of a very dark, spider-covered corner of the attic, I apparently was once owner of the Poison CD with “Unskinny Bop” on it, something for which no apology would ever be truly enough.
And now I am having that problem with pirates.
After many many years of research, interest, consumption of rum-based drinkables and several busloads of Jimmy Buffett records, I had come up with what I believed to be a grand, Single Unified Theory of Pirates, which is this: THEY’RE AWESOME.
Pirates were supposed to rule, though not, despite what Johnny Depp would indicate, because they were foppish one-liner-spouting gift shop-machines with the daily opportunity to spend time around Keira Knightley. No, pirates were BEASTS, dark and vengeful, drunken and unshaven, brutal and malodorous. Pirates, if they knew about those movies, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride or Frontierland in general, would immediately burn the whole thing to the ground, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of country bears. Pirates are like that. They’d probably sing chanteys while doing it, as well they should.
Pirates, in fact, are responsible for how I spent the years 1986-1988, which was playing a computer game called, conveniently enough, “Pirates!” with an exclamation point, because pirates DEMAND EXCLAMATION POINTS. It’s not like we’re talking about sales managers or developers here, people, these men will RUN A CUTLASS THROUGH YOUR GULLET, which are two words that I would have never known existed were it not for “Pirates!” Cutlass and gullet, which is coincidentally enough also the worst thing on the menu at Red Lobster.
I would also not know about ships, Caribbean geography or that there was such a thing as “Dutch people,” although no one’s proven that last one to me yet. In fact, the next time someone tells you video games eat away at kids’ brains from the inside, you tell them, “Hrmph! What cheek! For I know some pinhead newspaper columnist whose entire knowledge of Caribbean geography comes from a 1980s computer game, as does everything he knows about ‘California Games.’”
Anyway, you can imagine my confusion and heartbreak this week when I learned that pirates are actually sort of jerks. This past week, my Google Alert for “pirates” has turned up nothing but pretty spectacular sea-based horror, as well as daily box scores out of Pittsburgh, all smartly and judiciously recounted by Our Valuable Media in thoughtful, intelligent-sounding essays such as Fox News’ “ENEMIES OF ALL MANKIND: WHO CAN STOP THE PIRATES?” Good question! Maybe you could hurl Glenn Beck out there to bawl at them?
Anyway, for someone who grew up harboring the quiet but never-extinguished hope that getting a journalism degree would one day result in a sea life firing cannons at things (in Sunday’s edition: 10 Best Places To Get A Decent-Tasting Parrot In Your Town), it was a little like learning that Santa Claus ate the Easter Bunny, ears first. (What? Everybody eats the ears first, right?)
So goodbye for now, Childhood Love Of Pirate And Pirate-Related Words And Phrases. Maybe we’ll meet again in some other port. Until then, you can find me in the company of the ninja turtles. Cowabunga.