Booty Call

Isn't it about time for a pirate backlash? Apparently not.

Since it was season, Emily and I hoped that Thursday night on Fort Lauderdale Beach would be hopping, but it just turned out to be lame. Beginning at an empty McSorley's, we moved to the Elbo Room, where we were scared off by a flock of dangerous predators who gave us the hawk eye from their perches along the railing.

"It looks like Asshole City," Em said, offering a separate-but-equal evaluation of the place from the safety of the street corner. So we walked the strip to Beach Place, rejecting our other options for reasons that ranged from a sensory assault (the sounds of karaoke and the lingering scent of vomit) to sensory deprivation (plain ol' nothing going on). We'd almost given up and headed inland when Emily spotted a skull-and-crossbones sign announcing a pirate bar just down the alley. Between my love for alleys and her love for the Jolly Roger (the bag over her shoulder and the vanity plate on her car both sported the image), we couldn't resist.

"Remember: First you pillage, then you burn!" said Bill, the chef at the Pirate Republic, providing a primer on being a seafaring, swashbuckling scallywag. Lucky him: His work uniform included a T-shirt that declared, "Pillaging, Drinking, Flogging, Wenching: Just another day on the job."

It sure beat most people's job descriptions, though I doubted his was a career with a dental plan. Whoever heard of a pirate with a perfect set of ivories anyway? The captain of the kitchen and the wench behind the bar were both smiling more than most with full benefits — probably because their perks were more gratifying.

Our serving wench, Parya (her name PAR-ya pronounced with two syllables as opposed to the three in MaRYa), had a ready laugh and defied convention. She flitted through the bar's small space (more of a dent than a hole in the wall) with her three long ponytails (one on each side and one in back) swinging as she attended to the patrons and set up a unique configuration of shots on the only table in the room.

"Something's going on here," my friend Emily observed, nodding toward seven lowball glasses filled with beer and topped with two chopstick halves crossing each other on their rims. Where the sticks crossed, X marked the spot for a shot of sake to perch precariously over each brew. The Republic called it a "Walk the Plank."

"One, two, three, and then bang," Parya said, bringing down her fist on the word bang to demonstrate that this shot required us to shiver the table's timbers before drinking.

I could follow those orders. As long as the shots were free, I doubted any would mutiny. On the count of three, everyone's fists hit the table, the shots of sake plunked into the glasses, and we tossed the drinks into our gullets. The sake was sunk.

"Aarrrrr!" the crew growled. And the rest of us growled with them, initiated into the hearty pirate merriment.

"Gotta love a pirate bar that serves sake," the fellow to my left, who introduced himself as Chris, said appreciatively.

And so far, I did.

Especially at the moment. After a long day being flogged at the day job, I was happy to walk the plank here with the mates. Soon, a paunchy fellow with a beard swaggered in and ordered a grog.

My question "What's grog?" incited a history lesson in pirate rations — adding water to rum made more of it, and adding lime prevented scurvy, I was told. In fact, most of his conversation was educational in its intent, though later I learned that the rum/water mixture was actually done to cleanse bad water rather than stretch the rum rations.

"You know the term sea shanty comes from the French 'chanter,'" Jay informed me, sharing another bit of esoterica that he'd picked up as a professional opera singer. I swigged my beer and lime (for the flavor, not the scurvy) and began reading the bumper stickers (on sale with other pirate paraphernalia at the neighboring store) and Sharpie-d graffiti that covered the walls with a treasure-trove of pirate nonsense like "To a merry life and a short one! That's my motto! — Captain Crak."

"Opera singers, if they have balls, sometimes sing pirate songs," Jay interjected a few minutes later. (I guess the castrati missed out on the fun in more ways than one!) "A good opera will affect you like Sex in the City, if it's done right," he said. "The Marriage of Figaro was an 18th-century bedroom farce."

It was clear the dude wasn't a local, since he was wearing tube socks pulled up to his calves with his Converse sneakers. I said as much. He confessed he was on vacation from New York.

"You hiding from the Mob?" I joked, wide-eyed in disbelief as he set his sneaker on the bar, pulled off a sock, then replaced and retied the shoe and repeated the process.

"No, I'm not hiding from anything. I'm in a process of self-discovery," he replied as he stuffed his socks into his pockets.

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