Saturday, March 27, 2004

Florida is the weirdest state in the union, Pt 2:

Gasparilla is a festival where the pirates invade Tampa Bay.
I suppose this takes a little bit of background history. If you look on a map at the Gulf coast of Florida, about halfway down, you'll notice another little peninsula curving off the side of the state. The water therein is Tampa Bay, and that whole section was a pirate hideout. There's a small town in there called Safety Harbor which was named by the pirates. It's actually the oldest continually inhabited settlement in the U.S., rather than St. Augustine, but because it was infested by pirates it didn't get a town charter until later. (A further piece of history here is that a relative of mine was the first mayor of the town of Safety Harbor.) Tampa Bay is where they would go to, I don't know, count the booty, after trolling the waters of the Caribbean.
So. Every year the Tampa Bay area has a festival celebrating the underrated accomplishments of looting, raping, pillaging, and burning. A pirate ship sails into the bay and lands at the port of Tampa, whereupon a legion of sweaty, shirtless, hairy men invade the port and have a parade. All of the seven or eight cities that live under the umbrella of the term "Tampa Bay Area" have flocked into downtown Tampa, and as soon as the boat hits everyone gets down and starts partying.
When I was a little girl, my dad's bands would play at the party.
I suppose this involves a bit more background history. The thing is, you see, that my parents were crazy musicians; long haired rock-n-rollers, the lot of them. When I was four and we moved back to Tampa from Jacksonville my parents were still in their mid-twenties and, though divorced, still believed wholeheartedly in partying together.
So. My father, shirtless and in cutoffs, impossibly young and curled around his bass, would play at these festivals. And I, four or five, also shirtless and in cutoffs, would dance at them. I was then, and still am now, a big sucker for even bad covers of good old rock-n-roll, and would get down like nobody's business at a heavy bass opening or a talky guitar line.
And then I, four or five, shirtless and in cutoffs, would be toasted by hairy men dressed like pirates and handed a beer. Because, in the end, there's really no way to celebrate a legacy of piracy than with shameless debauchery, and if the kid can't hold her liquor, she'll learn pretty quick.

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